Monthly Archive for April, 2012

Monika Bulaj – Behind The Great Game. Central and Western Asia Project.

Monika Bulaj

Behind The Great Game. Central and Western Asia Project.


What lies behind the conflicts and power struggles vying for control of the oil resources of Western and Central Asia? The aim of this work – The Central and Western Asia Project – is to give voice to those who are the unwilling protagonists (and often victims) of that which Ahmed Rashid terms The New Great Game, in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Central Asian republics.
In Afghanistan, a country that was to be saved from itself, despite the millions of dollars in aid and the presence of military personnel, over half of the population depends on food aid for their very survival and the condition of women is still among the worst in the world. Pakistan, increasingly torn apart by civil strife, is the victim of American political myopia that has bred a hatred for the West and has rendered impossible any serious opposition to the extremists, undermining the very founding values of the Pakistani state: democracy, a secular educational system, a functioning civil society.
In the work that I did in this Region (Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Iran) I’ve tried to go beyond the facile geopolitical characterizations of this region and its inhabitants and bring to the light its invisible spaces: spaces that resist the political monochromes, populist rhetoric and imported understandings of radical Islam. There is another, hidden world here, ignored by the media: that of the Sufi, despised by the Taliban; that of Islamised shamanisms  and pre-Islamic traditions; that of the various nomadic tribes and other religious minorities, such as the animists, whose sacred places have long been seen as a powerful threat to the dominance of Taliban Wahabite ideology.
I’m trying to bring to the fore also the condition of women: their struggles with depression and suicide, with the impositions of morality, their aspirations, their sexuality.




Free-lance photographer and writer, for GEO, East, National Geographic (Italy), La Repubblica, periodicals by  Gruppo Espresso and Rcs, Courrier International, Gazeta Wyborcza. Born in 1966 in Warsaw, she has completed five-years studies in the Polish Philology on the Warsaw University. She has three sons and worked until 2002 as an actress and dancer. She has published books:  ‘Libya felix’, Mondadori; ‘Figli di No?’ Frassinelli 2006 (minorities and faiths in Azerbaigian); ‘Rebecca e la pioggia’, Frassinelli 2006 (the nomadic tribe of the Dinka of South Sudan); ‘Gerusalemme perduta’ with Paolo Rumiz, Frasinelli 2005 (about the Eastern Christians); ‘Genti di Dio, viaggio nell’Altra Europa’, Frasinelli 2008 (researches in East Europe and Israel), Bozy ludzie, Bosz Editions 2011. More than 50 personal exibitions. Awards: Grant in Visual Arts 2005 from EAJC, Bruce Chatwin Award 2009 ‘Occchio Assoluto’, The Aftermath Project Grant 2010. Her book ‘Genti di Dio’ has just been published in a new and larger edition.

Related links

Monika Bulaj

Central Asia Project

on the road with antoine d’agata….


Most of you seem to like the conversations I have with editors, curators, and photographers. Bill Hunt was our last conversation still up and Jim Estrin from the New York Times Lens Blog will be next. Following will be Susan Meiselas as curator/photographer and champion of the Magnum Foundation supporting photographers with serious projects no matter how affiliated. There will be surprise conversations along the way. As now.

Now I am literally on the road with Antoine D’Agata with whom, in the moment above depicted, am sharing both beer and vodka in our Motel 6 in Bismarck , North Dakota. We are part of Magnum’s Looking For America project. To be a major exhibition and book. Some of our colleagues at this very moment are in Rochester , New York doing Postcards From America which is a project within the larger America project. Yes, I am confused too. But no worries. Trust me, it will all come down in a good way and with our best work all coming together in print and on the wall.

So Antoine and I are headed for a story called (by me) BIG MEN LOOK FOR BIG OIL….In about an hour we will get into our lumbering camper van and head for a town with a lot of rich people who have no place to live. Hence the camper. Williston , N Dakota struck oil. The wild wild west. A bunch of men making a lot of money and sleeping in their cars. Williston was not ready for this boom boom boom.

