Mustafah Abdulaziz wins in the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward: Emerging Photographers 2009. Mustafah’s work from South America, along with winners from the U.S., U.K. and Canada, will be in the exhibition and book launch to be held at Lennox Contemporary in Toronto, Canada, in October 2009. Further exhibitions to be announced.
Archive for the ‘General’ Category
All the boys at MJR want to congratulate our newest member, Ying Ang, on being accepted to the prestigious International Center of Photography in New York City for the documentary photography program. Ying received the news after returning home from Singapore.
Click to download. All three are 2560×1600 and scale beautifully to other widescreen resolutions.
B&W Portraits Contest winner is being discussed and will be announced soon!
so we’ve arrived late at the base of the Smokey Mountains, trading the at&t-reception-less backwoods for the rainy Rt. 40. when you leave the city limits and drive through valleys of forest under a craggy sky, you can breathe in the air and understand the purity of these places.
seeing as music’s as a big of a part of the american roadtrip as anything, we here in the mazda 6 would like to extend to you five tracks from our playlists. put them in any order, enjoy in a car or in your Nikes. crank the volume past the healthy mark.
and here’s the soundtrack from the road.
“footsteps in the dark, part 1: & 2” – eisley brothers
“lay it down” – al green
“night drive” – chromatics
“b.b.e. (big booty express)” – jdilla
“i will possess your heart” – death cab for cutie
“whole lotta love” – led zeppelin
“one way out” – the allman brothers band
“big love” - lindsey buckingham
“about today” – the national
“death and all his friends/the escapist” – coldplay
and now for some pixels.
I’ve been asked a lot to do another “Make this picture” deal. It’s been great and surprising about how much good feedback that drew. Around June-ish, I plan on putting another image on the table for dissection. Promise.
This time, I wanted to touch on something that affects every photographer, intentionally or otherwise. As image makers–and image takers–we see a lot of content. We’re assaulted with the stuff. There’s some that floats our boats and there’s stuff we wouldn’t mind cruising past. But within the group of pictures that impact us is a primal reflex: our photographic influence.
Most every photographer I know has a desk with pristine photobooks sitting there, filled with imagery that reached that part of their mind and soul so as to leave a mark where other photographs failed. There’s Nacthwey’s Inferno, a epic of tragedy that grabs us and leaves us questioning yet inspired. Then there’s Delahaye’s Winterreise, a cold journey through some of the worst parts of post-Soviet Russia. This book has texture, a pace of images that leaves you with a sensation from not only the work, but from the message the photographer was trying to communicate. And there’s Parke’s Dream/Life: dark, surreal, visceral.
This sphere of influence, this inspiration, is a powerful thing. Opinions among photographers are among the strongest, as well they should be. You have to believe in your work or no one else will. But in terms of inspiration, you can tell a lot about the views and style of a photographer.
As we all seek to refine and perfect our photographic vision, along the way are mile-markers and road-stops that rock us back in our seats with awe. We will question technique, approach, all in the hopes of getting into that photographer’s head and seeing how they saw, so as to help us reach a plateau from which we can continue to be the best we can be. At least, that’s how I look at it.
Photography has within it the power to communicate at many levels; emotionally, intellectually, educationally. Here’s some of my photographic influence.
HAITI. 2000. Haitians in the boat hold of “Believe In God” en route to Americas. Credit: Christopher Anderson/Magnum,
This photograph didn’t simply launch my interest into photojournalism’s orbit. This picture, with it’s tightness, it’s sense of being there, made me feel like I wanted to know more. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s not even well lit, but it’s real and in your face. It’s documentation that tells the subject’s story simply and effectively. Out inside those rickety boats on the night’s waves, Anderson was their voice. And if you go out to be someone’s voice to the world, you have to be damn well ready to do a good job.
Anderson’s work from Bethlehem for NG is the best photo essay I’ve seen in a while. Think it won a WPP. Layered, informative, engaging. His work has been a map for my understanding of pursuing stories and the passion needed to complete them in your own way.
ALBANIA. 1997. Group of boys. Credit: Joachim Ladefoged/VII
In his four years of documentation of Albania, Ladefoged has produced work on a level that has left the images of others in the dust. His level of dedication is a powerful inspiration. I believe he even went there on his own dime, went to places that were uncomfortable and difficult. As a photojournalist, you must remind yourself that when you place yourself in these situations, you must push on. To be within tragedy and back out is a disservice to your subjects, the people whose lives these are. Ladefoged’s poetic sense of composition is just for your eyes. The content is for your heart.
