Tag Archive: M. Scott Brauer
I’m very excited to announce that I will be participating in the first Young Media Professionals Exchange Program organized by the International Center for Journalists and Moscow Union of Journalists as part of a 2-year initiative between Russia and the US. The program is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Twelve journalists from Russia will come to the US to work for a variety of news organizations here, and I will be one of 12 from the US who will live in Moscow from Nov. 26 to Dec. 21 working for a variety of Russian news organizations. I’ll be working for the ITAR-TASS Photo Agency, a Russian photo news service dating to 1926 when it was known as Photochronica TASS.
As such, I won’t be available for assignment work in the US until the end of December, but get in touch if you have any needs in Russia. I’ll primarily be in Moscow. You can leave a voicemail or SMS at (917) 512-3473 or contact me by email. I’ve already been in touch with a few of our readers in Russia to get together, but if you’re in Moscow, get in touch and I’d love to meet you.
It’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve been to Russia, though one of my university degrees is in Russian Language, Literature, and Culture. I wasn’t much of a photographer when I was there last, but you can see a few images from Vorkuta, Komi, Russia, in the gallery above. In addition to the work I’m doing there, I’ll be posting pictures during the trip to instagram and tumblr.
I’m traveling to Montana for gatherings with friends and family throughout the state from June 20 to July 6 (Lincoln, Great Falls, Red Lodge, the Hi-Line). I’ll be doing a bit of driving and photography for personal projects during that time, so get in touch if you’ll be in the area or have an assignment that needs shooting.
I’ve had to wait for a few images to be published before posting my favorite images of last year. A month or so late, here are some of my favorite images from last year. As I’ve written in previous year-end posts, these might not be my best or most widely published or most important pictures of the year, but they’re my favorites. Most of these images are from larger bodies of work or fit alongside other coverage; many are from assignments, but many are not.
It was a year of substantial transition, both personally and professionally. I moved to Boston and developed a host of new assignment clients and stock publishers. I need to send a big thank-you to all the people I’ve worked with over the past year at the Wall Street Journal, Education Week (a couple of my photos are in their Best of 2011), Chronicle of Higher Education, the New Yorker, the Montana Office of Tourism, MIT, Tufts University, BagNewsNotes, CurrentTV, Longshot, Burn Magazine, PHOTO/Arts Magazine, the Ballarat International Foto Bienalle, the New York Photo Festival, Slideluck Potshow, PDN, the Youth Image Project, the Format Festival, 25CPW, the Magnum Foundation and others. 2012 is already off to a bang, and now that I’ve got my feet relatively stable under me in this new locale, I’ll be pushing after some stories I’ve been researching.
In partnership with BagNewsNotes (first post), I’m photographing the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary race this week. I’ve photographed the candidates over the past few months, but it’s crunch time now.
It’s a fast-paced environment filled with a lot of media and political players and a few members of the local public. I’ll post updates periodically here, and BagNewsNotes will have some analysis of the themes that may or may not be seen in general media coverage of the race. The pageantry of it all interests me, but so do the little details hard to see on TV or away from the main events, such as you can see above: Santorum’s gilt-edged Constitution that looks like a Bible, Newt Gingrich’s security team eating cheesesteak sandwiches, the media scrum surrounding candidates everywhere they go, etc.
You can see more from yesterday in my archive: NH GOP Primary – 2012 Jan 5 – Gingrich and Santorum
Editors, get in touch if you need anything from up there.
Longshot Magazine has just published issue #2 (the third issue of the magazine…) after a frenzy of work this weekend. The theme for the issue was “debt.” As in the past, the magazine’s theme was announced and 48 hours later, a magazine was published with photos, graphics, and a trove of writing created, fact-checked and designed, over that two day period. I’m happy to announce that I’ve got a page in the print issue, featuring the above portraits of people in Boston alongside descriptions of how much they owe.
