alejandro chaskielberg – the high tide [EPF Finalist]

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Alejandro Chaskielberg

The High Tide

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Emerging Photographer Fund – FINALIST  (number one of eleven)

With my photographs I create fictional scenarios with real people and situations.

I try to explore the limits of documentary photography, using technical processes to transform the natural perception of light, colors and spaces.

I am working on a project about the Paraná River Delta photographed in full moon.

The Paraná River supplies water for more than one hundred million people, including the cities of San Pablo, Buenos Aires and Asunción, Argentina. The whole Paraná basin is one of the principal reserves of sweet water in the world.

My photographs set out to document the life and work of the islanders of the Delta.

Using long-time exposures with full moon, they have allowed me to light part of the landscape artificially and also give the islanders a strange timelessness: an unknown source of light floods the scene with unreality and mysterious.

I think my pictures as slides of unfinished stories, having a script on my head. The images are carefully planned after days of observation, and they only have a body when the large-format camera initiates the slow subordination of the capture. It will take from five to ten minutes until this thick darkness sprouts what was secret.

I am interested in the poetical and visual power of the water, and the relationship of the people and the environment. I think that the health of this resource is a worldwide problematic issue today.

My intention is to work with photography in the border between reality and fiction.

Photography can transform reality and produce a magical view of people and life, and this is a part of its particular language.


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Alejandro Chaskielberg


290 Responses to “alejandro chaskielberg – the high tide [EPF Finalist]”

  • OK. Now that is pretty damn cool!

  • Before reading the words I saw this essay completely differently than I did before. My initial stupid reaction was ho hum, who cares about the latest in a long line of digital shooters abusing a lens baby. After reading your words, I had to go back and my stupid jaw dropped. Large format film? Amazing!

  • Edit: The first stupid sentence above should say: Before reading the words I saw this essay completely differently than I did after.

  • Reminds me of the look of old Viewmaster photos. These would be interesting printed really large in a gallery.

  • JIM…

    yes, that is what it reminds me of too, but i could not put my finger on it!!! somewhere i still have my old Viewmaster i think…now THAT was photography……thanks


    please e-mail me when you have a chance….

  • BIG WOW! :)

  • viewmaster jim (BIGGEST SMILE!!!)

    how did photographer take these pictures of the littlest people?!!!
    the grass is larger than life!!!
    call me voyeur i want to be one !!!
    i feel like an ant – the biggest, happiest ant in the grass !!!

    thank you — today’s my best monday in a while!!!!
    mr alejandro

  • David,

    Did you see my email?

  • just amazing – the bar is set high.

    so much to tuck into.. the sumptuous photographs themselves of course, and also the story.. the technique.. the restrictions you have put on yourself in order to create the feel of them, alejandro.

    just fantastic.. i want a large format camera again.

    good luck

  • Oh David B…. you probably really don’t… (grin)

  • Beautiful and dreamy!!!

  • Divino Alejandro…
    he pasado por tu pagina de web bastante, desde que vi a tus fotos en la galeria ruth benzacar hace un par de anos…tenes una vision bastante fuerte, y imagenes exitosos en la comunicacion de tus pensamientos. Felicidades!

  • Alejandro,

    really nice and interesting work, definitely could see these on a gallery wall. My first impression I really thought the work was just okay and maybe just not my cup of tea, but then I went to your website and viewed all of your portfolios and really loved your work, very powerful and strangely enough I can see why the High Tide essay is your strongest work but only because I liked the edit on your website better. Is it the edit, the black, the 3d grass, the color? I am not sure why……but really nice work, impressive! could also see your style very strong for an assignment at Burn.

  • Yes, bastante fuerte Viewmaster! Big congratulations to you Alejandro.

    So fantastic to see the EPF door opened. I think for all the finalists I will keep my comments to a minimum as they are revealed, I am sure all the projects chosen will have great interest and merit. What I would really love to see is some sort of written account of what the judges feel about each piece, even just notes they make to this possible DAH? at the end maybe of all 10, to see some feedback from the 10 eyes and yours too of course?

  • What amazing work! The colors, the light…excellent!

  • it is a blurry line
    between reality
    you so clearly demonstrate….
    the light…
    so soft
    each one of your frames seems to have its own narrative….
    oh so real…

  • DUH, per your request, my stupid email is in your box.

  • Great technique. Fascinating stuff!

  • Nice, very different and unexpected. Sort of untrue which can be a good or bad thing. I’ll check it again in a few days time.

  • magical scenes and wonder colours! is it ok to call this art???!!! ;)
    great unique piece of work!

  • All I can say is: Cool! As already suggested I to would love to see these printed on a large scale in a gallery – they’d look amazing.

    David AH I sent you an email a couple of weeks ago have you had a chance to look at it?

  • Alejandro

    I am fascinated with your thought process realized in this compelling work. Have you ever seen the film “The Truman Show” Your essay reminds me of that fictionalized enclave, but instead of living there in the ‘show’ i feel that i’ve climbed a wall and am looking in at our world. I like the freedom of not being directed to react but to feel it come to me instead allowing me to touch it. But, i can’t touch it. I like that.
    It’s yours. Anne

  • ERICA..

    yes, of course…good idea…i will keep copious notes….

    cheers, david

  • different, refreshing work. not sure about how well all the images fit with the theme, but then its a work in progress so i kind of figure this can be overlooked.

    gets my approval for sure.

  • really original…ethereal. i like the idea of ‘exploring the limits’ of a genre.
    good luck with the project

  • Brilliant, interesting technique, great colours. I have seen this featured elsewhere, PDN I think

    Well done Alejandro, you are getting the recognition you deserve.

    So much happens here on Burn in such a short time. I go away for a long weekend, stories get taken down, Panos opens exhibition EPF finalists showcased, burn being sold for megabucks in a time of recession:-)

    David AH (what do you like to be called?) and all the others who work behind the scenes, you have created a raging inferno that will tear through the photography world as we know it. Bravo

  • IAN….

    i look forward to working with you immediately following the Look3 festival…will i see you in London at the end of June???

    my mother calls me David…i generally try to follow her wishes….

    cheers, david

  • fasinating imagery- I wish you much success completing the series. Great!

  • DAH

    that’s great, I think that will be a huge education for us all..invaluable really.

    Will the judges look at the comments here? Anton wrote something about them viewing the work at private curious as to what that means. Will they wait to see all the finalists at one time?

    thanks – i know I am filled with a mighty curiosity :))

  • david,

    Yep you will certainly see me end of June in London let me know when where etc. I am working on some past projects, that I wouldn’t mind showing you, and a great project in June, just trying to leverage some dosh from the WWF.

    David it is then.

  • Eye Candy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    At last…..someone that can use a Large Format camera,…. for real!!!!!

  • Wow! Alejandro has set the EPF finalists’ bar very high indeed. This essay is mesmerizing; I wanted it to go on and on without end. He explains how he captures/creates the world in this way but it is still a total mystery to me, and I want it to remain so. I don’t want to know his process, I just want to let myself be washed in the surreal light of his visions. Amazing work!


  • Congratulations Alejandro !! very amazing et beautiful work !

    Best, audrey

  • Great technique, great images. Really refreshing to see. Who said film was dead ?

    Just gotta love Large Format…

  • Barrie…
    Its not the film that did the job here…
    Its the design of the camera ( plus the photog’s SKILLS )… not the film…

  • Yep, getting those slither thin areas of DOF running in odd directions without photoshop takes a view camera.

  • I feel like I’m pulling out of a weird dreamscape having looked at these. Still trying to shake loose of it so that I can better concentrate on the washing up after dinner. If I allow my head to wander back in I’ll likely break something in the sink.

    I’ll come back for more later.

  • I first viewed the essay without reading the text. My first impression was of a story being told with the use of mannequins in the place of human beings. As the essay unfolded I could see that at least some of the figures in the landscapes were real people. Alejandro says he creates fictional scenarios with real people and situations and that he works with photography in the border between reality and fiction. This is not to my particular taste, sorry. Using fictional scenarios to explore reality – I’d rather see the reality.

    It’s very interesting to see the landscape lit by the full moon but the figures look posed and unreal; how could they be other? Perhaps its the large format and the ultra thin depth of field.

    But hey, what do I know?

    Best wishes,


  • really refreshing photography! Alejandro, you deserve nothing but the best of compliments for your wonderful work. bravo!

  • Jim, yes, really perspicaious comment, viewmaster… I think in France, we call(ed) them “diaporama (Audrey, Eric, can you confirm?). In many ways, those little slide shows were my National GEO, as a kid.

    Alejandro, cool stuff, throwing us off in the best possible way. Curious as to see if the next 9 installements will rather privilege new ways of dealing with images and subjects, opposed to good old docu style.

    The technique is totally different, as well as the effect intended probably (I do not sense any irony), but the choreography with which you install people within your frames, as much objects as flesh and bones, do make me think of Martin Parr.

  • Panos,

    Agreed, it’s not the film but the the skill of the photographer here. What I really meant is that you can only get this effect by using a large format camera and obviously have to use film, unless you’ve got a scanning back.

    Film just gives you a different look, and that’s the look that stops me in my tracks, everytime…

  • Coming too late into photography, I rarely ask myself, film or digital, when I look at pictures. But since we have experts here: Could that technique be approached with totally digital means (camera and editing software)? Thanks.

  • My post disappeared! I’ll try to re-create.

    I first looked at the essay without reading the text. My initial thought was that the photographs were of mannequins set in the landscape. As the essay progressed I could see that at least some of the figures were human. Then I read the text. Alejandro says that he creates fictional scenarios with real people and situations and that he is “interested in the poetical and visual power of the water, and the relationship of the people and the environment” and thinks “that the health of this resource is a worldwide problematic issue today….” I agree that the resource of water is a concern of us all but I’m not sure that this is the way to bring attention to the subject. Sorry.

    I like the long exposure and moonlight but the effect this has on the human subjects is that they look posed and stilted. Again, sorry, but this is not to my taste. But hey! What do I know? I’m not an EPF Finalist.

    Best wishes and congratulations Alejandro and remember, if everyone praised your work it would probably be boring!


  • Very interesting, unique style. Love number 12 and 5. The only aspect of the essay that I’m unsure of is the way you posed the people (the ‘way’ being the way you physically placed the people, not that your photographs are posed!) Some of the shots feel wonderful, and others seem to be losing what could be a really dynamic human subject. I realize you are doing long exposures, making dynamic humans hard. I’m sure shooting with such a shallow DOF with a view camera can make this incredibly difficult, as a 35mm shooter I really wouldn’t know. I guess I would love to learn more about how the people in your shots are symbolic of the river, some of the photographs are obvious in this regard, others need far more interpretation. Shot number 3 for instance, I love the composition of the frame (focus, light, color), but find the composition of the human subject odd. 7 and 14 confuse me for similar reasons. I’m left wondering why, as a series, number 9 has no human. 9 doesn’t feel strong enough on its own without another point of interest. Overall this entire essay is wonderful, my critiques are nit-picky and only first thoughts on the piece. Perhaps with a few more views I will find some answers, maybe I won’t and that is the point. Cheers.

  • I really like Alejandro’s approach, technique (I refer to the full moon exposure…personally I don’t care if these great images are the results of a lensbaby, a viewcamera or a photoshop’s filter) and, most of all, results: it is like looking into a tiny world. It’s really an original way to tell a story: even if the story plot is quite loose in this case, we are allowed to cast a (magical) glance into a not so exposed world and that’s more than enough for me. Congratulations!

  • Herve, could it be done with digital and Photoshop? Sure. But I don’t think that’s relevant. The photographer created some excellent fine art images with the View Camera. In this case, I think the means they were created is irrelevant to the images.

  • Indeed, Jim, as I wrote, i never ask myself. Panos and Barrie had me wondering.

    Thanks for the info.

  • Herve,

    It probably could be done with digital and photoshop but I reckon it would take ages and you’d have to be really skillful to do it this good.

    I personally don’t care how Alejandro did it, I’m just glad he did it his way. Lighting a scene like he has done is real difficult. Hats off to him, wonderful work.

    What’s next I wonder?

  • ALEJANDRO – i love this work. I actually submitted it for consideration for LOOK3… and it was chosen!! (yes alejandro – you owe me a drink)… ha ha. Looking forward to seeing your show on the BIG screen at on Friday night at LOOK3… will you be there? Congratulations and KILLER work….

  • whoa! intelligent and intriguing. congrats on being a finalist. much deserved

  • Outstanding use of colour and it runs a thread through all the work on the photographer’s site site

  • Herve

    This technique could have been done digitally without photoshop manipulation using lenses like the Canon tilt and shift lenses. Like a view camera or lensbaby, the lenses can be tilted to shift the plane of focus.
    What is harder to duplicate is the view cameras very shallow depth of field.

  • Fantastic work. I love how Alejandro has documented the people Paraná River Delta but has approached it in such a unique and refreshing way. I have grown tried of work that just repeats what has been done countless times before.

  • Its very impressive work. Has a very ‘dreamlike’ feel to it. and it has certainly set a good bar height for the next jumper.
    a lot of people have stated that they dont care how it was done and that it doesnt matter. I suppose it shouldnt, but it is niggling away at me. Its the cat in me i guess that when i see a magic trick done, instead of going ‘WOW’ i go ‘hmmm, how was that done?’ and then cant rest until I know. Same sort of thing with these. I really just should appreciate them for what they are and the obvious skill that has gone into their making….but…i look at them and wonder how they are done. So they ARE like a magic trick for me is i guess what im trying to say. The HOW? keeps standing in front of the images pulling faces at me.and this stops me from just going ‘damm they’re good’..which of course they are. And now i have a whole bunch of tech questions keeping me awake. Oh well, could be worse.

  • Stunning essay. When I viewed the first photograph, I felt that I was at eye level with small plasticine models on perhaps a scale set of the river area. It is hard to describe but the whole project was beautiful and surreal. I have a technical question another Burn member maybe able to answer; with such long exposures, how did the photographer prevent the subjects from showing any movement/blur in the finished photographs? I guess that in another way it could be argued that it is better not to know of the magic involved!


  • Also, forgot to mention, congratulations Alejandro on being the first EPF finalist to have their work shown. You really have set a high bench mark for others to follow. Well done!


  • El Instante

    Dónde estarán los siglos, dónde el sueño
    de espadas que los tártaros soñaron,
    dónde los fuertes muros que allanaron,
    dónde el Árbol de Adán y el otro Leño?
    El presente está solo. La memoria
    erige el tiempo. Sucesión y engaño
    es la rutina del reloj. El año
    no es menos vano que la vana historia.
    Entre el alba y la noche hay un abismo
    de agonías, de luces, de cuidados;
    el rostro que se mira en los gastados
    espejos de la noche no es el mismo.
    El hoy fugaz es tenue y es eterno;
    otro Cielo no esperes, ni otro Infierno.

    Jorge Luis Borges

    At first, when i swam through this essay i immediately thought of the GREAT Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, specifically her film La Cinega….the colors which appear as if star-burst arteries of our dreams…and the careful and attentive use of lighting (both natural and set) that pics apart the iconography and transforms it into universal points of dreamscape, the shifting of documentary language toward the language of unknowing…that moment, not quite recognizable, that troubles and disturbs and wrenches us from our ennui….I love the technique too in service of the entire vision….

    not merely the reverse depth-of-field, reversed lens (yes, for those commentators who ask, you all CAN use this technique easily, in camera, re-pivoting the lens, or with adapters or even, yes now, a PS filter, but that question seems an irrelevancy, for technique alone does not make allow for what makes this work so beautiful and so organic. The use of reversed lenses (or distorting depth-of-field) is a common practice now, in fact on of my friends helped pioneer that look with another friend of his, a photographer based in Italy. You can take a look at Toronto-based photographer Toni Hafkenscheid, his landscapes (dream scapes really) employ a similar technique ( ) but Toni’s work, from a few years ago, is after a different tact…..What makes Alejandro’s work so strong is that the optic contusion does not distract from the language of the moment: an example of style augmented story, rather than drowning it…particularly in light of the dreamscapes he’s telling…

    documentary turned to literary poems….

    beautiful, hypnotic, cinematic and for me deeply personal, a vision that i never grow weary of…..

    Harvey’s sure has brought in the big boys…as I know Alejandro was awarded a PDN 30 Under 30….anxious to see the others…

    congrats Alejandro….

    all the best

  • i love the painterly quality to these images. almost surreal in that the light seems incongruous; out of place. Like a dream.
    beautiful art is what i see.

  • Alejandro,

    First congratulations. You certainly have a very intriguing vision and I am in admiration of the technique you have developed here. You have some really killer shots here of which the last one in particular (also the opener of the essay) is simply magnificient. Looking at it, we seem to have landed in the middle of a strange dream somehow with blurred humans, some incredible light… Having said this, several other shots, for me, do not work as well nor have the same magic (many others I actually preferred on your site). All in all, I worry that the technique is taking over too much…leaving me feeling a bit unsure at the end on whether I really like the essay or not… Clearly, I am in total minority here with my “slight concern”…. and in any case, there is no doubt that you are very talented and I have enjoyed discovering what you have created here.



  • i’ve just realized what it is that these images remind me of. when one sees photographs, film, of models, set up for movie sets, where there is a very short depth of field. So this adds dramatically to the dreaminess, out of place, these images give. making the people in them look like little people in a strange land.
    So imaginative.

