Tag Archive: jonas bendiksen
Magnum Contact Sheets is a forthcoming October 2011 release by Thames & Hudson, the publisher responsible for a number of other classic Magnum books like Magnum Magnum and Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image & The World (both of which are on my shelf). This book, four years in the making, features film contact sheets from Magnum photographers and “each photographer (or representative of an estate) has written a commentary on the assignment, how the photographs were taken, what happened at the time and what followed.”
Thames & Hudson have been running a feature on their blog called Life Cycle of a Book: Magnum Contact Sheets about the process of commissioning, editing, designing and publishing (more posts are promised) such a large important photography book. It offers a nice and detailed behind-the-scenes look into the huge process, time and number of steps required to put together such a juicy project. Design Director Johanna Neurath wrote about how the “dream project” came to be:
We all (the designers that is) got very excited when we saw the gorgeously graphic smudgey brightly coloured marks of the chinagraph pencils on the sheets. And the orderly little round stickers on some of the sheets, stuck just so, and those beautifully expressive felt-tip pen scribbles and stars and exclamation marks… All these things gave away clues to the personality of each photographer. We knew that somehow we wanted to make the most of this. (from the post Magnum Contact Sheets: Design #1)
I’m very excited to see the final book, though I am a bit wary of the marketing description on Thames & Hudson’s page for Magnum Contact Sheets: “Contact sheets tell the truth behind a photograph. They unveil its process, and provide its back story. Was it the outcome of what a photographer had in mind from the outset? Did it emerge from a diligently worked sequence, or was the right shot down to pure serendipity – a matter of being in the right place at the right time?”
Maybe not exactly true, but the sentiment it is pretty close to why most of us love looking at each others’ contact sheets. Who doesn’t want to see the roll (look above!) that produced Trent Parke’s cover photograph for his book Dream/Life?
For more behind-the-scenes bookmaking awesomeness check out our recent interview with Donald Weber about his new book Interrogations.
I met Molly Landreth at a small workshop with photographer Jonas Bendiksen at Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle in January 2007. There was a mix of aspiring photographers as well as amateurs, some great work and some that wasn’t going anywhere. There was no doubt about Landreth though; she was showing the first wonderful portraits from a series that was to become Embodiment. Since then I’ve been following her work and the creative ways that she has been taking to develop, fund and show her project. This Spring I was reading about her latest push to raise money via Kickstarter.com which coincided with a number of awards and exhibitions of the project. We’ve been overdue for featuring Landreth’s work and insights so we invited her for a dvafoto interview. We hope you enjoy and consider supporting her project, and then be inspired to find innovative funding for your own work.
how did you decide to focus on one project for such a length of time?
Embodiment began as a purely photographic endeavor in 2005-2008, as I photographed friends and acquaintances to better understand my own place within the queer community as well as a chance to create beautiful representations of people I loved and respected. I had no idea that I would be starting in on a five year (or more!?) project that would one day include subjects from all over the country, an international collaborator, in depth video interviews and a innovative multi-platform outreach plan. I would have been terrified to even begin!
how is the work completed? how are you finding subjects?
I use a 4×5” camera to set up my photographs, Myspace + hundreds of key word searches to find project participants and a lot of deep breathing to work up the courage to barge into peoples lives and ask them to be open, honest and beautiful in front of my camera. It is a totally strange and insanely rewarding thing to do. My collaborator, Australian video artist Amelia Tovey, captures not only the story behind each portrait, but the process of creating the portrait itself; revealing the way a photograph and a personal history can unfold. Last June we went on a month long trip around the country to gather new footage; it was one of the most inspiring and rewarding adventures I’ve even been on. New work from Embodiment includes multi-media portraits of: a transsexual woman (who, before transitioning) served as a special units paratrooper during the Vietnam War, a gay evangelical preacher in Garland Texas, a bi-racial lesbian couple in Mississippi, a young Hollywood personality in Los Angeles, a teenage transgender boy living and transitioning in rural Wisconsin, and self-proclaimed Hillbillies living deep in the Ozark Mountains. It’s really exciting.
do you have concurrent projects going on? do you show other work or is your emphasis solely on Embodiment?
