Category Archive: From the mailbag
In recent weeks a few interesting and worthy fundraising campaigns have come across our radar that I wanted to share.
Grozny – Nine Cities is an ongoing project by Russian photographers Olga Kravets, Maria Morina and Oksana Yushko.
Grozny, the capital of war-torn Chechnya, is a melting pot for changing Caucasus society that is trying to overcome a trauma of two recent wars and find its own way of life in between traditional Chechen values, Muslim traditions, and globalization. Our project is inspired by Thornton Wilder’s book Theophilus North. It centers on the idea of nine cities being hidden in one. We applied this concept to Grozny as nine “levels of existence” hidden within the city.
More information can be found on their website, Grozny: Nine Cities.
Notable rewards for help in supporting the project: Postcards and signed prints. As of publishing there are 39 days left to sponsor the project via Emphas.is.
Newsmotion is a new concept of journalistic website put together by a very talented team of independent writers, journalists and producers, including Julian Rubinstein, Todd Gitlin and their photo editor Alan Chin, in partnership with the People’s Production House. A pre-launch of the site is now online at Newsmotion.org and includes a preview of a story I worked on with Gitlin and Serbian activist Srdja Popovic about Non-Violent Resistance while both were in Belgrade last May. Visit the Kickstarter campaign.
Newsmotion is an innovative platform for civic media, public art, and original documentary reportage. We are harnessing the power of independent voices, technology, and collaborative storytelling to help the critical issues of our time engage new audiences and find new solutions
Recent events—including the uprisings in the Middle East and the Occupy movement—have shown that individuals and communities with access to technology are able to get their voices heard. A collective vision for the future of civic media is already being realized in revolutionary ways—Newsmotion is our contribution to this movement.
Notable rewards: Books written by contributors, limited editions of “The Occupied Wall Street Journal” and the Yes Men’s special edition of The New York Times, an invitation to the famous Winter Gumbo party on December 27 in New York City (be sure to check the details and offers on this, it has been a hit in the past). Deadline: there are only 10 days to go, finishing on December 29, 2011.
FOLK is a new documentary film by Sara Terry about “singer-songwriters who are working just under the radar of mainstream American music, their lives playing out in a vibrant sub-culture that few people know about.” Visit the Kickstarter campaign.
Part music documentary and part road trip movie, FOLK lets our characters’ lives and their songs do what singer-songwriters have always done: amplify the themes that resonate across our cultural landscape – whether it’s re-defining success in the face of failure, trying to find wholeness in an increasingly fragmented world, or struggling to make sense of the trials and triumphs that make us all so human.
Notable rewards: Special edition DVDs, downloads and CDs from the project, limited edition prints and posters or even songs written about or for you by the musicians in the documentary. There are 15 days left, ending on January 3, 2012.
UPDATE (1/2/12): We’ve very happy to be able to say congratulations to the team behind Newsmotion for reaching and exceeding their Kickstarter goal and funding the next stage of the project. As well, Sara Terry reached beyond her fundraising goal for the documentary FOLK. There is still about a day to contribute if you want to be part of the founder’s community. The Grozny: Nine Cities campaign has 25 days left and could still use your support.
If you aren’t familiar, let me introduce you to our dvafoto calendar which lists upcoming deadlines for photography contests, grants and events. We rely on submissions for most of the upcoming deadlines, so if you come across something that you think should be added to our calendar, please send us a tip at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is an interesting time of the year for grants and contests, and I wanted to point out a couple of deadlines that are soon approaching that I’m personally keeping an eye on:
Saturday October 22: The Terry O’Neill Tag Award is due, with categories focused on Fine Art/ Reportage / Fashion / Documentary / Landscape / Wildlife / Portraiture.
Tuesday November 1: the important Aftermath Project Grant is due on Nov 1 and Shots Magazine is interested in submissions for their Portfolio Issue on the same day.
Friday November 4: 2012 Call for Fellowships from Houston Center of Photography which offers to the chosen fellows a proper show and some financing to produce your exhibition. We have friends who have won this accolade and have made wonderful use of the resources at HCP.
For more recommendations about upcoming contests stay in touch over this busy fall.
Our monthly posting of dvafoto’s deadline calendar. The calendar can be accessed in a web browser, or with ical or xml applications. If you know of any upcoming deadlines not on the list, please send them to email@example.com or use the submissions page.
This resource is especially useful this time of year, when there are a lot of new grants with new procedures and deadlines emerging every day. and please do pass on the news if you hear about contests or organizations with upcoming deadlines that we should add to the dvafoto calendar.