  • Alejandro,
    I went through all of your website. From your first BW documentary work to this essay, you managed to refine your technique and unleash your creativity to amazing extends. Congrats!

  • Question: Will this grant be given out every year? I never applied because I was lost in the Carpathian mountains in late March.

  • As photographers, wer’e easily seduced by technique.

    I’m afraid I cannot get past the technique here, and many of the comments seem to be “gee whiz, cool technique” comments. I also wonder if more people would dismiss these photos if they were in fact photoshop based. Instead I’m hearing, “wow, film, how cool”.

    Certainly Alejandro has pushed these techniques a little farther than I’ve seen before. Pushing planes of focus around in large format is not new, David Burnett is having lots of fun with his speed graphic and antique aero Ektar these days. More folks messing with Canons tilt shift lenses, using them to distort and bend planes of focus in all manner of subjects, all in the hope of giving the work a “different” look. Long exposures combined flash exposures, too is not new.

    What is new, is using the techniques together, creating an impression of a construct, or miniature set.

    So in the end, does this help or hinder the message? Once we get past the “gee whiz” factor, are we left with stronger photographs, or just a clever trick with no real purpose other than to draw attention to itself?

    Just throwing a question out there folks.

    Gordon L.

  • If one takes in the message/image as documentary evidence the any well crafted technique would hinder as the visual attributes take over.
    Then, one can focus on the results produced by a technique which in turn creates another avenue of communication that may redirect the viewer to the message intended on another level of thinking

  • Photographs can sometimes operate on that level Imants. Do these photographs do that for you?

  • Some of the images sort of put me into the realms of toyworld and the original intent of documentation gets highjacked by the visual games being played out, but there is a sense of place. They remind me of snowdomes that I used to play with as a kid. I am not convinced that the images full fill the intent of the photographer…………it will be interesting to see where this technique takes the image maker.Maybe the realms of film and video are its future

  • Dear Alejandro,


    I feel it is like a cinema… the atmosphere and mood of this works are like something to happen.. very mystic…and making me to see what happened….

    Thank you so much such a nice works. :)))

    Kyunghee Lee

  • computer screen is to “small” for this work… this pictures in lightboxs is what i would love to see one day :)

  • Very good work, also more good stuff on your website !

  • I was NOT ‘wowed’ by the technique, because it is a COMMON practice now and just another tool…as i wrote, my friend Toni used this effect (in camera, and he used film) 5 years ago…as have innumerable photographers (maybe it’s ‘new’ for the readership, i dont know)…so, if it were only an issue of this lens disorientation/mini-world, it wouldn’t last long…so, my question would be: did the essay and individual pics stand up over repeated viewing (so that the ‘startling’ disorientation fades): in some of the pics they did for me, and the essay overall, hones…ironically, for my birthday yesterday my wife gave me Nan Goldin’s ‘the beautiful smile’, her hasselblad award, a book in complete opposition to this work, and im still radiant with the magnificent of that book…so, it worked it’s effect….that is: the question for Alejandro as a photographer is: ‘why this stylistic change? is it an integral part of your vision? is it simply a devise? is it a vocabulary from which you can carve out a longer engagement?’….who knows…each photographer struggles with this, particularly with technical twitches that cull immediate power but may not have substantial meaning…all i know is, as a photographer, i liked the work, it felt very much like a dream, and that it was particularly odd used in the service of a documentary/journalistic study….and that’s good enough for me…

    as a photographer, one of the things that i find as a failing, a MAJOR failing with competitions is that it blinds viewers and photographers…this is not a condemnation of david or the epf, but it’s been interesting to see this…i wonder, i really wonder, why some of the commentators are so generous now when in the past they castigated and excoriated work published at Burn just as strong as Alejandro’s work…i think, again, it’s the luminosity of the title ‘epf finalist’….for me, an amusing and slightly depressing phenomenon…but one, that happens again and again and again…

    in the end, it’s a simple question for me: does the work click something inside me, bring a smile, make me think (as photographer and viewer) about the potency of story….

    the answer for me was Yes….and as a photographer, i do not get all googoo-eyed over technique, it must be in the service of something more…I totally here what Eric, Gordon and others have articulated….and i think these are fair and rich questions, ones im sure Alejandro has asked himself….

    anyway…strong work…

    all the best

  • I just see the photos as fine art, and as such I think the technique is hard to criticize. As I’ve already said, I think some of these would look great printed large on a wall (even transilluminated, as someone suggested). If I thought this project was anything but fine art (an attempt at real documentary photography, for example) then it would fail miserably. I don’t think I would want to see a lot of images made in this way, so I hope the photographer doesn’t plan to make a career out of it, but on a limited scale, I think the work is interesting.

    I’m not surprised this work was selected as an EPF finalist. It is consistent with the tendency toward edginess that I’ve seen consistently in the selection of what is featured on burn.

  • I agree with you Bob 100%

    One thing I did was watching his website. There you soon realise that he is a very good photographer and uses this technique he shows here not just for the sake of using it or playing with technicals.

  • BOB…

    if, as you describe, a “MAJOR failing of competitions” is that some viewers tend to create new values for themselves based solely on the curator’s judgments , what do you suggest is the solution??

    no grants???

    would not “possible effect” be more appropriate than “MAJOR failing”??? do you really believe photographers are “BLINDED” by what they see as the results of grant giving?? would not “possibly influenced by” be more appropriate than “blinded”??

    on tech: i do not think the readership here so naive as to never have seen a wide variety of effects and techniques…i think by now we have all seen everything everywhere all the time…

    love you Bob, but your comment this morning sounds a bit condescending……


    this is the second year running for the EPF….yes, every year at least…i am working towards having several grant programs throughout the year…from a funding standpoint, i could give another grant 30 seconds after i make the announcement for this one, but i would have to completely re-structure the whole process to do so…this is a monumental undertaking and responsibility with so many applicants…

    i still have your essay on deck…we will get back to normal programming right after we publish all 10 finalists…

    cheers, david

  • So what compels one to enter a contest of this nature? How does it change one’s work or process of judgement? How do the non selected participants view those selected? Is the work viewed in the compare contrast of one’s owned unselected work?
    ps I am not a competition entrant person so it is something I know very little about

  • To my eyes someone who really make poetry and fiction don’t have to write it… Never… Just a question of beeing discreet and beeing open to the world not to our “nombril”…

    Technical’ is “deja vu”, speech: “My work is, I am, My photographs, I think, My, etc etc ” and common words like ” fiction” doesn’t make the content… and are not justified in any case here…

    But I wish him good chance!

  • MIKE R…

    your points are well taken, but i am not sure i agree with you on the assumption that because Alejandro has mixed “fiction” with an editorial “message” on water use, that it would not call attention to an “issue”….just as a reminder, go back and look at last year’s China issue by Natgeo…now they are normally about as straight up a publication as you can imagine when it comes to “issues”, yet even they chose a “fiction /art photographer” to “illustrate” their most important points on population control even after having several photojournalists on assignment trying to come up with a visual relevancy and an appropriate photograph….how many long lens shots of a crowded street can anybody take as an illustration of overpopulation??? anyway, go back and take a look at the baby being lifted out of the hole in China……

    i suppose the main function for any publication dealing with real issues, is to get their readers to simply pay attention…read the story…get the facts…..if it takes visual stimulation and power to get them “into it” , then so be it….i can imagine a reader at first being intrigued by the “romance” of Alejandro’s work and then, by just having gotten their attention , get them to read all about the fact that our world water supply is in peril….a straight didactic picture of a dried up river bed might just be the “real thing”, but is it not possible that “fiction” can grab us in the gut in a way that a “point picture” cannot???

    in the literary world and cinema genre fiction lasts, while most news accounts and “docu”news reels disappear…might this not also be true in the new age of photographic literacy??? imo, the “functions” and the aesthetics photography have no boundaries….and occasionally the twain do meet…

    cheers, david


    i can answer your question, but first i would like to know if you see the difference between “competitions” like World Press and Pictures of the Year and the grants given like Guggenheim and Eugene Smith???

    personally, i would never enter a competition, but i would apply for a grant….two totally different things in my mind….


    cheers, david

  • I think people enter contests of THIS nature, i.e. grant contests, for the obvious reason. To acquire funding to pursue a personal project. It is hard enough to get assignments for reportage from the mainstream magazines these days. For some of the work that is seen on Burn I think it would be even more difficult. So photographers either self-fund or look for grants such as this.

    I think of this as a contest only in the same way one might consider applying for a job a contest.

    As far as other “contests” go, I think the best purpose for entering them is it looks good on a resume. For instance, for someone applying for a job at my paper as a photojournalist, when I see their list of honors or awards, I am not really impressed by the award. Mainly it gives me some idea of the photographer’s ability to constantly create good work. A photographer may have 25 great images in their portfolio, but it may have taken them 20 years to get them and the rest of the work could be mediocre at best. You know the every blind squirrel joke. Again, I don’t give the awards a lot of weight, I just use it as a consistency meter.

    And as far as contests I have entered, I have never felt that I have changed my shooting style to try to impress judges. I am never thinking about contests when shooting anyway. That usually comes when the deadline is approaching and I am editing entries. I have heard that some photojournalists “shoot for contests” but I am not sure what that means. I just try to make the best images from a given situation.

  • Singling out any work gives it more “value” in the eyes of viewers, just as seeing the name of a famous photographer on the lower right corner of a print tends to make most people react differently to it then if they thought it was from a newcomer. The only opinion that really matters, though, in a competition is those of the judges, who come at it as photography insiders in this case. Viewers on the outside may find nothing of interest in the same work…unless, as Bob says, it has “EPF Finalist” underneath it, which gives it instant credibility.

    But I don’t think that people posting here reacting differently just because it is labeled EPF finalist does any harm. The comments here aren’t going to determine the final winner (I hope). The only potentially harmful outcome would be if the finalists took the responses too seriously and believed we are a cross section of those who will ultimately view their work outside the contest. We aren’t representative of a broad audience here. We wouldn’t be here unless we had a bias toward photography in general.

  • I agree David. There is a huge difference between applying for a grant and entering WPP or the NPPA’s Best of Photography.

  • JIM….

    photographers should NEVER place a value on their work, either positive or negative, just because a jury “says so”…


    contest winners (i.e. POY, PULITZER) disappear at the table of history (ok, not always, but mostly)…… they “win” because of a provocative picture or essay that strikes a chord with the judges at the moment….grant recipients tend to be chosen for the long haul, for their body of work , their intent, and their “place” at the table….

    i have judged/juried both…i have won/received both…the contest winner is usually picked with about 5 judges in a rather hectic fast paced environment with little reflection and a whole lot of “well, if you want that one for first place in pictorial, then i want this other one for first place in news”…a lot of ” bargaining” and politicking going on….for sure a compromise of collective judgment with often nobody being really happy with the results at the end….grants are usually given with much longer careful considerations since they generally are intended not as a “prize” but for continued support of a long term body of work or project…..imo the grant discussions about a photographer and considerations of work go much deeper than the contest discussions about a “hot” picture….nevertheless, both are obviously subjective in nature…

    cheers, david

  • David:

    I am many things, and have many failings, but a condescending toward work or photographers, let alone the EPF or Burn or you or anton, is not one of them.

    My comment had nothing to do with either Alejandro’s work or the EPF. You would be harder pressed to find a more supportive, postive and active member of this community and now this brilliant magazine: 3+ years running. I would ask you to re-read my first comment yesterday, in support of the work. My comment was an attempt to ask a simple question: about how we perceive work. How work that re-words documentary/journalistic tradition was excoriated in the past. I couldnt be more happy for the EPF grant (i have written more photographers, more than 200, personally to apply for the grant, than i’ve ever shared publically, because i believe in what you are doing for photographers). I believe the great aspect of grants/competitions is to give an opportunity for work to be seen, and this is a great example. I was attempting to ‘argue’ that beyond the technical look of the pics, which appeared new to some, that the strength of Alejandro’s work lay in the story and the intimate and imaginative approach to the subject material: that it’s strength is beyond just the look, trying to suggest that it isn’t the ‘newness’ of the technique that makes it strong, but the overall story. Clearly, if you or others read me as condenscending, than there is no point for me to argue the contrary. It may be a question of language being read instead of heard in person, i dont know.

    I am happy for all the finalists and, actually, happy for everyone who applied because, just i’ve tried to write for more than 3 years now, the will to work and the opportunity to share work with an audience is what matters: it connects us to others and to other stories…so, okay, ‘major failing’ might be too strong….the choice of all people, just as the choice of work being published here, has always been strong and in NO way was this anything to do with you or anton, at all….but a question to the readers/photographers…context….but, well…

    so, i am sorry that you feel this way and most importantly, that it takes away from the work. I tried to write 2 times above why alejandro’s work is strong, imaginative and exciting to look at, and good for viewers to digest. but, if by the use of the words ‘failing’ it is perceived as a holier-than-thou attitude toward others, i feel sad for that.

    i look forward, to seeing all the work and wish nothing but for sucess for all.


  • I don’t know what to say, as far as we hear to much speech like that today, and FICTION is so much used today that I feel we are leaving a “100% controled” world…

    I am not sure this photographs would say something without text..and this allowed me to say that something is missing. We can say what we want on that photographs.

    Also I can understand that this kind of work can reassured …we should not have so much surprise when the work will be over, and it will work in a very short portfolio, and a a beautifull one!

    Keep up…

    I am exited to discover the 9 others finalists.

  • Congratulations Ale. Beautiful photos. As i wrote you i don´t consider your work documental, i see all poetry.
    And about what DAH said i think is a new tendency. As in another debate about retouched photos in occasion of a danish price or something so i think some photographers are trying to make their images stand up out of the visual avalanche. We work with similar tools and all of this is a sign that we are tired of the aesthetic we produce. I see Bob put a poem of Borges, i quote the poet saying “the time is the best anthologist, the only one perhaps”. Let this images breath, will see how we think in some years more or what attention to the water issue they bring.

  • Bob Black,
    I agree with you whole heartedly, I have noticed that there is suddenly a different approach by commentators as soon as the “sacred film” is mentioned. I think with this essay there is a technique, which is all over the place at the moment (infact i got an email today about specific software to simulate this effect), has been applied in a completely original manner to narrate a story and add an additional dimension to the story.

    It works and is technically accomplished.


  • I don’t know about the PJ world, but in the portrait biz, competition has a homogenizing effect. Everybodys stuff starts to look the same. In salons we see the same old vanilla favourites recycled year after year, along with batches of similar flavour of the month photos. Extended dynamic range photos seem all the rage these days, even better if you tilt the camera.

  • BOB…

    nobody has been a stronger supporter of BURN than you…nobody gives more to photographers in terms of considered educated discussion than do you…..i agree 100% with what you just wrote…that is of course why i have you as my absolute number one person in helping to discover and evaluate new talent….

    my comment to you this morning was totally couched in this “cred” i so publicly have given you and by everyone who regularly reads here….a simple semantic clarification was all that i was writing about in my comment to you…and had you disagreed with me, i would not see it as an affront in any way shape or form….if you really believe something,want to write about it, then for heavens sake you should absolutely know that i support your writing, your knowledge, your sensibilities just as much as you have supported the efforts here…i told you three years ago, and two years ago, and one year ago, and last week in Toronto, how much i have always appreciated your input here…, please let’s high five the obvious…..

    most of us in this craft are so so sensitive to every little word….and why wouldn’t we be??? sensitivity is who we are…..what we are about…the perception it takes to notice NUANCE while looking through the viewfinder must use the same set of neurons that are employed in our overall sensitivity to everything….pretty hard to compartmentalize sensitivity….

    does a MAJOR thank you help???


    there is a lot of fiction going on…as in all things, some of it worthwhile, some not…you may or may not know that i have written a work of fiction (novella…sad love story) that i will illustrate with photographs that could either be interpreted as documentary or as supporting fiction just by the way i will play them…so, i just love love fiction as my way of really telling the truth…my next book will be bylined “fiction by dah”..yet, i am perceived as a pretty straightforward documentary photographer which is also the case….no conflict in my mind…

    because of my background in art history, journalistic magazine photography, book publishing, teaching, and a general appreciation and awareness of what is going on around me in our world of photography, i have chosen 10 finalists representing my rather eclectic tastes…

    while an interesting combo of reality and fantasy has been the hallmark of Alejandro’s work, you may rest assured that the work of the finalist coming next will be yet a different mirror of another photographer with quite different motives and expectations …..

    stay tuned….

    cheers, david

  • “….a straight didactic picture of a dried up river bed might just be the “real thing”, but is it not possible that “fiction” can grab us in the gut in a way that a “point picture” cannot???” ….DAH

    This is an argument David has made before in a number of different phrasings and contexts. I confess I have been a late and at times reluctant convert to the idea, but yes, I have finally accepted it. I don’t, and won’t, go so far as to think that ‘fictional’ pictures are ALWAYS better, but I’m sure he doesn’t mean that (?). The more I think about it, the more I see documentary work as fictional anyway. There is nothing quite so ‘fictional’ as a newspaper or magazine headline or brief ‘non-fiction’ story that purports to encapsulate and focus on the ‘point’ of some complex, unfolding reality. First, the idea that reality consists of or can even be described by a linear narrative with a ‘point’ is an illusion. All the news stories printed in the papers, broadcast on radio or TV or the Net, or passed on in beauty shop or locker room gossip, are merely another kind of fiction… an attempt to understand and psychologically control the infinite complexity, randomness, unresolved conflicting realities, and mysteries of existence and reduce them to some kind of ‘story’, often with a ‘message’.

