W. Eugene Smith’s The Jazz Loft Project

Lets face it; when it comes to photojournalism and the photoraphers who most defined its characteristics, attitudes, aspirations, values and language, we would almost always have to begin with W. Eugene Smith. The master photographer, the passionate soul, the determinedly individual and independent, the singularly human, Eugene Smith raised the bar of not only how one worked as a photographer, but also how one ‘drew’ a photograph onto film.

Who can ever forget the beauty of Tomoko Uemura in her bath, and the genius of the photographer who found a way to represent it:

Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath Minamata, 1972 Copyright W. Eugene Smith

Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath Minamata, 1972 Copyright W. Eugene Smith

I do not exaggerate when I saw that this was the photograph that back in 1986 first made me think about becoming a photographer. It has remained etched in my mind and soul since.

So it was with some excitement and pleasure that I discovered Sam Stephenson,of Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, website for his book The Jazz Loft Project

The Jazz Loft Project

The Jazz Loft Project

Stephenson describe’s Smith’s production of this work as ‘…an obsessive achievement’, but clearly, by his own definition, Stephenson too was obsessed for he points out that he:

…made 115 trips to New York City over a span of time that can be measured by telephones and storefronts: I called Robert Frank from a cold, indestructible pay phone at the end of Bleecker, near CBGB; Roy Haynes on a Motorola StarTAC from a brownstone on 9th Street, a few doors from Balducci’s; and, a few weeks ago, Mary Frank on my iPhone from Spoon in Chelsea.

You can read Stephenson’s piece in the new issue of The Paris Review blog where in a piece called The Jazz Loft Project he discussed Eugene Smith’s involvement in this project and the characters and lives that he documented.

This is a wonderfully interesting site, and it is a thrill to see the love, care, attention and detail that has been bestowed on the work of W. Eugene Smith. Stephenson’s inquiries into the life and career of this most amazing of photographers continues as he works on a new biography that will also see him:

… embark on a five-week visit to the Pacific Islands, where Smith made combat photographs during World War II, and to Japan, where he photographed Hitachi City in the early sixties and Minamata a decade later. There are some fifty more people I want to interview as well. The detective work is intoxicating, opening up unexpected worlds outside of Smith’s immediate circle.

W. Eugene Smith was frequently derided in his times, ignored by editors and even fired from his positions at major magazines. But he worked past all of this through the strength of his vision, convictions and self-confidence. His work and his legacy has stood the test of time and remains an inspiration to so many still naively determined to produced beautiful works about beautiful and human issues.

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Unexpected Journeys Or How Did You Get To San Francisco?

She turns thirteen today. She dances at San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Intensive programs this summer. It was just two years ago that she had auditioned for the Swedish Royal Ballet’s dance school, only to be rejected at the last stage of the week-long audition. It was just two years ago that I remember waking up at 2 am that night, and hearing her quietly crying in the bathroom. Last week, when she received the letter from the San Francisco Ballet, inviting her to come and train in the Summer Intensive Program, Sofia completed a journey that began in painful disappointment. This summer is no ordinary summer. For this 13-year old, this invitation letter was not just to another Summer Intensive program, but a confirmation that hard work, a refusal to accept the judgement of others, and a determination to become what she dreamed about, was the only way to face the dance world.

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Dubai – a rework

a room of my own. #dubai #uae #metaphorsareboring #cynicalcelebration

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Musings & Confusions: 8th Feb. 2017

Still love reading these amazing stories…Carlos Saavedra’s work…

…and Mashruk Ahmed’s 

The Pakistan Photo Festival Fellowship Orientation – Feb. 5th, 2017 Lahore

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Quixotic. It is really the only word that comes to mind. Essential. That is the other word that comes to mind. We are launching a Fellowship for young photographers and documentarians from Pakistan. It is no ordinary Fellowship. It is rather a mentor-ship program to help a select group of visual activists, intellectuals, and artists, produce critical and intellectually engaged, challenge and imaginative works about Pakistan and Pakistanis.

