Monthly Archive for February, 2012

(based on a true story)

 

 

So I took this picture about half an hour ago. In Rio. Well, Renata is in Rio and I am at home alone in Carolina talking to a black cat. Renata is a character in my book about to go to press in Italy which was shot in Rio. My not so secret fantasy night in Rio. (based on a true story). Yes the real title. Go figure. Presses roll in 20 days. Hmmm, maybe I put this in? Blending fact and fiction all the way.

What about you? If you are a documentary photographer, ever think about fiction? In photography fiction and non-fiction tend to be done by different photographers . Writers cross all the time. My work in Rio is all “real” but real only to my immediate surroundings. For this book I did not “go anywhere” to take a picture. Wherever I happened to be, was where I was going.

There will not be one word in this book. Zero text. Almost no title. That is why I want you to read it very very carefully.

 

-dah-

Michael “Nick” Nichols – Conversation

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David Alan Harvey: Now the thing is that you were a photographer first. When I met you, you were a Magnum photographer. Now you   are Editor at Large at National Geographic. Pretty obvious though, this doesn’t seem to be an office job.

Michael “Nick” Nichols: I’m only a photographer.

DAH: You’re only a photographer. Well no you’re more than that. You do other things.

MN: But it all comes from photography.

DAH: I know it all comes from photography, but what I want to talk about, in today’s world, and you evolved your photography and also into the…well you created the Look3 festival for one thing which is for other photographers beside yourself. So, you do a lot of stuff outside, you teach workshops.

MN: And that’s since you and I are so joined at the hip because we both for some reason feel it is important to give it back to the next generation.

DAH: Why did we ever think that was a good idea?

MN: The reason it happened to me was because Charles Moore, my start came from somebody else saying, oh I’m going to help out this kid.

DAH: Right.

MN: And I like that, so I’ve always felt that it’s important. And history is important to me, so building on something and not leaving it behind…if I meet a young photographer that doesn’t know Alex Webb’s work, or your’s or Eugenes, I’m like, well what are you doing? You’ve got to build on stuff.

DAH: That’s right. So Charles Moore helped you and then when he did that you felt like payback some day when you made it.

MN: Yeah.

DAH: Yeah, same for me. I felt that way when I was at my first Missouri workshop. These Life magazine and National Geographic photographers were looking at my contact sheets and I thought well, that’s just the coolest thing…If I make it, I’m paying back too. So we’re similar that way.

MN: And just in full disclosure, I love you dearly, your one of my best friends, I never get to see you, I’ve followed Burn from the beginning although I’m not part of Burn. You know, I’m fully supportive of everything you do even if I’m not there.

DAH: You are part of Burn.

MN: You know this is my first appearance in Burn…this interview. But I’ve been with Burn from the beginning because I believe in what your doing. Always. And I know that you’re with me when I’m with the lions. Somewhere there.

DAH: Oh, always with you when your with the lions.

MN: Were going to some day sit on the porch and do what we say were gonna do.

DAH: Yeah, the only problem we’ve got is that for some reason we’re like work-aholics or something. We can’t get to that porch. You’ve got a nice porch to sit on. We’ve done some of that during Look3 and previous visits to your house. And you’ve come down and visited my family at the beach and I got an extra bedroom for you at my house, so you’re welcome.

MN: And that’s the other thing…my family feels like your part of our family.

DAH: Well we feel that way about each other, yes.

MN: And your kids treat me as if I’m part of the family. So I want everybody to know that we’re not just casual acquaintances.

DAH: Well that’s right, that’s right.

MN: Yeah.

DAH: I mean and we have a lot of fun together. Somehow we always manage to have a lot of fun together. And a lot of laughs, but you’re way different from me in one respect because, and Bryan has even told me this, Bryan who went to the Ndoki with you and made his first film on you on the Ndoki, told me…basically told me that well, Nick works way harder than you do Dad. And I think there’s no doubt about that. When I look at the films, when I look at the stuff, the logistics, the things that you have to deal with to get those pictures, you have to go through a whole lot of logistical stuff before you can even begin to take…

MN: Easily by the time I get to an assignment I’m completely exhausted because of the money I had to raise, all the gear I had to put together, all the…this last one’s 50 boxes going to Tanzania, two years of fundraising, you know, literally almost 10 years of talking about lions, and then you, of course, your pictures have to start to live up to all the hype that you’ve…not hype…whatever you’ve done to…and if I had to say who my favorite photographer on earth was, it would be a battle between Alex and Eugene because I love that complexity. And to do that in natural history is incredibly difficult. So, you know, I’m not satisfied with a telephoto lens but sometimes that’s where you are. So, it’s incredibly difficult technically, but I don’t want anybody to see the technical when they see the picture. You know, when they look at that tree, if they’re thinking about how we put it together, than I missed them. I didn’t do it right. It’s supposed to be spiritual. And so I’m trying to get back to the simplicity that David Alan Harvey uses in his photography. But the level of work that takes…but you know the part about working so hard is I am incredibly driven. You know, I drive myself to collapse, and the only other person I can compare that to is Jim, on the fact that we’ll work ourself till we die, but I don’t know any other way. I don’t know half. I don’t know thirty percent. That’s why I’m gonna quit, because I can’t figure out how to slow down.

