michael c. brown – libya

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Michael Christopher Brown


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Since arriving ten days ago, I have tried to understand the situation here in Libya. People swap facts, predictions and rumors, the news feeds me information, but the complexity of the conflict makes it impossible to fully comprehend. Once a picture is taken or a word is written it is already old news. There seems to be no way to catch up, as the database of history is filed before it is processed. And as a result I have become more confused. But I can attest to one reality, shown in these photographs. They form a loose record of my experience during the war in Libya.

Around midnight we piled into a tiny car and drove for 7 hours, from Cairo to the eastern border of Libya. A wide eyed nicely dressed Egyptian city man, our driver with slick black greasy hair, persuaded military officer after officer standing beside tanks that he had foreigners and therefore special privilege to pierce the curfew barriers and drive west, as if in a high-speed chase on empty highways, past the beautiful night city of Cairo and into a deep desert countryside as cigarette smoke escaped out the window. Somewhere sometime we passed the pyramids, not too longer after a pit stop with a McDonald’s and a shopkeeper selling ‘StarFuck’ ashtrays shaped as green coffee cups. The jetlagged dreams of 3 packed in a backseat took us elsewhere as the sun rose over the Mediterranean just beyond the sand dunes. The barren desert, looking left to nowhere looking right to the sea. The towns were simple shacks and here and there and rare were men in long robes without faces standing still. Wearing white robes and black robes, with camels near the sandy highway.

Would Libya be different? Would it be a different world? Something told us so. Something would be there for us. Danger, excitement, importance, freedom, death. Perhaps all. Smoking cigarettes. We arrived beyond Salloum where lines of trucks and cars waited for those leaving Libya. Arms in the air, Egyptians and Chinese and Indonesians crossing to somewhere safe. We moving in the opposite direction, elated. Then more journalists, then some we knew. On the other side more people piled up. A hall full of Indonesians, laying about as if dead so I exchanged my Egyptian money with their Libyan, using a rate in their favor and losing $100 in the process. Something to do. Then we walked the 1000 yards or so to the Libyan gate, guarded by men in plainclothes and rebels.

A man in dark sunglasses glanced suspiciously at us. They inspected our passports, we filled out a quick form and walked to Libya, to a road bordered on both sides by tall cement walls. Two Libyans of about 25 offered to take us to their hometown of Benghazi. We jumped into the van, looking a lot like my Jinbei in China. The concrete walls, looking like blast walls, surrounded trucks and cars wedged together in a narrow dusty strip with men wrapped in scarves holding automatics and eying the interior of our ride suspiciously. They were young men, these rebels, with old men in the background watching. No uniforms, like bandits, they were among the opposition who had recently wrested eastern Libya from Gaddafi. They nodded heads with our driver, who sped up, then sped up again, passing cars and whizzing past a littered landscape of wrecked automobiles and buildings and into an emptier desert than Egypt’s.

Faster faster our driver outsped his buddies in the other van, and his eyes faster than anything existing in the desert that day or anytime before. His eyes beyond the horizon, beyond what was happening in the country. All the fighting could not reach the (what was it in his eyes?) it in his eyes. A few windy turns but not many, the highway whisked through abandoned (after coming from china everything looked abandoned) tiny sand towns with few buildings, all small and plain and square or rectangular against the pastel landscape. But mostly phone lines, empty phone lines carrying messages to the west and we were messengers to the west. Driving faster now our drivers eyes not leaving the road. Faulty communication. I know little Arabic and him the word ‘smoking.’ One stop at a road café we ate tuna sandwiches and photographed a man and his gun. Our drivers buddies caught up and we raced each other down the road, the landscape turning from sand to rock then greenery. It began to rain. We made Benghazi by nightfall and arrived at the African hotel. The first night spent in a real bed in Africa, with dirty sheets and one cockroach.


Raised in Washington State, Michael moved to New York and began working as a freelance photographer in 2006. His clients include GEO, Time, National Geographic Magazine, Smithsonian, Fortune, The Atlantic and ESPN The Magazine, among others.

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Michael Christopher Brown

288 Responses to “michael c. brown – libya”

  • Real good stuff here and hot from the oven, as they say, glad it got published on BURN.

