[slidepress gallery=’michaelchristopherbrown_thelybianrepublic’]

Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls 

EPF 2011 Finalist

Michael Christopher Brown

The Libyan Republic

play this essay

Since arriving in Libya, I have tried to understand the situation. People swap facts, predictions and rumors, 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.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi ruled Libya for 42 years. During his reign, supporters were given power while those opposed saw their lives crumble. Libya changed from an optimistic, patriotic society to a people living double lives, resigning basic human rights in the face of a brutal authoritarian regime. Trust was elusive and the people were cold.

Then everything began to change. After dictators in similar Mafia-like states of Tunisia and Egypt were forced to leave, thousands of Libyans planned their own Day of Rage. In Benghazi, a peaceful protest on February 15th became a massacre, as protestors were fired upon by police forces. As the uprising spread across eastern Libya, young men throwing stones stormed the Katiba in Benghazi only to be slaughtered by anti-aircraft guns. Though hundreds of them were killed, with help from General Younes special forces the protestors took Benghazi back from Gaddafi. So began the revolution in Libya.

Today, as the war rages on in eastern Libya and in Misrata, Libyans are treating each other as family while creating a new Libya for themselves, not Gaddafi. Though their cities are in shambles, freedom is in the air.

The more time I spend in Libya the more questions I have. Will NATO give up? Who are the rebels and the people creating the new Libyan Republic? Who were the children affected by the HIV trial? What happened to the missing soldiers in the war with Chad and where are their families?

This summer I will attempt to find some of these lost pieces of a past long covered up by the Gaddafi regime and continue documenting daily life, both of which have been shielded from foreign eyes for nearly half a century.

This story has been published before on BURN Magazine, in FOAM magazine (Spring 2011), National Geographic Magazine (July 2011), Das Magazin (April 2011), Photoworld (April 2011), and on Time.com (2011).


Michael Christopher Brown is a contributing photographer to National Geographic Magazine and works regularly for Fortune, GEO and Time magazines, among others. While earning a master of arts in documentary photography from the School of Visual Communication, Brown was named College Photographer of the Year. A former attendee of the World Press Joop Swart Masterclass, his work has won numerous awards from organizations such as BURN, CENTER, Magenta, PDN, The Art Directors Club, Canon and Anthropographia. American Photo magazine named him among a new generation of photo pioneers.

Related links


57 thoughts on “michael c. brown – the libyan republic”

  1. I think this is the perfect example where we can love our Leicas, Canons, Nikons, Panasonics and on and on, but if we don’t have the necessary eye and hunger to tell a good story all gear is worthless. It doesn’t matter if I write this comment with a some ordinary promotional Biro or lovely beautiful Mont Blanc, my words are more or less ordinary and far from earth shattering. Michael Christopher Brown tells a very, very good story full of power with just an iPhone…brilliant!!
    Good luck

  2. Paul remember as story of open conflict beats hungry people waiting for a handout ………..other than that it is great that it is about photography for now not something that has to be archived for future generations. That show, tell and delete nature of new technology is great. Next conflict please

  3. There is little doubt that these are fantastic images, certainly not in my mind anyway.
    That they are facsimiles seems not to be a problem for most who live in a world of facsimile.
    I would be interested to know if these would give worldpressphoto a brain fart if entered, what with their worries about RAW file manipulation and blah blah objectivity. So an app that simulates an obsolete proccess but with all the dials on spinal tap 11 should get the cat among the pigeons right??
    Anyone know about that??

  4. Photographer meets iPhone: obviously a photographer pushing the button or whatever it is that you push on a phone. Does it work? Yes! The photographs have a somewhat cartoonish look but the subject matter shines through and does not diminish the human drama being played out in the slightest, for me. I would imagine that access with a phone is easier than with a camera, at least in some circumstances – or maybe it is more difficult in that the photographer is seen as just a casual shooter instead of a “real” photographer?

    Whatever the case, this works for me. Congratulations Michael.