DAH: But you’ve been saying “i quit” for a long time.

MN: Yeah but I’m serious. When I said last waltz, what I mean literally is that, like they did, they didn’t quit playing music, or I’m not going to be a National Geographic’s guy after this project and I’m not going to move on to the next project. I’ll extend this one as long as I can, but then I want to go back and say, can I be David? Can I be simple? Because there’s too much volume in what I do. There’s too much noise.

DAH: There’s a lot of moving parts to what you do.

MN: Yeah, and the stress level and the fact that I’ve got this incredible woman in my life, who has been there for the whole trip, and you know you can fuck that up, and I survived all the chances to fuck it up. And so the fact that she’s still with me and we’re tighter now than we’ve ever been.

DAH: Well I see that, I see that, it’s amazing. Well Reba is an amazing woman and you’ve been gone, you’ve been out in the jungle, you’ve been in the top of a tree for months at a time, and she’s still there when you get back. Part of it probably is that she’s an artist herself.

MN: She was attracted to me because I was an artist and I was attracted to her because she was an artist. So we support the obsession of being an artist. And I, you know, people can cut and slice any way they want, I was gone while the kids were growing and I didn’t get penalized for that. You can get penalized for that. But now that they’ve grown, I’m sitting there with them. I’m with them.

DAH: No I see that, I see that. Well let me just go back just for a second here because when I met you, I mean now you’re a senior editor, what is your exact title? Editor at large?

MN: I’m Editor at Large.

DAH: Ahhh busted, you had to stop and think about your title Nick. Size does matter.

MN: Laughing..Well no, because I work so hard to get that word staff photographer off my title. I hate that word. It’s venom to me. You know, because it means ownership. I’m not owned by anybody. I assure you that. I’m milking this place like nobody in the history of photography.

DAH: No, no, don’t  worry  this is an honest conversation…. it is too late for either of us to get fired.

MN: Well, I’ve given them more than I got.

DAH: Well of course you have and they know that. That goes without saying. They know that.

MN: But I like the tone of editor at large because what that means is not in the office. It means out there. So I fought really hard for that title.

DAH: And you’re keeping readers for them too. You’re good business.

MN: Some of my colleagues think that I’m old. I’m not old.

DAH: David Alan Harvey doesn’t think you’ve ever been old. When I met you, you gotta remember, you were a Magnum photographer when I met you and you shifted from Magnum to National Geographic, from an institutional standpoint, spiritually you are a Magnum photographer. Funny how we literally “traded places”..But you needed the capital resourcing. Period.

MN: Yeah exactly, Magnum is in my DNA.

DAH: But the thing is, I can go out and do my thing for ten dollars and where I need ten dollars you need a hundred thousand dollars, therefore you needed the National Geographic behind you. NatGeo has been good to you…and to me.

MN: And I can’t justify what I do if I’m not reaching the planet. I gotta have a huge audience because my work is about saving the planet, you know. Its not about me, its about tigers and elephants and stuff like that. So if I didn’t have this microphone, I’d just be pissing into the wind. This is the only place on earth that I can do what I do.

DAH: That’s right. Ok Chris (Johns) in his article was talking about being driven. I feel driven, and sometimes I feel like it’s a burden almost to be driven because you can’t get off of it. When you were a kid, I saw a picture of you in the 4th or 5th grade in Alabama. That’s where you’re from.

MN: Yeah

DAH: That’s where Reba is from.

MN: Yeah, that’s why I’m called Nick. My best friend’s growing up we’re Bubba, Fuzzy, and Stevie Wonder.

DAH: My nickname was Heavenly.  I know your mother. Partied with your mother and you and the gang. I photographed you and your mother together for my family project. Where’s that drive coming from? What’s the nut of that thing? Where’s that fire coming from? Where’s that work ethic coming from?

MN: Fear, first off.

DAH: Fear works.

