inside/outside

i am this morning having my coffee in London….just trying to figure out the weather patterns….i have seen three different "seasons" in just the last three hours…from warm sunshine to cold windy black skies and everything in between…i mean, what kind of job could being a UK "weather forecaster" possibly be??

however, this post is not to be about changing weather patterns, but about changing cultures, although i am really starting to think that weather and culture are totally interconnected…would Charles Dickens have written about the same stories  had he lived in Tahiti??  but, i digress…

my ancestors came from these British Isles….clamored onto small ships and ended up in the Americas looking for freedom and a new life…i cannot trace my family back to anyplace specific in the U.K., but my name is no surprise to anyone here…."Harvey" fits right in….belongs….

yet, i have never done any photography whatsoever in the land of my heritage…nor, have i even been to Ireland or Scotland where my bloodline also extends…there are a whole bunch of family names connected to me from both places….but so far, i have just not felt "the pull"….i just have not been compelled…

a few weeks ago, one of the comments from a reader here suggested that photographing a culture other than your own just could not be as well done as by someone who was actually a "part" of that culture…"inside"…one of them….the comment even went on the say that perhaps as photographers we did not even have the "right" to be so bold as to even attempt "identification" with a culture other than our "own"…

of course, even the word "culture" means basically three things or a mixture of the three…nationality, race, religion…so, in my case  as an American, where in the world would i begin my "identification" ?? the cliché  "melting pot" concept is , in fact, clear reality….and is becoming more of a reality in most countries of the world….

i am very interested in your comments regarding any of us to have the "right" to photograph "outside" of our own "territories"….sure we have the freedom to do so, curiosity drives us,  but can we really "see" through someone else’s eyes?  or , does it even make any difference at all??

for my work, i have photographed both "outside" and "inside" by own "culture"…probably , well surely, leaning towards the "outside"  …. what about you?  do you find yourself leaning in one way or the other?

if you do go "out", what gives  you the sense that you can portray another nationality, race, or religion in any meaningful way, or even have the intellectual  "right" to do so???

205 Responses to “inside/outside”


  • Dear David,

    The mixture of weather in London echoes the mixture in cultures that reside in the UK. More than anywhere (except for maybe New York) there is no one identifying ‘culture’ in London. So, when I am there and I photograph, I am not only photographing ‘my’ culture, the one in which I was brought up, but I am also photographing the culture of many many other groups of people who have brought their own cultures to the UK to enrich our original one. So, I find it quite difficult to answer this question in the context of London, England, the UK….’my’ culture. Is it all ‘my’ culture? Or is ‘my’ culture only the small village where I grew up for most of my childhood in the English countryside?

    I truly believe we have to discard the psychological and physical ‘boundaries’ that such things as geography and religion create. They are already too readily used as divisive powers in our world. If a Chinese photographer for example, wants to go to Britain to try and understand British life more, then I shall embrace him/her and I hope the same is true as I try to work in China. I do not pretend that I will ever be accepted as Chinese, or I will look at an issue the same way as a Chinese photographer, but I hope I can be welcomed as someone who is trying to understand the culture and people more from my point of view.

    We can only be true in our purpose of photographing as a way to understanding the cultures and people around us, helping others to look at our photos to try to understand one-another better.

    Best,
    Sean

  • another great discussion…
    we and they, self and other, emic and etic, insiders and outsiders… or “what we talk about when we talk about culture”.
    i think this could be helpful… (links below)

    The concept of culture: Deeper than you think, (notes and comments on Kluckhohn and Middleton articles) by Bruce Owen, Department of Anthropology, Sonoma State University, in Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: Class 3, at
    http://bruceowen.com/introcultural/203-07f-03-ConceptOfCultureAndCultureShock.pdf

    “Finally, most cultural anthropologists agree that the goal of anthropological research must be the acquisition of both emic and etic knowledge. Emic knowledge is essential for an intuitive and empathic understanding of a culture, and it is essential for conducting effective ethnographic fieldwork. Furthermore, emic knowledge is often a valuable source of inspiration for etic hypotheses. Etic knowledge, on the other hand, is essential for cross-cultural comparison, the sine qua non of ethnology, because such comparison necessarily demands standard units and categories.“, by James Lett, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Florida Atlantic University, in Emic/Etic Distinctions, full article at http://faculty.ircc.edu/faculty/jlett/Article%20on%20Emics%20and%20Etics.htm

    um forte abraço para todos,
    Carlos Filipe

    PS. replace anthropologists by photographers…

  • david alan harvey

    SEAN….

    well, i have certainly lived my whole “photographic life” believing just as you wrote…but, there are other points of view on this and i hope we hear them….

    CARLOS FILIPE…

    i do not have the time to read this article right now…rushing airport…but, i will later tonight…sounds interesting for sure…

    ALL…

    here i have started a discussion, but cannot participate in it until tomorrow…flying back to New York tonight…that’s ok, i should have quite a few opinions to read by the time i get “home”…

    keep things rolling!!!

    cheers, david

  • Hope you had fun in London! I was there last week and managed to a) apply for Finnish citizenship, b) meet a lot of people, c) get banned of pubs. Lovely place. On the topic, I’ve been shooting in the UK for a few years now, I think I’m fairly in the places I shoot and although I might not understand them with the eyes of a local, I see quite many common points. I find it more interesting that once I’ve been here for a few years I see going back to Spain or Finland with renewed interest. Some things about daily life pop out by the reason of them being more unique than what I thought when I lived on that soil. It’s like the stuff I see in Cardiff that’s very unique about it, although much of it extrapolates to similar sized cities in the UK. Not sure if I try to make any point at all, apart of the fact that moving around is necessary for having standards to which compare and see the exceptional in the obvious. (Any more mongrels to speak up?)

  • David,

    I am from Eastern Europe, living now nine years in Western Europe. Cultural and historical differences in last more than fifty years were huge.

    I find out that more people from different cultures I know more I can understand their differences and commonalities. That makes it for me possible to understand even my own culture and people far better.

    Because I do not know and never will fully understand details to the depth I wish of to me, foreign culture, I can not declare I can represent it with my images perfectly.

    What I can, on other hand, is to better express my own culture and being able to do it in way people from different cultures and live experience can understand what I like to say.


    richard vanek

  • Me too David :) Just my two cents, or should that be two pennies?…Safe travels!

    Best
    Sean

  • hi david,

    how are you? good i hope.

    well as an anthropologist i find this very interesting indeed. it’s one of the long running issues within anthropology and is totally relevant to photography too.

    anthropologically speaking we would be dealing mostly with cultural relativism. the ethnographers, those anthropologist who go and live within another culture for a long period, often many years need to employ a framework to that culture in order to understand what is going on. one of these was cultural relativism. this was originally developed by franz boas in america and sought to introduce a more holistic approach to a cultures unique features and the need to penetrate the inner logic and inner reality of a culture in order to truly understand that culture. often this lead to anthropologist becoming advocates for the cultures they lived with; this was especially the case when placed i historical context: a time period when indigenous people were seen as being primitive savages etc.

    however, there are drawbacks with cultural relativism. it tends to lead to its practitioners viewing the cultures they study is closed systems that somehow exists in a unchanged state throughout time. this is a widely rejected as it is impossible for any culture to exist without some contact with the “outside” world. in this sense no form of universal human understanding could ever be reached. for an example of how cultures do mix just think of how language develops: english has words which were introduced by the french, the word castle is an example which was introduced after the norman conquest; english currency the pound and the measure of weight comes from a roman measurement the libra pondo, which was later corrupted in the germanic to punda and then to pound.

    it also has its ethical issues, since when taken to its logical extreme it is impossible for t here to be any ethical/moral judgement to be involved. if a society has developed separately from all others and is so totally unique then it is totally impossible for an outside to understand that societies moral framework. there is also the thorny issue of whether anybody studying another culture can do so without consciously or unconsciously including moral judgement.

    ultimately what it failed to see is that all cultures are living breathing entities and that there development takes place often as a result of outside influence. there is a constant interaction, confrontation where cultural systems rub off on each other.

    all of this is absolutely relevant to photography. ultimately i don’t think that any photographer can “live the story” to the extent that they really see it from the eyes of the people that are being photographed. what we share is the commonality of being human; there is something beyond the obvious cultural differences here. this allows the photographer to have a moment or two of shared feeling with the subject. but then at some point the photograph goes home; back to there life that he/she leads. a life which is probably a world away from the the life of their subjects.

    ethically speaking: i think this must come down to the individual. look at philip jones griffiths’ vietnam inc. here is a welsh man taking a very clear moral judgement on the actions of the usa’s government and armed forces as they fight a war in vietnam, a country whose people, by his own account PJG felt a great affinity with, even though they were vastly different from the culture that he grew up in. but then perhaps it took an “outsider” to see it? if we do not say that we have the right to photograph and therefore portray cultures other than our own then the wrongs that that some hope to hope right must be left to happen without comment. those who hope to show how similar we are beneath the obvious veneer must stop.
    what a dull and ugly world that would be.

    anyway, i think i’ve said quite enough for now. david will you be around london for the next few days? i’m around if you’d like to meet for lunch or something. i’ll email you my number.

    thanks

    jason.

  • David:

    My tought is, if you feel emotionally linked or involved with a diferent culture than yours, you can really succede documenting that culture in a deep way. I think it´s all about getting to know and feel, mixed with your own feelings and reflections about that culture or country. I’m thinking right now on your work when you documented my country (Chile) back in the 80′. You reflected very well what I would call a dark decade(no democracy, restrictions to freedom, and so on) here. But as I remember you once said that you were passing trough some personal changes or dilemas back there, and I think that this special mood really helped inproving your work during your assingment in Chile.
    I maybe wrong but the emotional attitude toward a culture/country, with some research is far more important than belonging or not to it.

    regards
    Jorge

  • Hi David, Hi all,

    London… place of my birth and upbringing, the place that helped shape me and the place I was always running away from, the cold & grey, the dampness… always falling in love with other cultures, India… California… Brazil…

    Visiting new cultures, for me, is always enthralling. At first I feel like I experience everything as hyper real, so fresh, the sounds, the smells, the light, everything is exciting. Maybe i’m too much a romantic but I love to travel.

    OUTSIDERS:
    Often ‘outsiders’ see things that ‘insiders’ don’t see anymore, or have a biased opinions towards. So in their naivety there is arguably a clarity. An ‘outsider’ can have an interesting ‘take’ on a culture that’s foreign.

    I suppose what counts is how that ‘take’ is presented.

    Something that comes to mind, as London has been mentioned
    is the work of an Indian artist Bhajju Shyam. He is from a the Gong tribe in central India and somehow he found himself being flown to London to paint a mural for an Islington restaurant. He’d hardly travelled outside his rural Indian village before this trip and to him everything in London was extremly surreal. He made a series of paintings, a travelogue of his impressions. This work found it’s way to an Indian Publishing house and was published as the book “The London Jungle Book” it’s a great little book, very amusing, quite fascinating to see how London life looks to a total outsider.

    This work could only have been done by an ‘outsider’.

    On the other hand sometimes working as an outsider can become sensitive. I mentioned in a previous post my own experience a few years ago on an assignment to photograph endangered Amazonian tribes. I felt very uncomfortable being there, I felt
    confused an emotional. Being in contact with these tribes facing extinction because of outsiders and their greed, I wasn’t so sure that my being there was a good or helpful thing, however noble my intentions were.

    INSIDERS:
    Sometimes being an Insider is essential and valid too.

    Take Nan Goldin as an example. She photographed her ‘world’ her personal life, the highs and the lows. This type of work is only possible because it’s so personal, she’s a total insider and her work is engaging because of it’s intimacy and it’s grit.

    I guess it’s a lot to do with trust and gaining it.
    But also you need to be there, to be ‘present’ a lot of the time. As an insider you can read situations in a way an outsider couldn’t.

    Although i’m not altogether sure about that, if your a real sharp outsider maybe you can read situations and places just as well???

    David, I think somehow you are both, or you can float between both? Are you an outsider thats just very good at becoming an insider quickly? quick enough to still see with an outsiders perspective and quick enough to gain an insiders trust?

    cheers
    Sam

  • I don’t consider one easier than the other, or an advantage. I tend to learn a great deal from what ever the subject is, even my own culture. If its not my own culture it places me outside the box looking in, It allows me to give the subject a different prespective.

  • David,

    could one not also argue just the other way around? That an outsider often may have a better overview? Much like you don’t always appreciate the beauty of something that is always around you — Parisians tend to look at the Eiffel tower differently, just because they see it often and thus it is nothing special for them.

    You will say, of course, that if you are documenting Parisian culture, then this neglect of certain aspects of the French capital is one thing that defines it. But isn’t this contrast, the different perception of such aspects what makes an outsider “understand” the local/regional/national culture in the first place?

    It certainly helps me. Whenever I travel to places I have never been before, I tend to let curiosity be my guide. Go to the Eiffel tower; no French there; go to the little cafés next to the Trocadero; still hardly a French soul to be found; where are they?; go to the riverbank of the Seine, late afternoon, a bit away from the tourist spots; there you find them parcour, capoeira, break dance, chilling. By starting from the top I have enough time to reset my brain and loose my preoccupations and prejudices.

    In my own (German) culture I would always be much much more preoccupied and prejudiced (assuming that I am not photographing something that is eminently “near” to me). I would argue that it is hard work to loose such sentiments just as it is hard work to learn about and understand a “new” culture. Curiosity, however, helps a lot in trying to get “into it”.

    I would argue that an outsider can, naturally, never identify with a culture other than his own. He may, however, even be able to find certain aspects, that an insider might not even be aware of. And by starting “from scratch” he might experience certain aspects much more intensely than an insider would. There will, just as naturally, always be certain (intimate) aspects of life that an outsider will never “get”.

    But is this not always the case, to a certain extent even with our friends/relatives/next door neighbours? Our (very) own “culture” is what defines our core — and thus influences even our *approach* to understanding “outside” values, beliefs, ethics, etc.

    Isn’t therefore an open mind, a willingness to let go of his own preoccupations and prejudices, and a curiosity to understand (in the deepest sense of the word) much more important than whether or not you are an insider or an outsider? In providing these fundamental preconditions it is also, in my opinion, that we gain the intellectual right to (photographically) approaching other cultures.

    Regards,
    Alex.

  • I find the most compelling images to be the ones that spring from the photographer’s empathy and supplant the divide, cultural or other…and remove the sense of other as much as is possible. For me, the photographers who are able to concentrate on subjects who are considered to be the other, and then offer the viewer the understanding of the existing oneness are the masters of this magic. I was just reading somewhere, here? about how 3 people are involved in an image of another: the subject, the photographer and the viewer, and the force that comes is from a sense of connection between all three.

    Can you really ‘see’ through another’s eyes, especially with a camera in front of your own? Seems to be a Herculean effort, but perhaps one of the more beautiful reasons for persisting with image making. Back for a second to the discussion of visually loaded subjects, I suppose I see ‘culture’ as another layer in that onion, one that can be used to make a provocative photo, but an external trapping/bonus just the same.

    Interestingly, those images that capitalize on the sense of other, a la Parr, where the mere strangeness of being supersedes the strangeness of the cultural unknown, pack a lot of power as well.

  • What gives us the itellectual right is “perspective”. When I make photographs and share them with you, you see what I saw…and if I’m really good…sometimes you feel what I felt.

    Photographs, reagardless of who takes them, can help us see/feel what it is like to be someone/somewhere else…another race…another religion…another nationality. BUT far more effectively when the photographer immerses themself in the activities of the culture.

    I take much better photographs when I get involved… a participant instead of an observer.

    I think you should add food, sports, music and weather to your list of culture identification. Why? Because I think culture is more appropriately defined by what the people are passionate about…the things and activities they center their lives around. It could be race, religion, nationality…but it’s also deeper than that. I add weather to the list because it really seems to affect people’s moods and outlook on life.

    If I as the photographer am not passionate about (or at least get involved enough to try and understand why people are passionate about) the same things and activities, I probably will not be able to document the culture as effectively as someone who shares like passions.

    I can give you my “take” on it, my “perspective”…but I’m afraid that my photographs may go lacking something.

    To be perfectly fair though, my “outsider’s perspective” may occasionally be equally as interesting photographically.

  • “We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time”

    I think there is much merit to both exploring outside your neighborhood and exploring within it. Early anthropology was certainly ethnocentric and imperialistic, but in the process of seeking to understand the logic and meaning of others’ worlds, people like Turner, Meade, Geertz, etc, made astounding revelations about the relativity of the human experience. And with that new understanding, the field has turned a new eye on the Western experience, and seen it with a fresh perspective; we are now able to see ourselves from the point of view of the other, with a more critical understanding of the ephemeral nature of things that we once took for granted as plain truth.

    In terms of photography, traveling and exploration gives you fresh eyes. A friend of mine in Venice told me recently that he enjoyed seeing his city through my eyes and even envied that I could notice things that were under his nose every day. Most people, when they are caught up in their lives, tend to filter out the kinds of small occurrences and details that a vigilant photographer looks for. When you are traveling, especially as a photographer, you are an open vessel, and those sorts of things are much more apparent to you. You may not have the complex understanding of events around you that an insider might have, but you have a much more visceral reaction to them, and that can translate strongly in photographs, so that a photograph that you took because of a gut feeling might have even deeper meaning and significance to one who knows the situation fully.

    Coming home, if you can manage to keep that “eyes wide open” attitude, you can then look on your world with fresh eyes, and maybe see things that you might not have noticed before. Last week I was walking home from the neighborhood bar, something I rarely do because I’m not usually a big drinker, and I noticed three or four houses on my own street that I’d never noticed before.

    As far as cultural sensitivity is conscerned, I ironically feel a lot more cultural sensitivity at home than I do when traveling. To me, the commercial fishermen in my area, or the denizens of the rural farm communities inland, are as foreign to me as the French masqueradors I photographed in Venice this winter. If we were all confined to photographing what or who we truly know, most of us would have a portfolio full of friends and family–maybe business associates– and little else.

  • pierre yves racine

    Hi !

    I wouldn’t say there is, on the one hand, the outsider and, on the other, the insider.

    Being insider / outsider depends on so many things, apart from nationality, religion, etc.

    Take Sam’s example of Nan Goldin. She’s often thought of as THE photographer from within. And to a certain extent she is, since she took pictures of her friends. When compared to the work of most photojournalist, it seems intimate and close. But she was photographing people (often couples), and therefore she must have had some kind of distance.

    I mean that, even if you take pictures of your own family, there are moments when you are not “in it”, you feel like a stranger.

    On the other hand, you can be on the other side of the planet and connect with the place !!

    It depends on so many things : nationality, religion, but also your age, the experience you have with people, your mood, etc. etc.

    So here again, relativism…

    Now, how much more difficult is it to take pictures of people “like you”. If you push this idea a bit further, you end up photographing yourself, and that’s it…

    Which is why I think we have the right to look at other cultures. It all depends on how you do it, and for which purposes.

    Is it for exotism ? (cf bill burke’s “I want to take picture”) Is it out of curiosity ?

    I think this is what really matters, and what will help us knowing which pictures to take, and which pictures not to take.

    Also, concerning the idea of only photographing people like you, I think it comes from the idea that the more you’re invloved in a siuation, the better you know it, and the better your analysis of it…

    This is wrong !