My story will be sort of an interview with Antoine , who flew from Paris yesterday, and my own pictures from Williston. Or not. We joked last night , towards the end of a bottle of Grey Goose , how funny it would be if we never got out of this Motel 6. Did the story , a story, of a motel on the highway. However, I think we will move on. Curiosity.

Panos Skoulidas, from Burn comment section fame, and who started with Alec Soth and Jim Goldberg and Susan Meiselas on the original Postcards project which started in San Antonio is driving the van, helping me with computer stuff, and shooting video and doing his own record making.

The whole thing is crazy of course. In seven days I have to be in Australia for my Rio opening. Nobody in their right mind would be doing THIS now. Yes, exactly.

Well, come along with us. I will post some stuff here. Panos will too.
Check out the Magnum Tumblr ( for more and well one way or another we will bring you a story. Not sure what story but a story for sure.

Ask Antoine a question. Or any of us. If we do not answer right away, it will be an internet issue. Ok road trip about to happen. In pursuit of THE TRUTH.

Alec Soth may have said it best in an email to me. “North Dakota might not be ready for Antoine and you”.

Stay tuned.

coming soon ….

(based on a true story) is done….well, almost…being hand assembled….now….

book to be launched May 4 in Sydney at the HeadOn photo fest….solo exhibition :  Australian Centre for Photography….

we built this with zero compromises….zero…all out independence….yes, a miracle…thanks Bryan, Erin, Candy, Roberta, Renata, Eva, Diego, Mike, Valeria, Marcela, Kamila, Tonico, Claudia, Andrea, and EBS printing Verona…

a novella set in Rio, but not about Rio… a puzzle, a game??  interactive/analog…map/poster included …stay tuned…

of course the long term, or maybe even short term, goal here at Burn is to do specially crafted or hand crafted books for a variety of authors….the plethora of on demand book companies makes it terrific for everyone to have a book in their hand…i love these on demand books for many reasons…

yet, finally, i think we all honestly miss the special feeling a book used to bring…the specialness of a book in hand…when everyone has something or everyone has virtually the same thing, then it ceases to be special…so, that is why at Burn we will only be interested in books that could not possibly be on demand books….this hit me as i was often handing someone Burn 02 and saying, “here is your book, oh by the way this is not an on demand book, we printed this in Italy”…i do not want to have to say that…

i want it to be obvious that Burn books are physically technically aesthetically impossible to produce on demand….

so let’s see how it goes…we have done well with the only other two publications published by Burn….01 and 02…..if this works, then we will go forward with gusto into the book publishing biz….not an empire… , a specialty shop…..for artists and those who appreciate fine objects….

oh by the way, lest you think we are only building objects for those who can afford them, we will always have, just as in everything i do, a gratis element..for the the gratis spinoff of (based on a true story) we will print a newspaper tabloid version and distribute for free in Rio de Janeiro where the cariocas of every social class welcomed me and allowed me to do my work….without the genuine hospitality of my friends in Rio this book would not exist….and yes yes , there is a NatGeo version of my work coming up in the October issue of the Magazine…

as always , i thank this audience for their support….for some of you it will come back in an amazing way…



(sent while on the way to meet Antoine d’Agata in Williston , North Dakota in search of BIG OIL  …   watch our adventures on the Magnum site….Panos driving our camper….oh my oh my)


Reneta Gancheva – Bango Vassil

Reneta Gancheva

Bango Vassil

Bango Vassil is the day when Bulgarian gypsies are celebrating the beginning of their new year. It is on the 14th of January. For them it is the most important day of the year. The legend says this is the day when St.Vassil saves their nation from being swallowed up by the Red Sea.

Traditionally, Bango Vassil is the day when all the family gets together. The oldest women cook, clean,  and prepare the house and in the night all come to one house. When doing the housework, you have to be quiet and not to say a word.
The family I met was Vassilka and Vassil’s. Their nine sons, with their children and grand children,  celebrated in this big blue room. There was only bird meat on the table. A lot of wine, rakia and other alcholoic drinks disappeared quickly.  The feast continues for two or three days. This is the way the day goes. Everybody is happy and they enjoy their celebration!



My name is Reneta Gancheva. I am from Bulgaria and 18 years old. Now is my last year in Yambol’s language high school. I take photos for a small local media.