    As for getting our attention, Alejandro’s photos certainly do that. The technique is striking, but so is the subject matter. (As for film vs. digital, I personally couldn’t care less whether he does it in the black box or in the computer with software). The visual fictions he has created are evocative and mysterious and stimulate the imagination. At least in my case, they also stimulate a desire for more ‘information’ about the conditions and problems in the Parana Delta, and the lives and livelihood of the people he is documenting. He has my attention, but what I feel is missing is a little more detailed explanation, a little more text connected to the actual photos. That wouldn’t eliminate the mystery in the photos, but if the intention is to call attention to problems of the Parana Delta, then the photos by themselves are not enough. One thing I read from the photos is that at least some people who live there have a lot of spare time for lolling around at night, gazing at the moon. Maybe I am being too demanding in this desire for more text, and more context. If these photos are meant purely as art, then they are certainly sufficient unto themselves. But if they are a kind of ‘fictional documentary’, which I accept as perfectly valid, then please tell me a little more, not about the Parana River in general, or that there are problems all over the world with supply and quality of fresh water, but about what life is actually like here in the Delta.

  • Tremendous.
    I am eagerly waiting for the other 09.

  • SIDNEY….

    you are correct in your evolution of thinking that while fiction may stimulate, at some point the dots need to be connected in order to effect those seeking pure straightforward information and awareness…

    i do not know Alejandro, nor ever met Alejandro…maybe he will tell us all that we did meet somewhere along the line, but i have no memory of it, and i saw this essay straight up and it came at me “right out of the blue”….

    my assumption based on his writing and just seeing this compelling work, is that Alejandro has a book and exhibition in mind where obviously even more sense of purpose would be included than we have published here….one of my goals at BURN is to have often several pages linked to our front page presentations to be able to really dig in to a photographers motives, working style, and overall intent….

    the purpose of the EPF is to provide funding so that a photographer may CONTINUE with exploration and is not intended as a straight up award for work totally completed….certainly our last year’s EPF recipient, Sean Gallagher, fulfilled this expectation with the funding he received…all of my finalists are in a state of process, rather than a state of completion…

    while choosing the EPF grant recipient will always be subjective in nature, i hope this process will reflect my vision of an eclectic group of young photographers, yet ultimately chosen by a jury of peers whose opinion may be quite different from my own…i might know who i would like to see as the EPF grantee, but i do not have a vote…..

    i have set the stage, chosen the lighting and tried to create a mood, but the play that the audience will actually see is unknown just as much to me now as it is to you….

    cheers, david

  • david:

    i will try more than ever to be simpler, clearer…i guess if someone read only today’s comment rather than my first comment, it can/could be confusing….but my fault…if my words came across as condescending or demeaning, that’s my fault…as a writer, that’s a standard i hold myself up to…anyway…i hope it’s clear to all that i like this work very much, think it’s a great beginning to the finalists and will am happy for all…the grant allows for photographers to conti9nue, to meet people and to get their voice heard…a rare opportunity in a world increasingly where that is tough for all photograhers to do and i for one am grateful for all the opportunities given….

    ok, the focus should be on the work ;))))…i’ve said too much already….

    let’s continue with the great work/great conversations…


  • Bob, there has only be one work shown from the 10, maybe it’s a bit early to speak of instant praise for EPF finalists here? It seems no more to me than the usual response on consistent essays/artistry shown in the last few months, with the addition that Jim is not pooh-poohing the work today. And more inquisitive points have come up already, that helps us adopt different, and newly critical angles in approaching Alejandros’ work.

    I also think that we all have a bit of experience in life, and that it is not cynical to know that what people say/write is not always what they think. Or all that they think.

    I am a bit confused at the different assessments on the technique used in the essay. Is it a very simple one, facile, with a personal twist, or not so simple, complex (to bring out relevantly)? Does that technique only consist in “screwing” with the lens, with some specific eclairage/lighting choices, as you shoot, or require more processing on the drawing board? Thanks again.

  • The simple fact that the work has elicited such commentary already makes me believe that is has done its, and seemingly Burn’s, job, to encourage new approaches to documentary storytelling and to immerse the viewer, ourselves, in the distinctive nuances of the individually authored narrative. Well done, Alejandro.

  • Eloquently said Jeremy..
    I wish I could write like you..:)))

  • «My intention is to work with photography in the border between reality and fiction. Photography can transform reality and produce a magical view of people and life, and this is a part of its particular language.»

    This rings to me like Griersons creative treatment of actuality. I like it. It pushes the boundaries of photojournalism.

  • honestly,
    i tried to watch it several times and i never went beyond # 10…

  • Thanks for your reply David.

    I saied that because this images without text saied nothing to me, nor remind me a corporate iconography work or a fashion one.

    As you spoke about your personnal project as photographer and not as the director of a grant. I really like certain fiction, (when it’s not an hidden auto-biography). In photography, “auto-fiction” only have a sense to my eyes, not docu fiction…till yet.

    By always searching new way of making photography I think we miss something, we miss the essential. Photographs, like words, don’t need to invent new way of writing to be readen, we just have to have something to say. It’s not far from portrait somehow, today I don’t see any good portraits but I saw portraits everywhere in newspaper…a self controled world…and in portrait, like in fiction, to me it’s the same…

    Today only self portrait have a sense or I miss the new Diane Arbus (does someone know a real strong portaitist today?)…and not a self satisfied photographers that get a great technics with great teachers to make his cook succesful.

    I really read that word “fiction” everywhere and I also think that “intimacy” is in the same mood…everywhere and it’s not the right tone of the real movement in the real new photography.

    I honnestly think that such 10000 dollards grants are for a book project and not for a magazine work. I would never buy such a book with that kind of fiction photographs done as a serie. It’s quiet boring and annoying.

  • DAH, I’ve looked online at the China issue of Nat Geo but can’t find the photograph of the baby being lifted from the hole. No matter; I wasn’t saying that because Alejandro mixed fact and fiction that he would not be able to call attention to an issue. It’s just that, for me, just for me, I don’t see the link between the photographs and the issue. Is Alejandro saying that everything is fine with the Paraná River water supply or is there a problem? Is that what he wants to bring to our attention or is it just the lifestyle of the delta’s inhabitants that he wants to show us? If so, why mention in the text the importance of the water supply? I’m sorry but I’m not sure of the intention of the essay.

    As for the photographs; in isolation from the text. For me, just for me, they are not to my taste. I also can’t take to the work of Martin Parr. I’ve tried, believe me, but…. nothing.

    This takes nothing from Alejandro or Martin; indeed I wish them well. I don’t critique here on Burn: I and everyone else here are fortunate to see other photographers work. I only comment to stimulate debate and to learn from the comments of others.

    Good light to all and happy vacation to Akaky,


  • I’ve looked at this essay several times, and though I really like the “look” of it, I’m really not sure what to make of it as a piece. It is certainly very well-executed, and different; it has a beautiful color palette; and, as has already been discussed, a very interesting technique. But I am at pains to understand what it is about, or what the individual photographs are meant to convey–not in any documentary way, but in an emotional way. Perhaps a well-written essay by an Argentinian author might flesh things out a little bit, as a consideration for how to bring it together as a finished piece down the road.

    I’m all about the idea of moving documentary photography into more artistic realms of expression, as I think we’ve all seen one too many documentary stories shot exactly the same way; and I think the photo world is crying out for work that does what Alejandro is trying to do here; that is, create work that is evocative and not just expository…and for that I salute him for taking some big risks here and trying something completely different. And no doubt, given the complexity of his technique, he has put a huge amount of work into this project. But to me it comes off more as a technical experiment than as a piece, and I wonder if the pains he has taken with the technique have placed him at a distance from the flesh-and-blood of the narrative he is trying to create. Maybe, as David has said, the point of the EPF is to allow photographers to continue working on their pieces, and so the fact that the piece feels “unfinished” is an advantage here; ie, the work has great potential, but could use a big fat grant to help it along a bit. If so, my recommendations would be to try to figure in more movement, emotion, and pathos into the piece.

    I will keep looking and trying to see it. Maybe it’s just going to take me a few more looks before I get it. Regardless, it is a beautiful set of photographs, and I would love to see them as large prints on a wall.

  • OZ…

    obviously, not everything is to everyone’s taste…that is a given…so, you will not be purchasing Alejandro’s book…fair enough…my only very humble suggestion to you is that as time goes on , you really explore some areas of photography that may not appeal to you now…surely, you cannot imagine grabbing the same kind of book off the shelf in 5 years that you are in love with now, unless of course you are shopping for a classic or rare book….

    let me be very clear on one point for you and for others….there is certainly no intent on my part at BURN either through work presented here or through the EPF to create work that would necessarily be suitable for current printed magazines…BURN is not trying to be anything other than BURN

    the agenda and motive for intended use is totally in the hands of the photographer..

    i only have the obligation and intent to publish provocative or informative work whether most suitable for a published book, a wall, or a magazine, or a handmade book or slide show or refrigerator door or ????…….i am not trying to shape or fit something here into an existing mold…however, as many of you know, i will work with specific photographers who do have clear career intentions…i.e. this year i will have mentored 3 books into final publication and helped set up magazine assignments for others…but, in general, my intent is not final medium specific…

    MIKE R….

    as i said to OZ, not your cup of tea just is not your cup of tea….you cannot TRY to like something that just does not appeal….i now really dislike things i used to like, and like things i did not heretofore understand…most of us change with time in terms of appreciation…which could also logically mean that you could grow even further away from Martin P and/or Alejandro….heaven help you (laughing Mike)….

    cheers, david

  • free Akaky
    free Akaky
    free Akaky…


  • LUZZ…

    i think you not going past #10 in a 13 picture essay says way more about you than about Alejandro…besides my friend , #11 is killer!!

    cheers, david

  • you made me go back and look at # 11….
    I dont discuss your selection…it’s just that i dont see the point with that kind of photo-illustration.
    To me it’s just arty stuff.

  • Yeah, David, I need help! As Chris Bickford says here, you obviously see the potential. At first look Sean Gallagher’s essay on China had me luke warm; now I look at his website and love to see how far he has come.

    So, Alejandro, listen to DAH and be assured of my best wishes. No boundaries, right?


  • “personally, i would never enter a competition, but i would apply for a grant….two totally different things in my mind….

    Yes to an educational institution that asked me to create a teaching aid etc,for my own work no

  • These images simply look surreal, unseen, surprising. Very eerie atmosphere!
    The mix of moonlight and flashlight plus tilt and shift is a pretty cool idea!

    It is a different, new way of telling a story. Certainly new territory. Very inspiring!

    In my early days of photography I used to take pictures in moonlight. In northern Europe this works best in winter, which also means it was always freezing cold. I am still freezing when I think of it. Okay, I will think Buenos Aires now and I feel much warmer already ;-)

    It would be great to see this work continue!

  • LUZZ…

    fair enough…but, thanks for taking a look anyway….opinions of all kinds are welcomed always….


    what i asked was , do you see the difference between a competition like World Press and a grant like Guggenheim???? your answer confused me in the context of your original question….

    cheers, david

  • i think this work could find it´s place in an illustrative editorial context really easily – as did many illustrative snaps from the recent olympics which took advantage of tilt shift techniques..

    of course it is a fad right now, as hdr is been, in part due to the software online to alter photos – but they do not create full tilt shift effects..

    regardless of epf this set would have blown me away for the reasons i fist mentioned.. as with chris i agree that there is exploring to be done and further the project in terms of the story.. and so within the context of the epf i think this first glimpse is just what the grant needs to be about.. some work and some people need small breaks.. grants.. commissions or whatever.. in order to put the time in a fund their practice.


  • damn.. i only mean´t to put ¨franklin¨ in one post..

  • “….i now really dislike things i used to like, and like things i did not heretofore understand…most of us change with time in terms of appreciation…..” DAH

    Is it naughty of me, or potentially very illuminating, to want to see a list of things David used to like but now really dislikes? Or vice versa? Maybe this is not the appropriate thread for that, but it sure would be interesting….!!!

  • A compelling work should let us see something which we normally don’t.

    I’m afraid this work only let us see something which we literally do not see. As with infrared pictures. Of course it is more than just good technique. There is a common ground for the pictures. The compositions are not bad (and not incredibly good neither).

    But where is the uttermost personal vision?

    General overview: documentary photography slides away into Hollywood style images which want to create empathy but only generate apathy (VII agency) or into photography which exclaims loud it is art (Martin Parr and many contemporary best-sellers). What both share is guts and professionnality. But where is the vision which digs us into the belly of our world?

    The question is not: where is the new thing? For then we run just behind art buyers. But: which work let us think? Which work shifts the ground under our feet, so we have a glimpse on human nature, on our society, our world..

    I don’t see no vision in Alejandro’s essay.

    Maybe I put the stakes too high? Maybe I do not see?

  • I agree that work definitely takes time to ‘read’, and that over time, our views and appreciations of work change. There is definitely work that I liked (of mine and other photogs) a year ago, that today I cringe at, and vice versa. One thing I have realised (about photography and art (and life)) is that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge or critique work. Essays that appear on this website (and other publications) do so with the benefit of great thought, practice, personal involvement, emotion and practical hard work (from the photog, as well as DAH and other editors, publishers etc.), and sometimes people are making comments three seconds after seeing the work.

    As viewers, critics (both + and -) and commentators, each person needs to give intent thought about the work before making judgements. Comments are great, and there are some entertaining ones (and some strenuous one) posted here often, but I urge people to be patient with work. Work at it, just like the photographer works at his/her project. As viewers, each of us is required to participate, and sometimes looking at work requires more than just breezing over a series of images and immediately deciding whether we like/dislike it. Look, look again, and look again. Work hard to create your own understanding and interpretation of work, and then come back to the work again.

    Good photography takes time (a hell of a lot of time). Give published work a bit of time and its amazing what comes of it, even if the work is not to your taste. In regards to this work by Alejandro, it is quite amazing. I can not recall any other work that it reminds me of, and as a starting point that tells me that there is some deep personal commitment to this work. And that, to begin with, intrigues me.

    Felicitaciones mi amigo. Voy a disfrutar explorando tu trabajo.


  • Is the intent to only publish a single essay each week until the EPF finalists are done? I’d like other non-EPF images and essays to also continued being published along with them. There is only so much to be said about an essay.

  • a list of things David used to like but now really dislikes

    Maybe, if the photographers are LONG dead, Sidney…. ;-)

  • i think that photo images require new definitions and new categories-genres. this essay is a personal interpretation that uses the imagination-invention as a response to a place and time. there are photographers who “cheat”, who are not forthcoming/transparent about their artistic practice. I admire this work and the artist’s integrity.

  • Fantastic work and a terrific choice as a finalist. Cant wait to see what is to come. More.

    As for those at pains to see what is relevant, good or appropriate about this work and its selection as a finalist in the EPF, one would think that here on this one site, at least, you could either broaden your horizons – or have them broadened – and embrace something that is quite apart from the rest of the fare. This is stunning work and whether you connect “emotionally” is certainly beside the point.

    Bring it on, Mr. Harvey.

  • do you see the difference between a competition like World Press and a grant like Guggenheim???? A grant is given to the most relevant submission and the photo style of the year wins the press award

  • jim –

    this is the drum roll for the EPF winner announcement at look3…. these are the ten finalists… this is their sunshine. let’s not steal that.

    FYI, we will be posting a finalist essay round about every 72 hrs, and soon enough even every 48 hrs….

    I do hope you can appreciate the extra time we are using to double check facts and figures on these essays, so history does not repeat itself. and at the same time we’re producing the best BURN presentation possible for Look3, so we can attract more sponsorship and funding and make this a place where we can publish even more…

    and all that, “especially for you…”

    and… there just might be a bombshell we decide drop in here before Look3… so sit tight… :-) we’re doing it all for you…

    get the buzz goin’


  • Uh, huh. So it’s going to be EPF central for several weeks. Seems like a way to lose momentum to me. But, you guys are the experts.

  • JIM
    I have to say something
    cuz you sound so disrespectful…
    perhaps its the web-talk again…
    come on…
    lighten up
    enjoy the ride…
    let the fires

  • Thanks, Anton, for clarifying…and for your infinite patience. Whenever comments like Jim’s come in pushing you and DAH to quicken the pace in putting up new essays/selected photos or wanting more than just EPF finalists’ work to be shown, I have to wonder what they are thinking goes on behind the scenes here. I mean you and David are already working 24 hours a day looking through submissions, contacting photographers, helping with edits and doing the tech work to set up the slideshows. And now you’ve just finished going through 1200 essays to find 10 EPF finalists, not to mention the recently added task of fact-checking each of these essays. Geez, Jim, aren’t they doing enough already?

    In my book, Anton, you and DAH are like magicians who make it all look too easy. If we saw what really goes into keeping Burn going and growing day by day, I think we’d be amazed. You two deserve more thanks than we could ever give you. What an accomplishment!


