Free beer, no sorry, free portfolio reviews…

It is past midnight.. It is late and it smells late..I leave for France in the afternoon tomorrow…I have not packed, nor have I ever learned to pack for any trip in all these years. Always get it wrong. Working on it. I am headed for four days of Magnum meeting followed by four days of Les Rencontres d’Arles arguably one of the most important international photography assemblages. After days of biz meeting with Magnum I am sure many would cut both ears off instead of one as did VanGogh in this fair charming south of France town.

Yet I always go. Never missed an annual gathering of the tribe since 1993 when I became a Magnum nominee and forever changed my life. I have already been to two photo fests this spring, am burned out on the social scene, and would not go to one now were Magnum not meeting on this 65th year in this historic Arles. The vibes in Arles buzz in way as in no other place.

My little book from 1967, Tell It Like It Is,  gets its two minutes of fame along with 10 other Magnum photographers who are participating on a presentation called “First Time”. Addressing the evening audience on July 3 with their first work, their first important work. The work that took them forward. For me this is bracketed with my recent Rio novella (based on a true story) entering the prestigious Library Actes Sud and a book signing at Les Rencontres. So my “first time” and my most recent. All the while surrounded by terrific exhibitions and evening presentations.

Burn will also have a stand where we will do free (buy me a beer) portfolio reviews. “We” being the entire Burn staff: Anton Kusters, Diego Orlando, Eva-Maria Kunz, Candy Pilar Godoy and Claudia Paladini. I do not think we have EVER had all of us together in one place. We work by remote control. By Skype. By text message (should be illegal) and by brain debilitating email. Fate has brought us all together. We are electric. On fire. BurnMagazine, BurnBooks, and BurnUniversity are all happening. Details on all will follow after the Burn gang meets after the Magnum meeting.

It all blends anyway. Magnum’s new website may unleash a whole new Magnum. For sure exciting times. Times to reinvent, times to invent, times to push push the proverbial envelope just as far as we can without losing the thing Magnum members care about the most. A place in history. A seat at the table. Burn seeks to help find new talent and celebrate the icons who may be a beacon for those forging ahead with oftentimes a wrinkled map.

If you are anywhere near the south of France June 3-8 please stop by. If you are on the other side of the world and have a lot of miles to cash in, now is the time. Everyone in this Burn audience knows well they have input in what goes on around here. Either with their voice or their pictures. Burn eliminates a lot of excuses. If you have something to say, you can say it right here and you are reaching an impressive cross section of our craft. Both the photographers and the editors and a lot of well versed serious photographer who choose photography as an avocation, rather than as a business.

I only write tonight and rambled this long to avoid the inevitable packing I must do. So let me get to it. Wishing all of you a pleasant morning/evening and ask you to stay tuned as I report from Arles in the week upcoming to flow alongside our EPF finalists.



Williston, North Dakota, from the Magnum project Looking For America, May 2012


335 Responses to “Free beer, no sorry, free portfolio reviews…”

  • Travel Safe. What are these meetings like?


    intense…the first day all we do is look at new work…from those who are applying to Magnum…the screening process has already been going on for several weeks with discussions among all photographers to see if any will even be voted on…each office, New York, Paris, London, Tokyo can put up none, one, two, or three candidates who will then be discussed at length, their work viewed, and a closed vote taken…this is the heart of Magnum….the other three days are pretty much straight business…looking at archive sales, assignments, print sales and all the ways that Magnum might earn income to survive as the business that it is….they are exhausting meetings….some of the meetings are closed, with member photographers only, and others include our staff, those who work so hard in our behalf….all in all for sure damned important and fascinating..sometimes, as legend has it, feathers do get ruffled…strong willed photographers all, their can be clashes of opinion…but it is all democratic…nothing happens of significance without a democratic vote….and we all know how democracy works…slowly…so gotta love democracy for sure, yet efficiency is hardly a byproduct….yet our policies do come out of it…new group projects are started and a bad idea from the year before might get the axe…of course a great party is always the ender and everyone just tries to figure out how Koudelka can dance the night away……

    cheers, david

  • Travel safe, David and to all others, too.
    Always fun to see the videos of the party on youtube.
    Burnians, please report – I’d like to be there, too – but my work work here, is currently priority.