Right now Embodiment is a full time job so the only other shooting I’m doing is freelance & commercial work. However…I’m really excited about the day where I can finish this project and starting something completely different and new. I have three other concepts which are in the development and research stages that I’m super excited about digging into.
are you working editorially at all, outside of this work?
For outside work, I do a lot of commissioned portraits as well as some consulting with other art photographers to assist them with their project development. I would love the chance to work editorially as well but I think being in Seattle is a little limiting in terms of those opportunities. …prove me wrong someone!
where are these images being seen?
Photographs and video installations from Embodiment are currently being exhibited in New York, Portland, Germany and Italy, with more multi-media exhibitions and artist talks in Los Angeles, England, and Australia later this year. Reaching the widest audience possible, including the vastly spread out community that Embodiment seeks to represent, is a fundamental value of this project. We understand that many of our subjects and our audience live in under-served communities who do not have access to these traditional exhibition spaces but for whom the Internet is widely available. So, with help from the money that we raise from our current fundraiser on Kickstarter.com, Amelia and I will reinterpret this vast body of work into an intimate and widely accessible on-line experience with portraits and stories released as weekly episodes. We aim to launch the website in late 2011.
what has the reaction been from the queer community, from your subjects or anything more organized, about your project? what is your goal, your mission statement, if any?
Our goal for this project is really basic. Explore what it means to be queer in America today and make complex and beautiful portraits in the process. The reaction from LGBTQ communities and allies has been incredible. I get letters all the time, especially teenagers from non-typically “gay friendly” areas, thanking us for making the work. Many people say that it’s the first time they’ve seen representations of queers that they can relate to and be proud of. It’s really amazing to be a part of that.
where does this fit on a continuum of ‘journalism/art/advocacy’, and what are your thoughts on these labels? I’m seeing a lot more projects that blur these lines, and often it is the more interesting work that does it. Is it important to you, or your subjects, or your audience (do you think), how you contextualize these photos?
I want this work to be a part of all of that! By creating work that would only fit into one of those categories I would really put constraints on what is possible. It’s a blend of lots of different methods of working…which in itself is a little queer. It’s not about defining or explaining one thing or another but rather it’s about raising questions and opening up new opportunities of expression.
what has been your strategy for funding this work, and how has it changed over time? What is the next step in this process, what more do you need to ‘finish’ the work, and what form do you think that will take?
To date, this project has been made possible with the support from The School of Visual Arts (New York, NY) and with grants from The American Consulate (Germany), Humble Art Foundation (New York, NY), and Artist Trust (Seattle, WA). I am also a recent recipient of a Kodak Film Grant through the fantastic blog “Too Much Chocolate” (Portland, OR) and we have recently been granted fiscal sponsorship from Seattle based “Three Dollar Bill Cinema.” Right now Amelia and I are attempting to raise $10,000 dollars (and beyond!) with the help of the fundraising site Kickstarter.com.
We have 65 days left to raise the money and have already reached 77% of our goal. (Update: Since this interview Landreth and Tovey’s project has reached their original goal and they’ve readjusted their sights for 200% of their original funding). For each level of sponsorship (even just a $5 donation) you can get prizes in return like signed prints, road trip mixes, homemade postcards, etc. It’s a great way for friends and project supporters to make a big difference in the success of the project. Most of our project backers are queer youth from all over the world who just totally understand the need for this type of work and are willing to give what little money they have to support it. It’s pretty awesome. With the 100% that we’ve raised we’re going to hire a website designer to create the site which will host the project and the weekly “episodes” and it will also pay for the time we need to take to edit all of the footage. If we raise 200% (which we really want to do!!) we will be able to head back out on the road and create more work to share with all of you; including a gay/lesbian rodeo in Colorado, a lesbian sorority in Memphis, and many more really interesting communities and individuals.