3. Pep Bonet
SIERRA LEONE. 2006. City of Rest rehabilitation project. Credit: Pep Bonet/NOOR
The back-story of Bonet’s career and the content he pursues has influenced my career direction towards an area that I had not considered going. It is all well and good to make pretty pictures, and there’s nothing wrong with a photograph that looks visually stimulating. But Bonet’s portfolio is a rail train: he knows what he wants and how he wants his photographs used and he does it. His work with MSF has added a layer to a field that was once vapid with incorrect portrayals of some of the most dire places in the world. Snapshots from digital cameras of kids crowding around a Westerner is often not the best photographic documentation from crisis areas. His seriousness and professionalism, as well as visual skill, has moved me to do more with my talent and reach a wider audience.
4. Omar Mullick
USA. Boy in masjid. Credit: Omar Mullick
Not only a talented photographer, Mullick is someone who seeks to do things with photography that push the boundaries. He has inspired me to be more and more modest, helpful and thoughtful towards not only my subject matter, but my peers and colleagues. In a field where egos run rampant, I’m fortunate to count him as one of my closest friends, and someone who I have no qualms with saying I am inspired by, both with my camera and as a person.
It’s not enough to simply make a picture. You have to use everything you have, your own talent and skill, and the light and choreography of the event playing out in front of you to tell a story. It is not easy. It is not short. We must be careful who inspires us and what we do with that inspiration. Influences can only do so much, inspire you so far. The rest is up to you.
That camera around your neck isn’t just a box with glass and photosensitive surfaces. It’s a means of communicating; a megaphone for the eyes. We must be careful and fearless.
Now a question: Who influences you?
as a pre-curser to this entry and all following diatribes.. i have a horrible relationship with my shift key and capitalization is not listed on my cv as a strength. i do however promise proper grammar and spelling to the best of my abilities.
we are now at the end of yet another season of world renowned photo competitions that transform hopefuls into poster-children for tomorrow’s great image makers. i can never help but ask myself two questions. “who chose these photos to win, and what is this photographer really trying to communicate.” i would also love to shrink down to a 1:60 scale model of myself and perch quietly on the tip of the pens that ultimately chose the winners.. but in a perfect world i’d also be photo editor at large for The Times Magazine but Ms. Kathy Ryan is doing a fine job without me so i’ll digress.
i’ve reviewed the World Press Photo Awards (WPPA), National Press Photographer’s Best of Photojournalism (NPPA), and the College Photographer of the Year (CPOY) and found what some might call more of the same, “if it bleeds it leads” imagery. While photojournalists’ lenses will always focus on the horror presently unfolding throughout the world (if not us, who will?), the way we choose to communicate with our public will constantly shift. Because we rely on the still image to reach our viewers, many photojournalists found themselves up against a wall of ethics and morality when digital photography/digital editing started taking over photo desks around the globe. “How much is too much? When is it appropriate? How do I keep my images looking fresh, signature, and most importantly – real?”
I’m glad to see that we may have found a happy medium with post processing, and this year’s winners across the board look like they have embraced the dslrs as well as the digital technology that lets photographers inject life into files that look routinely synthetic. Because we no longer have the option (given the shortened timeframe of digital workflow/publishing) to work with hi-con and hi-saturation films.. we are left to utilize programs like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom (Beta 2 is excellent), and Apple’s Aperture to manipulate (yes i said manipulate) the pixels into a final product that suits our vision.
enough said. Here are some winners from the aforementioned contests.. why I think they won or deserved to win, and also what I believe the images are trying to communicate. i admit to being a photojournalism fiend, and any comments hereafter should be considered the product of my belief that the camera was invented for this pursuit above all others.
Francesco Zizola on contract with Fortune Magazine looked into the illegal commerce happening throughout Africa. While HIV/AIDS/Malaria remain the largest humanitarian issues in Africa on this continent, the problem of prevention takes root in the inability of African countries to legitimize industries that seem to bring on harm more than benefit. This shot is a prime example of the disparity in Uganda. The convicted, seen in a jail cell awaiting “trial,” are standing with the evidence that will be used to incriminate them. Imagine what would happen at the LA county jail if Inmate John Smith walked into the holding cell with a 12ft saw. This photo communicates the differences between my world, and theirs both in the justice system but also in the means for survival. Aesthetically the bold, yet stone-washed look of the blues and blacks give a sense of hard labor and that small blue tag at the tip of the saw brings the whole frame into an aesthetic balance. I’ve always struggled with shooting color photos, because i am always conscious of the final product being in color and therefore i shoot for color. I find that my color work lacks the attention to shape, form, and composition that i find in my black & white images, but Zizola had no issues there.
