Category Archive: Events


Interview: Asim Rafiqui’s “Bagram: The Other Guantanamo”

Asim Rafiqui, Aftermath Project Grant winner and the writer behind The Spinning Head, has spent much of the last year photographing in Pakistan for his Justice in Pakistan project. Rafiqui was named an Open Society Fellow by the Open Society Foundation last year to embark on this major new work. Last week he debuted the first chapter of this project “Bagram: The Other Guantanamo” with an exhibition in Islamabad, Pakistan. He will also be presenting this work in Washington DC on September 12, 2013 at The Fridge Gallery. The project features portraits and interviews with family members of the nearly 40 Pakistani men still detained at the Bagram base in Afghanistan and is presented in a highly organized and internally referenced website that links the families, prisoners and their stories.

Rafiqui has generously agreed to answer some of my questions about his new project and share some of the images here on dvafoto.

“Nearly 40 Pakistani citizens remain indefinitely imprisoned at the Bagram Prison in Afghanistan without charge or trial. Denied the right to a legal defense these men have become victims of a cruel and unjust detention system with little or no hope for a fair trial or release. Some have been behind bars for over 11 years. Periodically allowed to speak to their immediate family members via Internet telephone calls, they are denied access to the outside world. They are isolated from the law, the media, and human rights organizations.” – About The Bagram Campaign, Justice Project Pakistan.

Dvafoto: What drew you to the idea of a large new project about Pakistan? 

Asim Rafiqui: I had been looking to do something in Pakistan for some time. I had also been looking to extend the work I had done in India – a work that explored colonial histories and their continuing impact on our modernity, into a new direction. With the War Against Terror tearing apart the fabric of so much of Pakistan, it was difficult to simply stay away. I had already begun work on a project on the victims of the War Against Terror in late 2011, and now, once the work in India had been completed, I realized that I had a chance to return to Pakistan and produce something new. Perhaps in the end I was most attracted to the idea of producing new stories from Pakistan, and doing so from the perspective of the individual Pakistani. This has rarely been done – we have become used to speaking of ourselves in the collective. Perhaps worse, we have become used to speaking of ourselves through borrowed narratives sold to us through the Western press and pundit who maintain an inexplicably powerful influence amongst the country’s political, bureaucratic and class elite. What that means is that there is a vast chasm between those who hold the power and the wealth in this country, and the tens of millions who hold all its burdens of existence. As Saadia Toor, author of the brilliant new book The State of Islam said:

…[the] liberal discourse reveals [a] profound dissociation from – and even a distaste of for – ordinary Pakistanis and their lives, hopes, dreams and struggles, reflected in the abandonment of mass political work. (page 199)

I see the same dissociation amongst our celebrated literati – most all of whom can only speak about the country through the prism of borrowed frameworks – the War Against Terror, globalization, Islamic radicalism and a whole host of dehumanizing, debilitating, distancing and degrading structures of thought and engagement that remove the individual Pakistan as a real subject, and replace her with victimhood, dependency, helplessness, and irrelevancy. My work in Pakistan will be built around 300 individual stories, each of which is meant to reveal the genuine struggles of the ordinary Pakistan and most importantly, provoke thought about the social and legal justice as it needs to be fought for and delivered.

How did this specific project about Justice in Pakistan come about? 

It always begins with a thought, and these thoughts always emerge during the process of a reading. The idea for a project on questions of justice in Pakistan came up during the summer of 2011 when I was living in Delhi, India. I was taking time off from my field work on the Idea of India project and had set aside a month to review a number of articles and books on South Asian colonial histories that I had been meaning to read but had been forced to set aside. It was during that summer that I noticed that I had collected into a pile a number of books that focused on the law and colonial history – I had been avoiding reading these sections because I had thought them irrelevant to my current work in India. But as I came back to them and started to go through them I thought that it was a theme worth exploring and something that may be a way to do something new from Pakistan. By coincidence a close friend had introduced me to Osama Siddique – a brilliant lawyer and professor in Lahore, Pakistan, who had written some remarkable papers on the continuing impact of colonial institutions, laws and practices on modern day Pakistani court and legal methods. And I was hooked. It took me a few months to work out the details and transform what were purely academic questions into a workable concept of a photo project. That phase I completed sitting in a small apartment in Queens, New York in early 2012.

