Tag Archive: change


Erica McDonald’s “The Dark Light of This Nothing”

Erica McDonald wrote in a while back. I’ve been a fan of her work for a long time, having first met her through lightstalkers, and hoped she might have a project to share. The selection she sent back, from “The Dark Light of This Nothing” is a beautiful portrait of Brooklyn, both timeless and very much of this moment, a look into what rapidly changing socioeconomics means for the city and, by extension, the country. Here’s what McDonald writes about the project:

Janet: Hi Erica..(kiss)

Erica McDonald [EM]: Hi, Where’s Adele?

Janet: Adele’s inside..Erica, this is my family, that’s uh..Donny, my sister in law, Sharon, Angie…David and that’s my brother John..

EM: You’ve got a good memory.

Janet: I’ve got a good memory, I have 38 nieces and nephews, I have to..this is just a little quarter of it.

EM: I’m trying to get people to talk about what the neighborhood was like and what it is like now and..

Janet: You want some dessert? Steven would know that, my husband would know that, and so would Mary.

EM: No thanks, I’m okay. Yeah, Mary was just talking to me a little.

Anthony: I wasn’t born here..I don’t know anything..
Read on »

Remember Old Kashgar by M. Scott Brauer

One of the world’s oldest cities, Kashgar serves as both the spiritual and political capital of traditional Uighur culture.  Since 1949, the modern People’s Republic of China has exerted strong control over the region, and Kashgar has been particularly hard hit.  Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a province covering 1/6th of China’s territory holds a majority of the country’s oil and gas reserves.  Long at odds with the Uighurs’ sometimes bloody quest for independence, the Chinese government has insituted a program of subsidized migration and settlement in the area by Han majority Chinese.  In so doing, the government hopes to develop a stable and robust economy whose purpose is the exploitation of the region’s natural resources and to overwhelm the local ethnicities.  Whereas the Uighur population of Kashgar was previously as high as 90%, government settlement efforts have changed the city’s demographics to less than 70% Uighur, and the percentage is still dropping.

At the heart of Kashgar is the so-called Old City.  Of tremendous historical value, the twisting alleyways and haphazardly built houses clump together and spring out of the city’s terrain in an organic and natural way.  After sporadic uprisings and fighting between Uighurs and Hans, the Beijing-controlled municipal government has unveiled plans to completely renovate the Old City. Uighur families who’ve lived in the same location for, in some cases, hundreds of years will be uprooted and resettled in cookie cutter apartment blocks built according to contemporary Chinese building standards.  Notwithstanding the individual upheaval of this process, the redevelopment of central Kashgar will radically transform the nature of daily life in the Uighur community.  The alleyways of the Old City create a naturally closed and safe neighborhood structure in which children can play and neighbors interact without fear of outsiders or traffic.  These alleyways also lead to central streets, arteries for the community on which Uighur-owned businesses thrive.  All of this will change as the government imposes redevelopment on the Old City, though not everyone is convinced the change will be bad.

In his home not far from the Grand Bazaar, 60-year-old Mohmat* cries as he describes his life.  Hans moving into the area have taken his job and his house is soon to be demolished.  Unable to afford medicine, he smokes marijuana to relieve the pain in his liver and legs.  Pages of the Koran hang on the walls of his bedroom.  At once blaming China’s central government for his problems, he also sees some sense in the policies.  His house has no plumbing and little electricity.  With the new apartment buildings, his family would enjoy a marked improvement in their quality of life.  Still, without a more systemic overhaul of city and state policies, and clear protection for Uighur employment and religion, he sees the development of the Old City as a small step toward much needed reform in Kashgar.

Others are more optimistic.  On a bus from Kashgar to Hotan, a man named Askar* approaches me.  A Uighur living in Urumqi, the provincial capital, his english is great and he’s eager to talk.  ”I am hopeful,” he says of the future of Xinjiang.  He worries about the transformation of Kashgar, but sees it as a necessary step in the progress of the region.  His own life has changed dramatically, too.  His first career was working as a newspaper journalist, but it felt to him like a deadend job.  He spent hours upon hours teaching himself english in libraries and has been an Amway representative for the past year or two.  Amway, of course, being the multi-level marketing scheme made popular in the US in the 1970s.  ”I will be the president [of Amway] in 7 years,” he exclaims hopefully.  His trip to Kashgar and Hotan, in fact, was to set up more Amway franchises.  The business, he tells me, is an exciting opportunity, a way to live the American dream in a place that couldn’t be more different from the suburbs where Amway was made popular.  The promise of a better of life offered by the company, and which is never achieved by the overwhelming majority of Amway representatives, provides Askar with a goal far removed from the problems facing Kashgar and the Uighurs.

