righteous (as in bob marley def)….

(interview with Alec Soth , above, coming soon…..stuff you never knew)

I have had writers block for the last three weeks, yet I am not a writer. Which is no doubt  the whole of the problem. I can do ok with pictures on demand. Not so with  pen and paper. Surely it isn’t that I don’t  have much to tell you. I have too much to tell you, yet i need to be brief. I will get right to the point.

For those of you who have been readers here for awhile, you probably figured out a long time ago that this is a pretty humble operation here at Burn. While we are in popular terms a “wildly successful new brand” , we make no money and our staff is still an all voluntary army.  Now mind you we are not even trying to make money. Yea invest in us!  Smiling.  Seriously, all of us value independence and freedom more than money. So we are not looking for bosses. Yet we are looking for support. Sure, uh huh, right dude, who gets money without a boss?

In fact we are ninjalike action heroes because we have  generated some income from thoughtful donors to pay for our $15,000 Burn/Emerging Photographer Fund grant with funds donated through the not for profit Magnum Foundation. Subscription donations help to pay photographers for work published here. These are donors who simply believe in what we are doing.

Yet indeed, we are scrambling to make things work . There are two possible solutions. First , is to accept advertising. While I have zero aversion to advertising and have done ad photography, I think that for Burn right now we might just be able to survive without it and therefore have a really clean slate for just doing what we want to do and with a particular kind of unencumbered cred. This audience will basically make the decision for funding/donations  based on the steps we are making.

So you may ask, what steps?

We want to make more of what we did in the last two weeks. Financially and psychologically supporting an emerging photographer like Egyptian  Laura El Tantawy in Cairo and at the same time commissioning an exclusive for Burn essay by Paolo Pellegrin. Both photographers with unique styles and both looking at Cairo.

Both with equal pay, equal artistic control, and one time use only photo rights..

My stated initial goal of Burn was to combine the iconic with the emerging iconic. We have done it now with original photography from both and an exclusive here.

Next we go to firebrand Bruce Gilden who will be in Haiti during elections  and a soon to be assigned young  Haitian photographer to shoot a parallel story with Bruce.  Followed by Alec Soth (shown above during my interview this week)  and and an emerging photographer chosen by him. Our aesthetic interests will know no bounds and we will actively seek all individual styles of work.

Simultaneous with these projects sponsored by Burn and the readers of Burn will be a special corporate commission presented by BD who sponsored James Nachtwey with his TB essay published on Burn in 2010. BD will now sponsor in Russia both Nachtwey and emerging star of Russian descent,  Alisa Resnik. Frankly we would welcome this type of selected corporate sponsorship for any of the above projects as well. We feel we will get them , but I am willing to bet on it in the meantime with our readers support. BD was happy with Burn as a platform before, and have come back this time with additional support for a talented young photographer.  So this is a model. Again all of this original work both by Nachtwey and by Resnik will be featured first here on Burn with a proper drum roll preceding.

All of the above projects highlight four new emerging photographers as well as the established legends.

I think we have taken a large step forward today without losing any of our identity. We just want to do things here on Burn, and upcoming in print magazine  Burn 02,  that are simply cool.  Serious.  Fun. Imaginative,  and flat out informative as well. If it is  not rewarding to do and we are not giving you something unique, then we fold the tent and go have a beer. Already in our short history I think we have helped a few young photographers, respected a few icons, and made  a lot of new friends along the way.

Now one of the things I have noticed about creating space, funds, and a platform, is that while some receive , some feel left out. This is a conundrum with no real solution except  I can say that I will do my best to pass things around. I cannot support everyone. My honest hope here is only to set an example so that others better equipped to do this sort of thing than I , will take on the responsibility and the effort. I am as accessible as I can be to photographers with ideas. At the same time, I do have my own photography and books to do, so there are times when I disappear into my own shooting as I am about to do in Rio. So all patience is appreciated.

We are struggling in the good old fashioned way. Times when real things happen for the right reasons. Feels like such a time.


