Category Archive: Assignments
“This is it. This is your country. This is what I saw.” – David Guttenfelder
David Guttenfelder, Associated Press Chief Photographer in Asia, has made 30 trips and stayed 100 days in North Korea, one of few Western photographers with regular access to the isolated country. The AP was the first news organization to open a bureau in Pyongyang, in January 2012. Guttenfelder, an American photographer who has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize seven times and has won seven World Press Photo awards, oversees the bureau’s photography and staff.
He posts regularly on his instagram account (@dguttenfelder), including images transmitted directly from the streets of Pyongyang since he was first allowed to bring a cell phone in to the country in February 2013. Just Something magazine published a blog with 41 of his instagram images that are well worth checking out; the feeling we get with instagram and mobile photography – casual, personal, instant – is very interestingly applied in the context of the “hermit kingdom”. These are not images we’ve seen before.
Guttenfelder is in a unique position to document a country that had almost no independent photographic record for 60 years, and luckily for all of us he is doing a wonderful job and is very eloquent about what he is trying to accomplish. National Geographic, who recently sent him on assignment in North Korea, invited him to speak at a recent National Geographic Live! event, and they’ve published a video of his talk.
After earlier comparing his vision of North Korea on his first trips to the country to the movie The Truman Show he talks about his mission as “trying to interpret reality, trying to reveal what is real inside the country.”
This is one of the more inspiring videos about photography and how it can be used that I’ve seen in recent memory.
2013 was an interesting year for me, full of travel and new experiences. I was able to see a couple of stories I’ve been trying to produce for years turn into full pieces in major magazines. I was also thrilled to join Boreal Collective, where I will be collaborating with fantastic photographers and good friends of mine. We have a lot of exciting plans for 2014, and you can follow us on twitter or facebook. Another high moment from last year was exhibiting my work “Only Unity” in Belgrade, Serbia in November. It was the first complete solo exhibition of the project I’ve been working on for the last seven years.
It has been a year to take stock and think about how to present the work that I’ve completed in my time living in Serbia and start to plan what comes next.
Today, weeks late as is my tradition here on dvafoto, I present 25 of my favorite images from the last year, presented chronologically. Now I can’t wait to get started on new projects and new endeavors in 2014.
You can follow my work more regularly through my tumblr: onlyunity.tumblr.com and on instagram: @mattlutton. Here are some of the other major happenings in my life and work last year, some of which showed up in my slideshow above:
I completed a story that I’ve been looking in to for the last year about segregation in Roma communities in Slovakia, which sometimes takes the form of construction of barrier walls separating Roma communities from Slovak neighborhoods. The project was commissioned by Vice Magazine and published in April as “The New Roma Ghettos: Slovakia’s Ongoing Segregation Nightmare” alongside an incredible story written by Aaron Lake Smith. More of the project can be seen on my website.
In April I attended the first New York Photo Review organized by the New York Times and James Estrin of the NYTimes’ Lens Blog.
I spent June traveling around Croatia and Serbia for the Dutch travel magazine Columbus. It was great to get off my normal beat in the Balkans and see some beautiful sights and eat very well, especially in Central Serbia near Uvac Canyon. The photographs from Croatia are now available in my archive.
While photographing for Burn I visited Istanbul, Turkey for a friend’s birthday and promptly found myself photographing street skirmishes relating to the Taksim Square / Gezi Park protests we wrote about in mid-June. It was my first real experience with tear gas and rubber bullets, giving me a new perspective on the work all of our colleagues who work in these situations regularly. It is not easy.
In August and October I was reporting in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina for the Chronicle of Higher Education for a piece that was published as “The Science of Hatred”. My pictures and work was published alongside Tarik Samarah’s photographs from Srebrenica.
My exhibition at the ArtGet Gallery, part of the Belgrade Cultural Center, was a part of Raw Season organized by the collective Belgrade Raw, who I interviewed on dvafoto in 2009. The series of exhibitions this year included shows by very talented friends of mine, including Donald Weber (who was showing his project “Interrogations”) and Pete Brook (who exhibited ‘Seen But Not Heard’: Photos from US Juvenile Prisons.). It was tremendous fun to show them around Belgrade when they were in town for their openings.
The year concluded with an opportunity to see through another story I’ve been interested in for years, and to do it alongside my friend and fellow Belgrade foreign correspondent Andrew MacDowall. The Financial Times commissioned us to produce a audio-visual slideshow in Bosnia and Hercegovina about the unique relationship between a iron ore mine in the Republika Srpska village of Omarska and a smelter in the Federation city of Zenica. The piece which was published online as “Zenica partnership helps banish ghosts of Omarska” as part of their annual Connected Europe magazine. More images from this piece are also available on my archive.
