Departure - Group Exhibition

Photograph: Lyric R. Cabral

A group exhibition featuring the work of Miguel Anaya, Lyric R. Cabral, Mark Nevers, Danny Ramon Peralta and Bashira Webb. It is curated by Chet Urban and showing at the Bruckner Gallery in the Bronx, NYC.

This group of photographers have been doing some excellent work and garnering a lot of attention in the process.

The opening reception is July 2nd, 2008 from 5:30 pm to 8pm.

Here is the press release.

Violence wins votes in Zimbabwe

Photo: Dead Elephant near Shumba, Zimbabwe, Gary Knight, vii

I thought I would use this shot by Gary Knight as a metaphor for what is happening in Zimbabwe at the moment, seeing as so little foreign press is allowed in.

To sum up, the only credible opposition to Mugabe and the Zanu PF - Tsvangirai and the MDC - are urging their supporters to vote for Mugabe in the run-off presidential election in order to avoid violent reprisal. Click here and here to read more about recent events.

I find it shocking that Mugabe is still in Power. While the US government (and others) preach about bringing democracy to the middle east, the hypocrisy of their foreign policy is revealed (once again) in their complete absence of engagement with this issue. Even I knew that when the farce that was the elections played out earlier this year, Mugabe would never relinquish power without a fight and it seems that his continued threatening and violent suppression has won out.

It is absolutely fucking disgraceful. The world's leaders should be ashamed at how they have handled this affair and it just further adds to my disgust at the political classes and how they are so blatantly and arrogantly mismanaging this planet.

besosyfotos - call for entries

Louise over at Besos Y Fotos told me about this a little while ago and here is the official call for entries. Polaroid ain't quite dead yet!

Check out the website here.

Cocksucker Blues

The first I knew of this film was when I was offered a VHS copy several years ago. After being assured that it was not some dodgy porn but in fact a documentary on the Rolling Stones I gladly accepted.

Filmed by Robert Frank and Daniel Seymour on the 1972 US tour after the release of Exile On Main St, this shows the Stones at their most gloriously wasted. Truly, Bohemian doesn't even come close to describing the languid atmosphere in some of the early scenes with the members of the band hanging around in a Mansion doing barely anything at all.

Much has been said about the debauchery in this documentary - which is not as sensationalist or as shocking as it's banned underground status would imply. I can see why the Stones didn't want this film shown at the time though as it is both unflinchingly revealing and explicit yet dispels the myth of the superstar rock god much more than it bolsters the notion. Banning it has of course added to the mystique over the years but what struck me was how, well, normal everyone appeared (drug use, TV-set murder and private jets aside that is...)

I also think it is excellently edited. Vaguely linear, with some chopping back and forth, we watch as the band seems to come more alive as the tour progresses, getting tighter on stage and more engaged and human off it.

Though currently still banned - only Robert Frank is legally allowed to screen the film, at which he must be present - it is available as a bootleg if you know where to look. I have seen two copies; both watchable but of equally bad quality.

However, it will get an official release later this year as part of Steidl's Robert Frank Project, including the Complete Film Works boxed set series, which if you were to buy all 10 volumes at full retail would set you back around $1 400.

Maybe volume 4 (with Cocksucker Blues) will make a good Christmas present for my Dad. If so I'll be sure to watch it with him. It'll be well worth it.

Now the question remains as to whether I need The Americans on my bookshelf, or if I can remain content to leaf through it at the library...

Visa Pour L'Image

Today I had an interesting conversation, part of which centered around payment for photographs, support from editors and commitment from publishers and the lack thereof that unfortunately occurs a little too often. Though it is true that there are many people in the industry that support good photography and fascinating stories, it is also true that there are a lot of people who make it very difficult for photographers to work on their own terms, meaning that photographers are - much of the time - at the mercy of the industry machine.

After I got home I read an interview with Jean-François Leroy in the post over at A Photo Editor on whether Visa Pour L'Image is still relevant, (to which my obvious reply would be 'yes, of course'). Rob Haggart does make the good point that the quality photojournalism that is often showcased at Perpignan is hardly ever seen beyond the limited circle of attendees. This is put down to the notion that the media is in thrall to the consumer, who does not demand this kind of content. This doesn't quite tally with the philosophy that the media controls - or at least directs - the opinions of the people.

Perhaps more likely is the fact that the media is in thrall to it's advertisers, who don't want their brands to be associated with stories of the ills in this world by their simple proximity to them on the printed page. Perhaps this also explains the growing trend for documentary and journalistic imagery to look more like fashion and style photography than it used to. I could reach out to the pile of magazines near me and find a clutch of examples. Also look at the internet, where advertising is prolific and 'going viral' has become the aim (when I log into my yahoo email, the advertisements load before my inbox - what does that tell me?)

But back to Visa Pour L'Image. Although It is highly unlikely that I will be able to attend the International Festival of Photojournalism this year, I thought director Jean-François Leroy had a lot of interesting things to say in the interview, conducted by Claire Baudéan, Caroline Laurent & Lucas Menget. Here is one of my favourite exchanges, which had particular relevance to some of what I have been discussing and thinking about today.