  5. Mike:

    first of all, a big big warm hug knowing that you are safe and well and healing! This is, above all else, the most important thing…..It goes without saying that it is particularly difficult to look at the work now, 3 months after your original publication, in light of the deaths of Tim and Chris…..so, i’ll just say that i am simply happy you are with us and your loved ones and family…..

    i like alot the additional images (the first and the ‘eye-less’ boy particularly) though i miss the tv photographs and wish you’d included them as well…but again just tiny things….powerful work then, powerful work now, so since i’m tired and lazy this morning, i’ll jsut repost the long comment i made upon it’s original publication…

    big congratulations Mike and we’ll all happy to see your name here as a finalist….



    original comment:

    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…

  6. It is all here except for the fact that Michael was injured in an attack that took the lives of two of his closest colleagues and critically wounded another. Michael paid dearly for these photos and that should not be forgotten.

    But the essay stands on its own merits. These are among the most powerful photos I have seen of the revolution in Libya. Michael’s eye as a photojournalist with a poet’s heart sees INTO a story rather than simply reflecting how it looks from the outside. He sees the horror of war with a lyric truthfulness. His work is unique and deserves to be celebrated. I am grateful that this magnificent essay is among the ten EPF finalists.

  7. Michael, firstly I’d like to say that I’m glad you’re safe and recovering. That fact alone is worth more than any photograph, although I’m not criticising your decision (nor others) for working in conflict areas – I feel you on that.

    I’m usually a bit bored of iPhone photos, I’ve seen far too many and they’re usually boring pictures made to show off how spiffy the app is.

    I didn’t even notice it here. It adds to the overall visual feel but doesn’t take anything away from the subject matter, or the composition, or the story. In fact, some of the images (the eyeless boy in #23, for example) it enhances the sense of the unreal – a sense outside observers of this conflict must inevitably feel on some level (and, I wonder if those experiencing it directly also feel that it is unreal in some ways, too?).

    Fantastic piece of work, and I’m delighted to see it in EPF Finalists list.

    Wishing you the very best for your future.

  8. The cartoon-ish quality, mixed with war, is off-putting. It’s like the images are saying “isn’t this cool” and “did you catch that phallic reference” until #7. There’s nothing cool about a headless corpse; but…it’s so surreal…next, please.

    Don’t we already suspect this stuff (war) is unreal? Don’t movies feel more real than real war? Despite how great these images are, do we really need this kind of imagery from war? Or famine, whatever? This reminds me more of a successful fashion shoot. War is sexy. I feel crude and terrible for saying that, worse because I’m apparently the only one.

    Hands down, the photographer and the iPhone may win the EPF this year for some obvious reasons (it’s not bad to be disturbing and ground breaking). I have great reservations about photojournalism going this way, and I wonder if it’s inevitable.

  9. “This story has been published before on BURN Magazine, in FOAM magazine (Spring 2011), National Geographic Magazine (July 2011), Das Magazin (April 2011), Photoworld (April 2011), and on Time.com (2011).”

    Emerging photographer?

  10. ‘…always talking about risk because she was the beautiful woman we were both in love with… the one who made us feel the most special, the most alive. We were always trying to have one more dance with her……’
    Sebastian Junger

    and you too….
    in love with her……..


  11. I get why people are asking questions about Michael being an “emerging photographer” but…

    There’s undoubtedly more of a market for conflict images, which is what Michael seems to specialise in. And, I’m no expert, but I’m guessing there are fewer photographers producing this work than non-conflict work.

    No disrespect to Michael here, because I rate is work very highly, but those two factors alone should make it easier for him to “become established” in terms of exhibiting and getting work published in key outlets than most of the other photographers featured in the EPF so far this year.

    Where you draw the line between “emerging” and “established” is always going to be tricky. But at least DAH and the Burn team didn’t go in for some BS criteria like “graduated from photography school in the last X years” like most photography organisations do.


