Tag Archive: russia
“A Photo Student” James Pomerantz sits down with perennial Dvafoto favorite and inspiration Jason Eskenazi. Probably the best overview of his career and life I have come across outside of conversations with the man himself. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Thanks Jason and James for putting this out there!
Copies of his book Wonderland are still for sale direct from Eskenazi. Must have.
Reason to rejoice: Jason Eskenazi‘s (previously) excellent book, Wonderland, is back in print, thanks to Red Hook Editions. 2008 POYi Best Photo Book, Wonderland explores Russia and the history of the Soviet Union as a fairytale, and is filled with many, many classic images. From the book summary:
For many, the Soviet Union existed, like their childhood, as a fairy tale where many of the realities of life were hidden from plain view. When the Berlin Wall finally fell so too did the illusion of that utopia. But time changes memory. The ex-Soviets confused the memory of their innocent youth for their nation’s utopian vision, unable to confront its history and thus creating nostalgia for tragedy. This book tries to seek and portray the socialist dream, the nightmare of the USSR beneath the veneer and the reality that emerged after the fall. And like all fairy tales try to teach us: the hard lessons of self-reliance. -Wonderland
update by Scott: Just bought myself a copy. Excited to see it when I’m back in Montana sometime in the next year.
Thanks to Habitus Magazine for pointing us to their interview with Jason Eskenazi, whose book “Wonderland” (1 used at Amazon for $656.00!) you should know. In the video, Eskenazi discusses the narrative structure of Wonderland, the nature of being a photographer, finding pictures in Grozny, and collaborating with Valerii Nistratov for the portraits in “Title Nation.” The video was produced as part of Habitus‘ Moscow issue.
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:
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.
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
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…
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.
Continuing our posts on Seamus Murphy, here’s “Carry on up the Gulag: Interview with Seamus Murphy” at Dispatches’ site. Murphy talks a bit about the process of photographing Russia for Dispatches’ issue “On Russia” and shares some stories behind individual pictures. And if you’re in London on Wed., April 29, 2009, at 6:30 p.m., head on over to the Honduras Street Gallery for a conversation between Seamus Murphy and Gary Knight. (both via the Dispatches group on Facebook)
Just got a facebook message from Dispatches about the newest photos and slideshow on the magazine’s site. “East of the Sun,” part of the issue On Russia, is beautiful and strange. I’m not convinced of some of the close-up crops in the video, but the music and editing made me chuckle (in a good way) more than a few times. Beautiful and strange work from Russia by Seamus Murphy.
Unfortunately, it’s a little difficult to find Seamus Murphy’s other work online. There was a little blurb about him over at Rob Haggart’s A Photo Editor blog that started out:
One of my all time favorite photographers has no agent, no website, doesn’t send out promo mailers, no logo, isn’t in any of the sourcebooks, not listed in the free workbook phonebook, has never called to see if I’ve got anything for him and if I hadn’t scoured the web and made a few phone calls years ago I would have no clue how to contact him….”
There’s a little feature at Outside magazine about being in the field with Seamus Murphy in Syria. Granta has some of his work online focusing on soldiers getting ready for deployment. There’s also a small interview at Culture 24. And definitely don’t miss his POYi 62 World Understanding Award portfolio of work from Afghanistan, which is also the subject of what looks to be a great book, “Afghanistan: A Darkness Visible.”
First, the bad news: one of my hometown’s two daily papers, and employer to many friends and colleagues, has closed its print edition this week and is now online only in a venture to create a new model. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer as we knew it was 146 years old.
Best of luck, I really hope you get it right… both for Seattle’s sake but also because it will be a testing ground for what will probably come in many more cities (around the world). But as slate.com’s Jack Shafer points out here they’re not exactly off to a great start, and have a lot to overcome. Also notable: some of the best coverage I’ve read has been from The Stranger’s (Seattle alt-weekly) Eli Sanders at their lively blog The Slog (link to his piece from inside the newsroom on the last day). Really worth checking out this and all his other stories (you’ll have to dig a bit sorry).