Without mentioning any names, some of the top ten photographers in the world today, including war photographers, “live in a garret”, surviving on less than 1000 euros a month, struggling to make ends meet.

Yes, it’s a real problem; I’ll give two examples. Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for Time Magazine, and has been going to Baghdad a couple of times a year for the last five or six years. Now look at his work, at what he produces, then compare it to what you see in Time. There is a gaping abyss between what his real work is and what gets published. Another example is Stanley Greene who wanted to do a report in Afghanistan and needed to find 8000 euros to get there, but couldn’t raise the money. I’m sorry to have to say this yet again – everyone’s getting sick of it, and I’m told that I’m biting the hand that feeds me– but we have to stop saying that the press doesn’t have any money! The press can find the money to buy exclusive rights to celebrity photos. A couple of years ago, one weekly magazine paid 150,000 euros for the exclusive rights to Jean-Paul Belmondo’s wedding; and they can’t fork out 10,000 euros to send Stanley Greene to Afghanistan for a month! It just makes me wonder. Fifteen years ago, when a newspaper commissioned a report, the paper would insure your equipment, pay for 150 rolls of film, cover all the lab development costs, and so on. Nowadays, you do digital work, your cameras aren’t paid for, you’re not even given a memory card – nothing. A digital camera costs a lot more than the camera you had fifteen years ago. And we’re not supposed to voice any criticism? Over the same period, the price of a page of advertising has gone up by a factor of 2 or 2.5; compare that to the prices paid for photos which have gone down by a factor of 2 or 2.5! Christophe Calais told me that he wanted to go to Kenya to report on the events there; he called a magazine he often works with, and was told “Listen, if you get the chance to take a shot of Obama’s grandmother, and if we do a double-page spread, I’ll give you 300 or 400 euros.” Hell! He wasn’t going there to do a Grandma Obama celebrity shoot! That’s the real problem, you see. Everything has become celebritized, everything is nice and clean, and we’re told that we mustn’t show any violence, but celebrities instead. Yet when you look at “real TV”, you’re shown violence! Lucas Menget, a top reporter with France 24 and a member of the Visa pour l’Image team, did an excellent 26-minute report on Iraq, and you can see violence there in his report. Just talk to Stanley Greene, Christophe Calais, Enrico Dagnino, Paolo Pellegrin, Noël Quidu, Laurent Van der Stockt, and so many others whose names I haven’t mentioned; they see violence out there in the field, in the events they cover. That’s the real story!

When we ask our parents and grandparents what they did about the Nazi concentration camps, they tell us that they didn’t know about them. And it’s true that many people only discovered what had really happened in the camps when they saw photos taken by Lee Miller and Margaret Bourke White. Today we’re lucky enough to be able to see everything. No country is completely closed off; it might be difficult to take pictures in Burma or North Korea, but you end up getting something. With modern transmission facilities, satellite phones and all the advances of communication technology, it’s much easier than it used to be. So what will we say when our children and grandchildren ask us what we did about Darfur? It’s a philosophical problem. Photographers and journalists, whether with the written press, radio or television, often run the most extraordinary risks so that they can show what’s really happening. For years we were told we had a duty to history, then a duty to remember, so let’s now say that we have a duty to see and to look! I don’t want to live in a virtual world, a nice little, cuddly, fluffy world where everybody’s happy, where everyone is sweet as sugar candy and where everyone has heaps of money. People often say that Visa pour l’Image is a festival with commitment; I would say that we are activists, that we want to be militant because we, the organizers and photographers at the festival, are journalists.

Read the rest here.

Blu - Muto

This is quite simply the best thing I've seen in ages. Thanks to Pax for showing me this one.


Check out more Blu here.

Local History

I have a fascination with old photographs, I mean ones that were taken long before I was born. As someone who spends much of my time actively and consciously looking at the world around me I love to see how things have changed over the years. For this reason I am also interested in the narrative history of people and places. I am always curious as to how things came to be as there are and I often find out some surprising details.

Take this street in New York's Chinatown - an area I often pass through and love to photograph. It is called Doyers Street and looks much like many streets in the area, but it has a nickname - 'The Bloody Angle'

The sharp curve in this street meant it was a prime location for ambush in the wars between rival street gangs, the Chinese 'Tongs' who fought for control of this area in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. I tried to find out some more history surrounding this but short of reading a book or two on the subject (something I don't have time to do right now) I couldn't find out much more.

Here is how it looked around a hundred years ago.

I wonder what it will look like a hundred years from now.

Martian Sunset

Someone once said to me, 'I hate photographs of sunsets' as I showed her a photograph I'd taken of a sunset.

I happen to like them. Almost as much as I like watching them in person. I imagine though that this image is as close as I'll ever get to seeing the sunset on Mars. I found it on the Reciprocity Failure blog. (Gotta love blogging posts from other blogs.)