Decision Makers – A Conversation with W.M.Hunt

W.M. Hunt – Bill Hunt – is a self described champion of photography: collector, curator and consultant, who lives and works in New York City. His book “The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the Unconscious” was published last fall by Aperture in the US, Thames & Hudson in the UK, and as “L’Oeil Invisible” by Actes Sud in France.   “The Unseen Eye’ is based on his forty years as a collector.  He is an adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts, and he has been on the boards of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, AIPAD, Photographers + Friends United Against AIDS and the Center for Photography at Woodstock.  He has been profiled in The New York TimesPDNThe Art Newspaper and many blogs.  As a dealer, he founded the prominent gallery Hasted Hunt after many years as director of photography at Ricco/Maresca. Photo by dah



David Alan Harvey:  The readers of Burn Magazine always want to know how editors and curators think. What they really want to know is what editors, gallerists, and dealers want, because they are trying to appeal to them. What does a gallery  owner expect?  That is you. These young photographers want to know what YOU are looking for.


Bill Hunt: I will tell you what curators want. They want the thing they’ve never seen. If they’ve seen it, they don’t want it. It’s the impossible thing to describe except that when you see it, you say, “this is it. I couldn’t describe it to you because I hadn’t seen it, but now that I see it, I can tell you this is it”. You don’t want to see what you saw before, because it’s no longer interesting.  My line is that you want a picture so good it makes you fart lightning.  You want to be able to see it and say, “I was sick and now I’m healed”. It doesn’t happen very much at all, but sometimes it happens and you go, see I told you this could happen because here it is.   I’m teaching a workshop called “How I Look at Photographs”.


DAH: We saw that in the ICP catalogue. We know who you are.


BH: That’s good! So, I’m trying to work it out because I think that it has potential.


DAH: Do you think as time goes by it’s harder to see something that you haven’t seen?


BH: No, I think it’s the same. What’s different is that there is now a sea of really good pictures. There are so many good pictures. More so than there used to be. People know how to make good pictures. But the number of really fantastic ones, that’s real small.  So you do look at a lot of good pictures.  But I am interested in the great ones.


DAH: That was probably the best answer that I’ve gotten from anybody so far on this decision making business.


BH: So for this class that I am spending time thinking about, I want to answer the question, how do I look at pictures? And the answer is …rapaciously, ravenously, wildly … like a cartoon dog in heat. The New York Times comes in the morning, you open the front door, and you look at the front page, and immediately you react …that’s a good one!  Or not.


DAH: Let me ask you something, do you have a theatrical background at all?


BH: I do.


DAH: Well that’s the first thing that popped into my head when I’m talking to you now.


BH: I’m a notoriously failed actor.


DAH: Ok well I could tell.


BH: That I was a failed actor?


DAH: (laughing) No. That you love drama. Everything you do, your motions, the way you talk.


BH: I’m just a big bull shitter.


DAH: Your mind is….


BH: My mind is … what?  Quick?  Yes, I’m fast on my feet, but that’s not being an actor.


DAH: There’s something performance oriented just about the way you are.


BH: I’m passionate.  I’m single minded.  I’m articulate.  A discovery I made about photography and show business is they are very, very similar.  In many respects they are all improvisation. You get up in the morning; you say to yourself, I am not a doctor, so I won’t be going to the hospital. I am an actor, I’m a photographer, what am I going to do today? I could just sit here and jerk off…that’s one choice.  Another choice is get on my bike and go do something. The difference for a photographer and an actor is that a photographer can always make stuff. They can take a camera and go out and do stuff.


DAH: An actor needs an audience and is dependent on somebody else. That’s right, I never thought about it that way.


BH: The cruel irony of this however, and this may not be born up by your experience, but it’s my observation that in show business, you can always get laid.  The more miserable everybody is, the more you get laid. You go to a bunch of photographers and say did anybody here get laid in the last eight years?


DAH: I thought you were coming out with some brilliant artist’s statement here!


BH: I am just being realistic.


DAH: Let me jump to you as a person because it’s interesting how decision makers become decision makers. So let’s go all the way back to your childhood. Obviously, I would imagine you were in the arts, I’m guessing almost from the beginning. Am I right about that?


