Frontline Reporting

Zoriah Miller - whose work I have just found out about thanks to a NY Times article on the censorship of photographs of dead U.S. soldiers in Iraq - has an information packed blog which is well worth checking out not just for the photography but also to see how a photographer can use the web to promote and detail their activities.

The photographs he posted of a suicide attack on June 26th caused him to be dis-embedded by the U.S. Military commanders and are the cause of this recent controversy over displaying photographs of dead soldiers.

Though I sympathise with the idea that relatives and friends may not wish to see the horrific aftermath of violence which took their loved ones from them, surely the point is that war is a brutal ugly vicious thing and only if we - who are not on the frontline - understand this then maybe we would be more reluctant to pursue this unpleasant human activity.

Furthermore, to say that photographs of this nature disrespect the dead is a matter I would debate. If I were a soldier, I would see it as my duty to fight in order to bring about peace. Peace, afterall, is the ultimate aim of war. If I died in combat, and photographs of my dismembered body would help to bring about a swifter resolution to the combat then I would be happy for people to know and to see my sacrifice so that my colleagues might be brought home to their families sooner.

Let us be honest. War is disgusting. Why anyone, anywhere should have to endure a violent premature death is beyond me. Photographs like Zoriah's help me understand that. If we are to live in peaceful world, we need to know what the alternative looks like.



A young soldier displays a tattoo reading "Walk Peacefully on Heavens Streets, You've Done You're Time in Hell." Baghdad, Iraq - July, 2007.

© Zoriah/www.zoriah.com





"I had to get this picture"


Today I went with a class from the ICP at the point community program to meet Jamel Shabazz and see his exhibit at the Bronx museum. Every picture Jamel has taken has a (short or long) story and he introduced almost every one with the phrase, "I had to get this picture".

Above is one of my favourite photographs and I was glad to see it included in the exhibit. The story went something like this:

"He wanted to show me how strong his dog was so he started swinging it around in the middle of the street. I said to myself; 'Man, I have to get this picture...'"

Quality Journalism

Many of us are in the habit of having a cup (or three) of coffee to get us going in the morning. However, the Fox News team have gone one better. In an advertising deal with McDonalds, cups of iced coffee will sit, product placement style on the desks of reporters. Though this will apparently only be during 'lighter' segments such as lifestyle and celebrity news.

I have trouble watching Fox News. After about 5 minutes I usually want to lock the door and reach for the shotgun. Would I say the reporting is sensationalist, alarmist, incomplete and biased? Um. Yes. When I first arrived in the States I thought the ominous voiceover at the start of the 10pm evening news was a joke. 'It's 10pm do you know where your children are?' It boomed. Was this an episode of Brass Eye?

So I don't doubt that before long product placement will become more and more blatant. I guess the subtle bias just isn't enough these days. I can't wait to see a newscaster end a segment with 'Goodnight, and don't forget, take sleepezee for a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, it's the number one FDA approved remedy for sleep disorders.'

Oh, one more thing. The coffee is fake. So is the ice. I have a sneaking suspicion that the smiles are too. And as for the news...


Good morning.

Outdoor Party

My friend and colleague Keisha Scarville will be showing and selling work to raise money for the My View Point Creative Arts Program at this event on Friday 25th July 2008 in NYC.


LIVE PERFORMANCES

Tiokasin Ghosthorse: Spoken Word Artist & Flautist (from the Cheyenne River Reservation)
Gustavo Rodriguez: Singer/Guitarist/Filmmaker (Just got picked up by CBS!)
• The Band Peculiar Gentlemen
Monique Jarvis: Spok'N Truth Artist & Blues Singer
Raegan Truax: Singer/Songwriter
Ricardo Perez-Gonzalez: Cabaret & Opera Singer

Photographs
• By Emily Schiffer and Keisha Scarville will be available at a discounted rate ($40)
to view their work go to: http://emilyschiffer.com and http://keishascarville.com/splash.html

SO WHAT'S THIS ALL ABOUT ANYWAY?

Initially founded as a photography program for children on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, My View Point has now expanded into a grassroots youth arts program that focuses on empowering youth through a wide spectrum of visual and performing arts. Founded by photographer Emily Schiffer, My View Point Creative Arts Program has served over 90 students (aged 6-20) since its creation in 2005.

SO WHY SHOULD I COME OUT?

There'll be $3 drinks, live music, art, and great people!

