Tag Archive: bagnewsnotes


The Medevac Stories, with Daniel Etter

This is in part a guest post by photographer Daniel Etter

From the very beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there has been debate about the nature of US media coverage of the conflicts and the embedding system. One of my favorite sources for this media criticism has come from Michael Shaw at BagNewsNotes. He recently published a post about three news organizations publishing three stories about US Medevac units at the same time, which has set off a series of discussions and posts around the photo world. Medevac is short for Medical Evacuation, typically a helicopter rescue in the context of modern war zones. For a good round-up and links to all of the work in question, see this PDN Pulse post which includes a response from one of the photographers involved.

I think it is worth noting as well, before we get started, the photographic echoes we are dealing with when we look at medevac stories and why they are so visually/culturally interesting. This story’s inherent appeal is echoed in Etter’s response. We can start with Larry Burrow’s foundational Life Magazine essay One Ride with Yankee Papa 13 and David Turnley’s memorable photograph from the 1991 Gulf War of a soldier crying over the death of his friend in a medevac chopper. As well, James Nachtwey recorded a video interview with Time Magazine about his assignment in question: “Photographing the Birds of Hope: An Army Medevac Unit in Afghanistan”.

I was especially interested in this discussion because an old colleague of Scott and mine, Daniel Etter, recently completed an embed himself with a US Medevac unit and worked on his story Medevac, which we are also featuring in this post. I thought to ask him what his view was on the current hubbub, given his own personal knowledge of the process and decision making, and to learn more about his own project. He wrote back with some thoughtful ideas and insights and we have chosen to publish the entire piece. I consider this a guest post for Dvafoto by Daniel Etter, and turn it over to him with thanks:

Daniel Etter:
So there were three major US publications that nearly simultaneously published prominent stories on US Army medevac units. My take on it? Partly coincidence and partly photographers’ herd instinct.

I approached the military specifically asking to be embedded with a medevac unit. There was absolutely no influence from the side of the military. It might have taken longer if I’d applied for a foot patrol, but I doubt that. I was embedded in Regional Command South and during my time there, there were at least four photographers with troops on the ground, while there were only two photographers embedded with medevac units, me being one of them. One additional photographer split his time between ground troops and a medevac unit. The people who didn’t ask for a specific unit ended up with ground troops.

I was surprised to see all these photographers doing the same story and, even more so, to see the same story being published in the NYT and Time Magazine within such a short time frame. The former is pretty easy to explain. You could be with the infantry on foot patrols for weeks and absolutely nothing happens, and, given the cynicism of our profession, you don’t want that. (Back in Kandahar, another photographer asked if I had seen any amputees during my embed. I said, yes. To which he somewhat jealously replied: “Strong images, man, strong images.”) Being embedded with a medevac unit means, you can be sure to get dramatic photos. About every third mission I accompanied was to a so-called “POI”, the point of injury somewhere in the dusty plains around Kandahar. In one case it was a hot POI, meaning that fighting was still going on. Wounded being rushed into helicopters, guns pointed at invisible enemies and dust blown up by the whirling chopper blades. Very visual.

In 2008/2009 various high profile photographers went to the Korengal valley embedded with US combat troops. Among them were Tyler Hicks, David Guttenfelder, Tim Hetherington and Adam Ferguson. Gary Knight (on Rethink-Dispatches) and David Campbell (on his blog) wrote about this strange clustering, asking if this was due to the military’s strategy to narrow the public’s focus on this tiny part of Afghanistan and keep it away from other parts. [Editor's Note: This is a terrific observation and both Campbell's and Knight's articles offer great insights that are applicable to this current discussion]. Now almost the same question is being asked again just the other way around. Is the military trying to get the focus away from combat? In both cases, I doubt that the answer is a simply “yes”.

When deciding where to embed, photographers, especially those without much experience in the war theater, ask other photographers or look at work that has been done before. The most important question often is: Where do I get good photos? Which basically means: Where is the fighting? In 2008/2009 the answer was Korengal. Last year it was medevac, and I expect we will see more of it this year. This clustering doesn’t only happen with war photography, but with pretty much every subject. For example, most of the photographers based in India have done stories on Kushti, the traditional Indian wrestling.

