Category Archive: Pictures
More than anything though, Tim’s photos speak to what it means to be a man and how war often defines masculinity. “Photography is great at representing the hardware of the war machine,” he told his good friend and writer Stephen Mayes, a month before he died. “But the truth is that the war machine is the software, as much as the hardware. The software runs it, and the software is young men. I’m not so young anymore. But I get it. That’s really what my work is about.” -Newsweek editor James Wellford
Newsweek has just published Tim Hetherington’s final images, from Libya in April 2011. Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed in Misrata, Libya, on April 20, 2011 (Remembrances).
Last week saw the release of snippets of video from a treasure trove of video and stills from the early days of Gaddafi found by Hetherington and Human Rights Watch researcher Peter Bouckaert after a Libyan state security office was burned and looted by protesters.
Living in Boston now, I’m closer than I’ve ever been to the American political process. The past 15 years of my life have been spent abroad or in places such as Montana and Washington state, places traditionally ignored by national campaigns. With my own eyes, much less a camera lens, I’ve seen foreign presidents and ministers, but never an American president or presidential candidate and only a handful of legislators. Now I’ll be periodically following the 2012 presidential campaign in New Hampshire. Only July 4, I traveled to Amherst for a parade that would include Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. It’s early in the campaign, so the candidates are looking for any exposure they can get. There were a dozen or so news organizations represented at the event, with no limits to access.
I asked a few people along the parade route what they thought about all of the hubbub. A young girl, all of 10 years old, told me, “It’s always like this.” People lining the parade route were as excited to be there as the candidates. Romney and Huntsman glad-handed every person they could reach, listening patiently to the occasional interlocutor while trying their best not to waylay the proceedings. Once the candidates reached the end of the parade, they greeted supporters and then vanished to go to their next stop.
I’ll be periodically covering events along the campaign trail, especially as the politics heat up. I’m available for assignments throughout New England (I’m only a few hours drive from the most remote parts of New Hampshire) and will be keeping an updated stock of images at my searchable PhotoShelter archive. You can see more pictures from the day in Amherst here.
When dvafoto was in New York a couple of months ago we had the chance to meet up with some old friends, a few of whom we’ve known online for years but never met in person. Bryan Derballa is one of these folks, and over a drink we got in to a discussion of what was happening in the city and what work we had seen that was getting us excited. Derballa mentioned one project, “Adrift” by Brad Vest, and once we had the chance to look at the project we were in full agreement; the work was terrific and worthy of featuring. I asked Vest about the stories behind the project and am excited share it here. See more of this project at Soul of Athens website.
How did you first meet Travis Simmons?
It was my first quarter at Ohio University and I was pretty lost. I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to pursue but absolutely no connections yet. While driving around trying to meet people in October 2009, I saw Allen, Travis’s father, working along the Ohio River in Jackson County, West Virginia and decided to pull over and introduce myself. After shooting a few photographs we got to talking about his soon to be released son and the preparations he was making to the camper next door to his that Travis, his son, could live in upon his release. When Shelia, Travis’ mother, got home later, we talked for a few hours and got to know them and their son’s situation.
A few days later, I met Travis Simmons. He had just served five months for conspiracy to commit grand larceny and broken probation. I’d planned with his parents to be there when he got home. We talked for a while, he invited me in for dinner and we talked long into the night about why I thought it was important to tell his story; a single father, two young girls and a year of mandatory isolation while attempting to right his life and stay away from old ways.
How long have you been photographing this project, how has the focus changed over time?
Travis Simmons is the first person that I’ve really photographed for a long period of time. I’ve spent the last twenty months photographing Travis, his family, friends and lovers. It’s always tough to leave for any extended period of time, hear new things but not be able to be there to photograph, to understand in a more complete way than phone conversations and text messages. At the start, the project focused on confinement, how a person deals with forced isolation and raising a family within that. As I spent more time I realized that the confinement worked counter intuitively. The loneliness it created while attempting to keep him away from old friends brought an all too common human need for connection. He pursued relationships, allowed friends to visit, he let these influences into his life just to relieve his isolation. At that point, the focus of my work shifted to look at whether or not he could leave that life behind him, a life defined by addiction, in order to be the best father that he could. What is the reaction from Simmons and his family, or the community if it has been shown there at all? Travis has seen all the photos from the project at some point in time or another. I’m always bringing out big stacks of prints for him and his family. After completing the story as it is now at Soul of Athens I brought out my laptop and he went through everything. He immersed himself in it from start to finish and when he finished up he looked up and smiled, “well, that’s everything isn’t it.” Travis really liked the story while at the same time acknowledging that he never wants to make the same mistakes that were currently blaring at him on a small screen.
It’s tough because what he saw and what I’ve been there is not the end of his story; it’s just a concentrated vignette into the past two years of his life. After he went through the project we talked long into the night; about the time we’ve spent together, everything Travis has been through, how I’ll be back and forth but not like it had been when I started school at Ohio University. Not like it’s been for the past twenty months. The freedom of being an hour away and with enough time to spend with him, enough time to learn his story and see it change on a daily basis. I look forward to visiting the Simmons whenever I find myself anywhere near West Virginia, I already miss that one-hour drive.
