andy spyra – kashmir

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Andy Spyra

Kashmir

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I first came to Kashmir in the early spring of 2007 at the end of a motorcycle trip across India. I simply fell in love with the region, the people, the light and the atmosphere of this remote place of the world. But as much as I love it, that much I dislike the political situation of the valley.

Squeezed in between the two atomic powers and arch-enemies India and Pakistan, the people of Kashmir are the ones who suffer from the conflict. Their wives and sisters get raped and murdered, and sons and husbands disappear, or they simply get shot, during one of the countless demonstrations against the Indian military presence in the region. Kashmir is the most militarized zone in the world, with over one million soldiers facing each other at the line of control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan. Srinagar, the capital of Indian administered Kashmir, is therefore also called the “City of Bunkers” as you can hardly walk any street without facing heavily fortified bunkers of police, military and paramilitary troops.

Most of the young men deployed in Kashmir come from poor and rural areas of India, and many are from Bihar in the mid-east of India. In Kashmir they are alienated: they don‘t speak the Kashmiri or Urdu, they belong to a different culture and religion and they aren’t allowed to leave their camps for security reasons. Under these circumstances, it‘s easy for political and religious persons to feed the distrust and hate between the people of Kashmir and the ones who should be there to protect them.

At times I was invited into private homes, where family members would mourn over the death of a beloved one.  Seeing what the death of just one person does to a family, the death of more than 60.000 persons during the Kashmir-conflict is simply beyond my comprehension. Psychologically the whole valley is traumatized, and I hope that through my photography people are able not only to see Kashmir as I see it, but also to feel it, just as I do.

But despite all this, Kashmir, known as the “Paradise on earth”, is still one of the most beautiful places in the world.

 

Bio

Andy Spyra, born 1984 in Hagen, Germany, is a freelance photographer currently based in Germany. He worked for one year as a freelance photographer with a local newspaper in his hometown Hagen before he started to study photography at the Fachhochschule Hannover. In the beginning of 2009, he quit his studies due to both personal and photographic reasons. Since then he has worked as a freelance photographer, focusing on long term in-depth projects of social and political issues worldwide.

 

Related links

Andy Spyra

www.anthropographia.org

86 Responses to “andy spyra – kashmir”


  • There are really strong images here, as the first two, which add another layer to the story.
    Compliments.

    BTW, there is a typo in the introduction: “Most of the young men deployed in Kashmir come from poor and rural areas of Kashmir”… rural areas of India, I guess

  • ABELE..

    thanks for catching the typo…one of the most difficult things about publishing Burn or any publication are catching typos…4 of us read this and missed it…happens all the time at NYTimes, Natgeo, all of em…so easy to make a typo mistake…i remember my proofreading class in journalism school and how easy it was to make a mistake…seems like it would be easy to correct but it isn’t..hence the profession of pro proofreaders…and even they mess up sometimes…

  • “while we’re still arguing about whether there’s life after death, can we add another question to the cart? Is there life after democracy? What sort of life will it be? By democracy I don’t mean democracy as an ideal or an aspiration. I mean the working model: Western liberal democracy, and its variants, such as they are.’-arundhati roy, from her introductory essay in her book ‘listening to grasshoppers’

    Prior to reading Roy’s book this past August, i knew very very little about Kashmir. I’d read about the region for a long time in novels and poems. I’d follow Teru’s story of the war through it’s publication and development and occasionally read essays by writers and journalists but it wasn’t until I’d read Roy’s book of essays this august, that the full measure of the disaster became clear. India (the government that is), one of the West’s shining new economic and democratic superstar’s, is culpable for the most heinous of behavior and engagement and Andy’s essay (the written part) hints at the degree and madness that now defines that valley….Andy, I highly recommend Roy’s book and essays as a further exploration of the horror that continues there….

    as an photographic essay, it haunts and staggers amid the shadow and fear and restlessness that hangs over the bunker’d and grave streets of Srinagar….somnambulant and terrified, festering and blood shorn, haunted and stilled, the city seems like a breathing tomb in these pictures and in a way, swirl of shadow and grain and becomes a darkened ossuary of the living….in other words, the long exposures and spinning pans of the howls, the abstraction of faces which yeild not the individuality of their nightmare, but a collective one of terror, is physically and emotionally startling…in other words, less a representation of the streets than a lyrical scream from the belly of the nightmare the people are experiencing….

    visually powerful, poetic and graphically breathtaking, that serve to point to the viewer that, contrary to many’s collective ideas of Kashmir (a valley of piece and serenity), the valley is blood-soaked and afire, of flame and of shadow…..

    all your work, with nods to ackerman and d’agata and paolo, which point toward the image not as document put as pen and ink and voice…..

    and may that the people of kashmir eventually know the time when veil and shroud are pulled away alas for shine of star and calm…..

    heart-breaking, cut-wrenching, lyrically beautiful and powerful work….

    one of my favorites in a while…

    congrats on both being published in Burn and being a finalist for Anthropographia! :))

  • I agree with the person on Twitter (whose link led me here) who said

    ‘I find that style of photography increasingly tedious. What is it saying abt kashmir or its people? it’s all about the snapper’

    Indeed.