  • love it … many thanks for sharing …….. cheers

  • Michael…:)
    i love this…the photos..the how close u really are..the frames…the squares…the everything…
    i knew u could deliver but the above work is wayyyy above my expectations…
    Amazing, keep it up…
    your biggest fan: panos
    (btw next time i see u in brooklyn, im walking for the beers, ok;)

  • Michael, you have captured something here that has been missing from the other PJ’s photos I’ve seen coming out of Libya. I’m trying to put my finger on it but the best I can come up with is mood. You’ve captured not just the people and the fighting but the mood of the whole struggle, at least the mood from the side of those who are trying to wrest power from Gaddafi. In your photos I see a hint of desperation in the faces of these young men who are putting their lives on the line. Desperation mixed with an air of bravado. And bravery. That’s for sure.

    This mood is reflected in your palette with its yellowish tone and rather harsh contrast. I feel the struggle as much as I see it. It vibrates in the air.

    Thank you, Michael, for going into the mouth of the lion, and I thank Burn for publishing your work in progress. Please stay as long as you can, shoot everything you see, but keep your safety in mind at all times. No picture is worth your life.

  • Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    Capa with an iPhone. And a touch of Hunter Thompson in the description. A lot of creativity to respond to here. A good day to burn.

  • Patricia; “I’m trying to put my finger on it”

    A sense of the Michael being right in amongst those he is photographing and therefore drawing us into “his” vision.

    Bravo Michael!

  • you got amongst it for sure Michael, in a really creative way. well done

  • Wonderful work. I second everything said above.

    I love the treatment. Together with the imagry, many of these photographs remind me of illustrations in an old adventure novel or comic book. #21, the men in the truck is amazing. Like something from a Soviet era poster.
    Wow. Thanks for bringing us these terrific images. Good grief be careful out there.

  • I have a lot of time for this…………….. though it does remind me of a old film set

  • Strange, but for me, after reading the first journal entry, the pictures became almost redundant. A very very nice piece of writing.

  • Amazing stuff – art, made out of war.

    I see that Brown has essentially been covering the same territory and even the same dead pilot as Tyler Hicks for the NYT.

    I hate to compare the works, but I think Hicks brings home a stronger sense of combat, but Brown a deeper look at the souls of the individuals engaging in it.

    I greatly admire what he did with the square format.

  • Seems that besides France for everybody else it’s ok you shoot with heavy stuff on your countrymen and civilians, no matter what age, no matter what they have to say or why they protest.. once again the world prooves that oil and power is more important than human beings.. guess we’ll decide for a non fly zone when there will be no need for it anymore.. everyone shoving the responsibility to the other group sitting at the table.. Gheddafi is ok, as long as he keeps the Mediterranean Sea clear of immigrants and provides the black gold..

    This is a powerful set of images, personally I think it is a pity that such a talented and brave photographer like you, Michael, have fallen into the app-trap.. with all respect for you and your work.. the pictures do not need it..

  • Great reportage, Michael. Congrats on your work… and for having it appear in Burn.

    It’s weird, but #10 brings to mind old Soviet era poster/art works.

  • Great Stuff, love the writing. The images just show how close you were to the whole dream the rebel held up until last week. It seems the rest of the world just take for granted how nice and easy it is to live under democracy…

  • FrostFrog, I have to disagree that Tyler Hicks of the NYT brings a stronger sense of combat, especially since Mike was shot yesterday. It was an in and out, through the leg, and he’s doing ok.

  • This kind of essays is why I keep returning to this magazine. Thanks a lot Michael!

  • Mike was shot yesterday???????
    Where?????? Libya?????

  • WOW…
    Mike was shot yesterday?
    oh dear….
    sounds as if he is ok…

    and this is an great essay!!

    sending healing thoughts your way……


  • Clueless here, what means app-trap, guys?

    PS:btw, Eva, and what makes you think that intervening in Lybia wouldn’t have (is already having, actually as far as I can read here and there) the likes of you claim it’s about power and oil? If one wishes to take the cynical road about the “world”, then one deserves to be ruled by cynical bean-counters… It all fits in, truly.

  • Herve

    I think Eva is refering to the treatment. The photos appear to be post-processed with a photoshop action (or an i-phone app) that mimics the look of a polaroid SX70 photo.

    There are a huge number of phone apps, and photoshop actions that will give you a wide variety of looks with one click.