The other thing is that medevac embeds are comparatively safe. Well, at least you feel safer. You are only on the ground for a minute or two and you spend the majority of your time on the base. On a foot patrol there’s always the danger of getting shot at out of the blue or, even worse, stepping on an IED. While with a medevac unit chances that you get under fire are much higher than with the infantry, at least you don’t have to carry that fear around all day long. Perceived safety and dramatic images at the same time make up for a pretty strong argument for a medevac embed. At least, when you look at it from a purely pragmatical viewpoint.

The latter, why there where three major publications who did the same story within such a short time span, I can’t explain. But I don’t believe that it was due to influence from the side of the military. Perception has a lot to do with the current ruckus, I think. If Nachtwey hadn’t done this story, nobody would have raised the topic. And also, there were other, less heroic pieces that got published around the same time. About a month earlier, the NYT did a story on night raids that were heavily criticized by the Afghan government.

That being said, I still think that this clustering of the same story being repeated is definitely a symptom of some problems of the photographical coverage of the war in Afghanistan. I just don’t think the gravest problems lie within the embed system. Sure, being embedded means that you are part of the military’s public relations strategy, and there are definitely stories withheld from the public (special ops, for example). But it’s not that you don’t see the downside of the military’s actions. Adam Ferguson had a big multimedia piece in Time on an infantry unit that accidentally killed a 14-year-old girl (there is also a a text version of the story).

The graver problem, I think, are the difficulties of getting out of the embed system. What’s missing are not stories about American troops fighting, but stories about the other side. It is not only very dangerous to report unembedded in Afghanistan, but also very expensive. An embed is free. So a lot of independent photographers end up doing the same stories with the military and their public relations strategy.

Another problem that comes up here sounds very simple: Photography relies on images. The more dramatic, the better to sell. Photographers aren’t magically drawn to stories like Korengal or medevac. You can make powerful and journalistically important images in these places, but on the other hand you are very limited with a camera. There are stories that simply cannot be told in images. And sometimes, even if the story is an entirely different one, the images remain the same. Can you tell the difference between an insurgent and a simply Afghan farmer on a photo?

My decision to embed with a medevac unit was mostly pragmatic. It was my first embed, and, to be honest, I was freaking scared to go. I didn’t set out with the idea to do the best or most unique story possible. And I don’t believe in the naive notion that one single photographer in the context of this war can change anything for the better. However, I do believe in the necessity of communicating these stories and events to a wider audience in order to keep public debate alive. But I just wanted to start with something that might not be the most important topic but seemed relatively safe. I’ve seen Nachtwey’s piece on the broader subject of military medicine in National Geographic, which also covers the work of US flight medics. It seemed like a good option. Simple as that. No conspiracies involved.

[Ed: Thanks again Daniel for your insights in to this story and your honest and open assesments of the situation. And to Michael Shaw for setting this discussion and our thinking off ]

Brenda Ann Kenneally discusses her work from Troy, New York

“I really don’t have the desire to go to another country and make the kind of pictures that I make. There’s so much to do here…” -Brenda Ann Kenneally for BagNewsNotes

Thanks to Michael Shaw of BagNewsNotes for writing in to let us know about Brenda Ann Kenneally’s recent slideshow discussion of her work from Troy, New York at the BagNews Salon. The work is powerful, but hearing Kenneally talk about why she photographs what she does, especially the personal connection to her subject matter, drives the work even deeper. Well worth a watch.

Michael Kamber talks about increasing military censorship in Iraq

Michael Kamber, contract photographer for the New York Times, talks with BagNewsNotes about military censorship in Iraq. The gradual increase of censorship is troubling–Kamber describes that at first, anything was fair game to shoot, but gradually car bomb scenes were off-limits, then hospitals, then morgues, then prisoners, then wounded soldiers, and so on. Kamber makes a great point, saying, “I think that we need to publish those photos for history even if we can’t get them in the newspaper today.” Head over to BagNewsNotes for discussion.

Worth a Look: The New Bag

Congrats to our friends over at BagNews with their wonderful and expansive redesign. Already the preeminent source for the analysis of “political” photography, Michael Shaw has outlined his plans to develop the project and their increased focus on original photography created for BagNews. The new site is easily organized in to three sections: the Notes, the Originals and the Salon. Absolutely worth digging in to the archives even if you follow the site regularly now, especially with their Visual Archive.

In the Originals section, which is organized by Alan Chin, they are featuring a serial by Anthony Suau, continuing his World Press-winning work on the “Great Recession”. The first post, with photos from the Detroit Auto Show, is called Success or sarcophagus?.

If you’re interested at all in how pictures can be read and interpreted once they’re out of the photographer’s hands, this site is a must read. Even my mother adores them.

