Tag Archive: afghanistan
“There is much more to the war than the mainstream media has shown. The purpose of Razistan — or “land of secrets” — is to reveal these untold stories.” -about Razistan
Razistan is a newish Tumblr site devoted to telling original stories from Afghanistan. Founded by a host of acclaimed photographers, writers, and editors (Pieter Ten Hoopen, Sandra Calligaro, Javier Manzano, Fardin Waezi, among others) the group aims to keep attention focused on Afghanistan now the the US’s, the world’s, and the media’s eyes have moved on. There’s a kickstarter funding campaign (72% funded as of this writing). It’s always an ambitious project to fight against the prevailing media of the moment, but Razistan is well under way. There’s a great deal of compelling imagery on their Tumblr site already, and the success of their kickstarter campaign will allow them to do more exhibitions, publications, workshops for local journalists, and more.
By the way, I found this via Tumblr Storyboard, which is Tumblr’s in-house editorial effort to showcase what’s happening on Tumblr. Storyboard has a short interview with Razistan co-founder and publisher Marcos Barbery about the impetus behind the project.
Worth a look again: Paula Lerner’s “Behind the Veil: An Intimate Into the Lives of Kandahar’s Women”Mar 13, 2012 by M. Scott Brauer 1 Comment »
Paula Lerner‘s death last week came as a shock. At 52, Lerner succumbed to breast cancer, leaving behind a legacy of strong photojournalism and long-reaching influence throughout the photojournalism community. Working with the photography business advocacy group Editorial Photographers, Lerner helped negotiate magazine contracts that paved the way toward fair pay and copyright protections for freelancers. With the non-profit Bpeace, she helped startups in conflict areas provide local jobs as a means toward reaching peace. I never met Lerner, but knew many who did. She was a strong force in photojournalism–we’ve all benefited from her efforts to guide the business of photography–and she will be missed.
One of her most significant achievements is Behind the Veil: An Intimate Into the Lives of Kandahar’s Women, a look at the lives of women in Afghanistan. The work earned Lerner and the rest of the reporting team at the Globe and Mail an Emmy. Vital and in-depth, it addresses an issue that’s frustratingly under-reported and treats its subjects with dignity and humanity. We need more photojournalism like this. Spend a few minutes watching (or re-watching) Behind the Veil.
Teru Kuwayama has posted to Lightstalkers a pdf version of what will become a printed book of the Basetrack project. We previously wrote about the media experiment and its sudden end on dvafoto. Great to see more images from the project beyond what was published on their website. We’re looking forward to seeing the final version in hand, which will likely be great and something new from the looks of it.
I came across this very strange story about a Dutch documentary filmmaker embedded with US Special Forces who, when his video camera died, decided to pick up a rifle instead and fight alongside the soldiers. The video report here is very thin, a lot of the story feels like it is missing, but it is potentially a unique twist for embedded journalism. I can’t recall ever hearing about another case of this happening, and I know tons of folks will react negatively to this in a heartbeat.
The filmmaker is Vic Franke and the documentary is called On Killing: The Aftermath. He says of the project,
This documentary portrays the private lives of two US Special Forces operators in Afghanistan as well as in the privacy of their homes stateside.
Filmmaker Vik Franke experienced all of this, while making “09:11 Zulu“, a documentary on the Dutch and US special Forces in Afghanistan. Riding with them in the desert for two months, hunting for the Taliban, he even had to pick up a gun himself in a huge ambush. The impact of the experience on his own life and having become of the ‘Fraternity Born in the Smoke of Danger & Death’ was enough to look up the only guys that he could talk to about it.
After looking at his website, the trailers for his films and the way he describes the work (including in this video piece), it appears to me that he seems quite eager to join the fight as a bit of a thrill. It comes off very inappropriate and rather offensive, and from what I’ve seen with these examples it really calls in to question the point of his films. Can you ever pick up a gun and still call yourself a documentary filmmaker? Can we take this work seriously? And what the hell does the US military have to say about such a thing?