    It can be annoying and superficial, but here I don’t mind it. It would be interesting to see the un-manipulated images side by side.

  • Herve… I just think it’s not ok to simply watch when military forces shoot down on civilians protesting or are at a funeral.. as it is not ok for our foreign minister to push back into Libyan territory boats full of desperate people without even knowing if they’re asking for political asylum.. trusting that Gheddafi will ‘take care’ of them.. we can imagine how.. but then, we’re friends with the man, he’s had his tent up in Rome more than once..doesn’t matter if he gives a damn about civil rights and we know it..as said, he’s got the oil, he keeps the Mediterranean sea clean from unwanted immigrants, what do we need more..

    Perhaps, and just perhaps, a change of government would give people a chance over there in Libya, as much as in Tunisia and Egypt and all the countries in turmoil right now.. it just seems that nobody wants to decide anything, the UE waits for the UN which waits for the NATO which wait for the Arabic Coalition which wait for the UE.. for sure there are forces at work of which we don’t know, weapons are all over, they do come from somewhere.. but it makes me sick to see kids shot down on the streets..

  • i’ve kind of lost interest in work which leans-on the hipstamatic app on i-phone for interest..
    simply because most do just that – lean on the qualities of the app..

    these photographs are strong.. not for the app treatment, but because they are just strong photographs.. the app is as irrelevant as film format, equipment and exposure choices when work is this strong.

    and on libya – i’m really angry about whats been happening and the procrastination of the UN and nato.

    without actually setting up a no-fly-zone, there is a tremendous amount more which could have / could be done to help.. like europe not buying its oil from libya, (therefore funding the regime), while they commit such brutal counter attacks..
    training, supplying arms.. all kinds of options are said to be “open” and “on the table” according to the politicians.. without commiting military forces..
    yet it feels like the waiting for “other” news to overtake libya has now happened.. and it looks less and less likely that help to the rebels will materialize.

    i remember the world urging the kurds in northern iraq to rise up against saddam after “gulf war 1″..
    and then.. ?

  • i remember the world urging the kurds in northern iraq to rise up against saddam after “gulf war 1″..
    and then.. ?
    use them and then lose them…classic, unfortunately :(

  • Sorry, credits where credits are due.. make that foreign minister into an interior minister..

  • strong essay, I really like it. But I just don’t understand why so many people these days try so hard to make their pictures look old/faded/polaroid-ish… what’s the point? is this particular aesthetic supposed to convey a certain feeling? it just seems gimmicky to me and distracts from the pictures’ content rather than serve a purpose.

  • Carsten:)
    coz some of those “people”/photogs are artists and love playing around, experimenting with different media etc..
    Experimenting is not a bad thing…pretentious is..
    and Mike is playful, experimenting, but not pretentious…i loved his work before i even hear about the bullet..The bullet just confirmed that he was “closer” or at least “close enough”…:(
    I hope its a lie, but if its the truth…:
    Mike im wishing u a quick recovery and all the best.

  • MIKE,

    I always very much enjoyed looking at your work…. and we have been fortunate to see several of your essays here on BURN…. this time, it seems to me that you have raised the bar which is great to see… Although we see Lybia covered all over the news media, you have brought an interesting vision, a different angle somehow…. closer more personal shots, with more of an artistic vision while at the same time reporting the drama happening there…. It is powerful work…. So many great shots…. well done!

    Beyond the work, I hope you are well Mike as I just read the comment from Panos just above which sounds a bit worrying….

    Keep us posted and stay safe!!!


  • Hey Mike:

    First, and most importantly, I hope you are ok. I’ve talked to some friends here in T-dot and NYC to see if anyone new anything about your injury….haven’t heard, nor can confirm, so my thoughts and prayers go out to you that you are safe, heal quickly and get back on your feet…

    As for the essay:

    It is ironic, as just YESTERDAY, i saw a thread on Facebook talking about Mike’s essay (prior to its publication at BURN). There seemed to be a lot of criticism (unfortunately) about the pictures and the use of Iphone + apps. I didn’t write (for once) on the thread, as i was working on skype with Adam Smith’s project, so i didn’t much feel like writing yesterday about photography, so i’ll reserve my comments for BURN.