Where have you or hope to have this work published or seen?
Eventually I would love to have the resources to expand this project to encompass a more complete look at the prescription drug and heroin epidemic currently affecting Appalachia. Getting deeper into more homes in the area as well as exploring the justice system and community effects that are taking place due to the influx. I would love to see the work published somewhere that not only draws attention to the issue but helps to create understanding of an epidemic affecting a place in the United States that is often overlooked and too easily ignored.
Thanks again Brad and for the many people who let you in to their lives, this is a striking document of this family’s moment in time and of need. We hope that this may lead to more people coming in to contact with this story.
“Looking forward 50 or 60 years we feel confident that the documentation provided in these contemporary photographs will be treasured by historians, photographers and the public—much as the FSA collection, which arrived newly minted back in the 1940s, is treasured by all those groups today.” -Helena Zinkham, chief of the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, in an announcement of the Library of Congress’ partnership with Facing Change
Photography, at its best, records history as it happens. Facing Change: Documenting America, which I’ve been following for a while, aims to do just that. Sort of a hybrid collective and online publication, it’s a collection of photographers and writers working on stories relating to “cover and publish under-reported aspects of America’s most urgent issues.” That’s an admirable and necessary goal. The costs involved in covering these types of stories is not insignificant. If you’ve ever stared down the void of endless emails and phone calls to editors trying to see the stories in print, getting them published is even harder.
Now, with this partnership with the Library of Congress, Facing Change has just attained a significant milestone toward getting their stories made, seen, and preserved in the record of history. This is no small achievement. The Library of Congress’ press release announcing the partnership likens Facing Change to the Farm Security Administration’s photographers in the 1930s and 40s. That historic program is, arguably, the beginning of modern, concerned photojournalism. With the Library of Congress and other partners in academia, journalism, and arts, alongside these photographers and writers, Facing Change may well be a significant journalistic document of our modern times.
Congratulations to the crew at Facing Change. They’re among the best of the best: the photographers and writers involved are some of the most thoughtful and incisive working in America. This project, and especially the partnership with the Library of Congress, assures a legacy for their work beyond the pages of today’s paper or this month’s magazines.
“I was photographing a funeral, and having spent most of the day with the women, I went to see the body being taken in. A man in the procession started screaming, ‘CIA agent’ and pointing at me. I was surrounded by hundreds of angry men, screaming in my face, grabbing me. I was terrified, and thought, ‘This is it. I am going to die.’” -Ami Vitale in The shot that nearly killed me: War photographers – a special report, the Guardian.
While we all know war photography is a dangerous business–and that’s come into sharp focus in Libya this year, especially–viewers often don’t realize just how quickly a situation can go from sort of okay to life-threatening. That’s what I find so compelling about this collection of short vignettes in the Guardian by photojournalists about the shots that nearly got them killed. Some are stories we know well but remain harrowing: Lynsey Addario talks about her capture and treatment in Libya earlier this year (previously on dvafoto); João Silva relates stepping on a landmine in October 2010.
But others offer a close look into the chaos of being on the ground in far-flung places with only a camera between the photographer and nearly certain death: Ami Vitale describes the time a mob in Gaza thought she was a CIA agent and began to attack; Marco di Lauro talks about when a grenade was thrown in his direction; John D McHugh writes about getting shot while embedded in Afghanistan. None of these are easy reading, and the article serves as a chilling reminder of what goes on before, during, and after a photographer gets the picture.
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.
One of my favorite lazy weekend TV shows as a child was Movie Magic; it was a fascinating look at how specific special effects were achieved in well-known movies. Now making the rounds is a small selection of photos offering a peak behind the scenes of movie effects before computer generated imagery was the norm. It’s a wonderful look at the technical wizardry and illusion necessary to wow audiences. There’s even a glimpse of the photographic set up used to make the opening text crawl of Empire Strikes Back. There are pictures from The Shining, Metropolis, Requiem for a Dream, Alien, and others.
While you’re in the mood, here are some photos by a Universal Studios security guard on the set of Back to the Future and some behind-the-scenes photos of actors on the set of the final episode of Twin Peaks (and more here).
As I made clear in a recent post on Dan Winters I’m obsessed with space flight and love when I come across great and unique photographs of the Shuttle program. The Atlantic’s picture blog “In Focus” this week posted a set of images from the last flight of space shuttle Endeavour. There were some images that truly made my jaw drop, the first time in a long while.
My eyes are as wide as a kid’s again. These are so cool.
Sometime last year Scott mentioned to me that he was working on a new and unique project for him. He was still living in China and just beginning the process of putting 100 portraits and interviews together to create We Chinese. He wasn’t quite able to explain then what you he was trying to do, or how he thought it would turn out, but I was intrigued. When earlier this year I got a chance to see the final project I was left in wonderment and very excited, and I had a lot of questions that I wanted to ask as a friend and colleague to find out how this work had come about. I thought maybe we could, in the essence of the Dvafoto project, share our personal conversation with our audience as part of our Dvafoto Interview series.
What started you on the path to making a large portrait project like this, something you haven’t worked on before?
