Author Archive for burn magazine
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Self portrait by @_opasno For Burn Diary My last days in Ukraine were spent holed up in a damp hostel on the outskirts of Kyiv, laid low with bronchitis, and spending hours every day on the phone with low-level military press officials trying to talk my way onto a base to interview men who had been mobilized, while a faded portrait of Yuri Gagarin stared down at me from a corner where an icon used to hang. Much to my disappointment, my persistence still failed me, and I left without the footage I needed to finish the project. . . I spent so much time before I left New York preparing myself for Ukraine: studying field safety guides, planning exit routes, reading local papers and military analysis of the conflict, talking to friends on the ground. But what I hadn’t prepared for was coming back home. I held my friend’s hands, kissed her cheeks, told her to be strong. I got on a plane. And the next morning, I was having brunch in Brooklyn, while she was still wondering what would happen to her family. I picked up my dry cleaning. I bought a new swim suit. How could I be doing this while so much else is happening elsewhere? I went to church that Sunday, and could barely keep it together after well-meaning friends each greeted me with the question, “How was Ukraine?!? You must have had so much fun!” . . . It’s the hardest part of modern life–compartmentalizing things so we don’t fall apart from information overload or trauma fatigue. I’m still learning how to cope with my own helplessness in the face of so much suffering. I realized all I can do is be there to witness, and the tell the story of what I saw to those who will listen. . . . I’ve come to the end of my time here at Burn Diary, and want to thank you all for following along, for listening to these stories. You can keep up with me on my journo/photo handle @_opasno or my brunch-and-kara-walker personal handle @ecce_b . Contact info is on my website, linked in my profile.
“They said it’d be 10 days. He’s been gone 53.” Photo by Erin Brown @_opasno for Burn Diary . . . I was sitting in a wood-paneled meeting hall in the municipal building of Koval, in Western Ukraine, watching as more than 200 wives and mothers of men who had mobilized had it out in an open-mic shouting match with their local MP, Stepan Ivakhiv. A well-built man in an elegantly cut suit, with an open face and slide-rule sharp part, Ivakhiv is a gasoline and dairy magnate who spun the oligarch wheel in the 1990s and came out on top. He’s a man worth over $200 million dollars representing a region where it’s not uncommon to earn a salary of $200 a month. . . . It was bold of him to agree to the meeting, and he was taking the verbal beating with more grace than I would have expected. He fielded questions from the stage, seated behind a great oak podium, with three other local officials and a member of the military, while the crowd teemed below him, jostling one another to get to the microphone. . . . This much became clear, very quickly: several hundred men from Koval and the surrounding area had been called up in the mobilization. They’d been told they’d serve for 10 days, preparing equipment in nearby Rivne, and be sent home. Then it was extended to 45 days, and families started losing touch with the men very suddenly—only to find out they’d been sent to Donetsk to fight. For most, the 45 days had come and gone weeks before. Military ‘salary’ was not being paid. Men were living in abhorrent conditions. Ivakhiv had little by way of an answer for it. . . . A young blonde with overlarge blue eyes and long acrylic nails got up: “He was in Donetsk for three weeks, and I didn’t hear a word. My little girl cried all night, ’tata! tata!’ [‘daddy’]. When I heard from him next, he said they’d only been given a liter of water to drink each day…it was over 30 degrees!” She burst into tears and begged for Ivakhiv to send her husband home. Ivakhiv looked genuinely pained, and at a complete loss. “I am so sorry,” he staggered, “I can’t.”