MN: Fear of failure. I’d love for people to understand that no matter where you get it, if your not afraid, something’s wrong with you. Every time you go out, you should be afraid. But then the work ethic of being poor…my mom raised us, my dad left when I was a kid, she’s had no education, and my dad was in the picture but he always thought, your just a lazy hippy. You know, I’m obsessive, I’m obsessive compulsive and photography gives me a….

DAH: a kind of  hippy.

MN: I’m definitely a hippy.

DAH: And yet you’ve got a work ethic.

MN: I’ve got a pop side to me. My stories are very popular. I can tell you that the readers love them.

DAH: Oh yeah, I love them too.

MN: But the work thing is…I don’t know anything else. That’s the problem. I don’t know how to turn it down. Once that train left the station, and I got on it, I haven’t figured out how to ever get off.

Photo taken by Kyle George

View Nicks personal website at www.michaelnicknichols.com or go directly to his iPad app here.

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LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph

 

Wim Wenders – Eulogy for James Nachtwey at the occasion of the Dresden Prize

 

If a war photographer is awarded a Peace Prize, furthermore in a city once devastated by a war, then he must be a very special person and a truly extraordinary photographer. And he must have something to oppose to war.

For it is the nature of war to engage and take in everything, to occupy and appropriate, without exception. Which war film, for example, isn’t, deep down, a glorification of war, even against better judgment, and often even in spite of the best intentions?

And: It is in the very nature of images to represent what they depict. “What you see is what you get.” That’s exactly what makes them so very powerful. It’s almost like trying to square the circle if you want to dissociate yourself from what an image presents and conveys, let alone try and tell the opposite of what it shows,

War is a huge, infernal industry, the largest one on this planet. It seems presumptuous for one man to attempt to stand in the way of this machinery. Once war has broken out, everything spirals out of control almost immediately, turning even the armies and the soldiers who fight in it into helpless onlookers, victims of their own hubris. Who would dare then to oppose it and put it into perspective with mere… photographs. Who would seriously deploy cameras against tanks!

Just make the effort and visualize it for yourself! After all, almost all of us take pictures today! Even your cell phones don’t come without a camera any more. Or perhaps you have one of those small, convenient digital devices. Or you may even own some professional equipment… Just imagine going to war with that! And imagine doing so just to take a picture to undeceive the entire world and tell them what’s going on there! Yes: a photo that would influence the outcome of the war or even end it! Right. That would be sheer madness!

All right then, imagine just this: You want to change the life of ONE person with a photograph. That alone is an enormous challenge, if you think about it. The short moment when you look through the viewfinder or at the tiny display, as you point the camera at something, and finally press the shutter button… that second is supposed to achieve something, to capture something and thus captivate, and thereby move somebody, or more so: even shake up the world?

How can that be possible? Who do you have to be to attempt such a thing? How… would you possibly go about it?!

James Nachtwey’s images give us an accurate idea of how he “goes about it”, in the true sense of the word: where others “just want to get out of here”, that’s where he goes. He travels, in principle, in the direction of places that other people are only desperately leaving from, or have already left in a hurry, or can’t leave anymore.

It is with that first movement that he’s already opposing war: With himself. With his safety, his life, his affection, his conviction. All of the above are captured in his images…

“Wait a minute!…” you may object. “Perhaps he gets a kick out of this going-to-war thing, or maybe he is some kind of thrill-seeking tourist. After all, there are people who climb up skyscrapers or walk tightropes at dizzy heights or hurl themselves out of planes or jump off bridges – things which none of us would do,but which a few others apparently like to do. Couldn’t Nachtwey be one of those?”

If he were, he surely wouldn’t win a Peace Award, he would just win some medal as an action hero. This James Nachtwey may have the same first name, but he certainly isn’t a James Bond type. Who is he then?

I don’t think you have to know a photographer’s biography to understand who he is. That’s what he shows us in each of his pictures. Each photograph contains a second one, invisible at first, that doesn’t reveal itself immediately. It’s a “reverse angle”, if you will, a “counter-shot”. That reminds us that taking photos is also called “to shoot pictures”… Yes, the camera is shooting back, is literally “backfiring”! The eye that looks through the lens is also reflected on the photo itself. It leaves a faint, sometimes shadowy trace of the photographer, something between a silhouette and an engraving, an “image” not of his features, but of his… heart, his soul, his mind, his spirits. Let’s stay with the first and simple word for a moment, “the heart”.

The heart is the real light-sensitive medium here, not the film nor the digital sensor. It is the heart that sees an image and wants to capture it. The eye lets the light in, sure, which is why we also call it a “lens”, but it doesn’t “depict the image”, it doesn’t “depict” anything. Nor does the retina nor the nerve cords that transmit the information. The “image” is created “within”.