Many things I’ve been looking at (Pt. 2)

Here is part two of the list of things I’ve been reading the last few days week or more that I found interesting enough to share. This edition with more analysis!

First, this should be required reading daily: Foreign Policy’s Morning Brief post every morning on the Passport Blog. Yes, we get most of this from international newspaper front pages but here it is all together, and always has interesting and important updates to world stories that you just don’t see often anywhere else. More news breaks for me here than anywhere else..

There was a minor controversy this last week in Washington, for two reasons I guess. Washingtonian Magazine ran a cover that reused a wire (paparazzi?) image of Obama walking shirtless in Hawaii. So, I guess controversy for putting a shirtless President on the cover of a features magazine (with a tagline of “Reason #2: Our New Neighbor is Hot”, referring to the cover story of ’26 reasons to love living living here’), but they also photoshopped his swimsuit to red (from black). The Huffington Post wrote about this in a post called Media Literacy 101: The Ethics of Photoshopping a Shirtless Obama and then PDN picked it up with Washingtonian’s Shirtless Obama Cover: You Call This a Scandal? which gives a complete rundown and argument. I agree that this isn’t something on the level of the Time OJ Simpson cover, and mostly just want to say that this all is very weird. Having a “hot President” is a new concept for me, and maybe this is an adjustment we’ll need to get used to. I am reminded of the deservedly-lauded New York Magazine cover of McCain and Obama on the beach, which is great. Finally last word: BagnewsNotes has the analysis on this cover-controversy along with December 08 analysis of the original photo when it came out.

And a little interlude/soundtrack for this post. My favorite Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy with a new song from his new album Beware… “I Am Goodbye”.




There is not that much more I can say more than I am impressed over and over again by the Burnetts’ amazing blog We’re Just Sayin’ which blends family, photography and general useful knowledge about living. Cheers to them.

Over at Burn Magazine there is an interesting and difficult essay playing by Jukka Onnela titled “A Kind of Error”. As Bob Black, who apparently curated this essay, says in the comments, “there are knods to Clarke and Richards and Moriyama and Peterson for sure, d’agata looms large too..” (sic)

One thing appears to be going right for photojournalism: Livebooks (which powers my site) announces a hosting plan for photojournalists (PDN story with the scoop) that is significantly cheaper than their normal sites. Direct link to Livebooks Photojournalism, which costs $44/mo all inclusive. A good plan for them I think, since their normal plans really aren’t priced for most budget minded photojournalists (in fact I know of at least one who dropped the service because of cost). Luckily I’m on the EDU plan..

In keeping with the breaking news, here is Andrew Sullivan’s ‘picture of the day’ for 4/26:

A couple kisses at the Historic Center, in Mexico City, on April 25, 2009. An outbreak of deadly swine flu in Mexico and the United States has raised the specter of a new virus against which much of humanity would have little or no immunity. The outbreak of the new multi-strain swine flu virus transmitted from human to human that has killed up to 60 people in Mexico is a 'serious situation' with a 'pandemic potential', the head of the World Health Organization stated. By Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images.

A couple kisses at the Historic Center, in Mexico City, on April 25, 2009. An outbreak of deadly swine flu in Mexico and the United States has raised the specter of a new virus against which much of humanity would have little or no immunity. The outbreak of the new multi-strain swine flu virus transmitted from human to human that has killed up to 60 people in Mexico is a 'serious situation' with a 'pandemic potential', the head of the World Health Organization stated. By Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images.


Along the same lines, the Serbian Government issued a press release on their English language website that announces that:

The statement adds that in order to establish existing capabilities and assess the necessary resources for a timely diagnosis of this disease in pigs, the Veterinary Directorate carried out a control of veterinary laboratories on April 25.

The Veterinary Directorate formed special teams for rooting out infectious diseases in animals, trained and equipped to dispose of diseased animals if the need arises.

Apart from a ban on the import of pigs and stricter veterinary inspection on borders, the Veterinary Directorate will examine the heath condition of pigs and poultry farmed in Serbia.

I appreciate the action Serbia, especially since I’m living here and will benefit from your preventative measures but I’m afraid you don’t quite understand that the issue is that the disease is infecting humans at present and is killing some of them.

Here is an interview on the Design Notes by Michael Surtees blog with the designer/creator of iPhone photography applications. I’ve only read part but it could be of interest. It also deals with the ‘nature’ of toy photography, and why Takayuki Fukatsu wanted to add this ‘ability’ to an expensive gadget like the iphone.