    In France in the 1980’s, there was a debate when death penalty was abolished. Robert Badinter, a french lawyer, said that the more invloved you were in a criminal affair, the less entitled you were to have an opinion about death penalty.
    It was rather shocking to say that, but he simply wanted to say that people were too affected to judge…

    I think this can be true with photography : you may have a clearer vision when you’re a stranger…

  • pierre yves racine

    … but being a stranger does not necessarily mean being a foreigner. It may depend more on the state of mind, mood, etc….

  • I suppose that if what you see is what you get, you can always blame the outsider for not seeing everything or even this or that, but if “what is essential is invisible to the eyes”, that famous St Exupery quote so many photographers make their own, then everything opens up to “what you see”, not “what you should see” (this, you can do by looking, but looking ain’t photography). Heyhey, here’s my “what” again…

    and BTW, if being an outsider prevents from getting the inside, would that prevent the insider to stay an outsider? I remember saying that last this subject came. In many ways, the photographer is the ultimate outsider in any culture, his/her very own. That very snap of a second you see and click is an outsider’s act.Yet photography is the craft of looking in, never out. What does this tell us on the relevance of being from and being out?

    Not the only one, but Martin Parr has to be the consumate exponent of being an outsider in one’s own culture, BTW (on top of an outsider in many others. no one would think he gets one better than the other). And afford us an inside view you couldn’t get inside out!

    Wow, strong coffee this morning! ;-)

  • If I go out and start photographing other cultures (in my experience, other ethnic inside my country), I would be stranger for the first time, and still I won’t be a local, although I would start feeling like local… Even if so, the pictures would be also, not all but some, filled with “the fog of stereotype”, according Bill Kovach’s words about the truth in news.

    I quite agree with Bill Kovach about the stereotype inside our minds. And I think that would also be happened to other photographers. Nachtwey’s works about the poverty maybe filled with the stereotype that people working in the dumpsite of Jakarta should be poor. In fact, alot of them, has motorcycles, cell phones, mp3 player, etc. And those things could mean luxury for Nachtwey’s subject, and maybe they feels that they were rich. Also the subject “poverty”, how can someone describe/define poverty? Does it mean “having less than what we have”? or “living in circumstances, which are not as good as my own”?

    But of course, not everyone can tell things through photographs, that’s why the world need photographers, don’t it?

    Based on my own opinion, I started also thinking about photographing my own bloodline…I’m still in my own research phase… There is so much to find and maybe so deep to dig. And maybe, I have my own stereotype of people in my cultures…

    Of course, a “stranger” who photographs another culture/group which is not his own offers a new standpoint, perspective, which locals would not have, or would not realize because the thing is “too common” for their eyes and minds.

    The earth is round like a ball (almost), like my old teacher used to say… and we can see it from any perspective… but as long as we are on this earth, even if we see from different positions, we would face a small part of it.

    But I think, we all have the rights to see things, places, cultures through our own perspectives. Just don’t try to find the truth by yourself, and just let our works be the additional thinking to all of us to see clearly. Say it for locals or “strangers”.

    critics and opinions welcome.
    regards
    suryo wibowo

  • Hello Mr Harvey and welcome to my country, except you have left already, so I hope you had a good trip. Here’s the thing about being inside-outside that struck me with your question. I have just returned to the UK after 6 years in Japan and feel like an outsider in my own country now.

    It took a while to get used Japan, and I’m not sure if anyone really ever gets that deep into Japan but as I walk around my home town these days I am feeling a little intimidated at the differences I find. I’m a little culture shocked to be honest. Not only the weather changes rapidly it seems; things here seem more brutish and greyer than when I left; even as a million day-glow yellow jackets and signs have sprung up everywhere.

    The reflective yellow, I’m sure wasn’t so ubiquitous before and was my first photo when I got back. But in reality perhaps nothing else is actually any different, I am just seeing it anew. I think my hometown was always brutish and grey which is why I left it in the first place. I think we need to stand a little outside of the culture or country we photograph (even our own) to see what is interesting there because to be too deep is to lose sight of the things that would be of interest to those we want to look at and buy our photos. My home town has many stories of deprivation and hope and ugliness and beauty but we have to empathize and endeavour to be accepted by the culture and people around us, as Erica said, for it to show us its best, most worthy images. I was not part of Japan but grew a deeper love of the place after a while and it accepted my voyeurism, which was intimate of course, but also gave me the right amount of distance for clear thought. I need to keep in mind what this is for when I shoot. I cannot be part of it all too much. My doubts about my ability to do anything here is more than that the place is newly unfamiliar, indeed that is its most attractive part, no it is that I cannot yet find the power to care about it enough to do the stories it deserves, maybe because I know it too well.

    I like to learn about something new all the time; to be invited into, even a small way, the lives of unfamiliar people. That invitation is hard earned and gives us the moral right if you ask me. I loved your smile post for making contacts for good photos but true access, I am learning, is much more than a smile; it is a contract where the photographer accepts that he must take only what the subject is prepared to give. I am sure I will find something here to shoot because I am looking, hard. Problem is that the experiences to be had, even those that I know nothing directly about, have always been part of my landscape and still feel depressingly familiar. I know you will tell me to look harder I am, the many years abroad have given me the requisite distance to be able to do that and I really want to find stories and can certainly empathize in my current state. Plus the language, for the most part, is easier. But if I had lived here all my life it would have been harder I think to justify my interest in those around me to those around me.
    Many Thanks and a safe trip home.
    Damon

  • DAVID..

    Hard question, but I don’t believe it matters that much. If you’re a good photographer I think you’can do good both outside and inside your own culture. I actually think that an “outsider” might to a better job because it will be easier for them to see what’s unique about that culture. The problem is that westeners usually shoot their own countries, but wouldn’t it be cool if some bush people or eskamoes came to NYC and did some street shooting?

    Cheers

  • Also, I’m very impressed by Martin Parr and Lars Tunbjörk that are able to shoot their own culture and timeline in such an amazing way. Really seeing from an “outsiders” perspective. Photographers like those two are very very valuable allthough they might not get the most credit today..

  • David, when i started to read your post i had a lot of fun because i have Master of Science in Geography and my Thesis Title was “Climate Change in Great Britain”… no kidding! :-)

    Regarding to second part of your post… I was taking photographs both “outside” of my country, religion and culture and “inside”… i like both kinds of photography. Sometimes i think it’s more interesting to shoot about other culture but than i always realize i have knowladge about my culture bigger than about islam (which i started to photograph) for example and it’s easier to comunicate with people in your own language… but from the other hand i see those things with different perspective, abroad everythink is new for me… also sometimes people are more open for somebody from abroad…
    hmm.. I can not decide what i preffer and what i like more…
    everytime i came back from abroad i realize that it’s so easy to shoot in Poland, i can call everywhere, i can talk with everybody… and it’s a lot! I don’t need anybody to take me to some places, to translate…
    there are advantages and disadvantages of both kinds of photography…

  • “….sure we have the freedom to do so, curiosity drives us, but can we really “see” through someone else’s eyes? or , does it even make any difference at all??”

    I like when people go through life with ideas in their mind… because our world is deprived of any ideas… ideas exist and arise only in human’s minds

    is there somewhere in space any rules that people or photographer have to or must do?

    why we should or have to see anything by through someone else’s eyes?

    why we should find any truth?

    why we should be the part of something to taking pictures… to show ours pictures people who never will see and never will understood truth about our subject as we are?

    if I’m going to shooting drug addicted community… I have to “take a shot” or addicted myself? is that only way to show how miserable they life is?

    or maybe I have to kill someone to take a pictures on war?

    or maybe I should pee on tree when I want shoot dogs?

    or maybe people who looking at my dog pictures should pee on tree?

    indeed… when I will find supreme truth about my subject, when I captured this deep wisdom about outside culture i should show my pictures…. but who will understand my devotion?
    people will see just exotic pictures…

    indeed… everyone will see something different…

    indeed… this post is about how close we should get to say that our pictures showing truth about some cultures…

    short story….

    One time some BBC television from US. came to Poland… they have seen many pictures of farmer who plow soil with horse and wood plough (pictures from end of 80’), so they figures out that this will be great story… poverty in polish countryside… so they came to Poland drive to countryside and then see four big brand new air-conditioned Lamborghini tractors and a few race horses….
    So they fly away with nothing story….
    This is truth story…

    So… if I know where should I go to shoot some farmers (this few) who plow soil with horses and wood ploughs then I will show truth about my cultures? My country? My countryside? About me?
    Or maybe should I shoot this Lamborghini tractors only and forgot about poverty in polish countryside? About people who living with 200$ per month in pocket?
    Where is my true cultures? My true country?

    But… if I will be very talented photographer I will go to morocco and I will met people who showing me they true life, I will have some great time great fun… they will feel natural with me they will show me how their world looks like… and then I will come back to Poland and I will work hard to show how my life looks like the same way… drug addicted… farmers…. Nurses… bakers… I have the same knowledge about them like about Muslim people… we only talking in the same language…

    I was working with transsexual persons and they are more strange to me than Muslim and the same closed like all Arab’s world are.
    But… so what?

    So who is inside and who outside… and for who?

    Peace

    Ps. For me all other people are outside… only I am myself inside…
    So my dear strangers…

  • Maybe at this point, it is not too much of a pun to difference between “typing” and “impressing”. For all the great, telling, pictures a photographer can take, it may be more the writer/novelist’s dilemma to give sense and understanding to a place, and then, yes, he/she probably needs to be inside, foreigner or local.

    So in typing/writing, there is definitely a concrete task at work regarding accuracy of judgement, whereas impressing light on a sensor, the quirkiness, the elusiveness of the media gives you a much wider berth to impress things, feelings, “reality” on others (but also yourself, as you may “get” the place/moment not as you shoot, but after, seeing your images).

    Photography needs not be accurate to be true.

  • David and All

    This topic and this thread have certainly brought out some fine thoughts and writing from a large number of contributors! Very impressive… the blog just keeps getting better. Much of what I could say would echo other posters, and I’m still working under a heavy deadline so I will keep it RELATIVELY short, even though I’d love to wax loquaciously on this topic. First, special mention to thoughtful comments by Jason Hobbs, Sam Harris, Alex Hofmann, Chris Bickford, Damon Coulter, and Suryo Wibowo in particular… but I don’t mean to slight anyone else by any means. And Aga, it is a great pleasure to me that you are once again an active contributor to this discussion!

    Just a couple of thoughts: this business about crossing cultural lines and coming up with images of value and insight… Strikes me that it is probably easier to do this with photography than almost any other form of expression and communication. Think about if you posed this same set of questions and problems to painters, novelists, poets, musicians, dancers, even filmmakers… I think it would be far harder to cross ‘cultural boundaries’ in those media and still come up with something that both ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ would recognize as valuable. Don’t have time to go into lots of examples, but I’m sure many of you can fill in the blanks!

    The other thought I don’t have time to develop now but which I think is highly relevant is this:
    ‘Culture’ is so nebulous an idea… and maybe it has to be. The so-called boundaries of cultures are largely illusions- the more you try to define them, the more they evaporate into mosaics and melanges of complexity and variation. The fact is most of us live in a number of ‘cultures’ simultaneously or at least serially. There are the cultures defined by bloodlines, language, religion, food, marriage customs, music and dance, traditional livelihoods… and I think that’s the general notion of ‘culture’ being largely discussed here… but increasingly what we see in the world are cultures defined rather less by those things and more by economic level, education, consumerism, mobility, and generational differences. And something that is interesting to me is that photography and filmmaking, and to some extent popular music, have played crucial roles in creating this new, more cosmopolitan, less limited by linguistic or ethnic boundaries, type of culture. The young, educated, urban elites of the world’s major metropolises have developed a culture that translates from London to New York to Buenos Aires to Capetown to Mumbai to Bangkok to Seoul to Tokyo… yes, there are local differences and flavors (and different local climates too!) but these people have more in common with each other, on different continents, than they do with uneducated country farmers living only 60 miles away in their own country. And more in common with each other than with their own grandparents. Photography in its many manifestations… from photojournalism to food and fashion, photo ID’s, advertising, and yes pornography (face it, it’s a major industry)… has broken down the previous cultural barriers, especially the linguistic ones, with a universal visual language. Yes, there are local dialects of that visual language which are different, and some people are far more articulate and deeply grounded in using and reading that visual language than others… but photography and pop music come as close to being universal languages as anything we have developed so far.

    I’m hoping many of you will pick up on this idea and run with it as a possible counterpoint to the ideas already expressed. Needless to say I will rejoin the discussion when I can!

    Cheers!

    Sidney

  • I think the questions of one’s “right” to photograph another culture and the matter of being an insider or an outsider are firmly Western elite concerns. “We” have the choice and the resources to decide whether or not we want to photograph in a Brazilian favela or Parisian banlieue or among a different community in our own home towns. (Yes, it’s expensive to do so, but we all have the luxury of taking pictures instead of breaking stones.)

    This is more a question of class than culture. Photographing the middle-class of a different culture doesn’t usually provoke such concerns. It’s only when we photograph the poor (which is also a different culture) that we worry about whether or not it’s okay to do so. The power differential is obvious to us, and we worry about it.

    So when we (and I surely include myself here) photograph among the world’s poor, because we find their culture interesting, aren’t we really just satisfying our own curiosity? Even if we have noble, altruistic intentions, the image is still as much about the photographer as it is about the subject.

    I don’t really think these are moral questions or ones having to do with rights. I photograph almost exclusively in cultures other than my own and don’t pretend that the work is anything more than my own personal perspective. Photography is wholly subjective.

    What would be really interesting would be to see photography from the bottom up instead of the top down. Instead of photographers in New York getting a big grant to do a project, say, on the slums of Asia, why not give that money to a young photographer from an Asian slum to photograph in New York? And give the shooter access to all the things that tend to get shot around here, like Fashion Week, charity galas, fundraisers for the Metropolitan Museum, the Tribeca Film Festival. Would we worry about this person’s “right” to take these pictures?

    I’ve seen all the slum pictures I care to see. I admire many of them and have a shot a few myself. But seeing New York through a truly different set of eyes — now that would be cool.

  • While an ‘insider’ may be able to do a better job than an ‘outsider’ in some cases, ‘insiders’ can become blinded to what actually is unique in their own culture. I think you really have to be passionate about your subject matter to make great photographs. Hence the reason I am writing this on my Mac from a hotel room at 12.30 AM in Iasi, Romania, 20 km from the Moldovan border! I simply am not passionate about the US or its culture. I am drawn to the East and therefore I think I have a right to do what makes me happy. Whether or not I accurately portray the place is another story, but everything is subjective! I feel I have a right to photograph in places that enliven me, that ‘start me up’ as oppose to deaden me (US mass consumer culture + Bush).

  • Well put Sidney. That’s very true and also what really interested me in Tokyo where there is massive cultural ghettoisation of fashions and hobbies to various towns and districts of the city.
    Class and wealth have always been like that everywhere and that was part of what my own example in the UK was about. My hometown is poor, and so am I at this moment, yet I have a camera and a perceived tourist ethic which instantly puts me outside of my own culture.
    The people are like me demographically but are not like me too. In Japan it was easier to get closer because of my race, in the UK trying to get close seems uncomfortable for the subject almost as if any interest is a form of judgement on the way thay have chosen to live. Now as a ersatz foreigner I feel I could probably get closer. Nick Danziger in “Britain- a journey to the edge” said something similar about his American-like accent being an advantage more than a disadvantage. I don’t know I haven’t put it to the test yet.
    Damon

  • I feel as though I can photograph another culture far better than I can my own. I personally am more aware of how different and unique other cultures are when I am in them, opposed to when I am in my own.

  • Preston,

    Yes, Indeed!

    sidney

  • pierre yves racine

    Hervé wrote :

    “That very snap of a second you see and click is an outsider’s act.”

    In a way, this is true and I perfectly see what you mean, Hervé.

    But don’t you think that you can sometimes be “in it” while you photograph ?

    The 1st time I realized this was at a d’Agata exhibition at the Galerie Vu in Paris. There was a picture where you could clearly see that he was actually “making it” while taking the picture.

    So I think that I would agree with your quote from a conventional standpoint ie the photographer sees something, so he moves a few steps backwards (physically or “intellectually”) and takes a picture.

    But sometimes you’re more of an actor than a photographer.

    BTW I realize that I have moved on something slighlty different from what David originally asked : the question of being a witness and/or an actor while taking a picture. A question which has always fascinated me.

    While writing this, Szarkowski’s Mirrors and Windows also comes to mind :

    Surely we can photograph ourselves (our inside) while photographing others (the outside)…

    pY.

  • Hey David… can’t agree more about London weather… last week when i arrived the sun was shining and was pretty hot. The day after when I woke up, ready to spend all the day out (with Laura and Susanne) to shoot the protest was snowing like crazy!
    About your question… I think that of course we have the right to investigate about others cultures… when we choose to do it is, i guess, cause we are interested, curious, we want to learn…
    Sometimes we can really identify and see trough the eyes of those people, sometimes not… is just “karma”. But of course remaining an “outsiders” is not always bad… is different… if we can become part of oures subjects it will come out a personal work if we remain “foreigners” it will come out something more objective, less emotional, but probably more documentary. Give a bigggggggg kiss to Laura, have a nice trip back and thank you soooooooooooooo mutch again 4 the hepl!
    Albertina

  • Don’t know why TLP came out… I am having such a bad computer period… I even fegured out that the software I was using to resize pictures in batch changed the colors :-/

  • Because of my training/life experience, I find myself considering your question through two lenses, that of social worker and that of a photographer.

    As a social worker I was trained to stand apart, to examine what I was hearing from a client within the context of what I knew of their lives. The more I knew, the better I could understand what they were saying. And the better I understood, the more effectively I could hold up a mirror so they could see themselves and their life circumstances in a more objective way. It was my place to remain an outsider, albeit a caring outsider, but not someone intimately involved in their life. The ultimate intention was to make yourself dispensable so that, as soon as possible, these people could get on with their lives without your help. The ethics of being an outsider, that’s what I tried to cultivate.

    I bring much the same consciousness to my work as a photographer. Even when the subjects might be friends or even myself, I see my responsibility as one who stands apart, one who sees through the clear eyes of an outsider. Yes, I like to develop a feeling of comfort with my subject–I am a “people person,” after all–but I can’t be in their pocket. There is no light or perspective there. And, as with social work, the better I understand them (or myself), the more effectively I can show their essence to those who see my photographs. Again I am a mirror reflecting who they are and the lives they lead, in this case not back to them but to the world at large. As an ethical outsider I am required to make that reflection as accurate and respectful as I can.

    So, to answer your question–an excellent one, in my opinion–I do not see being an outsider as a deterrent to photographing a people or culture that is not my own, not as long as I bring clear-sighted respect to the process.

  • Well, insular cultures sometimes make the best subjects because their internal workings are so seldom seen. The “right” to do something is completely arbitrary…I may say “No, it is not possible for an outsider to ‘get the drift’ of my culture as he or she is an outsider.” You may say, “As a detached (or attached) observer I am able to objectively document without prejudice or preconceived notions.” I think as long as the subject is treated with respect, you have the right and ability to shoot whatever culture you like, whether it is your “own” or someone else’s culture, and you may even have the ability to do it as well or better than someone from that culture. I don’t think people “of” a certain culture are necessarily the most objective story-tellers. It’s too easy for them to be distracted by their own romantic notions of “their people.” *gag*

  • hi david. unlike jason, i’m not an anthropologist. but my wife is and i suppose she’d have something to say about your question. but she’s busy with her university classes so you’re left with me and my very unscientific take on the matter ;-) anyway, i think there is something to being a member of a particular culture. i mean whether you like it or not you will grow up with an innate knowledge of that culture. there’s nothing you can do about it, you’ll have that knowledge embodied from day one. so in that sense your view of your own culture will be more intimate than a visitor’s perspective. but i’d also like to propose that a visitor could attain a similar intimacy given the proper openness, receptivity, and sensitivity. the flipside of that can also be valid: someone native to a culture could be so dense as to not fully grasp the meanings found in his own culture. for example, a filipino who grew up in the upper stratum of philippine society will likely be “americanized” and his photographic eye will probably have a western tint. i’m not proposing any theory here, lest the social scientists (my wife included) start thrashing me ;-)

    bj

  • Hi David.