There, it is matched with many other signals that are coming in at the same time. Some of these are related to formal or aesthetic criteria, like to composition, focus and contrast, or to the overall impression and to details. Other signals are of an ethical or moral nature. What’s going on here? What’s happening to the people in front of my camera? What does their dignity consist of? Or rather: what is violating that dignity? What is that image telling us? Which history lead to this moment, and what continuation does it suggest? How do I react to it as the one who is seeing it, as the witness with the camera? Am I sure I’m free of prejudices or, worse, cynicism? What is it about this image that touches me!? Do I have the right to show it to others? How will it affect other people? Could what I see be possibly misinterpreted? How can I prevent that from happening? Would it help if I took a step forward or to the side? If I stepped back a little more? If I left this or that out of the frame?

There are a thousand signals and messages arriving simultaneously, all of which have to be processed within a fraction of a second. The hands are already part of the thought process as they correct the frame, the finger already knows what’s coming and presses the shutter button…

What I’m trying to say is: The photograph that’s just being created includes all of these thoughts, processes them as another kind of light, “an inner light”, depicts them and “contains them” at the same time that it deals with “the outer light” and the outer events, thus producing next to the objective picture the invisible portrait of the photographer himself, that “counter-shot” I mentioned earlier.

And all of this isn’t happening at a birthday party, or on a football field, or at a rock concert, but in a war. Everything is raw, tense, loud, cruel, out of control, insane, incredible, awful, unfair, perfidious… But that’s exactly why the photographer has to be just as precise, quick, careful, considerate and dependable as if he were at a wedding or on a Red Carpet.

No, that’s not true: he has to be even more precise, quicker, more careful, more considerate and more dependable. In war, often enough, you don’t get a second chance.

The photographs exhibited in the Dresden Museum of Military History represent a small selection of the many pictures that James Nachtwey has taken in over thirty years as a traveler and documentarian. They were taken in Afghanistan, in the Balkans, in Ruanda, Chechenya, Darfur, at Ground Zero in New York and in Iraq. This list could easily be extended to include images from Sudan, from Northern Ireland, from Romania, and so on, and so on…

James Nachtwey was in “The Heart of Darkness”, to quote the title of Joseph Conrad’s famous novel. If ever someone actually was there, it’s him! One might think that this darkness shows through, that its grim, depressing reflection makes its way through the photographer’s eye, weighing down his heart, his soul, his mind, his spirit.

And indeed, very often that’s exactly what we feel watching TV documentaries, or seeing newspaper or magazine images: that the atrocities we see depicted have hardened the photographer’s or cameraman’s heart. We can often tell that he was already looking the other way while he was taking the picture, was already done with all that death, starvation and fear around him, was only thinking about himself, his own salvation from all this hell, was no longer really WITH the subjects in front of his camera, and no longer really willing to watch death at work. Taking a picture can be a form of no longer wanting to see…

In all of James Nachtwey’s images we can also perceive (at the same time, in that reverse angle,) that he didn’t want to look the other way, that he wanted to endure the sight and watch exactly what was standing or lying there before him, that he knew he owed it to the people, the dead, the starving, the sick, the entire situation in front of his camera, that he’d see and show it as exactly as possible, wide awake and with wide open eyes.

If someone’s dignity has been violated James Nachtwey doesn’t violate it a second time, as a voyeur would – but he makes an effort to restore it. (Oh yes, photographs can do both!)

Now, am I just making this up, or do I have something to back up my impressions?

I believe that all we really have to do is take a closer look. All we have to do is train our eyes to see not just the PHOTOGRAPH itself, but the ATTITUDE of the eye and the heart that took it.

Every look represents a certain attitude or state of mind, your gaze just as well, at any given time. Interest, boredom, disgust, indifference, sorrow, love, surprise, curiosity, hatred, cynicism, affection, respect, aversion, exhaustion, frustration… whatever guides our eyes is depicted along with the subject when a camera is lifted to the eye. There is no picture that wasn’t taken with an attitude of some kind or other.

And nowhere is this more necessary than when you stare death in the face, when you’re confronted with violence, despair, the abyss, the darkness. You can make out and decipher in each and every one of his photographs the attitude of James Nachtwey. It is no secret.