See some of the presentations of these stories in print and pictures from my exhibition on the published work section of my website.
Thanks everyone, and see you around dvafoto this year!
This was a very interesting year for me, definitely the busiest since I moved to Belgrade, Serbia in February 2009, filled with lots of travel and some interesting assignments. Notably I had the chance to visit Africa for the first time, on assignment in South Sudan, and received the Burn Magazine Emerging Photographer Fund Grant for my ongoing project “Only Unity”.
I started the year in England, then was in Sarajevo for a story about the 20th anniversary of the start of the war there. My mother came to visit me in Belgrade in April, but our trip was interrupted by Presidential elections in Serbia, which I covered for the Wall Street Journal. That assignment led to one of the strangest days of my career, when I photographed both Serbian President Boris Tadic and former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani hours apart in the same TV studio (see the WSJ article about Giuliani in Belgrade).
Soon after I was documenting the destruction of the Belville Roma settlement. My friend Darko Stanimirović and I handed out disposable cameras to residents of the camp so that they could document the eviction themselves. We published a multimedia piece at Newsmotion.org with these community pictures alongside Stanimirović’s audio recordings, a text by Alan Chin and some of my pictures as “The Sound of Barking Dogs: The Eviction of the Roma from Belville”.
In September I was in South Sudan reporting a story about the future of the Jonglei Canal and the issues of water rights for the youngest country on the planet. The project was commissioned by Austrian magazine 2012, an interesting one-year-only magazine published by Red Bull Media House. I have included a few images from the project here, but for now the only other pictures online are the tearsheets from ’2012′ which you can see on the clips section of mattlutton.com.
I also spent a total of four months in the United States, and was able to finally visit the area of the former Republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia to document the remnants of Serbian life there. I was invited to be on the jury of the Organ Vida international photography festival in Zagreb, and was a speaker and juror at the “Foton” Makarska Photo Days Festival.
The biggest news of the year for me though was the Burn Magazine Emerging Photographer Fund Grant, which I received in June for my project “Only Unity”: Serbia In The Aftermath of Yugoslavia.
The response to the project has been very exciting, and I’m eager to finish the work this year. If you would like to know more, have a look at one of the interviews I did last year following the announcement: “Award-Winning Project Documents a Fractured Serbia” with Pete Brook at Wired’s Raw File blog, “Picture Story: Holding up a Mirror to Serbian Nationalism” in PDN Magazine (subscribers only unfortunately, see what it looked like in print here), and my chat with fellow EPF-finalist and friend Ian Willms on “BOREAL Spotlight: Matt Lutton, “Only Unity””.
Thanks again everyone for continuing to follow Dvafoto and supporting all of the photographers we feature here. I wish you all a fun and successful 2013!
In 2010, fifteen young South-East European photographers and three masters met in Berlin for the SEE New Perspectives masterclass, organized by World Press Photo and Robert Bosch Stiftung. After the first meeting in Berlin all of the photographers were given a grant to photograph a story within the region but outside of their home country.
The resulting projects are now being exhibited in Belgrade, Serbia (on display until December 14 at the ARTGET gallery on Trg Republike) after debuting in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in October. The show will soon move to Zagreb, Croatia and Berlin, Germany. The exhibition features an interesting concept of displaying oversized “magazines” each devoted to one photographer’s project, with only one image from each project along with the photographer’s name on the wall.
You can see all of the stories produced in the masterclass on the SEE New Perspectives website as well as more information about the organization of the project.
The photographers are:
Andrei Pungovschi, Romania
Armend Nimani, Kosovo
Bevis Fusha, Albania
Dženat Dreković, Serbia
Eugenia Maximova, Bulgaria
Ferdi Limani, Kosovo
Jasmin Brutus, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Jetmir Idrizi, Kosovo
Marko Risović, Serbia
Nemanja Pančić, Serbia
Octav Ganea, Romania
Petrut Calinescu, Romania
Sanja Jovanović (née Knežević), Serbia
Tomislav Georgiev, Macedonia
Vesselina Nikolaeva, Bulgaria
And the Tutors are:
Regina Anzenberger, Austria, artist, curator, photographer’s agent, gallerist
Silvia Omedes, Spain, president at Photographic Social Vision Foundation
Donald Weber, Canada, photographer VII Agency
I asked my old friend Jasmin Brutus, a Bosnian photographer who was part of the masterclass, to paraphrase the statement he gave at the Sarajevo opening which expresses his feelings about the years-long masterclass project: “We [the participating photographers] all returned with nice small toolbox which our employers will never know how to utilize. So, I think experience in the masterclass is very useful for my personal projects and for my job is almost useless. I gained new skills and my old skills got enhanced. But, for me the most important thing is that I met a group of really great people and great photographers.”