    I’m a humanist at heart. I don’t think this “race” or this culture has a right to this or a right to that, nor do I think that this other “race” or culture has no right to this or to that…we are of the human race. We are virtually identical genetically. We have different traditions, different mores, yes…but we cry, laugh, love, and unfortunately hate the same.

    We do art. We do politics. Have sex. We communicate. We perform great good and indescribable harm.

    I don’t believe we need to see through others eyes. We see through our own quite well enough. We interpret. We convey. Sometimes well, sometimes not so well. But it is what we do. And should do. Should do more! It is what makes us human.

    On a lighter note… to DAVID, PANOS, TOM HYDE et al…

    Thanks so very much for your thoughts, ideas, insights, encouragement, and helpful hints regarding my time in the City of Light. Will be putting together about twenty photos for your perusal soon! No clear cut story…just tried to make some interesting images. With your help, (very generous help!)I hope I succeeded.

    Be back in a couple days!

    Peace,
    -M

  • I’ll start with a quote. Diane Arbus apparently said: ‘ The farther afield you go, the more you are going home… as if the gods put us down with a certain arbitrary glee in the wrong place and what we seek is who we had really ought to be.’
    Those of us that lived long spells in far away places from where we were born, outside quickly becomes inside and inside becomes outside. Older I get everything and everywhere becomes a big outside. Reading the posts above, it disturbs me how many times the words culture (“outside culture”, wtf is that?), religion, race and nationality come up…

  • and who is ever not an outsider
    for once we were not and then we became,
    now we are now and then we will not;
    twinned:
    the back and forth,
    always, the long sought hum, the same.

    the far afield, the home unboned,
    our endless unmeasured measuring songline to each, always, our roam…..

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/73821181@N00/2415358274/

    off line for some time…..wearied of words, but still humming….

  • DAVID SAID:

    “…for my work, i have photographed both “outside” and “inside” by own “culture”…probably , well surely, leaning towards the “outside” …. what about you? do you find yourself leaning in one way or the other?…”

    I SEE GUILT , in your words David…
    I see frustration and determination…

    I FEEL JUST LIKE YOU DO….
    “America has not been photographed or “honored” photographically yet… to that “level” that really really deserves…”

    I think that David is ready for the “ODYSSEY”…
    We need to photograph,
    we need to record
    we need to do the “ULTIMATE ROADTRIP” AROUND AMERICA…

    when i think of America ( my own home , now )…
    I think of Ansel Adams.. enough of that bullshit…

    Someone has to do this, David…
    and it seems that you ARE THE CHOSEN ONE…

    I wanna get involved … and drive … SOBER…

    … time to honor the “INSIDE CULTURE”… (Veba, i know you hate the word culture ( i agree ) – sorry…)…

    MICHAEL K…
    WELCOME HOME… i cant wait to see your photos…
    but , of course , i will wait…

  • “…for example, a filipino who grew up in the upper stratum of philippine society will likely be “americanized” and his photographic eye will probably have a western tint…
    “Posted by: Bj A. Patino | April 14, 2008 at 09:18 PM

    thank you BJ… great examples..,.

    PEOPLE… , I’M AFRAID , THAT THIS WORLD,
    IS NOT LACKING GREAT PHOTOGRAPHERS…
    IT’S LACKING “PHOTOGRAPHERS THAT HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY”

    … for example, here in our forum…
    I’m so intrigued, i can’t wait to see AGA’S Islam… project…
    I do not want AGA… to “sit on a fence”,…
    trying to be “fair”, honest, “neutral”… and all that…
    I want to see “position”, “take place”…like Jimmy Nachtwey…
    or PHILIP BLENKISOP… PASSION… (PAOLO P. kinda passion)

    Ultimately,
    i might have to disagree with BJ, regarding that “western tint”..
    I would call it… “safe nonsense tint”

    peace

  • DAVID,

    When we go “outside” our own culture, should we even try to see through somone else’s eye or should we rather provide our own vision… ultimately our vision is always somewhat subjective and only provides a personal point of view on a topic, a culture, it is OUR view of the world, rather than “THE” truth….this is why it is interesting to see how various photographers would actually cover a “similar” topic…. David Alan Harvey covering Thailand or whatever other culture would likely be very different vs James Nachtwey covering the same culture… Neither one of you would probably portray the THAI culture in its entirety…you would likley each decide to provide a meaningful interpretation of what inpires you, catches your eyes, happens to be consistent with the message or vision you want to put forward….It would be the DAH view of the world, smell of the place as opposed to THE way the place is…I do not know if I am making any sense here but this is what I would be looking for anyway….I love Divided Sould because it is your view of the Spanish world….your truth rather than THE truth….

    Cheers,

    ERIC

    PS: on an unrelated topic…I was just reading last week-end recent book from Annie Griffiths Belt that you did mention recently (A camera, two kids and a camel). Not my favourite pictures but it was interesting to see her work and read her about her life as a photographer, traveling the world with husband and kids, certainly going outside her own culture as she went into Jordan, Middle East etc…In the early pages of her book she says “although I was the first women at National Geographic to take my kids on most assignments, I did have role models…Some of the guys had been quietly bringing their families for years, Dave Harvey told me that he’d packed a kid or two along wheneveer possible. He often mentioned how crucial those trips were in bonding with his sons Brian and Erin…” Real inspiration that you, Annie were able to do this… Who will be coming for the ride on your next journey? Will this be again a family bonding experience or is the lone ranger going to cross the US alone (assuming DAH can ever be alone for more than a day without bumping into a friend…) Keep us posted on the plans…. Eric

  • … “our” David for example…

    He “started” with a family…. he succeeded, … raised the family…
    worked for NATGEO…

    family responsibilities, successfully over…

    He, then “throws” himself in “deeper- lighter -higher -lower “, waters…
    “Sensuality, dance, love, is more now involved in his photos….
    think of “hip- hop”…. HIS book, his passion…

    I THINK WE HAVEN’T SEEN THE BEST OF DAH YET,…

    I THINK HE JUST STARTED…
    PEOPLE GET READY…..

  • Panos, I think you are right here!!!!
    Eric

  • ERIC… sorry for interrupting… but,
    NEVER ATTEMPT TO USE “ANYONE ELSE’S EYES”…

    and ALSO there is TRUTH….
    not just MY or YOURS or DAH’s TRUTH….
    but there is TRUTH….

    ( otherwise we wouldn’t even communicate or talk right now…)

    p.s: some ( many ) people CONFUSE this with GOD… that’s a joke…
    p.s.2: there is no such word as “GOD” in my vocabulary…
    peace

  • Bob, i’m tired missing your fucking awesome, fearless comments..
    but i also know that… YOU HAVE TO BE FULL, BEFORE YOU START SHARING, GIVING, POURING….
    I love you Bob,
    YOU ARE THE MAN AND THE WRITER…
    ( I’m a lier and a thief… I steal other people’s comments… i twist them, i make a lemonade, i make a song… all of my life Bob, i consider my self as a musician… all my comments are songs already.. music that i started writing since i was 15 years old…
    until.. i found jesus… kiddin’ SCRATCH THAT…!!!! UNTIL I “discovered” photography… MAGNUM photography…. no TIMES magazine photography….)

    so Bob…. we need you….
    I also thought i was a comedian , until i “met” ARTIE Lang…
    this blog doesn’t need comedians or musicians…
    it needs photographers and writers like YOU…!!!!!

  • awesome , also, the “two KOREAN girls”… or whatever the title was…
    nice photos…. BOBB STYLE…
    Now i “see” what was i missing all that time…
    peace

  • PATRICIA,
    I think delivers the “perfect answer”…
    Loved your work Patricia Lay Dorsey…

    “…So, to answer your question–an excellent one, in my opinion–I do not see being an outsider as a deterrent to photographing a people or culture that is not my own, not as long as I bring clear-sighted respect to the process.

    Posted by: Patricia Lay-Dorsey | April 14, 2008 at 06:59 PM…”
    peace
    panos

    ps: I loved your post… please stop by , more often…!

  • This is a subject that has long been on my mind: outside versus inside view, cultural relativism, rights and responsibilities. Here’s my thoughts:

    It’s impossible for an inside view to be complete, for the same reason that a doctor can’t self diagnose. People have blind spots because of their history, fears, etc. Someone from outside a culture, outside a situation, can come in with fresh eyes and see it more clearly than someone with a history. People with that talent (photographers) are responsible for, among other things, showing things from this outside perspective.

    I’ve always thought cultural relativism (relativism in general actually, but that’s another topic) was wholly bunk because cultures can be dysfunctional, agents of violence even, and the people most likely to see it are those from the outside. Culture is open and evolving all the time, and it’s our responsibility as people to facilitate the exchange of ideas between cultures. To show the good and the bad. Wait, isn’t that what we do?

    That said, I do think there is something important about knowing the people you photograph. Looking at the streets can give a feel for a place, but you don’t really know it until someone has asked you over for dinner, offered you a bed, etc. It’s the difference between being knowledgeable and not knowing what’s going on. That’s my opinion, though, and I know there are some photographers who are successful making pictures without knowing a single thing about their subjects.

    I could ramble a while longer, but I think that’s enough.

  • Hi David,

    I’m a Chinese American freelance photographer currently based in Beijing, China. I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now, but never made a comment. However, I would like to share my thoughts on the topic you have raised today.

    As a photographer who have worked both “inside” and “outside” my own culture, I believe above all, whether one photographs inside or outside one’s culture, he/ she must be compassionate and sensitive towards their subjects. This, unfortunately, is particularly hard when a photographer is working on a project in a foreign land, with foreign cultures.

    I feel that many times, the problem with photographers shooting foreign cultures is that all too often, they fall into photographing cliches out of their subjects. This is mostly due to a lack of research and a lack of a holistic understanding of the culture he/ she is working in. At the end of the day, it is easier to photograph what one wants to see out of their subjects, as oppose to what they really are or what they represent.

    The classic example of this is of foreign photographers working in China. Many times, while foreign photographers can produce stronger pictures than their local counterparts, their projects lacks a more in depth understanding that local photographers capture. This, unfortunately, creates a situation where finding projects where both pictures and its messages strong a relative rarity. Of course, this generalization is not applicable to all works from foreign photographers, nor am I exempt from this predicament.

    However, is it impossible to produce quality bodies of work when working in a foreign land or with foreign cultures? Of course not. I believe that with enough time, compassion, and research, photographers can produce enlightening bodies of work. At the end of the day, it comes down to whether or not a photographer is willing put in the effort, do the homework, and invest the time. Hi David,

    I’m a Chinese American freelance photographer currently based in Beijing, China. I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now, but never made a comment. However, I would like to share my thoughts on the topic you have raised today.

    As a photographer who have worked both “inside” and “outside” my own culture, I believe above all, whether one photographs inside or outside one’s culture, he/ she must be compassionate and sensitive towards their subjects. This, unfortunately, is particularly hard when a photographer is working on a project in a foreign land, with foreign cultures.

    I feel that many times, the problem with photographers shooting foreign cultures is that all too often, they fall into photographing cliches out of their subjects. This is mostly due to a lack of research and a lack of a holistic understanding of the culture he/ she is working in. At the end of the day, it is easier to photograph what one wants to see out of their subjects, as oppose to what they really are or what they represent.

    The classic example of this is of foreign photographers working in China. Many times, while foreign photographers can produce stronger pictures than their local counterparts, their projects lacks a more in depth understanding that local photographers capture. This, unfortunately, creates a situation where finding projects where both pictures and its messages strong a relative rarity. Of course, this generalization is not applicable to all works from foreign photographers, nor am I exempt from this predicament.

    However, is it impossible to produce quality bodies of work when working in a foreign land or with foreign cultures? Of course not. I believe that with enough time, compassion, and research, photographers can produce enlightening bodies of work. At the end of the day, it comes down to whether or not a photographer is willing put in the effort, do the homework, and invest the time.

    Thanks.

    Sheila

  • Oops, computer issues, sorry about the double post!

    Sheila

  • Oops, IT issues here – sorry for the double post!

    Sheila

  • At the end of the day, it is easier to photograph what one wants to see out of their subjects, as oppose to what they really are or what they represent.
    ——————
    Sheila, i hope you participate more often, what a great contribution, after great contributions from everyone, in all fairness. It is all more precious, given the beating China has taken lately internationally, which, fair or not, I understand is a vexing experience to many chinese around the world.

    That sentence, for me I excerpted, that’s what separates, figure of speech, the men/women from the boys/girls when it comes to photography, unless one makes it one’s subject to photograph what we want to see (Parr again).

    Pierre-Yves, there are exceptions to the rule, but I think the craft of photography is, IN A NUTSHELL, not that of participation (however you participate when the camera is not aimed), but a lone, individual act.

  • Robert McCurley said (previous page) “I take much better photographs when I get involved… a participant instead of an observer.”
    ok, i believe you. but i also believe that we can find in our own work (and/or stumble on other photographers work) great photos and stories where we were playing both roles – sometimes insiders, sometimes outsiders…
    let’s go back to anthropology 101: field work methods… it’s easy to accept as true that is best to be involved… to gain better access to people and situations… to be closer… to use a wide-angle lens (just kidding)… but sometimes… sometimes it’s better to be more detached… and there’s a full spectrum that goes from observers (just watching), observer-participants (asking questions and listening), participant-observers (actively participating in the situation) and full participants (joining in, sharing the daily life).

    i would love to read Katia Roberts on this… (you all remember her work… and words, a couple weeks ago…)

    but (i think) that’s not the point (yet)… so what is it that makes you happy and thrilled and with a good essay to add to your portfolio?
    maybe (and i know this sounds cliché) it’s like cooking, adding salt (or spices) to food… is it too much or too little? you should taste it… feel… experience… it’s a skill. and like other skills you have to train hard to excel and the most important rule: always use your better judgement.
    in the end, (you must remember this…) we’re all native… and there’s only one earth. or in Terence’s words “Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto” (i am a human being and nothing human is strange/alien to me).

    and now for something sompletely different… do you know that 2008 is (also) The European Year of Intercultural Dialogue? established by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, there’s a photo competition in the programme under the theme “Cultures on my street”, open to all EU residents. for those interested, deadline is June 30, more at http://www.street-cultures.eu/

    um forte abraço para todos,
    carlos filipe

  • one more thought.. few days ago i had idea to make a story about my father, he is 67 years old, about 12 years ago he had a bladder cancer, he has to have urinary catheter all the time plus since about 10 years he has a Parkinson… he goes out from home only time to time, he need my mother’s help to dress…he is spending most of his time watching tv…
    it will be perfect example of a story from “inside” but the thing is that i can not do it… i just don’t feel comfortable to photograph his illnes, i remember him as a strong and athletic person (he used to do a lot of sports)… maybe the problem is that i don’t accept that he got ill… i don’t know, but much nmore easy will be taking photographs of somebody else… I will feel quilty to take photographs about him

    so… maybe “outside” and “inside” is not only about culture, religion, language… but also about that how much you are inside the story, how much the story touch your life…

  • carlos: I think that’s the one in which the EU is playing it so safe that you need model releases with every picture…

  • I’ve been reading for a while and think it is time to join in here, so, greetings! I’m Simon, an amateur photographer in the best sense of the word—I love photography and photographing!

    I continue to be amazed by this site—such great questions and ensuing discussions. This is surely the internet at its best!

    On to the questions:

    Yes, I think we all have the ‘right’ to photograph at any territory we like, as long as we are respectful to its inhabitants and cause no harm. As an individual with your own mind and experiences your work will come from a different point of view—your own point of view—and will be different from others’ work whether they are locals or not. It will also be equally ‘valid’ work. Therefore I do not think being a visitor makes any difference to your ability to tell a story about a place or to the quality of your story.

    There are perhaps more opportunities for locals to gain access to what is happening in their own surroundings, but I think this is a matter of having more time by already being there, speaking the language, maybe having already built trust…

    A visitor from the outside could have their own advantages, such as a different point of view or just the simple act of seeing something somewhere else and trying to understand and taking that understanding with you in your life.

    I am not implying that traveling and photographing other places is better (though I AM biased toward it). Traveling is different. Certainly, moss gathereres and stones doomed to rolling all have their place (thank you, Gandalf the Grey, and the White!). Much great literature speaks about the importance of the voyage and how it lets you see your own ‘home’ in a new light…perhaps this bears upon your upcoming project, David?

    I was also in London last week, a place where I have lived briefly, and that I remember fondly from trips there in my childhood. I’m not sure why, but I had more difficulty photographing in London than in other places I’ve been. To me, there seems to be an underlying ‘bad vibe’ when photographing in London. Maybe it is a lingering feeling of the Anglo-Saxon ferociousness, or perhaps all the ‘security’ video cameras everywhere, or, most likely, just my own response to the place in the particular time.

    I too lean toward photographing places other than ‘my own’, though what my own ‘culture’ is is an open question. I have an English father and Brazilian mother and traveled extensively throughout my childhood. In my time in this world, I’ve become increasingly convinced that abstractions such as national identity and national borders cause more harm than good.

    Restrictive walls and borders should be banished!

    Variety and cultural differences, they should be embraced!

    An idealistic, perhaps naive view, and one I believe in nevertheless.
    Thank you for these discussions, David et al!