BH: I would say not at all.


DAH: Really?


BH: I would say only my secret life.  That was always my fantasy world.


DAH: Oh, so I am right in a sense?


BH: Yeah I guess so. It just was never going to happen, you know?  You’re a little kid in the Midwest and you’re thinking you’re going to be an actor in New York and … .


DAH: It’s a secret fantasy….


BH: It’s just not part of anything around you that that’s going to happen.   Some helicopter is not going to land in the back yard with producers leaping out saying “we heard you were good, kid, lets go do a movie or something”. You’re pretty much just fucked in the Midwest that you’re not going to get out of there. Actually in college I toed the line for a long time. I was in accounting class one day in business school, and I looked like a dog listening to music, tilting my head from side to side. I’m listening to the teacher but saying to myself I haven’t understood one thing this guy has said in what’s probably seven weeks now.  I’ve copied other people’s homework religiously… and I have no idea what’s going on here. I hate this. And I left. And I enrolled in the theater department.


DAH: Ok so you were in theater in college, and then when you get out of college, what’s your first job? How did you earn a living when you got out of college?


BH: Well I never did.  I just never made shit.


DAH: Really?


BH: Not completely but … At one point my dad had died and so I had some of that money. But I barely made enough money to pay for myself although I did always manage to keep it in proportion.


DAH: Did you make money in the art gallery business?


BH: Not really.  Nobody makes money there.  Selling photographs?  You make enough, you make something, but never enough.


DAH: I met you when you sold those great big prints of Luc Delahaye, I was so impressed with that.


BH: Me too! You know for a good week and a half, two weeks, people would come to me to actually observe the phenomenon that my shit did not stink. I came back from Paris and announced that those things were $15,000. The people that got pissed off were your people. Photojournalists were furious.


DAH: Not me. I never heard anyone was pissed off. About what? I was absolutely fascinated the night of the opening. Luc is “our people”.


BH: Now, Luc is a “piece of work”  He calls me up – we were going to show the “Winterreise” pictures – his Russian pictures – and we’d seen them at the ICP Infinity Awards.  He won best photo journalist for these pictures of eastern Russia.  I’d seen those, and that’s what we were going to show. They were really cool. And so over the course of the summer Luc calls me up one day and says “Beel, I want you to come to Paris to see ze picture I make”. And you go like yeah, I will be doing that. I will be flying to Paris to see this picture what you make. And he says, “no, no, no I send ze ticket”. You’re like … huh?  Oh.  Ok, I be coming. So he flew me to Paris to see the picture and he was living in Montmartre. So I go there and he’s got three of these prints push pinned into the wall, and I didn’t know what I was coming to look at. He is asking me which print is better and I’m just thinking I can’t fucking believe this picture.  This picture is just so weird.


DAH: You’re talking about the dead Afghan soldier.


BH: Yeah, this big eight foot wide picture of a dead Taliban in a ditch, and it’s composed quite artfully, and it’s definitely a dead guy.  And so we look at the pictures for a long time, and then he pulls out prints of the rest of the series of pictures.  He gives me some color Xeroxes and I go back to New York and call the curator of the L.A. CountyMuseum and I say I’m coming to out California the following week, so let’s have lunch, and I have a picture to show you. The guy in L.A. was Robert Sobieszek and we were on the same wavelength. I didn’t show him much stuff. I was very careful what I showed him, and he almost always bought it, which is just unheard of for a museum to behave like that.  So, we go out and were having a glass of iced tea and I hand him this 81/2 x 11 Xerox of this picture and he looks at it, and I said this is good. This is really good. And he say’s, how much? I say its $15,000 dollars and then I go, I’ll give you 20% off and give it to you for $10,000. So my math is for shit, but he says yes. At the same time I was trying to get this picture published some place and I had taken it to The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, and they both passed on it.  American PHOTO did it.  Thank you David Schonauer and Jean-Jacques Naudet because everyone saw it.


DAH: I have always loved Luc as a photographer. I was mesmerized by the photograph.


