Behind the scenes with Matt Black as he photographs California’s Central Valley

 

Matt Black has been on my radar a lot recently, not least because of the recent New Yorker piece he did with Ed Kashi (below).

If you don’t know Matt Black’s work yet, you’re missing out. Luckily, the folks at PhotoWings recently caught up with the photographer and followed along as he worked in California’s Central Valley (above). Black talks about his process in covering the story over the years and what he hopes they say in the larger context of the ongoing story of drought and poverty in the area. It’s less than 10 minutes, but offers a telling glimpse of Black’s philosophy and passion not just for this story but for the storytelling power of photography.

If you like the New Yorker’s video featuring Black’s photography above, by the way, there’s supposed to be a nice 8-page spread in this week’s New Yorker. There’s just a single image online right now.

You should also spend some time with his ongoing project, the Geography of Poverty. The project’s Story Map, in particular, is a great way to navigate Black’s work and see how it all fits together.

And be sure to check out Ed Kashi’s first video on agriculture for the New Yorker, that time in partnership with fellow VII member Ashley Gilbertson.

The Talent: Fan Shi San’s “Great Wall”

I connected with Fan Shi San on Blink and fell in love with the series “Great Wall.” It’s a look at the landmark like you’ve probably never seen before, captured while the photographer bicycled the 4000-mile length from west to east. He is a freelance photographer based in Shanghai whose work has been exhibited in China and the UK over the past few years.

In Fan Shi San’s own words, “For thousands of years the Great Wall sealed China from outside world, dynasty after dynasty, empire after empire, it is the blood line along which millions of human skeletons buried without intermission during thousands years’ struggle. This journey is a visual research of China’s essential roots through desert and towns, symbols and villages which are slowly dying in the progress of the reborn country’s industrialization and urbanization, millions of faceless men migrant from north to south, from interior to coast, searching for a better life, leaving behind their native soil, their children and olds, and in the meantime, the Great Wall crumbles a little more every day.”

When I asked him why he shot this project, Fan Shi San said the motivation to photograph this body of work was a desire to “record the internal scene in China, both in landscape and spiritually.”

There’s a much larger edit of “Great Wall” available on Fan Shi San’s website, where you can also see Wu Kan, a look at a small farming village that rebelled against the Communist Party in 2011, and Two of Us, a conceptual piece on children who grew up alone under China’s One Child Policy.

We receive a lot of submissions of projects to feature on dvafoto and we want to highlight some of the fantastic work we see. Please get in contact if you have a body of work you’d like to share.

Windows on the World – a glimpse inside the World Trade Center in August 2001

Konstantin Petrov - Windows on the World - August 2001
Konstantin Petrov – Windows on the World – August 2001

I never realized it until reading this New Yorker piece, but I have absolutely no idea about what the World Trade Center might have looked like on the inside. The only images that come to mind are of the Twin Towers standing, exploding, falling, or being jumped from. As described in Take Picture, a Talk of the Town piece in this week’s New Yorker, a young Estonian immigrant named Konstantin Petrov worked at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and was an avid photographer.

Working the night shift, he’d take pictures with a point-and-shoot in the hallways and offices of the towers and of the banquet halls and dining room sitting empty and ready for the next day’s customers. It’s an odd little piece of photography that fills in a piece of my personal geography that I didn’t even know needed filling. Petrov worked the night of September 10th, and started driving home a little after 8am on the 11th. He noticed some debris as he was leaving, but didn’t know what happened until he’d gotten home. His pictures from inside the towers, some uploaded as late as August 2001, and from after the attack, are available on Petrov’s Fotki site, last updated around 12 years ago. A number of the images were used in a National Geographic documentary, 9/10: The Final Hours. This image seems to be a self-portrait of Petrov.

On the subject of images from inside the World Trade Center, seek out the documentary 9/11 (IMDB) by French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet and FDNY firefighter James Hanlon. The filmmakers had been following young firefighters in the Engine 7/Ladder 1/Battalion 1 Firehouse on Duane Street in Lower Manhattan for several months; the firehouse was one of the closest to the World Trade Center site. The filmmakers were there gathering footage on the morning of September 11th, and were among the first people on the scene after the first crash. Their footage in the documentary is the only video taken that morning from inside the Twin Towers. That footage, as papers and bodies fall to the ground outside the towers, is chilling.

By the way, Esquire’s article The Falling Man, a modern classic of long-form journalism, is now a fund-raiser for the James Foley Scholarship Fund at Marquette University. Read it now if you haven’t already. And if you have, read it again.