    2008 April 15
    Bracciano, Italy

  • david alan harvey

    HELLO ALL…

    there are so many thoughtful and truly intelligent comments coming in on this post, including some particularly inciteful pieces by readers who have not written prior….as a matter of fact, the word “comments” is no longer appropriate..these are not “comments”, but rather “thought pieces”…we have gone way way beyond “photoblog” here….i thank you..

    there is obviously no “right answer” to the “rights” any of us have to photograph beyond our doorstep…but the very nature of our “being” dictates not only a curiosity, but i think a responsibility, to look beyond our own environs…how and why a photographer or writer or a dentist or an accountant “steps out” is a totally personal “adventure”..

    to what extent the “representation” of said experience affects others or “shines a light” lies in the lap of the “storyteller” and in the interpretation of the “reader” or “listener”…there is no “correct” representation, but there is integrity and authenticity and “creative playback” by the “witness” to the so called “outside”…surely all of our education about the world at large, other than first hand personal experience, comes to us in exactly this way…

    it is our job to “edit” the good stories from the bad, the truthful from the propagandistic etc etc..some of this comes to us in the form of journalistic “facts” some of it comes to us in the form of personal poetic interpretation, either literary or visual…

    stories told by an “insider” looking out or by an “outsider” looking in seem to be of different but equal “value”…frankly, i love both…i do both…but, usually, my so called “outside” essays always started with some kind of “inside” key…my interest in Japan, and Asia in general, must have come from my Japanese artist roommate in college, my initial key to working so much with black Americans must have been because my best friend in junior high school was a shy black man who was an “outsider” in my school as was i…my interest in Spanish culture obviously came from my first trip outside my country to Mexico etc etc…i rarely, if ever, have just “parachuted” in a random way into another culture…there has always been a link…and my “own back yard” and my own family and early work has always given me the “touchstone” to move across the street and beyond…

    for me personally, i see only a WHOLE…i place the basic human experience way way beyond the parameters of nation, religion or race…all of the things with which we had no choice…the hand we were dealt…the things we were born into….all important to be sure, and all things that as photographers we must be very very aware of when looking “out”, but getting past these or seeing beyond these “parameters” is where i like to be….

    a mother’s caress is a mother’s caress…the look of young love is the look of young love…grief is grief…pride is pride…etc etc etc….i look for the simple symbols of humanity that go way beyond the icons of “culture”….baseball hat or turbin?? church, mosque or synagogue??? desert or mountains?? for these i care not….a touch, a tear, a glint in the eye, a hand on the shoulder, a “universal moment”…so easy, so recognizable, so so obvious…important?? well, i think all of us contantly need to be “reminded” of our basic humanity…man has always moved “forward” at the speed of lightning…in our genes…..not to be stopped…but, perhaps gentle vignettes or “reminders” of the basic positive side of our nature certainly do not harm, and may just help one person see one day in a new light…we have many many “reminders” daily of our “dark side”…the push and pull of light and dark will never end…

    to “get there”, to “my place”, that is in reality somebody else’s place, that becomes “our place”, i must be very cognizant of all the elements that are “presented’ perhaps as “difference” or even obstacle…i must be sensitive…smart….clear…aware… know the history, religious tabus, feel the “ballet of the street”, what to do , what not to do, what this means, what that means, the art of blending and knowing and caring and loving every minute of it and wrapping around the bliss of being “inside” a situation for which you are theoretically “outside”…

    in this moment, i am bringing all that i have to share to the table with all that my hosts have to share…

    in this moment, there is a WHOLE…

    peace, david

  • David,

    I will reread your personal thoughts written here, over and over. So well written and expressed. Brilliant post. You have so much to share and teach. I’ve always admired your work, but now I really really have a glimpse in to your thoughts behind the images and look beyond what I only see in the image, now I hear your images. thank you. janet

  • “… i think all of us constantly need to be “reminded” of our basic humanity …”

    David, this is one of the best threads to date and certainly your thoughts above may be your most insightful and poetic yet, an honorable philosophy well presented with head and heart. This IS a truly special place! As you say, “in this moment there is WHOLE …”

    I can’t help but think about how, or if, a salon such as this could translate beyond the virtual …

  • Its so strange how we can be insiders to our culture yet be an outsider to it as well.

    Reminds me of being in School. I was an insider at that School since I was a student, yet I was an Outsider to certain groups of popular students.

    I also think of the years I spent as a Salesperson visiting one company after another. I start off as an outsider trying to become an insider so that I can sell my goods. That was a constant struggle.

    I suppose if I had considered breaking down those barriers of inside/outside my experience and attitude would have been different.

    many thanks David,
    j

  • on the universal….-bob
    ——————————————–

    The Far Field

    I
    I dream of journeys repeatedly:
    Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
    Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
    The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
    A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
    Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
    And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
    The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
    Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
    Where the car stalls,
    Churning in a snowdrift
    Until the headlights darken.

    II
    At the field’s end, in the corner missed by the mower,
    Where the turf drops off into a grass-hidden culvert,
    Haunt of the cat-bird, nesting-place of the field-mouse,
    Not too far away from the ever-changing flower-dump,
    Among the tin cans, tires, rusted pipes, broken machinery, —
    One learned of the eternal;
    And in the shrunken face of a dead rat, eaten by rain and ground-beetles
    (I found in lying among the rubble of an old coal bin)
    And the tom-cat, caught near the pheasant-run,
    Its entrails strewn over the half-grown flowers,
    Blasted to death by the night watchman.

    I suffered for young birds, for young rabbits caught in the mower,
    My grief was not excessive.
    For to come upon warblers in early May
    Was to forget time and death:
    How they filled the oriole’s elm, a twittering restless cloud, all one morning,
    And I watched and watched till my eyes blurred from the bird shapes, —
    Cape May, Blackburnian, Cerulean, —
    Moving, elusive as fish, fearless,
    Hanging, bunched like young fruit, bending the end branches,
    Still for a moment,
    Then pitching away in half-flight,
    Lighter than finches,
    While the wrens bickered and sang in the half-green hedgerows,
    And the flicker drummed from his dead tree in the chicken-yard.

    — Or to lie naked in sand,
    In the silted shallows of a slow river,
    Fingering a shell,
    Thinking:
    Once I was something like this, mindless,
    Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar;
    Or to sink down to the hips in a mossy quagmire;
    Or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a wet log,
    Believing:
    I’ll return again,
    As a snake or a raucous bird,
    Or, with luck, as a lion.

    I learned not to fear infinity,
    The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
    The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow,
    The wheel turning away from itself,
    The sprawl of the wave,
    The on-coming water.

    III
    The river turns on itself,
    The tree retreats into its own shadow.
    I feel a weightless change, a moving forward
    As of water quickening before a narrowing channel
    When banks converge, and the wide river whitens;
    Or when two rivers combine, the blue glacial torrent
    And the yellowish-green from the mountainy upland, —
    At first a swift rippling between rocks,
    Then a long running over flat stones
    Before descending to the alluvial plane,
    To the clay banks, and the wild grapes hanging from the elmtrees.
    The slightly trembling water
    Dropping a fine yellow silt where the sun stays;
    And the crabs bask near the edge,
    The weedy edge, alive with small snakes and bloodsuckers, —
    I have come to a still, but not a deep center,
    A point outside the glittering current;
    My eyes stare at the bottom of a river,
    At the irregular stones, iridescent sandgrains,
    My mind moves in more than one place,
    In a country half-land, half-water.

    I am renewed by death, thought of my death,
    The dry scent of a dying garden in September,
    The wind fanning the ash of a low fire.
    What I love is near at hand,
    Always, in earth and air.

    IV
    The lost self changes,
    Turning toward the sea,
    A sea-shape turning around, —
    An old man with his feet before the fire,
    In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
    A man faced with his own immensity
    Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
    The murmur of the absolute, the why
    Of being born falls on his naked ears.
    His spirit moves like monumental wind
    That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
    He is the end of things, the final man.

    All finite things reveal infinitude:
    The mountain with its singular bright shade
    Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
    The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
    Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
    A scent beloved of bees;
    Silence of water above a sunken tree :
    The pure serene of memory in one man, —
    A ripple widening from a single stone
    Winding around the waters of the world.
    –theodore roethke

  • Yes, poetry cuts to the heart of things, a language that imprints itself on the soul. Thank you, Bob, for sharing this with us.

  • Hello David and All-

    I don’t define it in those terms, rather my goal is to exist somewhere in between, similar to the moment between the open and close of the shutter, that’s where truth is, in my opinion.

    This is a topic close to me as well. My best work is from Vietnam, my mother being from there and most of my maternal ancestors there, I’ve been lucky enough to connect with them in recent years. There I feel neither inside or outside, most likely, confused. That in turn becomes the source of my inspiration and drive with my work there, to understand. And I have learned so much about myself and the world, in that way, through photography and am thankful.

    I’ve always been in between, in every sense and most situations. Being perplexed at the idea of taking sides, or operating from one side or the other, I don’t comprehend why one is bad, the other good, to me they both just are, feed each other, therefore necessary in the facilitation of life. This perspective often leaves me depressed and stagnant, but when it really clicks, catapults me to joy for I am in balance, walking/thinking/being on the fine line, existing in between.

    What was the original question?

    Oh (scroll up, back down), as far as moral right/left, same answer…I mean, for me, I figure my job is to share what I find, if the search is held within positive personal intentions, the idea is that the findings will be of potential use for the sake of societal evolution, with the direction of acceptance and peace, a worthy side to take I’m sure we can agree.

  • Just when I hoped to keep up with a post and comments, I turn my back for one night and boom! there’s 60 well written, thoughtful responses…

    I hope to have a better perspective on this subject by the end of the summer than I do now, but I am pursuing and researching the idea of shooting a culture to whom I’m both an insider and an outsider. I belong to an Ojibway (Chippewa) tribe base in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. “Belong” as in I had a full-blooded Ojibway grandmother, yet I was raised far removed from the reservation and culture, but for the occasional pow wow that would come to town, and the novelty of calling myself “native.”

    Yet still I’m drawn to the haunted rivers and abandoned fish hatcheries, wells, sawmills, and taverns that my dad called home. Young Hemmingway country. Every few years my migration instinct kicks in and I have to travel as far North as I can.

    But my interest in photographing the Tribe isn’t to pursue a clichéd series of American Indian culture, but rather to create archival documents relative to the current era of the Tribe. For better or worse, this particular tribe is the biggest holder of casino money in the State, so consequently the Tribe’s constitution and government are very evolved. Running for a position on the board and holding it is often a bitter battle, and there seems to be more accusations of corruption than there is actual corruption.

    My proposal to a variety of tribal members hasn’t exactly found legs yet. Most are reluctant to write back. It’s the drawback of being an outsider—the wealth and politics of the Tribe may be causing an aversion, especially in terms of image making. However it’s the real tempo of the Tribe and their modern issues that I want to capture, in a scenario that has me embedded with a family or members.

    So I don’t have an answer to this post, but like I said, I may have an interesting perspective by the end of the summer. I do have one proponent up there—maybe that’s all I need. So what do I do? Just go? I’m fairly new at this.

    Hey David, does your upcoming journey have you passing through Michigan? Want to take a drive to the Upper Peninsula?

  • I’ve read this post since his begin. I think there is not answer to this question. I’m always outside or maybe I’m always inside. All Human being is the same than me and a total stranger… at the same time… no matter his culture or race or religion. It is possible that all of us are juste doing selfportraits.

  • At the very least, Jean-Seb, photography certainaly mankind’s self-portrait… yesterday I mentionned the lone act of photography, yet, I think no other art, not even movies, grasps our collective humanity as a picture does. But yet again:

    Still on my first cup of coffee… need more maybe….

  • errata: grabs, not grasps.

  • David;
    Being an outsider attempting to gain access to a story/culture/people can be an advantage too. The sheer fact that “you” are an outsider can mean that those you are attempting to document are interested in you, precisely because you are an outsider, and interested in what they think is their everyday life/culture.

    Everyone has the “right” to work within another culture as long as their intentions are honest. But again, it can sometimes be hard not to put your own slant on it. But I suppose moststrongest photographic work does have a personal slant anyway.

    Often being an outsider means that you see what the insiders have become blasé about. How often when travelling does the exotic become the commonplace after being at the location for a few days?

    I have never had the opportunity to live in another country for a period of time over a few weeks, and often wonder how my work would differ from start to finish if I could stay for an extended time. There surely must be a journey of cultural understanding taking place over a period of time. I think the work would become more personal and maybe subtler….

    However, being an insider works too because you are probably on a more personal/passionate level. But that can also affect objectivity…

    As an aside David, and off topic sorry; You remember our last discussion about Allard and malls etc. Do you think Allard would do good work on a subject like that if he was interested? Say for example, as he has grown older he has become more uncomfortable with consumerism etc and decided to document “his” view of it…

    I know he is recognised as a “West” photographer, but his Parisian work is stunning! And I do realise he was “into” the subject. Does it mean that the best photographers are typecast?

    I agree that some photographers are better at some (have a closer connection maybe?) subjects. I’ll probably sound like a heretic for saying this but….. I feel Henri Cartier-Bresson’s European work was much stronger than his exotic work. And returning to your post’s subject, he would have been an insider in Europe/France.

    Aga;

    I couldn’t photograph your situation either. It would be too close to the bone for me too.

    Cheers everyone

  • I would like to respond to Aga’s concerns about being too much of an insider to create a photographic essay of her father in his diminished state.

    I can relate to this concern because I am close to her father’s age and have also experienced a profound physical change in the past 20 years. After being a marathon runner and long distance biker in my 30s, I am now a non-walking mobility scooter-rider in my mid-60s. I guess the difference between Aga’s father and me is that I am still extremely active, both physically and mentally. Even traveled by myself to visit friends in Beirut two years ago.

    So I ask myself, would I want my daughter–I don’t have one but can imagine–to tell my story in photographs? I think it would depend on her reasons for doing it. If she planned to focus on the ways in which my body doesn’t work anymore, I’d say “Please don’t.” But if her intent were to show the ways in which I have managed to create a full and exciting life in spite of the disability, I’d say, “Let’s go for it!” Everything is in the intent.

    One more thing, Aga. You may be an insider because this dear man is your father and you love him, but you are an outsider in relation to his physical challenges. I’m assuming you are a strong, healthy woman, still in your 20s or 30s. By your father being in his 60s, and dealing with the after-effects of bladder cancer as well as the symptoms of Parkinson’s, his life experience would be very hard for you to comprehend, at least from the inside. So our definitions of “insider” and “outsider” can shift depending on what aspect of someone’s life we are examining.

    Aga, if you want to continue this discussion privately, please feel free to email me at croneart@comcast.net

    Patricia

  • DAVID and all–

    I do not wish to hijack this thread, but… I promised you a few images from France. (“few” being a relative term here!) And in the grand tradition of Panos Skoulidas I’d like to throw myself on the sacrificial alter of this DAH blog community! Inviting not only David, but all others to have a real go at the images.

    I tried to shoot a little “looser”… as instructed, but still maintain a bit of myself. Not one-hundred percent sure I succeeded, but it is what it is. There wasn’t a real story either, just tried to make interesting photos wherever I found myself.

    So to anyone and and everyone who might be interested have a look and feel free to let it rip! Thanks very much in advance. (and if my friend J. W. S. is out there lurking, please drop me a line and let me know what you think, too.)

    http://www.michaelkircher.com/france.html

    Peace.

  • For me, this is the most important topic related to photography.

    The topic of my undergraduate thesis was ‘The Politics of Photographing the Other’ and I will continue to study this as a two year master of arts degree beginning in fall.

    A couple issues I have found important:

    1- The motivation of the photographer is often to come home with something to publish, or a way to further his/her own career. I find this to be dangerous and try to make sure my own motivation is based on empathic connection.

    2- Being conscious does not provide automatic enlightenment. Learning through experience is necessary and the way in which one can learn how to photograph the Other in a responsible way is to allow one’s self to be affected. I feel strongly that in order to photograph the Other, my primary goal must be to make a connection. This means that I must acknowledge the political power of the images I create, and acknowledge that I myself will be affected during the photographic process.

    If anyone is interested I will email you my 14 page thesis (that’s pretty short, really!).

    Word.

  • David Ryder,

    please email me your 14 page thesis…
    (innerspacecowpanos@mac.com)
    ACTUALLY I’M ASKING YOU TO also POST IT HERE FOR ALL OF US…
    trust me, everyone cares about it..

    “…If anyone is interested I will email you my 14 page thesis (that’s pretty short, really!).

    Word.

    Posted by: David Ryder | April 15, 2008 at 06:55 PM…”

    MICHAEL K…
    Quick look.. i loved what you “seen” in france…
    I already have my favorites…
    now… how do you want me to do this…?
    there is no numbers in the photos…. I can always drag the ones i prefer and ( copy and paste )… in an email and send it to you…
    but, i want to do( the edit ) it public….
    so we can all play and learn….
    what do you think ???

  • David Ryder,

    please email me your 14 page thesis…
    (innerspacecowpanos@mac.com)
    ACTUALLY I’M ASKING YOU TO also POST IT HERE FOR ALL OF US…
    trust me, everyone cares about it..

    “…If anyone is interested I will email you my 14 page thesis (that’s pretty short, really!).

    Word.

    Posted by: David Ryder | April 15, 2008 at 06:55 PM…”

    MICHAEL K…
    Quick look.. i loved what you “seen” in france…
    I already have my favorites…
    now… how do you want me to do this…?
    there is no numbers in the photos…. I can always drag the ones i prefer and ( copy and paste )… in an email and send it to you…
    but, i want to do( the edit ) it public….
    so we can all play and learn….
    what do you think ???

  • David Ryder,

    please email me your 14 page thesis…
    (innerspacecowpanos@mac.com)
    ACTUALLY I’M ASKING YOU TO also POST IT HERE FOR ALL OF US…
    trust me, everyone cares about it..

    “…If anyone is interested I will email you my 14 page thesis (that’s pretty short, really!).

    Word.

    Posted by: David Ryder | April 15, 2008 at 06:55 PM…”

    MICHAEL K…
    Quick look.. i loved what you “seen” in france…
    I already have my favorites…
    now… how do you want me to do this…?
    there is no numbers in the photos…. I can always drag the ones i prefer and ( copy and paste )… in an email and send it to you…
    but, i want to do( the edit ) it public….
    so we can all play and learn….
    what do you think ???

    Posted by: Panos Skoulidas | April 15, 2008 at 09:13 PM

  • I just lost a whole post…
    I was typing and typing … Typepad doesn’t
    recognize my laptop anymore…
    anyways.. I’m posting this as a test from
    the iPhone … let’s see..

  • Michael K, I think your approach worked quite well, this is for me a fine essay of your passage to France, the Paris part has a right feel about it (and I am born in Paris!) and hope to see more on your site.

    Well, me too, here’s my selection from the 2 days when the Olympic torch came to San Francisco (few saw it, since its run was secretly re-routed):
    http://www.pbase.com/uc/olympic_torch_in_san_francisco

  • Panos,

    Numbering problem fixed. Bottom right of each photo. Also, no problem about public editing. You were bold enough to go through it…I should do the same! ;^}

    Thanks!

    -M

  • Not sure what happened, my post went nowhere.

    Here we go again, but shorter!:

    Michael, I liked what you did, and like Panos said, what you saw. Maybe an outsider, but a good feel nonetheless (and I am a born parisian, so speaking with authority!). I want to see more…

    And I was also giving a link to my “coverage” of the Olympic torch hoopla this past week, in San Francisco (few saw it, since the run was secretly re-routed):

    http://www.pbase.com/uc/olympic_torch_in_san_francisco

  • very encouraging… i just lost a long and arduous post….
    in that web abyss…
    I should have saved it through “Text Edit”, as someone suggested earlier…
    what’s even funnier… my previous post , printed three times…
    fuck it…. i’m going for a beer marathon…

  • Seems to be an IT problem here…so one more try:

    Panos, numbering problem fixed. Bottom right of each photo.

    You were bold enough to do this in public, so what the hell, I will too! ;^}

    Peace,
    -M

  • Not sure what happened, my post went nowhere.

    Here we go again, but shorter!:

    Michael, I liked what you did, and like Panos said, what you saw. Maybe an outsider, but a good feel nonetheless (and I am a born parisian, so speaking with authority!). I want to see more…

    And I was also giving a link to my “coverage” of the Olympic torch hoopla this past week, in San Francisco (few saw it, since the run was secretly re-routed):

    http://www.pbase.com/uc/olympic_torch_in_san_francisco

  • me too, Panos. glad i copied my post..Later…

  • OK, definte Typepad problem. Will try again in the AM.