Daryl Lang at PDN takes a stand with his post Coverage of Dignified Transfers at Dover Dwindles when he says “doesn’t this seem cold? The lack of coverage at Dover ought to cause some soul-searching among assignment editors and, especially, TV producers.” While I’m very sympathetic to the power and importance of photographing events like this I do not see this as an issue. These transfers are being documented by the AP, with at least (for now) a photographer and a writer present. And frankly this ‘photo op’ (harsh) is not anywhere close to the real story and issue. That would be the combat death and the impact on families (ignoring for a moment the larger issue of the wars and their much larger ‘footprints’ overseas). Frankly I think it is odd to suggest that a full press retinue is as necessary for proper respect of a person, their death or the story of their death as an honor guard.

From Andy Levin’s blog 100eyes I was alerted to Kenneth Jarecke’s blog where he rants about modern photojournalism in a post titled “Lets Be Honest – Part 3″. It is roughly, as I can decipher, about taking ‘style’ too far in photojournalism and what causes photographers to do it. Part 2 makes more sense but I still am inclined to disagree. His main point is that all of this “sizzle” added to images, good or bad images, weakens (cheapens?) them. I just want images to evoke something, say something, in however way the photographer wants to. All of us can and will react to the voice and ‘language’ that they’re using. I think Jarecke is confusing his dislike with a certain picture using a ‘technique’ with a whole swath of other things, ultimately generalizing about the photographer himself and a coming generation. Images can be good or bad, and yes they can be either because of the ‘style’ put in to them. Just disagree with a particular picture or series, and let people experiment. It either works or it doesn’t, and as he says, the essence of photography is “I saw this. I found it interesting. What do you think?” . I do agree that people can be pushed in bad directions (over cooking images in photoshop or even setting up images) by the economics of the photo market (i.e. that is the crap that tends to get published, and sometimes rewarded). I feel it myself, we all do. We see the winners of World Press or what work is getting published and the thought ‘I gotta make work that looks like that’ crosses our minds. But it is each photographers’ choice to make and their decision to present their photographs in the way that they do. So I’ll reserve those judgments for each individual photographer and their work. Or maybe blame the editors.

(c) Stephen Voss

(c) Stephen Voss


Stephen Voss just posted some insane and striking images from abandoned schools in Detroit. Have a look.

Scott Strazzante has a touching post about optimism, his friends, mentors and layoffs in American newspapers on his blog Shooting From The Hip.

Speaking of newspapers (and layoffs) The Recovering Journalist has an interesting post about Inventing The Future in Iowa following the innovative exploits of The Gazette newspaper in Eastern Iowa. Interesting write up but frankly, after a few minutes poking around the website, I don’t see what is new or what the fuss is about.

Via The Click I saw this update about the ‘The Polaroid Kidd’ Mike Brodie on the Feature Shoot site. There are many more pictures and images from the 2007 exhibition on this page. I remember when these pictures first hit the ground a year or two ago, I think I saw them first in some sort of photo chain email. I loved them then and still do, very very much. So personal and really genius. Have a look, and remember he did it all with no training no fancy gear and at the age of 18. Kind of devastated me when I first heard that :)

(c) Mike Brodie

(c) Mike Brodie

Ok, one more slightly-wonkish Foreign Policy blog link: How NOT to dismantle the U.N. by Mark Leon Goldberg about issues within UN peacekeeping missions and accountability, and how this intrudes on the effectiveness of missions and local support. Very applicable, in my interest, to Kosovo and Bosnia of course.

Conscientious has one of his more interesting posts for me in a long while while highlighting Anna Shteynshleyger, specifically her intriguing work from Siberia and the sites of Gulags. It is made even better by this really interesting analysis/critique by Pete Brook at Prison Photography (which I hadn’t known till now, but is now rss’d). And here is the crux for me that Colberg teases out, which I’d love to explore later: “It indicates that there are no photographic conventions established, yet, for how to deal with the Gulag – which might reflect that the discussion (or actually amount of discussion) is still very much in flux. In fact, now that Russia has descended into a sort of authoritarian quasi-democracy, the Gulag there seems to be evolving into a non-topic…” . I don’t entirely agree, and neither would many in Russia I’d venture, but I too haven’t seen any photography that comes anywhere close to written accounts. My favorite of which is Ryszard Kapuscinski’s Imperium which I recommend with pleasure and passion.