    To begin with, this is a strong, powerful initial body of work. The writing is wonderful, a cross between Thompson and Herr, with a bit of Indy tossed in. (‘StarFuck Ashtrays’ is one for the history books). The writing is strong not only because it is juiced by terrific and sinuous prose but more importantly (for me) it doesn’t function like so much anemic photo-statements/lifeless description. In fact, it is not explanatory of the essay, but rather an adjunct: prose as a statement of experience rather than as an explanation. For me, prose/statements should not explicate, but rather augment/assimilate/evoke not the pictures per se, but the experience that lay within the pics. It’s just terrific writing and it took me into that dessert den.

    The pictures are strong, period. Most importantly, Michael is close, damn close. It is true that the use of the Iphone with accompanying app allowed for the visual look of an old polaroid (as my one of my favorite young photographer/writers Ying Ang calls it “Faux-laroid”) but here, for me, it is IMPORTANT. To begin with, the power of these photographs and the essay has nothing to do with it’s new app look (or old polaroid look). The POWER of the essay rests with it’s content and the access (and the trust) that Mike has gained. This is really portraiture amid war and that is a pretty damn hard thing to both sustain and pull off. The framing and the depth of field point me to the fact that Mike is with these rebels and has earned their trust. The ‘style’ helps this, in that it ‘stops’ the action, the work itself looks as if these were movie stills. This ‘faux’ look actually (for me) enhances the power of the pictures, as it focuses my attention and my thoughts more easily, and grounds them, on their faces and that they are individuals: primarily young men, rather then the war, bombing, etc. This new app look (all the rage it does seem) works here because mike has used it not as a gimmick or fad but to enhance both the aestheticization of the moment (again, which enhances the surreal nature of the events) and creates a ‘distance’ for the viewer (the way that post-modern ideas argue that the deconstruction of the ‘truth’ of a photograph allows the viewer to see beyond the picture, to question it, and therefore question our own relationship to ‘truth’ and reporting.)

    But, it is because the pictures themselves are so strong, that here is works, completely. The ‘look’ also alludes to 19thCentury photography and to the photography during the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s (anyone familiar with the color-plated work and painted photographs through out N.Africa and the Middle-East that makes up a large and formidable part of that aesthetic), which (for me) anchors the work. But again, it is because Mike brings us directly in contact with these young men and captures them so well, not as warriors per se, but as young men, then lends this work such humanity and such heart break.

    Of course, the IPHONE stuff is everywhere. Teru and Balazs have used it in Afghanistan (as has Damon), and for me Balazs is still the master. My young students from Taiwan have been making all kinds of dream beauty stuff with iphone and android for a long time now and yes, it’s part of our visual culture and so why shouldn’t it be used by journalists? ANY visual expression, any photographic (or aesthetic) tool should be used by journalists, because what matters are NOT the photos but the story and the conveying of that story and each photographer must decide for herself/himself what means that is told. Damn, as a photographer, i’ve used everything too, because it is part of the exploration, trying to tell stories through different apparatus and different media. Besides, everyone and their grandmother is snapping phone pictures, another important reason journalists and artists should as well. And more importantly, within the context of Libya, is this:

    with such small ‘gear’ (the iphone), Mike is able not only to get close to these men but also can remain less conspicuous. In difficult and tense environments, it makes a lot of sense to ditch the ‘hey-i-am-a-photographer=here’ gear and have the lightness and the freedom and the ability to break distances between photographer and subject. The lens distances, as does so much of the formidable gear. Here, the iphone allows, in one sense, the photographer to break that distances.

    A word about the edit: i prefer the opening here to the one on your website (too me TV shots in the beginning, though i love shots of tv, always). I like that you (or David) has minimized the use of the shots of the TV and the son. I do, however, wished you’d included the shots of the dead rebels. I know you’ve kept the toe shot and the decapitation shot, but i think it is important that audience see the wounding: the deep, awful cavern created by the artillery. Maybe you’ve left them out for sake of the dead soldiers, but since this is a journalistic essay and not an art project, i think it is fare to have the audience and the magazine publish the dead.

    and by the way, i love your use of the iphone on your chinese work, which is very different from here…

    big congrats mike for a strong essay….

    and for goodness sake, stay safe…

    hugs from family Black


  • Mr Bob Black

    You are amazing. Thankyou once again for your amazing insight.

  • Bob, having trouble finding the essay on Michaels website, where do I look?