Two, my favorite blog (Foreign Policy’s Passport) posted an interesting little photo-related piece about an alleged meeting between Vladimir Putin and Ronald Reagan in 1988, which has a quote/confirmation from new White House chief photographer Pete Souza in his January interview with NPR, who was along on the trip.
Next, to steal M. Scott’s thunder (he sent me the link) the New York Times Sunday Magazine from this past weekend had some pictures from the seemingly missing in action Joachim Ladefoged with an interesting-seeming article about Russian conductor Valery Gergiev and his role in current Russian nationalism. Or so I think, I haven’t had a chance to read the piece yet but I look forward to. I quite like the picture, and neither of us can remember seeing anything new from him since a piece on Iraqi refugees in Syria in the same publication awhile ago. Looks like
his website has been updated too … so have a look (I will as soon as I find a decent internet connection..)
Also I was sent a link to a new piece in the New York Times international section from Moises Saman about Peru’s Cocaine War. The pictures are terrific, especially this one above which closes the story.
Someone just posted about this but thought I’d also share: Medecins Sans Frontieres (Canada) now has a picture blog. Some interesting things to see on my quick glance, including work by Donald Weber.
Lastly, I’ll share a few of my new Bosnia pictures … nothing concrete is together yet, just loosely connected random pictures for now.
Matt sent along a link to these interesting composite images of St. Petersburg/Leningrad made by combining photos from the 1941-44 Leningrad Blockade and contemporary photos of the same locations. There’s a lot to see at englishrussia.com, though if I remember right from when I last looked at the site a few years ago, the posts can sometimes be a little NSFW or come from an odd-feeling gawking perspective. Regardless, these pictures are worth a quick look, as are these archival (noncomposite) photos from the Seige.
The pictures brought to mind a few other projects I’ve seen that fall more clearly under the genre of “Rephotography.” While the photos, the rephotographed ones, aren’t always interesting as pictures in and of themselves, the exercise often produces interesting studies in anthropology and urban design.
Christopher Rauschenberg‘s project “Rephotographing Atget”, in which 1997-8′s Paris is held next to the Paris between 1888 and 1927. The work was collected in a book, “Paris Changing,” published in 2007. On Rauschenberg’s website, he’s also published a gallery of images he feels are in the spirit of Atget’s imagery. Photographer Gerald M. Panter looks to have done just about the same thing. His rephotographs were made a little earlier than Rauschenberg’s, though they haven’t enjoyed the same recognition.
And Douglas Levere has given the “Changing” treatment to Berenice Abbot’s 1930s pictures of New York City. The book “New York Changing” (Amazon)collects his photographs of scenes throughout the city alongside the earlier pictures. The Morning News published a short interview about the project and pictures in 2005.
Another such body of work is David W. Dunlap’s “Then/Now” series, pairing images he took for an illustrated guidebook in 1978 with rephotographs from 2008. Make sure to drag the slider in the middle of the images. Great (and thankfully judicious) use of flash design that. In a similar vein, Damon Winter photographed a project for the the New York Times called “Neighbors” in which he used double exposures to show the diversity of neighborhoods and areas of New York City; not quite rephotography, but close enough.
With the next interview in our ongoing series we’re talking to photographer Donald Weber who is based in Eastern Europe and is with the VII Network. You should quickly see why he and I have connected, given our overlapping interests with a certain part of the world. Many of the questions I asked, frankly, were bent to my own personal interest in what it means to move halfway around the world to photograph stories you’re personally passionate about. I’m sure some of you can relate. But more importantly to most of you, he is producing interesting and important work much on his own terms and is rising his profile, and has had an interesting life so far. And has interesting things to say about what he is doing.