A friend of mine sent me this very intriguing visual-blog (?) on the New York Times called And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman. I’ve only had the pleasure of reading her latest post May It Please The Court so far, but I look forward to reading back. Kalman also has a cool looking book.

I’ve seen everyone posting about the New York Times article about Danny Lyon and his two new books, but I two quotes struck me and bear repeating:
“You put a camera in my hand, I want to get close to people,” he said. “Not just physically close, emotionally close, all of it. It’s part of the process.” And, “It’s a very weird thing being a photographer.” Ooh, I agree.

Oh, and as evidence of my insanity and need to spike a few dozen of my rss feeds … this is what my computer looked like while I was preparing these posts…

Too many windows in Firefox

Too many windows in Firefox

Lastly, and I say this reluctantly, I am now on twitter. So join me if you want smaller versions of this kind of post and my musical ramblings.

New livebooks Blog

Another addition to the wide world of photo blogging: livebooks, which is a popular webdesign/site hosting service that produces sites like this, has recently opened their RESOLVE photo blog.

Most promising so far are the posts by Michael Shaw (blogger) and Alan Chin (photographer) who are friends and collaborators from Bagnewsnotes. They’ve been posting an ongoing discussion about photo assignments from blogs, detailing their partnership. Shaw funded Chin’s assignment to cover the Democratic convention in Denver this past year, among other things. The Bag, beyond hitting things out of the park at an impressive clip lately, has many wonderful things and ideas brewing that I can’t wait to see come forward.. these discussions on Resolve are a nice glimpse in.

Also, earlier this week they posted a short interview with the Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian about her new work documenting her trip to the Haj. Really beautiful pictures and story, and I was rewarded to even more great work inside her website (a livebooks one of course). Be sure to have a look.

The Big Day. Obama is President.

Inauguration day will go down as one of the biggest, strangest and interesting days of my career. Woke up early, walked, waited, shot, waited, froze, shot then walk again. Edit for another few hours and then sleep.
Got to see Obama walk down the parade route, only an hour behind schedule and after many hours of waiting around. The lines to get in to the secure area were terrible, you’ll see pictures of people who had waited for many many more hours than I. It was a day of patience and just a little bit of reward. As I said in the post before this, I am very excited I was able to be in DC to make these pictures. The hardships all of us on the streets faced will soon be forgotten and the positive memories will remain. Selective memory of course, but we were there.

Cakes and Pastries with Inauguration-themed messages near Howard University early on the morning of Inauguration Day. 1/20/09

Cakes and Pastries with Inauguration-themed messages near Howard University early on the morning of Inauguration Day. 1/20/09


Waiting at a security checkpoint to be admitted to the Parade Route.

Waiting at a security checkpoint to be admitted to the Parade Route.


Waiting at a security checkpoint to be admitted to the Parade Route. 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue. Guest and Secret Service agent.

Waiting at a security checkpoint to be admitted to the Parade Route. 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue. Guest and Secret Service agent.


Along the Parade Route in the morning.

Along the Parade Route in the morning.


Along the Parade Route. A young protester in a roped-off area.

Along the Parade Route. A young protester in a roped-off area.


Police and military personnel direct pedestrian traffic along a crossing of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Police and military personnel direct pedestrian traffic along a crossing of Pennsylvania Avenue.


Along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Along Pennsylvania Avenue.


Obama hoodie on Parade route.

Obama hoodie on Parade route.


A boy trapped along a fence at a security checkpoint near the Parade route.

A boy trapped along a fence at a security checkpoint near the Parade route.


Crowds push their way in to a security checkpoint after waiting hours in line.

Crowds push their way in to a security checkpoint after waiting hours in line.


A man sleeps while waiting for the parade to start near the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue.

A man sleeps while waiting for the parade to start near the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue.


Waiting for President Obama in the cold along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Waiting for President Obama in the cold along Pennsylvania Avenue.


Special Inauguration edition of the Washington Post newspaper sold outside of the Verizon Center immediately following the Inaugural events.

Special Inauguration edition of the Washington Post newspaper sold outside of the Verizon Center immediately following the Inaugural events.


Historic edition of the Washington Post for sale at a markup along a DC street.

Historic edition of the Washington Post for sale at a markup along a DC street.


Man selling Obama posters for $10 after the inauguration ceremonies, down from $20 before the event.

Man selling Obama posters for $10 after the inauguration ceremonies, down from $20 before the event.