BH: Then Chris Boot came on board, and we did a book in like three months, a full tilt printed book with a commissioned essay. It was really quick. That was exciting. So, Chris was on board and somehow Luc got a show in Bradford (England) and that had to have come from Chris.


DAH: Now Chris is at Aperture. I have always thought Chris to be one of the best in the biz.


BH: Back to my book and how it came together. My English publisher had asked me to take a picture out at one point and I said no this is a really good picture, this is funny, it fits in the book.  It’s a picture of the head of a penis that looks like a big face, and it’s a really funny and strange picture.  It’s even weirder because when I first saw this picture I didn’t know what I was looking at.  But I saw this picture and did not know what it was. I looked at it for a long time and finally I asked the photographer what is was and he said a dick. When I do presentations about the book, I project this image, and I always feel like…half the people in the room don’t know what this is. The other half that knows what it is, is thinking this is stupid. I thought it was an elbow.  Anyway, so the English publisher didn’t want it in because he said he couldn’t sell it to Japan, which that was ridiculous anyways because he wasn’t going to sell it to Japan. So he left it in.  Thank you.  Then I was at Aperture and we’re having this meeting and they said we want to talk to you about something. You just know immediately what it is and you think, you pussies, I can’t believe you’re…and they wanted it out. They asked if I would take it out and I said yeah, I’m a good guy, if it really bothers you that much take it out. And then I will never shut up about how you made me take it out of the book. It was just no big deal and Chris Boot’s line was that it stopped the flow of the book … .  So the dick went away… .  There are a couple of other things not in the final book … .  Irving Penn wouldn’t give me permission to reproduce two of his pictures. That was expected, but really disappointing. We really made a case for it and chased after it. I couldn’t accept it, no, no. no …


DAH: You went for it.


BH: I went for it.


DAH: And then you finally in the end did not get it.


BH: Yeah. And then there was the French edition too from Actes Sud. There is a September 11th picture…”The Falling Man” picture. That’s in there. The French were resistant to it and I explained why it was important to the project and they said Ok. Actually what they did was they asked me to write more which was fine with me.


DAH: It seems almost impossible to get 100% of what you want in a book. Lots of moving parts.


BH:  At the end of the day, it is my book and the whole experience is so intense and unique.  I am happy with the text and hope that people respond to my love affair with photography and collecting.  It is all about de…light.

DAH: Thanks Bill…..



Manfredi Pantanella – Leaving Rubbish

Manfredi Pantanella

Leaving Rubbish

Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is one of the world’s largest cities, more than 25 million inhabitants which produces a lot of wastes.

Until today an ad-lib urban plan could not manage the situation, leaving the city flooding in the trash.

No chance. Luckily, Cairo has the Zabbaleen.

The Zabbaleen are a religious minority of Coptic Christians who have served as 
Cairo’s informal garbage collectors for the past 80 years. Zabbaleen means
 “Garbage people” in Egyptian Arabic.

Spread out among seven different settlements scattered in the Greater Cairo Urban Region, the Zabbaleen population is about
 80,000. The largest settlement is in the village of Moqattam, better known as the
 “Garbage City”, located at the feet of the
 Moqattam Mountains, next to Manshiyat Naser, a Muslim squatter settlement 
where the 90 percent of the community of this region are of Christian faith followers.
 For the past decades the Zabbaleen have supported themselves by collecting the 
trash, going door-to-door, for almost no
 charges. The Zabbaleens currently recycle up to 80 percent of the collected waste, whereas only 25 percent is reused by Western garbage companies. 
Many sources agree that the Zabbaleen have created one of the most efficient
 recycling systems in the world, they collect up to 3,000 tons of 
garbage every day.

The government does not reward the Zabbaleen for their actions, but instead has created a privatized system of waste collection, which is threatening the 
socio-economic sustainability of the Zabbaleen community.

The Egyptian government announced its plans to modernize and ‘Westernize’ the city’s waste management system, claiming the Zabbaleen’s methods were backward and unhygienic. This is not entirely false. Although conditions are improving, diseases such as hepatitis are common. This is hardly surprising when rubbish, including sharp metal, broken glass, and hospital waste such as syringes, are all sorted by hand.