© James Nachtwey

I’m just picking an image of his from this exhibition that at first glance isn’t all that “warlike”: Three children, little girls, are standing behind a tree. They’re covering their eyes with their hands. Some distance away a helicopter is landing or lifting off, clouds of dust swirling around. We immediately recognize these helicopters. There are usually guns protruding from the fuselage, and indeed, there they are! These roaring bumblebees are bringing troops, weapons, bombs… in short, war from above, out of the blue, and just as quickly as they came, they’re gone. You immediately hear the “Ride of the Valkyries” from “Apocalypse Now”…

The children are everything but Valkyries. Their colorful clothes, the slippers on their feet, or the little one’s innocent best Sunday shoes and socks, all tell us how ill-prepared they are for what is coming their way, inevitably, or what is leaving them behind, possibly, like astronauts would arrive or leave on a distant planet. A few moments ago the girls were scampering around, laughing, without a care in the world, …and then came the invasion of the foreign gods.

The photograph invokes what may happen next or what might just have happened. Whichever the case, these children will remember this moment as long as they live. The caption that I’m turning to, after I have tried to decode the picture myself for a long time, says: “El Salvador, 1984. The army evacuates wounded soldiers from a village football field.” Well, this explains it a bit.

Still the message of any photograph is only the photograph itself. In museums, you might have noticed, many people pounce on to the caption, before they even look at the picture. It’s as if they were trying to protect themselves from the image. Reading creates distance, you’re not really concerned any more, the information lets you stand above the things that might otherwise trouble you.

I ask you urgently: First read the photographs closely, also here, in this extraordinary Museum of Military History. Then you will realize, in the case of this picture we just looked at: There’s a lot of tenderness in it! This photo was taken by someone who was more interested in the children than in the troops and their business. It’s not a subject you would expect to see in a picture taken by someone who went there to photograph the war. To see (or find) this, you have to be on the children’s side. You can’t cover your own face with your hands and try to protect the lens of your camera from the dust. You have to do the opposite: open your eyes wide and risk the dusk in your face and your lens.

© James Nachtwey

I’ll move on to another image, almost the opposite to the one before. The Balkan Wars.

It shows a truck unloading its horrific cargo: dead bodies are sliding down from the bed. The driver is leaning out of the window of his truck so he can see where he is dumping his load of dead men. Among the bodies there is a wheelbarrow, in a moments it will also come crashing down… The dead are all fully dressed. The way they’re sliding down the tilted surface, with their heads dangling, shows that rigor mortis hasn’t set in yet.

A hand is held up I the foreground, partially covering the lens. We see the palm of the hand, the thumb pointing down. This is the right hand of a man who is standing with his back to the photographer. This isn’t someone trying to stop the photographer from taking pictures; he’s just motioning with his hand to direct the truck driver to the pit that we know must be there, just outside the photo… The most horrifying thing about this scene is that it feels just like an everyday building site.

Do we even want to know which war this is?

Yes! The caption explains it: “Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian army has successfully held off a Serbian infantry attack near the village of Rahic. The bodies of Serbian soldiers who fell in the battles have been brought from the battlefield behind the Bosnian lines on a truck…”

James Nachtwey is extremely precise. He is a witness, (the word “eye witness” is fitting more than ever…) and he takes this responsibility very seriously. he is someone who not only wants to describe what he has just saw, but also wants to record it with words as precisely as possible so that it can be used as evidence.

We can see that the image wasn’t taken at eye level. The photographer didn’t look through the lens, it was “shot from the hip”, so to speak. As quick as a flash, before the man who raised his hand could turn around. If he had turned around, the image would have been a completely different one, in fact, might have become impossible.

As with most of Nachtwey’s photographs, the lens is a slight wide-angle. With such a lens, the photographer has to be right where it’s happening. To be able to take photos such as this, you have to get close to the scene. You can’t just easily zoom in from a distance. The photographer himself has no distance, he is there. And therefore we are, too, no matter if we are sitting in our living room, stand in a museum, or hold a book or a magazine in our hands.

These are pictures by someone who has a strong desire for justice in the face of the horror unfolding right before his eyes, someone who puts a lot on the line for this. Even if the photo is being taken within the fraction of a second by lifting the camera just a little more — he still instinctively finds the right angle at the same time, as if his hands were able to see… With all his senses he is present! With his body and his mind and his heart he really is where his photo takes place! The picture is a part of his own existence.

© James Nachtwey

Or let us look at a third image taken during the Chechen War in the mid-nineties. A village road, a singed wooden barn in the foreground. On the snow-covered road in front of it lies a dead woman, wearing a simple winter coat. Beside her on the ground, a purse. We see the sneakers and her thick socks, her left foot strangely and unnaturally twisted. Is it broken, was she shot at?

Around the corner comes another elderly woman, cautiously, almost looking at the sight with curiosity, “the neighbor”, as the caption tells us, a peasant scarf wrapped around her head. She stops in her tracks and stares at the frozen body in the snow. You can almost see her thought: “That could be myself lying there!” There’s a hint of surprise in her stopping short, looking at the scene. The simple, one-storey houses in the background bear witness to the place’s poverty. There are shingles missing, or is that damage caused by the war, too?

