bruce gilden – haiti, 15 months later…

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Bruce Gilden

Haiti, 15 Months Later…

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Haiti, a land of great spirit and tremendous hardship occupies a special place in my heart. My first visit to Haiti goes back to 1985. Then, for ten years, I made a total of 19 trips, and my work culminated in the publication of the book “Haiti” that earned the European Publishers Award for Photography in 1996.

I thought I was done photographing in Haiti, but when the earthquake struck, I felt the urge of going back. Last February‐March 2010, in Port‐au‐Prince when I saw the enormity of devastation, I feared that once the media attention would shut off, Haiti would fall into oblivion again, so I decided that I had to keep the light burning.

All of the familiar sites I knew had been destroyed. Instead, I found rubble, chaos and homeless people sleeping on the streets, in their cars, in tents and makeshift shelters. For all of that, when I looked around at the improvised shelters that people had built out for themselves out of scavenged material, it seemed to me that the Haitian spirit was alive and shining on the decorated flimsy walls of these tiny huts.

The “residents” of these encampments had recreated all the elements of Haitian life as if they knew right away that this temporary settlement would be their long term home: a one-seat barbershop, a two-pot restaurant, and families taking bath buckets in the open, women ironing and watching TV, courtesy of the diverted electricity from the Presidential palace. The first time I stepped into one of these encampments, it felt awkward, as if I were invading people’s privacy, stepping into an open living room without being invited. But this was the street, this was Port-au-Prince post earthquake last year.

Unfortunately, when I returned, last April, 15 months later, I did not notice much improvement. The encampments were still there, with more small huts built and decorated. The walls display all kinds of statements, personal, religious, and political, and once again I was touched by their poetry, proving that the vibrant and unique Haitian spirit could fall through the cracks of the worst possible living conditions. During this last trip, I was able to capture the mood around, and I felt that I am today even closer than before to the people of Haiti: Older ones distressed by the emotional impact of the earthquake, and younger ones in need of work and leadership to human development.

 

editor’s note: these photographs were shot on exclusive assignment from Burn…dah


Bio

Bruce Gilden, a native New Yorker, has received acclaim for his black and white portraits and street scenes. Gilden has won multiple awards including the European Award for Photography, three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and a Japan Foundation fellowship. He has published many books. His work, exhibited widely around the world is part of numerous permanent collections.
In 1998, Bruce Gilden joined Magnum Photos.
While another early essay focused on the famous “Mardi Gras” in New Orleans, Gilden worked from 1968 until the late 1980’s on his first long-term project on Coney Island. It was published in his book Coney Island, in 2002.
In 1984, Bruce Gilden began to work in Haiti where he returned nineteen times. The book Haiti concluded this work in 1996.
Since 1981, Bruce Gilden had been working on his on-going project, the streets of New York City. It culminated in the publication of Facing New York in 1992, and later in 2005, in A Beautiful Catastrophe.
His next project explored rural Ireland and its passion for horseracing. After the Off juxtaposes Gilden’s photographs with text by the Irish writer Dermot Healey.
Published in 2000 Gilden’s next book, Go, is the result of Gilden’s immersion in Japanese culture, with images of Yakuza (the Japanese Mafia), the homeless, and Bosozoku or young biker gangs.
After years of worldwide travel, in 2008, Bruce Gilden felt the need of photographing his own country and draw a social portrait of America in this time of great recession. Gilden has just completed an extended personal project on foreclosures, in Florida, Detroit and recently in Fresno, California.
In February 2010 and April 2011, Bruce Gilden returned to Haiti a country that occupies a special place in his heart. He is passionate about dedicating a second opus to the people of Haiti and continuing to raise awareness on their everyday life struggles.


Related links

Bruce Gilden on Magnum Photos


91 Responses to “bruce gilden – haiti, 15 months later…”


  • a civilian-mass audience

    welcome home…MR.BRUCE !!!

  • Incredible what “normality” can look like.. wondering if and how I could/would adapt.. contemplating on what happiness is made of.. thanks for the way too short essay, both Mr. Gilden and Burn!