More about the space:
•Art LES NYC Studios, www.artlesnyc.com (run by Aaron Thompson) is a landmark Lower East Side Art Gallery
Thompson transformed the neglected outdoor space behind his apartment building into a vibrant outdoor art
space.
•Art LES featured artist Tony Santana: Looking for Honesty

More importantly:
We have some exciting programs planned for this summer. Five visual and performing artists are volunteering their time to teach. They are flying out to the Reservation at their own expense. We'd like to raise money to pay for their tickets.

The will be teaching:
•photography (traditional darkroom and digital)
•spoken word
•creative writing
•song writing/ music
•painting

We'd love for you to come out on the 25th and show your support!! If you're not able to attend, you can still donate at: https://www.causes.com/fb/donations/new?cause_id=10304&fundraiser_id=2927534&m=cd56f

If you have questions, call Emily: 347. 451. 7095



The long haul

The front line for many soldiers becomes a home away from home. Especially as the war they are fighting drags on.

Photograph: Marco di Lauro/Getty Images

Helmand Province, Afghanistan : A British paratrooper from the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment relaxes in his quarters at Gibraltar Froward Operating Base in Upper Gereshk Valley.

Uprooted

This piece from the San Jose Mercury News demonstrates how video footage and photography can be combined for presentation on the web in a skillfull manner. Having said that, I think it is too long, the division into chapters with each as a separate presentation is unnecessary and the piano score bugs the hell out of me. Really, what I like about it is the way the aesthetics of the video and the aesthetics of the stills are used together to compliment each other.

The story itself is one that is worth paying attention to and I think a more concise documentary piece would have done it more justice, certainly the quality is good, but it feels a little stretched at times.

Sudan

Something is indeed 'Amiss' in Sudan. And has been for a very long time.


August 16 2007, el-Geneina, Sudan: An African Union peacekeeper from Nigeria sits inside a gun emplacement at the mission's headquarters

Photograph: Stuart Price/AFP/Getty Images

Escape From the Holy Shtetl

Clémence de Limburg's photographs illustrate this article in New York magazine about the rather tragic tale of a young woman who decides to leave the Hasidic Jewish community she was raised in, but is struggling for custody of her daughter, whom she wishes to bring with her.


It is clear that the Hasidim are not the favoured party in the eyes of writer Marc Jacobson and Clémence - who has previously photographed the Satmar in Williamsburg - has taken photographs that embody the sympathetic tone of the article excellently. Read it here and see a slideshow of images here.

Future Photojournalism

It seems that every week someone is proclaiming the death of photography, of photojournalism, of print media, of this or that. Frankly, I don't think any of it is true. I am sure that the way people photograph, the way information is gathered, distributed, consumed and analyised is changing at a pace more rapid than it has done in the past. This much is certain.

However, I am like many people in that I now get my information through various medium - I still buy and borrow and read books and magazines and newspapers, yet I also read and view a lot of articles and photographs on the internet. One has not superseded the other, rather supplement it.

Of course the digital age we now live in has changed the game massively. I should not need to spell out how or why, but rather than curse this new technology it should be our aim to utilise it and take advantage of it's benefits, while recognising it's shortcomings and seeing where it should not or need not be used.

Relating to photography, my digital camera has allowed me to do so many things; it has allowed me to work as a journalist, it has allowed me to send images around the globe almost immediately (with certain equipment it could be almost instantaneous - ask a sports photographer) and it has allowed me to take hundreds of photographs without pause (and occasionally without thought!). I think it is a wonderful tool. But.

I still prefer my old film cameras for certain things. For example, when I am just doing some street photography, I much prefer to use my old cameras loaded with black & white film. For some odd reason I just think and see differently when I have this equipment slung over my shoulder. I have a 4x5 which I enjoy struggling with to do portrait and landscape work as it forces a much slower and contemplative way of working. This is often detrimental when photographing an impatient subject but otherwise is a whole lot of fun. My medium format is a great all-rounder and one of my favourite cameras to use. What would I buy next if I could? Should I go for the new Nikon D700, a Leica M6 or an old Rolleiflex? All cameras I don't own and would love to have. Not than I can spare the cash for any of these but they would all certainly find themselves being used a lot, all for different reasons.

Perhaps though, I should go for a video camera. After all, 'multimedia' is the future right? And high resolution still images can be pulled from a lot of video. I have worked in TV post production and have often pulled images from TV adverts to be used by the agency in their print campaigns. News agencies have used film and video stills since the technology first became available so why is there a shudder among many photographers when video is brought up.