    Mike is “successful”, but still emerging in my opinion…all the other emerging photographer grants use age as the line …generally 30 or close to it…i do not like to use age…Michael is still emerging by my definition which is the definition we have used for the last four years..it has never changed, and i explain it every year to exactly the same people..funny..for me, emerging is not about age nor is it about how many assignments one has either..

    photogs use in their bios the magazines they have had pictures in..THEY are impressed or are trying to impress others, yet a list of magazines where work has been shown impresses very few who are really trying to see who is who…tearsheets do not a portfolio make …i have seen great magazines and great newspaper publish really bad pictures of someone and then that someone uses it in their bio..why i do not know…

    anyway forget age and forget assignments/magazine names…i go by two other markers…

    (1)mainstream/significant book published and (2)major exhibitions…none of these finalists have either….

    in other words i am going for the highest ends of acceptance in the trade..but i do know the line can seem gray but we look at everything and make that decision… everything about grant giving is about making those kinds of decisions.

    some great photographers have been eliminated from this grant because they were in fact not emerging in our opinion…..however most photogs who enter know exactly where they stand….Mike Brown will certainly not be emerging by next year i am guessing..by then he will have a major book i am sure…

  13. FRAMERS..

    you may imagine and appreciate that i have heard it all..so and so got this because they had that and they got that because they had this and why does y get credit for x when x is better than y and on and on an on ad nauseum ad nauseum…

    to those who do not sail their own boat, i say get over it, and get on with it…

    trying to analyze why somebody might have come out ahead will take away all of the delicate energy it takes to do great work..

    those who are talented are going to show up here, there, and everywhere…no one opinion will make or break anyone…it will be a large and unrelated consensus…..

    frankly, if one does the work , one will get recognized accordingly..i have honestly never seen this not be the case…as i have said here recently i do not know of any geniuses sitting in a lonely corner of their basement, bare light bulb hanging down and water dripping from the ceiling, with a lap full of great photographs unknown and unappreciated..might make a great movie script but just ain’t the case…

    ok yes there is Vivian Meier , but it remains to be seen really exactly how deep her work goes. Pretty good marketing going on there…Besides she is either the exception or sought no exposure or both…

    dah philosophy: be of good cheer, think hard, follow flights of fancy, stay focused but not narrow,play play play to your instincts and let the chips fall where they may…if things look up, stay humble, if things go wrong, get back on the damned horse and ride it hard til the sun don’t shine…

    hugs, david

  14. Michael…

    I am a fan of yours and loved this work when seeing it for the first time few weeks ago… Great to see your name appear in the short list of the EPF year after year…. I loved your work on Sakhalin 2 years ago, also liked your work in China last year, but I remember writing last year that I had the feeling you had not taken your work to the next level… It is so great to see that this is exactly in my view what you have been able to do this time… You are certainly a very talented photographer with a great eye…. I do not know if this year will be your year to be recognized with the final award as you are in great company but, if only for being here 3 years in a row, you are very deserving….


    Eric (changed pseudo but Eric E. is Eric Espinosa)

  15. DAH,
    Vivian Meier didn’t seek any exposure, even her family didn’t see the images she produced, so yeah, and exception by default, by not seeking any exposure at all.

    I meant no disrespect to war photographers, just pointing out that it’s probably a lot easier for a photographer to get published regularly if shooting in areas of conflict that are in the press a lot than if the same photographer worked on eg a less popular story closer to home, simple market forces and not any judgement on any of the photographers, their respective talents, or the success they’ve received.

    I like the criteria for the EPF. I’m not big on the prescriptive and arbitrary criteria I’ve seen elsewhere (not that I’m looking for awards at this stage anyway…) that always seem to associate “emerging photographers” with having recently graduated from a photography school, or being under 30, or under 25. What happens then to the 40 year old guy who picks up photography when circumstances permit and he has something powerful to say? Where does he go for support? The “recently graduated” criteria has always struck me as being faintly ridiculous – why try to further institutionalise an art form? Could you imagine if the Grammy awards for best newcomers only went to those who had been through music school? Hmmmm. I don’t buy that rationale at all, especially when so many photographers don’t come from a photography background (even those that do an MA, there’s a large number who didn’t do a an undergrad degree in photography, and I do wonder how much of an appeal being eligible for all these “newcomer” awards is for doing an MA at all?).

    Keep the definition of “emerging” as it is, I say, you and the Burn crew are totally spot on there.


  16. michael

    suspected this would be shortlisted.. really pleased.
    so far, the most universally interesting short-listed piece artistically, photographically and socio-politically.
    philosophers can stroke white beards to the vibe, followers of aestheticism can poise themselves over it and news-junkies can get their fix.

    on another note – you only took 1 camera body?
    and you dropped it?