Submissions and reminders are always welcome.
Chip Litherland wrote recently to let us know about the Focused Project, a collaborative effort involving some 200 photojournalists worldwide (including me!). The project needs your help to get off the ground. It’s a fascinating idea…the end result will be a huge collection of decisive moments from all over the world. Here’s how Litherland describes the project:
“Five fully manual 35mm cameras will be pre-loaded with a single roll of film and packed into five separate camera bags. The bags will be shipped across the world from one photojournalist to the next – one in a small town in the middle of the U.S., another among relief efforts in a natural disaster zone, or working the White House press pool. Each photojournalist will get only one click of the shutter. Just one click….After 36 exposures, one roll of film will hold thousands of miles of travel with photo subjects as diverse as the areas they are sent. Frame by frame, the viewer will get a glimpse of the thought process behind making one singular, thoughtful image – all on one single roll of film.”
David Kasnic shared his work with me a few months ago, and we had a beer at a nice seedy Ukrainian bar in New York when I was last in town. He’s from the Pacific Northwest originally, like myself, and he is finishing a degree in photojournalism at Western Kentucky University. I wanted to ask him a few questions about this moment in his career and the pictures he has made lately.
Where did you come from, where did you grow up, how did you end up studying photojournalism?
I grew up in Washington State in a small town called Wenatchee, which is located in the middle of the state and is about two hours away from Seattle. I think it was probably sophomore year of high school when my best friend Evan got a point and shoot camera for Christmas and I fell in love with it more than he did. I mean, I think he liked it, but I was really into it. I don’t think we were really into taking serious pictures, just funny stuff. Pictures of friends mooning the camera, raising hell in grocery stores, mostly throwing things out of cars. Both of us were in this photography class in high school where we got to use both film and digital and I think that’s where I really fell in love with photography was in that class. I think the only things I took pictures of were concerts, skateboarding and gross shit my friends did, but I had a good time. I knew by the time high school ended that I wanted to start taking photography seriously, whether that meant studying it in college or not. I wasn’t able to go to college right off the bat because I kind of dicked around in school and never really took the right classes, the right tests, etc. After a year of hustling pretty hard at a community college in Seattle and working part time washing cars at Toyota of Bellevue, I was able to start applying to four-year schools. I applied to Western Kentucky University one day, thinking I wouldn’t get in, and a week later, my parents got a letter in the mail saying I was accepted. I’ve been at WKU since 2008.
Can you give some introduction to the pictures you have on your website?
Basically, I’ve been photographing my life for two or three years. At times I was focused. It wasn’t so scatter brained. I had a purpose of what I was trying to do. Mind you it was things like sex, drugs and rock n’ roll because that’s what I was influenced by. I grew up loving skate and punk rock culture, and I guess I knew even when I first starting to take pictures in high school that I wanted my first thing, project, body of pictures, whatever, to be raw, in your face, a depiction of sensational partying and a carefree lifestyle.
Are you going to be a photographer when you graduate?
I’m trying to figure out where photography and making a living will meet for me or if that will ever be the case. Am I going to photograph, work on projects and strive to keep making better photographs? Yes.
You said to me that you’re interested in moving beyond photographing yourself and friends, “personal projects”. Do you think this reflects anything larger about your interest in photography? There seems to have been lately an increased respect for ‘me’ photographs as an alternative to ‘traditional’ photojournalism of flying overseas to cover pressing international issues. Do you see any changes happening in the industry or the work of other photographers that you find interesting?
I’ve been influenced by so many different things but when I first started to really dive into photography, the photographers that interested me the most took me on a journey through their own life or of someone or the someone’s close to them. I think that was because of a lot of things, but mostly my age. When I had talked to you about this before I think I should have said I’m interested in doing something different just to change things up. I don’t really know if moving beyond photographing myself and the people in my life will ever happen or if it should for that matter, but I’m going to do other things as well to grow as a person.
I don’t really know about an increased respect for ‘me’ photographs. People have been doing that shit for years. To me, and most of the people I have great respect for, who are involved in photography in some way, shape or form, all photographs are equal, whether they are from home, a sporting event or world conflicts.
You mentioned something to me once about being able to ‘morph’ and fit in wherever you are photographing .. skate people, drugs, music. Maybe these mirror ‘phases’ in your own life. Tell me something about this idea, of how you personally work well with your subjects, how close you become to them.