  • DAVID,

    I love the words you used “i look for the simple symbols of humanity that go way beyond the icons of culture…a touch, a tear, a glint in the eye, a hand on the shoulder, a “universal moment”. This reminded me of your cuban videos that you can find on the net in which you were describing what you thought makes a good photograph…You also used similar words at the time that it would be a “universal moment, little slice of life, could be look, a gesture….recognition of an everyday moment”. I liked the perspective at the time but it was great to read here in even more depth what you meant….For those on the blog who may not have seen it, check it out:

    Now on your topic of photographing as an “insider” vs an “outsider”, for what’s it worth, I thought today about sharing the experience I had very recently as a result of the assignment you gave us all last summer. Recall that you sent us all out to shoot a topic and share it with you for what subsequently became the stipend or “fund for young emerging photographer”….I was initially very stuck on what to do…stuck in Cincinnati for the summer, not having much of a glue what to try to shoot in this not so inspiring city. As I told Cathy who asked me a question few weeks ago, I have been very inspired in the past by the work that Alex Webb did in the Caraibbean…Loved the colors, the richness of his vision (even if sometimes lacks the emotion, these universal moments that we all love in your photographs David!)…I really would have preferred to go to Haiti or Cuba for this assignment but, short of being able to do this or travel to an exotic destination, I started to wonder around downtown Cincinnati, went into the black ghetto called Over The Rhine where I had never been, despite already living into Cinci for over one year now….I just shot a few pictures with no particular journalistic goal….pictures looked like it could be anywhere…not sure many would recognize Cincinnati. At the time, I was really just an outsider, a french-man displaced for 2-3 years, knowing nothing about this area, nor the people living there. While this was not the topic of the pictures I sent you, I have kept thinking and returning back to this area. I have been amazed to see this poor black neighbourhood in the old nineteenth-century style historical former German center of the city, so close to the area I work. I was passing every day one or two blocks away and simply had totally missed it…Walking into this area, I was stuck by its racial and ethnic character. A majority of Over the RHine’s current residents are poor and undereducated. This ghetto faces the same problems that affect inner-city neighborhoods nationwide. Alcoholism, drug dependency, inadequate housing and homeless are major concerns in the neighborhood… I wanted to understand more the history of this area…as I kept digging, I found that actually, Over the Rhine was, in 2001, the scene of several days of protests and rioting after the killing of a black teenager by the Cincinnati police… The intensity of the anger at the time was a shock to national and local authorities and this led to the largest urban disturbacnce in America since the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Interestingly, during the week of rioting, there was a declaration of martial law, here in the US, in a mid-size city from the mid-west, stunning!…. I had absolutely no idea of what had happened…I was a total outsider without a clue….Being amazed that this could ever have happened in the city where I live and which I thought was a very tranquil and qiet city from the mid-west..I kept reading….Actually Cincinnati at the time (it probably still is) had a staggering level of social inequality. The economic disparity between the richest 5 percent of the population in the Cincinnati area and the poorest 5 percent is second only to Tampa Bay, Florida area, the worst in the country….The segregation between black and white was apparently one the worst in the nation…and I had totally missed this, by simply leaving into a white subburb, going home every evening passing two blocks away from all this with no clue at all… Now I do not want to bore you all on what has been my discovering journey but as I became more of an insider, I would now do a photographic essay on Over the Rhine ghetto very differently. I think that now, rather than simply do “nice color pictures” that could be in the Carribean, I would possibly try to show what I found shocking, that 7 years after these riots, nothing seems to have changed…I thought about making this an essay to visualize the persistent class divide in some parts of the US, a topic of interest this year that we celebrate the death of Martin Luther King…. If I was a true insider now, I thought I could possibly try to show what life is like in this ghetto, with the harassment from the police in some cases, the city’s homeless shelters, soup kitchens, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers…. I even thought my whole story could read something like” 7 years after the worst riots in the nation, nothing has changed”…Now, I only started shooting few images with this goal in mind but, again, while I thought I was now almost an “insider” I actually was not really still…Met a friend of mine who works at the Chamber of commerce of Over the Rhine. He is white, one of the very few who lives there in OTR, and is very active in trying to bring new businesses to this deserted area, trying to reinject life into the part of the city…lots of tough admirable efforts not always paying off. He got quite upset at me when I told him what I was intending to shoot and convey…He started to take me to all the areas where they are trying to resurrect this part of the city…lots of work, slow pay off…Again, I was so focused on trying to capture my “juicy” class divide topic that I may have ignored these efforts….Now, I will stop writing as I am sure you are all tired of reading this non-sense but my goal was just to say that it is difficult sometimes to even know whether you are really inside or not of a culture, a topic….at the end of the day, in the exact same area, I could have done 2 or 3 very different essays…all would offer one vision, subjective in nature….I was in the mood for the Carribean during the initial summer so this is what I shot….In the same area, started to do a more “political” essay that would possibly have become too simplistic…I could have chosen to only portray the efforts for rebuilding, and paint a far too positive picture while the vast majority of the population still struggles in this ghetto and has not seen much of a change… All these sides offer “some” truth about the area…. but any culture , topic ius complex and kard to convey the complexity in few images…I will still try as, I still intend to carry on with the essay that I have started…It will probably by the end look very different than what I started with….Will I ever become an insider…I am not sure….Will try.

    Cheers,

    Eric

  • … damn, microphone is working..!

    HERVE, MICHAEL, MIKE, ALL,
    I’m back…

    MICHAEL K,
    beautiful work…
    I ASKED YOU ,for… PEOPLE… YOU “DELIVERED” PEOPLE….!
    thanks…
    now,
    I’m “working” on your photos, right now….
    I’m not taking my time… there are a lot of great photos…
    thanks again…
    I’m not done with the final “cut” yet…
    PEOPLE OF THIS FORUM,
    PLEASE HELP ME OUT ON THIS…
    GET INVOLVED…
    LET’S EDIT , ( LET IT ROLL )… THE “HOT” PHOTOS… NEW BORN BABIES… FROM FRANCE…
    thanks again ALL and Michael K…
    peace

  • Michael K,

    Some nice shots….My favorites images from your selection are pictures 31, 32. I also like the series 20, 21, 22, 26.

    Eric

  • MICHAEL K…,

    MY ” SITUATION” FOR MICHAEL’S “CASE” GOES LIKE THIS…!!!

    5,6,10,12,15,16,20,21 favorite so far, 22, 23 , 24 new favorite.
    26, 27 new favorite, 28, 30,31, 32

    FIRST EDIT (18 photos…. from 37 choices…)
    Are we editing down to HOW MANY ????, Michael…

    PEOPLE…., HELP ME OUT… HERE!

  • Now all my posts I thought were lost are showing….

  • Michael, I had not hrapsed you wanted us to do the edit “game”.
    Ok, I am definitely more taken by the ones from Paris, and I also wonder if you tried to keep crowds out of your pictures.

    The place feels lonely, and that’s an OK feeling, of course, but wondering and would love for you to tell us what are your impressions of/in France… Hmmm….As an…Outsider ;-)

    Here’s my selection:
    1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 27, 28, 31

  • regarding MICHAEL’S EDIT, STATISTICS…
    so far…

    LINE ONE : 5,6,10,12,15,16,20,21,22,23,24,26,27,28,30,31,32

    LINE TWO: 20,21,22, ,26, ,31,32

    people, please keep playing, helping,editing…
    it’s good…
    for ALL of us…
    peace

  • LINE ONE : 5,6,10,12,15,16,(20),{21},(22),23,24,{26},27,28,30,(31),{32}

    LINE TWO:( 20),{21},(22), ,26, ,(31),{32}

    LINE THREE: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, (20), (22), 27, 28, (31)

    SO FAR…

  • Michael K,

    Nice work! My top picks:

    007, 013, 017, 019, 020, 021!, 022!, 024, 031!, 032!

    I”m finding it’s very tough for me to edit pictures on a web page… much easier to edit and sequence with actual prints!

  • LINE ONE : 5,6,10,12,15,16,(20),{21},(22),23,”24″,{26},27,28,30,(31),{32}

    LINE TWO:( 20),{21},(22), ,26, ,(31),{32}

    LINE THREE: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, [13], 14,[ 17], 18, (20), (22), 27, 28, (31)

    LINE FOUR :007, [013],[ 017], 019,(020), {021!}, (022!), “024”,( 031!), {032!}

    SO FAR THE ( ) … WINS… THAT IS !!!!!! :

    (20),…. (22),… (31)… SO FAR… people, you feel me ??? do i make any sense at all???
    peace

  • “…But my interest in photographing the Tribe isn’t to pursue a clichéd series of American Indian culture, but rather to create archival documents relative to the current era of the Tribe.

    Posted by: David McGowan | April 15, 2008 at 12:11 PM…”

    DAVID McGOWAN
    … THIS IS EXACTLY what i’m trying to photograph lately
    around the reservations, Pechanga, Aguanga…. 25 or more Tribes around this southern california land…
    peace…
    I just “gained” a little more “access” today…
    not a single photo, but just “access”… an invitation…
    peace

  • AND AGAIN,
    PEOPLE OF THIS FORUM……………………………. please EDIT.
    with us…

    http://www.michaelkircher.com/france.html

    Peace.

  • I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE:

    “Cockfighting in Cuba”… from

    http://www.ryderpictures.com/

    nice work…

  • PANOS and PATRICIA I just emailed you my thesis. Is there a way to host it as a file online so I can post a link and it will automatically download when you click on it? I just don’t want to paste 14 pages of text and overload this poor comments area.

  • Ok I used that gray thing in between my ears (brain) and figured out how to put a word doc online.

    Here is a link to my thesis for all to read:

    ‘The Politics of Photographing The Other’
    http://www.ryderpictures.com/ryderthesis.htm

  • david alan harvey

    DAVID MCGOWAN…

    this is possibly a very interesting new subject for you….i doubt , however, the letter writing will get you very far…you need “eye contact” with these Native Americans..having spent the better part of a year trying to get “in” for a powwow project, i know that surely this will be most difficult for you even if you are actually part of the tribe yourself…this will be a tough “nut to crack”…but, not impossible…and very very worthwhile…

    i should be, at some point, in “your territory”…stay tuned here and we will meet up soonest…

    ROSS…

    i think i said before i cannot imagine Allard being interested or shooting well in a shopping mall..no, he is not the type who would , because he is older, be interested in American consumerism and have things to say about it…just my opinion of course…

    you asked two questions in one that seemed to me to be unrelated…yes, Allard did have a love of Paris and did well with his work there….so, yes, he was passionate and it showed…but, then in the next sentence you asked if the best photographers were “typecast” somehow relating typecast to the afformentioned “passion”…i got confused…anyway, i am guessing that Allard actually spent less than 20% of his career doing anything on the West..however, because of his book “Vanishing Breed”, it struck a chord and labeled him as a “West photographer”…a label he likes….but, is this “typecast”??? i do not think so..it is where Bill sees himself and liked to work 20 years ago or so …”typecast’ would insinuate a situation that a photographer could “not get out of” rather than a place where he or she really likes to work…big difference…

    HCB probably did do better work in Spain and France than anywhere else…yes, his so called “exotic work’ just does not “ring”…trying to be a “part of ” another culture , or identifying with a culture outside his own, just would not have been HCB’s “thing”….even in France, we never see photographs inside bars or homes or anything that would suggest that Henri was “part of it”…HCB espoused the philosophy of dispassionate observer…unnoticed…visually very very aware, but never “inside” in the sense of our discussion here…

    ERIC…

    ok, my friend, now you are really starting to think….you are terrific at analyzing your own work and situation…much better than most…but, i do not think that whether you are an “insider’ or “outsider” will affect your actual photographs…you are thinking over the issues, understanding the context, and very aware of the “sides”…this is good…this kind of thinking…it will lead you somewhere…i do not know where, but your awareness will at least make the work pick up “weight”….BUT, still, it will be the actual photographs that matter…you mention Webb…think about his Haiti work…you may imagine the complexity of all the issues that confronted him…and he was very aware…yet, still he made no attempt to “cover’ every single aspect of these issues…he “symbolized” a few of them (i.e violence) but mostly stuck to the street and his confluence of visual elements…i am guessing there are only about 4-5 photographs in that book that could be captioned in any way reflecting the political situation at the time….or, maybe you could say all of them do…

    in any case Eric, you are evolving, growing…take those issues..simplify them visually….at the same time, make them sophisticated and symbolic if you can…

    please remember, no “insider” is doing anything at all photographically in Cincy!!!…coulda shoulda woulda , but , in fact, you are the man!!!!

  • PANOS,

    002 and 026. There you go ;)

  • david alan harvey

    MICHAEL K…

    i have not matched up the various choices by others here with the pictures…

    well, first of all, it looks like you had a great vacation!! and i do hope you took my suggestion and did not let your work interfere with your personal life..it appears all was symbiotic…

    ok, you put this work “out there”, so here goes…as you know, you always get a “straight call” from me, however painful …and always , of course, just my opinion…

    yes, you are shooting “looser”…a bit more “freestyle”….playing more with composition “off’ rather than composition “on”…

    still, you are lacking in one major thing…EMOTION….

    none of the people in your pictures have any kind of expression or are in any kind of “moment” with which we can identify…

    please note: #4 (what you try to say? woman with cell phone???? so?????)

    #8,9 (good spot to be, good light etc. in market, but no moment or expression of any kind with the two key people in the pictures!!)

    #13 great guy, looks like great bar, but a real “non-moment”, there is nothing for us to think about in this picture!!!

    in frames # 15-18 you came the closest…perfect light and composition, you are there, there there and yet not one single EXPRESSION from any of the people in the pictures!!…all of them are in a moment of “no expression”..off moments…it was like you were looking so much at the composition, light etc. that you forgot the actual moment entirely…

    but, i see potential for you all over the place…you are not far away Michael, you are very near….now is when i hate the net…i need to be in the same room , looking at the same pictures….or, better, ready to shove you out the door fired up and thinking moment moment and moment!!!

    all of your pictures of people with architecture were fine…nice light and classic composition..all good for publication in a travel magazine, stock sales, or whatever…

    i wrote these down fast, so i might have left something out, but my “best pics” were: #’s 22 and 31, ..a whole bunch of others really “close” but, not quite!!

    but, the one thing i do not know about you is where you want to be…what are your goals? professionally, personally…tell me this,and i can help you more…unless , of course, you closed out of this site about two paragraphs back!!

    i only critique from the point of view of what i think you are trying to do and , in your case, how i am 99% sure a magazine editor would see it…not that magazines are the “be all and end all” in judgement..but, your work most resembles someone trying to shoot for say Traveler Magazine, so i critiqued on that level…

    please take this as constructive critique Michael…and , you certainly moved FORWARD from the work i had seen of yours before…so, it is all “good news”, but i would just like to push you up another notch..

    cheers, peace et al, david

  • David…damn you’re up early! B ut then I met you at 5:00am in Jackson, so it makes sense. I absolutely take your critique as constructive! Very helpful. This is what I was looking and hoping for. Push up another notch. I too would love a one on one in same room…someday. But this is invaluable, really.

    Woman on cell phone…so what! That’s perfect and funny and most of all true. I just liked the shot, I guess.

    I need to go back and look through them all with all these wonderful critiques.

    To that end…thank you PANOS, HERVE, MIKE, ERIC, MARTIN B., PATRICIA, and DAVID Mc! You all rock! Sorry I bailed last night, but typepad was acting up and I’m still on Paris time! Will be back a little later.

    Coffee is brewing!

    Peace and love from the east coast!

    MK

  • Herve–

    The Olympic torch was passing through Paris when we were there. The Champs Elysses was barricaded and much protestors waiting. We missed it though. Too busy exploring the side streets for cafes and crepe stands! I understand it was blocked so many times they finally put the runner in van to get him through!

    Your shots really capture what I know we missed. Very heavy.

    Love the girl with cell phone (very different from mine! heh-heh.)

    Also the older woman with flag to forehead and older man behind her. Candle in the hand, and of course the main photo of the young monk. Love that one!

    Thanks again for your thoughts (very authoritative thoughts!) on my Paris stuff.

  • Pardon! Make that the Champs-Elysees!

  • Panos–

    Man, what can I say. Your enthusiasm is infectious! Very helpful. Thoughtful. Thanks so much! And you must know that everywhere I went in France I was thinking…Panos wants people! Panos wants people! Panos wants people! AAgghh! But seriously, I did! I think I could have gotten closer, I should have gotten closer, more intimate, looser, all that, but given the limited time and family and vacation and well…just making excuses now! I took what you said seriously and it helped me.

    Thanks, thanks, thanks.

    Peace.

    MK

  • david alan harvey

    DAVID RYDER..

    yes, i liked the cockfighting cuba work too….

    i read your thesis…well, what can i say…i got about four sentences into it and then started “questioning” a couple of concepts you put forth which seemed to draw “conclusions” without much support or were certainly at best “argueable”…anyway, academia and the academic analysis often leaves me feeling this way!!

    in any case, very cool that you even did this, and it was certainly thought provoking if not conclusive…

    cheers, david

  • David and ALL:

    just a quick as last night I read this entire post (including David’s thesis too ;)), and I want to say that it was a lovely thread. For me, as a contributor and a reader, what I’ve enjoyed the most about this thread is the depth and division of thought, but also the fact that so many “newbies” have contributed. As I told you long ago David, off the record here, the measure of this blog success has never been about who “writes” but about the number of people inspired by it or read it regularly. This particular post is an indication of that. Initially, i’d wanted to leave a normal “bobblack” comment (this question about other has defined my life, or really, who hasnt been defined by it) considering my childhood in Taiwan and returning believing i was an asian kid, now with a wife and son who continually wrestle with these questions, but then i realized that it wasn’t necessary to leave anything. That the fullness of the comments here and many by photographers/writers who have until this point not surfaced was such a pleasure to read. I trust, this blossoming will only continue: fuck, it’s spring, right? :)…

    so hats off to you and hats off to all those who contributed, especially the new commentators or the old ones who resurfaced (that would be you Mr. Sidney :)))….

    I would only iterate what david has written, and many others. That we are defined, for sure, by our language and our culture and our gender and our relationship to our “society’s” our “place”, but these mechanicsm and characteristics are only the “particular” of each of us, the “particular” that allows and defines us toward the “universal”…it’s never about looking, but about finding, and this revelation, born of time and patience and a whole lot of luck, is the great, for good and ill, meal of which all our lives are fed…

    the specifics of one’s background and place and language and ethnicity and social bearing are the channel markers, for sure, by which we navigate the way into and out from the sea, but once we’ve found ourselves there, the real learning takes place….

    what is the mystery at the center of your life, this quickly disappearing, swallowing life. The ringing against the ear of your life. It may NOT be possible to begin to hear or attest to that mystery for others unless you’ve begun to learn something about them (their language, their culture, their morality, their spirituality, their humanity), but once you’ve begun to see the other in their “particular” way, you realize, as David has pointed out, that past the particular, the universal mystery is the same, across all languages and cultures and places and times….

    for me, it’s always begun first with this question: have I begun to listen to, and think about, and attune to that place that wells inside of each us….

    I have listened to my wife laugh and tell a dirty joke in russian and I have heard her howl with sobbing rage in russian, and, once past the barriers, it’s clear that all of that resides in the same place and is born of the same experience, for each of us…

    name it, nameless, breath it, breathless, swallow it, bodiless, we are all arched, in the end, by the same skeleton, flesh and loam. as one of the photographers above mentioned, let us not come to life or come to others with our pre-conceptions: let us instead, see how all the magnificent language of our different and separate lives adds us to one very precise and distinguished song, wonderous and longing…

    as berger reminds, home, our entirety, is the place where distance did still not yet matter…

    hugs
    b

  • David
    You could always come and join Gunnar,Nick,Toomas and me in Ireland [West Cork] next month…………..
    Best
    Clive

  • Bob…You’re writings leave me speechless and I don’t dare try to follow them.

    This has been such a fascinating thread and a lot of the thoughts have echoed the ones that have passed through my mind at many points.