592 Responses to “righteous (as in bob marley def)….”

  • a civilian-mass audience

    I just returned from the mountains..and what do I see…?
    my vision is not my vision anymore…!!!
    I believe in ALL of you MyBURNIANS…
    it started back when BOBBY opened up his house, when MR.HARVEY
    left the key of the kibbutz hotel under the doormat…when JIMMY helped EMCD…when your civilian’s house
    had its first arrivals…and now KURT and MICHAELK and PANOS…and oime…yes…

    BURN IS THE PLACE TO BE…(you have been warned:)))

    cause it has “unlocked” our vision…and when there is a vision…there is a way…

    P.S…damnit…of,course i am the proudest civilian …DEFINITION…I love you ALLL

  • About Anders Petersen (am sure this has already been posted before):


    and the interview:


    .. I’m not scared being scared..

  • a civilian-mass audience

    The pig and the chicken were on their way to breakfast, trying to decide what to have. When chicken said, ”Let’s have ham and eggs.” The pig then replied, ”That’s fine for you, it’s a small donation on your part, but it’s a total sacrifice for me.””

    …according to the European economic standards…I am a “PIGS” civilian…
    well…VIVA to ALLL…!!!

  • Bob Black…
    I don’t see anything unfortunate in writing about influences/teachers, has to better than talking about camera gear. And thank god you chimed in – hoping your eye is getting better, because you’ve pointed me towards Sarah moon who’s worked I had seen before but would of never thought had any influence on Ankermann without your help. But i can now see it!! Off to see who Jem Cohen is :))

  • happy birthday ross..

    the biggest flaw i think teachers can have is to spend to much time talking about themselves.. standing in front of eager ears it could be a comfort of sorts i guess, although pretty boring.

    i learn’t more before i went to collage than i learn’t in collage – and probably took a year or two to get back to where i wanted to be after it all.. some teachers regarded themselves far too highly, despite the fact that their achievements were ridiculously modest.. teachers who went straight from education into teaching.

  • Thank you David!

    “spend to much time talking about themselves.. ” That’s pretty much what i meant too..

  • Ross…
    Happy Birthday :)))

  • Anders Petersen…
    workshop link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmbvcpDAXzQ and
    He seems a lovely person who really lives photography!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    We Love You…!!!

  • Ross fuck u ,)
    I wished happy birthday a day ago and u still haven’t acknowledged me!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    …ROSSY is sleeping …we opened a big bottle of red wine and we had few beers…you can imagine:)

    P.S Hey,malaka,can you do the f word …hmmm…
    to look little more appealing…Like F@@@ or F!!!F**** … :))))))))))

  • Thanks Paul, Civi.

    Panos; Delayed gratification is much sweeter! :-) Thank you!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    I guess ROSSY never sleeps…afterall…:)))

  • Wow… really nice stretch of comments, and related actions. Made me smile, even before coffee which is no mean feat.

    Paul, regarding the stock exchange shot, that ‘s just steam from a manhole cover. A grand new york photo tradition.

    Regarding the original post about the guy winning a pj contest using the iphone and hipstamatic, although I was unsure before using the software, now I’d probably agree with the naysayers. I shot that little essay on my lunch hour and the only processing I did was to resize for the web, so from conception to posting came in a little under an hour and a half. I’d say that whoever programmed that little app deserves a prize, but although it’s a great toy, it’s still a toy.

  • Mind liberator – Def operator…


    yes yes, it’s friday (even way over in LA) so turn it up!

  • MW

    yes, the hipstamatic is a toy. So what?
    Stephen Shore used a toy camera for portraits.

    What reason should hold any serious photographer away from using the camera and make good pictures anyway?
    Just because anyone could?

    I don’t understand the naysayers…

  • Thomas, same concept as a cookie cutter.

    Sam, always appreciate a slick rick ref, but although heart’s in the right place in that one, far from the best.

    For those unfamiliar, try a little children’s story or this cautionary tale about overeating.

