New York is proving to be a strange place to try to work. And for reasons I had not expected. There is an atmosphere of deep fear and suspicion that is casting a pall over the lives and communities I am working with and completely transforming the very idea I have had of this city. Over the last week I have been visiting places – communities and homes there, where I have felt as if I have left the United States of America I once recognized and arrived in a land where the citizens cow in fear, remain silent out of suspicion, constantly look over their shoulders to see who may be watching, refuse to express any opinions, and simply want to disappear. It is a post-surveillance state America and it is all around me, except that I – for the moment enjoying the privileges of a bourgeois life, have simply not noticed that there are possibly hundreds of thousands of people in the greater New York area who cannot live as carefree and as casually as I do here. Details »
This may possibly be my strangest presentation yet, but one I am incredibly excited about. I have been invited to speak at the Ocean Parkway Jewish Center at their Thursday night event called ‘Chulent’. Chulent refers to the Saturday food of the Jews – a stew packed with beans and meat and a favorite at Sabbath lunch because it can be cooked before sundown on Friday and kept simmering for hours on end. Chulent the party however is a gathering of the eclectic, the once purely orthodox but now willing to explore the world of ideas and spirituality and more outside of the confines of the strictly pure. Details »
Our final presentation is now online thanks to the remarkable Develop Photo and the always interesting Erica McDonald. You can click on the image below or here and go to the Develop Photo site to see a video. With only 24 hours to put things together into a coherent idea we obviously had to leave many a detail aside. There were also some interface design concerns and we were unable to work through the specific details of how it should look in its final form. Kati much preferred a more intense, in-your-face style, while I was more drawn to a subtler and quieter design to highlight the image epicenters. However, we arrived at a compromise and left it at that, concentrating instead on presenting the broader concept and approach. Details »
I saw the image above – from Alec Soth’s Instagram feed, and said to myself: I hope Alec will read John Szarkowski’s introductory essay to his son. I have never completely agreed with Szarkowski but that hasn’t meant that I am dismissive of him as a critic, and a thinker when it comes to the art of photography. The essay he wrote to introduce the book that Alec’s son is holding in the picture above – William Eggleston’s Guide is actually a rather prescient and insightful one. There are two points in particular that Szarkowski makes that I believe remain relevant to our imagined ‘heady’ times as far as photographer is concerned. Details »
Last summer we made our way to Bosnia and Serbia, ostensibly to, as I then described, explore:
…how people create history through memory, myths, bedtime tales, family stories, personal anecdotes, official commemorations and collective rumors. The idea is to understand how histories are created, memories perpetuated, myths passed on, and animosities maintained. About how if you refuse to speak and confront modern history, you leave an entire world open to mythology, rumor, fabrication, and perhaps most dangerously, personal injustices, and visions of revenge. That where there is no reconciliation, confrontation, accommodation, and acknowledgment, there will always remain a sense of being wronged, and denied.
It wasn’t the most successful of trips, despite the fact that we found most of what we were looking for. What we did not find was a clear and precise narrative structure that would allow us to pull this together into a coherent piece of work. What we did find were layers and layers of overlapping, and often contradictory histories, each vying for authenticity, and each backed by ‘hard’ facts. Details »
I have had to step away from things. I am still exhausted from the discussions in New York, and their implications. These trips always leave me excited but also overwhelmed. In some ways the new projects have been clarified, in others ways they have become more demanding. Some days I am ready to sit and write prodigiously, and on other days I just want to retreat from the tasks ahead. At this moment, I am in the retreat phase. But, some transformations are taking place as I wrote in my last post. The new image – text structure is being worked on and it has simplified much, and offered new possibilities for future works. Details »
Each time I come to New York I wonder why I have come. Each time I leave the city, I leave wondering why I hadn’t come earlier. I get tired of being there, but no other city clears my mind, and adjusts my focus. And once again discussions and dialogues with friends in New York have helped inspire some new ideas for the coming year. A quick summary and I will write more as some of these things are still running around in my head:
First, a re-structuring of the Pakistan justice work. I finally figured out how to re-write the texts and connect them more explicitly to the images. This is something that I have wanted to do for some time but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Or perhaps I just had not given it enough thought. But now there is a re-design in the work. It is not a web-site redesign, but an information structure re-design. Details »
Lewis Bush of the Disphotic blog asks:
Why is a documentary on a foreign war correspondent, who had the choice to pack up and leave but decided to stay, and died as a consequences, considered more important, compelling or appealing than a documentary about a resident who had no choice but stay and die? Is it some how more tragic, the loss of life more poignant, for that fact that the deaths of Hondros and Hetherington, and so many others, appear so completely unnecessary? Even in our cynical age is there still some latent appeal in that old romantic idea of dying for a cause and what are the implications of this in an atmosphere that seems to be becoming increasingly dangerous for journalists? Profoundly disturbing ones I think.
He steps into a debate that has not-quite-raged within the community of photojournalists because apparently they are all too busy discussing Instagram or the latest Hipstamatic film-type or some other such ‘innovation’. Lewis Bush is speaking about recent announcements about documentary films about Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, two photojournalists who were killed during the recent Libya war. But the fact remains that our consumer / media saturated societies needs people like itself to help it make sense of the world. It needs the ‘white’ interlocutor to not only protect us from the diversity of perspectives and seemingly incomprehensible views of ‘the other’, but to also assure us that all is well in the world because someone like ‘us’ is out there reporting on it, and telling us how to think and respond to it. Details »