More photos from this story are available for license at M. Scott Brauer’s archive.

*only first name given over concern for safety

Introducing the new dvafoto.com

We’re starting off the new year with a bang here at dvafoto. If you’re reading through the rss feeds, pop on over to the real deal to see the excitement. In addition to some exciting upcoming posts, we’ve completely redesigned the site.

You’ll notice the overall visual changes first. While the old site (image 2 in the slideshow above) was good enough, it was a stock wordpress template and has been popping up all over the place of late. It was cluttered, didn’t utilize the full width of modern computers, and was beginning to look dated. Mostly, I was just tired of it and thought I could do something that fit our visual content better. We also wanted a way to highlight posts from our archive.

Elsewhere on dvafoto - a random selection of links from the archive of dvafoto.com


Blogging is inherently a medium controlled by time, and that prevents old content from being newly discovered, regardless of whether it’s still relevant and interesting. Central to the new design, but hopefully not obtrusive to the site’s core purpose, we’ve added boxes with a random selection of photos and posts from our archive. You’ll see a couple such boxes in the main content flow on the front page, there’s one at the bottom of every individual post page, including this one, and there’s one on our 404 error page.

We’ve also incorporated Lens Blog-inspired image galleries, as you’ll see at the top of this post, in upcoming posts, and in a few in the archive, such as this post of my photos from the Rocky Boy Powwow in Montana. Rather than using a flash solution for the galleries, I integrated a jquery tool called Scrollable to use the customized rewrite of the existing wordpress gallery functionality. The result is a google-friendly sliding photo gallery easily managed in wordpress.
Read on »

NGOs and Journalism: Nieman Journalism Lab Explores the Blurry Lines of NGO-Produced Journalism

In early 2009, the think tank POLIS together with Oxfam published a report warning that international coverage is likely to decrease under the new public service broadcasting regime being worked out in the U.K. And in 2008, the U.K. tabloid the Daily Mirror said as part of the latest round of job cuts they were abolishing the post of foreign editor altogether. Meanwhile, citizen journalists and NGOs have been rushing to fill the gap. The mainstream media, getting free filmed reports and words, often sees this as a win-win situation. This raises three key issues:

  • Do these new entrants to humanitarian reporting mean that we are seeing more diverse stories being told and more diverse voices being heard? Does the fundamental logic of reporting change?
  • Are viewers/readers aware of the potential blurring of the lines between aid agencies and the media when NGOs act as reporters?
  • How are aid agencies being affected by citizen journalists acting increasingly as watchdogs?

-Glenda Cooper in When lines between NGO and news organization blur

The Nieman Journalism Lab has recently been publishing an intriguing series of articles exploring the relationship between the media, NGOs, and journalists, especially as more and more international and investigative journalism is produced, funded, and distributed initially or in cooperation with NGOs and charities. There’s much to read here, and I’ve only just started, but it’s a necessary conversation to have as news organizations drop foreign and investigative bureaus and turn to advocacy organizations for reporting. Be sure to check out all the articles:

This is a touchy subject, because of the moral ambiguities inherent in partnerships between NGOs (which generally advocate particular agendas/causes) and journalists or journalism organizations (which strive for editorial independence and objectivity). In the past few years mainstream NGOs have been producing some stellar work. Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has been producing strong photography, for instance, and VII recently partnered with the International Committee of the Red Cross for a compelling global documentary effort. A Developing Story chronicles more journalism produced by NGOs. Ultimately, I think the responsibility for journalistically-sound reporting funded by NGOs will rest on the shoulders of the journalists working with the NGOs, who must make sure that their reporting is a truthful representation of the subject being reported according to long-established rules of journalism ethics.

The news is still big. It’s the newspapers that got small.

Lots of news over the past few weeks about the plight of American newspapers. Here are some of the links I’ve been reading:

