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Work / Photography

Photographer William Minke captures the odd loneliness and faded glamour of cruise ships

We all have a mental picture of what a cruise holiday might be like and it’s probably very similar to the glamour Rob Brydon and his wife portray in the current P&O cruise adverts, where their carefree holiday is full of fancy dinners at the captain’s table and frolics in the sun. Taking a different perspective is Berlin-based photographer William Minke, who decided to focus on what this kind of organised fun is actually like in reality in his series End of Crisis

“I’ve always been fascinated by heterotopias and coexisting worlds,” says William. “After reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace I decided to go on a journey of cruise ships because his description of on-board life sounded very bizarre.” The photographer went on two cruises for the project: the first trip was around the Mediterranean sea for four days and the second was seven days in the Baltic sea. “Both ships were swimming holiday resorts with about 3,000 voyagers on board and I travelled by myself,” he says.

“As a traveller one can leave behind everyday life on 13 decks of roulette tables, bingo and shopping malls 24 hours a day,” explains the photographer. William brilliantly conveys the disparity between this sentiment of continuous fun and the seemingly lacklustre truth. Worn interiors with lurid carpets clash with the ageing facilities and the series gravitates towards the more solitary moments.

There’s a woman dancing on her own, people sunbathing separately and the blinking slot machines only have one person sat at them at a time. This faded glitz is enhanced by the non-plussed, often awkward portraits William captures of his fellow passengers. Despite the common goal between everyone on board – “to redeem their promise of happiness" – there’s a loneliness felt throughout the project, which makes for fascinating viewing. 

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William Minke: End of Crisis

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William Minke: End of Crisis

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William Minke: End of Crisis

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William Minke: End of Crisis

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William Minke: End of Crisis

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William Minke: End of Crisis

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William Minke: End of Crisis

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William Minke: End of Crisis

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William Minke: End of Crisis