Here's the info from the NASA website.

On May 19, 2005, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit captured this stunning view as the Sun sank below the rim of Gusev crater on Mars. This Panoramic Camera mosaic was taken around 6:07 in the evening of the rover's 489th Martian day, or sol.

Sunset and twilight images are occasionally acquired by the science team to determine how high into the atmosphere the Martian dust extends, and to look for dust or ice clouds. Other images have shown that the twilight glow remains visible, but increasingly fainter, for up to two hours before sunrise or after sunset. The long Martian twilight (compared to Earth's) is caused by sunlight scattered around to the night side of the planet by abundant high altitude dust. Similar long twilights or extra-colorful sunrises and sunsets sometimes occur on Earth when tiny dust grains that are erupted from powerful volcanoes scatter light high in the atmosphere.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell

Visualising the U.S. Presidential campaign

I have recently been enjoying both the photographs and commentary of Obama and McCain over on the BAGNews Notes blog. If you haven't seen it already, it is well worth checking out.

Here's a sneak preview.

(image: AP)

(Image: Callie Shell)

An-My Lê

Target Practice, USS Peleliu, 2005

The other day I took refuge from the sweltering heat of the city in the Murray Guy gallery and had a good look at the work on display by An-My Lê. The press release states that she has the 'ability to describe natural forces and geography as backdrops against which human ambitions are weighed and scrutinized'

Offload, LCACs and Tank, California, 2006

One thing that certainly struck me was how vast the scenery seemed to be and how small the human activity. Many of the scenes are bustling with such activity yet the sheer scope of the environment threatens to engulf them. No mean feat considering some of the human impact is very large indeed.

C-17, Pegasus Ice Runway, Antarctica, 2008

They seemed to be saying to me that no matter how grand and important these human endeavours appear to be, we are insignificant compared to the power of the environment we inhabit. As much of what Lê photographed are military exercises this notion became very poignant. Even when people are presented large in the frame, they still seem out of scale with their surroundings.

US Marine Expeditionary Unit, Shoalwater Bay, Australia, 2005-08

I spent a good amount of time looking at these photographs, and liked them very much. However, I found myself wanting to know more about what was going on in these remote regions, questions an investigate journalist rather than an artist might be better qualified to answer.

Bamboo Therapy

Photograph: China Photos/Getty Images

For some reason I really like this picture of Pandas gorging themselves on Bamboo in a Beijing zoo, especially as the title of the 10 picture slide show in the Guardian is 'Pandas recover from trauma after China earthquake'.

I guess it's just a bit of light relief from the piles of twisted rubble and grieving parents.

If only all trauma was this easy to recover from.

Taxi Legs

If I had legs as good as Zu Jing I would photograph them and put them on a gallery wall too.


Xiang Xiao Fang, mother to Xu Li Ling, 10.
Photo: Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

No parent should ever outlive their children. As a proud father myself, I hope I never go through this kind of grief.

AMERIKA - Exhibition opening night.

This weekend saw the premiere of the AMERIKA exhibition as part of Bushwick Open Studios in Brooklyn, New York. Firstly, many thanks to everyone who was involved in this project and worked hard to make it the success it was. Thanks to everyone who came to the opening night party and kept the space packed with bodies till late in the evening and also to everyone who passed though over the Saturday and Sunday. If you missed it - or would like to see it again - all the information is on this webpage including links to view the slideshow and to purchase the catalogue.

Here are some photos I managed to take during the evening -

People view the work on display.

Gabriele talks to Lucy...

...and poses in front of his photograph.

Pax entertains my son...

...who stayed up late the day before his birthday to see the show.

Exhibitors Christina and Kate...

...Gabriele and Francesca.

It wouldn't be a party without the music...

...or the alcohol!

But it was all about the work on display.

And people having fun.

As the crowd thinned it left more room to dance.

Which was taken full advantage of...

...with some interesting moves.

All the beer got drunk.

And all that was left were some shoes...

AMERIKA - exhibition opening

Please join us for the opening reception of AMERIKA

Friday, June 6th 2008
7:00 pm

174 Bogart Street (at Scholes Street)
Studio 316
Brooklyn, NY 11206

AMERIKA is a part of Bushwick Open Studios & Arts Festival

Curated by Tom White, Deidre Schoo & Nico Silberfaden
Co-ordinated by Lucy Helton

Booze Cruise

Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

It's no secret that we Brits like the occasional alcoholic drink every once in a while, so when London's recently elected Mayor - Boris Johnson - announced a ban on drinking alcohol on the Underground the result was a frenzy of last minute alcohol abuse leading to precisely the type of behaviour Mr Johnson claims his ban will eliminate. More on the story here and here.

In all my years of travelling on the tube I have never seen this many people drinking on the Tube. Not even during the city's Notting Hill Carnival, so my congratulations to Boris for instigating a night of stupidity with an ill-conceived and unnecessary law.