Déjà Vu in 2012

Scott and I began sharing pictures with each other when we met at the University of Washington – a practice that ultimately became Dvafoto – and we’ve always been interested in what we call “photo battles”, instances of photographers publishing similar photographs either from the same event or the same place shot years apart. One classic example is the pair of photographs of a boy on a tank in Chechnya taken by James Nachtwey and Christopher Morris in 1996.

We’ve posted a few of these ‘battles’ on Dvafoto over the years but I have to hand it to Time Magazine photo editor Phil Bicker for putting together a fantastic post and gallery of 73 pairs of images from the last year that show off photography déjà vu on the Lightbox blog. Read the whole post 2012: A Year of Déjà Vu for intriguing descriptions (and categorizations) of the different kinds of photographic referencing that take place, from photographers repeating themselves to pure coincidence half a world apart. Bicker also wrote a post in 2011 about photographers who travel together, particularly in war zones, coming up with similar pictures in another great post Two Takes: One Picture, Two Photographers.

Perhaps our contemporary, collective déjà vu is trigged by the news cycle’s constant hunger for images. Photographers, after all, do sometimes document annual events — at the same time and place, year after year— as if nothing at all has ever changed, or ever will change, at that location.

Documentary photography, meanwhile, raises its own breed of déjà vu. Photojournalists often travel together and work side by side at the same event, documenting the same moment—seeing the same things, taking the same pictures. Even when working independently, photographers are not immune to conscious (or subconscious) mirroring, and the 20th century has provided a litany of masters—Cartier-Bresson, Klein, Evans and Frank come to mind—who have influenced entire generations of image makers. After all, we all want to pay homage to our forebears and our heroes. Is it so surprising when, paying tribute, we veer into imitation?

-Phil Bicker, Time Magazine’s Lightbox.

Worth a look: Lynsey Addario “On Assignment: Taking Time Out to Heal”

Lynsey Addario for the New York Times - A dust cloud envelops one of the remaining soldiers after the helicopter evacuation.

Perusing Lens, the NYT’s new photojournalism portal and an example of photo webdesign done well, the above photo by Lynsey Addario jumped out at me in the short slideshow “On Assignment: Taking Time Out to Heal.” The shot looks like what the situation would’ve looked like 5 minutes after Larry Burrows iconic 1966 picture from a Hill 484 south of the DMZ in Vietnam:

VIET NAM - 1966: Wounded Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Purdie (C) being led past stricken comrade after fierce firefight for control of Hill 484 south of the DMZ. -- Larry Burrows./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images -- Jan 01, 1966

Addario is currently recuperating after a car crash in Pakistan that also injured Teru Kuwayama and took the life of fixer Raza Khan. Our thoughts go out to Raza’s family, and we hope for a speedy recovery for Addario and Kuwayama.

World Press Photo followup

Following up with Anthony Suau’s win in the 2008 World Press Photo contest, there’s an interesting behind-the-scenes interview with the photographer over at Editor & Publisher, ominously headlined “World Press Photo, Pulitzer-Winning Photographer Struggles to Find Work” (Thanks to Tom Leininger on the APAD list for the tip). There are some interesting revelations in the piece, not least of which is that Time magazine never published the photos in print. Today, the magazine has published two galleries of his work online, “Best Photos of the Year, 2008: The American Economy: Down and Out” and “Prize-Winning Photos: Struggling Cleveland.”

Also of interest, PDNPulse tracked down an essay by Cleveland Plain Dealer photographer Gus Chan covering the same story and same detective in January 2008, nearly 3 months ahead of Suau. Chan’s photos are good, certainly, and seeing the two essays next to each other is a welcome reminder of the value that individual photographers and the notion of authorship bring to the photojournalism. We may just be pushing buttons on a camera, but there’s a whole lot more that goes into it…