  • 12 seems to hint at many things. 10 is by any measure a great portrait. The rest I find pretty much a disappointment.

  • Number 7 slams, completely. Digging the interspersing of housing images, but maybe too many of them given the brevity of the essay? Looking forward to seeing the development of this and of the foreclosures work.

  • An interesting take on how survival and the human spirit: what Magnum does best; in-depth work after the press pack has moved on. Photograph 10 is amazing; is it going to become on of your favourites Bruce? I love number 13 too. Again I find myself looking at a photograph of human suffering and thinking “Nice photograph”. People shouldn’t have to live like this and with the amount of aid sent to such places you would think that they wouldn’t have to. I remember watching a t.v. programme some time ago about Fair Trade and a South American farmer was saying that he would much rather have a Fair Trade price for his produce than overseas aid. He said that millions of dollars had been sent to his country as aid and, speaking about the benefits that it had made, said to the reporter “Can you see it? Neither can I”. I’m not saying that people should not give to charities that help in such circumstances, I’m just saying that it’s not a simple “give and it will get better” situation.
    Thanks for the essay, Bruce.

    Mike.

  • I must be missing something. I like the opening shot, and 7 and 12 are interesting, but otherwise, I’m afraid I’m with John on this one.

  • Bruce will jump in here if you have questions about this, that , or the other thing…

  • I have a question about the other thing: what is the other thing?

  • I have to agree, one of the worse showings on BURN, this one has no meat, and from a sanguine photographer like Bruce, it has to disappoint..
    #10 is of course quite an image, but it finds itself as haphazardly in the essay as the others.

  • marcin luczkowski

    I didn’t like first set of photos from Haiti, but this time I like it a lot.
    The series is really excellent. Subtell and storytelling.

    First series is too much “New Yorker style”. What is a journalistic crime when photographer is in place like Hait after a huge disaster.

    But this time the images are more subtle, more sensitive and for me, because of that more strong and powerful.

    Well, I should say; there is less Bruce and more Haiti.
    And Haiti deserve to be notice in this whole photographic game, in my oppinion.

    anyway excellent piece of photographic works. I love homes series, and great portraits.
    and pictures from nineties are outstanding!

  • It looks very similar to the “Foreclousure” work in the States.. there it’s human-made, here it’s nature-made… big new empty houses on one side, full little huts on the other.. similar only in Gilden’s choice of photographic approach..

  • Number 10 is quite magnificent. That’s all I have to say.

  • Changed my mind about there being too many housing images. Was tired. The split between those and the portraits is fine. Overall, the series feels short, though. Would like to take a crack at editing a sequence together.

    Eva – yeah, a sequenced mix of those two projects could be interesting and powerful in it’s own way, too.

  • Very powerful. Paradoxical. Too short, but loved it.

  • ***
    textured…
    lives……
    ***

  • Huh. That’s it? Almost feels as if something didn’t feel right for B.G. about being there. I like the hut pictures but the people pics seem oddly distanced and out of context. Or maybe he’s holding out? Not sure how this BURN exclusive assignment works. Maybe DAH can elaborate. I’m a huge fan of B.G.’s work (and defender of his working style) but I expected more than this.

  • I really think its brilliant…
    i got used to all the “typical Haiti” photos (crowded scenes, too much info- drama in one photo, more like a Massimo Vitali photo-object, more like a heavy metal senseless nonsense guitar solo, than something “focused”)
    Ive seen so many Haiti photos that all look like a scene of the “same movie”…
    This essay though, especially the carton “houses” did it for me…Great work, simple, brilliant i think…
    not too many corpses and/or starving kids..but focused on their “new life”..new “houses”, “neighborhoods”, “cities”..
    yea unfortunately there is no future for Haiti im afraid!

  • 8, but especially 10…ahh number 10 photo on the above slideshow…the giraffe looking boy…brilliant…
    and all the carton houses pics of course…they (“houses”) somehow look more happy and alive than those Foreclosed houses we saw a while ago..

