Category Archive: Pictures
Magnum, who now distribute Tim Hetherington’s work (not without controversy), have just made available in their archive The Libya Negs: Tim Hetherington’s Last Images. Included in the selection is an image captioned “LIBYA. Misurata. April 20, 2011. Tim’s last photograph.” (screenshot above). Some of these photos were published by Newsweek earlier.
On October 15, 2011 there were riots in the streets of Rome, as part of the current wave of anti-government protests happening worldwide. An estimated 200 people were injured and 12 arrested in an unusual provocation compared to many Western protests (like the “Occupy” protests in the United States), which were relatively quiet.
Our friends at the Italian collective Cesuralab have published an interesting portfolio of the events, and I wanted to ask about their perspective on covering such a story in their own country, after a year of photographing protests and revolutions elsewhere in the world. Last year we talked about Cesuralab covering an earlier anti-Berlusconi riot, and in February showed amazing pictures from Cairo by Alex Majoli and Gabriele Micalizzi. In June 2010 we also interviewed Cesuralab about their collaboration.
Could you give me some background on what is happening in Italy these days, what is inspiring these protests? I know there were protests in the last year, that also had some violence. Why is there violence in Italy now when there is not so much in other western countries?
The social and political situation is really dramatic. Our prime minister is a living joke (think about the whole escorts thing and the bought votes, for instance), unemployment is at maximum level since the postwar period, fiscal pressure is very high, retirement age is increasing, and the young people have no future, just the fact to leave parents’ house seems something unrealizable.
The reason of all this violence exploding is certainly that the situation is really critical, but you have to take in count that there’s always infiltrations in this kind of events: hooligans, extreme right parties, police…they are often the ones who let everything starting. In this last case you could notice a very serious organization of the centri sociali (leftist activists) and the clear fact that the police was allowing vandalism. I mean, it was necessary to create a media distraction to cover up what’s going on in our Parliament’s house. I don’t think that Italy is the only nation in such a situation; if we consider Greece, where you can find in the streets people from any social class and age that throw molotov, and not just a bunch of anarchic kids. And in Spain and Portugal the situation is not easy either, something is gonna happen there soon as well, the “indignados” movement is already a very interesting reality.
As far as I know, you both have photographed some of the “Arab Spring” events, the rallies and the battles. How does this overlap, or does this have anything to do with, your pictures from Italy? What is it like photographing dramatic events abroad and then photographing similar scenes at home?
We actually wish that what happened in Tahrir square could happen in Italy as well; that was a real revolution. Leisure prevents the deep dissent to come to life: the dissent that drives people to risk their life to change things. I don’t think we will ever see an Italian running throughout the bullets as the Egyptian people I’ve seen in Cairo.
After the demonstration here everyone goes back home as they went to a concert or at the stadium, no one stays and keeps going with the guerriglia to obtain what they ask for.
Beside this, in terms of feeling, the pathos is the same, the anarchic mood of the violent protest is something that fills any kind of contest, religion, territory, culture, etc..
What can you tell me about how Cesuralab is covering these events collectively? There often are many Cesuralab photographers covering these events, in North Africa or in Rome for instance, are you working together on the street? Or editing together? Do you publish together?
We always try to find a way to be more than one while reporting on these kind of events because it’s quite difficult to cover the event completely if there are many people and a lot of things going on in an extended area.
What is important for us is to cover the event and preserve the quality of the work, we do not care about ‘who’ rather about ‘how’.
We generally split up in different areas, except for special situations, also because we have very different way of working. At the end of the day we edit the work together and we plan the [distribution] to certain magazines we want to work with. The work is in this way collective because every single member of the collective interacts with the other in different ways, and we deeply believe in each other potentiality. Our approach to photography is structured to create a story and not to satisfy the editorial market needs. We carry our thoughts and philosophy and try to pass it down to the people that collaborate with us.
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.
Earlier this year, we wrote about two US states trying to outlaw unauthorized photos of farm operations (The Florida was changed in a few important ways after our initial report). That’s been the most tweeted and shared post in the history of dvafoto, and generated a great conversation on the value and imperative of photography of American agriculture. Of the many comments and messages I got from that post, one of the most intriguing was from a California-based photographer named Barron Bixler. He’s been working on a project on agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley, A New Pastoral, and wanted to start a dialog about these issues. As he said in his introductory email, “I’m sick of shouting into the wind about these issues and would love to start a meaningful conversational thread about it with someone who’s similarly implicated.” So that’s what we’ve got here below. Be sure to check out the rest of Bixler’s work, and if you’re near Fresno, California, between August 19 and January 6, 2012, you can see A New Pastoral: Views of the San Joaquin Valley in a solo exhibition at the Fresno Art Museum.
dvafoto: Why do you photograph the agricultural industry?