(via War is Boring. Video report by Een Vandaag, Radio Netherlands Worldwide)
Trevor Paglen‘s work on the hidden aspects the American military is well worth a look. Peeking into the hidden corners of the American military, his work previously has focused on the patches worn by top secret military units (available as a book, as well), code names used by secret agents, CIA black sites, and signatures found on documents used during “extraordinary rendition”. His new work, Limit-Telephotography, focuses on top secret military facilities that are located in some of the most remote areas of the United States. Using astronomy equipment, Paglen is able to take photographs from miles away, giving the images a hazy quality that speaks volumes about just how little we know about the top secret and confidential American government operations. Be sure not to miss the accounts of Paglen’s trips to photograph these sites, too.
Required supplemental reading: the Washington Post’s two-year long investigation into Top Secret America.
(via The Spinning Head)
“There is no right to embed,” Lapan said. “It is a choice made between units and individual reporters, and a key element of an embed is having trust that the individuals are going to abide by the ground rules. So in that instance the command in Afghanistan decided there wasn’t the trust requisite and denied this request.” -DOD spokesman Colonel David Lapan
Mother Jones has good coverage of recent developments in Mike Hastings coverage of the war in Afghanistan. The Rolling Stone reporter, previously in the news for his explosive story on General Stanley McChrystal, had been approved for an embed to report from Afghanistan, but as he announced on twitter, it has been unapproved.
Restrepo, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s documentary about one American platoon fighting in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, has been picked up for distribution and will be shown in theaters starting in summer 2010. The movie’s website has information on screenings, and the trailer is available to watch online.
I first met Jeremy M. Lange at a lecture we were both attending at ICP in 2006. We’d corresponded by email before, and he somehow recognized me in the crowd. I left New York later that year, and shared my last meal in the city with him. He continued freelancing in the city for a while before moving to North Carolina, producing along the way a strong and varied body of work, ranging from (legal) kidnappers for hire to Mexican presidential politics to barbershops to religious faith. His recent project, “The War At Home” is a wide-ranging piece covering the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from the perspective of those in the US. Do yourself a favor, and spend some time on his site. I asked Lange if he’d be willing to share his perspective on “The War at Home” over email. The discussion is below:
dvafoto: First, for our readers who might not be familiar with your work, where are you based and what publication do you work for? What sort of time on the job do you have to work on personal projects? How open is your publication to your story pitches?
Jeremy M. Lange: I am based in Durham, North Carolina, my hometown, which I returned to in 2007 after 3 years of school, 6 months in Mexico, and 3.5 years in New York City. I have a slightly odd arrangement in that I am a staff, or contract photographer, for the Independent Weekly, an alt weekly that covers the Research Triangle area of NC. I work 6 months a year guaranteed for them, one month on, one month off, and freelance the other 6, but I am able to take freelance jobs for all 12 months of the year, provided that I have all my responsibilities taken care of for the paper on the months I am on. The Indy is great in many ways, but especially in that me and the other photographer have almost complete artistic freedom in how we shoot the stories we are assigned and we get a little more time to invest in denser stories because it is a weekly. Deadlines do build up, but we have the ability to work our schedules out as we please as long as everything is done on time. Also, we can pitch stories at will and with a good argument, they tend to run them, as long as the story fits into the general guidelines of the paper, news, social justice, culture, it is pretty broad. Personal projects are much more easily blended into the paper than in others I have heard of. It can still be hard to find the time, and money, for personal projects, but that is always the case it seems. I think it falls more on you to make that time than anything else.
As a freelancer, I work a lot for the New York Times, who I have been working with since I lived in NYC and ran around for the Metro section, RIP, several days a week. They were the first real paper I worked for and have been great to me over the last few years. Thanks.
Other than that, I fill out my schedule with other editorial jobs, band shoots, portraits, whatever comes down the pipe. I think in smaller markets we are all forced to generalize a bit, but it is fun in that I learn new things from shooting different types of stories all the time. My background is in news and documentary, but I really enjoy shooting just about anything, with a few exceptions. Challenges keep you on your toes and I like the idea of photographing James Taylor one day and Christmas tree farms the next.