    As we travel, our identity, the sense of whether we’re and insider or outsider becomes somewhat blurred and sometimes, you do begin to question who you are and where you fit in. All I want, is to remain open. Open to others. Open to ideas. Open to change. Open to everything different to myself. Only then can I maybe begin to understand.

    “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stifled. I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible.”
    Mohandas Gandhi

    Best,
    Sean

  • “if you do go “out”, what gives you the sense that you can portray another nationality, race, or religion in any meaningful way, or even have the intellectual “right” to do so???”

    While cultures differ, people are generally the same in terms of their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and fears. The essence of “people photography”, particularly the images that capture me personally, is the depiction of these pervasive human characteristics rather than relatively superficial traits such as one’s race, religion or nationality.

  • I would like to take this opportunity to agree with all of the positive statements in this thread. This is a profound question, I think, one with implications not only for photography but for peaceful relations between the peoples of the Earth. I would like to think that any photographer would be able to work in any cultural environment and that their photographs of this environment would be as good and meaningful as the photos they would take in the environment in which they were born, and I really mean that; I’m not just saying it because I want to see how long I can keep this Kumbaya stuff going before I start gagging on it.

  • Not really meant to bring on a debate, but as I read David’s take on Mike’s picture, which I relate to a lot of what has been said and especially shown thru this blog, about latest photographic attempts (new vision, uncomplete, etc…) I often see the risk of letting the medium speak louder than the photographer or even the camera. Like photographic instead of photographed. Like trying to say something instead of just saying it. To me, there is a problematic here. (Michael, not about your pictures, per se)

    David, I hope someday many of us get together with you, close ourselves with whatever stuff helps maintain focus, and just look at photographs and talk, speak up, scream maybe over it. Mainly talk!

    About criticism, (and not about you David!) I am very fond of this quote from jean Cocteau. It has not helped me achieve any kind of fame, but served me fine all my life to be as close as possible to who i really am:

    “What others criticize in you, refine it… It’s yourself”

  • Oh, just got this in my mail box, i know many of you did too. but we have been sad and down from a few obituaries, still today, we may rejoice at a fellow human being who just recovered his freedom he had lost 2 years to occupying forces:

    BILAL HUSSEIN IS FREE.

  • thought provoking is good, and yes, academia has its long list of faults. i argue with myself about these issues all the time. it is of scary to post my thesis, imperfect as it is, like posting my photos, and awaiting criticism. i strongly agree with you on the point of the WHOLE, the basic human experience.

    david and all: i am flying to new york on monday and would like to share a drink with the like minded…

    david and panos thank you for the comments on the cockfighting in cuba work of mine.

  • David uses more “quotes” than “Dr. Evil” HA HA HA HA!!

  • Right on David for your critique of MK’s work. I just think its admarable for you to look and give a fairly “no fluff” assessment.
    most administrators, it seems to me, really don’t give a shit,
    I think you picked up on the thing that I did not know I was trying to find, the emotion.
    also the framing looks a little, not sure, but “typical” comes to mind.
    MK, if you give a shit or not, why not try the Eggleston approach, don’t look through thew view finder, try holding the camera away from your face, below your line of site, and frame up that way,
    just an idea, its not like you will be wasting any film, right.

  • nice quote Herve.
    gives me hope for my own boring shit.

  • W. Robert–

    Thanks. For the record:
    #5 kneeling
    #12 on the ground
    #13 camera on bar
    #17 over my head
    #21 on the ground
    #28 kneeling
    #33 ground level

  • Oops…forgot #25 is also kneeling. And this is not even counting the shots from on high, like from a bridge looking down or a higher platform looking down.

    The number of absolutely “straight” shots taken from my 5′ 10″ height is less than I thought…but yes, I guess I could have done more! ;^}

  • can’t remeber where I read this, maybe here. a trend… to set the camera on timer or auto or whatever and just launch the thing into the air!

  • pierre yves racine

    Michael,

    Seems like you had good time in France ! Did you eventually go to Brittany ? Did you “see” what you had read in Jakez Helias’ The Horse of Pride” ?

    It was great to be able to see your pictures and read David’s critique. So telling for me ; I think my pictures also sometimes lack emotion. So it was just good reminder for me…

    Now to David and all,

    It would be great if other blog readers could see the pictures that we submitted for the EP Fund along with the critique that you, David, sent us.

    I don’t know how we could do that… Maybe create a thread with the critique as well as a link for the pictures on a photo-sharing website….

    … if you agree on having your critiques published, David… just like any of us agree on publishing our work along with a critique of it.

    I don’t know what you all think but we could learn a lot.

    If some of you remember, we had thought about a way to have an insight into David’s picture selection a couple of moths ago, when you, David, were commenting on our submissions. Most were interested but we didn’t know how to do that…

    cheers !

    pY

  • Thanks Pierre Yves.

    Saw very small section of Brittany. Beautiful! The photo of the woman with window light coming in was a little farm house in Brittany. Embarrassed to say I’m not familiar with Horse of Pride! Yikes.

  • David;
    Thank you for the critique of Michael’s work. And thank you Michael for putting it for critique!

    It provided much food for thought to apply to my own work. A wonderful mini workshop…

    Thank you…

  • Pierre Yves…

    I’ve just come from reading a few reviews of Horse of Pride. Will be ordering it today!

    Merci!

  • Ross…

    No problem. It is my great pleasure to get my ass handed to me for the benefit of others! heh-heh!

  • As a newbie here I would like to second Pierre Yves’ suggestion that David et. al. consider posting the photos you submitted to the EP Fund along with David’s critiques. The photo sharing site I use is http://www.pbase.com. It costs $23 USD annually for 500 MB storage space. I’d be happy to buy us a year and get us started if someone else would post the EP Fund photos & critiques. BTW if we want our galleries to be password protected, that is easy to do.

    All this to say I also found David’s critique of Michael’s France photos most beneficial! His comments could have been written about my own work.

    Patricia

  • Hey Michael K,
    I really enjoyed your photos! Thanks for sharing these with us.
    I’m guessing that you limited yourself to the same two fixed focal lengths I shoot with. If so, bravo for the self imposed limitations?

    DAH singled out two very strong photos (22 & 31). These two engaged me as the viewer yet seem to have been taken from an ‘outsider’s point of view?

    I’m still struggling to figure out what makes certain photos engaging so that I may create reasonable facsimiles.

    Thanks again,
    Jason

  • Michael;

    Since you were prepared to put your head above the parapet, I’ll do the same…

    There are only two galleries on my Lightstalkers site (more coming when i get time). One a protest and the other a few shots from a festival (couple of hours shooting)..

    My own website will be up and running in late June, and will have more galleries..

    http://www.lightstalkers.org/ross-nolly

    Get stuck in and rip ’em to bits if needed…

  • SF Jason– How goes it brother? I had a 20mm, 35mm and 50mm with me. The 20 was used very much the most. Second was the 50. Thirdly the 35. Yes, self imposed limitation. I have three zooms, but wanted this trip to really stretch me. Not rely on zoomx…must move feet if unhappy with perspective! I only missed the 70-200 ocassionally. Otherwise very happy with the three fixed.

    Ross–

    Love your protest stuff. The juxtaposition of smiling child and masked adult and another with two faces pushed together, one masked one not…good moments. (there’s that word again!) Glad you did it in B&W also.

    Cool Americana stuff as well. Did you consciously decide beforehand on the whole shutter drag technique? Or are these just a smaller representation of the larger group?

  • Michael;
    Thanks for the comments.

    At AmeriCARna I shot a lot of stuff at the start that was basically rubbish. too static, record, boring rubbish: nothing was working.

    I decided to think of American Grafitti, Happy Days, cruising on a Friday night in the 50’s (when petrol was cheaper!!) and channel that. Wanted to recreate the fun and vibrant mood of the night.

    I’ve always used a lot of slow synch, inspired by Mr Harvey & Mr Allard…

    Where the two people have their faces together; it’s called a “hongi”. This is a Maori greeting, the touching of noses neccesitates the breathing in of the other’s (maybe an enemy in yesteryear) breathe. also such a vulnerable act (again maybe between enemies) demonstrates a peaceful intent.

    I’ll be uploading a Vanuatu (Seaside Paama squatter settlement) gallery later today.

    Thanks

  • pierre yves racine

    michael,

    i thought you had read the book already.

    personally, i’ve never read it but i will have to… i have so often been told about it…

    enjoy your reading and let me know what you think !

    patricia and all,

    surely we can find a hosting site if we want to do this… i’m happy you suggested something !

    waiting for other opinions…

  • I think Pbase is a fine and easy site to show and share pictures, and comment on them. BTW, it’s free for a month, so what I would suggest, is for people who wish to show us their DAH essay of last year, or any, to post them there, with David’s critique as well, if he is OK with it.

    Then copy and paste the link here, and give password if needed. The advantage will be that there is no big site set-up, it’s free 30 days (plenty of time to watch), and we can also leave comments uner a pix or the gallery, to be answered, if wished, by the essayist. Last, but not least, you can upload original size, and it can be viewed as such, original, or smaller like large, which opens the pix in a second or 2.

    check it out just like Patricia (1) said at:

    http://www.pbase.com

    (1) Patricia, 500MB is not that much if dozens post on one account only. But if people like the idea, why not (no MB size then). Once your essay is up, the link itself will make it easy to get directly to that essay’s page.

  • If folks want to pursue this idea, you can check here to read the pricing/storage space info for PBase:

    http://www.pbase.com/pricing.html

    BTW the 30-day trial only allows 10 MB of space.

    Regarding the size of images posted, I learned early on to resize my photos to no more than 1400 pixels at the largest dimension. And if one then recompresses the image after uploading it, a lot of images can fit into 500 MB of space.

    Yes, if we decided to go ahead with this plan, it would be easy to post the username & password here so each person could upload their own images. And there’s room to put text, ie., David’s critique, under each image.

  • The extra gallery is now up on Lightstalkers.

    Critiques welcome…. cheers

  • PATRICIA….

    many of the essays which were submitted are already posted here off of my home page..maybe you knew that and just wanted to see the others…

    not everyone wants a public review…most of my reviews of EPF contributors have been private as per requested and i have done at least 30, with about 15 or so more to go…it takes awhile!!

    however, i will go with the flow…clicking on a link right here and making comments is a whole lot easier than going to our upload site Digital Railroad and seeing the work ..

    the parameters for upcoming grants will come from a different format than last time…the more i can know everyone’s work who is a reader here , the better….links showing me work in progress is always most valuable…i have a pretty good handle on most of the contributors here….i think i have seen almost everyone’s website that wanted me to see..i keep up with all of them for the most part…little reminders to me here to “go see” also work …

    thanks Patricia for becoming one of our “newbies”…

    cheers, david

  • HERVE…

    i am very much in favor of us getting together…what we could do in a few hours, just hanging out and looking at pictures in my studio, would take days or weeks here on line..

    when, and if, i get my studio back, then i will invite all who can make over for just such an event…otherwise, meet me out on the road!!!!

    cheers, david

  • david:

    check ur email…

    b

  • Don’t ask why….but i still scanning negatives…and so, i thought i would leave You All MUSICL

    Ok, im listening to Tom Wait’s extraordinary 3 disk masterpiece Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards…

    so, yes, my family is asleep, just spent 3 hrs scanning film and drinking and the world is turning tilted asleep, so, im swimming in this song, which goes out to David:

    DANNY SAYS:

    Which is a Tom Waits cover of the Ramones:

    I love both…

    waits, breaks the heart…

    b

  • Thanks for the background, David. It’s becoming quite obvious that I have a lot to learn about you folks, but what I’ve seen thus far is pretty darn impressive. I just spent time with the EPF photos and am left breathless. Holy shit but you people are good! I’m honored to be here.

  • This thread and the questions really got me thinking, thanks everyone…

    Marcin said “Ps. For me all other people are outside… only I am myself inside…
    So my dear strangers…”

    I’m not sure I identify with a “culture” or a counter-culture, or even a subculture. I am what I am as far as nationality, race and socioeconomic class… but as far as culture, I’m a culture of one. Any photograph I take, whether in my country, my city, or even of my family… it’s taken as an absolute, unrepentant outsider. I simply don’t understand being an “insider”.

    I can’t reconcile or minimize or disguise or ignore the (existential) distance between photographer and subject, but I can acknowledge it. Rather than ask for a person’s trust and offer empathy or high purpose, I only offer, if anything, the weird dynamic of photographer to subject, and I ask (if I ask) just to take a picture. After that, the photographic chips fall where they may… meaning, not to be obtuse, I am photographing someone who is being photographed, with the intent of producing a photograph I want to look at.

    I just don’t see any universal truths, I see peculiarities. Gaining (or communicating) an understanding of others through photographing them, for me, would be hopeless. As a photographer, I am not especially compassionate, sensitive, or empathetic… if anything, I try to be as ruthless as I can conjure myself (which is not ruthless enough…) All I really care about, to be honest, is getting a picture.

    David, and all, I wonder what you think… I know it goes contrary to your method and ethos, but is it possible to produce “good” photographs without any real responsibility to subject or viewer? Do the ends (photographs), if they work, justify the means (even if they may not be high-minded)? Or, do I just “not get it”?

  • PATRICIA, DAVID, ALL…’
    Of course ( always naked),
    I want to suggest and remind…
    I was the first ( hopefully, not the LAST )… that ” asked ( and pressured )
    – back in the day- everyone’s help to edit my SNOOP shoot….
    but,

    I feel kinda funny, now…. not for me help editing everyone out there..
    there are probably 5000 people checking this blog daily…
    AT THE VERY LEAST… so… think about it..
    IF ALL OF US.. ASK FOR AN “EDIT HELP”…
    at least once…
    it will provide DAVID ,work enough for his seven last lives left…

    So , David… i want to apologize for” dragging you down” to that
    “editing TREND” i created…. Do not hate me for that…
    I know you have to still have to finish the “reports” from the last years essays… you need to go on with your life,
    put money on the side, visit family, keep relationship alive,
    watch a movie, listen to a song, go to the bathroom,
    waste thousands hours in airplanes…
    maintain the blog……

    PEOPLE OF THIS FORUM…
    I, WE, ALL OF US ASK A LOT FROM ONLY ONE GUY…
    AND THAT IS DAVID A H.
    Why dont we make his life easier , by keeping everything under
    one address…
    ONE HOME….
    AND THAT IS… THIS AND ONLY BLOG…
    UNDER THE DAH UMBRELLA…

    yes, we can all refer to our “PLUGS”… or websites… or utube… or whatever…

    but PATRICIA and ALL….
    I vote for “YES” TO “ALL IN ONE BLOG”… DO NOT SPLIT THE POWER AND DYNAMICS OF “ONE” BLOG…. with thousands
    of moving microscopic legs ( our links)…

    again : under the DAH UMBRELLA

    peace

  • Mike: :))

    I think that is a totally honest and unfailingly spot-on “truth” about pics, really. It is absolutely possible (not only possible, but more often than not) to “produce ‘good’ photographs without any real responsibility to subject or viewer…” What makes a “good” “interesting” “successful” photographs is like a total soup of things and the person that gets that forumula not only wins a Nobel but will immediately join Gates and Buffet has the planet’s prince/princesses of moola….the truth is photography, the weir act of taking a pic, is just that: a person shooting in hopes of making a pic that will: 1)be liked by them (photog); 2) be interesting, 3) say/report something; 4) stimulate/inspire someone, 5) sit in the drawer, etc…..i think all photogs (and we’re talking all people who pic up a camera) shoot for a zillion different reasons and there isn’t one reason that is more fundamentally ethical or honest or empathetic or whatever…

    to answer you question, i dont think my work, not at all, “exposes/answers/describes” any universal truths either, and im still not sure why i “need” to shoot, except that i love what pictures do and look like and evoke…they differ from words and they differ from other ways to telling stories and showing people/places/circumstances/ideas and i like that…

    i still don’t understand (who does) when i look at my negs, why some seem strong (to me) and others stupid and pedestrian and worthless…it’s a weird algebra: just like this: why are some people so extraordinarily beautiful in photographs (my wife and son) and beautiful in real life (Mike B,you want to confirm), and why some people are so beautiful in photos and then not as engaging in real life (whatever the hell that means) and why are there people who look the same in photos and life and why are there the poor begotten who look like creeps in photos (that would be me)….hui znaet as they say in russian (prick/cock knows)…it’s alchemy, just like life…

    in the end, the only thing we can hope, is that somehow our pictures, or the intersection of what we wanted/hoped for in line with what happened, produces magic (for whatever reason we want magic)…

    i do think photos do not reveal life as it is, or people as they are, or a moment as it was (i hate the “decisive moment” stuff), but something else: they can speak of what it meant to be alive…weird alchemy, weird art, weird science…

    the camera someone catches something that we all still connect with and that is its odd and magical universality….

    the rest, including most of what i write, is probably hogum (is that a word ;))..

    cheers
    bob

    ps. i cant believe the naked cowboy is still alive and singing ;))))liked the pic….now that, mike, is universality ;))

  • Panos;

    I meant for anybody to critique if they wanted to. I realise David is far to full-on. I mean to say, I’m continually amazed how he manages to keep up with this blog!!

    I just thought it may be an interesting learning exercise to get other peoples opinions. And I mean learning exercise for everyone.

    Take care everyone…

  • Herve,

    I PBase is ok but its so dead……….
    Flickr for all its drawbacks is actually quite good.
    1. There is a great option of organizing photos into collections and sets, and it has a very good slideshow option. I know PBASE has pretty much the same thing.

    2. Flickr is free fprever if you choose the basic option. PBase only for a month and then you have to pay or you’re kicked off.

    But for me Flickr > Pbase for the interaction. The groups on flickr are a great thing. You can find a group of people who are into anything. be that street photography, b/w, Martin parr, Alec Soth, nan Goldin,etc. Maybe the most interesting hroup there is hardcore Street photography, both for content but more so for discussions. PBase lacks this dimension.

  • Responding to Mike:

    When a camera is used as a tool to capture humanity, how can a photographer forget just that when shooting? A camera, at the end of the day, is nothing but an expensive piece of plastic and glass that we use to express ourselves and capture a tiny slice of the world we live in. As photographers, if we forget our responsibility, compassion, and sensitivity towards our subjects, what does that make us, even our end product is a “good” picture? What then becomes the point of photo making?

    Since Youtube links are being posted, here’s one I saw floating around the blogs recently that addresses this issue:

    Cheers,
    Sheila

  • Rafal, it’s not really about the intrinsec merits of each site, but just to have a support where to put the essays.

    FlickR has way too much text around the pix, which are small until you select a size. It’s going to be a drag once we want to open dozen of pix and select all sizes (on Pbase, usually, once you select a size, all open within that size). FlickR is way too involving for our purpose, you have to assign each pix to its group or tag, or whatever, . And FlickR ain’t free over 200 pix. And you never get to see the whole essay except in tiny thumnails sizes, cropped too.

    Pbase, you put your pix (at once, in a batch too if you want) in, name your gallery and that’s it good to go.

    I just do not think we want to have the whole FR experience, which is so damned labor-intensive.

  • Sheila:

    :)

    I agree wholeheartedly, but I think Mike’s honesty carves the bone out of a serious problem with most “concerned” photographers. In truth, they jacket themselves in the language of compassion and empathy and consideration (“im shooting to help or document the plight of those I am photographing”) when in truth is a seriously flawed form of self-aggrandisement. I am often bother (and really often troubled with my own work, let me be upfront) by this difficult negotiation. Most of us seldom invest oursleves in the lives or people we are photographing and that includes the gods of this profession as well and I think Mike’s concerns lament that. It’s a tricky business.

