What Ails Photojournalism: Part III

(Continued)…Photojournalists will have to liberate their minds from these constraints – the weekly magazine editor looking for the ‘sensational’, and the printed page looking for the simplistic, to go after stories that are beyond news, beyond crisis, beyond the sensational and concentrate instead on the creative and the excitingly compelling.  Too many pander in the obvious.  Too many are purveyors of cliches.  I see so many photographers on your blog who continue to represent the world through the false exotic.  Steve McCurry too, with his recent work on Buddhists, carefully eradicated any evidence of the presence of the Han Chinese and the oppression of the Tibetans by the Chinese administration.  Instead, we received an idealized, fossilized, pre-18th century vision of the place.  Everything that would suggest our engagement with the current dilemmas facing Buddhism, Tibet etc. were just not there.  Cliches, false exotics.  They may have technique and such, but they lack story telling creativity and often just plain curiousity that could reveal new ideas and new ways of telling.  Furthermore, they have to stop ‘documenting’ the obvious that is in front of them.  For I am not talking about story telling as a method to layout photographs.  I mean the very ideas themselves – the issues and the subjects that are pursued, need to take a leap forward.

We have seen these changes in art, in literature, in poetry and such.  Yet, photojournalists young and old seem trapped in conventions, and prejudices.  they are offering variations to the same most of the time, rarely if ever a creative leap.

Why is this story idea shift important? Because it will allow us to engage a new community of people and work with groups, institutions, individuals and organizations far beyond that which we have so far.  Not that this is new, but it has to become a standard.  Photojournalism and photography schools are failing at this miserably.  Places like ICP produce hacks mostly, machine-tool photographers, me-too documentarians pushing out and working within structures of conformity.  Worse, they are never trained or educated to understand that there are markets outside of the editorial space.  Even I do not know this market, but I know that it is there.  It is more a matter of positioning yourself beyond the technicalities of photo making.

Ernesto Bazan, a photographer i believe you should feature on your site, has taken a very individual path to photography and such.  Workshops, his own publishing book, engaging students, a personal vision, a passion for the craft, a willingness to work in many different arenas, a talent to engage a wide range of people beyond the photo editor and the weekly magazine.  His career is a testament to the incredible opportunities available to professionals and creatives.  If you look at his work, his passion, you would not think that things are falling apart.  Rather, that there are more ways today to be a professional photographer and photojournalist than ever before!  That the old standards, the old outlets, are not necessary if you are creative, driven and intelligent enough to articulate to others.

So Anderson lamenting the decline of editorial sales is not related to the rise of amateurs.  The amateurs are in fact not competing with the professionals.  Again it is not as if they are a competitive alternative.  But, that editors are choosing to do away with a requirement of quality and rigor in order to save cash.  And why would i say that? Because where publications have the funds, they choose to work with the professionals consistently.  Look at the New York Times Sunday Magazine – Kathy Ryan still have the budget, and she works with the best she can find.  Until her budget is cut, and then things will change.  But she is not trawling Flickr.  But the news pages maybe, Time magazine is, but then again Time and Newsweek have lost their vision, their raison d’etre so to speak and since they are now mostly run by MBA hacks, there isn’t a soul there that can understand how these magazines need to change.  MBAs work with formula’s and strategies driven by an obsessive slavery to ‘customer preferences’.  This is one of the great falacies of our time.  Where customer preference is important, so too is creativity and offering an interesting product.  Something Apple understands, or peer-to-peer designers do too 🙂 (ok, poor analogies, i admit 🙂 ) Our newspapers are run and controlled by people who see news as just a product, apply MBA tools and spreadsheets to ‘improve sales’, assume that if you pander to the infantile and the consumerist, sales will increase.

And yet, The Economist goes from strength to strength, and Time/Newsweek are weaker than ever before.  The Economist offers nothing fancy, merely pretentious high brow and often complicated and engaging news.  They too are a public magazine and yet have found a segment to grow and expand.  Newsweek is pandering to the useless and the empty for example.

These rends more than technology is what has displaced hard news stories and hard documentary journalism.

Our industry, photojournalists, do not want to face the realities.  Newspapermen/women do not want to admit their limitations.  It is easier to suggest, sexier and commercially more lucrative for many companies, to suggest that what we are facing is a tectonic shift in technologies of use.  This sounds like the internet bubble when the store front was to disappear and the internet to win all.  Well, guess what? That did not happen, the sky did not fall, brick and mortar companies in fact won that battle by adjusting and become smarter about the dual store front strategy and outlasted and out foxed most all the badly designed and poorly managed internet only firms.  Today, a new generation of internet firms have a solid real world foot print e.g. Amazon, which maintains of the largest and most sophisticated warehousing and warehouse management systems in the world.  The future is an amalgamation. (Continued…)

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From “Headmen” To “Hitmen”–A People Brutalised Yet Again

Another photographer turns up at another manufactured ‘traditional’ geography, and produces another set of racist, reductive and entirely fake set of images. I don’t mean ‘fake’ in the way that most photographer’s get all concerned about. I mean ‘fake’ in a much more serious way, one that reduces people to social, political and historical caricatures and makes them into concocted objects for class titillation and voyeurism. And this American magazine–mired deep in the heart of American imperialism, its violence and its brutality–publishes the images and accompanies them with what can only be described as one of the most incredibly ahistorical, obfuscatory and infantile articles I have read outside of stuff frequently published by Time Magazine and/or The New York Times.