A small army of editors and designers worked behind the scenes to make the magazine, its web presence, and a radio and podcast component. And all of the magazine’s content was created by another army of writers, graphic artists and photographers. Many of the contributions are available online, but some (including mine) are reserved for the print issue alone. It was an open submissions process during the 24 hours after the theme was announced at noon on Friday, and there are plans to publish online all 672 submissions made to the magazine over the weekend.
As before, the magazine has been getting some good press mentions. There’s a huge list of sponsors for this issue, which includes money from a a kickstarter campaign that raised more than double the desired amount of money. Best of all, through these sponsorships, contributors to this issue will be paid.
One of the founders of the project, Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic, has published a behind-the-scenes look at how the magazine came about, and Heather Jay Billings has some info about the technology behind the effort.
My submission was a humble effort that almost didn’t come to pass. When the theme was announced on Friday, I was flummoxed. Maybe portraits of payday lenders? maybe a study of bank advertising? None of it struck me. Weather was bad in Boston, though, so it wouldn’t have been fun to take pictures on Friday anyway. Waking up on Saturday, I was struck with an idea to ask people about how much money they owe. With a few hours before the deadline, I was striking out. No one was willing to be photographed and tell me how much money they owed. Then I decided rather than asking for a number, I would ask people to describe how much debt they have and that the portraits should be anonymous. Over about 45 minutes, ten or twelve people let me take their picture and told me about their debt. I squeaked in right under the wire, and thankfully, the editors like the project.
Living in Boston now, I’m closer than I’ve ever been to the American political process. The past 15 years of my life have been spent abroad or in places such as Montana and Washington state, places traditionally ignored by national campaigns. With my own eyes, much less a camera lens, I’ve seen foreign presidents and ministers, but never an American president or presidential candidate and only a handful of legislators. Now I’ll be periodically following the 2012 presidential campaign in New Hampshire. Only July 4, I traveled to Amherst for a parade that would include Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. It’s early in the campaign, so the candidates are looking for any exposure they can get. There were a dozen or so news organizations represented at the event, with no limits to access.
I asked a few people along the parade route what they thought about all of the hubbub. A young girl, all of 10 years old, told me, “It’s always like this.” People lining the parade route were as excited to be there as the candidates. Romney and Huntsman glad-handed every person they could reach, listening patiently to the occasional interlocutor while trying their best not to waylay the proceedings. Once the candidates reached the end of the parade, they greeted supporters and then vanished to go to their next stop.
I’ll be periodically covering events along the campaign trail, especially as the politics heat up. I’m available for assignments throughout New England (I’m only a few hours drive from the most remote parts of New Hampshire) and will be keeping an updated stock of images at my searchable PhotoShelter archive. You can see more pictures from the day in Amherst here.
Sometime last year Scott mentioned to me that he was working on a new and unique project for him. He was still living in China and just beginning the process of putting 100 portraits and interviews together to create We Chinese. He wasn’t quite able to explain then what you he was trying to do, or how he thought it would turn out, but I was intrigued. When earlier this year I got a chance to see the final project I was left in wonderment and very excited, and I had a lot of questions that I wanted to ask as a friend and colleague to find out how this work had come about. I thought maybe we could, in the essence of the Dvafoto project, share our personal conversation with our audience as part of our Dvafoto Interview series.
What started you on the path to making a large portrait project like this, something you haven’t worked on before?
That’s exactly the reason. It was something I hadn’t worked on before. When I meet with editors and show them my work, I often get asked, “Where are the portraits?” I’ve never been a big fan of portraiture (although, to an extent, every photo is a portrait of some sort…), but like I’ve done with genres of music or movies in the past, I decided that if so many people like portraiture, and if portraiture is such a force in contemporary visual communication, I should be able to find something I liked about it if I just really tried at it. So I did.
I also thought that the story I wanted to tell about China through this project, a documentary approach wouldn’t suffice. I wanted to present people and their ideas, the interviews, with as little mediation as possible. I wanted to remove myself from the photography.
Did you, when you were beginning the work, know you were going to be leaving China?
Yes. I’d known for quite a few months before starting the project.