Photo by Erin Brown @_opasno for Burn Diary. . . We raced a summer thunderstorm out of Kyiv and rode six hours in a packed minibus to Rivne, to see my friend’s sister-in-law who is pregnant with her first child. At church the next morning I sat in the hallway and talked to a young father of four who participated in the local uprising in Rivne. “I was at a checkpoint out on the highway late at night in February,” he told me, “When a jeep with Lviv plates came through. I asked the driver where they were coming from. He said, ‘Kyiv.’ I shone a flashlight in the back and saw the most bizarre thing–a young man sitting up so stiff, with huge piles of blankets on either side of him. It took me a few seconds to realize–he was dead. He had been killed on Maidan. They were taking his body home.” He called his wife and told her he was leaving that night for Kyiv. Later, when I asked her how she felt about that, she said “I have never been more proud…even my kids understood the importance, the girls built a town and barricades out of Legos and gave each other assignments to protect different spots. ‘Here, you guard the house, and I’ll guard the church.’” . . . We left that night for the fields. My friend’s in-laws live in a two room farmhouse in a tiny hamlet 25 miles outside of Lutsk. It’s NatGeo country to the max: babushki in headscarves hauling water, young men cutting tall grasses w scythes. A horse cart came to collect us about halfway through the five-mile walk in from the road. . . . My friend’s mother-in-law said she’d heard about my story, and could help, but we had work to do first. She handed us work gloves, and we headed out to the potato field to get some weeding done.
A young girl wearing a Vinok, a wreath of poppies that is part of traditional Ukrainian folk costume, explores the wreckage of the barricades and tent city on the Maidan in central Kyiv while a dissenter in camouflage relaxes outside his tent. Photo by @_opasno for Burn Diary. It’s hard to describe how surreal the Maidan feels these days. I’ve spent a lot of time in Kyiv in the past five or six years–I was a missionary in Russia in 2008-2009 and lived and worked with a lot of Ukrainians who have grown into lifelong friends. Almost every summer, we all convene in Kyiv or spend a few weeks in Crimea. This time it was different. . The rest of central Kyiv is untouched, still beautiful. But you turn the corner onto the Maidan, and it’s like walking onto a movie set of an uprising between takes: a backdrop of charred buildings and walls of tires, a barricade of twisted metal, and men in camo milling around like extras, waiting for someone to yell “action!” Nothing is happening. It’s become a tourist attraction, for locals and foreigners alike. Families take an evening walk through the square and pose stoically for snapshots with a tank, or a shrine to those who were killed. Souvenir stands have popped up hawking flower wreaths and anti-Putin trucker hats. Donation boxes sit next to each tent and the men hustle you for a few hryvnya if you point you camera their way…. . A note: wonky connectivity and a crazy schedule kept me from posting here while I was still in Ukraine, but I’ll be sharing images from my last week of the journey, and some shots of what I’m up to in NYC this week as I’m putting my life back in order after being on the road for so long. Hope you enjoy!
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Yurian Quintanas Nobel
The desert represents decay and death. There is a scarcity of water and shade, extreme temperatures, and a lack of resources for humans to survive on. At the same time there is a long tradition of the desert as a place of healing, both physically and spiritually. With the Californian desert as a background, “Happy Nothing” delves into the lives of its inhabitants and its secrets. Here is where ex-convicts, war veterans, retirees and people that for some reason have decided to stay outside of society live. In these towns there is no running water, the houses are in ruins, the streets unpaved, no street lighting, there are no supermarkets or entertainment infrastructures, but despite living in these conditions, they call it the Paradise.
Consumerism, competitiveness and success are symbols of happiness in the First World, but is it real happiness? Are we happier the more material goods we have? Or perhaps happiness is measured by the amount of time we have to appreciate the world around us?
Yurian Quintanas Nobel was born in Amsterdam in 1983. He is currently living in Catalunya Yurian. His personal photographic projects focus on documenting people and their environment. After studying a specialization course in photojournalism at IDEP (Barcelona), he had the opportunity to assist recognized photographers from National Geographic including Tino Soriano and Annie Griffiths Belt.
In the last years Yurian has won awards and fellowships including: the 1st prize of the Vanguardia Magazine, (2007), the scholarship of the “XIII International Meetings Gijon photojournalism” (2009), and an honorable mention in the “Travel Photographer of the Year” (2011).