  • Jim……
    love u but…….. u gotta realize that if they ( dah & anton = BURN ) ,
    START publishing non- finalists… then , them ( non finalists published ) will feel
    cheated… they ( non finalists ) will fill like “fillers”… they ( non finalists ) will feel
    “used” or something…………….
    Jim, Herve……… be patient………….
    I agree with u though………. we are all discussion hungry……
    we want to consume…….. but we should practice patience,………
    As Anton said ( its their time )………… the finalists time………
    lets not steal it…Its their moment…………
    the rest of US should just wait……. be patient…………..
    Again… till LOOK3 its THEIR TIME….
    not MY time or JIM’s time……..
    sorry panos, sorry jim, sorry herve,…………
    the rest of us gotta wait……..
    peace and hugs!

  • Hi BOB.
    just read your comments of concern about wether or not simply by a body of work entering the final stages of a competition, adds credibility to its value. What i’ve found with myself is that it push’s me to re-evaluate that style, technique used, regarding that body of work. So given an unsophisticated stand point, such as my own, i can only learn viewing what others regard as worth while. . What you suggest is very real as i’m sure we have all noticed peoples views being swayed but i imagine only because they are unable to make that evaluation in their own sense, and even so, their sense of what makes sense shall evolve. Hopefully for all of us.
    You have made some really interesting points so thanks for your effort in addding ..

  • Deus Little Arithmetics Lyrics:

    “Into temptation, over in doubt
    Black night, neonlight into my house
    Talking, talking, talking about
    Out of frustration over in doubt

    Hold me now, I’m hoping that you can explain
    Little arithmetics
    Got me down, they’re fooling me again and again
    Little arithmetics, little arithmetics
    Got me down

    Sometimes I feel like going down
    south (Sometimes I’m feeling alright)
    Sometimes I feel like I’m over and out
    (Sometimes I’m losing my mind)
    Talking, talking, talking about
    (Sometimes the day is the night)
    Into temptation over in doubt
    (Sometimes I don’t wanna fight)

    Hold me now, (Hold me now)
    I’m hoping that you can explain
    Little arithmetics
    Got me down, (Hold me now)
    they’re fooling me again and again
    Little arithmetics, little arithmetics

    Hold me now
    Little arithmetics
    Got me down”

    big hug

  • JIM – how can burn lose momentum showing amazing work every 48-72 hours? i don’t get what your concern is… if it did not say EPF finalist in red – what is so different than our regular discussions, etc?

  • Jim, Herve……… be patient………….

    ?!?!?! What do I have to do with this ?!?!?

  • herve,
    cuz youve got that brand new bike
    and youve been having too much of a good time
    and you need to get back here on the bus…
    yeah, wth!

    hey peeps
    go with the flow and twiddle your thumbs
    enjoy the sunshine and the cookin smores
    watch the bugs and dont let them bite
    dig up your film or charge your batteries.
    and go take pictures of what you like.
    can we pick apart all these
    flesh and bones, mirrors and sensors alike
    can we just say
    DAMN that picture makes me feeeel gooooood!

  • God,

    the bickering doesnt stop when Jim is around, does it? Jim, what you wrote makes zero sense. Essays are still being published at the same frequency as before, so wheres your beef? How will momentum be lost? I would personally hate, HATE, being published here between now and Look3 if I werent the finalist. I agree with Panos, it would make me feel like filler. I don’t think anyone would relish that, either.

  • Congratulations, Alejandro…que muchas felicidades!

    I have read ALL the comments (phew!) and so many of you touched on my thoughts and reactions to this essay that it would be redundant for me to try to top you all!

    I agree that this illustrates a problem or issue rather than documents it. I also think that the look and style would be very appealing in today’s market. A good thing because even the best artist would like to make a living out of what he does. It’s a little flashy for me..strictly my own taste but it is interesting, aesthetically beautiful and fun to watch. Reminds me of a series of books i read as a young girl called “The Borrowers” about little people who inhabited a separate world in big people’s homes, using found items like spools of thread, a tassel from a curtain, match boxes, etc. that they ‘borrowed’ from their adopted homes to furnish their little rincons. They came out at night and foraged for these things, hence their adventures and experiences provided a counter reality to the big people sleeping the night away upstairs. So this essay’s surreal ambience is very pleasing to me. These people look like how i always imagined the Borrowers! Overall, extremely well done and I wish you the very, very best in the EPF.


  • I know this is stupid and has nothing to do with anything but when I grow up I don’t want to be Jim.

  • Stupid

    hey, come on, this is an EPF finalist..let’s play nice, just this once? k? Jim’s gotten a LOT better..i have read every single things he has said and while he still bangs his old tin drum, he’s being a lot more positive and interactive lately..give him a break, eh, Stoop? If not for the sake of my stupid request than just for the sake of a really exciting EPF Finalist kick-off?



  • I agree that this illustrates a problem or issue rather than documents it.

    I kind of got into that groove too, reading some of you, but just reading Alejandro’s introduction again, nowhere does he indicate that his pictures are to illustrate a problem happening with the Delta waters.

  • I was just stupidly saying that when I grow up, I don’t want to be him, Kathleen. Didn’t mean to take anything away from EPF. Hope I did not. Peace, love, and long exposures on large format film to all! :)

  • Stupid

    Ok, Stoop, you don’t have to be Jim when you grow up, haha…you can be Jim’s kid, how’s that? ;))) You’re funny!


    i meant this style is illustrative rather than documentary.

    Alejandro says says:

    1) “My photographs set out to document the life and work of the islanders of the Delta.”

    2) “Photography can transform reality and produce a magical view of people and life, and this is a part of its particular language.”

    It’s a bit of a slippery slope saying on the one hand that he’s documenting the life and work of the islanders and on the other that his camera transforms reality into a magical view. I guess it’s up to each of us which side of the bleachers we sit on. Some might see this as a fair approximation of the life of the Delta people and others, like me, are seduced into a dreamworld by the fictional and surreal quality of his tableaus and lighting.

    best and zzzzzzzzzz


  • Herve

    Though “issue” is not at the top of his list for reasons to examine the life and times of these people, Alejandro is extremely concerned about the threats to this water supply which he makes clear is an artery of life-sustaining “agua dulce” for millions of people. That’s a pretty big issue and driving force in his desire to document life in the region.


  • I tried to keep my feelings close to my chest until I see more finalists but that’s what I really was struck by as well, Kathleen. To me the goal of documentation does not jive with the imagery. I don’t see any document here. I do see unique images, but I see no documentation, or a story. The essay hangs but it does so only on its aesthetic, or rather technique. And the technique is used well. But I do not see a story, or much of a continuum from one photo to the other.

  • To me it’s an unexpected choice, which makes it interesting.
    It’s not really my cup of tea or my kind of interpretation of documentary photography, but it doesn’t have to be.
    That is what makes photography in general so fascinating.
    There is room for everyone and all kind of styles. Everyone has their own way of looking at the world around us and how they will capture this in images. Their own ways of telling a story, fictional or not.
    I’m looking forward to seeing the other finalists!

    Alejandro’s approach is different and therefor thoughtprovoking. I like it in that sense alone.
    Congrats Alejandro.

  • Dear OZ,

    You asked “does someone know a real strong portraitist today?”. I would urge you to visit Erica McDonald’s website – For me, the gallery entitled ‘New York City Portraits’ is particularly special.

    I’d also recommend…

    Pieter Hugo
    Simon Roberts
    Stefan Ruiz
    Joel Sternfeld
    Philip Lorca Di-Corcia
    Rineke Dijkstra

    Hope this helps.

  • I keep trying to imagine what sort of a beast a newspaper/magazine would be if it was illustrated solely with artistic interpretations of themes and written exclusively by avant garde poets and performance writers.
    Sure would be a blast, but I dont know what it would achieve for anybody other than the artists themselves. Maybe Time should put out an issue entirely done in cross proccessed lomo and haiku.:)

  • Wendy, there isn’t room for everyone in every kind of photography. The reality is that these photos are fine art and are only an illusion of documentary photography. Artist statements are often ambiguous though.

  • Patricia, I actually do understand what it takes to create something like this. But it doesn’t matter. Just like nobody looking at your photos on the wall of a gallery cares that you drove 1,000 miles, got up at 3 a.m., hiked four miles and sat in the pouring rain in the cold for 18 hours to shoot the photo hanging there, then spent days printing, matting, and framing the photo. Just as nobody cares how much time it takes a team of people to create a daily newspaper that is bird cage liner the next day. The fact is that the only thing 99 percent of the people hitting the home page of burn see is the essays and photos. You are somewhat privy because of the talk here over time to what it takes to turn the trick. You know the man (men) behind the curtain. But the success of a magic show depends on the viewers not knowing or caring how the magic works. The only thing that matters to most viewers here is the content. And that is how it should be.

    I just don’t think it serves the audience well to turn the venue into strictly a promotional piece for the EPF for weeks at a time. Just an opinion, of course. I don’t have a dog in the hunt.

  • Jim-
    Can you send me your email? You can send me a message directly
    Don’t worry…It’s not about bashing rather discussing things aside from the Burn forum.


  • An essay published on Burn is an essay published on Burn. What is the difference if it is an EPF finalist?

    Sometimes I can’t believe your point of view Jim.

  • ALL…

    the number and rate of pictures published here between now and Look3 will be approximately the same as our normal schedule…….and even if we have to slow down on BURN to double check facts, then we will just have to slow down….

    there is a voracious audience out there evidently…i suppose that is a good thing…but , please be aware that as a platform for presenting work, we must be way out there in just sheer volume…i do not put value on volume , but we have published mucho during our online tenure…

    we could publish more frequently IF photographers gave us ready to publish material, but that is not going to happen…we certainly have enough material in hand to post five times a day in theory, but that would be careless….most of our time goes into several time consuming contacts with the photographers (over days and weeks) about to be published who are on various time zones….Anton and i are almost never on the same time zone ourselves….so, my day begins at about 6am to talk or write to those of you in Asia and Europe and ends often at 1am to chat with Chris Bradley (our Ogilvy guru) who is in California….there is nobody out there on a Pacific island, so i can finally get a bit of sleep

    my suggestion would be that we enjoy what we have while we have it….BURN is only a good thing for me as long as i am having fun…i am putting a lot of time into this right now just because it seems like good timing segueing into Look3 fest and my Magnum channel meeting in London and the evolution of our BURN gallery space…but, even with some sponsorship heading in your direction, we will basically be doing this work on BURN as a service…this is NOT a complaint…i AM having fun…

    i often describe our efforts here as a collaboration…it is so so true….i have to keep you enlightened and enthusiastic and you have to do the same for me…so far, so good, and i have every intention of keeping up my end of our online relationship….

    my whole life has been spent in working on projects that were solidly rewarding one way or the other…this is always my mantra for photographers i mentor…at no point in my career did i ever put money over the sheer joy of working on whatever i was working on..BURN is no exception…

    i have always put in a 16 hour day or more for my projects, so that does not phase me at all…unless, as i said, it stopped being fun and turned into “work” and i have worked really hard to avoid “work” my whole career…….simple as that my friends, simple as that….i have no doubt most of this audience gets it…

    speaking of this audience, i have been just blown away by your support…..we will have to keep the wolf away from our door every month one way or another, but i always take things one day at a time and it looks like we are rolling along just about right….i am trying now to envision the best time to kick off our gallery….perhaps we will do a gallery event in early july….fall will be the very best time for a big show, but a smaller event with rooftop cooking and summertime ambiance with a crowd most likely to buy your prints might just be in order… any case, an event we CAN create…..

    i am working on a plan for how best to actually get prints in the door and up on the wall….these will be curated shows with an equal chance for everyone, but of course not everyone’s favorite picture is going to make it….most likely it will be a gallery version of the selection process for BURN itself…i cannot imagine any other way to do it….of course, an online gallery will give us much more opportunity to show the world your work and offer it to potential collectors…

    the space of my loft looks less and less like an apartment and more and more like a gallery every day..well, er, a very bohemian gallery!!! some of you have camera skyped me to take a look…check it out…..of course, i will post a link with pictures when it is done….once rolling i hope to step back from the gallery operation…i cannot run a gallery and run BURN…..i think we have enough able volunteers, mentored interns etc to keep us rolling fine…oh yes…by the way, i am talking to some of you offline about trading out a one or two month mentoring program for working with me on BURN or in the gallery….this is such a cool idea and was not thought of by me, but by one of you….i have one person lined up to spend a couple of months with me , but i will withhold the name until it actually happens….anyway food for thought…i can provide living space in my home and a nice beach as additional incentives for thinking about this one….

    one last thing…help me to help you to help me to help you…the more you get involved , the more you will get back…and i say this because i just HAVE to get back immersed in shooting and book production right after Look3 and the London meet…..i do no good to any of you if i am not photographing myself and finish the three books that i have in various stages of development…so no matter how good or sophisticated BURN becomes, i will not give up my own work…i think all of you get that too, but i just wanted to make it very clear….

    if all of you keep your cool, lend a hand, and we all go out and take a picture, then who can stop us???

    that question does not really require an answer..laughing….

    please enjoy your spring day…..

    cheers, hugs, peace, david

  • JIM..

    unreal dude…unreal…only as a promotional piece for the EPF?? why do you think the EPF exists??? for the readers here..for the best of the readers here….geeez Jim….we have generous donors who give relatively large sums of money to support photographers and the EPF on this forum and to somehow have that concept twisted around as a negative by you just about “takes the cake” as they say in Texas…

    i thank you very much for your financial contribution to BURN…and i am sure you will thank me for sending it back….

  • Whatever.

  • Funny, that is exactly what I think sometimes when I read your posts Jim

  • David

    I really regret I can’t be more involve in BURN’s life now. I can only offer my mental support. My two works takes off 90% of my time. God, life is too short… a day is too short…
    Anyway, I will not be in London and Perpignan. Sorry, but our meeting will be imposible in this year. When we both will have some more free time I will try catch you on skype.
    My camera have no break and I taking pictures all the time but nothing special I did last time, nothing to show.
    I will wait for your books. You know I am not patient at all. :)
    I am sure this books will be geart!
    Ehhh… I love photo books.
    ok must run…
    Take care and let’s BURN it all :)

  • browland
    May 19, 2009 at 7:53 pm
    “i think that photo images require new definitions and new categories-genres.”

    Great idea . Right !

    David (AH),
    your tought ?

  • ALL…

    i apologize to everyone for losing my temper with Jim….patience is one of the great virtues, but sometimes i succumb….one of the things i admire most about Obama is that he NEVER loses his cool no matter what is coming at him…i have never had a prez as an actual role model, but Obama in this regard surely should be for all of us…i think it turns out that his background as a community organizer is the perfect background for trying to bring folks together….even in my rather limited experience of dealing with more than two people at a time, i think the demographic of any community is revealed with all of the different personality types when you reach probably 15 or more people….even a workshop with just 10 photographers gives insight into this theory…

    please know that i like Jim…..he often offers much , particularly in his steadfast integrity with what is published and offered to the public…i agree with him almost 100% in this regard…..and his comments of late are much more articulate than his heretofore often rankling one liners….so, i defend his right to speak and write even if he rubs me totally the wrong way….if he “gets to me”, that is my problem and not his…..i do not have a single family member or close personal friend that has not also just flat out upset me…getting all cards out on to the table is usually the best way to deal with things, but on a public forum it is my responsibility alone to maintain decorum…..

    i will be posting soonest today the second EPF finalist…..this will take us in an entirely different direction…..

    ok, must stop now….speaking this morning with Dave Keenan who runs the Austin Center for Photography…he is patiently waiting now in our Burn gallery space….we are speaking of mutual exhibitions for your work…let me talk to Dave now…i will let you know the outcome soonest….


  • JIM

    really really really darling I wish I could take away whatever it is that is crushing down on you so..the feelings that come out here from you can only be misdirected pain. But please understand that this is only a patchwork family like all other families, and sometimes it will not meet your needs or gracious, be kind..

    I think we all would do well to consider this house like all places we enter deserving respect and possibly allow ourselves to bow just a little when crossing the threshold, this can be a house of learning, of community and of peace..I see it like entering a tea room where one will

    “approach the sanctuary, and, if a samurai, will leave his sword on the rack beneath the eaves, the tea-room being preeminently a house of peace. Then he will bend low and creep into the room through a small door not more than three feet in height. This proceeding was incumbent on all guests, – high and low alike, – and was intended to inculcate humility. It makes all guests put aside any authorities, celebrities, or fortune in real world to creep into the room through the small door.”

    Thaddeus – will put a note for you on buzz

  • posting simultaneously with you DAH..thank you for your persistent goodness..

  • Kathleen Fonseca


    beautifully said..

  • ERICA…

    many thanks….i will call you before writing in haste next time around…even a few minutes of reflection helps when it comes to responding to what might appear to be an unwarranted jab….

    hey, we have the most beautiful of beautiful days here in new york…let’s both enjoy it….

    cheers, david

  • Stoop I promise you will not grow up to be Jim.

  • That’s a pretty big issue and driving force in his desire to document life in the region.

    Yes, Kat, but that is unspecific in the images, ie. not “illustrating a problem” (check wikipedia on that delta, it apparently has minimal human impact, and protected status since 2001).

    it seemed to me that what Alejandro wrote as an after-, or rather alongthought in his intro, induced quite a few of us to see a specific work on an environmental issue THERE IN THE DELTA.