The two questions you asked everyone are in essence about the uncertain, rapidly evolving future of China, it feels like a question you yourself are struggling with. Where did the questions come from?
I wanted questions that weren’t easy to answer and that would get people (both the subjects and the audience) to think about themselves and their country. I worked on these two questions for a while before I thought they were ready to begin asking.
The first, “What does China mean to you?” started off as “What is China?” which I sort of distilled from questions I was asked on visits to the US when friends and family would ask me about life in China or the people or the future of the country and how it fits into global politics and economics. All of these questions could be distilled to “What is China?” But I thought that question was a little too easy to answer by saying something like “A country.” I got those answers with the reworded question, too, but the question gave space to the subject to interpret the question and their answer in many more ways.
And I realized that the first question was mostly a reflective one, a question about personal and national history. If you think about a question like that for your own country, “What does America mean to you?” for instance, you’ll answer about what your experience of that country has been so far and what you learned in history books. The second question was a way to get a glimpse of the future of China from the ground level. We see the 5-year plans and speeches by politicians, we see numbers relating to industry and commerce, and we see a lot of speculation about the country by cable news pundits. The individuals get lost in it all.
Are these questions common in Chinese society?
I don’t quite understand the question. If you’re asking about whether they refer to common sayings or something like that, as in the case of the title of the project, the answer is no. But the questions were chosen specifically to get individual opinions about the country and the people themselves. I had many versions of the questions before settling on the final version of the questionnaire. “What do you think about China?” for instance, instead of “What does China mean to you?” The first question might lead to easy and quick answers–”I think it is good,” perhaps–whereas the final version requires a bit more commitment and thought, the consideration of the country as it relates to the subjects rather than just a feeling about the country.
Were you hoping the responses from the subjects would answer questions you had in your own mind about China?
I was hoping that the responses would help me learn about what Chinese people think about their country. Speaking with Chinese people in China, it can be difficult to get individual opinions about bigger-picture issues. My own questions about the country don’t matter for the project. It’s not my country, and I only have a passing relationship with the place. In fact, the format of the project, with basic and unstylized portraiture and repeated interviews, was designed to eliminate my own input. I’m tired of books and essays from foreigners (my own included) that purport to explain “China.”
Why structure the project in this way, with ‘typological’ portraits, questionnaires, a standalone website?
I talked about the portraits above. The questionnaires filled a similar role in eliminating unnecessary variation in the responses. I figured I’d probably introduce some chaos into the responses by botching my pronunciation of a question…
The standalone website just seemed natural. Like the portraiture, it was something I’d never done for a project. The entire project didn’t feel right getting jammed into my portfolio website. Using a standalone website felt like giving the project its own art gallery. It feels better when it is separate and contained. I also like tinkering around with web programming and enjoy making wordpress do things it shouldn’t. That sounds dirty… When it comes down to it, I thought I had a cool idea for how I wanted the website to work, and I wanted to see if I could do it.
Is this project a closure to your time and work in China? Do you plan to go back?
It could function as closure for my work in China. I’ve got so much unedited work from my time there, though, that I’ll never be done. I’d love to go back any time, but I don’t have specific plans at the moment. I’ve got friends there that don’t have the means to travel internationally, and I’d love to see them again soon. And I miss the food.
I’m not sure if the project is done, though. I’d love to include a wider range of subjects in China or expand the project to other so-called emerging economies.
What is next for you?
I’ve relocated to Boston, Massachusetts. I’m excited to dig in to some stories in the US after being abroad for so long. I’m excited to be home (meant broadly; I’d never set foot in Massachusetts before moving here) and explore the US photographically.
What would be your answer to the two questions you asked of your subjects?
Laughably, I don’t have an answer. Many people I asked about to be in the project couldn’t come up with an answer and apologized because they thought the questions were too hard to answer. I will say that, for me, the country and its people can’t be summarized in a sentence or two, or a photo essay or two. It’s a nation of seeming contradictions–communist and capitalist, rich and poor, developed and undeveloped, Westernized and very mired in its own culture, polluted and working toward forward-thinking environmental initiatives, globalized and very local, and so forth–and that makes it an endlessly fascinating place.