    Bob you seem so full of hyperbole that I’m worried you may burst.

  • duckrabbit:

    is there a rule that a visual essay must necessarily tell you something about kashmir explicitly? how about seeing it as an abstract visual interpretation? doesn’t such an approach have just as much right to exist?

    I for one know enough about kashmir that I do not need the photographic essay to fill in the gaps. So I am perfectly happy to accept this as a subjective (and maybe abstract) interpretation, one of many possible interpretations.

    And as such, I think it is masterfully done. Andy – congrats on being published, your images have a powerful and raw graphic impact.

  • Seems like a tribute to Edvard Munch or an art project about suffering.

  • Andy, congratulations on being published here.

    An interesting set of photographs, although I’m somewhat worried that style may be being placed before substance: or even obscuring good work. Some of the photographs seem to have a swirling pattern to them. Has this been added in post or did you really make a circular motion with the camera? if the latter, weren’t you afraid of perhaps ruining a good, straight photograph by using such a technique? Other photographs seem to have so much post processing that they are close to caricature of the original.

    I understand what Bob is saying here about the image being a personal voice – is that what you are doing here?
    Number 2 is my favourite and I see that it is the opening photograph on your website.

    Best wishes,

    Mike.

  • It’s a good use of B&W. Photo 7 is strong. But, I have to agree with others that the images have been so abstracted from the place that I don’t think they say much very interesting, beyond “what a clever photographer am I.”

  • Not wrong, Jim, but let’s remember BURN is about new voices. It is near impossible for an emerging photographer (whatver the term means) to have that voice of his/hers all figured out, coalescing the telling of a story or something (which he saw/witnessed) and the subjectivity/artistry of how he went about it telling that, thru photography.

    I see a very good effort here, something striving for individuality, while the vision is not completely realized, as it should be for anyone of us who has not been dead-seriously 10 years, at least, at it. My favorite is #13, yet, I am bothered by the cut off of the foreground figure and am afraid a great picture was in the making, but not quite in the end.

    I am also a bit tired of unspoken but unmistakable religious symbolism in so many photo essays, as here, one easily thinks of the Christ and stuff in the suffering figures. I think we should render deeply religious people, as secular as one can be, with a camera, for a change.

    Andy, perfect illustration of what david is trying to do here. I am glad you have been made part of that effort.

  • i found this piece very powerful, andy – esp. the first image.
    (i found #5 & 9 a bit redundant after the impact of #1).
    normally i’m not very keen on super heavy post-production work
    but here, for me, it works incredibly well.
    you’re a very talented young man.
    keep going.

  • Herve, some very good points. I just looked at Andy’s bio and see that he’s only 26 – that’s great access for 26 – or any age.

    I do hope that Andy will answer my question about wether he added the swirls in post or in camera. If the latter, I have to say that I’d be worried about missing a great straight shot.

    It’s telling that much of the comment here has been about the technique used by the photographer rather than the subject of the photographer. I’m not criticising Andy’s work here but attempting to provoke debate on the wider issue of manipulation. Perhaps another thread David?

    Mike.

  • “It’s telling that much of the comment here has been about the technique used by the photographer rather than the subject of the photographer.”

    It’s difficult to care about the reality of the situation if the photos are stylized into unreality. At some point, it doesn’t matter if the subject here is Kashmir. It could easily be somewhere else. These images are cartoons. Yes, Kashmir has a harrowing and tragic history, so here we have photos than purport to be harrowing and tragic. But if the title of this essay were “Srebrenica” or “Bogota” or “Sadr City,” would it matter?

  • Ahhh. The ecstatic truth. I’m guessing they didn’t teach you this in photo school, Andy. Great job here. Keep going.

  • You have created some amazing images here, Andy – and I am humbled by the level of talent and artistry that you have demonstrated. In my mind, you have created less a portrait of Kashmir than of Hell. Literal, literal, Hell, captured in the abstract.