  • Thanks DAH for finding way to fund the production of new work by one of photography’s iconic image makers. I think there may be room here for discussion about the difference between work created over a relatively short period, and or work made on assignment, from worked culled from a lifetime. Viewers digest work so quickly now – perhaps just 3 mins to process years of dedication and creative effort. Of course ideally any given day’s take will be sublime, but despite the photographer’s level of command and authorship, it still seems to me that the old standards of one frame in 36 as a keeper, and one in a year or so as a real celebration – make a degree of sense.

  • #10 is stunning and memorable. The remainder, to me,somewhat forgettable.

    If you decide to post,Bruce, did you travel outside Port au Prince ?

    What I come away with in talking with a few people with connections to Haiti and in a small
    way from this short piece is that ‘Haiti is done’.
    I’ve never been so I have to plead ignorance based only on what I see and hear secondhand but
    it seems there is no way out. The damage to the core of the country (Port au Prince) seems to vast
    to overcome.
    I’ve seen no coverage on anything outside Port au Prince and wonder if the rest of the country is in
    as dire a situation as the capital?

    “Thanks DAH for finding way to fund the production of new work by one of photography’s iconic image makers.”

    Me. Not so much. I’d rather see funding of this nature directed towards new talent.
    I sort of expected,visually, what B.G. delivered but I would be much more interested to see
    how someone like Panos, for example, would respond to this situation and what type of visual document
    he would return with

  • a civilian-mass audience

    number 9 is the one for me…MASS…thank you

    humbly
    a civilian-MASS Audience

    back to my aisle:)

  • ERICA…ALL

    i think your thoughts parrot what is potentially the substance of the discussion here, that is beyond the topic of Haiti itself…Bruce of course would want everyone talking about Haiti rather than his pictures….

    i have in my possession three HCB Life Magazine assignments…all three “disappointing” at first…why? because they are nothing at all like the HCB books which generally contain material gathered over a long period of time…the first response could be even “well why is HCB so great, this Life work is not seminal..i could have done that well”…could you? HCB in this case, as Bruce, probably worked for just a few days on his commission…if Bruce did indeed make even one “Gilden image”, which most readers seem to think he made, then he nailed it…percentages are rarely higher no matter who the photographer on a short shoot…

    i am sure you well know this from your own assignment work…remember Burn is a magazine…we also will publish books which are compendiums , as we did with Anton, but the day to day use of this space will mostly be magazine oriented works in progress, rather than finalized bodies of work as should and will be properly established in print form….while Anton’s book is now very popular and selling like crazy, i am sure Anton would be the first to say that if you had sliced out any given four to five day period of his larger body as an assignment, then you might be saying “disappointing” as well…surely that would be the case for me and my work …and for most street photographers who are not shooting in the controlled studio….

    great photographers are not factories of production no matter how talented…as a matter of fact, mediocre photographers are way way the better “factory producers” and are frankly the most often employed….

    the mediocre take pretty damn good pictures all of the time……great photographers take great pictures some of the time…whereas mediocre photographers never take a great picture….

    you will never ever get LOTS of greatness from anyone over time with very rare exceptions …my reservation with this work is that i only wish as Mike Kircher does that it was longer…the mind of Gilden is always fascinating to me…yet i am not a fan of every single picture either…or of every single picture of anyone…

    i received an email from Bruce this morning, just before i decided to post here, that while he originally agreed to answer questions here, he has changed his mind and will tell me why he has changed his mind…i will tell you what he says and his reasoning…guessing he prefers mystery to explanation…that his pictures are what they are, and that is that…that is ONLY my guess…

    no disclaimer, just offering perspectives…the best way for anyone here who doubts this is of course to go out and try to be consistent and powerful simultaneous…just does not happen…IF you can make it happen, the world will beat a path to your door!! or, at least i will :) .. and so will every other magazine…

    by the way, commissions from Burn are indeed exclusive and whether or not you favor every single image here, you are seeing all of these for the first time on Burn…this will be our mantra for the future from both this audience and any established photographers who may be published here…we cannot do it always, but we can do it much of the time..