Man selling discount tshirts for $5 near the Verizon center in downtown Washington DC.

Man selling discount tshirts for $5 near the Verizon center in downtown Washington DC.


American Flags on the DC Metro following the Inauguration of Barack Obama. January 20, 2009.

American Flags on the DC Metro following the Inauguration of Barack Obama. January 20, 2009.


I think the enduring memory of this week for me will be these vendors who were selling all manor of Obama-themed crap on the streets of DC. The vendors’ personalities and the real (American consumerist derived) enthusiasm for their wares shown by almost all of the people on the streets really spoke to an underlying nature of the spectacle and self-awareness by participants in the ‘historic nature’ of their being there. This, I guess, provided the market for $1 “I was there!” bookmarks. I guess that I finish thinking that even though we were aware what we were making history and acted like it, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t still an honest, earnest thing.
Telling too was the day after. Here are a few pictures from Wednesday afternoon in DC … the cleanup, the happy crowds (much much happier than everywhere else before … a commenter on BagNewsNotes had it right. I think it was just too cold to smile, even though people knew the gravity of the moment around them and were truly excited about being there. Why else, really, would they have traveled a distance, gotten up so early only to wait in the deep cold for so long.) Wednesday, though, was all about the ‘new day’ weather. It was warmer, sunny. It created a different mood. Lighter, wonderful, relaxed. A sigh of relief and contentment after pomp and ceremony. Even the Police were smiling. Again, maybe this was just my reaction bleeding into the pictures (it happens for all photographers, journalists, storytellers) but that is the very point.
The day after the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Washington DC, January 21, 2009. The White House.

The day after the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Washington DC, January 21, 2009. The White House.


Police and Secret Service agents monitoring pedestrians in front of the White House. 1/21/09.

Police and Secret Service agents monitoring pedestrians in front of the White House. 1/21/09.


Final cleanup on the National Mall. January 21, 2009.

Final cleanup on the National Mall. January 21, 2009.


Thanks for looking everyone. Be sure to check out our partner BagNewsNotes for great analysis of these pictures and many more. Particularly, you must see my colleague Alan Chin’s work from DC called, appropriately, the First Draft of History. It gets to the heart of what his aims were in covering this. Well done Alan and Michael, thanks very much for the opportunity to work alongside you.

What a Day

Back at home editing the day’s take, basking in the moment that was today. All 16 hours of it. To paraphrase a sentiment of Michael Shaw (of BNN) after attending the DNC, “how strange it is to be on the movie set as opposed to viewing it through the media”. This was my first major political event, and a big one at that. Looking back at what I’ve seen and felt these past days it will be fascinating to compare it with the pictures I have made (plus the editors’ interpretations of it) and those made by my collegues around DC. This has to be the most photographed event in history (cliche? but I think its true). I have always said, when asked why I am a photojournalist, that I wanted to witness history, to ‘be there’ and communicate to others what my personal interpretations of the moment were. I finally got my chance with a major event where ‘the whole world was watching’. It’ll take time for that, and the pictures, to sink in.

Along the Pennsylvania Avenue as Barack Obama is sworn in as President of the United States. January 20, 2009.

Along the Pennsylvania Avenue as Barack Obama is sworn in as President of the United States. January 20, 2009.

I’ll have more pictures coming before too long (also see The Bag for more) but here are a couple of links to other work and ‘interpretations’ of today that I’ve responded to while sitting here tonight.

Iris Burnett of We’re Just Sayin’ talks about why she didn’t attend the inauguration, with many brilliant words.

Callie Shell for TIME rocks things with disorientatingly intimate and personal shots “Behind the Scenes of Obama’s Big Day”. I’m especially struck by this image (13) which I’ll give analysis of here, or on BAG, a little later. Suffice to say it digs into something deep that wasn’t readily apparent from the parade grounds or the little bit of television coverage I caught in a window.

Now, in non-Inauguration things:
The Twitter Heard Round The World: jkrum’s picture of the Hudson Plane Crash (taken on an iphone!). Really, a beautiful and important picture. In line for the Pulitzer?? there is a history of amateur pictures winning..