Congratulations to my friends from around the region who were able to take part in this interesting project and many of whom were able to produce terrific photo stories that may otherwise never have seen light or been published. I encourage you to explore the work published on the SEE New Perspectives site or peruse the photographers’ own websites linked above.
The video below features interviews with all of the photographers about their work and experience in the masterclass:
Our friend Nicole Tung has been producing some incredibly strong and moving work from Syria in the last couple of months. It is very dangerous reporting and she is making important photographs and finding ways to get them out to the world, which we greatly admire. The picture below, which was featured in a TIME LightBox post, is the strongest image either Scott or I have seen all year. Tung recently spoke with Photojournalism Links about her time in Syria and her plans for returning. It is a must read. To Nicole and our other colleagues who are working there: stay safe and keep up the important work.
See more of Tung’s work at:
Photojournalism Links: “Interview: Nicole Tung on covering the battle for Aleppo”.
Time Lightbox: “A Syrian Tragedy: One Family’s Horror”.
Time Lightbox: “Suffering and Resilience: The Hospitals of Aleppo”
Matt and Scott are about to send out their quarterly newsletters updating clients and friends about the work we have been up to and the plans for the near future. It is the best way to keep up with what we are working on and where our pictures are being published. You can sign up for Scott’s newsletter here, and sign up for Matt’s here, or click on their respective photos below. We both use MailChimp to manage our newsletters and you can unsubscribe at any time, and we promise not to bombard you more than a handful of times per year.
While most of Scott’s recent work is still under embargo or not quite published, here are few highlights from him, based in Boston, Massachusetts:
- Updates on new work, including recent portraiture and political coverage
- Tearsheets from Education Week, MIT News, Montana’s Office of Tourism, and others
- New-to-you images from Tibetan areas of China in my archive
- Travel images from flyover states
- Information about upcoming travel this summer
Some highlights from Matt, who is based in Belgrade, Serbia:
- Lutton will be traveling in the United States from mid-June until the end of August, and tentatively in Africa in September.
- Tearsheets and archive features from recent assignments for The Wall Street Journal, 2012 Magazine and M Le Magazine du Monde.
- Coverage from the Serbian Presidential and Parliamentary elections which took place on May 6, and previewing the second round of Presidential voting on May 20.
- Preview of his new story “The Destruction of Belville” which follows another mass Roma eviction in Belgrade similar to his project Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere from 2009.
Sign up and see the full updates from Matt and Scott when they send their newsletters next week. Thanks again for supporting us and our work, we look forward to sharing more of our pictures and a lot more on dvafoto soon.
Here are a few notable and fun things that happened in 2011:
On August 15 a selection of my work from the Balkans was featured as the PDN Photo of the Day.
During the Ratko Mladic arrest story that I followed for a week in May one of my images from Srebrenica was used nicely on the front page of the International Herald Tribune.
My year finished with a pair of fun assignments for Le Monde Magazine (“The Belgrade of Enki Bilal”) and Financial Times: Connected Europe Magazine (“Regeneration of the Danube”, may require sign-up). You can also see the layout on my website.
I’ve previously published my “best” or more accurately “favorite” photos of the year here on dvafoto in 2009 and 2010. If you’re interested in some of the places where my pictures were published last year, see the clips section of my website, at mattlutton.com.
Happy New Year to everyone, thanks for following our work here at dvafoto!
I spent a week covering the breaking news that Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic was finally captured after nearly 16 years on the run, in a village an hour north of Belgrade in the early morning of May 26. On assignment for The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune I had the interesting experience of running in the streets with stone-throwing hooligans (there really weren’t that many of them, it was less of a mess than a typical soccer match), hanging out in the small Vojvodina village of Lazarevo where Mladic was captured (see our article about the town here) and then with a few minutes notice renting a car and rushing to Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina with my colleague Matthew Brunwasser for a three-day story of the lessons learned from the forensic investigations in Bosnia as well as reactions to Mladic’s arrest. After getting back to Belgrade, we began another story about the current state of Serbian nationalism and a profile of 13-year old human rights activist Rastko Pocesta.