What is your partnership with Justice Project Pakistan? 

There is no formal partnership as such. I am a Soros Fellow this year, and JPP is an OSI supported legal chamber. I was introduced to Sarah Belal, the director of JPP, when I arrived in Pakistan to start my justice project work. We both quickly realized that we share a deep commitment to the same questions of the rights of Pakistani citizens, and the objective of the law. What has emerged is a collaboration between two liked-minded individuals, both deeply naive and idealistic, but equally committed to speaking out on behalf of some of the most dehumanized, degraded and marginalized members of our society. Sarah was well aware of my ongoing work on the human cost of the American/Pakistani War Against Terror practices in the country that were / are tearing apart the lives of tens of thousands. And she approached me to see if I would be interested in doing something on the question of the Pakistani prisoners in Bagram. She and her team had already been working on a report about the situation of the Bagram prisoners, and I suggested that we broaden the focus on the work to include the lives and struggles of their families as well. We were soon able to transform a lunch conversation into a pilot project, and pitch the idea to funders, who, upon seeing the pilot website, were soon backing our work with the necessary funds. Our recently launched website (www.jpp.org.pk/bagram), and released report, and the various events and exhibitions we are holding in Pakistan, USA and the UK, are all a culmination of earliest discussions where we felt that we could do something new and more powerful by working together.

How long have you been photographing in Pakistan? 

For this project I have been photographing since October 2012. However, I have been working in Pakistan since 2002 and have produced a lot of work from the country. I don’t live here, and in fact have not lived here since 1984. But I do keep coming back and can find my way around. In fact, Pakistan was the first country I travelled to when I decided to become a photographer. The current justice project work will keep me engaged here for at least another 2 years, though I am also in the midst of working on a draft of my India book, and starting work on a new project in the Middle East.

Where have you been traveling to work on these pictures? 

There is really no specific travel agenda. I am going wherever I can find the stories. I am looking for individuals. So in many ways the physical and geographical dimensions are not so important this time. This is in sharp contrast to my work in India which was all about geography, sites, locations, and regions.

So far my work has taken me to the main urban centers – Pakistan as a very high rate of urbanization so this is not so unusual. The recent work trying to locate the families of the men in Bagram of course took me out into remote settlements along the Afghanistan – Baluchistan border regions, and deep into the slums of Karachi. But I also met some of them in legal offices, as for example when I was working with the victims of drone attacks. As I said, I am trying to find certain kinds of stories, and meet individuals with certain life experiences. The geography of the country becomes unimportant in some regards.

What is the process of identifying the prisoners and their families, and getting access to them? 

We began with the court files, and those that had decided to join the various litigation that JPP had filed on behalf of the families of the men imprisoned in Bagram. These were the families that were easiest to reach. When I say easiest I meant that they had at least had left a mobile phone number at the office. That is how I began. Read on »

This weekend NYC: The Fourth Annual Zine and Self-Published Book Fair

Camera Club of New York: The Fourth Annual Zine and Self-Published  Photo Book Fair

Camera Club of New York: The Fourth Annual Zine and Self-Published
Photo Book Fair

The Camera Club of New York is holding it’s 4th annual Zine and Self-Published Book Fair this weekend, Aug. 3-4, 2013, presenting work from North, South, and Central America. The event, which includes a lecture by Tony White, the Director of the Decker Library at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, is at 336 West 37th Street, Suite 206, New York, NY 10018-4212. There’s a list of artists featured on the event page here.

In a similar vein, you might want to check out The Newsstand at the Metropolitan Ave subway stop in Brooklyn, which continues throughout the summer and features many zines and books by photographers. And there’s always the Indie Photobook Library, which shows up at photo and art events and shows around the world (next in Tokyo) and which is also browsable online.