    That said, as I went through your essay and before I read a single comment, I still found a certain line of thought going through my head as I went through your essay. As many people have expressed here in the months since I first found Burn, I am one of those traditional photojournalists who, in recent times, have looked at the continual flood of traditional photojournalism that so skillfully captures the suffering of war, natural calamity, famine and hardship in this world only to find myself feeling increasingly unmoved, detached, and even bored by what my eyes and intellect tell me is excellent work.

    And so I have felt this hunger to see new forms of photographic communication that delve into these subjects in a meaningful way that hits me – and in Burn, I have found many such cases and your essay follows that pattern.

    Yet… as I looked it, and saw the mastery in each of your abstract images, mastery which I cannot hope to emulate… I began to feel… that same… feeling… described above. I realized that, very soon, once it happens one too many times, even the new, beautiful, abstract, ways of breaking out to see the world anew will themselves begin to feel worn out, tired, and even boring.

    None of your work feels this way… it all strikes me as brilliant, yet, somehow, it does tell me this is the direction that the more creative end of photography seems to be headed.

    What are we photographers to do?

    And yet, I might note the Guido Gazilli Kosovo essay that immediately proceeds this. It was done in a more traditional, literal way and yet it feels completely fresh, strong, and original.

  • Andy, I love this. It creeps me out completely! I watched it 3 times! I felt like I was watching a Stephen King movie. It was so abstract I almost forgot these were photos of real people, under extreme duress, dying in the streets and being told when to buy their groceries.

    The question of how do you show the same stories that are centuries old in a way that taps into fresh form has been rotating through my brain for months. Your essay says it can still be done.

    Totally creeped out and loving it,

    Lee

  • FROSTFROG…

    you wrote:

    “What are we photographers to do?

    And yet, I might note the Guido Gazilli Kosovo essay that immediately proceeds this. It was done in a more traditional, literal way and yet it feels completely fresh, strong, and original.”

    this is exactly why i ran all three of these essays together actually…for you to think about approach beyond simply “black & white essay” as if b&w all by itself was a “type”…anyway , keep writing, keep thinking…you are getting close…

  • Frostfrog, I read your comment after making mine. Hummmm.

    Funny though, I couldn’t take the previous two on eastern europe. Just couldn’t do it. And when I saw the Kashmir piece today and in black & white I began to think oh no. But for only a second because then I was captured by being creeped out.

    My feeling about worrying “…yet it feels completely fresh, strong, and original.”: it isn’t the subject but who sees the story and how it is told.

    On the other side we could “worry” about taking the misery of millions and making entertainment that “creeps” people out.

    This entire day has been in finding the story in the photos. Looking for the extraordinary and uplifting amongst the common. Finding the keeping of culture alive in a series of photos of a typical pow wow. Searching for humanity and love and finding it. But it took days of looking at the prints hanging on the wall. But I had no idea what I was shooting while taking the photos–concentrating on just getting the shot when it showed itself.

    I know this–I am so tired of the discourse on so and so did it already and did it better. When you are there to shoot what the scene is showing you then you are shooting like no one else. It is our critic brains that stop the flow of work by instilling the fear that your photos are nothing that hasn’t been seen yet.

    Lee

  • Did I say Stephen King? Make that something from the creators of creatures of the dead movies.

  • Andy congratulations.
    Without being disrespectful, the only words jumping in my head while watching this were: Frank Miller being drunk. And somehow it felt distracting, a bit overcooked.
    You’re hugely talented, immensely more than most of us, concerned and motivated. I can’t see a chance of failure. Good luck.

  • Duck rabbit….

    your weariness and jaded disdain isn’t share by all of us…and if your reaction to a photographic sensibility is one of tedium, that’s your issue, not the photographers. Each ‘style’, at this point, is arguably drained and tedious, as we’ve been inundated by image-making as a way to shell out and shell over the coming to terms of place…whether it’s this vernacular of images or whether it is the ‘objective’ school or the new objectivity school or whether it’s verite style or minimal or expressionistic or assembled or conceptualized, we’ve reached the point in photography where it’s look is not, per se, the sole arbiter ….the irony of photography, a means of expression reliant on it’s appearance….

    an essay reliant of visual dramatics and aesthetic hyperbole (which this one surely is) was pitched at the emotional expression, and i wrote accordingly…..read Roy…

    you are a fortunate man facile too in your ennui

    Preston:

    all attempts, generally, to express suffering will and do fail, regardless of the expression or vehicle by which that description is rendered, no matter what or how unless the audience connects to that expression of suffering….and each of us has a different awareness and each of us reacts differently….what i find most depressing (about a reaction like Duckrabbits, an irony, considering he’s a documentary photographer/producer to begin with) is not that this kind of visual style or work (i too grow wearied by work generally that is about the photographers immediate life experience) produces tedium or indifference but the judgments are rendered so disdainfully…..the effort and expression the photographer (or writer) attempts to make as a way of conveying experience, itself, warrants our attention…even if not, our connection….the attempt to convey, infinitely more critical, than duckrabbit’s disdain…

    i know you get that, a writer yourself…

    cheers
    bob

  • Andy, I just took a look at your website and my common thought was “were these people insulted?” I cannot imagine if I were in any of the captured situations if I would want my photo taken. I have had a rough hour looking at your images. Like a roller coaster. Think I’ll watch “Funny Farm” with Chevy Chase. Maybe a shot of tequila…