    please know that we are ready to commission any reader here who has the stuff…show us….show us what you can do in a limited time frame…that is why we are here…and financing for your work will be coming from this audience …and this audience is here i believe because we will showcase masters like Gilden and Anderson (Paolo Pellegrin with exclusive work coming Burn 02 in print), yet as i told my Magnum colleagues a couple of days ago, the highest proportion of work comes from you……so keep commenting for sure…but also, go do some work…the bar will keep getting higher…you have the venue…nobody has any excuses…not Gilden, not you, not me…

    is this not the best of times? empty canvas…let’s paint…

    cheers, david

  • MTOMALTY..

    the majority of Burn funding here DOES go to new talent..i must say you have me scratching my bald head with your comment…i mean really, have you actually not noticed what has been our mantra for the last three years? that is what Burn is all about…we just gave $15,000. to new talent and 90% of what is exhibited here does go to unknown new photographers…i will publish icons from time to time , just to keep the blood flowing and add perhaps a certain kind of cred…but we have been paying emerging photographers all year long for new essays on Burn…has this somehow escaped you?

    very hard for me to imagine how you, a regular observer here, could make such a comment when in fact Gilden has 10 pictures now published here on Burn and Panos has had at least three essays and dozens of pictures from L.A. from Greek riots, from his motel room, lead shot of Alec Soth (all Burn assignments)….and yes we will give him even another assignment when he has an idea that appeals…. i am Panos fan number one…if you look at Burn 01 and 02 upcoming, the emphasis is clearly on the unknown including a long essay by Panos!!…of the 25 photographers published in 01, only 5 were established photographers…my oft stated ratio and i hold to it…

    i.e. Anton is unknown…perhaps now known because of his exposure here but our first Burn monograph is in fact from an unknown photographer and all of my work here on Burn is with the icons of tomorrow, not the ones of today…

    now Mark, what is your idea for an essay? ready to let you cut loose…let’s see for real what Tomalty is all about….go for it my friend…

    cheers, david

  • I personally like this essay. For me, Bruce is attempting to show the indomitability of the human spirit in the face of extreme hardship and he is attempting to do so in a short period of time. Ironically, for Bruce, he does not stick a camera in the faces of the Haitian people and then take his leave: this has been done again and again. Instead he focusses on how the people have, albeit out of necessity, made homes out of practically nothing. It is at once inspiring and saddening.
    On the subject of having a “name” photographer like Bruce get an assignment from Burn; I find it most interesting to see how an experienced photographer copes against a deadline and to see what he can capture. Again, for me, Bruce has a keeper with number 10: I expect to see this photograph again and again. Photograph 13 may well be a sleeper; one of the quieter photos that becomes more important as time passes.

    I recently watched a short video featuring Bruce in Derby, England, where he was a guest at a photo festival. In the video he mentions that he has been photographing for 40 something years and he considers that he has taken about 25 great photographs. Photography in general and street photography in particular is not easy. It seems like it should be easy but it’s not. As I’ve mentioned before, I asked a photo shop owner (when I was buying my first b&w chemicals, processing trays etc.) “Is it easy?”. “It’s easy to do badly” was his reply.

    I like the idea that if I submit work to Burn that I’m up against, and have an equal opportunity as, anyone else, established or not.

    DAH, hope the nose has healed,

    Mike.

  • Content overrides image………….. sits nicely with me

  • Still think 07 slams it, that’s badass. And there’s something about the shanty houses filling the frame in similar fashion to the people in the portraits that really suggests how cramped and forced those living conditions are.

    Got a feeling this essay, while being far from Bruce’s best work (due no doubt to time limitations), is being read with tired eyes and that a lot of the interesting stuff in it is being missed that way.

  • David, I’m glad to see you moving towards exclusivity. Being somewhat old-fashioned in publishing matters, it’s always bothered me a bit that Burn publishes so much re-hashed work and that the same work, and usually more, is almost always available on the individual photographer’s website. I don’t mean to be too critical on this since I know that is the way of the photo world these days, but I still hate to see it. I suspect the lack of exclusivity probably plays a part in the general devaluation of our work. Why pay to see someone’s work, or pay to publish it, when it’s up there for free? Tends to become more of a charitable operation than the old good honest pay for good honest work. And I can’t help noting that when I go to the sites of top professionals, I don’t see gallery after gallery of unpublished work.