It was a busy week covering a story that all of us in the Balkans have been waiting to happen for years. I had to create a balance between working a few assignments, in what might be the last big Balkan story for years, and photographing what I need for my own long-term projects. There are some pictures that did not run in the paper that will work well for me, which makes the week worthwhile beyond the few images that did run in the paper.
Because of the story in Bosnia, I actually missed a chance to photograph the largest visual moment of this story, the large opposition protest in Belgrade on Sunday May 29. Andrew Testa made this dramatic image at the rally and my friend Andy Spyra was able to publish some great pictures from the day too. I at the time was driving through rural Bosnia, the old hills and roads where the war itself played out. I wish I could have been in Belgrade, but I’m proud that the story we found in Bosnia was published on the front page of the International Herald Tribune and add an important perspective and balance to the images coming out of Belgrade. Being able to contribute not only photographs but also ideas and editorial perspective to the NYTimes and IHT’s coverage of this story is very rewarding.
I’ll be publishing more images on my tumblr Only Unity, where I often play with images that aren’t showing up a elsewhere. Thanks again to Tala, Cornelius, Matt and the rest of the folks at IHT/NYT, was very good working with you all.
The Society of Publication Designers’ awesome blog “Grids” recently did another feature with the photographer Dan Winters profiling one of his latest projects: photographing one of the last Space Shuttle launches for Texas Monthly. The post shows the design work and the original photographs, as well as the backstory behind how the piece came about and how Winters set up the shoot in obviously difficult conditions. It is ridiculously cool, at least for someone like me who has been obsessed with the space program since 4 years old.
Some of the most original pictures of the shuttle program I’ve probably ever seen, especially put together as a photo essay. I wish I had these as huge posters as a kid.
You should also check out this amazing BLDGBLOG post on the history of Spacesuits, tapping in to fashion, culture, urban design, etc. It is an interview with author Nicholas de Monchaux, who wrote Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo, and features some more ridiculously cool photographs of the space program.
And for more Dan Winters see A Photo Editor’s must-read interview: parts One, Two and Three.
This is in part a guest post by photographer Daniel Etter
From the very beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there has been debate about the nature of US media coverage of the conflicts and the embedding system. One of my favorite sources for this media criticism has come from Michael Shaw at BagNewsNotes. He recently published a post about three news organizations publishing three stories about US Medevac units at the same time, which has set off a series of discussions and posts around the photo world. Medevac is short for Medical Evacuation, typically a helicopter rescue in the context of modern war zones. For a good round-up and links to all of the work in question, see this PDN Pulse post which includes a response from one of the photographers involved.
I think it is worth noting as well, before we get started, the photographic echoes we are dealing with when we look at medevac stories and why they are so visually/culturally interesting. This story’s inherent appeal is echoed in Etter’s response. We can start with Larry Burrow’s foundational Life Magazine essay One Ride with Yankee Papa 13 and David Turnley’s memorable photograph from the 1991 Gulf War of a soldier crying over the death of his friend in a medevac chopper. As well, James Nachtwey recorded a video interview with Time Magazine about his assignment in question: “Photographing the Birds of Hope: An Army Medevac Unit in Afghanistan”.
I was especially interested in this discussion because an old colleague of Scott and mine, Daniel Etter, recently completed an embed himself with a US Medevac unit and worked on his story Medevac, which we are also featuring in this post. I thought to ask him what his view was on the current hubbub, given his own personal knowledge of the process and decision making, and to learn more about his own project. He wrote back with some thoughtful ideas and insights and we have chosen to publish the entire piece. I consider this a guest post for Dvafoto by Daniel Etter, and turn it over to him with thanks:
So there were three major US publications that nearly simultaneously published prominent stories on US Army medevac units. My take on it? Partly coincidence and partly photographers’ herd instinct.
I approached the military specifically asking to be embedded with a medevac unit. There was absolutely no influence from the side of the military. It might have taken longer if I’d applied for a foot patrol, but I doubt that. I was embedded in Regional Command South and during my time there, there were at least four photographers with troops on the ground, while there were only two photographers embedded with medevac units, me being one of them. One additional photographer split his time between ground troops and a medevac unit. The people who didn’t ask for a specific unit ended up with ground troops.