  • LEE…

    i do not think you should worry even just a little bit about being so called “original”…all you have to really logically think about is being visually stimulating…pretty simple…you are correct in thinking that your experience right here and right now is your experience alone…yes, of course it is…but if you are choosing photography as your way of communicating, informing, or entertaining, then one must be visually articulate…simply “being there” is not enough…it is about acquiring a voice…this is no more or less “logical” in terms of having that special touch than it would be in any other pursuit….but of course at the same time one should savor the moment any way one can….if the camera is part of that , so be it…if not, well just go for the experience…and remember your experience does not necessarily have to be shared to be enjoyed….

    cheers, david

  • True. I agree with you that one must visually articulate. And seeing as we are talking about photography what would be the point of shooting if you were not going to share but only to enjoy for oneself?

  • Bob, of course one is always reaching in one’s attempts to convey something. But these photos are the photographer’s private nightmare and have little to do with the people of Kashmir.

  • There are some images here I like a lot. But there are also a few that just seem to scream “look at me.”

    The “me” being the photographer.

  • Bob you seem so full of hyperbole that I’m worried you may burst.
    ———————————–

    That’s when the shit hits the fan? :-)))

  • Andy, some arresting images here; an inspiring effort and a clear commitment to both the subject and the medium. I must agree with some of the sentiments expressed above that sometimes the medium (photography) becomes the subject in this series. This is not wholly wrong or even to be avoided. I think it is that your ability to make these intensely striking images of something so innately ‘otherworldly’ (to my western eyes) that the combined effect is sufficient to pull one out of the world we seek to enter.

    It was visual relief to finally get to image #7 (and then again to 13) and be able to settle and study what is reflected in this man’s eyes. I think the problem perhaps lies in the disparity between the really stunning work and the description you write – you write of the beauty of the valley and being in people’s homes and your love of the place but we see only this mostly Munchian vision of screaming protest, emotion and death which seems mostly centered on one or some demonstrations. I think we are mislead by your writing and that you should consider your wording as carefully as you clearly have your visual approach.

    One personal note – I find that it is at times a little towards easy to make big photographs out of big events (ie. demonstrations, riots, protests…..spectacles!). I am personally drawn to work that calmly beats me senseless with the profundity of the everyday.

    Anyway, you’ve dome some near masterful work here and all of this is to congratulate you and wish you continued hard work and dedication.

  • I remember Andy’s work, winning the Antropographia award (that also Lance won) and another couple with a different edit:
    http://www.anthropographia.org/2.0/?p=122
    I remember I thought that the first picture was on another planet compared to the rest of the work.
    It was a great journalistic work.
    I like the Burn edit.I prefer it. More personal (drastic?) also if I found one or two redundant image compared to the full. I can’t explain it easily in english but it’s like caption are still linked to the old editing.

  • India’s created a monster….. moving images Andy…. what more can I say other than they moved me.

  • DAH, “but if you are choosing photography as your way of communicating, informing, or entertaining, then one must be visually articulate…simply “being there” is not enough…it is about acquiring a voice…”

    Finding a voice is indeed essential and very topical. Can we move the debate from under Andy’s essay so we can discuss without any posts being attributed to one particular piece of work?

    Mike.

  • Laura, the link you provide above leads not just to a different edit but a whole new set of photographs, much less processed and clearly more orthodox in approach. The incidents covered are probably the same, protests mostly look similar but I think I recognised some faces. There is only the first image that is present in both edits.
    I’m not sure what to make of it. My first thought is that the edit we have here was more of a personal approach, heavily manipulated in post-production, and reserved for a platform like Burn, which allows a personal approach to photo-journalistic subjects like this. The other version was in a pj competition, hence more “normal”.
    Got nothing against any of this. I still find this one overcooked and overstretched. It makes a huge difference though, draws the eye much more than the other one (that’s why its first image seemed like from another planet) but sacrifices its captions in the process. I don’t know.