    Anyway, I’m glad Gilden’s not answering the criticism. I didn’t see any that particularly begged an answer. Me? I like the repetitive back and forth of the shacks and (presumably) the people who live in the shacks and would also like to see more. I know that the current thought is that it’s best to leave em wanting to see more, but wish there was more of an opportunity for more long form essays. In a world inundated with half hour sitcoms, one hour crime dramas, and 90 minute summer blockbusters, I just can’t comprehend why so many of us cringe at the idea of a ten minute photo slideshow.

  • MW…

    well, the work published here comes often from submissions..work the photographer wants us to see…if a photographer has something else on their website that may eventually be viewed as better, there is not much we can do about it…that for sure is the responsibility of the photographer submitting…i mean , we cannot be private detectives and see as a story submitted that we like and then go back through that photogs portfolio and determine they should have submitted something else..that would require another whole team of people and a waste all around…

    we are now obligated to view at least 500 submissions per month…a full time job yielding few yet the occasional morsel..i think we just have to do this….the back and forth with every photog we publish can be daunting…we would love to figure out a way around it, but i do not think it is possible…this is the serious work work work of Burn that has had all of us at one time or another ready to throw in the towel…on the other hand, we have seriously considered eliminating submissions altogether and just going after work we know or discover as we move around through various festivals, from workshops , get recommendations etc…

    even with the system we have, i am sure you cannot find more than about 30% that you have seen prior…and interestingly Michael, you have no doubt noticed that the New York Times and National Geographic have recently taken stories originally published here on Burn and featured them prominently…see the latest issue of NatGeo for Mike Brown’s Libya iPhone shots for example..

    we will definitely be looking for original material as much as is possible…and yes of course if we go to a pay for some material system, it must be original…i.e. Burn 02 will have some essays seen only in print first, for Burn online later…

    cheers, david

  • FRAMERS

    interesting point…tired eyes, cynical eyes…..the bane of our craft and mostly of almost all blog reading….yes democracy of point of view is to be desired of course…yet the crowded room with everyone shouting and with a voice, makes some want to just go walk by the river…not sure what the answer is because one does want everyone to have a chance to speak…i guess this is where traditional arbiters and editors come into play…no perfect system….for me personally, i like to sit down with a good book or magazine that is edited by someone i trust…or a movie directed by a director i like…seeing everyone’s everything is just too time consuming and exhausting…in the next few years , there is no doubt in my mind that a hybrid experience will evolve..people will tire of the open forum….lots of talk, and little action…some high quality open forums will indeed thrive as they should, but i think even now the ranting on some blogs has many going out to chop wood instead….

    alas, before THIS statement gets misinterpreted , i am NOT talking about what seems to happen here on burn and specifically NOT referring to any comments on this story…Burn seems to have in general the most divergent points of view, and yet for the most part comments are written with sophistication and aplomb…we rarely rarely go off the rails here…

    a pleasure to meet you in Paris ….mixing champagne with tequila with red wine was not what i had in mind the night of the Magnum party..but we all make mistakes sometimes…live and not learn is my motto

    cheers, david

  • Not that I frequent many other blogs, but one reason why Burn works the way it does is because things here HAPPEN, it’s not just talk, it’s FACTS, be it assignments like the one here, meetings, books, online pubblications etc.. if one wants to, here s/he’s got a real chance.. nice place to hang out, makes one work, hard even, but nice :)

  • MW, Eva, yes. MW nice slideshow: hadn’t heard the song before.

    Mike.

  • Thanks Mike R, and since you’ve expressed interest regarding processing, I use pretty much the same workflow/philosophy as Anton described for you in the other thread. RPP is a powerful developing tool but more difficult to master than most. Best advice is to use the keyboard, not the sliders.

  • DAH, great quote and very true “great photographers are not factories of production no matter how talented…as a matter of fact, mediocre photographers are way way the better “factory producers” and are frankly the most often employed….

    the mediocre take pretty damn good pictures all of the time……great photographers take great pictures some of the time…whereas mediocre photographers never take a great picture….”

    I do like this piece. And to come away with one or two really outstanding pictures in a few days, well, yeah, that is something indeed.