  • Just got the flyer in the mail with some exhibition infos, among them:

    ANDERS PETERSEN: From Back Home, at the National Museum of Photography, Bradford West Yorkshire, UK, until March, 27th

    ANTOINE D’AGATA: Ice, at Musée Nicéphore Niépce, Chalon-sur-Saône, France, until May, 15th

    PAOLO PELLEGRIN: Dies Irae, at Fondazione FOMA in Milan, Italy, until May, 20th

    At least one on the road.. free tickets are of course for the two I can’t attend..

  • MW,
    well ok, maybe not one of your fav slick rick… but as for mr mos definitely – come on – The Ecstatic was/is an instant classic…

  • mw…
    I hope i don’t sound too ”dense” but what is the cookie cutter concept?

  • Anyone can use a cookie cutter and get predictable results. But I got away from the original question, which was about photojournalism rather than other photography. I can kinda see it with the original conceit of the piece, that of mimicking what the soldiers were doing. But in general, no, I think the historical professional standards for photojournalism, basically the 5 w’s, should, for the most part, stand. Of course people can shoot whatever they want however they want, but that doesn’t mean it should be published as news. And this is all getting a bit schlocky. Consider that in addition to the award for using a toy camera, someone else won something for pictures swiped off of Google street view. Taken together, one could see a trend toward denigrating any kind of skill as an important component of photography. One need not even point and shoot, much less have any digital darkroom skill. Screen grabs are fine. Anyone can do it.

    Props to those who did it first though. Like Andy Warhol painting accurate representations of Campbell’s Soup cans and Brillo Boxes. It was an interesting conceptual breakthrough when he did it. After that it was as unimaginative as unimaginative gets, which is pretty much how I will describe using hipstamatic on the iphone from here on out.

  • MW…

    I would hardly call Damon Winter’s essay with the iPhone “unimaginative.” He is a true photojournalist using an app… or, if you will, a digital film choice, for his story. Much like past photogs chose velvia or kodachrome or Tmax before they left for work.

    What are your thoughts specifically regarding Winter’s response/argument? Are they flawed? In what way? Curious. thanks.

  • as an aside – my facebook feed has exploded with uploads of hipstamatic snaps..
    i think, as michael w says – props for doing it first.. it has set his work conceptually above the gaggle of “PJ’s” covering the embedded story.
    already feels a little old though.

    i wonder if it becoming more difficult to set oneself apart from the masses in terms of PJ work.. these days so much is crowd or public sourced.. with increased risk the bbc journalist from the uk watches from the balcony, then sources visuals from local talent.. (as i think it will be in the future).

    perhaps there is much less scope for “making your name” in an embedded situation, with so many doing the same, and so new ways have to be discovered..
    next up – pinhole train crash.. HDR earthquake.. large format photos of a tv screen with the aftermath of an IED, (copyright whoever bothers to do it)

  • PAUL

    def just means “cool” basically…does come from “definitely”…you can check it out by going to one of the hip hop dictionaries…i was using it as double entendre..def as in cool and def as short for definition…righteous in bob marley def is different than def as in religious righteous ..got it?

  • to put in context – i do like the hipstamatic concept and think it is deserving of recognition..

    i’m not, nor have i ever been, a PJ though – it is probably for that crowd to dissect the meaning and significance of the award.

    google street view i can take or leave… lots of people have been finding interesting shots taken by the cars since it was first set up. i found it quite dull and, given the nature of the photographers task in capturing the photos, it probably was quite dull to shoot.

  • Michael, as I said above, props to Winter for doing it first, or close enough. That, and the part about mimicking the way soldiers take photos makes it somewhat interesting and imaginative. But now that that’s been done, it’s gonna look pretty unimaginative for all who walk in his footsteps.

