Banlieue - Mohamed Bourouissa

These Images are by Mohamed Bourouissa. I believe the scenes are staged. There is a selection of images here and a statement about the work (in french) which is as follows:

Les images « Périphériques » ont pour thème la banlieue. Si je pars d’une base sociale, mon travail est pourtant d’ordre plastique fonctionnant sur une géométrie émotionnelle. C’est un placement et une organisation de la tension dans l’espace qui est mise en avant. Elle met en scène la banlieue en tant qu’objet conceptuel, artistique dans des situations qui d’ordinaire seraient du ressort du photo-journalisme. En démontant les clichés de ce sujet, je traite de la problématique du rapport de force et pose la question de la mécanique du pouvoir.

I'm still on the lookout for some photojournalism from the Paris suburbs....


The Gallery at Calumet's New York store currently has an exhibition on display of photographs from the Kamoinge collective. Ten of Kamoinge's members have produced bodies of work on the aftermath of Katrina and the exhibition provides a good range of styles and subjects. By far and away my favourite image was by Wayne Lawrence.

Wayne Lawrence, 'Roger & Girlfriend. Biloxi, MS. 2006'

I can see from the uncropped edges and the movement in the trees that this was shot on a large format camera and therefore required a degree of collaboration with Roger and his girlfriend, yet it feels to me as if he just stumbled upon these two engaged in a private moment. Very simple, intimate and beautiful. And a world away from the fashion of the deadpan portrait I see so much of. This is one of those photographs that will stick in my mind.

Incidentally, Calumet has a buy-one-get-one-free offer on 2GB Sandisk Ultra cards until December 2nd. Which is not a bad deal.
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Lightstalkers blog directory #2

A list of photographers blogs can be found here.

Add yours to the list here

Faking It

Bird Watching, (Dark Eyed Junco), 2003. By Paula McCartney

Most wildlife photographers are highly specialised. Many spend many hours painstakingly finding the right spot to photograph in, researching the animal's habits and constructing elaborate hides to disguise themselves, even sometimes using remote triggers and timers because their human presence is a threat to the animal. Not so Paula McCartney. She avoids the whole process and just places fake birds on the branches.

She claims that 'Rather than settling for what nature has to offer, I have taken control and adorned the trees with their longed for, but absent, tenants.'

Now I'm not a wildlife photographer (aside from the occasional piece of roadkill) but if I were I would probably take offence at the above comment. I know wildlife in general is in decline but this just smacks of laziness to me. I see plenty of birds on trees. Even in cities I occasionally spot birds other than pigeons or starlings. I just don't really think the philosophy behind the images holds up. But then I think the same about much of what appears in the Art World these days. Plenty of people seem to disagree though. Paula McCartney is a recipient of several awards including this years McKnight Artist Fellowships for Photographers ($25 000 - thankyou very much!) and has photographs in MOMA's collection in New York and many other galleries.

So I'm off to my local taxidermist... $25 000 here I come...


Photo by Olivier Laban Mattei. AFP/Getty

After two nights of riots in the Paris Suburb of Villiers-le-Bel, over 70 police officers have been injured. The riots were sparked after two teenagers died following a crash involving their moped and a police vehicle. The police claim the vehicle was unregistered and the driver was going at top speed. Neither rider was wearing a crash helmet. Local residents accuse the police of fleeing the scene, leaving the accident victims to die.

The photographs from such riots almost always present the rioters from a distance. It reminds me of embedded journalists work from the front lines in war zones. Always close up shots of helmeted, body armoured men with guns. Probably this is because the photographers learn about these events from the police and feel safer behind the riot shields anyway. However, having been caught up in (fortunately few) riots myself I can honestly say that your own and your friends safety is of primary concern in these situations; especially if you are in the mob and I don't expect any photographer to run into a cloud of tear gas and start photographing rioters. Pulling out my camera was certainly far from the front of my own mind!

It does strike me though that social unrest is a complicated subject and photographs of a crowd of masked men throwing molotov cocktails is hardly going to add anything to the understanding of the problem's roots and causes, no matter how descriptive of a night of violence it may be. I would be interested to see if there is any work being done by photographers on this subject in France, which has long had problems of this nature erupt into violence on the streets.

In 1995 I saw a film called La Haine. It is my all time favourite movie. It comes across more documentary than fiction and if you can find a copy of the DVD with commentary by Director Mathieu Kassovitz you'll find out why. I'm not going to explain further because I think you should check it out yourself. Watch it once without the commentary, then again with. Then watch it again. And again. There are practical lessons here on the role of fact in fiction, on documenting people and places and for anybody interested in society, power, police and politics, immigration and inner city living it provides much food for thought. I could talk about this film for hours.