  • MW, thanks for the RPP tip. I have looked at RPP: I’d never heard of it until Anton mentioned it yesterday, and after downloading it was rather baffled. This is probably because I’m a “When all else fails, read the instructions” type. I’ll have to read the instructions (groan). I usually use Aperture – but like the Lightroom “Paper White” (Flash) web pages. Does anyone know if it is possible to turn the Lightroom interface all-white i.e the photo background and the data and adjustment boxes? I hate the grey of Lightroom. Aperture allows everything to be white: very slick, very Apple. Aperture photographs look sharper to my eye too: possibly because the photo window is larger?

    Best,

    Mike.

  • DAH,

    Yes you are quite right about the limitations of time and assignment. I guess I picked up on the “dedicating another opus” to Haiti part of Gilden’s bio and thought well he’s going to have to do more than this!

    On a second look I quite like most of the photos and the mood of the piece though a few feel like mere warm-ups (ie esp #8) compared to Gilden’s normal work. And no more is not necessarily better (and I wouldn’t expect every image to be a masterpiece) but a longer essay I think might have given us more insight into the subject at hand, which is the really the ultimate purpose is it not?

    Also new rule: never comment when one is sick (nasty earache the last few days!).

    Best,

    CP

  • I love this — something about Gilden’s shots gets at an emotional core that most photographers can’t seem to access — I’m inspired by that and his commitment to place, going back to Haiti over and over really teasing out a deeper view. The shots of the people read like Gilden’s other shots, and the shots of the houses have a kind of Walker Evans feel — very straight, an unadorned look “this is what it is.” People living in shanties now that the aid agencies and disaster relief efforts have evaporated? It makes me want to go to Haiti to pitch in.

  • Erica, good points. You are right of course that perhaps we are expecting too much, and being too quick to form an opinion. Sometimes I warm to a series after a few viewings. In this instance, upon viewing this group of photos many times, I still like the same couple of images that I did in the first 20 seconds. My overall impression is still the same. In the end, we respond with our gut, and not with our heads. Pictures speak to us or they don’t.

    DAH, “great photographers are not factories of production no matter how talented…as a matter of fact, mediocre photographers are way way the better “factory producers” and are frankly the most often employed….

    the mediocre take pretty damn good pictures all of the time……great photographers take great pictures some of the time…whereas mediocre photographers never take a great picture….”

    (If we extend that equasion, does it suggest that great photographers take mediocre pictures much of the time? )

    I can identify with your statement. I don’t know that I’ve ever taken a great picture. But I do come back with the goods all the time, every time, which is why folks keep handing over their credit cards.

    Is it better for a photographer have a huge bag of tricks, or just a few great party pieces that can only be pulled off occasionally? Is it possible to have both? Are there photogrpahers who are both prolific and make great pictures? Exactly what is a great picture?

  • DAH, it seems it’s already happening with open-i.ning and with Flak Photo’s facebook set up.

    Agreed about the champagne, tequila, red wine mix. Lethal.

    Long day with my hip hop work today, bad weather but maybe have something. It’s starting to take shape as I learn more about them. They seem to be getting comfortable with me, I need to channel all energy into committing myself to this. Be there in hear and spirit, as well as by eye, give my all to shaping this. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m excited that it’s getting underway. Thanks for the chatting about it. Brief moments where I “clock off” from work to talk about the work. Funny how comfortable that way of living is.

  • “empty canvas…let’s paint…”

    What a call to action.

  • Comments re tired eyes were nothing, nothing at all really.

  • GORDON…

    yes, of course..great photographers, or great anything, only are able to be great occasionally…which is why very few truly great talents can even do an assignment at all….Koudelka on commission? no way…some super talents can produce on demand, but not all…so yes, that means they too are mediocre or worse maybe even really terrible much of the time…really really on or really really off is what i have seen over and over…there are as always exceptions…during a lifetime of work, i think you will see the super talents will produce a long line of work…but some, like Robert Frank , have very very small bodies of work…even HCB had perhaps 6 great years…yes, both men famous their whole lives, but not really doing the best of the best that whole time…Salgado? very short period of the best…i could go on and on…Davidson on the other hand still doing some of his best work…as is Webb…i could go on and on here too…to excel at any given time requires a complexity of actions and moods and passions and inner connective synapses…rare air as i once wrote…all of us must always be trying for that one little gasp of the precious moment…know when it is in front of us, know when to go all out, and know the difference between a job well done and something with that special spark called great…

    cheers, david

  • You’re bang on, Erica.