    I shoot life, which is always is danger of being taken for granted. It’s a big issue for all of us, and a driving force to document it wherever I am. Yet, I never (so far) illustrate a problem. You may think I am teasing you, but come to think of it, not really. I am dead serious.

  • role model, but Obama in this regard surely should be for all of us
    To each his own, David. Personally, I prefer Dalai-Lama cool (with a big hearty laugh, and compassion that shows thru) to Obama’s statesman coolness. I wish it was he who had written that letter to Aung Saan Suu Kyi, in jail and tried in Burma, not the brit PM. You can’t have everything, I suppose.

    Apologies to Allejandro for veering, but I had to take this out of my chest and you guys are the perfect friends to do it with.

  • Thanks David to take that time to reply and be so honnest.

    Perhaps this first portfolio, alone, let this type of debat possible, somehow interressant but during a long night around beers or wine but not here on a grants finalsit blog speak about fiction, etc etc… let’s see the rest…(even the text and portfolio are given to our eyes before..something totaly new I think)

    This project and grants, the way it is possible to try to pass the first step without paying one euros is very open mind..only thanks for that!

    I wish good luck to all finalist and ask if we can erase our images from photoshelter if we don’t get one email from you? I think date is over now? So finalist know they are in?


  • Thank you for bringing attention to a well deserved photographer. His site will be bookmarked by me for inspiration.

  • I was really surprise to see what Alejandro made with film photography(at the begining I thoght it was just photoshop). Obviously he is a hard worker and achieved a very particular and “new kind” of pictures. But I think the soul of his intention is missing, or maybe his intention is not to much to take pictures of the Paraná and its people but to continue shoting in the style he discovered. There´s too much worry for the form, which is not exactly something bad, but I found the work a bit cheese (could be this one the word?, english is not my mother tongue)

  • Ivan, I just think the artist statement is confusing. These are posed time exposures and clearly fine art. I don’t think his intent was really documentary photography.

  • OZ…

    if i were you, i would leave your work up on PhotoShelter unless you have some real reason to take it off……there is an obvious interest for this EPF grant now, but in the very near future, there will be many entrants published here or at least be asked to publish here….photographers write to me regularly telling me of some either print sale or assignment or something they got out of being on BURN….


    Dalai-Lama was most certainly a role model long before i ever heard of Obama…in any case, neither seems to get upset with anything which i find totally fascinating….actually, i am sure they are internally on fire, but their response, even in extreme crises, is measured….


    let me see if i can get a hold of Alejandro…we were having some difficulty contacting him before…i too would really like to know how he sees the result of this work, if any, being considered as documentary….

    i have seen quite a few water use stories and none of them as visually provocative as this…however, most magazines who were doing a story on water issues might be unlikely to use Alejandro to represent a serious text on the water crises…

    in my imagination i could see a portfolio like this being laid out in a magazine and presented as a subjective almost dreamlike vision of an artist…presented as art, but referencing the real people and real places in the pictures…a real “think piece” essay by a respected writer could be married with these pictures in such a way as to draw in readers….

    i suppose the primary issue , as always, is exactly what do we expect documentary to do…and what do we expect art to do….i think you will admit that this is a pretty interesting combination of the two and if you really think about it only has the “art” attachment because of the “look”…those are real people who have those real jobs in those real places, and are not really any more “set up” than many of the pictures done by the Farm Security Administration photographers in the 30’s who were considered by many to be THE documentary photographers of the era…

    as a matter of fact, think of Art Rothstein’s famous dust bowl picture from the FSA…i mean, it is a dead ringer for one of Alejandro’s works….

    cheers, david

  • David — To follow up on OZ’s question…have the 10 finalists been notified of their selection?

    All the best,


  • neither seems to get upset with anything which i find totally fascinating…
    If I may, you saying that reminds me of my father, who was, is and will ever be my only role model, as different as our lives have been. Dalai Lama doesn’t even stand a chance, next to him.

    Dalai Lama does get angry, even lusty, he said so, adding: but never too long! :-)

    My favorite quote from him was his response when people asked him how he saw the world in 20 years: “i do not even know what I will eat tonight, how could I know about the world in 20 years!”. Yes, my kind of man, no doubt. The chinese have no idea what they are missing… But little can be done when ignorance is fed by insecurity.

    People (‘s republic of China) are funny…. :-)

  • This is way off topic but I thought it would interest the readers here even though it is really not about photography. This has to make people smile….

    “Four years ago while walking down the street in Santa Monica, CA the voice of Roger Ridley singing “Stand By me” was heard from a block away. His voice, soul and passion set us on a course around the world to add other musicians to his performance. This song transformed Playing For Change from a small group of individuals to a global movement for peace and understanding. This track features over 35 musicians collaborating from all over the world. They may have never met in person, but in this case, the music does the talking.”

  • I don’t get the inability to understand Alejandro’s photos. One sees such conceptual images in the service of journalism all the time in magazines like the Atlantic, Mother Jones, New York Mag, NYTimes Mag, etc.

    Jim’s quandary is his standard tactic of asking the photographer to justify himself — which is tiresome, selfish, and in the end really boring.

  • This is probably going to come across harsher than intended, so I shall apologize in advance. I’ve been delaying writing a comment for a couple days, while I let my mind digest and refine my initial reaction to the images. After watching the slideshow several times over that period, my reaction altered very little.

    I am really struggling with this series. I appreciate the effort and skill required to capture these images, and they certainly are beautiful. I can’t help but feel that style and technique have been put in a more dominant place over substance. By the end of the slideshow, I feel no connection to these people, the land, or their way of life. By the end, the only thing I remember is the style.

    Alejandro says that he is trying to document these people’ lives, even though the defenders of the work here say that they don’t believe his intent was documentary photography (not just Jim, other people as well). No matter what others say, I must take the photographer’s word on what was his intent, and I think the success of the slideshow should be based, in part, on the success if the documentation.

    Stupid, my friend, is shooting digital or with a lens baby really relevant? Isn’t it all just make-up?

    Alejandro, if you’re reading this, I see a whole bunch of talent here. I just can’t get on board with this set.

  • One of the fascinating thing about Alejandro’s submission is that it is far from being gimmickey, and some of his concept, or future preoccupation with peopled frames, can be seen in his earlier “straighter” journalistic work.

    Not too much (I am sure he does have archives that would point even more to earlier photography having in them the genesis of that latest essay), but enough that it does offer us more perspective on what he may be about to achieve, as his, so to speak, art grows.

    Especially one shot of argentinian demonstrators fleeing around, has them seemingly as posed and directed by him, as will happen with the figures of people in the EPF essay. All the more striking because they did not stop 10 minutes for him! :-).

    In other pictures, like the looters, he seems to slow the shutter speed so as not to catch the action, but attempt to stop, control them beyond mere recording of a looting. That he would have done that more uncomsciously than consciously, does add to our reading of “high tide”.

  • Jim~

    I don’t know if you post comments because you really believe the crap you say or you just want attention….

    What is wrong with “fine” art meshing with documentary as a way of communication??

    he states in his text he is “exploring the limits of documentary photography” so how can you say ” I don’t think his intent was really documentary photography”???

    please be advised of at least two, if not more magazines where Alejandros work and other’s like it could be published and praised…

    Seed Magazine ~

    Orion Magazine ~



  • Every photograph lies somewhere on a continuum between fact and fiction, and definitions of “photojournalism” or “documentary” or “art photography” are just shorthand for positions on it.

    Much of the work of photographers (and artists and writers, for that matter) since the 1970’s has been to challenge these sorts of distinctions, and one arena has been the so-called “art world”….not only the cultural and academic institutions, but the people: the artists, the curators, the educators, the gallerists, the collectors, the critics, the writers and historians whose business it is to explore, analyze and articulate our cultures(s) so that we may better understand ourselves.

    My pet theory is that ideas germinated in the “art world” take about 20 years to take root in mainstream culture. Maybe a little longer for them to make it to Texas…

    But this idea, of blurred distinctions, of the rise of subjectivity, or to put it another way… acceptance of the contingency of photographs has certainly gained currency… examples abound, if you care to look… the evolution of Magnum over the last decade or two, for instance.

    If you are having trouble with these photographs, devaluing them, either by dismissing them out of hand or by relabeling them “art”, does not change their status as document. It simply shows that they rub against the limits of your own personal definition… something the photographer is trying to do, with premeditation!

    To become obstinate in the face of this gentle, odd and beautiful provocation misses the point.

  • BRIAN…

    you were not harsh..just your opinion and fair enough….by the way, i tried to log in to your website, but nothing loaded….


    i do not get someone not getting the Alejandro work either…however, the jurors may or may not get it …we will see….all of us have different value systems and tastes… are quite correct in pointing out this set would be most appropriate for the most leading edge print magazines you mentioned…

    and, i sure as hell want #1,3, and 6 for the Burn gallery walls…will buy one myself….


    you are right on it…thanks

    cheers, david

  • i wish i said that



  • DAH, What browser are you using? Are others having this problem?

  • Brian, my friend, I didn’t say I liked it! I said, “…my stupid jaw dropped. Large format film? Amazing!” It is amazing to create this work without digital and a lens baby. It may not be relevant but it’s still amazing. And yes, it all is just stupid make-up, when bringing three dimensions into two. None of it is real.

  • Brian, your site loads fine in my stupid PC and Mac browsers.

  • Hello,

    Like Adam Smith, I’m wondering if the finalists have been contacted in regards to their essays. Can those of us who have not been notified, whether through photoshelter, email or otherwise, conclude that their project is (sadly) no longer being considered for the grant?

    Cheeriest regards, Kevin~

  • i am glad i didn't ever say this:


    does anyone else see the irony of stoop’s ‘growing up’ sentiment?

    David is far too quick to forgive. I’ve got far to good of a memory.

    I suspect these dynamics will conflict. That is unless you share the same character Jim as you demand from David and in your own words just say: “Sorry, I screwed up.”


  • Kathleen Fonseca


    I don´t mean to be evasive, but what were we talking about? ;))

    Alejandro says he´s documenting the life of people in the region. If i take him at his word, i have to assume that people chop wood, cut brush and lay on river banks in the moonlight. However , since he also says ¨Photography can transform reality and produce a magical view of people and life, and this is a part of its particular language¨ then i say ¨aha, he´s taking artistic license¨. Like a literary work of historical fiction. Fiction can be given a historical context but never vice-versa (unless your´re a corrupt historian). So then i think well cool, this isn´t documentating life as it really is, this is illustrating life as the artist sees it. Alejandro goes on to say that the water of the whole Paraná Basin is one of the principal reserves of sweet water (i.e. fresh water) in the world and he believes the health of this resource (water) is a worldwide problematic issue today.

    So my overall conclusion is that the photographer is illustrating the issue of life sustaining waterways being threatened by, well, whatever rivers are threatened by. I´m assuming pollution, global warming, deforestation, over-fishing, over-population, etc.etc. And the way he illustrates the threat to mankind in general by focusing on the arbitratily selected activities and lifestyle of Paraná Basin natives. I mean, this is totally valid and beautifully created but it´s a product of Alejandro´s imagination, inspired by life in an area he knows so well. A beautiful illustration to me but not documentation.

    BUT this style would be absolutely gorgeous being used to illustrate an article on the threat to the world´s waterways. Just as an example, I don´t have to see freighters chugging along the Gulf of Aden to know how that shipping channel has affected the life style of impoverished Somalians. I could read a factual account and see a fictional illustration of a huge freighter being overtaken by little fishing boats navigating rough seas accompanied by daring ascents by barefoot pirates blablabla. This is how work of this style could be used. Particularly when it would be tough to get live photos of the real thing. Also, as so many also mentioned, these would be beautiful as art pieces hainging on a wall. Seems like Alejandro has the cat by the tail here. It´s win-win..UNLESS what a jury wants is docuementary photorgaphy that fits a strict definition of the word which would pretty much fly in the face of current trends but what the hell do i know? nada :)))

    i´m not sure if i addressed our difference of opinion, if in fact we still have one. I was pretty clear when i said it´s up to each of us which side of the bleachers we sit when it comes to this essay. I say tomahtoe, you say tomatoe. This is exactly the fine line Alejandro wants us to walk.

    best to you, Herve…and no i didn´t think you were teasing, which is why i am answering in earnest.


  • Once the average viewer becomes unable to separate fact from fiction, or worse, has no interest in doing so, we are in deep trouble. There are people in these photos and there is water, but what the relationship is between them cannot be understood from the photos. Does the photographer suggest the relationship between the people and the water is positive or negative? He has succeeded in showing us the life and work of the people of the delta careful posed in moonlight. I can’t understand how this is documentary of the real life and work of the people there.

  • hillary, I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it.

    The photographers choice to call his work documentary doesn’t make it documentary. Perhaps the photographer could shed some more light on this?

  • I’m with Jim here. I didn’t read (and rarely do) the “explanation” of what Alejandro is trying to accomplish here; I just looked at the pictures and had an open mind in studying the essay/documentary. When finished, my take is that I saw a few pictures that captured my imagination, but I didn’t “see” much that was meaningful to me.

    Maybe I’m dense, but hopefully the EPF award will go to someone else…

  • It doesnt happen often but I am in agreement with Jim. As I said before I dont see anything in the pictures that would hint at what the photographer says in his statement about showing a relationship between the people and the land, nor do I see anything about the water other than there being water in the photos. It is a set of beautiful photos but for me the essay is disjointed and doesnt gel either with the intro or between the photos.

  • Congrats Alejandro. A compatriot! Strong visual work. I see it however as fine art and not really as documentary. The use of light, color and technique are fantastic. I can appreciate the relationship between the people and the environment even in the dreamlike and fictional quality of the images but you totally loose me when you start talking about “the health of this resource” (el Rio Parana) and the fact that it is “a worldwide problematic issue today.” I agree that it is – absolutely and definitely – but I can’t connect the urgency of that statement with your images and their slow, dreamy and poetic quality. I wander if you may be trying to cover too much ground here. I know we Argentineans can suffer sometimes from wanting to spread too far and wide, we come from the south and are eager to be discovered.

    Having said that, Argentineans rock! I miss the Delta!

    Edite Haberman

  • Kathleen Fonseca


    I am not sure that Alejandro needs to make clear whether the relationship between the natives and the waterway is positive or negative. There is water and there are people whose lives revolve around the water and any threat to this waterway would ba threat to these people´s ways of life. i assume it´s like Alpine villagers relationship to their mountain. Or Sharpas to Mt. Everest. Or the indigenous natives in Brazil to their forest. I see this essay very clearly illustrating the threat to mankind in general posed by unseen but symbolically illustrated (i.e. the huge bridge in the background for example) dangers to the waterway.


    When you say you hope someone else wins the EPF, are you speaking as editor-at-large? I assume not. I hope not! Even so, gosh, you might not really love the essay, might criticze it at length, and that´s very fair but in the end shouldn´t it be ¨may the best (wo)man win?¨ To say under Alejandro´s own essay that you hope someone else wins is pretty mean. To my mind anyway.


  • Kathleen, the photographer says nothing of the threat to the water. Nothing in these photos speaks to the “health of the resource.” He only makes a reference to the “health of the resource” in passing in his statement.

  • KAT

    pretty sure that isn’t Bob Black, above

  • The only thing he shows in his photos is a surrealistic landscape (or water scape) populated with posed surrealistic people.

  • Brian, you have it nailed on this. This is critique, David this is what you hoped for and you are getting it. No time to be squirmy about the input. Jim’s a piece of work, but has a traditional perspective about documentary photography that is rooted in high art of the document we grew up with. Now we grow.

    Alejandro has a cool thing going. If he stays true to his technique he will find a way to make it fit into the document, if he wants or move on to another outlet. That’s what’s so great about this place David, you try to get folks to inject what is them visually into that story.

    Let’s see some more…

  • I am deeply impressed by the technique and originality of the photographer. Lovely photographs.

    Yet I’m not feeling any real connection to the subjects or their environment – they seem little more than models on a set. It appears the trend in contemporary ‘documentary’ photography is becoming more stylistic and less humanistic.

  • Kathleen Fonseca


    ohhh..yeah, i see must be right!


    i do not think that “Bob” is Bob Black…..

  • Kathleen Fonseca


    The health of the resource is of vital interest to these people´s lifestyle. It´s implied. It´s there. Of course it´s there. These people would have a tough time lounging around ALL the rivers that i see in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Hell you can´t even see the water for the soap suds. You can´t get close because of the smell. You can´t hear the wildlife because it´s been long extinguished. When i looked at the essay the first time i did not read the text and i felt a sense of impending doom, of the danger to this rural lifestyle by an encroaching something whether it be laws designed to keep people out, contamination, development, whatever..i have no idea but i felt that when i looked at the essay. But when nothing really manifested itself by the end of the essay i felt a dreamy sway into fiction and lulled into my own childhood memories. But the text made it clear what the intention of the photographer was and that was pretty close to my immediate sense of doom. This is why i said you could go either way with this. It really depends on what kind of text or narrative accompanies the essay. It begs elaboration.