The French Parliment were given a special screening of the film on it's release. Seems that no lessons have been learned in the past decade.

Lightstalkers Blog Directory

For a little while now on lightstalkers there has been a discussion thread on blogs. It mostly contains links to photographers blogs and there is some interesting ideas on how to up your blog/site's rankings in search engines and about linking to each other's sites.

The Marlboro Marine Part Two

If you don't feel like ploughing through the LA Times article, There's a video on Mediastorm.

Click Here.


What do you think of some of the images. I would be stoked to get some feedback from you




Here are a few images from Jason Andrew's Jazzland series in New Orleans.

Tom's Website rehash #1

Here is an updated web gallery. less photographs, no silly project titles, easier to navigate backwards/forwards and a white background for once. Still not a proper website but hopefully an improvement on the last one.

Mail Art with a Polaroid

Today I was scanning some old slides in ICP's digital lab and next to me was sitting the master of the Fine Art C-Print and all round diamond geezer, Jorge Ochoa. He was also scanning some old work, including a bunch of beautiful Polaroids. Don't ask me how but I immediately knew he'd taken them on an SX-70. I've never even used one, though I almost bought one this year. Film is a little hard to come by though..... Anyway, I got home and did some of my usual timewasting on the interweb and came across this little project

Seems like Polaroids are haunting me today. I love the idea of this project. It reminds me of the Mail Art movement which reached it's peak in the late 60's through to the late 70's. Though largely ignored by the mainstream art world it was (and still is) a thriving network of underground artists exchanging art and ideas through the postal system. Kind of like a precursor to today's blogging and social networking (though with a little more imagination and a few less photos of "me and my mates on a night out").

Ray Johnson is frequently cited as the most famous and earliest artist of this movement. He referred to himself as the world's most famous unknown artist. A good friend of my family was one of the UK's top Mail Artists. He referred to himself as the world's most unknown unknown artist.

But anyway, If you have a Polaroid Camera, consider participating in the project. Photography should be fun, no?

The Marlboro Marine

This photograph was taken by Lius Sinco for the Los Angeles Times during the battle of Fallouja in November 2004. I don't remember seeing it before but apparently it became an iconic image, an idealised archetype of the US soldier in Iraq.

The man in the picture is Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller.

This photograph brought him a measure of fame. According to Sinco, he was even offered the opportunity to return home and end his tour of duty early. He declined. When he did return to the U.S. he - like so many soldiers - suffered from PTSD. Luis Sinco has been documenting his story.

There are photographs and a two part article on the LA Times website.

Despite the somewhat romanticised observations that pop up now and again through the piece - Sinco is a better photographer than writer I think - it still makes for an interesting read.

Here are the links.

I have some thoughts on what I've read but it's late and I cannot properly formulate them now.

Credit where credit's due

Ok, so I'm sure most of you are aware that in the world of commercial high fashion and lifestyle photography there is an enormous amount of work that goes into the production of an image; lights camera action is an understatement. 1st assistants, 2nd assistants 3rd assistants, PR, makeup, stylist, caterer, studio etc etc etc.

No problem. I like a well polished fashion shoot as much as the next man.

However I am more and more railing against how these commercial shoots end up looking on the printed page and how galleries are lapping them up in expensive print editions. It's getting a bit extreme for my liking.

For example, photographer Jill Greenberg recently kicked up a storm with these pictures...

Apparently she made the kids cry by giving them a lollipop and then taking it away. A tad cruel, especially as the motive was to get some photos of crying kids. Kids cry on a daily basis. Surely it's possible to get a series of photographs on this subject without stage-managing it.

But anyway, this is beside the point because what really gets me is not the content but it's the way these images actually look.

I'm reminded of a book I used to have as a teenager and which I used as inspiration for my graphic design classes at school. It was full of airbrushed advertising art from the days when the future was supposed to be bright and shiny and clean instead of grimy and dark and polluted.

Now I can almost forgive this kind of work when it's used to sell a product, it therefore becomes blatantly illustrative and I can happily allow it to throw any pretense to reality out the window as only a sucker would believe it to be a representation of the proverbial truth.

Take Jill Greenberg's photo of Gwen Stefani for instance.

No problem with that right? This is supposed to sell albums, not give me insight into Gwen Stefani. Though actually it does give me insight, but that's another discussion...

Besides, surely Gwen will want something different for her next album and will hire me to shoot her with 1600 ASA B&W film loaded into my 1970s Pentax early in the morning over coffee and cigarettes after she's been up all night partying and will say to me "don't worry Tom, just print them as they are, I'm going for a raw look with this one". Right?