I think my relationships with the people inside my photographs add something for sure, I think but I’m not sure if the work I’ve done so far tells a “story”. I think I’ve been fortunate to get help from other photographers and editors to get my collection of photographs on one topic from the past three years edited into different narratives but I’m not sure if they’re stories per say.
What do you take from multidisciplinary approaches to inspiration? What are you listening to or looking at that we should know about but probably don’t?
I think people should know about Austin Koester. He goes to school with me but this isn’t a friend plug. His work is great.
So is there a title that fits for these portfolios?
I think “Give Me Time” suits it best. Being that I’m still really trying to find myself behind the camera, and I think that comes across in my pictures, that I’m really still trying to figure what I’m trying to say.
Kuba Rubaj recently sent us his project “Rainbow”, a beautiful look into a community that I haven’t been introduced to before. We want to share the work with you and a few questions we had for Rubaj.
Rainbow Gathering is like alternative to modern world. Each year Rainbow Family attracts hundreds of thousands of people to spend time in wilderness.
Gatherings each year take place at over 100 locations all over the world, away from civilization, shops, sanitation, electricity, telephones, Internet, alcohol, drugs, money.
Participants feel deep connection with nature. They wish to live in peace and harmony. Some of them consider Rainbow as a new form of society. Spiritually, there is a very strong influence from native Shamanism. There is no membership, leaders, official spokespersons or any formal structure, everyone is equal. They live like a tribe.
First, how did you come across this group and movement?
It’s hard to say, probably by my friend who used to visit rainbows at the beginning of 2000. But I had many friends who travelled. So I’ve heard about it from time to time. I visited my first gathering in Czech Republic in 2007, actually by mistake. It was small thirty-people gathering with a very calm family atmosphere.
Are you part of Rainbow?
I don’t know if we can talk about a clearly defined “belonging to this movement” in general. If You are on the Rainbow gathering You are a part of it.
But in simple terms – I identify with many ideas from Rainbow. But simultaneously I prefer to go my own way in life all the time learn and just have an opened mind.
What is your background, how did you come to photography? Is there something in your background that draws you to this community?
The world has interested me as long as I remember. When I was twelve, I started to travel on bicycle along Eastern Europe. At the beginning with my father and later alone. When I rode a bike through all these countries, many images moved in front of me. I think it has a big influence on my perception and attitude. And later camera just appeared..
Is there any message from the community that you hope to see reflected in modern society? Is this at all a goal of the project, of sharing pictures of Rainbow?
I think Rainbow is in itself a message. People all over the world try to find different way of life, and change their relations. Sometimes it is more, sometimes less authentic, but that does not change the fact that it is. More and more people are tired of modern life.
As for my photographs – they are very simple. Do not have a clear meaning or opinion. I do not want my photographs to impose a judgement.
I wish that every viewer understands it their way. And had his own thoughts / ideas / requests. They can focus on aesthetics / visual side, or they can go on in the thoughts. It is up to them.
I would like it to be universal.
How do the people react to your work, your way of telling their story?
I guess that they like idea of simplicity. Taking photos is not unwelcome on the rainbow, but when I talk about my work and idea of traveling they usually cooperate. I always send them these photographs later.
You mentioned to me that you are planning this to be a part of a pair of books, the second strongly connected with the idea of “the road”. How are they interconnected?
How do you conceive of each project in relation to the other?
On the work of a rainbow as I thought from the beginning about the book, a book about the road came after some time. Book about rainbow will be simple, calm, harmonious; and the book about the road will be chaotic, personal, subjective, unstable – like road is. I wish that these two books will complement each other.
What work (photography, art, music, writers, etc.) are you looking at that excites you, and that our readers might not have come across?
I think the following line of thought about the modern world, I can say for sure that was a huge inspiration for works of Godfrey Reggio, his Quatsi trilogy. I looked at this when I was 13 years old and it had a big impact on me.
I love the portraits in Kansas City-based photographer William Hacker‘s “Emovere”–ethereal and mysterious, Hacker describes the portraits as “a unique expression of beauty through light, form, color and motion.” The images are created in camera with long exposures up to 4 seconds.
These images are quite unlike the rest of Hacker’s work, which you really should see. He’s working on a great series of portraits of children, which you can see unfold on his tumblr or his blog (where there are other images from the shoots that resulted in Emovere). Look for posts that say “Forever Young.”
A little while ago Gabriela Bulisova sent us a link to her project “Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the United States”. It is a challenging look at the issue of Iraqi refugees who are struggling to settle in the United States. Many of them assisted the Americans during the conflict, as translators or contractors, which put them in profound danger of reprisals.