Unlike a conventional photography fellowship, our focus is equally analytical and intellectual as it is visual and artistic. Students will be pushed to not only develop their visual skills, but also their critical thinking, research, and field work skills. Throughout the mentor-ship period, they will be asked to look past traditional publishing platforms (newspapers, magazines), and focus on utilizing digital media platforms to create broad, multi-faceted bodies of work.

So join us on February 5th, 2017 and we will talk more about our goals, our ambitions and our plans for the Fellowship. We will answer your questions, offer you chai, share a laugh and ideally, inspire you to become part of this new adventure.

Inshahallah.

We Are Walking The Streets Again – GPP Workshop February 2017

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Ayodhya: Wounds, Resistance & Resurgence

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It was the 24th anniversary of the attack on and destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh on December 6th, 1998. Click on the image above to go to a selection of essays about and/or related to Ayodhya.

My project on India began in Ayodhya. In fact, when I arrived in Ayodha in the Fall of 2009, I wasn’t even sure what the project was going to be. It was after staying in Faizabad – Ayodhya’s sister city some 30 minutes rickshaw ride away, for some weeks, and spending time walking and talking to people in Ayodhya itself, that the shape and structure of the work finally emerged. The Idea of India is a very personal engagement with complex histories, and my first attempt to break away from the suffocating definitions, rules, constrictions and limits of what passes for photojournalism. I did not want to have anything to do with it. It was during this work that I discovered why I went out into the world with cameras and a notebook, and what it was that I wanted to do with them. And though there were many mistakes along the way, and though the work remains intentionally ‘incomplete’ – what is this bizarre obsession people have with completing a project? No one completes a project, you merely abandon it!, because the questions I began to ask, the spaces I began to seek, and the inquiries I began to make, are still with me. And I am grateful for it. The curiosity, the excitement, the joy of producing this work remains, and since I can abandon the project at any time – the entire work has over 250 final selected images and dozens of essays, I have chosen not to. I do not want to give it up, nor do I want to feel that I am done with it. Perhaps it isn’t a personal choice anyways – the issues plaguing the region: the xenophobia, the sectarianism, and what Eqbal Ahmed called ‘distorted histories’, stay and are perhaps more extreme today than when I began working on the project. Perhaps I feel that now would be a good time to return, to re-start, to add more to the work if for no other reason than to keep up what was always an act of resistance and personal refusal to accept official and state historical narratives. It can still happen. After all, the project isn’t ‘complete’.

Vas Bien Fidel

am3ubw6

If we carry courage, and our determined resistance, then we do so because of the example that you, and so many of your travelling companions in our post-colonial aftermath, set for us.

Long live the Revolution. Long remain our resolve.

Vas Bien Fidel.

Once Again, Bangladesh

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CounterFoto is celebrating 4 years. I will be attending some of the events this year, and giving a few talks. The topics will always be provocative and focused on things we rarely talk about as photographers. I will also do portfolio reviews. It’s exciting to return to Dhaka, and to re-connect what is frankly one of the most enthusiastic and exciting photography community I know! Details »

I Lie…

via PressSync

Scratching At My Skin

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“I have been stereotyped: my life and lived experiences negated by photo editors in the USA in particular. I am nothing but my ethnicity, a man from my country of my birth 42 years ago. My name marks me as a ‘Muslim’, my ethnicity marks me as a ‘South Asian’, my birth marks me for work within the confines of the geography of the country of my birth. My birth on an unexceptional day in Karachi nearly 42 years ago was of greater interest and relevance than the nearly 18 years I spent studying, working, learning, and becoming in the United States of America (a country of which I am a citizen). I am the ‘Pakistani’ photographer and never allowed to be anything else, or asked to be elsewhere.”

I wrote this back in 2009. It came after my frustration at being told by a Time Magazine editor that she had no interest in giving me assignments in the USA (where I was based and traveling through), because I had no ‘competitive advantage’ in the USA. In Pakistan, where I had last lived over twenty years ago, I spoke the language and knew the culture. But when I reminded her that I also knew the American language, and had in fact lived in the USA for over twenty years, she wasn’t impressed. I never worked for the editor again.

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