The New York Photography Portfolio Review: Interview with James Estrin

Yesterday James Estrin, co-Editor of the New York Times Lens Blog and Staff Photographer for the Times, announced that they are inaugurating the first New York Photography Portfolio Review, a two-day event in April 2013. It will bring together 160 photographers, in two one-day sessions, with more than 50 prominent reviewers, including a diverse selection of photo editors, agents, publishers, curators and buyers. The event will include private portfolio reviews, discussions and workshops.

They’ve also announced that the event will be free to attend for invited photographers, a step away from other major portfolio reviews in the US and Europe which can cost hundreds of dollars. The event, on April 13 and 14 at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, is divided in two sessions: on Saturday the 100 invited photographers will all be 21 years or older, and on Sunday all 60 photographers will be aged 18-27. To attend you must submit a portfolio by February 13, and invited photographers will be informed by March 8, 2013.

This is such an interesting event that I wanted to pose a few questions to Estrin, and he agreed to fill us in.

The New York Times Lens Blog.

The New York Times Lens Blog.

Dvafoto: Whose idea was this project, and how does it fit Lens’ and the NYT’s goals?

Estrin: I’ve always thought that the web, and social media were very powerful tools for communication, but significantly different than actual human interaction. Real Analogue interaction can have important and profound consequences.

I came up with the idea for the review with Lens co-editor David Gonzalez.

We have been lucky that our marching orders, from our boss [assistant managing editor for photography for the New York Times] Michele McNally, have always been to make the very best blog we could. Make the best editorial judgements that we could make, be willing to be smart, try to be principaled and don’t worry about traffic or business. So if this event can help the photo community, and create opportunities and discussion, then it fits into our mission. There are many ways to communicate.

Why did you choose to make the event free? This surely bucks the trend of most portfolio reviews and events for photographers these days.

It’s free because we wanted to create as many opportunities for photographers, regardless of background, to share their work.
There are fine portfolio reviews that charge- most of them non profit either by design or execution. I reviewed this year at Review Santa Fe and also at Lens Culture Fotofest in Paris and I think both were very was helpful for many photographers as well as for myself as an editor. At the same time I think we all have a responsibility to our fellow photographers, particularly the youngest new photographers amongst us.

Many people helped me when I was a young freelance photographer. I wouldn’t be here without them. I always remember how difficult it was to show my work in the pre-digital era, and how alone I often felt. There is an important tradition of experienced photographers helping newer ones.

Why the age categories? Will there be a different curriculum for each session?

The age categories are because I wanted to make sure that we did the utmost we could for up and coming photographers.
All photographers 21 and older can go on Saturday and I think the opportunities will be great. But on Sunday you have to be 18 -27 and there will be many workshops as well as reviews. By the way a very accomplished 21 -27 year old photographer could apply and get in for both days.

Ultimately, we just wanted to do some good, have fun, and help our colleagues in any way that we can. So we asked what would be a meaningful thing to do.

My colleagues from the New York Times, National Geographic, Time, Aperture, Abrams books, PDN, and many museums, magazines, galleries and blogs have generously agreed to share their time. We are adding new reviewers daily.

Thanks to James Estrin for answering some of our questions and for organizing this fantastic opportunity for photographers.

The deadline for submitting your portfolio is February 13, 2013 on the entry page. Good luck to everyone applying!

SEE New Perspectives Masterclass

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:

SEE New Perspectives from Balkan Photographers from World Press Photo on Vimeo.