    I’ll follow Burn, Instagram, facebook and all else :)

  • Wow, thank you for the lengthy response David. That must be very trying. With so many various brilliant minds in the same room with a wide degree of backgrounds among them, one must be quite strong in opinion or will for their opinions to be heard and considered in such a democracy. Have a safe trip and thanks again!

  • It all sounds amazing. Electric, on fire, someone in the world shares my packing disabilities, free portfolio reviews. I’d definitely buy you a beer. Bon voyage, David!

  • If you are anywhere near the south of France June 3-8

    July 3-8!

    PS: Going anywhere near Paris, David?

  • HERVE…

    i am in Paris one night in and one night out…train to Arles….you?

  • I don’t think Metro-North gives frequent flyer miles and I haven’t been using them often enough to rate a frequent flyer mile if they did. I could drive, but I don’t think my car could handle that last left turn at Montauk, and I don’t swim. Ah well, such is life, I guess.

  • ahhh…if only the world was as small as it is in cyberspace….
    Safe travels!
    I’ll be tuning in to your and the others instagram feeds plus here too of course.

  • Not going to Arles, David. I assume the day in Paris will be all busy and work, but in case there is some kind of get together around a few beers, would love to bear-hug (it’s been a while). I’ll check again this page or send a quickie in my FB message box, or at the usual

    Safe flying!

  • Safe travels and constructive meetings, DAH (and BURN team!)

    I have been trying to meet up with Audrey in Arles since all of us went to Perpignan. Has not happened yet. Hopefully next year, though. With new work in tow!

    BTW, totally LOVE the Rio book.
    I think I’ll move back there.

  • Carlo, for those fortunate enough to have money or the right sponsors, the world is practically as small as cyberspace.

    Safe travels David and more fun. One day soon, you must settle down for a few weeks or you will drive me insane, if not yourself. What a highly charged, energetic, yet maddening pace you have been on! I don’t think I have ever witnessed anything quite like it before.

    It would help a lot if one of your cats could travel with you, but I know how cats tend to be about traveling, so I suppose this is out of the question. Yet, I understand there are plenty of good cats in France, so be certain to pause now and then, let one jump onto your lap, and give it a good tousle and scritch.

  • I want to participate, I’ll be there between 3 and 9! How can I guarantee to participate?
    Have a nice trip!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    First we take Charlotsville then we take Arles…

    Go BURNIANS…!!!

    Safe travels Amigo!…We are crossing waters and we will might
    meet again…terminal A sounds with me:)))

    What not to love! I will be back in my desk in few days,
    got to check my chickens ASAP…!

    May the party continues…

  • a civilian-mass audience

    FROSTY…Thank you for taking good care of my cat up there
    Thank you and all my people up there…!

    LASSAL…always a pleasure to see you around!

    I love you ALL…and thank you ALL!
    I guess beer on you:)

  • Regarding the above photo … of course his shirt was blue.

  • Civi – Your cat is purring, right now. Your Alaskans say, “you’re welcome and thank you!”

  • Maíra..

    The stand and reviews are the village, at the old factory where some of the exhibitions are:

    (based on a true story) signings and portfolio reviews at the BURN stand

    Please come by.. we also appreciate if some can volonteer an hour ir two if their time at the stand! :)

  • I think this is worth discussing further seeing as how it relates to the winner of the EPF. essay
    It seemed in danger of being quietly buried.

    June 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    This is but another sad example of a western photojournalist painting an entirely skewed picture of Serbia based on an education chock full of New York Times, BBC and CNN propaganda. The essay shows nothing of what Kosovo has become, a NATO military base. It shows nothing of the remnants of the NATO bombings, it shows nothing of the remnants of over a decade of internationally imposed sanctions.

    What appalled me the most is that Americans are still obsessed with these faux humanitarian crusades and that they continously send back skewed impressions of the world. Mr. Lutton is clearly concerned only with showing off that he went to a place off the beaten path for most Americans, and in turn painted it as a backwards hellhole to make his photos seem more important. The fact that the essay claims to tell story of Serbia in the wake of the the wars that broke apart Yugoslavia is laughable, laughable.

