Hey Buddy, Hold That Execution While My Memory Card Reformats Or What Does It Take Before Something Can Be Called A Story

Photographer Marco Vernaschi has gotten himself into quicksand, and taken the otherwise respectable Pulitzer Center On Crisis Reporting with him. And all I can think about are the forces, commercial and personal, that compel individuals to transgress boundaries of common decency, and institutions that celebrate these by publishing them.

Marco Vernaschi recently published a piece on the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s Untold Stories site about child sacrifice rituals in Uganda. When I first saw the piece I was left unmoved and frankly uninterested. The writing itself was uninteresting, and the photography – black and white pictures stylized, manipulated and otherwise manufactured to suggest ‘menace’, ‘evil darkness’, and ‘nightmares’, seemed only to be the latest in a long heritage of photographers trawling Africa for their piece of the continent’s apparently rich buffet table of the ‘demonic’, ‘diabolical’, ‘devilish’, ‘maniacal’ and otherwise deranged and deviant.

What in fact did surprise me about the work was that the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting was supporting and funding it. The work, and the photographer, just seemed a bit too over-the-top, too sensationalist and titillating and hence incongruent with so much of the rest of what the Pulitzer Center typically sponsored and supported. But I just dismissed my response as uninformed and moved on. Details »

Gaza Diary: January 30 2009 10:33 PM

Are you from Pakistan?

I am not sure how he knew for we had not met nor spoken to each other.

I was just about the get up to leave Al-Awda mosque in Rafah, Gaza when a man sitting behind me introduced himself and asked if I was from Pakistan.

How did he know? Why did he think so? Nothing about my appearance that day – I in my conventional trekking pants and checkered shirt, suggested my background.

How did he know? Details »

Gaza Diary: January 24 2009 18:00 PM

The water pipe has many names.

In the balkans it is called a ‘lula‘ or ‘lulava’.

In Egypt and the Persian Gulf it is often referred to as a ‘shishe’.

In Iran it is called a ‘ganja’ pronounced as ‘ghelyoon’.

In India and Pakistan it is called a ‘huqqa’.

In the Palestinian Territories, the Levant, Iraq, Jordan, Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Israel, it is called by the beautiful name of ‘narghile’- a word that has its roots in sanskrit.

But I doubt if it has ever been called a weapon of defiance. Details »

Gaza Diary: January 22 2009 14:25PM

On the Getty Images archive you can type in ‘Gaza Destroyed’ and retrieve over 5,500 images to select from.  If you run the query ‘Gaza Funerals’ you will get back over 7,000 images.  I was unable to check the Corbis archives because at the time of writing this entry their site was undergoing maintenance.  But I am confident that I would find a similarly large number of images for both the queries above.  Details »