  • Maybe the audience here is old, tired and jaded but there is a heck of a lot of people out there that seeing this work would be a new experience………

  • I like what Preston said. But I also like the pictures. Nightmarish. I certainly wouldn’t want to go there based on these images. A powerful set, the likes of which I have seen before however.

  • I was referring to Preston’s Munch comment.

  • http://www.leica-oskar-barnack-award.com/#/en/contest/winner-newcomer-award-2010

    http://blog.leica-camera.com/interview/oskar-barnack-newcomer-award-winner-andy-spyra/

    My question to Andy Spyra would be: do you feel, think or know that your work has raised awarness for the people of Kashmir?

    I have seen the exhibit in Geneva, earlier this year, along with Marcus Bleasdale’s work on Congo, and others, all about suffering, all showing how messed up humankind is. All I wanted was to get out of there, away from the pain and horror described in the pictures. I had to force myself to look at it all.

    I think, when taking pictures of this kind, we have the responsability to make sure it will in some way bring the people, subjects of the photographic work, something positive. My fear is it won’t. To me it’s too much only the negative side shown here, my fear is the viewer will close her/himself off. Especially with an edit like the one shown above.

  • MIKE R…

    good point and one we have discussed often, but never ending and as you say “topical”…sorry, i forgot where i was posting…however, discussions often begin where they begin …and some dots are connected here….as below my comment to Eva…

    EVA…ALL

    i do know what you mean about over saturation of horrific subject matter…i came out of Perpignan one year several years ago when for three days i was inundated with powerful photographs/slideshows of bloodshed from Afghanistan and the net result was that i did not want to see , think, hear, anything about Afghanistan for a long long time…the first imagery tore my heart out , but after an over saturation, i just wanted to play ping pong or something…anything to get away….so it is definitely a matter of finesse in how you engage, make aware, suggest a call to action, without totally reversing the power of informing and end up anesthetizing your audience instead of waking them up….one can only take so much horror without losing the very sentiments the author is trying to convey…a viewer can end up abstracting the picture rather than identifying with the picture as has evidently happened to you and to me…

    i suppose there is no way to measure the results of how people react to pictures and what they either do about it or feel they can do about it , particularly with conflict photography….do people drop everything they are doing and take up a cause for change when they see pictures of injustice for example? hopefully some do…it was very clear to those of us living in the U.S. that the Vietnam war definitely ended faster because of the work of photojournalists than it would have otherwise….it worked so well in fact that it ended freestyle war coverage regarding U.S. troops forever…no photojournalists will ever have those freedoms again in covering military operations…anyway, the point is cause and affect…powerful photography of suffering and the result it incurs or intends to incur….

    regarding the photographs here, they are stuck in my mind…am i thinking more about Kashmir than i was before? yes…do i need to see “more actual Kashmir”? no……this is very strong work..period. whether or not it will have a positive affect to change, i have no idea…but it sure as hell is a cut above 95% of the conflict photography i see and reminds me more of Goya than of Capa…by the way, i do not know Andy and had never heard of Andy before i saw these pictures…

    is this essay more about the photographer than the subject? not in my view ….it is just excellent work , that’s all…….whenever anything is really good , highly visual, authored, i hear that it is “more about the photographer than the subject”…funny since this is where most photographers are lacking for heavens sake…this is a common refrain whenever we see a really talented photographer with a point of view !! a strange reaction from people i think, and i hate to say it , but seemingly coming from envy than from honest critique…..this is some aspect of human nature i do not understand……..anyway, whenever i see pictures that do NOT include the photographer, then that is when i am bored, not the other way around…..besides, whoever sees a photographer only here and not the subject should seriously take another look….

    i would keep my eye on this 26 yr old photographer if i were you….emerging…but not for long

    cheers, david

  • ………and as a new experience it opens them up to a whole new world

  • Andy, this is very powerful. People have used the words abstract or abstracted, which may be appropriate, but your work strikes me immediately as expressionist (and there’s something very deft and painterly about that use of the dragged shutter). Abstract expressionist? Who cares? You’ve done what Capa advised: you got close, then closer. Bravo.

  • herve ;))

    indeed, indeed :))

    Preston/all:

    but, that, to me, IS the point of photography….it is a vehicle through which one reaction, on insight, into the world, or another world is gained…

    i agree as am just as fluxomed as David: this is powerful, sustained work…and when i saw it, i thought, here is someone who has been moved, inspired, angered, by a place and his harnessing his skill to speak (even if shout) about a place that got inside him…and yes, at the moment (read Roy and others) Kashmir is profoundly troubled…..but i dont understand either the criticizm about this working showing off or being about the photographer….is it about photography: yes, of course, does it work with the medium itself and challenge it, yes of course, is it about kashmir, or one aspect, yes of course…but simply put, it is strong, visually compelling and unforgettable….

    i challenge anyone here in 1 week to not remember this work…and more importantly, i think you’ll remember the pictures and the content quicker than the name….and so is that really about andy trying to be the center…..

    tell me any way that would be, photographically speaking, somehow truer, more insightful….it’s photography folks…and this is powerful, strong photography,

  • Imants, “Maybe the audience here is old, tired and jaded but there is a heck of a lot of people out there that seeing this work would be a new experience……… and as a new experience it opens them up to a whole new world”

    I knew you’d like it. I knew you’d use the “you must be old if you don’t get it”.