    I feel really priviledged to photograph folks, ’cause in truth in the end the perception is usually about the photographer, more, than the subjects or even the content (otherwise why our concern with our tag). I know “great” photographers who have made “great” photographs and the world thought they were “compassionate” photographers (only to drink with them and listen to them talk a bunch of shit and realize they’re not that committed to the people they’re shooting) but their words spoke different, and i know photographers whose life is dedicated to trying to document and help those they shoot. It’s a tricky deal….

    I think it’s always a difficult question to ask, why are we photographing, particularly people about whom most of have more than just a cursory relationship. Each person, I trust, resolves this difficult dilemma in the way they sit fit (i try not to judge another’s resolution of this)…

    I know only this: life and people stun me and their stories stun me and we all grope in the dark to try to explain and understand and mediate and speak out about what we’ve seen, in the hope (maybe deluded) that it will brink some umbrella of light against the rain of shadow that makes up most of our life lived…

    who knows…

    but, in truth, im much more bothered by how people live and how they treat one another (often poorly)….that by the difficult photographic negotiations…

    it’s the weird alchemy of photography again (or is it our human insecurity), that aggrandizes…

    there is a great scene in Zia Zhangke’s Still Life that shows the chasm we’re all falling, in one form or another, into…

    one wonders ;)))….

    ok, running to jump to bed, asleep…

    cheers all!

    bob

  • Panos, I really would love to see as many essays as possible, with or without David’s critique. Then, if Pbased, 30 days later, it’s gone, no competition to the “Mother blog”…

    Well, if no one follows up on this subject, it’s all DOA in a fortnight anyway!

    About inside, outside, let me make up a HCB saying: “it’s just a photograph”. Sorry Tom Ryder, for me, talks of antropo and etc… that’ s way too heavy, and somehow, it’s still the “dominant” western-ized culture still discussing amongst itself. So, in the end, yes, I agree with HCB… :-):

    “It’s just a photograph”.

    PS: A photograph is like a song(1), not a book, not a thesis.

    (1) you know, like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEOkxRLzBf0

  • HERVE SAID:
    “…Panos, I really would love to see as many essays as possible, with or without David’s critique…”

    Herve, who said no ???????

    … let’s link it through our websites… still , through…
    THIS BLOG.. !
    I think that the most important thing … is not the ” essay “,
    but the “photographer”…
    soooo… through our websites you can see the latest… of the latest… so, Herve,……
    ALL YOU have to do… is “click” on any name above…
    and you will see… the latest … news of all of us…
    oh, but i forgot…!
    AREN’T YOU “DETECTIVE HERVE” ????

  • No, Panos, no detective, I just have a good memory.

    Well, the idea was pointedly about the essays from last year, not visiting websites, few of them have that essay uploaded as it was sent to David.

    And David, upon presenting the assignment, made the very good point that to an editor, a (burgeonning) photographer best shows its mettle, not by a selected plethora/portfolio of pictures, a best of, but by facing up to the task of one assignment within a time frame, sequenced to be a potent or relevant narrative. And that could mean to let go of a great shot, if not fitting in.

    Good memory, Panos, not detective…;-)

  • Bobb: “..it’s a weird algebra:”
    Mike: …and I was never good at math… Thanks bob…

    Sheila,
    Thanks for your reply… this is exactly what I’m wrestling with: I understand that yours is the normative view, that there is a moral responsibility to people one photographs.

    I’m just not sure I agree… in any photograph there is at least the scent (sometimes stink) of exploitation and the frisson of voyeurism, and to deny that is to deny the fundamental strengths of photography. At the same time, these strengths are at odds with a strict moral responsibility to the subject… a dilemma for any photographer, especially crossing cultures…

    I work this out in my own admittedly contrarian way… I just wonder how others do.

  • As a “newbie”, I do not known all the rules aplied here. Sorry if I can’t ask this. The photographs of my portfolio “Manhattan” (http://www.photosjsbreault.com/target0.html)is a part of a project about New York, Mosaic of religions. It’s a work in progress and I would want to have some critics (public or private) from all.

  • david alan harvey

    RAFAL…

    well, i owe you a big apology for sending you an incomplete review!!! i literally fell asleep at the keyboard the other night and just realized i somehow hit the “send” button in my dilerium!! i never check the email that comes to me on blogquestions..that is only for mike to see…anyway, i did see yours and will respond soonest…however, not until next week…i must rush to a family crises over the weekend….

    surely there are so many photo sharing sites….and , yes, Flickr can be one of the best…i never for a nanosecond thought that i could or would have this forum as any kind of competition for the sites that are set up specifically for photosharing…i am just a “one man band” working photographer who can only drop in occassionally and do what i do…one of my “jobs”, perhaps my main job in fact, is to recommend and send you off in many other directions..from your private email i can tell you are giving yourself a fine education..good , good and good….

    you have been a contributor here from the beginning…and you are one of the few who i have actually met “for real” after meeting you here and we have had “street shooting time” together..i put great value on the time we spent….

    our community here does differ in one major way from the other sites in that i am working very hard to give you some practical “results”….our first “result” will be a significant presence in a couple of photo fests starting with Look3 in Virginia and then on to Perpignan…and, of course, the EPF which will at least provide funding for some…i can’t fund everyone of course, but this fund is growing based on my readership here…

    all of us must manage our time in the best way possible…combining shooting with discussion….a delicate balance to be sure…we all need “food for thought” and then we must all also just step out into the cold and “do it”…a diet of discussion only is not a well balanced diet…

    anyway amigo, i will get back to your questions and your portfolio soonest…i think you are ready to really “break out”…exciting stuff, truly exciting…

    cheers, david

  • david alan harvey

    MIKE…

    i missed your question the first time around….a tough one….

    how you describe yourself and the way that you look at “getting the picture” is so different from the way i see it, that it is hard for me to respond…

    but , certainly not all “great artists” who have done brilliant work are necessarily “nice men or women” with lots of compassion..for some, it is just “get the work” come hell or high water….they owe the world nothing but “the work”…fair enough i suppose…and maybe the “ruthless” description of yourself to “get the picture” will take you far….

    however, i do not equate being “compassionate” with being “weak” and not busting ass to “get the picture” either…why cannot a photographer be “driven”, work very very hard, locked in on “making it happen” and yet still do so in a way symbiotic with the subjects of her/his work???

    SHEILA…BOB

    you said what i was trying to say!!! thanks

    cheers, david

  • david alan harvey

    JEAN SEBASTIAN….

    i could not open your link….send another way??? i want to see your “Manhatten”

    cheers, david

  • david alan harvey

    HERVE…

    which essays do you mean? the ones submitted for EPF???

    Panos is right…the way Michael K. linked us to his work was just perfect…easy to see and critique for all of us…

    in any case, Herve, put something up for us to see!!!

    cheers, david

  • DAVID,

    http://www.photosjsbreault.com/target0_en.html

    It should works. If not, let me know how I can send it to you.

  • david alan harvey

    JEAN SEBASTIEN..

    ok, got it….but, now i am leaving!! took a quick look at “Manhatten” and saw several nice photographs…i do want to look at the rest of your site when i return to computerworld in a couple of days…do you live in New York?

    cheers, david

  • DAVID,

    I live in Montreal. I was in New York two weeks ago to take this photographs. Thanks to have looked. All critic is welcome.

  • “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stifled. I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible.”
    Mohandas Gandhi

    It’s amazing what some people will do to avoid dusting the furniture, isn’t it?
    In a totally unrelated thought, part of how I spent my St. Patrick’s Day, a day I could have spent with DAH shooting as opposed to minding a herd of the sister-in-law’s constantly feeding nieces and nephews, can be seen here:

    http://www.lightstalkers.org/galleries/slideshow/11571

    My apologies for the lack of captions; for some reason beyond the comprehension of both man and beast LS is not taking my captions this week. I’m sure it’s nothing personal and that someday LS will let me caption my pics again, but until then they will have to be viewed raw. I also wish to let everyone know that no parrots were harmed in the creation of this gallery.

  • put something up for us to see!!!
    ————-

    Er….Houston, we have a problem! :-)

    David, 36 hours ago, I gave the link to a selection of pix from the “Olympic torch” events in San Francisco last week. As a matter of fact, my name is that link.

    As much as I want and like to share what I do with others, I am a bit different with many here. I want to strive and achieve something, work on a project, if ever, before to submit it to someone’s criticism, especially yours.

    Last week’s fair, event or parade in SF, is hardly that, frankly, but I love to be there, I love to take pictures, I love people, I hope some of my pix show that and others enjoy them.

    But yes, it’s more sharing with friends than workshopping, just like us and this blog.

  • Hi there !

    concerning the publication of essays, I would like to stress on something : when I asked for this publication, it was ALSO that I wanted to read david’s critique.

    Not that i’m uninterested in having a look on what the photographers of our community produce but, as Panos said, I often have a look on many personal websites + many (great) essays were already published on David’s.

    My request came more out of the discussion we had back in december or january : many of us made it clear that we wanted to learn on picture editing, and that knowing more on the choices made by David for the Fund (which may appear in the critiques) would help us !!

    It’s a bit like at school when the teacher shows students’ strengths and weaknesses in tests or essays… i’ve always found that to be very useful… more concrete than big theories (which are nevertheless interesting !)

    I hope it’s clear enough (long sentences, poor english…. sorry…)

    And, David, since you told us that you wanted to see your readers/writers’ pictures, i’ve put a link to a webpage of a rough selection of 39 unretouched pictures shot recently (i had told you about this). It is the beginning of a new project… opinions welcome from anybody ! Tell me what you think and how I can get better…

    Cheers, thanks everyone !

    http://picasaweb.google.fr/pyracine/MotocrossRomagnSLection?authkey=LILDgu7D35s

  • david,

    did I read “family crisis” ? I hope you’re ok..

  • Herve,

    I guess I misunderstood. I was thinking you were recomemnding PBase to one person. Is this for some mass submisisons? In flickr you cansee the whole essay in full size if you watch the slideshow.

  • David,

    wow, thats great to hear. As I said, please see my two projects in Personal Book in my flickr account. Home Sweet Home is one that I am now fully into, and mean to extend for a long period of time. Im racking my brains how to edit what will be hundreds of photographs…chronologically? by thematic chapters? I have no idea really, Im a terrible editor and not ashamed of that. And I think I would love to hear your ideas on how to edit everything…but I think it might all be premature..at this point I think Im still cimply shooting without giving thought to any final edit, simply doing little edits in sequencing along the way, trying to match photos to each other within the general sequence of the project.

    The thing I want to do most is be as open and as intimate with the whole thing as possible…but still be short of obvious and fully revealing. There are areas such as truly intimate moments that Im still having trouble putting up for public scrutiny, but I feel Im going to have to push that as far as I can…its a balancing act and for now Im trying to error on he side of caution.

    Im happ to read some excitement in your words David, I wasnt sure how this would be received by others.

    As far as this and flickr, they are VERY different things. I mean for the VERY obvious reasons that there arent any Magnum photogs on flickr LOL. Well, martin parr is but he’s not as active there as you are here. I dont think theres any competition, for me the two sites fully complement each other.

  • As far as the question, since youve seen my project, I would say that being in is probably better than being out. It allows you much more latitude and freedom. You are better able to understand the culture/situation/circumstances and you will probably have a stronger position to shoot from, be it for or against something, or have feelings for what you are shooting. As much as we are told that journalism should be objctive, the strongest work probably comes when a photographer has real passion for what he or she is doing and brings that to the table. David, by now Im sure you feel like an insider in the Spanish cultures, having spent so much time shooting that world. And Im sure your work on hip hop got better as you got more and more involved in that world. Another example is one of the recent Magnum inductees, Alessandra Sanguinetti and her project on her two cousins. She was as in as you could probably be and Im sure that that was one of the main bodies of work that got her into Magnum.

  • Wow! Terrific discussion going on here.

    In or out.

    Well, I’m a truly mixed up kid. I’m Irish to the core but currently live in New York City. And for the longest time I thought I would never be able to settle back there, in a mono-cultural society. Perhaps I should say, bi-cultural, making sure to include the “tinker” community. Nowadays, however, it’s most definitely multicultural and so perhaps I could live there again.

    You see, as a youngster I spent many years in the middle east as my dad worked there. It was your typical ex-patriot lifestyle. Substantially more mixed up and well off than life in Ireland at the time. I was educated in international schools. I loved the heat of the desert. The smells. Everything. Then back to Ireland at age 14 on my own to continue my schooling. The Saudi authorities at the time threatened to shut down education for foreign youngsters over 14 because of our apparent influence on Saudi youth. The threat never materialized but I went back anyway to a catholic boarding school. In Jeddah, school finished at 1.30 pm. In Ireland school finished at 4.30pm with 3 additional hours of supervised study each evening. Study was supervised by theologians. A right bunch of totalitarian numskulls. I saw them as being no different than the bullies that ran things in Saudi. No wonder I abhor religion.

    Anyways, I moved to England to continue my studies and hated it. But I found a photo agency job afterwards that afforded me some early photographic success. I also met my future wife there. We came to New York for a while in 1994. She on a Full Bright scholarship and I with a greencard. Finally I found a place to call home. I was where I was meant to be.

    Immediately I was taken aback at the ubiquity of the US flag and started to make some pictures. Ireland is a flag proud nation and I spent some time in the Irish military as a youngster to toughen up and learned about flag etiquette there. With our history it’s no surprise we’re so fiercely proud of it. The green of the tri-color represents those sympathetic to a united Ireland, The orange represents those loyal to the Crown in London and the white in the middle signifies the truce between the factions.

    Here stateside I wondered if many of the people flying their flag really knew much about it, or how to display it properly so I continued to make images observing this. Now in 2008 I just published a book on this.

    http://paultreacy.com/FlagBook00.htm
    http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/193214

    This is a project about America shot by an outsider. I’ll always be an outsider. It’s my designation in life. But I wonder if this body of work could have been done by an American? Perhaps it could have been but it’s my being from elsewhere that informed how I shot it and what I looked at, or what I was struck by.

    I do think that being from elsewhere can really be a huge benefit on a story because, at least for me, it’s that curiosity about an alien culture and a desire for some understanding of it that causes interesting work to be made.

    I’m about to leave the States and return to the UK after five years on this stint. In fact, I’m now eligible to apply for citizenship having recently filed my 5th tax return back to back but I will unlikely be here long enough to be given an interview as the current waiting time is 15 months. But I want to return to Europe as this is where I should be, ultimately. It’s where my political kin are. It’s where those that share my view of the world are. And I want my sons to grow up with a European sensibility.

    Perhaps my having been in America for so long will inform an interesting body of work on European life. Let’s see.

    I have yet another site design update about to appear. It’s completely stripped down to the core. It should be live by May 1st.

  • Rafal, I also think you’re onto something, but something which is hard for one to judge. it is taking its potency, relevance as you create it, now only known to you (it would be too easy to congratulate you on the poetics of it, be “pretty” with words, and blahblahblah, I see a path you are creating to yourself, hard for others to thread upon as you trace it.).

    David will have more experience to give you pointers, yet I think sometimes, one must be alone out there, and go thru mistakes, uncertainties, doubts, away from any teacher, advice, whatever. Feeling one’s way, unguided, is important too.

    This is not an easy project to comment upon, I left you a few words only, a few weeks ago, and knew I’d have the opportunity at some point to say my lack of further comments is not out of disinterest. Which happened now.

  • Herve,

    thats why I think its most iportant to please yourself first. Im doing this first for me and then my family. Then for anyone who might find it interesting. But as you yourself know it is only in its initial stages. I think the value of such projects, and there have been many people who have done it is in its total intimacy. The more intimate the more interesting. The hard part is not in capturing it, but in sharing it. Ive had many doubts in what and how much to show and many photos I decided not to show yet, but which Im going to keep tucked away for future use, maybe.

  • David et al,

    Hmm, I’m not sure there are any ‘rights’ here — the ‘right’ to do this, photograph that… Nor, first and foremost, are photographers anthropologists or sociologists — at least I don’t think they are. We already see too many dull and uninspired photographs and photography ‘projects’ that are burdened down with sociological and cultural theories and indeed might have been better as sociological tracts rather than *images*.

    Surely, the determining factors are two-fold: one, your confidence, ability and need to photograph outside of ‘your culture’; and two, the quality, insight, beauty etc of what you produce.

    regards,
    alun

  • David, you say there is a “family crisis” that takes you out of town this weekend. Please know I’m holding you and your family in my heart.

    Patricia

  • David, I also hope your family crisis turns out not to be a crisis.

    As for inside/outside, I am bound to the city in which I lived my first 18 years, and returned to 3 years ago. I sought out a subject for a year-long project, a church founded in 1881 by Polish immigrants which still retains its cultural heritage of Polish language classes and services, as well as traditions. At the same time, it has been suspended by the Archbishop, its Board and priest excommunicated.

    I find myself in someplace so familiar, what I would call on the inside, yet am amazed by the intricacies of emotion and traditions within this community, and the courage of its members. It’s so familiar, yet foreign, which fascinates me.

    I suspect that would be true of many projects where I would consider myself to be inside…yet know nothing, really. Just enough to begin to relate, which is the common humanity that would also be present in an “outside” subject. But once I scratch that surface, there are stories waiting that I could not have predicated and I reach to understand them enough to portray them in a way that lets other understand as well.

    Again, hope all is well with you.

    Joan

  • “The Baptism of Koutska”….

    KOUTSKA is A dog…
    I FOUND HER NEAR A RESERVATION…
    supposedly this dog has been “saved”…
    Now,
    according to greek traditions, it needs to be baptized when she gets 6 months old… that was yesterday…
    the walk prior to baptism, symbolizes the passage ( PASSOVER)
    from childhood to maturity…
    anyways…. please watch this small movie below….
    ( THE LONG JOURNEY OF KOUTSKA PART II )

    http://web.mac.com/innerspacecowpanos/Site/Movie_2.html

  • hallo David

    first of all it was a high pleasure to meet you in Oslo, during Magnum workshop and thank you for such a nice forum.
    as you guys are disscusing topic what is very actual for me at this moment i decided to join
    i live in Reykjavik now and although i have nothing in common with this country (i mean my roots) i can see what totaly the same things are hapening here as in my homeland and in the rest of
    the world – someone dies, someone fells in love, someone disappoints, etc…
    even then i’m reading such a “national” things as Icelandic sagas or folk tales, or listening to the icelandic music (which is really unique) i feel like it is about me…

    it is only sceneries are changing
    life and death – only two things i care about

    Svieta

  • Good post David and, as usual, the replies say it all. You should explore the land of you ancestors – London is a capital city and is, like other cities, not representative of the country as a whole. I too have English and Irish roots. I live in England, have never visited Ireland although I do intend to and I love Scotland, particularly the West Coast. The Scottish comedian Billy Connelly says that Scotland only has two seasons: Winter and June. He used to be a welder in the Glasgow shipyards and says that there were many other people there who were funnier than him but the difference was that he could be funny on-stage, 5 nights a week, even if he was not feeling well etc; in other words a professional. The same analogy could be used for photographers. The Scots also have a saying “If you don’t like the weather wait ten minutes” As for inside/outside cultures, if you approach everything in a Family of Man non-judgemental way then you are doing the best that you can.

    Good light to all!

    Mike.

  • Panos…

    Can’t access the movie. Not sure if it’s my crappy laptop or if there is a link issue. I get to your site and see the big Q in the center but nothing loads. Maybe I’m being too impatient!