However, the Zabbaleen were joined by many international aid agencies in protesting that the only way to lift them out of poverty was to allow them to keep their jobs as the city’s rubbish collectors. In a country with a 10.8% unemployment rate and with 20% of the population living in poverty, they had a point.

The three European companies hired to clean up Cairo cost $50 million a year, and recycled at best 25% of the waste they collected. The companies offered to hire the Zabbaleen as collectors, but offered as little as a dollar a day, half what a Zabbaleen can earn working for himself. However, the privatisation system has failed, leaving the city with litter-strewn streets and the continued use of the unsanitary landfill sites. Some have claimed that all the new modernisation initiatives have done is inspire a new generation of street waste collectors.




Manfredi Pantanella was born in 1985.

He lives between Rome and Paris. He attended The “Centro Sperimentale di Fotografia” of Rome and the “Ecole Superieure de Photographie et d’ Audiovisuel” of Paris. He work on stories about subcultures and documentary photography.

He has worked as an assistant for Reza (National Geographic Fellow).


Related links

Manfredi Pantanella


It might seem to you, albeit by pure coincidence twice in a row here, that I lean heavily in the direction of photographing at the beach. Often very specifically women at the beach. This photograph made just yesterday, and in keeping with my oeuvre of just shooting whatever is around me anyway. So Michelle was just hanging with us on what started as a cloudless hot sunny day, and then the afternoon front rolled in and it was time to take a picture. Of a woman on the beach. One of my great motives for being a photographer in the first place to be quite honest. Not high minded enough? Please. Isn’t “attraction” what we all think about the most? Hasn’t attraction, love, sensuality inspired more art than anything?

Most of the women I photograph are with other men. Much safer that way. Michelle and Bryan live practically next door. So we know each other’s biz. Bad idea? Not really. I like the family thing. That’s even why I like Burn, and Magnum and well all the peer groups that are in fact versions of family. Michelle has her hands full. She must maintain her relationship with Bry AND sort of make sure that I well, stay out of trouble.

My own instincts have provided me with a lot of adventure, but right now my work and peace seem like the right way to go. Besides Michelle is totally dedicated to protecting me from all kinds of things – mostly me!. And because of this I am for sure in the most productive time of my entire career. Weird. Nobody could TRY for a late career boost. As you can imagine that sort of thing is just fate or luck or …?? Michelle makes sure I stay on track. That does not mean I can’t go out on a date. It does mean that I will think about it more than twice as opposed to my oftentimes less than once back in the day.

Does this mean I don’t have fun? Well go back and look at the riobook saga and see what you think. The upcoming book, designed by Bry, is all about me being myself which is of course where I try to take my students. And a move towards the purest of visual literacy. I have honestly managed to stay in the zone now for a long time. Deep in November and December, but even before and after as well. Michelle and I do the best party dirty dancing performance with Bryan often smiling from the side. So we have the most most fun. My family days all around are surely my best days.

Michelle and I blend right at the point blank center. Her “creativity as a way of life” workshops parallel in thinking the way I do my photo workshops. She ran several of mine. I do enjoy watching somebody get fired up. So does she.
Michelle teaches yoga and eats all the right foods. I think she may have given up on me in yoga class, but she did get me off cigarettes no small feat. Getting me off sugar is harder. Anyway, I did not plan to write a story on Michelle today. I shot the picture of her prior to the storm when we were just hanging.  So I thought just now, hey my main thing I can offer aspiring photographers is how I get my own inspirations. So this is one. However you can make things work, works. Fired up is fired up.
Isn’t that right? Don’t we all need a bit of help? Old adage works. Help somebody. You might just be that person who needs it someday.
Thanks Michelle for keeping an eye out. I will stay a good boy for a bit longer. Got work to do.

spring break…

Lots of chat lately about captions. What they should or should not be. So write one for this picture. Not as a joke . For real. The scene is spring break. South Beach, Miami about three weeks ago. Pretend you are a caption writer for a magazine or newspaper and you are seeing this cold turkey. This is a realistic exercise. In 48 hours I will choose the best caption writer. The winner gets a 100 bucks to write captions for the next story up. You won’t get rich doing this job for Burn. But you might just get a real job out of this fake job.