I don't mean to sound bitter but, well actually I am. I think this type of work is all style no substance. Feel free to disagree but that's my personal opinion.

But finally I'm getting to the real hook of why I started this in the first place and believe it or not that was not to have a rant at expensive commercial photography and why it's ruining it for the likes of little old me; but was instead to praise someone's skills.

In my mind these images are no longer photographs. They have been retouched to such a degree that they are now illustrations and should be treated as such.

I believe that in this particular example Jill Greenberg is no longer even the sole author of this work. In fact, she hires a retoucher by the name of Amy Dresser. Now I do not know if Amy retouched these specific images but she certainly has Jill Greenberg as one of her many clients. Here is an example of Amy's work, I have no idea who the photographer is here.



Pretty damn good right? Though I actually prefer the untouched image. Shall we say it's because it's more real and leave it at that....

So with skills as good as this no one need ever worry again. Next time I take someone's portrait and they tell me they don't like being photographed (as happens 9 times out of 10) I'll tell them to relax, I'll get Amy Dresser to retouch it and when a puzzled look crosses their face I'll snap the shutter and get my shot.

By the way, look out for the book 'Puzzled' self published in a limited edition of 1000 photocopied and stapled pamphlets. The first hundred will be on yellow paper and signed with a fat marker pen.

So to end this I'll say much respect to Amy Dresser for giving Jill Greenberg and others their style and ensuring they continue to get hired.

Credit where credit's due.


What's wrong with this image?
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Just a photographer

When is it your duty to cross the boundry between recording an event and interfering in it. Does such a boundry exist? Is it not true that just by being there in a certain place at a certain time you become an active participant? Is a camera an objective recording device. Can a photographer avoid subjectivity? These can become tricky questions to answer.

I don't remember how exactly but the other day I came across these pictures. They were taken in the Tuol Sleng prison in Cambodia in the mid seventies. They depict prisoners from this place, which is now a musuem dedicated to the genocide that was perpetrated there.

They are quite startling.

In doing some research I came across an article in the New York Times written by Seth Mydans which includes an interview with Nhem En, one of the photographers employed at the prison.

“They came in blindfolded, and I had to untie the cloth,” he said. “I was alone in the room, so I am the one they saw. They would say, ‘Why was I brought here? What am I accused of? What did I do wrong?’”

“‘Look straight ahead. Don’t lean your head to the left or the right.’ That’s all I said,” he recalled. “I had to say that so the picture would turn out well. Then they were taken to the interrogation center. The duty of the photographer was just to take the picture.”

Considering the fact that out of the estimated 14,000 to 17,000 people who were imprisoned in Tuol Sleng there are only a dozen people known to have survived; this seems like a pretty grim duty. I can't help but wonder how the photographers themselves felt about their job. With the viciousness of Pol Pot's regime now well known I can only imagine what working in this slaughterhouse must have been like. I'm sure these photographers lived in fear of their lives every day, of ending up in front of the lens. How else could you make these photographs and not do anything about what was happening?

Unless it truly was the duty of the photographer "just to take the picture."

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Infertile Madonnas

So I've just discovered Jean-Christian Bourcart. Check out this project and the writings by Nan Goldin. Do we need to mention grain anymore? Lx

Rinko Kawauchi

I recently bought this book of photographs by Rinko Kawauchi.

I first saw her work at a show at the photographers gallery in London where this became one of my favourite photographs.

So much so that it inspired me to take this.

Anyway, I have a real respect for her work. I feel like she seems to be always there, moving around and in the action, both an participating insider and an invisible observer. While many of photographs often seem very banal and simple - the watermelon on the cover for example - in the company of other photographs in the book they become important parts of a intimate whole. I find so many of them to be very delicate, respectful and beautiful images.

I mentioned her to Shiori, who pointed out to me that her editing is really amazing. This is true; going through the book there emerges a real story and images that at first seem random and out of place slowly fall into sync. This is something that only really works when they are viewed in a sequence and is somewhat lost when the photographs are exhibited. She currently has work on show at the Cohan & Leslie Gallery on 10th Ave in Manhattan (until mid November I think, I haven't been down there yet myself).

Which brings me to my next thought; she is considered a fine art photographer. Yet this book (Cui Cui) in particular is in my opinion a documentary work. There is a definite set of themes, a story and a message.

A good artist, a good photograph, a good piece of journalism; all these should make you see differently, think differently and feel differently. Certainly her work does this for me.

Artist or documentarian?

Why not both eh?