This morning about 6:00 AM, Jonah Nukapigak put out a net on the Kuukpik River for the first time this season. He had hoped to catch a good number of the big whitefish called anaaqliq so he could prepare them for the whale feast tomorrow . He went back this evening with his nephew Isaiah came along to help. There was only one fish and the net was filled with silt, so he pulled it. He will put it back out in July. Once the season is underway, he will typically catch 30 to 40 a day. The Kuukpik is also known as the Coleville River.#kuukpik #colevilleriver #nuiqsut #arctic #alaska
To anyone who may have wondered where one finds a freezer big enough to store a whale in, this is where: in the earth, which here is permafrost, frozen all the time. Each crew digs its own hole deep into the frost, widened out a bit at the bottom. Bruce Nukapigak descended into the ice cellar via a ladder and then began to tie boxes of frozen bowhead maktak and meet which is pulled to the surface by other crewmembers on top. In recent years in some villages, a new problem has arisen: ice sellers have begin to milk in the summertime. Some have been ruined altogether. Then they have to find other places where the permafrost still appears to be more stable and dig new holes. I have taken many pictures this afternoon, but there is no wireless available on the Nalukataq grounds and I have been too busy to post and write even if there had been. It is already time for me to go back for the evening events – the blanket toss and the Eskimo dance. These will not conclude until early tomorrow morning sometime so I don’t think I will post any more today. I will post a couple more of today’s images tomorrow. This is @billhess for @burndiary in Nuiqsut, Alaska. #bowhead #nalukataq #icecellar#maktak #nuiqsut #alaska #arctic
Right at midnight, the crew hung the flag over the village baseball field, which then became the place of Nalukataq. The EMN crew was started by the late Edward Maniksaq Sr and his late wife Ruth in 1957. Family members believe the lower flag may have been sewn in that same year by Ruth. It has flown over many whales and those whales have fed many Arctic Slope Iñupiat, for whom the whale remains the most important and cherished part of their diet, the heart and soul of their culture. A picture of the late Edward and Ruth standing in front of a bowhead adorns the back of the dark jacket just under the “N.” #nalukataq #flag#bowheadwhale #whaling #iñupiat #nalukataq #arctic#nuiqsut #alaska
About a week ago, EMN crew members cut bowhead meat and maktak (skin and blubber) into strips and pieces, placed them in these buckets in this cool, unheated room and came back every now and then to stir the mix and let the air in. It is now fermented mikigaq and is ready to be served at the feast. It is tart and tangy and in my opinion, delicious. Back in the 80′s when I was following the crew of the late Jonathan Aiken, Sr., better known by his Iñupiaq name, Kunuk, mikigaq was sometimes brought to camp and I could not stop eating it. Kunuk looked at me, smiled and said “Eskimo Bill!” That felt really good. #mikigaq #bowhead#bowheadwhale #nalukataq #nuiqsut #arctic #alaska
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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT
I Sometimes Dream of Devils
The young adults of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico are navigating a thin line between hope and hopelessness. They strive to leave the poverty and inequality that faces their society, yet are constantly exposed to a barrage of wealth with the influx of tourism and American expatriates. For these young people, engaging in formal employment will never allow them access to the lifestyles they see. Often they are consumed by their own ambitions and desires. Some make it out. Others are attracted to overindulgence and escapism, seeking easy money and brotherhood through gangs and cartels.
On good nights in San Miguel de Allende the air is heady with laughter, music, lights, parties. Worries drown in the overwhelming beats of the clubs, flashing strobes, energizing and uplifting drugs.
Some nights the darkness is too deep to escape.
Teeth grind and shatter as the devils haunt their dreams.
The lives that were taken by force return on these nights.
The sweet song of the drug cartels sounded good once.
Money, wealth, power, friends.
even the gun
can’t save you from the dark.
The night is all-consuming.