    I get it, but I do have a problem with this style of photojournalism. If Andy had called the essay “My vision of hell” then fair enough, we are looking at an abstract concept and I can appreciate the photographs as photographs i.e. removed somewhat from reality and objects in their own right. But the intro is straight journalism except for “Psychologically the whole valley is traumatized, and I hope that through my photography people are able not only to see Kashmir as I see it, but also to feel it, just as I do.” O.k., I missed this.

    For me, the power of great photojournalism is to be able to take the viewer into the lives of others. I want to see how they live and share our common humanity. A cursory look at the work of the old people who are sometimes called “masters” reveals their ability to empathise with their subjects and offer the viewer a window to empathise too.

    DAH, “it sure as hell is a cut above 95% of the conflict photography i see”. The best conflict photography I’ve seen is by Phillip Jones Griffiths from Vietnam. It’s not bang,bang but a quiet rage against the war machine. I can also see the faces of the victims and the fear in their eyes.

    As for “seemingly coming from envy than from honest critique…” I’m shocked that you would write this. Remember that I did write that I would rather discuss the topic away from Andy’s work? It’s complex topic and worthy of discussion. This is a place of discussion isn’t it?

    Looking at a lot of comments on Andy’s work, many people seem to find the techniques used distracting. Not just in Andy’s work but in other essays too. For you to say it’s just envy is to dismiss others opinions without valid reason. If you think that people are wrong in their opinions you should be able to bring reasoned arguments to the table. Must try harder, DAH. And move the argument away from Andy’s work.

    Mike.

  • “you must be old if you don’t get it”… I never used that phrase nor did I use old in that context.
    “I knew you’d like it.”……. no I don’t particularly like it. I find it interesting just as I found steel fixing an interesting job

    Maybe it is not meant to be photojournalism just social commentary as in his bio may be interpreted……”Since then he has worked as a freelance photographer, focusing on long term in-depth projects of social and political issues worldwide.”

  • MIKE R…

    well, we can take this discussion anywhere, but you are still referring to Andy, so i guess we are here….

    i agree that Phillip Jones Griffiths version of conflict is among the best around and my reference to “95% of conflict photography” was referring to what i see today……Phillip was one of the ones i was referring to who helped to end the Vietnam War…but even Phillip was not as visually articulate as say McCullin or Smith or Nachtwey or Pellegrin or Kratochvil…right?? content and heart yes, but i am just talking about the pictures/visual talent…. i also agree that perhaps Andy could tone down the processing just a bit, but i thought Gene Smith was sometimes a bit over the top with printing too…a very very very small criticism to be given on otherwise extraordinary work of either photographer…and hardly an argument against the overall power of it and can be fixed by a mouse click or two…

    you say that the power of photojournalism should take us into the lives of others…to share our common humanity…of course i agree with this thought….and i do not think we are looking at entire body of work here by Andy, but one small slice of one topic…you are writing an overall treatise on what photojournalism should be, and i am only referring to 15 pictures from one short essay…

    you are shocked that i would say that envy is often a part of critique from one photographer to another?? i am shocked that you are shocked…as i said “i hate to say it” but it does seem obvious to me much of the time …always their right of course…i was not referring to anyone in particular , but rather to an overall trend on blogs etc …the open forum aspect of Burn and other blogs etc allows anyone to say anything about anybody or their work …and much of it is constructive and helpful and enlightening…but some critique is clearly in the category of “i can critique, so i will” ..without much referencing or credibility….and i would find it hard to believe if you had not seen the “jealous attack” as well…be honest…

    you say i should be able to “bring reasoned arguments to the table” ..i am bringing Burn to the table Mike…that IS my statement…YOU must try harder Mike…i put enough into this as it is…smiling…aesthetic appreciations cannot be quantified…we are not lawyers Mike….this is not a trial ……i rest my case :)

    cheers, david

  • I for one am quite blown away by the photos.