    Will try again later.

    Peace,
    MK

  • terrific discussion going on here, there’s really not much I can add…

    Someone, a few days ago, was mentioning Tom Waits’ triple album “Orphans” as one of the “necessary” music of these years. I agree, and I listened to it so many times…
    If any of you likes the pictures that have graced Tom Waits’ albums for many years they are (when not photographs by Anton Corbijn) the work of Matt Mauhrin, a photographer, videomaker and visual artist. It’s not “pure photography”, and very far from photojournalism, but I assume most of you also like other kind of photography other than photojournalism.
    Here are some links to matt mahurin’s digital manipulations and photography.
    http://illoz.com/mahurin/
    http://www.twinpalms.com/?p=backlist&bookID=54
    opinions are welcome

    DAVID
    I hope everything is Ok with your family. Thanks again for inspiring all these great discussions.

    cheers

  • Hi David,
    I am a young Chinese Canadian, who has also been observing the forum and decided to join in today. I am not familiar with the concepts of culture, but I’ve been raised partially in China and partially in the US and Canada. I will try to express myself in a practical way, in line with my background.

    In my opinion, it is possible to capture the lives of others in a meaningful way, BUT it is difficult, and more involved than many storytellers are prepare to be. You asked whether we have the “intellectual right”. I believe we do, but the right is also retractable.

    Outsiders do lend a fresh perspective to a culture. However, outsiders’ perspectives are impaired by another set of traps. We have powerful preconceived notions, and biases (especially of the developing world) shaped by popular belief. It is easy to roll along, borrow those elements and make it our starting point.
    The story can still be palatable to the mass home audience, but is it responsible and deserving of the right to inform?
    A responsible portrayal, even critical, is one that resonates with the majority of the indigenous subjects. If it does not, we can’t argue that they are too impaired (to at least judge us) because of immersion. That is vanity.
    There are many features about China that have me just slapping my forehead in disbelief. At the same time, the most recent issue of NGM on China is critical but thought provoking, even for me. There are easy and wrong ways to photograph other cultures and there are hard and right ways too.

    We can characterize a culture fairly to a depth proportional to our knowledge of and “feel” for that culture. A photographer reaches the ultimate depth when he takes on a critical tone. Too many are diving to this depth prematurely.

    This is why your questions DO have relevance.

    Photographers are informers who shape people’s logic of the outside world. In that sense, like teachers, they bare responsibility towards their subject and audience; they have the power to facilitate understanding or reinforce misconceptions. The right to take on that responsibility is earned.

    I cannot be disillusioned and expect absolute fairness. Our views of other cultures are shaped by stereotypes and popular belief. It’s only through experience that we become more independent of these influences. At different stages of our lives, the thoughts “I know the culture well enough” and “I am ready to tackle this subject” represent different notions. All we can do is to be self-critical, consult all sides, do the best damn research, and take a litmus test of the indigenous people before casting their culture under a certain light.

    Thanks,
    Tony

  • Brilliant, Tony.

    Maybe once again, better a photo that asks questions than one that seems to give an answer to questions. Frankly, I think the best photographs are those that fit the first type. Not that the questions have to be pronouced prior to the photograph, or project. Photography is such that a little bit or a lot more than what we see in the frame as we shoot, enters it.

    That bit or overwhelming happenstance is probably hard to define as inside or outside, or being available to the insider better than the outsider.

  • Michael K,
    do not worry… it’s not your laptop…
    it’s the way , i downloaded and exported the “thing”…
    It needs ( the first time) about 45 seconds to download…
    it’s an experimental, crazy, handheld, light, easy, not deep,
    attempt, of i don’t really now what exactly is at this particular point…
    Anyways, i will tell you more as soon as i find out… exactly what i want to say

    http://web.mac.com/innerspacecowpanos/Site/Movie_2.html

  • Hi David,

    I am a young Chinese Canadian, who has also been observing the forum and decided to join in today. I am not familiar with the concepts of culture, but I’ve been raised partially in China and partially in the US and Canada. I will try to express myself in a practical way, in line with my background.

    In my opinion, it is possible to capture the lives of others in a meaningful way, BUT it is difficult, and more involved than many storytellers are prepare to be. You asked whether we have the “intellectual right”. I believe we do, but the right is also retractable.

    Outsiders do lend a fresh perspective to a culture. However, outsiders’ perspectives are impaired by another set of traps. We have powerful pre-conceived notions, and biases (especially of the developing world) shaped by popular belief. It is easy to roll along, borrow those elements and make it our starting point.
    A responsible portrayal, even critical, is one that resonates with the majority of the indigenous subjects (as smart as us). If it does not, we can’t argue that they are too impaired (to at least judge us) because of immersion. That is vanity.
    There are many features on China that have me just slapping my forehead in disbelief. At the same time, the most recent issue of NGM on China is critical but thought provoking, even for me. There are easy, but wrong ways to photograph other cultures then there are hard, but right ways too.

    We can characterize a culture fairly to a depth proportional to our knowledge of and “feel” for that culture. A photographer reaches the ultimate depth when he takes on a critical tone. Too many are diving to this depth prematurely.

    This is why your questions DO have relevance.

    Photographers are informers who shape people’s view of the outside world. In that sense, like teachers, they bare responsibility towards their subject and audience; they have the power to facilitate understanding or reinforce misconceptions. The right to take on that responsibility is earned.

    I cannot be disillusioned and expect absolute fairness. Our views of other cultures are shaped by stereotypes and popular belief. It’s only through experience that we become more independent of these influences. At different stages of our lives, the phrases “I know the culture well enough” and “I am ready to tackle this subject” represent different notions. All we can do is to be self-critical, consult all sides, do the best damn research, and take a litmus test of the indigenous people before casting their culture under a certain light.

    Thanks,
    Tony

  • I accidentally posted my comment twice…
    I apologize :-)
    I didn’t realize there was a 2nd page to the forum. When the comment didn’t show up on the first, I posted it again.

  • Hi Svieta, happy to hear from you.
    Tom, Miguel and his wife were here in Rome last week and we were talking about our experience in Oslo.

    About the post it’s so “key” that also If I read quite everything I didn’t find time and words to add my opinion. Basically it is not question of territoriality of course. I found place in the other side of the world were I feel like I’m at home and other five minutes from where I live that are far far from my soul.
    I think I’m lucky because very often I feel “at home. It’s not shallowness of feelings or may be yes.
    It’s beacuse the only important thing is life and his missing (as Svieta also said) and because the inspiration for me it’s the people I meet, close friends or sometimes it’s enought a glance , a song or a reading.
    About the right to do it and motivation, basically yes but ….too complicated to explain it in english. Personally behind the curiosity, the will to show my own vision of world, people and things, against some clichè (i’m thinking i.e. about the consideration of Gypsies) I’m sure I also fell into stereotype and that behind everything there is a kind of “self-aggrandisement” (rent it from BOB!) or self-endorsement.
    Ciao
    Laura
    Hope everything is ok with DAH.

  • The More time I spend with people who are not like me!
    The more I feel like myself!
    Sorry I can’t agree with a lot of the folks who think we should stay home!

  • That’s brilliant, Glenn.

    I’ll be listening to that in my head for a while.

  • Hi All,
    This thread is wonderful, isn’t it! I cannot do justice to any one post by addressing it, but I certainly see my own concerns dealt with in many different lights.

    The recent post about why we really photograph was well phrased, indeed. We are trying to explain or make meaning. We see, we feel, we react, and as photographers, we react by shooting. Of course it would be nice if one photo ended war, and another ended hunger, but short (way) of that, having someone hold the photo in the same light as that of Migrant Mother would satisfy me.

    More directly regarding in/out and David’s review a ways back about missing the peak emotional reaction, I think the issue might brush up against photojournalism vs documentary photography. Newspapers and magazines want that heart grabbing shot, and there is no argument that the best shot is the one that does that, but

    if the photographer wants true documentary (whatever that is), he/she won’t wait for the one moment when someone suddenly smiles. The shot will come when everything looks the most normal. Boring? Maybe. Valid? Definitely.

    I just moved the first load of stuff to St. Paul to an artist loft at 308 Prince St. Pulled a 28′ horsetrailer loaded with prints and cabinets with a diesel truck and got 7 mpg in the headwind. My brain is more into what to take next and when to go than it is into writing a thesis, so, there is my usual occasional (…like that Bob?) terse message.

    Ciao,

    Michael

  • Boring but valid. I think all of us go thru this dilemma, of trying to “author” while making as little choice as possible, ie. just like it is “now, there”, and that by virtue of “now” being authentic, then it is as valid as a decisive moment by a famed photographer.

    But the crack is that taking up a camera, a brush, a pen, is choice already and entails a responsibility (doesn’t have to be a great one), and we see that these photographers who seem to shoot things as they are, are probably the ones showing us, most voluntarily, that what we see isn’t always what it is, and it is not so simple. Not making choice is making a choice.

    And we are back to square one…Authentic, yes, but unessential?

    David, I hope things are working out with the family, and the latest emergency you mentionned.

  • I’m glad to see this discussion thread is continuing even while David is busy elsewhere. Speaking of which, I am hoping things are going as well possible with your family, David.

    I’ve recently started a series that is making me feel this “inside/outside” dichotomy more vividly–viscerally, truth be told–than ever before. My subject is life on the two sides of one street here in Detroit. Alter Rd. is known as the Great Divide–an economically depressed section of Detroit on one side, and the affluent Grosse Pointes (five cities) on the other. Anyone who has driven east on Jefferson Avenue can see/feel the difference once they pass Alter Rd. Like night and day.

    My problem/challenge/concern is that I am bringing to this project all my own emotional/social/cultural baggage. I’ve lived in a small house in Grosse Pointe for 37 years but Detroit has always been the home of my heart. That is where I’ve worked, played and made my friends. But–a BIG but–I don’t have to live there. I don’t have to worry about my safety, about drive-by shootings, about drug-motivated senseless crimes, about poor city services, etc., etc.

    So how can I bring a clear eye and open mind to this project? Every time I take a photo–on either side of Alter–I’m making a choice. And that choice reflects my perspective.

    For the first time in my 43 years living in and around Detroit, I’m feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, my very white skin. Yesterday is an example. When I parked in front of a small cinder block church in Detroit, hoping to get shots of people going inside, I was SO obviously a white woman in a black city. And the few folks who saw me were staring. I took three shots and left.

    I had a wonderful experience on Thursday, though, of connecting with children playing in front of their house. In that case I felt comfortable enough to get out of my wheelchair accessible van and spend at least a half hour getting to know the kids and taking tons of pix. They are the best shots of the series to date. But in other Detroit neighborhoods I’ve felt spooked. I know this is a part of town with lots of drug stuff going on, and I know those folks do not want to see a camera pointed in their direction…especially by an obvious stranger.

    So what do I want from this community? Just a bit of your wisdom born of experience, or advice/suggestions as to how or even if I should proceed. Anything really. I’m feeling pretty alone here. Thanks in advance.

    Patricia

  • Hi Patricia.

    First thing that pops into my head is…why this project? What is the ultimate goal here? Has this been assigned to you? Taking it on yourself? Plan to show at a gallery in the hopes of social change? Maybe it is simply an interesting challenge photographically?

    Your uncomfortableness might stem from the fact that you don’t have a concrete purpose for this project. (I totally could be wrong here, of course!) Just guessing.

    Maybe if you focussed it a little more. Like the religious aspect. Get out and go to that church for a service or two. No camera. Make friends/aquaintances. See where that takes you. Move slowly. Don’t think you need to accomplish anything great in a couple days…or even weeks. Let it unfold naturally. Who knows where it’ll go!

    Anyway, just some thoughts.

  • Patricia,

    Michael is right. You need to get involved with the church like you did with the kids. Go to the church, talk with the pastor and tell him/her about your project, sing with them, listen to the sermon, if they have a meal in the fellowship hall, eat with them. Then bring out your camera…GET INVOLVED. You will not accomplish what you intend by parking your car outside the church and taking a few quick pictures.

    The crime-ridden sections of town are a different story though. You will need help to “get involved”. If photographing life in these areas is important to you, then you need someone who is part of the community, someone who knows people, to line up photo opportunities for you and go with you, even if you have to pay them to do it. This is the only effective, safe way for you to get involved and get the pictures in the scenario you describe.

    To bring a “clear eye and open mind” to your project, you first need to be comfortable…and you are obviously not comfortable in your surroundings. Someone who is part of the community can help you gain a level of comfort and safety. This is the first step to freeing up your mind. You are not going to get the photos you want if you fear for your safety.

    Finally, be patient. These types of projects take time. It takes time to gain the trust of your subjects. The upside of all this will not just be the pictures you take, but the facinating people you will meet along the way.

  • Thanks so much for your excellent questions, reflections & suggestions, Michael and Robert!

    Michael, you were right on target when you said it sounded like I didn’t have a concrete purpose for this project. I’d started with the idea of simply raising awareness about the inequalities on either side of Alter Rd., but soon realized this alone would only increase the sense of estrangement between the two groups of people. Besides it was too broad & too simplistic.

    I’ll need time to allow my true purpose to emerge but what is rising to the surface is the essential truth that however different people on the two “sides” of Alter Rd. may be economically and racially, their common humanity transcends all so-called borders. And for me this is nowhere as evident as in the children. It is the children upon whom I want to focus.

    So I set off on a photo shoot this afternoon on “my” side of Alter. And, because I was more clear in my purpose, I could describe it to a mother pushing her Russian-American child on the swings, and later to an African-American man, his Asian-American wife and their 9-month old little girl, Isabel. In both cases we connected deeply and they supported my including them in my project.

    Robert, your suggestion that I find a member of the community to companion me when I take photos in unsafe neighborhoods is a wise one. I intend to return to the block where I met the friendly children and take some time to get to know their neighbors. We’d already chatted a bit and everyone had been quite receptive.

    So, thanks to you both, I’m feeling much more attuned to this project tonight than I did even a matter of hours ago. Thank you so much.

  • Hey just wanted to say I hope all is well David- family crises resonate very ominously with me…

    This is a great thread and judging from what a lot of people have been discussing it is one of the greatest conundrums of photography. And if I was blatantly honest I would have to say the first and foremost reason I pick up a camera is because I am insatiably curious about other peoples lives. I believe that I am a classic voyeur in one sense, ‘ I like to watch… ‘

    So in many ways I am always outside.

    Perhaps though this compulsion takes me past many of the boundaries that others have mentioned, I am not awkward or shy about pulling out a camera in any situation that I am interested in.

    Yet again to me everyone is the same, poor, rich, black, white and its only varying degrees of desperation that make people behave differently, I have no qualms at all about coming from a white middle class background- its how I was born and in the case of many of the people I have photographed I know that ‘There but for the grace of God, go I’

    If the circumstances were different, I might easily have been the subject of someone else’s documentary. I guess then that often makes me feel an insider to other people’s lives.

    So I guess if I am in another culture the first thing I try to learn are the mannerism’s and then the language, I mean the reason I photograph the differences is to really try and find an expression of the commonality.

    Yet I will never know what it would be like be say- Ishmael Sorrenson, or Dinawan Soutrie or Anya Llwellyn- people I have just invented- all I can say is if I photograph the real thing then I can reinforce my own humanity, the universality of emotions and motivations so at once I am outside and inside together!

  • Hi ALL,
    ‘Outside’ or ‘Inside’ doesn’t really matter as long as you are really passionate about the story you are exploring. On the ouside the challenge is getting inside. On the inside the challenge is seeing. As an insider it is easier to walk the walk and talk the talk, but you don’t have the ‘fresh’ view an outsider has. I guess there are photographers who always go abroad and other who always stay home. I like to do both although it is really overwhelming to go ouside, get accepted and have the feeling that you were allowed to look inside. The people who share and let you in give so much energy. You have to be careful after a while that you don’t feel outside on the inside…
    QUESTION: HAVE YOU FELT OUTSIDE ON THE INSIDE (YOUR OWN CULTURE) BECAUSE YOU SPEND TIME ON THE OUSIDE (ABROAD)?

    Best, Edward

  • Well, Edward, since I came from france to the USA and my life span is split in the middle between these 2, I can say yes, of course, but I see, or using your verb, feel it as a blessing, never as a handicap.

    And I probably left France because I felt an outsider being inside there, back then… ;-)

    Any different angle you can give a place because you are not censoring yourself on grounds of being out or in, but instead approach as individually as possible, is to be welcome. if you can parallel the camera “angle” with that personal angle (which is neither outside or inside, or then both, IMO), then we start talking!

    There are just so many ways and nuances to be outside and inside in one own’s culture, then the new one we adopt or evolve in, then again, the one where we are clearly outsiders, as when I travel in Asia. It does not substract, it adds up…

  • Thanks Herve, I feel what you are saying, It is actually a blessing and when it liberates the mind, teaches us to respect others cultures and we make friends, we also get educated in the process.
    Best, Edward

  • Patricia, when you return to the neighborhood with the children; take some prints back for them and their families. Write “thanks for a special day – Patricia” or something on the back of the prints. That way they will know your name next time you show up. Take a look at Bruce Davidson’s East 100th Street on the Magnum website, then send this advice back to me so that I can use it myself!

    Best,

    Mike.

  • hey Laura,

    it’s so nice that we all are keeping in touch :)
    i would be very glad if anyone could visit me in Iceland… yes, i know it’s so expencive, but it is really worth to visit this windy island :)
    and it was so amazing experience to attend Magnum workshop… now i’m looking for another. actually, i’m thinking about “day of the dead” workshop in Oaxa (although it probably could be too hot for me there :-) ) and still waiting for information from Marie Arago.

  • Hello, David,
    Loving your blog.
    Just to let you know that we have placed it on the blog roll of our blog, written by Sun-Sentinel’s photo staff: http://blogs.sun-sentinel.com/click/

    Best,
    Howard Goodman
    blogs editor
    South Florida Sun-Sentinel

  • Hi David,

    I totally agree with your comment about weather and culture being interconnected. And I’d like to add another component to the mix: place (as in terrain). You can see ‘climate/place’ so clearly echoed in distinct cultures – not only in the ways that people behave in response to it, but even in the way they speak and dress – and particularly in music. Two places/cultures that spring staight to mind are the Massai of Tanzania and the people of Tibet. Listen to their music – perfect echoes of the wild. Both places are close to my heart for different reasons.

    On the issue of photographing cultures I take another angle. I think that by seeing and experiencing others cultures and perspectives we can gain true insights into our own. And I think it is vitally important for how else can we understand both others and ourselves? Surely, one of the great things about documentary photography is that it can help promote understanding or friendship between people and cultures IF we are able to go beyond our ways of seeing to understand other’s perspectives. It does take time….

    I believe that trying to understand others perspectives helps promote understanding and peace on some level… the converse of misunderstanding, miscommunication and war… as photographers we have a choice which can include traveling around in cultural bubbles, snapping pictures with minds permanently locked in ‘back home’ mode.

    I’m sorry that I have not read what others have written before me on these topics. The intro inspired me so I responded but as usual, I’m in a bit of a rush and hope I do not offend anybody…

    Peace to all,
    Jenny

  • PS I was trying a while back to ‘mimic’ different cultures in the way I photograph – echo it as does each country’s music. One nation as upbeat and ‘sassy’, another softer and ‘within themselves’. I think of countries as facets/moods of the world’s multifacted character. I got some ways with this but my photographic skills did not match my thinking… I see you’ve done it with flash and hiphop! well that’s how I see it and why I think it’s just perfect.

    Jenny

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