  • I’m very sorry to learn that Mike was injured. May he heal quickly and fully.

    David, I appreciate that info and am fine with the fact that you disagree with me, but the fact that he got injured does not change my observation. Without a doubt, they have both been working in the thick of the same combat.

    But when I saw Tyler Hicks NYT Lens spread of the combat, it conveyed to me a sense of that combat like nothing else that I have seen and that includes this work.

    What Mike Brown’s work does, though, is give me a better connection to the souls of the individuals fighting it.

    In Hicks work, I see and feel the combat as strongly as I think it is possible for one who has not been there to feel from looking at a set of photographs.

    In Brown’s work, I feel the individual.

    Gordon, I’ve got to agree with you here – Bob Black’s analysis is incredible.

    I’m glad I took the time to read it.

  • GORDON :))

    just lovin’ pics and story telling :)))

    here is the link for the edit on Mike’s website


    will be thinking of you on Thursday my friend :)))…i’ll be singing Irish as well! :))


  • Bob

    Thanks. Love the link. Yes, love the edit, and the additional tv clips.

  • Best essay on burn for a long time and probably for a long time comming. why? This quality is rare.

    Everything is in there, in a certain harmonious tension. All elements fit to blend powerfully together. The NY Times photographer Tyler Hicks can be replaced by another photographer. MCB’s essay can’t.

    Because it tells a story on a personal level (just like Nachtwey), because he is really close and very direct (you feel himself in these pictures, instead of the replaceble closeness and not directness of the NYT photographer), because the framing and composition are strong without trying to be spectacular (integrity instead of trying to shock like so many war photographers), because off the complexity (not just a series of combat fighters like the NYT who can ‘almost’ be replaced by combat fighters in another war (which leads to nivelation of interest), but a story about their hope (pic 1), their aim (pic 4), their fear, the danger, the opacity of a brutal dictator (pic 2), their dreams and longing (pic 6), and so on…).

    Tell me, where do you see such a strong, complex, courageous, personally close war story? It struks my bone that there is even a contemplative level in this story (which Nachtwey doesn’t have).

    ((who cares if it is made with an Iphone or a pinhole camera…just a tool MCB uses really in a strong way))

  • A photographer’s main instrument is his eyes. Strange as this may seem, many photographers choose to use the eyes of another photographer, past or present, instead of their own. These photographers are blind. – Manuel Alvarez Bravo

    MCB is not blind. Many war photographers are. They just pile up the same pictures over and over. Which leads to nivelation of interests in the viewers mind (and on a broader scale even to moral weakening). It takes courage, talent and personal vision to be different and to convey this really strong story.

  • Kristof:)
    absolutely true..i totally second your above comments…thank u!
    yes, main instrument is the eyes…regardless equipment , cameras, phones, film, pixels…whatever..
    its the eyes…

  • Selling your Leica, Panos? ;-)

  • Very powerful photojournalism in this essay. Partially due to the closeness Michael gets to the men in field…and clearly stated vision which echo equally between pen and camera. Many of the images work incredibly for me for those reasons, but then add in the extra effort it takes to compose in square format, in dangerous conditions, and the essay becomes simply amazing.

    I’m very partial to multiple planes in square work; #4 is an excellent example. The fourth last image on Michael’s web-site also fits the definition, and I’m sorry it wasn’t included here. However, the downside to square format is the way it fails when it maintains rectangular style composition and is nothing more than what appears to be an even-sided crop from 35mm film negs. It has to fit to be square, otherwise cropping for rectangle would be more appropriate – and is even acceptable practise in square format to many photographers, who otherwise wouldn’t crop out in 35mm or 4×5 format. The original intention for square negs was to allow the image to be cropped; I feel many of the images here would be more effective if they were cut to a rectangular form.

    I also don’t really understand why, with the strength of this essay in content and eye, it had to have this particular post processing. To me it is unnecessary and gives the work an, I’m sure, unintended editorial bias. The images look yellowed and aged, almost as if the processing was done at some lab in a backwater village in Libya. It is as if Michael was documenting this conflict as an ignoble fight, and that certainly isn’t the case, is it? Another case where artistic expression becomes too ambitious, and our attention swerves away from story and information, and toward the essayist’s ego instead.