Amongst many accomplishments Weber has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lange-Taylor Prize and a World Press Photo award. He was a 2006 winner of the Photolucida Critical Mass review which just published his book Bastard Eden, Our Chernobyl (which I previously mentioned here). Before becoming a photographer, he worked as an architect with the world-renowned Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. For his full biography have a look at the about page on his website.
What is your background, in interests and academics? Where do you come from?
Well, Canadian, from Toronto, downtown, which may have influenced my outlook. Taking the subway at 12 years old to school everyday definitely gives an impression on a youngster, glad I was able to see what I did. Anyway, my academic background is not so academic, I studied at an alternative high school that offered an intensive arts education, from the age of 16 until graduation in grade 13, I studied art all day everyday. We had four hours of life drawing two days a week – that would be nudes, thus lots of people were jealous of us, plus an 8 hour day of art history and then we would major and minor in two artistic practices. I wanted to be artist, not really sure what that was or how I would do it, but initially that was my goal. I then went on to study at art college, the Ontario College of Art & Design, where I majored in – I forget the complex phrasing of the subject, something like Art and the Environment. Basically, making massive intrusions into the public landscape. Great! But I totally wasted my time, as far as I’m concerned, education is wasted on the young! It was a conflict in my youth of what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it. I loved the idea of creating something, anything, I didn’t care how as long as I could. Then I had this interest in photography, and in particular photojournalism, which went against all the grains of an artistic education that I was brought up on.
So it was an interesting education, for almost 10 years I was schooled in very sophisticated forms of visual education that certainly influences me to this day. The practicalities may have changed, but the essence of being visual are always the same. Line, shape, form, colour, mood, tone, conceptual processes, etc., are all linked at the very core, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have had an education that grounded these roots into my young head.
Tell me about your time with architecture.
Well architecture came about rather haphazardly. in order to understand my time within that field, you have to understand first how I ended up there; it’s a rather convoluted process but one that is inherent as to my position today.
Back to my high schooling. As I stated before, I had an interest in both art and photojournalism. My passion, in my final year, was won out with photojournalism. It was in November of that year before graduation where in Canada we make our applications to post secondary institutions. I wanted to apply to two – Rochester Institute of Technology for PJ, and a smaller college just outside of Toronto for a basic three year photography course. I asked my photography (and I quote verbatim the following conversation):
Me: Robert, which school do you think I should apply to? RIT or Sheridan?
Robert (the teacher): What? Why would you apply to either? You suck as a photographer!
Thus, I literally brought my cameras home and put them in a drawer, not to be touched for about 10 years. It was then I decided to find a different path. I replaced photography with ceramics; my mother was not so pleased. Anyway, while studying at OCAD, I developed an interest in architecture, planning and landscape design and was captured by the writings and designs of the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. So, I set my sights on working for him. When I graduated in 1996, I headed overseas to Rotterdam where his practice was based, and promptly got a job, precisely because I was not a trained architect. I worked there for about three years. It was a great experience, but certainly soul crushing. I found architecture to be a rather drab profession and nearly impossible to do anything of interest, save for the exception of Rem Koolhaas and a few others. But I learned about ideas, how to think in a conceptual manner and to find ways to bring those ideas into fruition. It also taught me on more practical levels things about budgeting and planning and just being professional; things I think we take for granted that all go into the realities of being a working photographer.
Anyway, it was not a highlight of my life but I think a necessary step.
What brought you to photography? Was there a specific event that made you say “I am going to be a photographer”?
Yes, very specific event! My whole life has these cascading elements that when all put together certainly illuminate what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I was born in 1973, thus when the events of the late 80′s and early 90′s came around, I was at the ripe age to start taking notice. For me, these were the most historical and important times of my generation. The collapse of communism, the events in Tiananmen Square, the first Iraq War. These were all events that were shaped and played out in magazines and television. I was a teenager and just discovering more than my backyard, it was an awakening physically, mentally, socially, everything, for me. I remember clearly watching hundreds of thousands of Eastern European refugees fleeing their countries for elsewhere, the Wall collapsing, the Ceaucescu’s being executed, Boris Yeltsin on top of a tank. All these events were seared into my mind, and those events shaped what I wanted to do with my life. I had always been aware of news images, but never before did I connect that somebody actually went out there and made those pictures until I was older. It was a massive lightbulb that went off and I wanted to be a part of it.