Barron Bixler: I’m going to begin with a fairly provocative comparison, so bear with me.
Last week I stumbled across a talk given by photography luminary Fred Ritchin in which he quotes one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders on the power of photography to document events that would otherwise go unseen: “Without a photograph we’ve never been able to prove a massacre….If we have no photographs, there are no massacres.”
Reading this quote within the context of agriculture, many will rightly ask what human rights abuse has to do with where produce comes from. The short answer is, more than you’d think. In September 2010, the “guest worker” recruiting firm Global Horizons was charged with operating the largest forced agricultural labor ring ever prosecuted by the federal government. Sadly, the Global Horizons case is anomalous only in its scale. Google “florida agricultural slavery” and you’ll get a cross section of entries that expose the high cost of cheap produce.
My own approach to photographing industrial agriculture operations in California is decidedly ambivalent, and my focus is on the land rather than the people who work it, but in the back of my mind there’s always this same nagging question: what price have we paid (and do we continue to pay) to farm in this massive, industrial way? Even Monsanto—the company that 50 years ago repurposed Agent Orange into commercial pesticides and has been a driving force behind the Green Revolution—has tacitly admitted that indiscriminate and ongoing pesticide use is probably not environmentally sustainable. So when we look at our industrial food system as it’s existed since the 1940s, and at the downstream social and environmental consequences of that system, what we’re left with is a fairly disquieting picture.
Through our federal ag and trade policy over the last century, we’ve engineered our food system in a way that measures success as a ratio of units of input to units of output. And while this all sounds good and highly rational in that 1940s-systems-engineering-fetish sort of way, the problem is the units of input aren’t abstract concepts or inert materials. They’re farmers and farm workers. They’re animals. They’re entire communities and ecosystems. All of which we’ve placed on the same level in our equation of success as John Deere tractors and gallons of petrochemical fertilizer.
At the same time, as consumers of food, you and I gobble up the seductive myth of the independent family farmer and allow ourselves to indulge, if momentarily, the belief that Hidden Valley Ranch is an actual place tucked away in the rolling coastal hills of California. (For a case in point, read The Story of Hidden Valley.)
Just today I passed a billboard in Oakland, California proclaiming that “99% of California Dairy Farms are Family Owned.” A quick visit to the California Milk Advisory Board website confirms the source of this latest campaign. Watch some of CMAB’s gorgeous short documentaries about family-run dairies and you might be willing to forget, just for a minute, well documented cases of migrant dairy workers drowning in toxic manure evaporation lagoons the size of football fields or official reports from the USDA, EPA and others about the role industrial dairies and feedlots play in global climate change and the pollution of local air, soil and water.
If nothing else, I hope my pictures of California agriculture destabilize our cozy vision of where most of our food comes from—and more importantly, what it leaves behind. After all, if we have no photographs to show how things are, there’s nothing a good marketing agency or PR crisis response firm or government information ministry can’t get us to swallow: whether it’s rounding up political dissidents for a massacre or the latest formulation of Roundup PowerMAX®.
You say you work both with permission of the farmers and without. Do the farmers you work with know that you have such a critical stance on their practices?
A few months back I posted a question on Twitter to the effect of, “As a documentarian, where do one’s loyalties lie? To ‘objectivity,’ or to the people who trust you to photograph them?” The question was prompted by a piece on the NYT Lens blog called “Bonding with Subjects in Harm’s Way” in which Finbar O’Reilly recounts personal experiences photographing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
For documentary photographers, these are the large and rather prickly horns of the dilemma that defines our discipline: to what extent can or should you strive for objectivity when your subjects are engaged in practices that are, at best, ethically muddy? How do you separate out the complicity of the individual from the larger system of which he or she is a part? How does your empathy toward or dependence on your subjects (in Mr. O’Reilly’s case this most certainly was a matter of life or death; in my case it’s more a matter of access and good will) affect your capacity to remain dispassionate and brutally honest? Who or what are your pictures ultimately in service of?
Read on »
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.