    But these observations are very, very small complaints. In the end, the essay is powerful and effective. Bravo, Michael!

  • Bob… nice analysis with which I disagree. I never questioned the use of a phone camera, don’t care about the camera in use, as long as the result is there.. Alex Majoli for example has been shooting with point an shoot cams since at least 2005.. he actually keeps two of them around the neck, so while one can write down the files on the card he uses the second to keep shooting.. what I disagree with is that the look the pictures have due to the use of the app is not distracting to the content itself. It is. And you can see that in the comments since the beginning here.. the treatment is noticed straight away, I’d go even further, first thing some might see is the look, and then the content, perhaps not on this platform.. not sure..

    Which is a pity, to me. Especially in this case, with such a talented photographer, and such strong work.

    If you call art something that gives the same look to my shots as to anybody elses who uses the same tool.. well, I do not. Artsy look, yes, maybe. And just because everybody and their grandmother is doing something, it doesn’t mean that everybody else should too. They could, but they should, really??

  • Superb photography!! But I totally agree in all her points to Eva.

  • Very nice, love the essay. I don’t like the polaroid mood, I think that these strong photos are so good to be publisched without any effect.

  • Speaking of Manuel Alvarez Bravo…having seen the latest book published on his work I stumbled over a photo book by Bravo’s wife Lola Alvarez Bravo. Seems she spent most of her life overshadowed by her husband and my very humble tastes way prefered Mrs. Bravo’s photos.

  • Eva:

    The difference between art and artsy – very well put. Like the difference between the cute and the beautiful; one engages our interest while the other holds it.

  • Eva: :)

    I think you’ve been snagged in a trap ;)….the first think is that you ‘see’ (or maybe react is better) this picture primarily through it’s ‘app appearance’ rathe than its appearance as a visual and narrative choice. to begin with, as i have written before, the visual choice that a photographer makes IS essential, because we are talking about a visual medium, the same way the words a writer uses to narrate is essential. Though i love Bravo and agree with much of that quote, i think photography is NOT only about the eye, but the relationship between eye and head. Seeing to begin with is an intellectual construct. Our eyes are not some objective, disembodied organ generating capturing and shaping reality. Rather, the eye captures visual stimuli and THEN the head processes that in whichever way it wishes to CONSTRUCT a reality. I know this as well as anyone. i am blind in my right eye, have not visual, lost all my depth perception for 9 months as a kid and then guess what: the brain re-created depth perception based on cues and memory. This is why most people who lose sight in an eye re-gain depth perception to one degree or another.

    More importantly, a story and the CHOICE of story telling is NOT ONLY about composition, camera choice, narrative, but what that story teller wishes to convey and how that is convey. The comparison to Alex, to me, is not at all the same. this is NOT ABOUT a camera (point-shoot vs rangefinder vs slr vs phone) but about the processing of a look. ALL photograher process. You know that yourself, working in the darkroom. When leica took it’s first rangefinder, a lot of the photoworld was disturbed, just as when painted glass was usurped by patina and sepia and then collidial chemistry and then b/w….you CANNOT separate the ‘look’ of these pictures from the story that MIke is telling.

    Absolutely, the closeness and the framing and the moments that mike capture here would be the same had he used a tradition square format camera with film (even had he used a holga with a glass lens) but the other important aesthetic power would be lost. (again, can i refer you to the history of color and painted square format photography throughout the middle east in the mid-20th century + the photography that document the ‘arab’ uprising during the unsaddling of colonialism)….but also, it is critical NOT to parse good work, i mean the ‘app’ here is PART OF THE STORY. Shooting with an iphone and then using a app to process the pictures IS PART OF THIS STORY…the way TWITTER was part of the Egyptian revolution….

    shooting a leica or digital cannon slr is NOT THE SAME…we’re talking about a war here were a lo of the information is conveyed via social networks and other technological conveyance…and i am certain many many of these young men USE phones and use phones to photograph one another…and that is an important ingrediwent here…

    if for you (or others) the ‘look’ is in the way, that i would ask you: why are you a photographer?….a photographer uses ‘the look’ as an instrument, a vocabulary, in order to tell a story that contains both visual informatin, documentary information AND historical/emotional/intellecutal information…

    this is NOT art vs artsy….i hate that bullshit distinction…i often find it a contrivance of people who are uncomfortable with the art making process….and this story is not about ‘art’ (or Art)…this about documenting a war in a way that not only brings us incredibly close, but also has a very strong visual element to allow us as viewers in…does this not resemble the work of a photoalbum…and does that also not allow us to join ourselves more closely>

    think of Thomas book on Afghanistan….where he made an entire book of color photographs he found, portraits, in afghanistan…is that a construct (yes), is that less powerful…no….he did NOT even take the pictures, and yet that story is important and it is an important photobook…

    i would argue that if the iphone app is bothering you (or others) that is your/their problem….and that is ok….it is a barrier….