The radio show This American Life had an episode earlier this year called “Will They Know Me Back Home?” (and one last year too, called Iraq After Us, which has a slightly more convoluted example) which touched on the issue of Iraqi colleagues who are attempting to immigrate to the US, surprising me that such an important and looming story – how do we treat the people who helped us – had eluded my attention for so long. Bulisova’s project brings us that much further into understanding the stories of Iraqis who are making the difficult transition from war to a new life in the United States, which had created such a troubled relationship in the first place. Her strong pictures are supplemented by startling quotes about life in Iraq and their treatment as refugees and their hopes for the future. I fear that issues like this, which are much quieter and are the more subtle repercussions of war, remain out of sight for many of us.
from Bulisova’s introduction to the project:
Some of the most recent Iraqi refugees in America had signed up to serve as translators working for the U.S. military or as experts with other U.S. government agencies, NGOs, or American companies in Iraq. They saved lives; they built cultural and linguistic bridges; they sacrificed their own safety and the safety of their families to help participate in what they thought would be the creation of a better Iraq. They quickly became one of the most hunted groups in the country. They bore a lethal stigma as “collaborators” or “traitors” that transcended sect or tribe, and they were targeted in assassination campaigns that drove many of them either into hiding or out of the country.
For people who fear for their life and seek refugee status in America, the U.S. government offers resettlement as the “option of last resort” for the most vulnerable refugees. In this project, I photographed and interviewed Iraqi refugees who have been resettled to the United States and are living in Washington, D.C. or other American cities.
Dvafoto: How did you come to work on this project?
I worked with Iraqi refugees in Syria in 2007 and 2008 (the project can be seen on my website), and upon returning back to DC and while doing advocacy work with the photographs (the great displacement of Iraqis was an under reported story then and I tried to raise awareness), I learned about Iraqis in the US, specifically in the DC-area, who were affiliated with the US Army, government agencies, etc. and faced certain death if they did not flee. I connected with The List Project (an advocacy NGO that helps via legal means to speed up the extremely lengthy and difficult immigration process – even though those Iraqis are being targeted with assassination attempts and thus should be the number one priority for political asylum). And, then, slowly, very slowly, I was able to build trust and convince my subjects that I can photograph them without ever revealing their faces and their identities (few of them did not mind showing their faces – their entire families were either here or killed so they had nothing else to fear).
Where have you been able to show these pictures, and where else do you plan to?
It’s currently a part of the OSI’s Moving Walls 18 exhibit, parts of the project have been exhibited at different galleries (physical and on-line, including Burn magazine). I would love to continue working on the project – especially, I think, it’s timely right now to go to Iraq as the US is withdrawing its troops and there is no protection for the thousands of people who are-and-were affiliated with the US. The fear is that they will become the number one target again. That said, I would love to keep showing this work and, potentially, would also love to continue working on it.
Mishka Henner has a new project on the Panos Pictures website, made with Google Street View, called No Man’s Land. It purports to be a series of pictures of women who “appear to be soliciting sex”. We knew there were going to be a lot more of these Google-based projects coming, following the controversial World Press Photo award given this year to Michael Wolf. But this one impresses me a lot, though in pushing more boundaries raises a new set of questions.
About his project Henner says,
No Man’s Land explores the margins of our urban and rural European environment as experienced by what appear to be women soliciting sex in liminal, post-industrial and rural settings, captured by Google Street View cameras.
Occupying liminal spaces in post-industrial and rural settings, the focus on these women also casts a critical eye on the Street View project itself and on photography’s indelible link to voyeurism and surveillance.
The Street View project heralds a new age of street-level cartography that offers a vast, regularly updated archive waiting to be mined by documentarians seeking to make sense of our contemporary condition. …
I think the project is terrific, especially in the visuals, and it is interesting to hear how Henner contextualizes the issues of using Google Street View immediately in the introduction to the work. I’m still working through some of the implications of the work, and I’m curious about your reactions. For example, these blurred faces imposed by Google itself… I’m sure there are legal implications for displaying peoples’ likenesses but in this context of possible illegal activity, it adds something else. It draws some parallels, in that fine line of documenting accusations, with Donald Weber’s project Interrogations, and many of the same issues of consent and imposition.
Overall I’m struck by the consistency of this project, photographically and conceptually: 64 images (on Panos’ site) with remarkably similar compositions. An amazing, consistent collaboration between Google’s ‘unseeing eye’ and Henner’s curation. The banality of the scenes is so strongly undermined by the repetition, the ubiquity and the scope of these images across Europe. I’m also struck that it would be nearly impossible for a photographer on his or her own to create such a project. Can we really imagine someone driving around and capturing as many scenes, as consistently, on their own?