Anyway, that was event number one. The second event was my diversion to architecture for awhile; I listened to closely what my high school teacher had to say; never again! Anyway, it was while I was living in Europe that I remembered what photography was all about. I wanted to remember living in Europe, so I bought a camera – it was great! I couldn’t put it down, all I did was take photos. Crappy, but they were photos. It was then that I said okay – I’m going to be a photographer – but how was a much more difficult question. It wasn’t until March of 2000, a few days before I was to leave on a year long trip to ride my motorcycle across Africa (something I had previously done in 1998) where the jump was finally made. I had just quit my job as an architect, not really knowing what to do. I was taking the bike out for one last tune up spin when I got hit by a car. I just remember sliding across the hood of some old Chevy, sliding on my back seeing my crumpled bike and thinking, okay, now’s the time to be a photographer. So I never did the bike trip to Africa; I “became” a photographer. That summer I got an internship at the Toronto Sun, a tabloid.
What were your early interests as a photographer? Influences?
I don’t really know, for me it was such a long battle to finally start taking pictures that influences and interests were a secondary thought! But, as a teenager, photojournalism was a very powerful force in me. I remember Kenneth Jarecke’s burned Iraqi soldier from the first Iraq War, Chris Morris’ Panama photos, Don McCullin – it was important because what they were photographing was important – and that was important to me! So I’d say my interests were in the realm that photography could act as a document; the total opposite of my art education. to me art had become superfluous, something dilettantes dabbled in; it had lost it’s meaning. Photography was the opposite. As I grew, my more literal influences was the photographer Raymond Depardon, still is. To me he has managed to encapsulate perfectly what a photographer is and should be. Bridge influences and ideas from all facets and present them in his own manner. That is something I strive to do, to take what I see but also to take what I feel and make my own story of it.
My interests are always morphing; there was a time when I thought Chris Morris could do no wrong (still do). But my art training definitely influenced me in the way I see; not what I see, but how I interpret that. I used to really enjoy the old masters and specifically religious paintings of the 15 – 17 centuries. So much blood, red, white, gold, colour, pain; totally terrified me.
Read on »
S novom godom, dorogie druzia….
I was feeling in the mood for some holiday music and found some of my favorite Russian songs on youtube. They’re from the Soviet-era farce “Ironiya Sudby, ili S Legkim Parom” (literally, “The Irony of Fate, or Here’s to Your Easy Steam” but maybe better as “The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath”). The movie’s as ubiquitous and beloved in Russia as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (Youtube 1, 2, 3) is in the US, though the movie focuses on the New Year holiday rather than Christmas.
The songs and movie are funny, poignant, whimsical, and just a bit subversive. The captions in the video are okay, but not great. Here’s a better translation of the first song, “Esli u vas netu teti,” which starts out “If you have no home/It won’t be set on fire.”
The main plot, an irreverent love story, is made possible only because Soviet development is so undramatic and ordinary as to render St. Petersburg and Moscow identical and interchangeable. A Muscovite man stumbles home drunk, not realizing he’d traveled from Moscow to St. Petersburg. He walks down what he thinks is his street, enters “his” apartment building, uses his key to open “his” apartment which has only slightly different layout furnishings, and is awoken from his stupor when the apartment’s female owner comes out to investigate the noise. Romantic comedy ensues. Here’s a small New York Times review and the IMDB entry. Watch out for the 2007 remake/sequel of the movie; I haven’t seen it but have heard it’s not very good. There’s a reason the original is played and replayed each year…