I have to admit my bias early on towards college photographers, being one myself, and I always judge cpoy with more scrutiny than say, WPPA, because as my peers I cant help but pit my own work against theirs. Dominic Nahr made a frame that encompassed the chaos of the moment. This image is about disorientation, a break in the social contract between the public and the police, and as Nahr titled the image, the “failed atempt on Freedom.” Ive shot alot of protests in the past and I know how difficult it is to think and see clearly in these moments.. so for a young photographer I commend Nahr on his vision with this image.
When i look at this picture i feel as if i’m sitting across the table from the most dangerous man in the room. Gerbahaye puts us in the hot seat, and the inquisitive gaze of our pseudo-cowboy figure makes me nervous. the photographers at Agence Vu have always represented top notch PJ work, and this story on the Congo shifts the focus away from simply crime and poverty and onto the facets of Congolese society that raise question… “what happens next?” I also love the symmetry of the man’s hands (center frame) and the crossed arms of his sunglasses laying on the table.
John Freidah dove into a subject that many in America find themselves grappling with: “What the hell happened to our economy?” While the text-hounds are punching away at keyboards trying to jot down the Fed’s latest analysis of a dwindling American economy, Freidah looked at those who are paying the price for the US’ poorly managed economy. I feel like Americans become fatigued with stories such as the foreclosures in the wake of the Sub-prime mortgage crisis when we read and re-read headlines about millions of americans losing their homes. The figures become intangible, and we are often unable to relate to those who are hit hardest. This story takes an honest look at the effects of the economic crisis. If only it had run A1 on the NYT, as Americans we might have a better understanding of the consequences of our mismanaged economy.
College Photographer of the Year Travis Dove blew me away. Plain and simple. This portrait is alive.. in the moment.. and anyone who has shot chest deep in water knows the anxiety that ensues. This took the gold prize for portraits in CPOY, and there is something fascinating about an older woman swimming in a lake with full makeup and her hair done… not to mention her toy-dog along for the ride. Thats one tough bitch!
Imagine tip-toeing through a wasteland of used hyperdermic needles, which might as well be landmines, considering they may be infected with incurable diseases that ripple throughout the developing world. I really loved this shot for its gorgeous bokeh.. something about it really gives me a sense of how polluted this area is. While i cant help but recall Nachtwey’s frame of a needle stitched between the toes of an innocent Indonesian child, this frame stands apart for me and highlights the good-will of people caught in the cycle of poverty and crime in developing countries. People DO want to help themselves and others, and that is what this frame is saying.
I dont have much to say about this image other than… as an environmental portrait Jake nailed it. Bravo. Framing, tonality, and an underlying message were all delivered clearly and without ambiguity. Our subject remembers those who came before her – and she is aptly framed in the reflection of her fellow soldiers who will follow her into battle when the time comes. I have a deep respect for the military, and this frame really identifies with the camaraderie i have found while working amongst members of the military.
This is the final image i’m including because i believe this past year was THE YEAR OF MIKE KAMBER. With all due respect to Damon Winter & Todd Heisler … i think Kamber is the hardest working man in PJ. His multimedia piece titled “Deadly Search for Missing Soldiers” highlights the experience of the American soldier, what they are going through on a daily basis, despite our opinion of the Iraq War.. lives are being lost on both sides, and i feel that the American soldier is often forgotten. Mike Kamber worked to tell their story.. and i encourage you all to view THIS MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATION before passing judgement on the selection of work from WPPA.
As my interest in photojournalism grew over the years I always looked to the big contests listed above as a point of reference for the best work out there.. i truly believe the only way to become a great photographer is by studying the work of those who came before you.. but the more i look at the winners circles it becomes apparent that the first place photo isnt always the best. This year in particular i felt that the Pulitzer winners didnt stand close to the work of CPOY.. and i was also really unhappy with alot of the BOP first place winners. Remember that a small panel of individuals, 4-5 judges, are determining the “best of” and I feel like we are still in a transitional moment when the traditional and neo-classical photojournalists and photo editors are separated into two camps. I think the most important thing to consider when you view work in these contests is to really take a moment and ask yourself, “what is the photographer trying to communicate to me and the media at large” … the topics that already made front-page news usually resurface in these awards, but i think the true victory for many photographers in these contests is when work that routinely got bumped to B12 make it into the winners circle. for those of us who didn’t make it to that final table: keep doing the work. who knows.. maybe we’ll have an MJR POY one of these days.
Thanks for reading through.. leave your agreements and disagreements below.. i’ll make sure to respond to all comments.
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