Upcoming: NPPA Business Blitz Roadshow – Boston, Austin, Chicago, San Clemente

“The 2012 NPPA Business Blitz will help its students develop the fundamental building blocks for creating a sustainable business in a changing marketplace. Lectures will build on basic business principles to address challenges faced by freelancers as they navigate a brave new digital realm. Topics will cover methods for monetizing and negotiating new media projects, long-term legal and business considerations in the year 2012, and marketing methodology for reaching new clients.” -NPPA Business Blitz Roadshow

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as a freelancer, it’s that you’ve got to get your business right. In the coming months, the National Press Photographers’ Association will run a series of “Business Blitz Roadshows” aimed at helping photographers figure out their business strategy. The event, which also includes an exhibition of Best of Photojournalism award winners, will be in Boston this weekend (July 13-14), Austin (Sept. 28-29), Chicago (Oct. 19-20), and San Clemente, CA (Nov. 16-17), and the ticket price is much less than most workshops: $30 for non-members to attend both days. Only the Boston schedule of events is available as of this writing, but all stops will feature talks about the business of photography from discussions about the future to the practicalities of dealing with contracts. Hope to see you at the Boston event!

In this vein, the book Best Business Practices for Photographers will probably be useful to you. I frequently flip through the book when dealing with contracts and client issues.

Watch tonight – Benjamin Lowy on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (updated)

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - Benjamin Lowy guest appearance on 5 December 2011

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - Benjamin Lowy guest appearance on 5 December 2011

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the interview.

Two of my favorite things (talented photojournalists and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) converge tonight when Benjamin Lowy appears as a guest on the show to talk about his latest book Iraq | Perspectives. The show will air on Comedy Central in the US on Dec. 5, 2011, and will likely be available online shortly thereafter. I’ve been a frequent watcher of the Daily Show since before Jon Stewart’s reign as host, and I can’t remember ever seeing another photographer as guest on the show. Lowy may be the first photojournalist to be featured in the show’s history.

The dearth of photographer guests on the Daily Show has always seemed strange to me, especially considering the number of war correspondents and documentary writers featured. Photographers have unparalleled on-the-ground experience of the wars and disasters chronicled, parodied and lambasted on the Daily Show. Other shows and outlets involve photographers a bit more; Ben Lowy recently, Ron Haviv, David Walter Banks, and others have been on CNN, and NPR’s Fresh Air has featured a number of photographers, including: Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva, Roy DeCarava, James Balog, Joel Meyerowitz, Christopher Morris, and Horst Faas and Tim Page. But for some reason, the Daily Show rarely features photographers. Hopefully, Lowy’s appearance will be the start of a trend!

Check out Ben Lowy’s website while you’re at it and get a copy of his most recent book, Iraq | Perspectives.

Tim Hetherington’s photographic legacy (and an NYC event on Oct. 22)

Tim Hetherington archive at Magnum Photos

Tim Hetherington archive at Magnum Photos

Magnum has become the overseer of much of Tim Hetherington’s photography, and you can see some 480 of his pictures there now. And while this is a departure from Hetherington’s previous relationship with Panos Pictures, BJP reports that the new arrangement is in line with Hetherington’s and his family’s wishes.

Also of note, Magnum has been distributing an archive of Libyan secret service video and photographs that was recovered by Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch and given to Hetherington and Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak to determine the best way to preserve and distribute the materials. The work is credited “Collection Thomas Dworzak for Human Rights Watch” in the Magnum archive (here’s a few example images, though I imagine better scans will eventually be available), despite the involvement of Hetherington and Bouckaert in the find. David Campbell questioned this credit and the notion of licensing such images for money, and Magnum released a statement in response.

Lens has also recently compiled some of Hetherington’s work from Libya and links to recent remembrances of and interviews with him, including a reminder of Hetherington’s excellent book: Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold. World Press Photo has also begun an annual grant in Hetherington’s name. There is also a Tim Hetherington memorial fund designed to further the education of students at the Milton Margai School for the Blind in Sierra Leone. The Chris Hondros Fund has also been set up to continue the legacy of Hondros, who was killed alongside Hetherington in Libya six months ago. Please consider making a donation.

And if you’re in New York today, you can go to the opening of Visions: Tim Hetherington at the Bronx Documentary Center (614 Courtlandt Ave., Bronx, NY).

Meanwhile, condolences for Tim continue to be posted at timhetherington.org.