    And to the question of toys. Using the iphone and the hipstamatic requires no technical skill at all. Everything all the way through the processing is fully automatic. It is done by computer programmers. Of course objects in space type composition is still involved, but that’s far from being the whole of photography. And that’s pretty much the defining characteristic of a toy. Most of the important decisions are built in so that any child can play successfully play with it and have a good time. A real camera, on the other hand, and real processing, requires many, many choices which, although technology is involved at every step, result in giving the photographer the ability to share a unique vision.

    On my one hour iphone hipstamatic project yesterday, at one point I noticed about 10 young women (they were all blond and wearing black, looked like a fashion model school field trip) taking pictures of a skyscraper near ground zero. I took a picture of the same building. Likely, if each of us processed our pictures of the same thing according to our individual tastes, we would get 10 different aesthetic variations on the same scene. But if we all were using the iphone with hipstamatic, or any other toy, we would all get exactly the same picture.

  • bjp news and olivier has been covering WPP and more really well of late.. he’s properly on it – http://www.bjp-online.com/type/news

  • MW…

    Interesting. I actually think the opposite…

    Creating a compelling image with a camera phone requires a great deal of skill precisely because you do not have the flexibility of a dSLR. No f stops, telephoto, ASA adjustment, shutter speed, lens filters, tripod, etc, etc… Now to create a decent photo essay with said camera phone requires even greater skill. A skill which I believe Winters demonstrated quite well. As you say, a child can indeed easily play with it and have great fun. But a child will not likely create compelling imagery. That takes skill. Experience. All of which can be applied to iphone or D3S or Holga or whatever.

    Anyway… cool conversation.

  • MW

    still do not see much of a problem with veracity when it comes to Damon work…nobody seems to be able to come up with any reason why the pictures are not “true”…they are just as true as any other pictures all using some sort of “reality” changing tech..nobody here complaining (i am not) about super photoshop or heavy darkroom with Petersen, d’Agata, Ackerman, Pellegrin?? all four of those photogs (and i could name dozens more) rely on heavy tech for their “look”..Damon is pretty straight compared…

  • All,

    I am not a photojournalist and probably will not become one.

    However, I differentiate strongly between what does a machine do and what a person.
    If a PJ uses a Canon 1DsMkII in P-Mode – which happens – he does not need any skills, and everybody would agree it is PJ work. If the same person uses the hipstamatic app, some people start a discussion about skills. Hm – I cannot agree to this. It is still the photographer who decides what is in the frame, in what relationships things are to each other and such. The photographer not the machine makes the picture.

    For the Streetview thing – I take that as a provokation to start a discussion. If you apply all rules or ethics of photojournalism to those pictures, which are violated? The pictures are true, these scenes happened, etc. The only thing I would see is a kind of copyright violation, because those pictures were made by someone else and I am not sure if the driver could be called the photographer, as he was not pulling a shutter. The discussion is a good one.

    The discussion about the hipstamatic and the high values highly technically skilled photographers is a waste of time, because it will come – and go (soon), newspapers will print those pictures, and there will be more aesthetics involved.

  • Michael Kircher,

    I fully agree to what you are saying.

  • “make the work that your hear sings and sinches and singes….and the better…”

    like that bob, like it…

    interesting thing too. some work i love (usually a particular kind for awhile and then it might change or morph or progress or regress or evolve or…), some i dont. it’s like going through the magazines or books and saying “this is good” “this is crap.” well, at some point a pointless exercise. like with fiction, hey i like murakami and marquez but i never got into winterson….


  • David, apparently I’m not explaining myself very well. Although I thought I’ve twice explicitly stated that Damon’s work was imaginative and proper, that somehow doesn’t seem to be coming across. But speaking in general, I said what I said and although my mind is always subject to change, see no reason yet to change it in this case.

    And what I said is consistent with your point about your friends. They use sophisticated tools to create unique visions. If they all shot with the same toy, they’d all look exactly the same (content notwithstanding).

    Thomas, yes, unfortunately few people these days have any knowledge or understanding of historical journalistic ethics, hence the studies that show those who pay close attention to the news are often less well-informed than those who don’t.