    I find while shooting on various subjects over time that one project can yield a healthy crop of fine images in a relatively short period but that projects running parallel can be very unproductive. And that the goal posts shift regularly. It’s very rare indeed to be “in the zone” simultaneously over several projects. And yet I can’t work on just one project. I have to have a few balls in the air at the same time much like reading a biography while also enjoying a novel.

    How about others?

  • DAH, rare air, yes. You know when it happens.

  • I’m intrigued by this idea that few people that are really good can do an assignment. Is this related to the very specific and individual look or voice that great photographers tend to have? For example there is a recognizable Gilden look — DAH you mentioned Davidson, again he has a very specific approach — close, emotionally visceral and yet respectful and compassionate. I hate to use labels but Davidson seems like one of the masters of the environmental portrait. There’s a recognizable individual aesthetic that runs through the work of many of these folks in the stratosphere of photography. Alternately when I look at some of the work of some big dog photojournalists I get the impression they have a set repertoire of ways of making anything interesting — whether it is high school track meet or an assignment in a war zone — but the shots, while good, seldom rise to the level of great. These sorts of considerations are important for beginners — maybe working the same kind of approach that is personally compelling — over and over — is as important as learning to carry around a big bag of tricks?

  • M AVINA…

    yours is one of the best and most useful questions i have seen here for awhile..and much of what i have written above would apply….

    the long and short of it….DO NOT LEARN TO CARRY AROUND A BAG OF TRICKS…i hope that answers your question…sure that works for some short period of time…but the audience i have here is a whole bunch of pretty damned dedicated photographers…not directly interested in “how to get a job” nor “which is the right lens?”…serious are these…so i tell everyone here to do the righteous thing not the right thing…

    so i tell folks to just do their own thing…work from inside….in the mirror…do not give a shit what anybody else thinks, unless you got one helluva lot of respect for them..if you have that mentor, then rejoice…i had none…this is not a new idea and probably everybody says it, but in fact i do it, live it…straight up and clear and with no financial motive for myself…they know that ..they meet me…they can see it…and besides a few pieces of my work, what i have is a rare and heartfelt gift i can pass down to the next generation….

    you are welcomed here…

    cheers, david

  • Sara, the other thing is whether or not putting ketchup on a hot dog is a sign of psychosexual immaturity or a manifestation of Freud’s thanatos principle, which states that all condiments seek their own destruction, whether or not there is mayonnaise and relish available.

  • DAVID, ERICA

    Yes I do recognize very much Bruce succeeding in his goal in this essay… I think David’s point is a good one, the difference between the two is important… and given that distinction I hold Bruce’s essay here very very high… I mean just look at #10… getting one of that calibre in such short notice?

    Having said that, here’s my ratio which scares me to death every time, but now since this discussion a little less… 3 years, 30,000 shots, 90 good ones, and 3 which I am actually proud of… one good image for one year of photographing… I must be crazy I think sometimes, but that one image gives me a far greater satisfaction than anything else and is what keeps me believe in myself to keep on going

    as david says, if i were to show any random 4-5 day slice, you would see 99 or 100% very very bad stuff :-)

    hugs, a

  • ANTON..

    another way of looking at it , is that it is not want you did not do , or did not get, but what you did do and did get…you have proven that it is best to forget what did not work..you well know this is my philosophy….a few pieces above the bar is all i ever wanted…working on it..that is the fun part!

    cheers, david

  • Photography, to me, isn’t really about the photograph.. that’s only the last step of the dance.. hard to explain, easy to understand.. but then, I’m not a photographer so I better shut up..

  • EVA…

    of course you are a photographer…so keep trying explain..i really want to know what you mean by that exactly…

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