I was surprised to see all these photographers doing the same story and, even more so, to see the same story being published in the NYT and Time Magazine within such a short time frame. The former is pretty easy to explain. You could be with the infantry on foot patrols for weeks and absolutely nothing happens, and, given the cynicism of our profession, you don’t want that. (Back in Kandahar, another photographer asked if I had seen any amputees during my embed. I said, yes. To which he somewhat jealously replied: “Strong images, man, strong images.”) Being embedded with a medevac unit means, you can be sure to get dramatic photos. About every third mission I accompanied was to a so-called “POI”, the point of injury somewhere in the dusty plains around Kandahar. In one case it was a hot POI, meaning that fighting was still going on. Wounded being rushed into helicopters, guns pointed at invisible enemies and dust blown up by the whirling chopper blades. Very visual.
In 2008/2009 various high profile photographers went to the Korengal valley embedded with US combat troops. Among them were Tyler Hicks, David Guttenfelder, Tim Hetherington and Adam Ferguson. Gary Knight (on Rethink-Dispatches) and David Campbell (on his blog) wrote about this strange clustering, asking if this was due to the military’s strategy to narrow the public’s focus on this tiny part of Afghanistan and keep it away from other parts. [Editor's Note: This is a terrific observation and both Campbell's and Knight's articles offer great insights that are applicable to this current discussion]. Now almost the same question is being asked again just the other way around. Is the military trying to get the focus away from combat? In both cases, I doubt that the answer is a simply “yes”.
When deciding where to embed, photographers, especially those without much experience in the war theater, ask other photographers or look at work that has been done before. The most important question often is: Where do I get good photos? Which basically means: Where is the fighting? In 2008/2009 the answer was Korengal. Last year it was medevac, and I expect we will see more of it this year. This clustering doesn’t only happen with war photography, but with pretty much every subject. For example, most of the photographers based in India have done stories on Kushti, the traditional Indian wrestling.
The other thing is that medevac embeds are comparatively safe. Well, at least you feel safer. You are only on the ground for a minute or two and you spend the majority of your time on the base. On a foot patrol there’s always the danger of getting shot at out of the blue or, even worse, stepping on an IED. While with a medevac unit chances that you get under fire are much higher than with the infantry, at least you don’t have to carry that fear around all day long. Perceived safety and dramatic images at the same time make up for a pretty strong argument for a medevac embed. At least, when you look at it from a purely pragmatical viewpoint.
The latter, why there where three major publications who did the same story within such a short time span, I can’t explain. But I don’t believe that it was due to influence from the side of the military. Perception has a lot to do with the current ruckus, I think. If Nachtwey hadn’t done this story, nobody would have raised the topic. And also, there were other, less heroic pieces that got published around the same time. About a month earlier, the NYT did a story on night raids that were heavily criticized by the Afghan government.
That being said, I still think that this clustering of the same story being repeated is definitely a symptom of some problems of the photographical coverage of the war in Afghanistan. I just don’t think the gravest problems lie within the embed system. Sure, being embedded means that you are part of the military’s public relations strategy, and there are definitely stories withheld from the public (special ops, for example). But it’s not that you don’t see the downside of the military’s actions. Adam Ferguson had a big multimedia piece in Time on an infantry unit that accidentally killed a 14-year-old girl (there is also a a text version of the story).
The graver problem, I think, are the difficulties of getting out of the embed system. What’s missing are not stories about American troops fighting, but stories about the other side. It is not only very dangerous to report unembedded in Afghanistan, but also very expensive. An embed is free. So a lot of independent photographers end up doing the same stories with the military and their public relations strategy.
Another problem that comes up here sounds very simple: Photography relies on images. The more dramatic, the better to sell. Photographers aren’t magically drawn to stories like Korengal or medevac. You can make powerful and journalistically important images in these places, but on the other hand you are very limited with a camera. There are stories that simply cannot be told in images. And sometimes, even if the story is an entirely different one, the images remain the same. Can you tell the difference between an insurgent and a simply Afghan farmer on a photo?
My decision to embed with a medevac unit was mostly pragmatic. It was my first embed, and, to be honest, I was freaking scared to go. I didn’t set out with the idea to do the best or most unique story possible. And I don’t believe in the naive notion that one single photographer in the context of this war can change anything for the better. However, I do believe in the necessity of communicating these stories and events to a wider audience in order to keep public debate alive. But I just wanted to start with something that might not be the most important topic but seemed relatively safe. I’ve seen Nachtwey’s piece on the broader subject of military medicine in National Geographic, which also covers the work of US flight medics. It seemed like a good option. Simple as that. No conspiracies involved.
[Ed: Thanks again Daniel for your insights in to this story and your honest and open assesments of the situation. And to Michael Shaw for setting this discussion and our thinking off ]