    And Michael, you really think it requires more or as much skill to point-shoot-print than to make thousands of decisions along the way? Are you saying you think my one hour essay was without skill? No, I recognized how time of day would play with the camera’s capabilities and saw what hipstamatic was doing with color and shot accordingly, so yes, we can do things with toys that tourists probably can’t. But making the same circle with my dslr and processing it in the digital darkroom would have required a lot more skill and effort to produce interesting photos. If I don’t possess that skill, then I’m better off at noon on a sunny day with hipstamatic on a camera phone. If I do, then I will get much better pictures by making my own choices and using my own vision rather than that of anonymous programmers.

  • MW…

    sorry, i was not really writing specifically to you as in counterpoint, i was just rambling on the topic

  • To put my point quite clearly if we suddenly found out Sally Mann used an iPhone to shoot her “immediate family” story and not an 8×10 view camera personally I wouldn´t give a damn because I am interested in the image. For me photography is about photos and cameras are necessary evil I have to buy and use to create images/photos with. Photography is a way of expressing our thoughts and feelings or does it matter if I write a beautiful poem with a Biro
    or Montblanc fountain pen?

  • Eva, thank you for posting the Sally Mann link. I caught most of the segment on the radio yesterday, but was going to go back and listen to it in its entirety. Totally love her and her work :-)

    Also on NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday, a segment on David LaChappelle suing Rihanna (et. al.) over copying his look in one of her music videos: http://n.pr/ek2hbx

  • David…
    Thanks I got it! :)

  • Paul, I think the more accurate analogy would be to question if it matters whether a computer automatically generates a beautiful poem that expresses your feelings or if it’s better if you to do it yourself.

  • mw…
    But you choose what to photograph that scene not the app.
    This reminds me of my friend when we saw together “War Photographer” he was so happy to see Nachtwey using Manual mode on that Canon 1V like he always does… I just didn´t get it . Does it makes his images more valid. Oh and just in case I use manual mode always especially with my 8×10!!

  • MW..

    is that really an analogy? i am lost on this one if it is

  • i see what you’re saying michael W – although i think that while the processing and colouring side of the hipster style is taken care of, (focus, exposure vignette and all), there is still the discipline of the frame.. timing.. the subject matter.. the situation and subject being reported.. which is all under the control of the photographer.

    it’s quite funny in a way that so much is taken care of – so much which other photographers craft at their computer in order to create an ambiance.

    at the extreme, perhaps such easily captured atmospheres which the app is capable of may set a shift in the dominant style of PJ and photographic work in general.
    carefully crafted post processing has been disregarded with, in this and all instances of hipstermatic use.. post processed atmosphere has been created by a 2usd app.
    at the extreme perhaps there will be a resurgence of photography which disposes of post processing all together.. crispness and the moment could come back into fashion?!
    for me at least, the obvious viginette, desaturating and heavy post processing it becoming weary.. thus i found http://www.newsweek.com/photo/2011/02/13/egypt-protesters-agony-ecstasy.html refreshing.. sure it is in my “style” (off camera flash.. sharp moments) – i find such traditional use of off camera flash utterly compelling.. technical skill aside – we don’t see much of that about anymore.

    i think i explained myself well enough? did i?

  • i mean – it seems “shit photojournalists” know the cliched way to win a competition..
    great that an “app” can do it for us.. :o)

  • MW…

    in your comment above you seem to suggest that Winters piece lacked the journalists 5 Ws. That the iPhone is incapable of producing journalism. (if I read that wrong, apologies)

    “But in general, no, I think the historical professional standards for photojournalism, basically the 5 w’s, should, for the most part, stand.”

    Do you think Winters didn’t cover this with his essay? Couldn’t cover the 5Ws because of the iPhone? I don’t understand this comment.

    You keep referring to the camera phone as a ‘toy’. And that somehow means it is not professional to use it, that it can’t be used by professionals (or shouldn’t be) You appear to be in the it’s not the photographer it’s the tool camp. I doubt you are but your obvious disdain for the use of an iPhone by a photojournalist sounds like it.