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Thomas Sankara’s Restless Children

The project is now complete. Although, we may never really complete the telling of this remarkable story. You can see the project by clicking on this link here, or on the image below.

Eyes Of Aliyah–Deport, Deprive, Extradite Initiative By Nisha Kapoor

I have publicly and on this forum very explicitly argued against the strange ‘disappearance’ of black/brown bodies that are the actual targets and victims of our ‘liberal’ state policies of surveillance, entrapment, drone assassinations, renditions and indefinite detention. I recently argued:

“Western visual journalism, and visual artists, have erased the actual victims of the criminal policies of the imperial state. Instead, most all have chosen to produce a large array of projects examining drone attacks, surveillance, detentions and other practices, through the use of digital abstractions, analogous environments, still life work or just simply the fascinating and enticing safety of datagrams and charts. Even a quick look at recent exhibitions focusing on the ‘war on terror’ or wars in general, have invited works that use digital representations of war, or focus on the technologies of war. An extreme case of this deflection are recent projects on drone warfare that not only avoid the actual brown/black bodies that are the targets of deadly drone attacks, but are not even produced anywhere near the geographies and social ecologies where drone attacks continue to happen! Yet, these works have found tremendous popularity, though i remain confused what kinds of conversations or debates they provoke given that the voices of the families of those who have been killed, are not only entirely missing, but people who can raised the difficult questions about the lies and propaganda that are used to justify the killings, are also entirely missing.”

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Public Release of “The Sinner”

This is my first feature length documentary film and we–Justice Project Pakistan, with the guiding support of Sarah BelalRimmel Mohydin and others at Justice Project Pakistan, are finally releasing it.

And we are doing it first in Pakistan.

The film takes us into the world of capital punishment in Pakistan through the life of one man; Jan Masi. Jan Masi worked as an execution for nearly 30 years, and claims to have executed over 1800 people. He started his work in the enthusiastic pursuit of revenge for the execution of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

This isn’t a typical documentary film. No talking heads. No linear story-telling. No polemics or moral grand standing. No righteous exclamations against capital punishment. Instead, Jan Masi, his life, his scars, his fears and despair, act as metaphors for the meaning of capital punishment in Pakistan, and the consequences it has on the broader Pakistani society.

Sudhir Patwardhan

Sudhir Patwardhan.

Can you discover ‘an influence’ after the fact?

What do you call someone who seems to embody your eye, your sensibility, and yet you had never seen his / her work, and yet, when you now see it, you see the ‘influence’…the similarities?

Is he confronting the same questions? Is he seeing this incredibly complex and multi-layered world with the same desire to depict it as close to that complexity as possible?

I was taken aback. The aesthetic pursuit is so familiar. It is as if he is a step ahead of me. He is a step ahead of me.

I am going through these images–gorgeous, striking, unique, and no, I refuse to give you some ‘European’ reference to understand them in any way. They are Patwardhan’s and his alone. But I want to make them as photographs.

They are the photographs I would make if in Mumbai. It is beautiful stuff. It makes me want to go and make photographs.

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Make It Right For Palestine, November 4, 2017

Be there. Hyde Park. Speaker’s Corner. London. 12:00 noon. 4th November, 2017.

The Polis Project…Is Up And Running

If you can’t join them, then just do it on your own.

We launched a new collective focused on research, reportage and resistance. The specific goals and objectives are being developed as we speak, but the idea is a simple one: to collect under one banner a group of individuals from different fields – artists, writers, academics, photographers, intellectuals, poets and others, who are consistently working against the grain. In this time of collective conformity, and a media sycophancy to power and extremism, some of us felt the need to create a small space where people are still determined to refuse the agendas of political power, debilitating capitalism, nationalist extremism and neoliberal idiocy, and remain fools in their hearts, and idealists in their souls.

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Short Doc: “As If A Nightmare”;The Story Of Former Bagram Prisoner Abdul Haleem Saifullah


We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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Short Doc: “Prisoner 1432” – The Story of Former Bagram Prisoner Amanatullah Ali


We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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10 Things To Consider…

I recommend that photographers, photojournalists, documentary photographers remember these wise words by Tania Canas, RISE Arts Director / Member – I am copying and pasting it here. As brown and black bodies are stripped of their clothing, as brown and black children are dehumanised to mere misery, as brown and black women are reduced to simply victims, as ghettos and brothels and refugee camps and slums become the ‘paint by number’ formula for White photographer’s career and publishing success, it becomes increasingly important that those of us on the receiving end of White ‘largesse’ begin to build obstacles, speak back, and refuse / reject these ‘representations’ and their reductive, violent and brutal narrative frames. We have lost too much, and are in danger of whatever little we have left as humans and as histories, if we permit this process to continue.

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