    As an aside, a little googling shows that 4 out of 6 of the jurors are AMERICAN and many with strong links to Nat Geo or Big M.
    Not sure if that is relevent or not , but it did strike me.

    Paul made a really astute comment also when he said
    ‘change the captions and it could be about any previous Eastern Block country.’

    Now does that mean that all east european countries look the same, or that OUR cultural stereotyping of them is?


  • Sorry Eva. Didnt see you there. …dont forget what you are not going to forget :)

  • John Gladdy:

    my reaction exactly to the winner/essay…left me totally disillusioned once again…even though matt is a good guy…and for me, much more revealing about the judges….and superficiality…especially as it applies to Eastern Europe (and the rest of the world) when the young globe trotting photographers carve up their ambition on the backs of their subjects….

    i’m not sure, frankly, journalistic work, generally (at least photographically) ever does more than reflect cliches…thats why i find most of it empty…pretty, but empty….i showed the work to a Kosovo photographer i know….hoped she’d commented, but she did not, alas…

    another reason all these competitions are just silly fodder….


  • John.. won’t stay long, but you, Tom Hyde and Thomas are on my checklist :)

  • John Gladdy…

    What did you think of Danny Wilox Frazier’s essay? Personally it turned out to be my favorite, but didn’t seem even to reach the finals. I wonder if Frazier is standing career wise in “No man’s land” too much experienced and work published to be emerging photographer and just missing that something extra to be one of the big guys?

    “my concerns do parallel yours however…i am more worried that photographers are just not really digging enough….not actually exploring…not actually working…not really living it…the notion that there are “too many photographers” is the most misleading and incorrect notion out there that i hear everyday.”
    Surely David’s word reflect in many ways Frazier’s passion and work…

  • John Gladdy…

    On regards to the EPF winner essay I now honestly can only really remember the intro photo which is so Paolo Pellegrin influenced it’s a bit shocking…

  • Thank you Eva,
    I’ll be there!

  • Yes John it didn’t go down unnoticed this way by a few of us…………….then again I have mentioned the stereotyping lets go out and show the misery of the Eastern Block photography fan boy mentality on several occasions.

  • Nothing wrtong with depicting the Eastern block but very few if any essays here get beyond the first line by the photographer “I want to take this ……” This is a pity or is it just an inability to tell stories. Most people have the act of taking photographs part covered……

  • Imants, I think it’s easy to look at the writing for its face value. However, it should be remembered, writing an artist statement can be a very difficult thing to do. You have to consider your audience; and the majority of the viewers here are photographers, so the natural path is to talk about the common element: Photography. “I am photographing…” “I photographed…” etc etc. Perhaps there needs to be a workshop or post about writing statements! I find it very difficult to write them especially when the work is still in progress. Often a statement is going to talk about the medium in some amount. Statements tend to be fairly short. The longer they get, the more BS they seem to contain. The way I understand them, a statement is not a full back story, so much as it is a brief about the significance of the subject and/or the artist’s agenda.

  • Maybe critiques should be directed towards conceptual understanding and its relation to world and audience rather than the photographic abilities of the essayist.

  • No writing an artists statement is no more difficult than the production of the work. Now if one doesn’t know what they did or were unsuccessful then it is a problem.
    Then maybe the problem is that burn places too much emphasis on work in progress and not enough on work completed

  • In the world that I teach the emphasis is on resolving a concept/subject/idea and completing an artwork musical, dance piece etc not a world of beta testing

    a statement is not a full back story but it has to be about the work

  • majority of the viewers here are photographers, I thought they were communicators as well

  • Should read “a statement is not a full back story, so much as it is a brief about the significance of the subject and/or the artist’s agena” …but it has to be about the work

  • Maybe critiques should be directed towards conceptual understanding and its relation to world and audience rather than the photographic abilities of the essayist.

    Agreed, though I’d say critiques should primarily be directed toward conceptual understanding and the success, or not, of communicating that understanding. Photographic abilities can certainly be used to communicate conceptual understanding and are in many cases relevant on that level, if nowhere else. And of course history/precedent plays a role as well.