    I do however feel that they may not be suited to a photo essay, they are quite visually strong and pushy images that assault you with their message, these are defiantly realistic not cutesy the world is a nice place images. But in many places the world is not crisp and defined, the world is burry and assaulting to your senses, and nightmarish.

    While it can be debated if that helps the issue of Kashmir I don’t think that he was going for the tourist the world is getting to be a better place images, he was going for the world is fucked up stand up and take ownership of it and accept that we need to realize this is reality in many parts of the world.

    But my overall feeling is that these are standalone images, they don’t lend themselves to an essay for me, when combined they can almost be too much to take in.

  • Mike:

    the arguments, imho, about what constitute ‘journalism’ should have been rent long ago, for what constitutes both the witnessing of the world and it’s interpretation are as varied and necessary as the world itself. PJG, i agree, stands at the top of impassioned, honed, brave work and Vietnam, Inc is one of the standards of what we all hope that journalism can account for…but please, do not forget that Vientam Inc is an incredibly subjective and personalized book…as was JPG brilliant, insightful and often angry and humorous text….and it was still one small slice of what it meant to live in vietnam…by the way, it is still a Westerner’s interpretation of both the place and the war….read Andrew Pham’s magnificent ‘the eaves of our father’ for a different or rather complimentary point of view….his and capa may represent one side, but how does that define the importance of work like, for example, Paolo p’s As I was Dying…a profound and heartbreaking book and meditation, a cri du coeur, of what it means to live or struggle to live…a book filled with abstraction and shadow and many images in which the ‘appearance’ of the people and land, arguably, are not what they appear to be in ‘reality’….

    you see, each of us garners to tell story, to wrest against the darkness and disappearance, and for me, in whatever manner a story teller does that is what matters….there are no rules by which to engage the world and no rules, unfailable, in which to gain and raise awareness…that is an profoundly individual struggle…and for me, it’s a simple thing:

    as the effort been made to attempt to speak about the world in which the author experienced the world, did the author attempt, with whatever skill that person can bring…

    from there, it seems to me, it’s up to the reader…and like all books are not for all readers, so do withy aesthetic and philosphy and photographic work…

    cheers
    bob

  • I have to agree with what Jim said earlier and Mike R’s last post.

    It is most certainly not an issue of envy. And as I said, I do like many of the images here. I do think that the overuse of the blurry technique is distracting.

    Mike R said: “the power of great photojournalism is to be able to take the viewer into the lives of others. I want to see how they live and share our common humanity.” I agree 100%.

    To be more specific about the images here, #1 and #5 are really the same photo. And #1 is a better image, although something about it still bothers me. Looks like something out of a zombie movie.

    Number 6 just seems out of focus. The technique does not work here for me. It is trying to create motion or the feeling of chaos out of what is a pretty static image.

    This is part of my point about overuse of the blurry/motion technique. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it distracts.

    #8 and #10: Again a repetition of silhouettes. In my opinion, #10 is a far better image.

    I will be honest, I do not know how I feel about #12. Part of me really likes this image, but after seeing this “technique” so many times already, it makes me tired to look at it. And tired is not the feeling that I want to get from this image.

    If I was editing this I would have dropped some of the “technique” images and asked to see more of this photographer’s shoot. I am sure he has more great images for this story.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with DAH when he talks about a photographer putting themselves into the images they create. The problem for me occurs when I am looking at a photographer’s work and all I can do is think about the photographer instead of the work and the subject matter therein.

  • In short, I think this is good work, I have no problem with the look/processing, but I don’t much like it personally. I think it’s good because it is so visually powerful and, I’m guessing, does a fair job of accurately conveying the author’s feelings about the subject. Conveying them on a visceral level. I don’t particularly like it, I think, because I interpret the style as preachy and shouting, much like the recent essay featuring Finnish mainliners. At this point in my life (old, so old), I find I no longer like being shouted at. But I remember myself at 26 and maintain respect for that person and his proclivities. Back then I would have thought the Finnish junkie essay was just about the best thing I’d ever seen and this would be right up there. I’d make screen shots and blow them up obscenely large and plaster the walls of my garret with these images. I would like them that much. And back then I was big on conflict photography. Now, not so much. Without historical context, photos are probably more likely to confuse any complex issue than illuminate it. They can be used. Personally, I think the better the work, the less easily it can be twisted to someone else’s purpose.

    I really dislike seeing accusations of envy, even while acknowledging the general truism. We should deal with the critic’s critiques, regardless of the motive. If they are born of nothing more than envy, their invalidity will be readily apparent. But envy as a motive doesn’t negate the possibility of valid, insightful critique. Among the best critics it most likely fuels it. Personally, I always try to ask myself if I would like a particular photo if I had taken it. If I find that it would be the greatest thing ever in my portfolio but I don’t like it in someone else’s, well, that’s a clue. In this case, I would like most of those photos in my portfolio.