Actually, we can’t help thinking or perhaps it’s more of a vague feeling than a conscious thought: this photo is “just altogether impossible”! There’s something about it that we can’t quite get into our heads. In a movie, OK, we could accept a scene like this… And then we realize what it is that we think is so “impossible” about it: it’s the fact that the photographer was present that he was part of it, at this very place, that he captured the neighbor right at the moment of recognition, as if she were all alone at the scene, as if there couldn’t possibly be another person with a camera who’s not only watching, but creating evidence of the moment as well.

We are totally at a loss to explain the photographer’s attendance here. How could he make himself invisible like this? Unless he wasn’t there as a photographer in the first place, rather as someone who had just rushed to the scene as well, a fellow human being who was just as shocked, just as astounded… Someone who has become so much as one with his camera, that it indeed has become invisible to other people.

I’m also beginning to catch a glimpse of something else in each of the three images that I just instinctively picked out, almost arbitrarily: I can’t quite put the finger on it, but it seems to me that in these pictures the photographer doesn’t just see for himself! And this is something you can not at all take for granted!

Actually, the act of photographing is a very lonely job. You are mostly left to your own devices, especially when war is raging around you or hunger and death are haunting the land. But these photographs here all have one thing in common, an “attitude”, a point of view, the photographer’s awareness – whatever we call it – of standing where he is for others of seeing on behalf of others, of exposing himself, and of giving testimony, for others.

Who are these “others” on whose behalf James Nachtwey goes to war, so to speak? Are they just the subjects of his photos, the starving, the dying, the dead, the perpetrators, the sick, the injured, the sufferers, the horrified? Or don’t these “others” also include us, the viewers, the very moment we begin to get involved with one of his images? When he makes himself a witness, and stands by this task, doesn’t he call us to the witness box as well?

If this is indeed the case, then James Nachtwey creates a community between the subjects of his photographs and us, a community that we can’t get out of so easily. He turns us into one humanity, not more and not less: Common humanity. The word “compassion” takes on its original meaning. (In German it literally means “sharing the suffering”.) It doesn’t connote condescension or “pity”, “the pitying smile”, but real empathy, when the suffering of others becomes ours as well.

Nachtwey manages to see things on behalf of both sides of humanity, the victims and the viewers, because his work is not only directed AGAINST something, against war, arbitrary violence, injustice or inequality, it is, above all, intended FOR (and dedicated to) the people he encounters in wars and in suffering, as well as for us.

I am aware that the word I’m going to use is somewhat antiquated, and it’s probably difficult to translate. This man is a “Menschenfreund”, a lover of humanity, and therefor an enemy of war.

And when he goes right to the heart of the war he does so on behalf of us, in order to force us to look closely, but also on behalf of the victims, as the eye-witness who wants to testify in their favor and belie war and its propaganda.

Maybe James Nachtwey is not just a photographer, but has a lot of professions.

He is also sociologist who doesn’t just dutifully record the phenomena and symptoms, but who wants to understand what caused them; a minister who knows that it is not consoling that gives consolation, but most of all being there for someone else; an archeologist who doesn’t just hastily burrow down into the dirt, but who carefully uncovers stone by stone; a poet who knows that he must never name things in plain words, but only invoke them in the reader; a philosopher who’d rather encourage people to think for themselves instead of self-righteously doing the thinking for them; a teacher who commands our respect because he respects everyone, including himself; a gardener who knows that you have to get to the roots when you want to pull out the weeds; a surgeon who knows that it won’t do just to operate on the fractures, but that you have to lay bare the trauma inside…

In short: a man who is able to look life and death in the eye, not because he is more courageous than we are, but because he lets himself get carried by all of those for whom he does it. And because James Nachtwey is all of the above, because he has never stopped believing that there is reason behind his work, because he has never stopped believing that his images have their greatest possible effect only if the eye and the heart behind them have an unfailing faith in humanity and its ability for compassion…

For all of these reasons and many more we should stop calling him a “war photographer”. Instead, look upon him as a man of peace, a man whose longing for peace makes him go to war and expose himself… in order to make peace. He hates war with a passion, and loves mankind with even more of a passion.

I can’t think of anyone who would deserve this award, in this city of Dresden more than James Nachtwey.

February 11, 2012

 

EDITOR’S NOTE

Photographer James Nachtwey has been honoured with the third Dresden International Peace Prize on 11th February 2012 in the Semper Opera House in Dresden, Germany.  Laudator has been the director and photographer Wim Wenders.