(Tim Hetherington previously on dvafoto)

NYC Event: China Everbright featured in New York Photo Festival Slideluck Potshow XVI – 14 May 2011

I didn’t expect to be back in New York so quickly after dvafoto’s visit last week, but this is especially exciting for me. I’m pleased to announce my work, China Everbright, will be shown as part of the New York Photo Festival in Slideluck Potshow XVI on May 14, 2011, in Brooklyn, New York. The slideshows for the evening–from a breathtaking assortment of photographers–were curated by Whitney Johnson, who has just recently been named Director of Photography for the New Yorker. The event is at St. Ann’s Warehouse at 38 Water Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York, from 5:30p-10:30p.

The photographers selected for the evening are: Alex Fradkin, Alex Webb, Benjamin Sklar, Bruce Gilden, Carolyn Drake, Chris Hondros, Dominic Bracco, Dominic Nahr, Elena Dorfman, James Pomerantz, JR, Krisanne Johnson, Iwan Baan, Landon Nordeman, Luca Zanier, Luis Ladron de Guevara, Lyle Owerko, M. Scott Brauer, M. Wesley Ham, Mari Bastashevski, Mark Peterson, Martin Usborne, Matt Eich, Melanie Burford, Michael Christopher Brown, Natasja Fourie, Peter DiCampo, Phillip Toledano, Platon, Rinko Kawauchi, Stefano de Luigi, Steve Pyke, Steven Brahms, and Tim Hetherington. I’m excited to have my work shown in the company of so many talented and inspiring photographers; if you asked me for a list of my photographic idols, that list would be a goood start.

I also have one image in a slideshow presented by PDN at the New York Photo Festival, but I’m a little unsure on when and where that will be shown.

I hope you can make it to the event. If you’re there, please say hello. Here’s what I look like.

Dvafoto in New York City May 2 – May 6

Matt Lutton and M. Scott Brauer are currently in the United States and will be visiting New York City together from Tuesday May 2 through Friday May 6th. Both will be sharing recent work and new projects. We already have some fun work meetings set up and are excited to see old friends and colleagues. We are also planning to meet at The Half King on Wednesday night to see everyone. If you’re in the city, be in touch and/or check here for final details.

It has been a couple of years since the two of us been able to meet up and we haven’t been in New York together since 2005, when we were both interns at Black Star. It’ll be a nice reunion and potentially the start of some interesting collaborations.

Times Square, 2005. Matt Lutton

We already have most of our meals (Uighur! Momofuku! Matt is aching for variety after months in Belgrade) planned out and a few shows we want to see (like Revolucion(es) and Shen Wei at Daniel Cooney). And of course a pilgrammage to Dashwood Books. Any recommendations for shows happening these days that we can’t miss?

At the end of the week, Lutton is headed back to Belgrade and Brauer to Boston.

An exhibition, celebration, and fundraiser in NYC

REVOLUCION(ES) exhibition - 28 April 2011 - NYC

REVOLUCION(ES) exhibition - 28 April 2011 - NYC

“This event [will be a place for] the entire NY Photo community to gather together, celebrate the lives of Tim and Chris while also generating funds for the recovery of Guy and Michael who will be in great need over the coming months. All prints in the show will be available for sale by donation only. All posters will be available for donation as well.” -from the Facebook invitation to the event

Matthew Craig (of MJR) and Julien Jourdes are curating an exhibition of recent photography from political revolutions in North Africa. The show opens 7pm, Thursday, April 28, at Instituto Cervantes in New York (211 East 49th Street). The show will include images by Samuel Aranda, Michael Christopher Brown, Bryan Denton, Mathias Depardon, Guy Martin, Gabriele Micalizzi, Andy Rocchelli, Luca Santese, Gabriele Stabile, Nicole Tung and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova. It will be an opportunity to celebrate the lives of Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington, and proceeds from print and poster sales from the exhibition will go toward medical care for Guy Martin and Michael Christopher Brown, both injured in Libya last week.