Perhaps it is because some feel threatened by the technology. Why? Film crews have been around for a hundred years and have worked alongside still photographers without much trouble in the past. Is it because today the video cameras are smaller, lighter and quicker; which means they are eating away at the advantage still photographers long enjoyed - that of mobility and discretion. Incidentally, Still cameras - digital - seem to be getting larger and more feature laden year by year.

Does this mean there will be no longer 'one man and his Leica' out in the field?

Photograph by Stanley Greene

Of course not. People will do that as long as they are able. Which I hope is a long long time.

Certainly though, it is a dilemma. However, I don't think the threat is as real as many proclaim. Personally I see the future as being one where each of these disciplines exist alongside each other - much as they have for decades - but it is the distribution and delivery of the information which will change. And it already has. I can go online and read a report, see the still images, watch some video and listen to audio, all on the same machine. Turn off the TV, put down the newspaper and retire the radio - the computer does it all. Soon I will be able to take my newspaper on the train in a digital format, and by that I don't mean reading it on a two inch screen on an iphone, I mean a flexible LCD screen I can fold and roll and don't have to squint at or scroll through.

It is the future of information delivery that will change. The future of information gathering is already here.

I think the main problem for photographers, videographers, sound recordists and reporters is one of which discipline to train in and use. They all require different skills but the technology is combining them into one device. The problem I find is that when you film, you don't think in stills, when you record sound, you can't concentrate on the image and when you write you are focusing on your memory. The demand these days is for one person to do it all, and for it to be done in a much smaller timeframe. With breaking news this is ridiculous. What they are asking for is a documentary film. It is too much to ask one person to do all of this at the same time. It is possible but I think it dilutes the quality - a jack-of-all-trades syndrome if you like.

Photograph by Marc Vallee

If I were sent to cover a situation in depth I would like to work in a small crew where someone gathers sound, someone photographs, someone films and someone writes the copy. Ideally each person would be able to switch into any of these roles as when required and an editor would be able to pick and choose what fits best at what time and when these can be combined. I don't want to go and photograph something with a camera, a video camera and a sound recorder hanging off me. Quite simply I don't have that many hands. Given the time to pursue something in depth I of course would welcome the opportunity to gather all these elements and put them together, however that requires a much longer timeframe and the depth and quality of the report should mirror that. If I am doing something on the spot I want to focus on one discipline so I can deliver that to the best of my ability.

In any case, the technology may one day allow me to do all these things to a high enough level to make this whole argument obselete but until I can plug my brain into a computer and download everything I saw and heard onto a hard drive, I think I will stick to one thing at a time please.

Afghanistan Panorama




Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

On Sunday I bought a copy of the New York Times for the sole reason that I wanted to have a good look at Tyler Hicks' pictures from Afghanistan. However, the printing in my copy was a little offset, rendering them a bit blurry and I had to go to the (free) online article to see them clearly anyway. I appreciate seeing the streetlife of Kabul, and the purist in me enjoyed the black and white while the geek in me wondered if Tyler was using an xpan, which is a camera I wish I could a) spare the cash to buy and b) justify purchasing. Check out his narrated slideshow here.

By the way, it was actually Monday when I got round to reading the Sunday paper anyway, and on that day Afghanistan suffered the deadliest suicide car bombing - an attack on the Indian Embassy - to date.

Another reminder perhaps that America's so called war on terror is far from over. If the Bush administration had concentrated their efforts on their most wanted man - Osama Bin Laden, remember? - instead of the folly that is the war in Iraq then more progress might have been made in this region. And by progress I don't mean a few more branches of KFC and a new Mall.


Photo: Pajwak News Agency, via Reuters

Focus on China


With plenty of the world's interest focusing on China there is a great demand for news, photography and analysis from inside this vast country. Though Chinese history and culture is well documented, there seems to a renewed drive to explore this place and it's people, making it seem to me that many people have taken to treating China as if it were some vast unknown (which is far from the truth.)

Anyway, following the trend; Photographers Mathias Braschler and Monika Fischer have traveled around making portraits of the Chinese from all walks of life. While the majority are very straightforward, safe, corporate-editorial-fashion style, they are technically accomplished and are worth a look, if just to see an overview of the diversity in the population. The 'Faces in a Billion' title is a good description of the project. See it here, with a selection of videos documenting some of the process here.

Inside Zimbabwe



This film was shot undercover by a prison guard in Zimbabwe. He and his family have now left the country - for their own safety. See the footage here and read more here and here.