    To John’s point, the few times I’ve seen journalists parachute in and do a story on something I’ve had very in depth knowledge about, they’ve botched it pretty badly. Nature of the job, in many ways, but the best manage and the very best transcend and someone doing a project over several years should be traveling on foot not hopping out of airplanes.

    About artist statements, I’ve come to the conclusion that someone else should write them. I’d consider writing one for someone else, but anything I’ve ever been able to write about my own work was twaddle.

  • “About artist statements, I’ve come to the conclusion that someone else should write them”…..thern it is no longer an artist’s statement
    Anyway who better to tell someone what the work is about than the creator, but writing is another learnt thing

  • Maybe the artist’s statement can be replaced with a interview via skype or a series of questions relevant to the essay/work presented

  • or if one is published on burn they are required to answer some commentator questions

  • Right, meant to say introduction. Seems the best work typically has one. I would agree that an interview, or Q&A would work better than an artist statement. I honestly see no good purpose in an artist statement unless it’s something the artist fervently wants to do, and even then it’s probably a mistake.

  • MW, you wrote:

    “To John’s point, the few times I’ve seen journalists parachute in and do a story on something I’ve had very in depth knowledge about, they’ve botched it pretty badly. Nature of the job, in many ways, but the best manage and the very best transcend and someone doing a project over several years should be traveling on foot not hopping out of airplanes.”

    While I don’t disagree with the broad generalization you are making, and clearly the best work is rarely in the “breaking news” genre, I fail to see how this relates to John’s statement. Perhaps I’m missing exactly the statement to which this pertains. If this is in context to the EPF winner, then clearly this does not apply. I’m not trying to be contrary, only to clarify since the implication is inaccurate when speaking of Lutton’s work. Am I missing the point?

  • Some people are photographers and some are wordsmiths, and some are both. I would not dare suggest that an artist statement is as easy as it is to make the work. They are seldom black and white since there is a WIDE range of grey where the writer can lose the reader. You could sound like a complete ass, presumptuous and pretentious. You could come across as naïve or even ignorant. you may know your work – but may not know how to verbalize it or write about it. Or you may just be modest and not want to tell too much and hope the viewer has some sense to discover what needs to be seen.

    As Michael mentioned – some people work a particular subject for a very long time and then out of nowhere another comes along and tries to tell a story from the same material – maybe they’re young or maybe they are just new to the area. For them to write with the same authority as the person with years of experience would be a tremendous task.

  • Tom, that was in reference to the statement by amarinovich that John referenced, which is about the EPF winner. I was, as you note, making broad generalizations, definitely not making any kind of fixed judgement about the Serbia/Kosovo work. I have no idea whether or not amarinovich’s statement makes legitimate points about Lutton’s work or not. I know next to nothing of the region. I think Gladdy’s point was that it merited further discussion. That’s one I’d like to see, but am not qualified to participate in.

  • Jason it is not that difficult to write about one’s work……..

    One should be at the very least be able to explain what it is about, what the intention is, whether it is successful in their eyes etc. These are just basic constructs when one is producing work.

    You would not accept a beta(work in progress) plumbers work and pay why should photography be different? If you want people to pay for your work then it has to be a completed task and the photographer able and willing to explain it to the consumer.
    So one makes mistakes verbalising then correct as them.

  • But the idea isn’t to spell out what the work is about. That’s for the view to discover. So in a sense it is indeed about the work – but minimally at that.

  • Who says spelling it out is a negative…….jeez the news does it everyday
    ….. anyway it is about giving the audience hooks of information to grab onto

  • Well are you looking for a caption or an artist statement then? They are different animals

  • I never mentioned captions I am a just referring to the artist’s statement

  • But in news they are captions. So I am confused. On a gallery wall, and here it seems they are statements.

  • It can be a simple as
    War photographer A.. I tried to capture the pain, the hurt the fear of a 15 year old soldier

    War photographer B.. T I tried to capture a tired old civil war that has been running for 37 years through the eyes of a 15 year old soldier

  • News is not a caption it is a statement long or short

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