We Chinese is currently featured on Burn Magazine. The project has also been featured on Forbes.com, Global Voices, Prison Photography, La Pura Vida, the China Beat, China Hush, Photoshelter, MetaFilter, PhotojournalismLinks, and here on dvafoto.
I didn’t expect to be back in New York so quickly after dvafoto’s visit last week, but this is especially exciting for me. I’m pleased to announce my work, China Everbright, will be shown as part of the New York Photo Festival in Slideluck Potshow XVI on May 14, 2011, in Brooklyn, New York. The slideshows for the evening–from a breathtaking assortment of photographers–were curated by Whitney Johnson, who has just recently been named Director of Photography for the New Yorker. The event is at St. Ann’s Warehouse at 38 Water Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York, from 5:30p-10:30p.
The photographers selected for the evening are: Alex Fradkin, Alex Webb, Benjamin Sklar, Bruce Gilden, Carolyn Drake, Chris Hondros, Dominic Bracco, Dominic Nahr, Elena Dorfman, James Pomerantz, JR, Krisanne Johnson, Iwan Baan, Landon Nordeman, Luca Zanier, Luis Ladron de Guevara, Lyle Owerko, M. Scott Brauer, M. Wesley Ham, Mari Bastashevski, Mark Peterson, Martin Usborne, Matt Eich, Melanie Burford, Michael Christopher Brown, Natasja Fourie, Peter DiCampo, Phillip Toledano, Platon, Rinko Kawauchi, Stefano de Luigi, Steve Pyke, Steven Brahms, and Tim Hetherington. I’m excited to have my work shown in the company of so many talented and inspiring photographers; if you asked me for a list of my photographic idols, that list would be a goood start.
I also have one image in a slideshow presented by PDN at the New York Photo Festival, but I’m a little unsure on when and where that will be shown.
I hope you can make it to the event. If you’re there, please say hello. Here’s what I look like.
Matt Lutton and M. Scott Brauer are currently in the United States and will be visiting New York City together from Tuesday May 2 through Friday May 6th. Both will be sharing recent work and new projects. We already have some fun work meetings set up and are excited to see old friends and colleagues. We are also planning to meet at The Half King on Wednesday night to see everyone. If you’re in the city, be in touch and/or check here for final details.
It has been a couple of years since the two of us been able to meet up and we haven’t been in New York together since 2005, when we were both interns at Black Star. It’ll be a nice reunion and potentially the start of some interesting collaborations.
We already have most of our meals (Uighur! Momofuku! Matt is aching for variety after months in Belgrade) planned out and a few shows we want to see (like Revolucion(es) and Shen Wei at Daniel Cooney). And of course a pilgrammage to Dashwood Books. Any recommendations for shows happening these days that we can’t miss?
At the end of the week, Lutton is headed back to Belgrade and Brauer to Boston.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve relocated to Boston. I was excited that I’d get to see South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, an event I’ve always heard about but never attended. In some sense, a parade’s a parade. For this one, 600,000 people gathered in South Boston to celebrate the area’s Irish heritage. It was organized by the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council and featured community groups, politicians, firefighters, military groups, and marching bands.
And while parades are pretty canned experiences, a parade gives a community the opportunity to create common heritage through shared experience. I’ve grown increasingly interested in festivals and other common experiences. Returning to the US from abroad, I’m always struck by how much of American life is lived behind closed doors and in private spaces. Neighborhoods feel abandoned, sidewalks are unused, parks stand pristine and undisturbed. I’ve recently photographed a testicle festival, a skijoring competition, Evel Knievel Days, a mechanical bull-based community fundraising event, and a balloon rally. These events seem unrelated, but for the communities in which they happen, like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston, they serve similar purpose. The events are public focal points of culture, history, and celebration; memory of years’ past meet with new generations, passing on traditions and giving identity to places that might otherwise lack distinction. There’s a frequent lament about the end of public space in America, but in these events, we get a glimpse that a sense of community survives.