To see our promotional video, donate or learn more about the future of this project please visit our page on Kickstarter.
Thanks to Molly and Amelia for showing the work, I look forward to posting updates on the project from here. It will be great to see the final website presentation with their combined efforts.
Magnum’s Georgian Spring is an incredibly interesting project, and possibly a turning point in photojournalism and agency work. This book, print, web and ‘multimedia’ project is a collaboration with the Georgian state itself, funded by the Ministry of Culture and arranged by photographer Thomas Dworzak with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and independently curated by publisher Chris Boot.
As Scott mentioned when this project first went live, 10 Magnum photographers are involved and are a very interesting cross section of what is being done in photojournalism today. Jörg Colberg, of Conscientious and photojournalism criticism fame, agrees in his review of the book. To quote him, “So there are ten photographic voices, all from the same photojournalistic agency – how could there be a crisis in photojournalism when there is such variety? Or asked in a different way: What kind of crisis?”
I see Georgian Spring as the latest in a series of interesting photographer and agency-driven productions where people are “doing it themselves” with alternative funding methods. I think of two other Magnum projects directly that I’ve always respected: Euro Visions, about the ten new EU states in 2004 in collaboration with Centre Pompidou and Magnum Off-Broadway (a project that deserves a post in itself, definitely coming soon).
Beyond being a necessary development to continue doing the work we’re out in the world to do, these agency and photographer-led projects almost invariably produce more interesting and personal work. (But maybe this is because I’m a photographer? Wonder if there is a breakdown between publication-designed and producer-designed projects with the public?).
There has been some hubbub around VII’s recent efforts (especially on the public relations front) to get ahead of new funding opportunities, such as working directly with NGOs and then maneuvering to have the work published. In an era where the number of assignments is shrinking and our archives are our pensions, finding any way to photograph important stories prior to selling them is intelligent. So likewise getting countries to pay for portrayals of themselves is an interesting idea that just brings this idea to a new level, and shows impressive lateral thinking. The multifaceted distribution is terrific too, from podcasts to an impressive book (so says Colberg, I haven’t seen it in person yet), to an exhibition and interactive website (with maps and breakdown by region in Georgia, which is nice to see). All around, from ideas to photographs to presentation, extremely well done and I think (at this early moment, juries will tell in time) a new landmark in photojournalism.
Thomas Dworzak has a long personal history of working in Georgia, having been (or continuing to be, as the website suggests) based in Tblisi. And maybe because of his close relationship with the country, and the president, his photographs in this project are the most contentious to me. Dworzak presents a love letter to Saakashvili, which is a curious choice given the mix of other work by his colleagues and the nature of the project itself. By all means I’ll defend his right to publish what he feels like but in such a project it is so strange to see this photo-profile of the president traveling the world, wooing its leaders and his domestic successes. The video presentation is especially strange, with lighthearted music, rapid pictures of the smiling president and running tourism-board commentary by Saakashvili himself. As PDN brought up in its piece Magnum on Georgia, For Georgia a “photojournalistic” project about a State funded by that State on the surface is begging for careful scrutiny of its objectivity. There seems to be ample distance between the creative and journalistic freedom of the photographers and their curator Chris Boot from the state itself, and many of the essays and their subject matter probably would not be picked up in tourist literature by Georgia.
Also enlivening from the PDN article is this quote:
According to Dworzak, the project set off some debate within Magnum. “It’s nothing extraordinary, Magnum has done it and other agencies have done it for many other countries, it’s just usually done in a very shitty way,” Dworzak says. That the Georgian government agreed to a completely hands-off approach “made it really easy to accept,” Dworzak relates.