Related, DesignNotes by Michael Surtees details his interactions with the news flow of the downing of Flt 1549 on the Hudson River in New York City. Fascinating breakdown of how new media (citizen media? see link above and all the twitters) is getting information out to (certain) individuals with hardly believable speed. Really remarkable. As he says,

Thinking about it now, the speed of events was pretty crazy. Within an hour and half I had learned that a plane had landed in the Hudson River, saw images within minutes of it happening, watched the rescue live, hearing survivors being interviewed soon after, and by the time it was over knowing that everyone was going to live – I was listening to music from A Flock Of Seagulls. All the tools that I used to get more info was available to anyone out there which was kind of cool in itself.

Now in ‘current events in pictures’: two wonderful and searing views of the Gaza insanity from a couple of favorite photographers: Tivadar Domaniczky and Alex Majoli.

Plus: On Sunday I was blessed to be able to visit the newly opened Robert Frank exhibition at the National Museum of Art on the Mall (which I previously wrote about) and it was Fucking Brilliant. The best photo exhibition I’ve ever seen, and not just because of the work … it was very smartly curated and designed. Contact sheets, prints from earlier work, collages of work prints and that awesome Catalogue. If you are in DC or can get there, Go. If not, Get the book. The Americans made me the photographer I am in the first place, seeing it again revitalized me (and reaffirmed my belief to ‘go it my way’) ever more.

A young vendor sells Obama-themed merchandise and flags at dusk near the White House on the Eve of Obama's inauguration and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 19, 2009.

A young vendor sells Obama-themed merchandise and flags at dusk near the White House on the Eve of Obama's inauguration and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 19, 2009.


And one more time for those here who haven’t got the message: GO READ BagNewsNotes for some really insightful and engaging thought about the visual politics of this (historic) moment. Oh, and Rachel Maddow really was as gorgeous, humble and altogether wonderful as people say while stuck in line at the 12th Street security barrier with me (and thousands of others).

Change (The Picture!)

President-Elect Barack Obama has rolled out a brand-new site detailing his transition plans: Change.gov. Good idea maybe (a lot of my friends are linking and smiling about it on facebook), but it feels so weird. Maybe it is rolled out too soon? Foreign Policy’s Passport Blog found it first and found an even uglier site (check the link). It gets worse though, look at this lead picture.

First, what a strange picture … Obama looks so tired and solemn (which I assume are very likely and real emotions for a man going through that moment) and it doesn’t seem like the ‘message’ you want to send into the blistering transition period. Second, oh, what a weird burn job on that stadium light behind them. I think I’m going to submit this both to BAGNewsnotes and Photoshop Disasters.

Speaking of change though, go read Rob Haggart’s rousing call for it in the publishing industry on his A Photo Editor blog. One of his ideas: “Gather all the employees you were about to fire because they don’t fit in so well with your organization or because they are too green to have mastered traditional publishing and give them promotions. Put them in charge. Gather all the people you’ve trained to say no to change and yes to whatever you say is good and fire them (ok I know this will mean there is nobody left in accounting and IT so keep a few of them around but maybe go for the junior ones).”

One more: Newspaper Execs Jokes over at Recovering Journalist Blog. Funny, and it deals kinda with the change that needs (and probably won’t) come to newspapers…

Oh, and give M. Scott all the credit for talking first about the ugly burn job. I just posted before him.

UPDATE (a few minutes later): I really should have taken more of a look around the site, as Scott did, because he found this at http://www.change.gov/americaserves/plan:

Grabbed 9:03pm Pacific 11/6/08

Grabbed 9:03pm Pacific 11/6/08

Matt’s Massive Link Roundup

I’ve been trying to put something more substantive together today but I’m just a little too under the gun with my Aftermath Project proposal being due soon and an out of town assignment this weekend for the Fader … so here is a quick roundup of things I’ve been reading and been interested in the last few days, all of which probably deserve a larger post themselves. As a side note: I have GOT to cut down on my RSS intake … you’ll see from the mess of sources I’m giving you today… (Pictures are from my trip to Wenatchee earlier this month)

First, some great great music for you to put on while chewing through all the tribulations of the week. The Elephant Six Collective, which produced such great bands as Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control, and now well-known groups The Apples in Stereo and Of Montreal, is out doing a ‘Holiday Surprise Tour’ around the country. One of the big surprises is that the elusive Jeff Mangum, leader of Neutral Milk Hotel, has shown up and played with his friends. Go here for a full two and a half hour concert: Elephant Six Orchestra on All Songs Considered. (All Songs Considered is rad, if you don’t know it, and they have a great podcast feed). Also, a youtube clip of “Glue” by The Gerbils (!!) performed at SUNY Purchase.