Wim Wenders will be featured on BURN in early April. He is currently having an exhibit in Hamburg. Wim Wenders is up for an Oscar this year for his film Pina. He was previously nominated for Buena Vista Social Club

 

Related links

James Nachtwey

Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders Photography

 

 

 

jukka

Sean Gallagher – China’s Fragile Forests

Sean Gallagher

China’s Fragile Forest

 

Natural forests cover about 10 percent of China, however few of these forests remain in a primary or pristine condition.

China’s forests are threatened primarily by timber collection, mining, unregulated harvesting of flora for traditional Chinese medicine and excessive development related to increased tourism. Reforestation efforts by authorities have also caused the proliferation of mono-culture forests, which have hampered forest recovery and negatively affected biodiversity.

 

 

In 2011, the UN’s official “International Year of Forests,” the forests of the southwest of China were classified by Conservation International as one of the world’s top ten most threatened forest regions.

This is the third chapter in a long-term body of work focusing on China’s environmental crises in the early 21st Century. The previous two chapters have focused on increasing desertification and on disappearing wetlands.

This work was funded by a travel grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

 

 

Bio

Sean Gallagher is a British photojournalist, currently based in Beijing, China. Graduating in Zoology from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England, his work now focuses on environmental issues in Asia, with specific emphasis on China.

He was the first recipient of the Emerging Photographers Fund in 2008 and is a 4-time recipient of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Travel Grant. His work has appeared with news outlets including Newsweek, the New York Times, Der Spiegel and National Geographic. His work on environmental issues in China was acknowledged as “some of the most striking images on display at the Copenhagen climate change conference”, by the BBC World Service in 2009.

Related links

Sean Gallagher

Pulitzer Center

Skype is NOT sponsoring this story…

 

SKYPE  is NOT sponsoring this story…

Yet Burn could probably not exist without Skype…No joke…Many of my relationships are virtual , on Skype…Including a very special relationship with Kaya Berne (above),  who attends university classes a few hundred miles from me and yet gets all my e-mail and workshop and some Burn stuff done simply by Skype and text messaging. For example, we just finished selecting some portfolios for my upcoming workshop in Sydney in May. This is after my  RIO opening at the ACP  and the BURN 02  show.

Imants Krumins, who I have never met in person, and I have a Skype only relationship that has led to Imants heading up a special young photographers presentation during the upcoming HeadOn Photo Festival that envelopes all mentioned above and 140 other shows all during the month of May.

Most importantly, my morning coffee is often shared with my mother by Skype since she is all the way out in Colorado.  Diego Orlando and I MUST have Skype to make Burn as did Anton Kusters and I prior in the first two years….and right NOW my entire RIO book is being produced over Skype!! yes, of course, I have real people like Diego Orlando and Eva-Maria Kunz now in Italy and on top of production and I will go to watch the presses roll, but without Skype the whole RIO book production would not exist…even today I will be looking at fonts interplayed with design for the slipcase for the interactive “book” over Skype…the picture above really does say it all…my fireside chats often really are virtual yet with very real results.

Point is, Skype SHOULD sponsor us!!

In all seriousness, YOU should sponsor us. In fact you do. WE are free to create the most interesting things  if you support us. If we are free, then you are free. Come up with a great story idea and we will run it til it stops.  Look at what we do because we have no strings. You make it possible for our Emerging Photographer Fund  to award photographers cash grants. You make it possible for Burn 01 and 02 and upcoming 03 in print. We make these quality books, printed in Italy, and with no production cost spared as limited edition books because you support them.

Snapshot to the future: New Burn books are coming. New workshops based in my New York loft with a variety of teachers. With the assembled talents here, Burn will make stuff. Books. Movies. Whatever. If we do not know how to do it, you do. The work published here also comes from you. So in fact you are supporting you.

I try my best to make all of this so called virtual world “real”. Hence our print agenda and workshops. I also try to get “out there” as much as I can to photo fests, exhibitions, galleries, etc, so I have a pretty good idea of what is going on. My close friends tell me I am often too accessible, yet I can remember as a young photographer so appreciating a moment with someone with a bit more experience than I. Pay back, pay forward.

Many thanks to all of you for your support of ideas, comments, writing, photography, and funding. Oh by the way, you might be thinking we are expanding to expand. Nope. Small boutique forever here on Burn. Promise. Trying not to grow. I do not want a job.

This is a whole new world for me. Making real friends, doing real things, from online resources that would heretofore have seemed “unreal ” for me. What about you? Is the virtual world now your real world? Was Marshall McLuhan even more right than he knew?