    for all photography uses an application…photography IS ABOUT TECHNOLOGY a priori…and to embrace it, in such a smart, historical and emotional way is fine…

    in truth, i’ll take these images over all the nytimes coverage…because mike, to me, is there with these men and this story, for me, feels more human, more about us then the objective reporting we generall get…

    then again, i’ve long wearied about most of the coverage we get….though i like and respect alot that work….

    i feel sad that so many are hung up on this…..

    same argument from people who lamented the death of the darkroom….

    and shit, i still use film….and yet, i value and believe in work such as mike’s….and the work of my young taiwan students….which kicks the ass of most of the documentary work i look at daily…


  • BOB…

    i agree…simply put, is there any difference at all whether or not Mike used an SX70 or the iPhone that looks like the SX70? of course not…as you point out , THIS is a tech medium…the look is a look…how one arrives at “the look” of any particular image is irrelevant from the viewer standpoint…is it “cheating” to make pictures that appear to have been shot on Tri-x when in fact a Trix filter was used in the computer from a digi capture as Paolo and Chris and Alex M have been doing for years? what is the diff from what Mike has done here? the rub is simply that it is a popular overdone technique at the moment and an app that everyone has on their iPhone…well so what?…what about all the photoshop of Ackerman, d’Agata,Pellegrin which do not happen to be under attack at this moment, but certainly have been…i just do not get the moralizing on what kind of camera and why, when the final images are so so strong and the intent forthwith is so chock full of integrity….hell EVERYTHING has been a popular technique and overdone in use at one time or another..go to an art show and tell me if you do not start thinking the same thing when EVERYONE has selenium toned prints etc etc etc..any diff between a toned print and an iPhone app? if there is , i just do not see it…there is not one single thing that any of us do with photography that does not involve a tech effect…not one….and painters, and musicians, and film makers the same…

    those who use it best are the best….period

    cheers, david

  • Bob.. I think I could say the same, you’ve been snagged in a trap. You give so much importance to the look these pictures have.. I think these pictures could, or better would be of much more impact, to me, if I had not to dig through the layers of the app thing, which is universal, as opposite to the pictures, which are very personal, there you can see the photographer.

    Michael is close, he’s done strong work, not BECAUSE of the iphone and relative app, but because HE IS close.. and that has nothing to do with what camera he uses or used or will use, that is HIM.. so I’m simply saying, to me it’s a pity it gets overridden, or at least takes away, makes jaws drop by something everybody and their grandmother play with.

    I did not compare Alex Majoli to Michael Christopher Brown, I simply said that the camera isn’t important.. point and shoot, phone, DSLR, Holga, whatever.. just, to me, the photograph should not be overridden by the camera, but the opposite.

    Of course it is my problem if this is bothering me, never said anything different, but from there to go to the opposite and say that the app is IMPORTANT like you did, there’s quite a step. I make any bet that if we’d have seen the pictures taken without app we would not miss at all that ‘important’ layer, as the pictures are strong.

    Thomas who, excuse me? I’m not buddy and familiar on a first name basis with many photographers I’m afraid..

  • EvaL






    thomas dworzak


    not a buddy…

    no need for flipancy eva….



    PS. ooops, sorry for the caps…it is the school’s computer (i am not shouting

  • Bob, you are back to your old self. If someone doesn’t think like you, it means it’s “their problem” and it makes you feel “sad”, basically you get it and they don’t.

    All of Eva’s points are valid, while because of different sensibilities and approach to the medium or to the event essayed/reported upon, some like you might not see it her way.

    PS: Remember what you wrote me yesterday: 3)right speech…. ;-)
    ps2: Eva: Thomas….Dworzak. I think his Afghan portraits were featured here.

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