Henner is showing me that sexual trafficking (as he implies, or maybe just a phenomenon of women sitting by rural roads) has a particular pattern consuming Europe; I am not accustomed to seeing anything like this with my full eyes nor before in an arts project. That is useful I think. This is perhaps journalism in a new form, it is informing us about something after investigation and we can likely rely upon it. Screw the medium, this is showing us something new in our communities and in an eloquent and democratic manner.
Passing this link to some friends I heard some very interesting, and critical responses. Ranging from the idea that a photographer should really just go out and make their own pictures (ideally, sure, but I think that it is clever to use the mass resources of Google photographing more places in less time than an individual could) to the very serious issue of Henner painting all of these women near the streets as street-walkers. Does he have any evidence to make such an accusation? Is this project interesting only because it is voyeuristic and speculative? I don’t have the answer, and Henner does not really give any firm answers in his own words about the project .. so again, I suppose we’re just asking questions but not coming to any conclusions. Interesting questions, but still troubling.
Glenna Gordon wrote in a while back with word of some of her recent projects. I was already familiar with her work and her blog (she’s been named one of the top female bloggers in Africa). Her blog first came to my attention during the discussion of Marco Vernaschi’s troubling work for the Pulitzer Center.
Looking through her site, I was struck by Gordon’s work from Harper, southeast Liberia. It’s a quiet and intimate portrait of a community, photographed beautifully and thoughtfully. From the statement:
“The freed slaves brought more than just porticoes: they also imported a social order akin to the one they knew in the slave owning American south, only this time, they were in charge. They even called themselves the Americos. The seeds of discontent were built into the foundation of every building in Harper, as they were in the American south. The indigenous people of Liberia became second-class citizens in their own country while the Americos seized their wealth and forced them to farm their land and work in their kitchens.
We all know this kind of story, and this story never ends well.
Liberia was once filled with many houses that look like they could have been plucked up from Savannah, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina, and installed in West Africa, but most of them were completely destroyed by the war. In Harper, you can still see the past, the thumbprint of history since some of these homes are still standing. It’s a town that’s a monument to what was, to a social order doomed to collapse and leave behind nothing more than porticos and columns.” -Glenna Gordon, Harper, southeast Liberia
There’s much more work worth seeing at Glenna Gordon’s site.
Over the last week or two I’ve read a number of great posts that I haven’t been able to really write about, but I wanted to make sure to forward them on. Well worth a read.
Asim Rafiqui on his blog the Spinning Head writes about (and questions) ‘dissident’ photography in the US: “The Dissenting Photographer Or How American Photographers Turn To Intelligence In Times Of Intransigence”. He profiles some interesting ‘political’ work coming out of the States, and it buttresses nicely with A Photo Editor’s recent interview with Nina Berman.
The Basetrack journalism experiment, created by Teru Kuwayama and featuring photographers Balazs Gardi and Tivadar Domaniczky, seems to have hit a final wall, with accreditation/embeds scrubbed for the final months of the project. BJP has a solid report “US Marines pull the plug on photojournalism experiment” and Wired Magazine’s Danger Room Blog covered the story as well.
Duckrabbit also has a challenging post about concerns with photographer Marco Vernaschi’s work, which has previously been called in to question. This is an important discussion and it is well worth thinking about the issues at play with the photographer, our industry and the awards we look up to. “Faking it – how to win a World Press Award but get banned from a wildlife comp for life”
The new photojournalism crowd-funding project Emphas.is has just launched. We’ve written a bit about the site before, especially their interview series on their blog. One of the featured proposals is Aaron Huey’s ongoing work about the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which was the subject of an influential TED Talk that Huey gave last year. Pete at Prison Photography writes more about Huey’s project and his emphas.is proposal: “Aaron Huey’s Pine Ridge Billboard Project and Prisoner of War Camp #344″. A great summation of the issues involved in the work, Huey’s commitment to the project and the possibilities that can come from his emphas.is project being funded.
I have been documenting the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for the past six years. Recently I have realized how inappropriate it is for this project to end with another book or a gallery show. [...] Your involvement will help raise the visibility of these images by taking them straight to the public—to the sides of buses, subway tunnels, and billboards. I want people to think about prisoner of war camps in America on their commute to work. I want the message to be so loud that it cannot be ignored. – from Huey’s empha.is pitch