What got you started on “War at Home”? When did you know you were on to a bigger story with so many different threads to follow?
I met a soldier named Kristian Hofeller when I lived in Bushwick, Brooklyn in 2006. A package was misdelivered to my apartment and I rode up the street to drop it off at the right house and while speaking to the lady who answered the door, she mentioned that her son had just gotten back from Iraq. I asked if he might want to talk to me about it and take some photos, and I gave her my number and he called me couple of days later. We met at his house and drank some coffee and talked a little but he seemed sort of uncomfortable in his mom’s house so we went out to his truck and he basically broke down the last 5 years of his life to me. 1st responder to the WTC, off to Afghanistan, got in some trouble there, back home, marital problems, divorce, back to Iraq, back home… it blew my mind. He must have talked for over an hour with me just sitting in his truck listening and saying nothing really, I mean what the hell did I know about that? He got in some legal trouble while back in the US and therefore could not get a job, or at least a decent one, so he was considering going back to the military fulltime, he was on Reserve, or with a private contractor. They, the contractors, were offering him big money, he came from a blue collar family, but he did not really want to go. He had lost his wife and friends because of the war, but he really had no other options. We smoked and sat in the truck and he talked and then I went home, saying we would get together soon and shoot some photos. I had no idea what to do with what he told me, so I wrote down as much as I could remember, this is why an art degree can be a disadvantage, I should have taken notes, but I got it down for the most part, I like to listen.
We met again a couple of weeks later and went all the way out in Long Island to shoot some guns with an Army buddy and an older guy from his neighborhood. He would not really let me make any photos of him, but I got a shot of an Osama bin Laden target in a sand pit that has stuck around through all the edits, as well as one of his truck with a backwards “American Hero” emblem in the windshield. So I shot some really cool guns and we talked a lot, Kristian, me and his Army buddy, and then they took me home. We never talked again, he did not return my calls after that, not sure why, but I heard he went back to Iraq not long after. It stuck with me but I was trying to hustle in NYC and that was it for a while.
Not long after I got back to NC I shot a NYT story about a private contractor killed in Iraq, Brent Gray. We went to the grave with his wife and sister and some friends and then to a bar where we met some other guys who had served with him. I was so interested in what they were talking about and how little I knew about it. This is 5 or 6 years after we invaded Afghanistan and 3 after Iraq and I knew next to nothing about what people here were going through. I am not from a military family, but I have always been interested in it, the guns, the adventure and was about one stamp away from Marine basic training after high school. So I started looking around to find stories related to returning soldiers and other aspects of the war’s affects on the country and realized I had a huge pile of ideas.
Your “War at Home” project is pretty far-reaching. What ties it all together? What’s it about?
Read on »
I’m usually wary of photo essays about poverty and drugs. Eugene Richards has unleashed a torrent of imitators, and the results are often voyeuristic and exploitative–unless there’s an underlying story, photos of depraved debasement do little more than serve as a vehicle for gawking at the unmentionables, grotesques without empathy. Benjamin Lowy‘s “The Afghan High” does the opposite.
The essay presents Afghanistan’s drug culture and the government’s futile fight against the opium growers as facets of a complex international political issue with both compassion and journalistic distance. The portrait at the top of this post, for instance, portrays the man not just as a token drug user but instead as a thinking, emotive, whole agent caught in the middle of a bad situation. If the essay stopped with the drug users, though, its value and interest would have been lost. By including images of the government’s meager efforts to fight poppy growers, the essay becomes a powerful statement on the entirety of Afghanistan’s relationship with drugs. The last photo, especially, (sorry I can’t link to it) evokes an idea of just how ingrained drug culture is in Afghan culture: the poppy fields, which are the focus of strategic international maneuvering and the fate of which may determine the outcome of America’s military efforts, are a place where children play. Lowy’s control of light throughout the essay is breathtaking, as well.