  • Editor and Publisher reports that several cities could have no daily paper by 2010, according to a newspaper credit rater.
  • The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press have just announced 9% job cuts and, perhaps more alarming, that the papers will stop daily home delivery. A daily edition will still be produced and sold through newsstands and coin-boxes, but will only be delivered to home subscribers on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The move is being billed as a way to shift focus to online readership, and an exact copy of the daily edition (hopefully not a pdf…ugh) will be available to subscribers online everyday. Analysts wonder if it’s a big enough step to forestall the papers’ problems and whether readers will continue to read the papers. David Hunke, CEO of the Detroit Media Partnership, which operates both papers under a Joint Operating Agreement, says that there’s no possibility of Detroit becoming a one paper town.
  • Like many other papers, the Newark Star-Ledger recently cut half of its newsroom staff. The paper has since announced that they are doubling their internship program, hiring up to 20 interns for one-year positions, paid but without benefits. From the NPPA’s coverage, there’s something strange going on here: “Some journalism professionals might see it as ironic that the Star-Ledger’s owners are comfortable with inexperienced interns as reporters and copy editors, while at the same time advertising for experienced advertising sales people for jobs that include full medical coverage and a pension, a 401K, and salaries with earnings in six figures.”
  • Tina Brown opines in her Daily Beast column about the layoffs hitting newsrooms and wonders why the “feckless bureaucrats who are running the place” (and who likely made many of the business decisions that got us here today) aren’t getting pink slips.
  • The Tribune company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, has begun the early stages of bankruptcy proceedings. There’s coverage all over the place, but the Guardian has some good perspective I hadn’t seen elsewhere, including the weird nugget about the Chicago Tribune’s spelling policy from 1934 to 1955 when it was published by a man referred to as the Colonel who thought “frate” and “altho” and “burocratic” worked better in the paper.
  • The multi-pulitzer-winning, and beautiful-photo-running, Rocky Mountain News is up for sale and will be closed if a buyer isn’t found by mid-January. Current and former staffers have started a website, IwantmyRocky.com, as a community focal point for the effort to save the paper. The CEO of the paper’s owner has said that closure isn’t the only option for the paper, but that as early as Nov. 19, the E. W. Scripps Co., had plans to close the Rocky “as soon as practical”. There are vague reports of a “handful” of potential buyers for the paper.
  • The New York Times has mortgaged its new building in order to borrow $225 million dollars and ease cashflow problems in 2009. The New York Times Company expects one of its “most challenging years” next year. Gawker mentions the horrible timing of the New York Times: its old building tripled in value between when it was sold in 2004 and when the new building was ready to use in 2007.
  • Associated Press writers and photographers have staged a 3-day byline strike to protest the company’s proposals during contract negotiations. Striking staffers have also stopped using personal equipment (cell phones and cars, for instance) during the strike. The Associated Press is a non-profit owned by a coalition of 1500 newspapers. A number of newspaper companies, including the Tribune Company, have announced plans to drop their AP contracts. A group of Ohio newspapers intend to create a statewide news-sharing agreement because they feel the AP’s new fees and reduced coverage of local issues don’t take into account newspapers’ current financial hardships. Interestingly, many newspapers are going up against a conflict of interest with this because their owners are often represented on the AP’s board of directors.
  • The great film critic Roger Ebert sees the disappearance of newspaper film critics as a bellwether of the industry. He blames the cult of celebrity for bringing down the journalism business. I don’t know if I buy it, but his last line is great. “The news is still big. It’s the newspapers that got small.”
  • Oh man. That’s a lot of bad news. Go to Cute Overload for a while. And here are a few examples of why people feel newspapers are necessary.

    More on the emerging new journalism

    A couple of followup links to my last post about new developments in online journalism and dying newspapers.

  • This article from the Sept./Oct. Columbia Journalism Review discusses the movement toward nonprofit funding for investigative and international reporting.
  • The New York Times likens newspapers’ current style of layoffs to the now bankrupt Circuit City’s policy of laying off the most experiences employees in their stores. What set Circuit City apart from other electronics retailers was their knowledgeable staff. In an effort to cut costs, they laid off the most senior employees in favor of hiring new staff at lower wages. The race to total bankruptcy took Circuit City a little less than 2 years. (apropos to this, I just heard about a 50,000 circ. paper that laid off their entire photo and local business departments…yeesh!)
  • Colin M. Lenton’s take on the Philadelphia Inquirer and other papers trying to get him to subscribe. This is where I found the above NYT article, and he makes a lot of sense. The value of the AP to individual newspapers is almost nothing once readers are online. If they can read the same story in countless places, or somewhere convenient like Google News, why would readers go to any particular newspaper. By focusing instead on original content, both local and international, newspapers other than the NYT or Washington Post could become relevant again.
  • Online Journalism Review’s series The State of Local News which includes this article about the profitability of local independent news sites.
  • Jeff Jarvis’ thoughts on emerging models of news online and sustainable models for journalism.
  • Summaries of three 2006 forums hosted by MIT called “Will Newspapers Survive”: The Emergence of Citizens’ Media (the New Yorker talks about how all of the citizen journalism is underwhelming), News, Information and the Wealth of Networks,and Do Newspapers Matter?.
  • An article about ChiTownDailyNews and other nonprofit online journalism outlets and how difficult it is to meet their bottom line.
  • Journalism That Matters
  • (many links via Metafilter)