This essay was photographed from 2012 -2013 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It captures the experiences of a number of different young adults ages 19-28. I prefer not to share their names for their own privacy and safety and so not to implicate all of them in the same deeds and experiences. I see this piece as a document that describes a lifestyle not so far from many American young adults, and yet with much more dangerous choices. I would like people to understand more about the difficult decisions that young people are faced with, while still maintaining hope for the future. There are no captions for added anonymity of people and places.
Claire Harbage (b. 1986) is a visual storyteller. She currently works as a teaching assistant at Maine Media Workshops in the summer and an Adjunct Instructor at Ohio University’s Department of Visual Communication during the year. She recently attended the New York Portfolio review in April 2014. She was awarded a number of fellowships at Ohio University while completing her dual MA in Photography and African Studies for studying the Wolof language of West Africa. The university also funded her field work for upcoming multimedia project Dakar: Rap-city which is still in progress. Claire plays the banjo poorly and wishes she was more musically talented.
I planned to cook oatmeal after I finished that first coffee I mentioned, but Margie and Lynx still slept, so I decided to go to Abby’s instead – under my own leg power. Enroute, this Cessna passed overhead. My own little Citabria was still whole and in good flying condition the first time I set out to photograph the Cross Island bowhead hunt of the Iñupiat Iñuit of Nuiqsut. The Citabria is not an IFR plane and I had to land south of the Brooks Range to wait out bad weather. By the time I finally reached the coast, the hunters had just struck and killed their last whale. I landed at Prudhoe Bay’s Deadhorse airport, found a fellow willing to sit in the backseat of the tiny Citabria and then flew out over the ocean and found the whalers about 20 miles out, towing the bowhead to the island. I dropped down very low over the boats and the whale and then, each time I would make a pass over, had the fellow in the backseat hold the stick while I took pictures. “Cheated death again!”he muttered after I got him safely back to Deadhorse. I went on to publish a 96-page essay on Nuiqsut in Uiñiq magazine that included the aerials and the aftermath of the hunt, plus a lot of other stuff, but not the Cross Island hunt itself. Last September, 20 years later, I finally returned and covered the hunt start to finish. This is why I had planned to go to Nuiqsut this week – to photograph the Nalukataq – the whale feast. Then that guy rammed me with his big Ford truck and put the whole shoot into question. This is @billhess posting for @burndiary from Wasilla, Alaska. #airplane #wasilla #alaska
At Abby’s, I ordered a half pound cheeseburger, onion rings and Pepsi. Scrumptious! Abby makes the best cheeseburger and onion rings in Wasilla. The waitress then asked if I wanted a piece of pie and of course I did, but normally I would say “better not.” Today, after the bike ride, I said “okay but just a small piece.” So she served me half a piece of chocolate cream pie with coffee. It tasted so good I had to have the other half, too. I then decided I had to pedal another 5 miles to make up for it. I stepped to the counter to pay and found Abby visiting with this young couple, Josh and… and… and… Damn! I forgot! They had just showed her some pictures of their pig, which they had got at six weeks old and it was really cute and they really loved it. Once it gets old enough and big enough, they plan to kill it, butcher it and eat it. They won’t feel bad, they said, the pig is being given a lot of love as it lives and because of this it will taste even better. Once I got back on my bike and started to pedal, I realized my leg muscles were growing stiff and a bit sore. Just a short while ago, I was mostly bedridden for three months and I still have always to go, so decided I had better not push it too hard, too fast. I added only another mile and a half to my 15 mile bike ride, not 5 miles. I think that was enough for now. This is Bill Hess, @billhess, posting for @burndiary from Wasilla, Alaska. #abbyshomecooking #pig #wasilla#wasilla #restaurant
1966 Norfolk, Virginia. Hot summer. I lived with this family and published a small book Tell It Like It Is. Book sale price at the time $2. Money was to go for aid to poor. The reprinting this fall will also include the 38 contact sheets to make it valuable as a work book for young photographers . I was 22 when I made this work.