 

 

 

Emerging Photographer Fund 2012

© Alejandro Chaskielberg, EPF winner 2009

We are now officially announcing the Emerging Photographer Fund award for 2012.

We will now award $15,000. as three different grants.  We are trying to spread the love a bit.

Burn will give $10,000. to one photographer,  and two smaller grants of $2500. each . Three awards instead of one.

Each intended to get a photographer going, and with efforts on our part to create more funding to finish an essay  depending on what the photographer produces.

The whole point of these grants is to support emerging photographers in our craft. All types of photographers. This is not a photojournalism grant, nor an art photographers grant, but could be garnered by either or both. We just want to support committed authored photography of any ilk. Please click here  and see who has secured this grant in the past and who our jurors have been.

The deadline for entry will be May 15, 2012 (6pm EST). No extensions for any reason.

Current edition jurors are Stephen DuPont, Jim Goldberg, Sarah Leen, Bill Marr, Arianna Rinaldo, Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb.

In 2011 we will have published here on Burn at least 50 of those who enter and feature in advance of the announcement of the recipient at least 20 finalists.

Our Burn finalists can be published in print via Burn 01 and Burn 02  and of course we have already Burn 03 as a limited edition magazine/book in our head.

Roger Ballen – Die Antwoord

A VIDEO BY ROGER BALLEN                                                   I FINK U FREEKY by DIE ANTWOORD

Many of you may remember Roger Ballen here from his Boarding House essay, also published in Burn 01.  Roger was also kind enough to interact with this audience. This is a very interesting example of a conceptual still photographer making a video. This video took 5 days of shooting, but was “years in conceptualizing”, says Roger.

“We had really clear concepts of what we wanted to do in our heads. We started with my photographs for ideas, and then mimicked them in the sets.” says Roger.

I have watched this a dozen times now, and see some new piece each time. Cannot get it out of my head.

-dah-

Related Link

Roger Ballen

 

 

Alvaro Deprit – Black Garden

Dana Stolzgen

Black Garden

Nagorno Karabakh / 2010 May.

Inside the narrow valleys of the Caucasus Mountains there is a country not appearing in the maps: Nagorno-Karabakh, which name – a mixed of Russian, Turkish and Persian languages – means Mountainous Black Garden.
This self-proclaimed republic is the result of a cruel conflict – 20 to 30 thousand victims – that started in the 1988, when its majority Armenian population started demanding the independence from the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan.
People in Karabakh try to survive as they can.
The recognition of Kosovos independence by Western powers as the recognition by Russia of South Osetia and Abkhazia – two secessionist regions of Georgia – are the facts that made the Karabakhians think they could become a real country.

 

 

Bio

Alvaro Deprit, Madrid 1977.

Alvaro Deprit has been living in Italy since 2004 and divides his time between Rome and Istanbul. He studied German Philology in Germany and Sociology in Italy. A self-taught photographer, Alvaro has deepened his understanding of photographic languages by attending courses in Spain with Pep Bonet, Sheryl Mendez and Christian Caujolle.

He is particularly interested in the Turkish culture and its modernization, changes in post-Soviet South Caucasus, and immigration in Europe, which explores various forms of adaptation.

Alvaro has exhibited his photos in Rome, Barcelona, London and New York and has worked for Il Sole 24ore, Newsweek, Internazionale, Vanity Fair, Viva Magazine, ElPeriodico, Yo Dona, Glamour, Sette and Altair.

 

Related links

Alvaro Deprit – OnOff Picture Photo Agency

behind the scenes – the rio book edit

The cool little video clip above by maestro Pete Longworth really is the way it is around my loft right now. Creative juices flowing the way they SHOULD always flow but rarely do. Along with doing my own work, my number one priority, is  to mentor those who seek to marry art, craft, and daily life into one holistic experience. Check this clip out. It is where we are right now with my RIO edit and with the overall mood of Burn. Pete shot this straight up , no staging, fast edit. We are going to do more behind the scenes video to show you when it seems either entertaining or educational or both. Stay tuned.

Music By: Peter Goetz

My place right now. Saturday afternoon and Janet is cleaning for me. Steady stream of collaborators requires high maintenance, lots of cold beer and an open mind. Everybody here is helping me. Eva Kunz flew here from Italy to coordinate printing, Susan Welchman editor on RIO for NatGeo  came up to add some of my latest work to her mix, Chris Bradley, Creative Director of RGA who caught a cab here from across the river, and Kaya Berne one of my digital assistants came up from Virginia where she lives and our connections are on Skype. A few Burnians are dropping by. If you are in the hood come on over. Better bring some beer or wine though because honestly we are busy. We even forgot to eat for two days last week.