That’s exactly the reason. It was something I hadn’t worked on before. When I meet with editors and show them my work, I often get asked, “Where are the portraits?” I’ve never been a big fan of portraiture (although, to an extent, every photo is a portrait of some sort…), but like I’ve done with genres of music or movies in the past, I decided that if so many people like portraiture, and if portraiture is such a force in contemporary visual communication, I should be able to find something I liked about it if I just really tried at it. So I did.
I also thought that the story I wanted to tell about China through this project, a documentary approach wouldn’t suffice. I wanted to present people and their ideas, the interviews, with as little mediation as possible. I wanted to remove myself from the photography.
Did you, when you were beginning the work, know you were going to be leaving China?
Yes. I’d known for quite a few months before starting the project.
The two questions you asked everyone are in essence about the uncertain, rapidly evolving future of China, it feels like a question you yourself are struggling with. Where did the questions come from?
I wanted questions that weren’t easy to answer and that would get people (both the subjects and the audience) to think about themselves and their country. I worked on these two questions for a while before I thought they were ready to begin asking.
The first, “What does China mean to you?” started off as “What is China?” which I sort of distilled from questions I was asked on visits to the US when friends and family would ask me about life in China or the people or the future of the country and how it fits into global politics and economics. All of these questions could be distilled to “What is China?” But I thought that question was a little too easy to answer by saying something like “A country.” I got those answers with the reworded question, too, but the question gave space to the subject to interpret the question and their answer in many more ways.
And I realized that the first question was mostly a reflective one, a question about personal and national history. If you think about a question like that for your own country, “What does America mean to you?” for instance, you’ll answer about what your experience of that country has been so far and what you learned in history books. The second question was a way to get a glimpse of the future of China from the ground level. We see the 5-year plans and speeches by politicians, we see numbers relating to industry and commerce, and we see a lot of speculation about the country by cable news pundits. The individuals get lost in it all.
Are these questions common in Chinese society?
I don’t quite understand the question. If you’re asking about whether they refer to common sayings or something like that, as in the case of the title of the project, the answer is no. But the questions were chosen specifically to get individual opinions about the country and the people themselves. I had many versions of the questions before settling on the final version of the questionnaire. “What do you think about China?” for instance, instead of “What does China mean to you?” The first question might lead to easy and quick answers–”I think it is good,” perhaps–whereas the final version requires a bit more commitment and thought, the consideration of the country as it relates to the subjects rather than just a feeling about the country.
Were you hoping the responses from the subjects would answer questions you had in your own mind about China?
I was hoping that the responses would help me learn about what Chinese people think about their country. Speaking with Chinese people in China, it can be difficult to get individual opinions about bigger-picture issues. My own questions about the country don’t matter for the project. It’s not my country, and I only have a passing relationship with the place. In fact, the format of the project, with basic and unstylized portraiture and repeated interviews, was designed to eliminate my own input. I’m tired of books and essays from foreigners (my own included) that purport to explain “China.”
Why structure the project in this way, with ‘typological’ portraits, questionnaires, a standalone website?
I talked about the portraits above. The questionnaires filled a similar role in eliminating unnecessary variation in the responses. I figured I’d probably introduce some chaos into the responses by botching my pronunciation of a question…
The standalone website just seemed natural. Like the portraiture, it was something I’d never done for a project. The entire project didn’t feel right getting jammed into my portfolio website. Using a standalone website felt like giving the project its own art gallery. It feels better when it is separate and contained. I also like tinkering around with web programming and enjoy making wordpress do things it shouldn’t. That sounds dirty… When it comes down to it, I thought I had a cool idea for how I wanted the website to work, and I wanted to see if I could do it.
Is this project a closure to your time and work in China? Do you plan to go back?
It could function as closure for my work in China. I’ve got so much unedited work from my time there, though, that I’ll never be done. I’d love to go back any time, but I don’t have specific plans at the moment. I’ve got friends there that don’t have the means to travel internationally, and I’d love to see them again soon. And I miss the food.
I’m not sure if the project is done, though. I’d love to include a wider range of subjects in China or expand the project to other so-called emerging economies.
What is next for you?
I’ve relocated to Boston, Massachusetts. I’m excited to dig in to some stories in the US after being abroad for so long. I’m excited to be home (meant broadly; I’d never set foot in Massachusetts before moving here) and explore the US photographically.
What would be your answer to the two questions you asked of your subjects?
Laughably, I don’t have an answer. Many people I asked about to be in the project couldn’t come up with an answer and apologized because they thought the questions were too hard to answer. I will say that, for me, the country and its people can’t be summarized in a sentence or two, or a photo essay or two. It’s a nation of seeming contradictions–communist and capitalist, rich and poor, developed and undeveloped, Westernized and very mired in its own culture, polluted and working toward forward-thinking environmental initiatives, globalized and very local, and so forth–and that makes it an endlessly fascinating place.
We Chinese is currently featured on Burn Magazine. The project has also been featured on Forbes.com, Global Voices, Prison Photography, La Pura Vida, the China Beat, China Hush, Photoshelter, MetaFilter, PhotojournalismLinks, and here on dvafoto.