    Regarding the accusation that a particular essay is about the photographer, well duh. Isn’t that what authorship’s all about? Okay, no, not all about, but certainly a big part. Any decent essay will be about the author’s perception of the subject. If we take the author out of it, all we have is the equivalent of a security camera.

    For me, this work demonstrates that nationalism and religion are to humanity what heart disease and cancer are to the individual human. And man, when you put them together, that sure ain’t good.

    Seems like… an art project about suffering.

    Preston, that’s one of the most cruel clips I’ve ever read, A short verbal monument to our indifference to the suffering of others. I humbly suggest you rethink what you wrote there.

    And Bob, I’ll take up your challenge. I’d probably forget my name after a week if my mom didn’t stitch it on all my clothes.

    Finally, the photographer mentions in his statement that Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’d never guess from the essay. Show, my friend, don’t tell.

  • O.k. David, I’ve looked again at Andy’s work, this time on a big screen and I agree that all of the photographs are great photographs. We both know that web conversations are difficult and that differences here would be resolved in moments when speaking in person.

    As I said, all great photographs and all valid but I wouldn’t want to just take these and not other straight (I hate to use the word “straight”) photographs also. I imagine that this is the case for Andy also but we are show this essay and so the majority of posts here will be on this specific essay.
    In this context I still see too much technique and not enough Kashmir – for me. I don’t usually comment on other peoples work to this degree as I’m aware that people’s work is involved here: blood sweat and tears and I’m mindful that a thoughtless comment can hurt or upset. I usually post to generate debate, I hope.

    To be honest I’ve never noticed any envy here – really. Never gave it a thought. I see comments that are not reasoned or are rushed, without consideration for the photographer concerned but never thought that it could be envy. As for you bringing reasoned arguments to the table, yes, you bring Burn to the table and I thank you for that; I have other photographers to talk to because of it. You write “more of Goya than of Capa…” – good point, reasoned argument. I have no problem with an opposing point of view: all grist to the mill etc. and can play Devils Advocate if you wish and argue against everything that I have posted here. Didn’t like the envy comment though. Must be getting sensitive … old …tired….laughing …..

    Apologies Andy for weighing your essay down with the future direction of photojournalism.

  • I find this to be truly frightening work, and can only praise Andy for making photographs that can create that emotional reaction.

    In fact I find that images 7, 10, and 13 detract from the terror, and I feel the edit presented here would be even stronger without them.

    Reading the comments: perhaps there is envy – after all it takes a skilled, brave photographer with an open mind to successfully pull-off image 10. But I think again the problem is that many people still have to see photographs as part of a genre of the medium, and even more problematic is defining the genres in a “classic” way.

    It is not constructive to compare Andy’s work with Philip Jones Griffiths, Gene Smith, and others.

    This essay is just one way of telling the story of Kashmir, and it is Andy’s personal experience of what he discovered and felt. I believe this is honest work made from the heart.

    Justin P

  • Bob, for me PJG was the thinking man’s Vietnam photographer. His shot of U.S. marines filling their water bottles with rain water as it runs off the tree leafs – rather than drink the chlorinated water sent from the U.S. for them to drink speaks volumes about the military mind-set; as does the medic (I think) showing Vietnamese women how to wash their children. As an aside, Groucho Marx said that “military music is to music what military intelligence is to intelligence”.

    Yes, I know Paolo p’s work, but not intimately. I’ll spend some time with him.

    As for getting a “voice” as a photographer, your own signature look and vision; it’s difficult, and with so many photographers out there it becomes ever-more difficult to raise your profile. I remember reading Ian Berry stating that when he photographed the Sharpville massacre in South Africa, he was the only photographer to bear witness. He wouldn’t be now.

    Here’s a quote from William Klein …
    At a press conference in Perpignan, the celebrated American photographer has called on photojournalists to add more context to their images, as, he says about the festival’s screenings that they fell like a “festival of shantytown after shantytown.”
    He says: “Yesterday evening I saw a screening of photographs and it reminded me a little about this old joke: it’s a tourist who comes back from a trip and he tells the story of when he saw a leper. He had two stumps instead of hands. So the other guy asked him: ‘What did you give him?’… ‘I gave him f/8 125.’ And I felt this yesterday evening.”.

    http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/interview/1731354/

    This photography stuff is not easy to do well and even harder to do consistently. There is no right or wrong way to photograph and you won’t please all of the people all of the time. As a 26 year old photographer, or an any age photographer, Andy is doing just fine.

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