In a great roundup of all the craziness going on around the industry (magazines closing, scaling back, people losing jobs) Whats the Jackanory! tells us to keep our chins up. I’ll try man, I’ll try.

Highway 2, Washington State.

Highway 2, Washington State.

I might be the last photographer to have started following Jörg Colberg on his great blog Conscientious, but I’ve been enjoying it recently. He is making a thought-provoking push for us to reexamine the visual language of photojournalism. And is giving examples here. (Plus today, What is photojournalism anyways?, a brilliant question). I’m very conflicted, and this deserves a lot of thought and consideration and many of its own blog posts. Not least of which is I love the work as it is, it means a lot to me, and that Majoli picture he points to is from a project/book (Leros) that is very important to me and what I know as great work.
You should chime in yourself with some of the discussions going on: Lightstalkers has a thread titled ‘Well someone had to say it sooner or later’ and Alec Soth baits us with “Does photojournalism make you verklempt?” on the Magnum Blog.

On Drinking With A Dead Man John Loomis gives us a nice rundown of where he sources his mailers and portfolio materials in another nice behind-the-scenes business post.

Digital Railroad continues its superheated implosion with news coming from all over the place… I recommend reading the top of Lightstalkers message board for all of the latest. Frankly, whatever I post right now will be old news by time you read it.. this is a fast-moving story. (Newest I have is that web-portfolio house Livebooks, who does my website for example, is also getting in on the fallout and offering deals to switch over from DRR (reports PDN)).

Ladder in Orchard near Leavenworth, WA

Ladder in Orchard near Leavenworth, WA

Part of my insanity over my rss-load is coming from my new subscription to insanely productive blogger Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish at The Atlantic. That link is to an angry post that he did about Palin’s medical records; he also provided me with this gem of a link to a blogging 80something woman. Called ‘What was I thinking when I called Sarah Palin a Bitch’. Sullivan came recommended to me by editor of Slate.com David Plotz, through their Gabfest.

I’ve been pretty disappointed with most of the work coming out of Magnum|Insight over the past week, I must admit, but there are some interesting things. Particularly Alessandra Sanguinetti’s work from Los Angeles and, more for the story than pictures, Mikhail Subotzky’s Between Rome and New York.

On the other hand, this is a must see: photographer Alan Chin at McCain/Palin Rally over at BAGNewsnotes. This is a smart photographer, on a very smart blog. (I wrote about him earlier, here).

In other pictures, you really really must also check out Vanessa Winship and her work from the Balkans and Black Sea. More info to come, but we hope to interview Winship soon here on DVA….

Related, take a look at this trove of great videos of lectures/projections over at Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism in Hanover, Germany. I found it searching for Vanessa Winship, but it also includes (maybe not all in English) presentations by Thomas Höpker, Steve McCurry, Antonin Kratochvil, Thomas Dworzak (can’t wait to find the time to watch this one especially), Heidi und Hans-Jürgen Koch and Kai Wiedenhöfer.

Got some more bad news the other day: the National Geographic Society has suspended all grants for the rest of the year, “in efforts to cope with the current economic situation.” I have been in the running for a Young Explorers Grant for my as-yet-publicly-announced Russia project. Maybe in the Spring.. bummer.

I’ve known Jehad Nga’s work for awhile now, and saw some of his pictures at his exhibition at Bonni Benrubi (and direct link), with Paolo Pellegrin, early this summer. But I was alerted to a new story he has done about Somali Pirates called “Pirates, Inc”. (note: unfortunately it is impossible to link directly to his stories on his site, so click on ‘From Here on In-Galleries’ and choose the title of the story). Terrific work, on a story that I’ve been thinking about a little bit. Best of luck to him too at the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass going on soon in Amsterdam. You can see his essay for that on his site too, My Shadow, My Opponent, about boxers in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. Such great color…

Last, in breaking music news, Zach Condon, better known for his group Beirut, will be releasing new music soon, including some surprises (electronic music??). Read this interview over at Pitchfork.

If you’d like more pictures from me, have a look over at the updated ‘Recent Work’ section of my website — www.mattlutton.com.

Picking Fuji Apples, for the Korean Market, at Phillippi Fruit Company in Wenatchee, WA

Picking Fuji Apples, for the Korean Market, at Phillippi Fruit Company in Wenatchee, WA

Endnote: as you can probably see I ended up taking some hours to put this post together … what started as a cop out of an actual post became my procrastination tool. Damn.