  • Kathleen Fonseca


    Yes, i see that now..Erica pointed that out..a HUGE relief! SORRY BOB BLACK WHEREVER YOU ARE!!!!!!!!

    thanks for pointing out the obvious, David!



    i will NOT use this gray again, but at this point, i needed to clarify that….

    and i will be quietly reading, not writing….

    sorry for the intrusion, i just got an email from a friend….

    this is why i no longer wish to write….people misunderstand, get all upset, bitter, angry, make assumptions….


    all the best

  • Kathleen Fonseca


    I AM SORRY!! yikes!!! please forgive meeeeeeeeee!

    To the other Bob…

    i still think it was mean!

  • just for clarification (out of gray):

    i support ALL the finalists…and frankly, all the work that has been published…

    i am wearied, really, and only write to make sure that in the future, when i do write, i will write Bob Black…and my best wishes are for all the nominees and all the entrants…

    there are NO LOSERS…that’s my biggest bitch about our collective mentalities: that we distinguish between ‘winners’ ‘losers’ ‘finalists’ ‘non-finalists’…

    everyone that entered is a winner in my book….just as everyone who takes to the world to make some rhyme of it…

    and the fact that David Harvey has started the EPF and Burn is means winners all of you,….and for that idea alone, i support all that David has and will continue to accomplish…

    in life there is only the living and the digesting and the breathing…

    Alejandro’s a terrific photographer and i know the other nine will be…just as i know photographers who are not awarded that recognition…the one comment that i agree completely with david on yesterday is this:

    the fault of behavior or anger or petty pickering is NOT the fault of a grant awarding…i think of an award more supportive and inspiring than EPF….

    if only we, as a profession, spent MORE time doing this, supporting one another than chasing awards and fame, we wouldnt need the largess, we’d have it collectively…

    but until that day comes, i will support and believe in this grant….it’s given my life much…

    ok, now, it’s time to run…

    happily awaiting the next nominees…

    all the best


    hear hear, my friend, absolutely hear hear…


  • Some have suggested that this essay is a clever magic trick with little emphasis on a human narrative or story. We must remember that the EPF grant is given to work in progress, so if you did take the above argument, then it is also possible that this photographer may take a more doucmentary humanist approach over time if he was to win (given the resources). The dialogue that I have read surrounding the first EPF finalist brings me to three points:

    1) Given the shooting conditions and long exposure times, would it be possible to shoot this project in a documentary style as some commentators would have preferred? Because, it would no doubt be hard to capture spontaneity or shots on the run. Perhaps Alejandro has limited himself to exploring the humanist side by his own technique, as it may be difficult to change his technique to accomodate a change in theme.

    2) I haven’t seen it mentioned before, but I think the dialogue under the essays featured will certainly play a major role in shaping the future development of the photographer’s projects. If for example Alejandro was to win with this project, he maybe influenced by the above comments and change his style to a more documentary approach. This can be both positive and negative. Ultimately his unique technique maybe ignored in favor of a more generic humanist documentary approach.

    3) If the adjudicators log onto this site from time to time during the EPF presentations, will their overall decision be swayed by the comments that surround each essay? For example, one adjudicator who really liked this essay on first sight, may not have even thought about the less humanistic side of the project until an elightened Burn author had mentioned it. So, the Burn commentator may sway the adjudicator without knowing it.

    These are just some ideas that occurred to me after reviewing the comments under this essay over the last two days.


  • JOE…

    i totally disagree with Jim on many points, but not on every may SEEM like he disses me on many occasions, but i cut him some slack and assume it is just his sometimes curt writing style…as a young photographer i had to work with guys like Jim…so, i pretty much have a feel for the character….it might also explain why i knew immediately i would never ever be able to be myself and work on a daily newspaper…at the same time, i did learn from these guys….and there is a respect from me for what they do even though i could not be a part of it…my apology for being temporarily angry was not to Jim, but to this audience….showing anger is not a virtue imo, hence my reference to Obama and the Dalai-Lama as two men who never lose their cool….if i do become upset, which is only natural, i will write my way out of it, rather than break a chair over someones head…make sense???

    ready to Skype with you at any time now Joe…i will try tomorrow…..


    i finally was able to see your site…you are a good solid photojournalist and i can see why you might not immediately gravitate towards this work… is just not in your lexicon at the moment and it may never be….perhaps however, time will allow you to expand just a wee bit your acceptance of what probably now seems just way too esoteric in nature….i do think however, that when you see all finalists, you will understand the context of choices and the areas of photography they represent…and i do think you will like ONE of them, which is exactly the number of finalists the jury will choose….

    BOB (not BLACK)…

    i find it interesting that you admit not reading Alejandro’s artist statement and yet took the time to write an opinion ….this is certainly your prerogative ….however, it takes about 45 seconds to read Alejandro’s statement of context, 1 minute to see his show, and i figure it took you about 2-3 minutes to write and publish a comment…

    i understand of course that photographs should speak for themselves, but with the dozens of comments that come in here requesting more information from the photographer, and then a photographer carefully prepares a statement that does not get read, seems just a bit skewed….however, the jurors will certainly read his statement and yet could come to exactly the same conclusion you have without reading….if so , your wish is granted…..

    cheers, david

  • i´m not sure if i addressed our difference of opinion

    It’s not an opinion, Kat. Alejandro’s single sentence on water in this world, is just an ad lib (1), in the second part of his text.

    He actually clearly told us his he was to document the life of people in the Delta, never said it was in view of a problem or a plight, or scarcity.

    Then, that you or even I, anyone, are interested in (their) life sustainability within a reserve of sweetwater, sure. No problem. That’s a thoughtful stance that can lead us to get more information and education on sweetwater reserves around the world.

    (1) if Hilary had added the same sentence, with her text, under her “hot water” essay, it would have been quite sensical too, but still not exactly the goal of her essay proper.


    Anton helped me designs a “bumper sticker” to sell at LOOK3 this year….

    What Happens at LOOK3
    Stays at LOOK3…
    (and ends up on Burn.)

  • Kathleen Fonseca

    Bob Black

    ¨this is why i no longer wish to write….people misunderstand, get all upset, bitter, angry, make assumptions¨

    I am one very little person who made one very large mistake. My misunderstanding does not reflect the collective Burn audience or their opinion/reaction to your performance as editor-at-large. i would really hate to think that you are adding this injury to what seems to be a mound of insults as a basis to your choice to withdraw from writing in your role as editor-in-chief. On the other hand if you are overlooking my heartfelt apology in order to use the opportunity to state your case then all i can personally say i deserve the cold shoulder but ¨whatever¨.


    Sorry, guy, thanks for your thoughtful rejoinder but i´m just not really in the mood right now, ok? Matter of fact..keep thinking and keep writing under these essays..i need to know you´re holding up your end here..i need a bit of time out.

    besos to Hervette

  • Kathleen Fonseca

    Bob Black


  • Folder drift. Time for a different essay.

  • JOHAN…

    i think you ask a fair question…i think i have an answer for you based on my experience applying for grants myself and also as a sometime juror for grants to be given….

    IMO no photographer as accomplished and with as clearly authored work as Alejandro would change even the slightest thing about his style based on the comments here…photographers who do authored work with a distinctive style look straight ahead and not from side to side…they have made up their minds on an approach and that is that…period……

    nor IMO would the jurors be influenced by comments here either…jurors have just as strong opinions as do the photographers who make the aforementioned creative decisions….the jurors have been chosen for their years of expertise and experience in our craft, and they are unlikely to relinquish that expertise to blog comments….

    no truly committed photographer or respected juror is trying to win a popularity contest…there are competitions that are the “peoples choice” and we may do one of those here at some point, but that is not the case with the EPF…frankly, “peoples choice” awards tend to be a marketing persons dream, but rarely command respect…..

    it should also be pointed out even with my choices of the finalists, that i am not trying to fit the mold of any existing publication or parameter of someone else…these choices are just simply my opinion..

    my recommendation for even an entry level photographer is to “sail your own boat”…getting the opinions of many is a slippery slope…sure, find a mentor you trust and get some opinions early on, but even then you must strike out on your own sooner rather than later and have your own opinions and methods come hell or high water…those who try to please everyone or get everyone’s opinion are destined never to have their own point of view…..surely, creative death….

    look carefully at the artists you respect Johan…i think you will find that all of them would subscribe to the “this is what i have to say, and this is the way i will say it” way of working and editing and publishing….

    cheers, david

  • Kathleen:

    Erica is correct. I am not a Burn Groupie.

    When the Academy Awards nominees were announced, did you have a favorite? Were some of the movies nominated ones that you had seen, but did not resonate with you?

    Anyone that publishes their work has to take responsibility for it, and that includes criticism from any quarter — especially if it is published where comments are invited.

  • Thankyou David for answering those questions and helping me understand the whole grant selection process overall. I have read somewhere on Burn similar ideas (I think from you)- following your own intuition and listening to good advice, but not letting that overly inlfuence your core values or what you represent.

    It will be such an interesting process to watch how the selection of the grant finalist unfolds over the coming days. I am really enjoying the idea of one finalist presented every couple of days, as it gives me something to do/monitor out of my boring routine. It would really kill the trip if all of the finalists were presented at once, so I think this whole concept is a winner.

    Thanks again,

  • Kat, sure, I wouldn’t be in the mood either if I had totally projected my own thoughts into this essay, as proof that it was what he meant the essay to be clearly about… ;-)

    I do remember you also needed no text to see-thru the women’s ID shots. But if such instant knowledge of people’s condition, at first sight, entails you do good around you and elsewhere, then you can expect anything but respect from me.

    Bob!!!! (Black)

    Stop defending yourself. we know you’re cool with everything happening around BURN. just assume once and for all we are also cool too (we have no colective mentalities, we see and never speak of winners and losers, and the labels finalists and non-finalists, well, that’s collective menDAHlity maybe, but still not ours).


  • JIM…

    four days ago you were saying “slow down”…be careful…triple check facts…quadruple check everything….i took your sage journalistic advice…now, you are saying “speed up”…which is it?

  • BOB…

    you are not a BURN groupie??? my oh free beer for you….laughing….

    well, you are quite right Bob…work published which invites comments must take criticism from every quarter…and that is exactly what happens here….but, the writer of any comment is equally subject to scrutiny on the nature of their critique….and, in your case, hardly a studied one….obviously this essay is not to your liking….maybe you will not like any of the finalists..but why not do the author’s here the courtesy of reading their statement?? seems like it might give you just a bit more critique cred if you at least looked at the whole package….

    be nice and you get to learn our secret hand shake and the little tatoo we all have….and once you learn what B U R N really means, then you too will be ONE OF US!!!

    nah, just stay where you are…that way nobody gets hurt….

    cheers, peace, david

  • Only one essay and we are all up in arms (not the ones made for hugging)…. it’s going to be a hell of a roller coaster of a month on BURN!!! :-)

  • Maybe change: burn is curated by magnum photographer david alan harvey,

    to: burn is currenntly defended by magnum-toting photographer David Alan Harvey!

    David, you know me by now, you know I can’t resist a silly pun (not a bad one at that, though, no?)


  • Just don’t get that tat in the wrong place … very embarrassing.

  • Herve

    since you are still around, would you mind explaining this part of your comment to me? I´m just not understanding it..

    ¨I do remember you also needed no text to see-thru the women’s ID shots. But if such instant knowledge of people’s condition, at first sight, entails you do good around you and elsewhere, then you can expect anything but respect from me¨

    is this exactly what you meant to say?

    also, that i´m not in the mood just means i´m not in the mood. doesn´t mean i´m moving off my spot ;)


  • HERVE…

    funny Herve…very good…wish i had thought of it myself….


    would you please be kind enough to drop me an e-mail ??:


    too late….

    cheers, david


    i had no problem with you not liking the essay. Obviously if you don´t like the essay the logical implication is that you hope the EPF goes to someone else. In my mind, it was redundant and unnecessary to further twist the knife and say that. However, if i hadn´t confused you with someone else i would not have bothered replying. In retrospect it was not the high point of my day.


  • Hello Alejandro, I like everything that you say in your statement and can see no reason why you should change to a more ‘documentary approach’. You tell a story in a way that could transform the way we perceive Man in his Environment which at this point in world history, is much needed. As only a couple of your images have grown to full size on the computer I am looking at them on, the majority I have only seen them as small thumbnails. But, seeing them in this form may have given me a way to quickly see that ‘Man’ generally appears as ‘whole in form’ (full body) within a large palette of green. This I read as a symbol of Man’s place within the natural world and I like this a great deal. On the other hand, it would be wonderful to see close ups and different angles to create more variety and emphasise the relationship between the Paraná River Delta and the people whose lives are connected to it – particularly ‘the life of the river itself’ (which exists independently of Man’s existence).
    I am extremely excited that you are intending to tell the story as a fictional tale as I think it could also appeal to a wider audience including children. It is difficult for all of us to change the habits of a lifetime which, in the industrial age, has resulted in destroying the planet we all depend on for our survival. Anything that can help us to respect this planet, appreciate that Man will always be ‘lower than Nature’ – especially for the future – it is all good to me. But, I am a nobody in this field of photojournalism so perhaps best not listen to me.
    If you are the only person in this ‘contest’ working on a project that concerns this topic and I were a judge, I’d pick you. ‘Community’ and ‘Environment’ being particularly important in my book.
    I am currently working on changing my habits of getting angry when people totally ignore me such as david alan harvey. and my sympathies to all people and species around the world ignored by others and left ‘without a voice’.

    jenny : )


    you are right on it on all counts…furthermore, the incredible body of work from the 200 or so portfolios will not end with just a thankless goodbye…if the photographers agree then we have some truly amazing material to publish….as you well know, and as you suggest, there are no “non winners” in this..if we can get rolling with the gallery and the sponsorship and a few commissions/assignments, i hope many will see we want to pass around whatever we have available to as many qualified photographers as possible…as so stated from the very beginning of EPF, the point was to provide support…given the amount of funding we had, it was only logical to make one nice grant…if more funding comes in, then more commissions go out…and the likelihood of more funding increases with the quality of the finalists and the 190 almost finalists etc etc etc….human nature is to be impatient…you and i both remember when so many were impatient with the first EPF, the first days of BURN, and now so many are jumping to conclusions, surmising this and surmising that, when all i have done is to publish the first finalist!!!…my role in all of this could obviously become a thankless effort…i will catch hell if photog A gets the grant and catch more hell if photog B gets the grant…worse, what about photog G who was not even a finalist ??? few will ever view it that SOMEBODY WENT TO WORK who would not have done so otherwise..many will only see who did not go to work…certainly a fair enough point of view i suppose, and the half empty glass club moves on…..

    thanks always for your continued good spirit…Herve is correct, no need for you to defend anything…

    cheers, david

  • DAH,

    take your time. I am happily waiting for all the finalists but the EPF is just a small beginning to what you are trying to do with Burn. I dont think people should get all in a huff about it after seeing just one finalist. And we should remember the EPF is just a bump on a much larger and longer road. While I am not thrilled by the 1st finalist it is a work that has both camps vocal, and thats good. The worst thing would be if the reception of the essay was a big yawn.

  • two things i like the most about photography:

    1.) Photographers and

    2.) The stories they tell about being underway on a photographic mission.

    i was in London on Tuesday and i got a chance to meet a Burn participant in the comfort of his own Lair. It was really great; he was great, as was his associate that made a charitable appearance, as was his museum-like wall of cameras, as were the bank of beautiful apple monitors, as were the beautiful shelves of books, as were all the images on the walls.

    chatting with these guys just charged me up to go enjoy the magic of the mission and reminded me that the mission has been here for a while and how many masters of the mission had come and gone and sadly, the passing of the age of master printers. Our children may never really know what a three-dimensional black-and-white print looks like someday except in a museum. :-(

    anyway, why is this relevant to this essay? i wish you were hearing this directly from the person i visited, but he is too humble to offer this information up; i’m not.

    basically this photographer and his associate were recently commissioned to provide the imagery and also influence the design of a boardroom presentation. The presentation’s goal was to confirm that a donation made by this organisation was a sound donation. The donation was an entire desalination plant to a needy Middle East country. Basically it was a plant to provide drinkable water to people that really needed drinkable water.

    the ‘story’ about this mission was great, but what i found most fascinating was their radical shift in the documentation effort, communication effort, and presentation effort of this documentary commission.

    i don’t know how many people have seen boardroom presentation, especially funding packs. If you haven’t, they are typically clinical, dry, boring, and necessary, but often left behind. They are a necessary evil, and not totally unlike an audit of financial statements: they exist to keep the project/company honest.

    well, anyways, these two photographers took on this dry, clinical paradigm of this presentation culture and offered something different. Basically rather than go and collect desalinisation-centric images: ‘what it looks like’, ‘where it was located’, ‘how it works’, ‘a sequence of beginning-to-end construction images’, ‘bla bla bla’ ; they essentially ignored this and instead entirely explored ’emotive’ images of why they heck this thing needs to exists in the first place.

    they took, dare i say, artistic pictures of: ‘over-population’, ‘a drop of water hitting a pool of water’, symbols of ‘war and conflict’, symbols of ‘re-construction’, etc, etc, etc.

    these emotive images were honest, but definitely ‘processed’, but most importantly they were more ‘emotive’ then ‘evidential’. Basically they took a boardroom project funding statement and turned it into a coffee-table-book calibre effort. They took an audit report and turned it into a chicken soup for the soul feeling for anyone that was remotely involved in the project and everyone proud to be a human for a short period of time.

    sure they had a centre-fold spread giving all the facts for the fact-finders to satisfy themselves and a pleasing picture of the finished desalination plant, but this was not the headline, it was a necessary intermission before we were returned to the human mission.

    but there’s a big ‘but’ here. These emotive images to document the ‘confirmation’ of benefit for the funding could not stand alone as an effort if it was just a bunch of ‘emotive’ images.

    if you had a chance to listen to the story it became clear that there were three legs to the stool and the images were just one of them, and the other two didn’t have a chance by themselves either.

    basically the images were married up with single words cementing the emotive feelings, somebody took the time to pick words that worked well together to sculpt the desired resulting feeling or emotion. (it reminded me a bit of Van Halen’s ‘Right Now’ video)

    the images and words were also married up with a great deal of graphical imagination. Someone thought hard about where the words were placed, how big the words should be, the sequence of the images, and even what the heck the font should be for each emotive image.

    so basically you have someone with a command of collecting emotive images for communication of a real life ‘thing’ (documenting?), someone with a command of text-based communication, and last someone with a command of how the eye and the mind will respond to the layout and presentation of information. Combine these three competencies and you get a tear-jerking master-piece of documentation, communication, and presentation.

    again, back to this essay, I could easily see images like these in a funding presentation to get people to do something or feel good about something they did.

    whether or not ‘these’ emotive images ‘actually’ relate to something that action needs to happen is not really relevant is it? What is relevant is that this photographer has the talent to collect emotive images and if commissioned to create emotive images for an actual cause will likely show up to the party with his job well done and ready for the other two cooks to work their magic, or as is the case here, just let the images be released to a gallery, how often can someone satisfy two objectives with the same effort?

    so basically, this first entry for me, exemplifies the spirit of an emerging photographer, a talented photographer, that if given the chance to bind up with a worthy cause and a worthy team would produce some purposeful imagical magic.

