Monthly Archive for September, 2008

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war photographers…..

Jason

 

we have read quite a bit in the "comments" about the "a good time was had by all" at this year’s Visa Pour L’Image (Perpignan)…and surely this was true….at least by most…however, this year’s photo fest, which celebrates conflict photography above all, was in fact, in itself, a scene of violence and death…

Jason P. Howe (above) author of "Columbia:Between the Lines" and veteran war photographer in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, was beaten senseless by five men as he left an evening slide show … he  was heading to have a beer with us at the very Cafe Le Poste  in this picture…he said "they just kept yelling "money, money, money" ..i would have given them whatever i had…but they did not give me a chance..they just attacked…all they got was my cell phone..it was all i had on me"….Jason also told me that in all of his years being in and out of ridiculously dangerous situations, this was actually the worst thing that had happened to  him….

worse, 48 hrs before, and ironically  in the very spot where Jason stands for this picture, a local teenage woman took her own life by jumping from the top of the Castillet crashing to the ground in front of the merry festival goers sitting at this most popular "people watching" spot…

war photographer Bruno Stevens who has covered conflicts in Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon etc. said to me "i have seen everything doing my work…dismembered bodies, death all around, yet what i saw right here at Cafe le Poste was far and away the worst thing i have ever witnessed in my whole life..i cannot get over it..i am truly shaken"…..

by all accounts , Perpignan is a quiet, charming,  peaceful town in the south of France by the sea…friendly locals who will remember you from year to year….good food and wine…and home of surely the very best photojournalism festival in the world…i would recommend it to anyone who may want to have documentary photography in their life…and i will return and walk without fear in the streets day or night…

but this year was a grim reminder that LIFE HAPPENS everywhere, all the time…ironic and tragic that these events happened at this event, but none of us can be spared from the realities that surround us at all times…we cannot have the PROTECTION from life that we may fantasize…all of us try, all of us fail…

this is not the first irony for me involving life around Cafe le Poste…all of the best war photographers in the  world were gathered on this very same spot on September 9,2001…i remember "shooting" a couple of tequilas with the war photographer of all war photographers Jim Nachtwey and all of the VII crew since they had just "launched" their agency…laughter, hugs, merriment….48 hours later Jim watched the second tower of the World Trade Center come down on top of him and i watched it from 15 blocks away…the weather that day was perfect….

life is fragile…fleeting….never to be taken for granted…no matter how sunny the day or how good the wine….does this story sound pessimistic coming from me??  i hope not….i am always optimistic by nature….my optimism comes from knowing about the fragility of life….knowing that i should always enjoy every  moment given to me and that every moment is special…i do not live in fear….

what about you??   where does your "reality check" kick in??  do you "fear the worst" or do you "expect the best"???

 

 

 

for the very first time…

so many topics get discussed here, that it sometimes makes my head spin…but, it all pretty much centers on "the photographic life" and how we can all best "live it"…yes, the photographs themselves are indeed our final "net worth", yet getting to these photographs , this incomparable journey, is an entity in and of itself…

this is not exactly "news"…but, i never cease to be inspired by this simple simple fact that this journey is unending  and leads us down paths we would never go down without our cameras in hand….seeing something, being a part of something "for the very first time", just gets me BUZZING in way that unfortunately i cannot really put into words…

last night was such an experience…the owner of my building in New York is an Hasidic man …Nachman…a man hard to know, hard to "figure out", rarely speaks, and seems mostly to want his rent check on time…i have never signed a legal piece of paper in my three years in the now almost famous "kibbutz" building and my "business" with Nachman is all eye contact and a hand shake…it works….i pay my rent on time and that is that….i have asked  Nachman from time to time if i could photograph is  family…he always says no…three years worth of  NO..

just one day before i went down to the beach to be with my family, Nachman stopped by to get his rent  check….he sat down….for a long 20 minutes or so….even smiled…he invited Mike and Marie and me to his daughter’s wedding….nobody else in the building was invited  and we were the only non-Jewish guests to be…this wedding was last night and i had absolutely zero time to go, but i went anyway…with ten rolls of 220  Tri-X (not enough)…

i will get to the point….i think most of you know that i have been blessed with being able to make photographs almost every day since i was 12 or so…  some might  think by now that i would have "seen it all"…maybe even bored with having seen it all…surely i have "been around the block" a few times…however, even i continue to be amazed at being amazed…

what i witnessed last night, or rather what i was a "part of" last night at the  wedding , was definitely a "for the very first time" immersion  ….

a brand new never saw this before didn’t know this happened before what is going to happen next i am not prepared and i am missing everything kind of experience…do you know this feeling??

if only i had any kind of insight or knowledge or "guide" or anything, but i had to take it "straight up"…no clues…no "map"…Nachman smiled watching me "work"…and all i could think of was that i had better get something "good enough" to make Nachman happy…

i was not thinking about you or my Magnum mates or anybody to "satisfy" except Nachman….somehow i was working for HIM…..yet, he did not ask me to take one single picture of anything in particular and i offered to do so ….he has seen my "work in  progress" on my walls, has never commented on any of it, and yet he seemed to know exactly what i was doing and what i would do  and  he let me roll roll roll…

 

Hasid

when Marie and i sat down briefly last night to "review the evening" we commented to each other…."now THAT is what photography is all about…."  to be so so INSIDE and to bear witness to something that you would NEVER have seen otherwise…even the other Hasidics did not see or experience what i did….i moved freely from the "men’s side" to the "women’s side", so NOBODY actually experienced the wedding in quite the way that did i…

ENERGY  comes from these moments….our "raison d’ete"…all of the other "stuff" that we all have to put up with in our often frustrating craft  ,  totally disappears  when we slide into the  warm arms of real discovery  and enlightenment….

don’t tell anybody, but i only left the party (yes, Hasidics party!!)  when i RAN OUT OF FILM!!…but,  i think the  moment was over anyway…at least, that is what i keep telling myself….i do not even want to know  what happened later…regrets??  oddly , no….

oh yes, did i get any good pictures??  quien sabe…i made all of my usual mistakes…i only hope i have something that Nachman will like…

i would just like to see him smile one more time…