On the other hand, I was blown away by many of the other projects. In some sense this was a narrow assignment, to bring photographers into one country and have them all cover it in their own way, perhaps putting photographers in positions they are not suited for in an obvious time crunch (the book was published roughly a year after the conflict with Russia). But just the opposite has happened, it opened each to do what they do best and it really compounds the impression of contemporary Georgia. As I said above, this project brings together ten unique voices and gives them freedom to search out their own stories and it is a treat to see it come together. I haven’t had a chance to watch through all ten ‘Magnum in Motion’ video presentations but two really have stuck with me, perhaps for obvious reasons.
Alex Majoli has long been an important photographer for me but his work in Georgia, both here and in the recent war, has taken my respect for him to a new level. Please have a look at his piece for this project on Magnum in Motion. From two stark black and white title cards that tie his personal experience (and relationship to music, which is dear to my heart) to his early photography and then straight to the emotions and people he was photographing in Georgia. The soundtrack, from Italian punk band CCCP, provides stark cohesion with the best of movie scores. The images are raw, beautiful and confounding.
Russian photographer Gueorgui Pinkhassov provides a similarly personal dispatch from Georgia, with terrific commentary (I believe his words, read by another person). Most of this piece is short video clips, fitting for a man who began his career as a cinematographer and working with Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. And they are ridiculously beautiful, absolutely in Pinkhassov’s ‘style’ but in motion. Indeed some of the videos are from scenes that became final photographs for his contribution to the book, such as the one posted alongside here. It is a moving and unique vision, and I can’t recommend strongly enough seeing his work on Magnum in Motion.
And have a look at the Jonas Bendiksen video, you just might spot him having a drink with the people at the party (in another short video clip, again used nicely). Glad to see the photographers getting involved personally!
Another question, which I admit not giving much thought to yet, is the new “Hollywood” film about the war tentatively titled “Georgia”. Wired’s terrific Danger Room blog riffs on an AP story in a post titled One Year Later, Hollywood Re-Fights Georgia-Russia War. What does this other project Georgia-supported project mean for this Magnum work? The film isn’t funded by Georgia it seems but it has gotten state support, and Wired is framing it as pro-Georgia. Does this paint the Magnum Georgia a different hue?
In the end, I think it is a wonderful thing to have such a portrait about a nation in an interesting point of its history, and I of course want to see more projects of this sort of subject matter as well as innovative funding strategies like this. But the final product of Georgian Spring does still leave me with some caution, particularly with Dworzak’s piece included. Maybe it is the newness of this idea, having the subject fund the project themselves, or having potential conflicts of interest so close to the surface (that’s a good thing, but still something new to deal with), but I’m a touch uneasy still. A bold approach, ingenious in many regards, and its bound to ruffle feathers, and I’m happy that it has affected me that way too. Can’t wait to see what is next, and I’m inspired to think about all of these issues anew.
I just got late word that Jonas Bendiksen‘s groundbreaking multimedia exhibition for his The Places We Live project is now being exhibited in Washington, D.C. at the National Building Museum. It will be there until November 15, and I really wish I could get there to see it. Jonas showed me hand-made models for this exhibition back in 2007 and I’ve been yearning to see the real deal (room size projection ‘cabinets’ with audio piped in) ever since. Aperture posted about the first unveiling of the exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo when it opened a year or so ago.
Unfortunately, this sounds like the only stop for the exhibition in the States for now and it “will travel next to cities in Europe and Asia.” But in lieu check out again this video of Bendiksen talking about the work (from the beautiful harbor in Oslo!).
I’ve been hanging out in Sarajevo this week as a bit of a respite from Belgrade and to get some reading and research done for a few new projects I’m trying to get off the ground. So, sorry for the lack of posting . Luckily we have M. Scott who keeps the great stuff coming…
I’ve got a couple of quick things to offer before my battery dies (for all its charms Sarajevo lacks decent internet places where I can take the time to actually look at stuff and post). First, for quick-hits of things I’m reading or finding interesting, that aren’t just related to photo (and thus don’t get much play on dva) I recommend subscribing to this rss feed of my postings to facebook. Yea, oldschool .. I should be using twitter .. but this is an easy way for me to share with friends stories and things that I’m digging.