    Good Luck Alejandro Chaskielberg !

  • HERVE… very funny!

    I am excited to see all the finalist!!!

  • Joe, advertising is full of this. It is the thing these days to sell the emotion. Sell your grilling meat with images of families and summer fun. I agree that these images could be useful in pitching an idea to such a group where you are selling feelings as much as the “product.” Nothing wrong with that.

    Just don’t call it documentary photography.

  • quickly:

    BOB (the other): i am not a groupie anything…of david or burn or anyone….i’m a WORKING photographer and writer who happens to have contributed here for a long time. i do like David (and know im personally) but my groupie days a long over…though right now i do feel a bit like Akaky vs. Akaky IRL…oh, wait, check that: im a groupie for my son’s Rugby team…

    KATHLEEN: i wasn’t angry at you, i’m just wearied by the nature of how things get misunderstood/missives shot/anger surfaces/all gets associated…yesterday getting called condescending didnt help my perception of stuff, and i was just clarifying…the whole ‘whatever’ shit…well, that’s why im not interested in slugging all this stuff off anymore…all around…no harm, no foul

    DAVID: yes….the ugliness that surfaced last year during the EPF was sad and unfortunate, but i imagine, all too human, and though i feel it will not be so snarky as last year, i do fear (thus, my 2nd comment yesterday, the one that caused all the trouble) that people will look/behave (good or ill) differently toward both the photographers and especially the winner. the truth is the EPF is good for this: to allow work to continue, to foster work and encouragement, just as being a finalist (10 or 200) should inspire people just to work……the EPF is brilliant because it encourages work, encourages photographers….good god, i cant believe this is coming up again…i guess that’s going to be the bane of your existence, just as with Burn (who/what gets published): people will always second guess/question/judge whatever….but i guess this was expected….anyway, i am sure the list, the projection, the work at Look3 will be inspired and inspiring….and 5 years,, 10 years, 20 years from now none of this bitching/complaining/arguing/demanding/judging will me a hill of beans…what will matter, on an individual level, is are people committed to the life they’re trying to make well….in whatever way they wish to do that….that is all i, personally, care about on a day to day basis…the rest, dross…only what remains…

    anyway, i’ll take some time off now…thanks for understanding…


  • Joe,
    What you are describing is the current situation of the advertising photographer. This is not real documentary, it is photography with a paid for corporate agenda. Photographers applying their story telling and creative skills to the corporate need. All be it in this case to a seemingly good cause. The story might be shot in a documentary style etc and be able to tell a great story, but it is the corporate story. Sure the banks of apple screens, comfy office, stacks of G5’s are seductive do you think these were attained on editorial budgets – no – advertising budgets all the way.

    Read this interview with a photographer I admire but it tells of the clear distinction between documentary and advertising

    I Started my career assisting advertising photographers like this and it has shadowed me ever since, I have shot the corporate ads, I have filled my portfolio with images that I think people want to see, I have tried to follow the corporate advertising route and believed this was the way to go because that is where I started and learnt the craft. But always it left me a bit cold with a niggling doubt. I won the assistants awards at the AOP many moons ago with a documentary series of portraits, this should have been enough to point me in the right direction of documentary photography, but yet I dogedly continued down the advertising route, because I didn’t really know how to get into documentary photography at the time. This lead me to a place where I have been losing faith in photography as the images I have been producing have been corporate fodder leaving me cold, so therefore not having confidence in the work,so therefore into a downward spiral, what a crazy place to be when photography is such a brilliant thing. I now know that documentary is really where I feel most comfortable and am eternally gratefull to Burn because it reassures me everyday that this is the way to go and I must have confidence in my own imagery.

    I am not denegrating the skill involved in this type of story telling, there is a huge amount of craft,production,location finding,styling,casting,money,story telling, post production that goes into producing a slick looking documentary style image. It is a different process with a different agenda. As DAH mentioned in another post he has done the odd advertising commission but only if it was on his terms, hence as he has also mentioned his lack of spondoolies (cash) because of this.

    Sure if I was offered the job you describe I would probably take it on, but it is not documentary, it is adverting in a documentary style to give authenticity.

    Long for the life story guys…:-)


  • oopps
    should read sorry for the life story guys…:-)

  • thanks for that Ian. Interesting.

    i appreciate it seems so binary: advertising vs. documentary, real vs. propoganda. i think spending too much time thinking that way is too much time wasted when it comes to developing yourself as a story telling photographer. And we all know that most successful photographers play in both camp to feed their wallet and feed their soul.

    David once wrote there is no class-distinction between authors of fiction or non-fiction, they both have a strong command of text-based communication and can delivery information to us in ways we find appealing to read.

    i can’t help but think emotive, story-telling photographers have a command of the same visual vocabulary and if they wish to use the craft to get you to quit smoking through emotive propaganda images or reveal wife beating through emotive documentary images, there is really only a very little change in the author’s creative process, the change is really just taxonomy of the result, more so, just a change to the tag you place on it for your audience.

  • @Ian aitken. Take a look at my website and then tell me if you think i am producing corporate fodder that leaves me cold.

    Tell me if you think I am in a downward spiral and have no confidence in my work.

    Please tell me if you think I have niggling doubts, because I AM THE PHOTOGRAPHER JOE IS TALKING ABOUT.

    The POINT I believe joe was trying to make was in support of the current EPF entry here, and that is that an emotive, abstract style of work CAN convey a message(the whole point of so called documentary photography no?) and CAN be a viable replacement for more traditional forms of imagery IF it is well thought out and presented carefully with fully complementary text and graphics.

    If it is in the cause of a campaign (whatever that is) and it WORKS and it makes people FEEL and maybe ACT then IT HAS WORKED. Isnt that what campaign documentary is supposed to do????

    As for the banks of monitors, cameras and what not, yeah advertising budgets all the way. And those same budgets allow me to teach and mentor students and street kids and ex junkies. Those same ‘perks’ allow me to continue to work at my own vision. That ‘kit’ is constantly in the service of people who would otherwise have absolutely ZERO chance of accessing it, freely given and shared with whoever needs it. believe me the life of the starving artist is WAY overrated.
    I have been there remember?
    The work was produced for a company that is making water available, not only to corporate clients, but also to place where there aint none. If I can help sell THAT IDEA to a bunch of suited super corporate fuckheads, keeping complete control of artistic vision and get paid for it too then fuck yeah.
    COCA COLA comes calling looking for the same thing to sell their stuff and they can fuck right off.

    Sorry for the rant, I was going to stay out of it, but…..didnt :))


  • Hi.
    I’ve been reading Burn for a while now, and find the diversity of content to be a great spur in terms of my own attempts to establish myself as a photographer.
    Given the fact that I started less than a year ago and waltzed past 40 before that I assume that my chances are slim to zero.
    But the trying is joy.
    I haven’t commented before but the discussion with regard to this essay prompts me to.

    I wonder if some of the debate hasn’t been prompted by two phrases in the photographer’s introduction:

    “With my photographs I create fictional scenarios with real people and situations.”


    “My photographs set out to document the life and work of the islanders of the Delta.”.

    It seems to me that the issue is whether “fictional scenarios” where the content captured by the image is used intentionally as a narrative, can be considered documentary; particularly given that an established consensus is that documentary images must not contain fictive elements.

    I admit to some serious fence sitting when it comes to the discussion. Personally I feel that if the line between intent and representation is clear enough then the discussion becomes academic. I think it can be comfortably said that the history of photography is littered with shots with one foot in either camp.

    With regard to the essay in question, it certainly grabs me by the eyes, but not by the nuts. I salute the photographer’s skill and intent and wish him luck.

    Question: can the decisive moment only be caught somewhere between 1/8000 of a second and a second?


  • David,

    Thanks for the compliment. I feel like Hendrix just told me I can play guitar.

    Keep in mind, I loved Lori Vrba’s Safekeeping set from a few days ago, and while that wasn’t as radical as this series, it was certainly not what was usually shown on Burn, and not photojournalism. The difference is that Lori wasn’t trying to tell a story of a people. She was trying to convey a feeling. It was subtle, and it was sublime.

    Alejandro’s stated purpose was to document people’s lives while carefully planning each shot. Years ago, I was a science buff. I remember discussions on how human interaction with the subjects we were scientifically observing, whether it was an experiment or an ecosystem, would alter how the observed reacts. With that in mind, the goal was to interact as little as humanly possible. Can’t we deduce that Alejandro’s planning each shot alters the way the subjects reacts, therefore he didn’t document their lives? Couldn’t a still-life photographer who just got done arranging and shooting a bowl of fruit say that he’s documenting the lives of apples?

  • The danger from my point of view is in the language as much as in the photos. For us to communicate effectively, words have to have objective meaning. Entities from religious cults to advertising agencies take words with common meanings, void them of that content, and use the connotations to mislead us. Using “god” words like “christian,” or “Christ” or “savior,” or “born again,” connotes specific meaning to many in our culture, and it’s easy to mislead people by using those words when you mean something very different.

    The danger of using the words “documentary photography” is that they connote a specific thing to most people in our culture. What we are attempting to do here is void the common meaning of the phrase and fill it with something else. If you say, “I’m a documentary photographer,” yet what you show me is fine art, you create a disconnect between my understanding of documentary photography and your images that I’m looking at.

    The photographer here has actually been honest about his images, though. It’s just that he seems to be trying to combine two different concepts in the same images. He says he creates fiction, yet says he is documenting the lives and work in the delta. The goal of documentary photography isn’t to create fictions, it’s to convey reality (to whatever extent possible). It seems to me that the goal of this essay is to lend legitimacy to fiction (the photographers own assesment of his photos). To void the common content of the word “documentary” and wrap the essay in the connotation of the viewers.

  • @John I was not having a go at you, or anyone that works in advertising, sorry if it came across that way.

    I want to make it clear that, this is how I felt when I was doing the work. I am certainly not applying those feelings to you, I have my reasons for those feelings and the course I have taken. If you read my post you will see that the corporate fodder, downward spiral are all referenced to my work and feelings not anyone elses’ work or feelings.

    You will also see that I mentioned if I was offered the job I would have taken it on. I also said what you have done is highly skilled and creative. You are in a very privilledged position to be able to hold creative control and be paid handsomely for it.

    Moving on from that, please accept my appologies if I did not express in a clear manner initially.

    I agree there is a blurring of the lines between documentary, artistic vision and advertisng they are not mutually exclusive infact I think it is essential for self worth, and I believe this is why I began to become disillusioned because I felt I was just doing the corporate slog and not expressing myself with my vision.

    There are many examples of highly accomplished noteworthy works produced for corporates by great documenatry photographers, I am not dissing working in the corporate environment, it just didn’t work for me.

  • ALL / JOHAN / JIM..

    For me, the label documentary photography need not only apply to images that are of “spontaneity or shots on the run” or the objective recording of truths (not your words Jim but am trying to get close)..for one example, there is a whole school of what has been called social documentary photographer (Milton Rogovin, Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine, Rebecca Lepkoff, Louis Faurer, Wayne Miller, Bruce D. in a sense to name a few)..their work is often a chronicle of communities, of humanity, they offer visual histories, but I wouldn’t see them as always factual or ‘caught’ moments. A lot of the working method often involves communicating with the people photographed, liberties are taken with repositioning or even posing people, creating scenes to strengthen the narrative inside the image. My point is that there is more than one interpretation of documentary, and I don’t see the error in Alejandro saying that he “explores the limit of documentary photography.” He isn’t saying he is creating photojournalistic images for news information.

    The term documentary in the visual media was first applied in the 1930s, noting that “principles of documentary were the potential for observing life” and could be exploited in a new art form and documentary was given a definition of a “creative treatment of actuality.” And that interpretation of documentary is also applied to still photography.

    I understand the possible pitfalls of having a loose or art-inspired interpretation of a label if an audience isn’t savvy to the broad understanding and origins of that label..but that doesn’t mean that using it or alluding to it is all together erroneous.

  • In fewer words, the intent of of the documentary photographer shouldn’t be to create fiction. The intent of this photographer, by his own statement, is to create fiction.

  • if you ain’t a fly on the wall, then you is a propogandist!

    grammer to make it sound silly, not insinuate backward thinking

  • @Ian. no problem, your post caught me before my morning espresso had fully kicked in :)
    @Jim. As usual you are right and sort of wrong at the same time. Documenting the facts of an event/crisis/whatever is one thing and probably should remain ‘free from artifice’ if it is to have legitimacy among the chattering classes. A campaign story however is freed by such bounds as the PRIME motive is to elicit RESPONSE. It need not be objective truth, but may legitimately be an emotive and highly subjective interpretation…AS LONG AS IT HAS THE DESIRED EFFECT and is not just an artistic whimsy on the part of the photographer. this is still in my book at least, documentary, as it reveals a story that the author feels is of importance, it informs us in some way of that story, and hopefully elicits a response from us.
    Yes Strauss and berger talk of the aestheticisation of imagery, and its loss of power to communicate, and they may have a point, but I personally believe that Whatever gets the job done the best is the right tool.
    With regards alejandros style of working; I am not sure if it has been harnessed fully in the service of this story, BUT i fully believe that it can and will be used with real impact in future stories as yet untold.
    Many way to skin a cat jim, but they all end up with a dead cat.
    Peace again

  • But Jim, this photographer ISN’T saying he is a documentary photographer. His “intention is to work with photography in the border between reality and fiction” and to explore “the limits of documentary photography” to give a magical view or people and life.


    so astute…brilliant…thank you ….

    i would only add that one of the earliest documentary works i ever saw was Mathew Brady and his long exposures of the American Civil War…i am sure the actual war was fast paced and hectic…Brady could not technically photograph this war in its “reality”…he had to “pose” most pictures, move real people who were in combat into a rather staged environment, that is unless the battlefield was full of dead unmoving soldiers…. same with so much of the work from the Farm Security Administration in the 30’s; Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein etc etc who often “set up” real people in their real environment to REPRESENT their impoverished reality….

    in this light, i see Alejandro not out on some modern “leading edge”, but as a totally classic rather old fashioned documentary photographer…Alejandro is way more documentary than he is fiction…Gregory Crewdson is fiction…Alejandro’s “look” leans towards photo-surrealism , but i personally see a documentary photographer who just happens to be quite good at it….i did not say photojournalist, i said documentary….

    we would all do well to go back and kick around some of the philosophy of the James brothers…no, not Jesse and Frank, but Henry and William….William’s “The Real Thing” comes first to mind….REPRESENTATION can be more powerful and “real” than so called “reality”

    cheers, david

  • Maybe we could understand the difference between documentary and fictional photography on the same basis as the difference between documentary movies and fictional movies.

    Then we see that fictional movies tell an invented story or readapt a “real” story. Sometimes in fictional movies we get to learn a lot on certain issues.

    If we represent a fictional movie as a story which actually happened in real life, so, if we lie, there is a problem. If we do not lie and make very clear how the images were made, then were is the problem?

    Conclusion: I don’t get all this fuzz about Alejandro’s intents etc… He didn’t lie.
    Of course, his story is not a document. Because a document shows things as they happened in real life. But why should it be a document?

  • Frank Hurley made up stuff as well,

    Hurley was a strong defender of pictorialism – the idea that photographs should express ideas, tell stories and excite emotions in much the same way as paintings – and finally he began to manipulate war pictures. Some of his most famous battle scenes are in fact composites of several negatives,…….

  • Alejandro’s pictures tell something. But they do not document.