  • When the first Leicas came out in the 1920s, they were not taken seriously since they were small and used cinema film. Speed Graphics dominated newspaper photography until the late 1950s.

  • I guess no matter how many times I repeat what I said about Winters, it’s not going to matter. But to the other points… Perhaps part of the confusion comes from going back and forth between talking about photojournalism in particular and photography in general.

    Regarding photojournalism, historically, photojournalist ethics require that a scene be represented as accurately as possible. Therefore, when one uses an app that radically changes the colors, one is not to the best of one’s ability accurately representing the scene. Color, Paul, is part of both the scene and what we choose to photograph. In either event, it shouldn’t be chosen (any more than necessary) by software. In that regard, I’m okay, even impressed, with Winters’ use of the technology since he is accurately representing the scene from the soldiers’ perspective, at least some of them. In summary, in most cases, I agree that deviating from an accurate (as possible) representation of the scene should be a no no in photojournalism, but that as Winters demonstrates, there is some room for exceptions. I’d say not much room though, and the pj had better be damned good at it. (and btw, I don’t disdain the use of camera phones in photojournalism, it’s programs like hipstamatic I’m criticizing)

    Regarding photography in general, sure, anything goes. Do what you want and if it works, great. I just have my doubts that software like hipstamatic on a camera with no manual controls whatsoever, or any other gimmick like that will prove to be anything more than a fad. Too much of the skill is in the programming. Not all, but too much.

    I guess reasonable people can disagree, but I’m like David Bowen. I took those pictures yesterday, thought they were really cool at the time, put them on my screensaver and then got sick of them and that style in next to no time.

  • Oh, I don’t know, as long as something is clearly what it is, and what you say it is, I think your okay to a point within the context of newspaper photojournalism. It is misrepresentation that becomes the problem, not a “style” or “look” that becomes an ethical issue. Usually, anyway. Yeah well, overprocessed hdr may not technically be an ethical lapse, it just looks like shit. There are journalists who have used a Holga, or Graflex with an aeroektar, or boosted the hell out of the contrast in B&W, either in the darkroom, or digitally, and while they created mood or style, or even altered perception or beauty or impact, I don’t believe they created fiction. Just don’t touch the clone tool, add or subtract, unless of course to crop without changing context. Apologies if this just runs the discussion in further circles …

    I’m sure most have seen this … NPPA Code of ethics”

  • mw

    re “hipster” ap.

    I’ve got no problem with iphone pics, aps, photoshop actions, whatever. Scary how easy it is? naw, only if you have a lot of time invested in learning how to create all those ‘looks’ manually.
    Cameras are now showing up with built in ‘art’ filters.

    Journalism? honesty?, a myriad of factors will influence how any given scene is rendered by a camera. Lens choice, shutter speed and aperture choice, camera choice etc. Is pumped up saturation any less honest than choosing black and white (no saturation). Is an vignette OK if it is created by the light fall off of a simple lens but not after the fact? Is burning and dodging OK? Is it OK to crop in camera, but not after the fact? Human vision and cameras see vastly differently.

    I don’t have an i-phone, but am tempted, mainly by the camera and the cool photo aps.

  • DAH,

    Just to make sure that your question from yesterday evening was answered: “ok,i give up..where is a post by Kurt? cannot find…help me, help me”

    To which Sam Harris replied with Kurt’s original post: “@Justin- I have anolder Nikon D200 DSLRs collecting dust on my shelf. Email if you want it, no charge, just pay it forward.”

    What transpired is this: I had posted an inquiry regarding real-world experience with the Nikon D40 and Olympus E-420, as I was looking for a small, inexpensive dSLR (as I’m a bit cash-strapped at the moment). I received helpful replies and e-mails, then Kurt kindly and graciously gifted me a D200 and lens. How awesome is that?!!!

    Even though many of us interact in the virtual sense only, Burn has the feel of a real community. A special place, for sure.

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