This is a project run as part of the International Center of Photography's community programs in partnership with the Friends of Island Academy in Manhattan. Drop me a line if you would like to attend the final presentation of the student's work this Wednesday, July 1st..
... and all those who think colour photography began with Eggleston.
In fact, colour photography (of a sort) has been around since the 1860's...
Besides, when I have had time to read these past couple of weeks, it's been all about the Iranian Election. Plenty enough words (and pictures) on that subject to engage the brain without delving into this lot on my desk.
Currently answering readers questions in the New York Times' 'Talk to the Newsroom' series is Assistant Managing Editor Michele McNally, who oversees photography. Get your question in quick!
A brief sample:
Q. What makes a photojournalist grow from making very good images to making brilliant ones?
So there you have it - to be great is not so difficult, all it requires is a zen like mastery of the medium - oh yeah, and hard work.
I cannot argue with that. Especially the hard work bit...
Every so often I take a look at what those crazy scientists are doing now - for example, the following images of Saturn were taken by the Cassini Probe, with it's two massive telescope cameras - a whopping 2 metre focal length, f/10.5 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and a f/3.5 color-corrected refractor, with a 200mm focal length fronted by an array of interchangable filters and focusing light onto a CCD sensor built in the 90's. (For a really dry scientific paper on the probe's imaging systems check out this 134 page document; pretty cool even if - like me - you don't understand the algebra.)
So pictures like this take me back to my childhood dreams of being an spaceman. Only a tiny percentage of humans will make the trip into space in the forseeable future. The last manned trip to the moon was in 1972 and it doesn't look like we're in any rush to head back there.
It's a shame. There are those who say we should sort out our problems here on Earth before heading off to other planets and I wholeheartedly agree, though part of me believes that missions to space could serve as an inspiration to us here on the ground; who would fail to agree with the notion that the images of the Earth as seen from the moon give us a realisation of how tiny and fragile our world is, or with the the observation that "For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one."? (Even if it was Nixon who spoke the words...)
Also, thinking along these lines brings to mind the words of the late great Bill Hicks, who would so often make me laugh simply becasue he told us the truth. He would often close his stand up sets with the following:
"Here's what we can do to change the world right now, to a better ride; take all that money we spend on weapons and defense each year and instead spend it feeding clothing and educating the poor of the world which it would many times over not one human being excluded and we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace."
Amen to that.
So there's another reason to visit this culturally rich city in the North of England - let's hope it has an inspirational affect on the City's youth.
Photographer Andrea Bakacs recently alerted me to her blog - Photography for a greener planet - which seeks to present projects and photographers attempting to redress the balance by photographing stories and making work relating to the environmental damage we humans engage in with our activities and some of the things we can do to minimise our impact. Sometimes this can be a difficult thing to present visually as subjects of this nature are rarely easily to isolate as being purely ecological.
Take the photographs of Daniel Shea for example. His series - removing mountains - which is about open face coal mining in the Appalachian mountains - contains not only the obvious shots of big scars on the landscape from the mines but also some sense of the community that surrounds the coal mines, which are both providers of jobs and the source of economic woes (coal is a finite resource - once the mines are exhausted, what then?). The mines divide communities, with those who see them as a benefit pitted against those who oppose the damage they do. Coal mining provides fuel and yet devastates the environment. Complex - and difficult to portray, though of course the visual impact of the mines themselves is apparent.
I think Shea has a decent stab at presenting this issue in it's many facets, though my only real complaint being that I really believe he should have captions for each of his photos on his website. In a story of this nature, you really need to know if the guy with the weapon resting on his lap is a miner, an environmental activist, or just a guy with a gun on his lap.
Context is everything and with the debates surrounding issues such as this often becoming extremely muddy, clarity is essential. The subjects may have multiple issues attached to them and debate can rage back and forth, but ambiguity is something we should strive to eliminate if we are really to address these issues properly.
In any case, Kudos to Photography for a greener planet for bringing this work to my attention; check out Andrea's interview with Daniel Shea here.
My friend, the director, showed me a bunch of photographs and said 'Do you think you could do something like that?'
The photographs I was to imitate were by Don McCullin. I was stunned. In those days I didn't know barely anything about famous photographers. My parents liked Salgado and Cartier-Bresson and I'd seen a few books and exhibits but Don McCullin was a name vaguely recognised and I certainly hadn't seen more than one or two of his pictures before.
Since that moment he has been one of my favourite photographers. His work is incredible, his attitude is forthright and direct and he has a refreshing honesty regarding what he would see as the failure of his work to affect change.
I've written briefly about his book 'Is Anyone Taking Any notice?' before. Check that out here.
The current issue of Aperture magazine has a short conversation between him and Fred Ritchin, with some video excerpts online here.
He is also exhibiting in my hometown of Bradford in the north of England at The National Media Museum until the end of September 2009. Their website has a wealth of resources relating to his work and career and is well worth checking out. If you happen to be in Bradford definitely put it on you itinerary (along with a trip to some of the UK's best Curry Houses - the best curry outside of India in fact...)
Actually, you should make a trip to Bradford specifically for the above reasons. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
McCullin has some (sort of) nice things to say about my home town:
"I stopped wandering when I reached Bradford, where I found a microcosm of the dark satanic legacy that we had inherited from Britain’s industrial heyday ... I was met everywhere by warm and courteous people ... In Bradford I experienced a new freedom, wandering through the quiet dilapidated streets where, for the first time in years, I encountered a great deal of hospitality and the welcome absence of violence. I discovered here a city, a living city, and in so doing I rediscovered myself – not always a comfortable process."
Here is one of his photographs of the place.
Oh yeah, and those pictures I was supposed to imitate for the film? Impossible. We did get some pretty cool fake warzone shots in a burnt out building in South London one afternoon though...
He's good with kids too.