  • But they can become a document on the long run. If history decides to. And then it will be clear for all that he was not lying.

  • Because he simply did not present his pictures as taken from real life, but he told they were made up. So where is the problem?

  • Fiction and reality. Interesting stuff. The reality in this work exists on two levels, the photographed scene and the image itself. And this ‘reality’ becomes even more prominent when the print is made, and a tangible object (the photograph) exists. The reality of a photograph of a subject.

    One person’s subjective approach to photographing reality may be taken by someone else as not ‘honestly’ describing the subject at hand. This may be described by the concerned viewer as more ‘fictitious’ than fact. However the photographer may truly believe that the method and style of their approach is the most honest ‘document’ that they can make. So who is right? My money is always on the photographer who works in a style that is honest to themselves. The resulting work may be debated and labeled in many ways, but it is the photographer who has to sleep well at night with his/her own conscience.


  • Hi!

    What’s interesting is the insistence on separation.

    The essay is no less a document of the environment and it’s inhabitants because of the techniques involved, than if the essay had been comprised of black and white images shot with “f8, don’t be late” as it’s starting point.
    What’s important is whether the narrative succeeds in conveying the author’s intent, does it support the ‘argument’.

    Photography is difficult because, more often than not, it is both the evidence and the argument simultaneously and style/technique often become (are?) synonymous with intent. When they chime we see, when they do not we look away.

    What’s intriguing is that the photographer’s intent to work in the borderland between what we understand to be different, i.e. fiction and reality, has touched a nerve. The discussion wouldn’t be taking place if changes in definitions weren’t necessary and occurring.


  • I agree that the line between fiction and reality is not a line. It is more like some landscape in which both get mixed. Even in the most “taken from real life” picture there is the imagination of the photographer involved. And even in the most fictional photography there is reality.

    It all depends on what you use the pictures for AND what you say about their making. We all know that if we present a picture in a newspaper of Bush kissing Blair on the mouth without telling that this picture went through photoshop, there is a problem.

    But I do not see such a problem with Alejandro’s pictures.

  • But we don’t want viewers to have to parse fiction from reality, to skid along the border between the two. It’s getting hard enough to sort the two anyway, without someone deliberately creating work on that border. This photographer stated up front he was creating fiction, but many here are arguing that it really doesn’t matter to documentary photography whether the work is fiction or fact, only that it be emotive of something. I just don’t buy it.

  • I totally agree, Robby, it is clear we need changes in definitions and thinking about these issues. And even more make works around that which broaden up the definitions.

    What is wrong with pictures taken from real life and let it go together with very personal text, as Depardon does? And what is wrong with set up pictures who clearly state they are set up, as Alejandro and others do?

    The EPF stated that “poetical, personal” work is welcome. And that documentary work is welcome. Alejandro is a mix of both. So the better.

  • JIM

    IMO, if it isn’t news/journalism, at some point it is okay to demand something of your audience.

  • Of course it does matter to photography which is presented as a document, to KNOW wether it is made with pictures taken from real life or with totally set up pictures. With Alejandro we KNOW how he made those pictures.

    Jim, do not use what others explain badly to get right on your point please.

    VII photogtraphers, publicity photographers and marriage pictures play on emotion. That does not seem the case to me with Alejandro.

  • Maqroll, you submit that using Photoshop as a means to manipulate images in a bad way, but isn’t manipulating a photograph before the shot just about as bad as manipulating the photograph after the shot? Either way, you are twisting the reality to fit what you want to see.

    Of course, there are degrees of this. Using a flash alters just as adjusting levels in PS. My struggle with this still lies with the photographer saying he’s documenting their lives, not just using their lives as a source material. The photographer needs to be honest with himself and understand that this is not documentation, but commentary.

  • erica, it is a difficult demand to make of viewers. They see images and video every day where it is impossible to tell what is CGI and what is real, or what is Photoshop and what is real. Blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality in work that appears to be documentary is, IMHO, a slippery slope.

  • Is it possible that some of the confusion may have crept in because the photographer’s first language isn’t English?

  • Jim

    Clearly we do want some level of integrity in journalism, but even in the best scenarios, photojournalism is still subjective. After all, choices have to be made on form, where to stand, what to exclude, etc, all affecting our understanding of the images and events. In addition, scenes have been staged in photojournalism since nearly the founding of the medium, so that’s nothing new.

    In this situation, there is some inherent truth to these images. They are real places and the photographer says that there is intent to “document the life and work of the islanders of the Delta,” however, it is a personal perspective, one that is intentionally left open in narrative for the viewer to complete, which to my taste, makes it much more interesting and provocative, so I applaud the challenge to “parse fiction from reality.”

  • Bob Black:

    “…i’m a WORKING photographer and writer…”

    I’m happy for you that you are gainfully employed…


    we know you do not buy it….and nobody would even hint that this work should appear in the daily newspaper as photojournalism which is not the same as documentary anyway…

    you are consistent in referring to “readers” as if all viewers of visual media are some mass American audience who must be carefully spoon fed INFORMATION…

    yes, this is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY at YOUR NEWSPAPER…i totally respect that of course since you are the news editor ….and i would not publish this essay in your paper either….but, can you not take off your newspaper hat for just a minute and just appreciate something different from what you can appropriately publish in the local paper???

    knowing quite a few editors out there, as do you, i think there are two ways editors think about “readers”…one is that readers just are not smart enough to figure things out and need to be “led”…the other is that we maybe should just give readers the benefit of the doubt, show them something that takes them where they have never been before, and just flat out enlighten…of course, i go with the second approach of assuming an intelligent audience and yet using your sensibility of integrity and truth…..i think if an audience is not “lied to” then all kinds of truly interesting possibilities for communication exist for us even in the mass media…..if a set of work is totally explained for what it is (as here), then i think we are moving forward in a more sophisticated way of seeing and of presenting…

    i think we both become a bit frustrated with each other…but, please please know that it is nothing personal…we both love photography and the life it has given us…we both believe in the basic tenants of good journalism…i respect what you do….i think where we depart is in the “use” of photography and its myriad possibilities….simply put, i feel there are many ways photography can be used, not just to explain something in a basic journalistic fashion….

    i have described you here at times as a genre..of being typical of the crotchety newspapermen i knew at the beginning of my career…..actually, you are not like them at all…not a one of the guys i am remembering would have spent more than 10 seconds on BURN…you are indeed an anomaly … are here every day….and while your sometimes curt one liners do indeed rankle many of us, you do take the time to think and to write….your longer more thought out responses often resonate… keep the fires burning…good….

    now, go take a short siesta and have your wife wake you up for the next finalist…or , are you at the office?? anyway, new work coming soonest…i hope you will see an overall balance of photography when all ten finalists are presented…if not, i am sure you will tell me….

    peace, david

    p.s. would you be kind enough to skype me?? davidalanharvey


    yes, good point..and this will come up more with many of our photographers having English as a second language….

    i have tried to contact Alejandro and finally found out that he is totally out of communication until June 4….the boy is lost in his work….

    cheers, david

  • “the boy is lost in his work….”

    as the rest of those who keep beating a dead horse should be….

  • Bob Black

    the ugliness that surfaced last year during the EPF was sad and unfortunate

    You meant the ugliness that did not surface, Bob?… ;-)

    I do remember that Panos and Rafal went at each other, but, like I said yesterday, the whole Road Trip writership was simply cool with the EPF, as it’s cool with BURN, rain or shine. I do not know where your often renewed appraisal of shortcomings and “too human” behaviour comes from, Bob, I am perplexed when it does, that it is always us being “too human”, never you.

    I wonder, could you be a… Bob Black groupie? :-)))

  • Jim:

    David said ¨ you do take the time to think and to write¨..i would like to add, ¨…now more than ever¨..i have been devouring your input lately..i skip over the same old, same old and go straight for the heart of your perspective and i consider every word you write. So please don´t go back to the curt one-liners when you have so much more where that came from!

    keep burning!


  • Heres a one liner. Are each of the EPF entries going to be up for four days?

  • I have to say that this set of images are absolutely stunning. I love the texture and the mood it creates. Alejandro was indeed up front with his admission of “creating” the images for what might initially seem to be the contrasting goal of “documenting the life and work of the islanders”.

    But perhaps by staging these images he’s done no different than the author who writes a documentary piece about events too long ago to witness. He’s taking what he knows about the river and creating images to convey his perspective on what the river means to the people inhabiting the Delta.

    By looking at the images, I believe the viewer is aware in some sense that these are more or less a series of portraits as opposed to candid shots of the river life. I think the argument that they are staged and therefore aren’t documentary isn’t necessarily true at all.

    When Walker Evans documented the tenant farmers of the south 70 years ago, he posed the photos, and deliberately shot them to best represent what he saw and experienced.

    I think Alejandro has done the same (trying to foist a comparison to the incomparable Evans), with different tools. He knows the Delta life better than we, and he is conveying what he believes is representative of their life and work. He could’ve shot it with a Leica and black and white film, but the method he chose imparts a different mood, and sensibility.

    I think they’re beautiful images and work well for what he’s trying to achieve.

  • But John, what is he trying to achieve? From everything I can read, human impact on the delta is minimal, with populations along it declining. There appears to be little worry about its health. I love the photos. I just can’t figure out what he is saying with them, if anything.

  • DAH wrote,

    “i have tried to contact Alejandro and finally found out that he is totally out of communication until June 4….the boy is lost in his work….”

    Actually,he’s probably in the middle of a really long exposure

  • Since Alejandro has been telling us he is exploring the limits of documentary photography (along with hundred others today, just talking of the published ones), I am not sure why we are arguing over the definition of documentary photography, that is the limits of documentary photography.

    Yet, the fact that the medium itself lends itself so well to manipulation, to challenging perceptions, is probably why, even amongst people versed in it and its professionals, the question of veracity, and intentins, is never left to rest.

    Also, David, regarding your quote on Crewdson not being a documentary P., in time, work that was not meant or seen/thought as documentary might take on that mantle. Such is the strength, and magic, of photography that any frame with some people, some patches of grass, a house, may tell something of the age, of us, which for being there inside the frame for all to see today, may not reveal all until later.

    Something I believe neither literature or painting can achieve. Even movie-making is too self-conscious a process to compete with photography, or at least, without a measure of kitsch, but there is no revealation in kitsch.

  • I think he’s trying to paint a picture of the relationship the people have with the river. Perhaps the river delta isn’t an eco disaster, but I believe deforestation is a particular problem of the lower delta. On the other side of that is the fact that many people have left the area and the surrounding economy remains stagnant, or is in decline.

    So maybe it’s a complex relationship that you see with many places around the world. People want jobs, but what can the environment sustain? There are images of people carrying lumber, and evidence of a surrounding economy (as a bridge in the background). I understand it as a work in progress and having seen the images, I’d love to see what he comes up with.

    That being said, maybe I’m seduced by the quality of the images, and I’m looking too far past the content. All I know is that I feel something when I look at the images, and I think that’s a good thing.

  • JIM..

    every essay we have ever published has been up for four days….

    cheers, david

  • so just to clarify, have all of the finalists been notified already?

  • every essay we have ever published has been up for four days….

    And new names have appeared on that fourth day, who had something of value to say. If the concentration on EPF only entries attracts people to join us in commenting, the better for BURN.

    I have a feeling the new entry is going to have us making the most of these 4 days again… David, is your Magnum re-loaded? :-)

  • to Brian Frank: I didn’t say that in general we shouldn’t use photoshop. It all depends what we do with it. Pushing some curves with photoshop to get more contrast or using flash is no manipulation. It is an interpretation. As the film you use is already a choice and therefore an interpretation.

    But putting situations together (like Bush and Tatcher kissing on the mouth) and presenting it as if it happened in real time, is a huge lie. It is not interpretation. It is lying.

    Alejandro did not lie. He said these images were set up.

    And he said these set up images document the way of living of those people. This is an other discussion. I said about that above: maybe in fifty years we will consider and use his pictures as a document about that region (knowing that it is fiction), amongst other documents about that region. But I agree with you: I am unable to see what it documents. And that I can with pictures of the First World War David mentioned.


  • Compliments to Alejandro: he is among the 25 selected by American Photography

    and Michael Christopher Brown is in too (do you remember Sakhalin?)

  • sorry, it’s AP25… the selcted are far more than 25 ;)
    BURN rocks, anyway!

  • Hi Joe,
    I know discussion has moved on and sorry for the late response.

    regarding “i can’t help but think emotive, story-telling photographers have a command of the same visual vocabulary and if they wish to use the craft to get you to quit smoking through emotive propaganda images or reveal wife beating through emotive documentary images, there is really only a very little change in the author’s creative process, the change is really just taxonomy of the result, more so, just a change to the tag you place on it for your audience.”

    I couldn’t agree more with this, the trouble is you have to establish your story telling/photographic skills and style and be true to them and yourself to feel some kind of self worth. The example I gave of myself was I was flickering in the wind bending to my perception of what the client wanted, therefore I felt no pride in the work I was producing with good reason as I was producing nice but bland imagery which left me cold and empty with the work.

    There are a number of fairly big hitters out there who are blogging about this at the moment take a look at Chase Jarvis and Doug Menuez, both are commercial shooters who very generously post there inner thoughts online. For me there is a creative itch that needs to be scratched and if that is ignored productivity/creativity/contentment are all compromised.

    In fact I am working on a pro bono project at the moment which is allowing me to scratch like mad and it is truly creatively life affirming.

    If you have a chance can you drop me a line or skype aitkenimages



    P.S. Alejandro great job and interesting melding of documentary and creativity, they are in no way exclusive to each other.

  • The New York Times photoblog Lens has blogged about Alejandro’s High Tide essay…
    well done fella

    (apologies if someone’s already pointed this out…)

  • If someone happens to be in Rome this summer, some of Alejandro’s pictures will be on exhibit in Rome, at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, for “Fotografia Festival 2009″ till the beginning of August.

  • Hi Alejandro,

    good stuff and keep up the good work, very interesting.

    DAH this site is burning…in a good way.

    ozzy al


  • Well done Alejandro. We’ll look forward to seeing this project develop.

  • Just a little consideration cause before I haven’t read all the posts…
    I saw that there are peolple complaining or surprised cause a huge percent of the finalists are former students or assistents of David workshops, readers of this blog, people who attens festivals, ecc…
    Come on! Din’t you think that this is normal cause most probably also a huge percent of the entrants belong to the same crowd?
    This grant is new, so the reason why there are not African or Asian photographers in the finalists is cause probably not so many of tham are already aware of this oportunity so they did not partecipated… Spread the news also to them and you will see that years after years they will be in the finalists too!
    In my opinion it wuoldn’t have been nice nor onest to put in the finalists someone from Africa just because he was the only partecipant from there to do “geopolitic”…
    I agree that there should be more grants open just to photographers from developing countries but if a grant is not like this, winners have to be choosen from the quality and doesn’t matter if they all come from the same nation…

  • Sorry I didn’t want to post this staff here but in an othere trade… can someone remouve it?

  • Congratulations Alejandro,

    well deserved for a very creative and intriguing body of work

  • CONGRATS Alejandro!!!
    Fantastic work man…DIFFERENT and INSPIRING
    all best,

  • I don’t like calling this “documentary” or “real”


    In my work for higher education, companies, I always try to frame/compose/time the photo so it appears like there are the most number of interested, attentive attendees there. Is that “real” even if it was a sparsely attended event where everyone’s bored and I capture the one moment where people seem interested/happy to be there? What if I color corrected a warm room to a more daylight balanced room? What if I photoshopped more people into the photo?

    Obviously I prefer in-camera tricks in my “purist” desires to altering the photograph by adding things that weren’t there/removing. But one could argue they’re all lies/not reality.

    HDR from a single image is ok in my book…it’s the same idea as 0-5 split filter printing but thats a different topic.

    some would argue Monet’s of the Houses of Parliament for ex is a more “accurate” documentation of it than a photograph of it would be because it “conveys mood better”. Some would argue a writer’s rendition of the event is more accurate. I’ve heard arguments like that before. Don’t necessarily agree but it’s an interesting argument.

    Even in camera with different exposure combinations, apertures, shutter speeds, focus points, we’re kinda like writers and painters in that we “convey mood” with an artistic representation of what was going on at that moment.

  • Very strange and interesting project. I like it a lot. I want to have another look. But later. For now I just think of lots of fiction stories – Gulliver’s Travels, Lost in Space – is that the show with the little people on a planet of giants? Crewdson’s pictures of course. I think playing with notions of fiction and documentary maybe more interesting when the two are brought close together. But on the other hand, maybe not. Now that i think more about it, your telling me you are documenting something is enough to make me think about these pictures as representations of some people’s real lives. Admittedly they are highly interpreted depictions. I think, call it what you want. The issue only really matters when images are used as evidence, and then how. Could you win a court case with these pictures? Could you obtain funding? Could you prove a point about anything? Will anyone find these images persuasive enough as evidence? I think that may be the question here. Certainly for the purpose of entering exhibitions and contests, I have seen this done often enough. All you need do is have an element of the work to call it by that name. I have seen printed machine made fabric called everything from textiles, to photography, to printmaking. Truly, an artist does well these days to work in hybrid forms. Maybe we should just call it all art and be done with it. The good stuff will rise to the top but at least everyone will get a fair bash at highest prize money.

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