Second, congrats are in order (again) to friend and inspiration Jonas Bendiksen who picked up another great prize this week. You’ll probably have to use Google Translate for that page unless you speak Norwegian… Also, I found this news out via Magnum’s new Twitter page, which features news, links and (it appears) interviews with Magnum photographers who are in the office. Very energetic.
all for now thanks
In my second ‘fanboy’ post of the night: A youtube clip of Jonas Bendiksen talking about, and walking through, his project The Places We Live that I mention again and again. Still, check this out: Jonas is charming and brilliant and you actually get to see what his remarkable exhibition/installation looks like.. this is the first time I’ve seen it ‘live’ and I’m blown away.
“I think it is really about how to stay relevant (…) The people who will really inherent photography in the future isn’t necessarily whoever takes the best picture, the best composition. I think it is whoever has the best ideas. Who has the most poignant stories to tell.”
Bonus: You’ll get to see the beautiful Oslo harbor … I was there in March, so pretty. Demerit: it is a Canon Europe video and he shills for the 5d a little bit. Oh well, I use the camera too, like it, and would take the sponsorship if it were available!
Congrats to friend and all-around amazing man and photographer Jonas Bendiksen for winning yet another prize, this time for 250,000 NOK (if you can’t do the conversion from Norwegian Kroner in your head, that’s about $45,000) from Telenor International to continue his photojournalistic work. See the press release here and photos here.
This prize comes on the heels of Jonas’ receiving the National Geographic Grant, to do a project on China, back in April, the June announcement that he was to be a full member in Magnum, a Freedom of Expression Foundation grant in 2007 (which I believe allowed him to produce the amazing exhibition at the Nobel Center that I mentioned in an earlier post). If that didn’t convince you, let me reiterate that he is an incredibly hard working, ambitious (in the best of ways) and talented guy. Someone for us all to look up to.
Not the least because it looks like you get to have some pretty fun parties too when you win these things…
I was tipped off to a great new set of photos by Michael Robinson Chavez from this thread at Lightstalkers. I’ve seen his work pop up over the years, but my friend Ethan Welty, who met Chavez at the Foundry Workshop, brought him up again a few weeks ago, and I was very happy to see this new project of his from the Dharavi slum, India’s largest, in Mumbai. Be sure to check out his website too, he’s covered just about every “big” story around the world in the last decade or two.
See his slideshow from the Dharavi slum at LA Times Website.
There is some very solid work in here, immediately reminiscent in tone and even scope of the work of my friend Jonas Bendiksen‘s work from his project “The Places We Live” and specific story therein on Dharavi for National Geographic. About both, I couldn’t say it better than the great Bob Black, quoted from the above Lighstalkers thread:
“above all what I loved about the story (as I told Jonas about his new book), your story while about the poverity (sic) and toxicity and squalor of these districts contain inestimable joy, that is the story rather than bathing itself in the horror of the conditions, the desperation of the poverty, refuses to condescend but instead show all the working-walking fullness of their lives, including the joy and celebration…..something that many writers and photographers pass by in their attempt for the despondence and profoundity (sic) of poverty…”
While Chavez’s project could use a more stringent edit (and I must come clean that I’m not so much a fan of the ‘staccato’ use of images), I think it is incredibly strong and does not shrink in the light of Jonas’ earlier project, even given the similarities. And if you haven’t had a chance to look at Jonas’ project in full, seek it out on the magnum site. Its another intelligent, insightful and forward-looking project from him. And the book itself (not to mention the Exhibition at the Nobel Center in Oslo, which consists of ‘rooms’ with back-lit projectors) is incredibly innovative with gate-fold pages showing the “four walls” of typical homes in the slums he visited. He’s one energetic, inspiring guy .. I’m sure we’ll have more on him here at Dva as we go on.
Bravo to both.