  17. Loved it before, still love it.

    Michaels chops, commitment, and talent are obvious. I’m stunned at his compositional skill and sensibility.

    Wow again.

  18. When I saw this on burn the first time, I thought it the second most powerful set of photographs coming out of Libya that I had seen. Now, looking at it again, I think it perhaps the most powerful.

    It is an extremely powerful work. Michael is a superb and amazing talent.

    Heal quickly and completely, Michael. I’m sorry for the loss of your colleagues and friends.

  19. Sorta feel like I’m playing both sides of the fence on this one.
    On one hand, the images are very strong regardless of the capture device and post treatment
    but, on the other hand, have to agree, with Andy that the cartoonish feel in the color palette
    somehow undermines their value as documentary works-in my eye.

    Was surprised to learn, though, as a result of seeing image #19 that actor James Woods was a
    participant in the conflict :)


  20. I agree with everyone on all the positive stuff, pretty much, except for those who are okay with the chintzy processing. And I think that’s gonna be one of the great things about this year’s EPF. What a great opportunity for comparing different approaches to color! Two extremes! We can consider Zhe Chen’s bees with all that old-fashioned do-it-yourself attention to detail shit, and her almost painful attention to the subtleties of visual communication through color; and then we can contrast all that with what a $3 app can do to, err I mean with, some seriously compelling photos.

  21. Thanks folks for the comments. I’ll ramble on with some thoughts…

    I took one camera, an iPhone and a backpack to Libya. Of course I was planning on taking pictures, but I was primarily looking to experience what was happening at the time, what was in the air, and for this I needed minimal equipment. I felt a need to be there and did not know why I was going but traveling light seemed all part of the trip.

    Several days after arriving, I dropped the camera while photographing Friday prayers. I dropped it while reaching for the iPhone, but as I had enjoyed using the iPhone more than the camera anyway, I just used the iPhone for the remainder of the trip. Looking back it was probably the best thing that could have happened. The recording process minimized itself and maybe as a result Libya seemed less foreign, exotic and distant. I felt more involved in what was going on.

    As has been said, people respond differently to a phone than to a camera, and in some situations phones can be used to take pictures when cameras cannot. Phones are light, small, maneuverable, soundless and amateur. With one button to press much is left to chance, so the real ‘focus’ becomes ones reasons for being in a particular situation. This chance is interesting as it is enables a sort of liberation from the picture taking process. And of course there are also negatives to using a phone, like having little control over the image both while it is being taken and after it has been processed. Sometimes I could not even see the on screen image while taking the picture in the bright sunlight. Sometimes people didn’t take me ‘seriously’ as opposed to a photographer with two cameras and lenses. And more than once I was thought to be a spy, both by Libyans and foreigners. What is that person doing risking his life taking many pictures of landscapes, people and ‘nothing’ with a phone? At some point a French TV crew I rode with thought I was recording locations for air strikes! So sometimes in touchy situations I went around with a notepad and pen, as a writer, so as not to cause any confusion.

    Patricia, I like what you say about seeing into a story rather than reflecting the appearance. Sometimes our best pictures start within ourselves before they end up in reality. We might have what Chuck Close calls an accidental masterpiece, which only happens in photography, but I think most good pictures, consistently taken, start in the unconscious, from deep feeling. In a way they have their own life. So it’s about control and about being loose, and when loose the pictures are a result of sensitivities I have no control over, which affects framing, the choice of moment, etc. A type of resignation of the self, creating a transparency between how we feel about something and what is actually there. A take on a story rather than the look of the story.

    Do we really need this kind of imagery from war?
    Well while we (journos/photogs) were there Libyans often told us how they needed us. How important it was for us to tell the world what was happening. They gave their lives helping us and still are. Why? Sometimes I did not feel I was giving them anything while they gave me everything. But even so we might ask them if it was really necessary for us to record their story. Presumably many would not hesitate with their answer. But was and is that actually the case? I guess we may never know if say a no-fly zone went into effect due to on the ground reports given to say Sarkozy or because Sarkozy happened to be watching Libyan State TV. But beyond this, after the terrible incident in Misrata on April 20, when Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed, I finally began to understand the importance of this line of work. Though I still have many questions: Why? Was it worth it? Is it still worth it? The conclusion I came to is that because of people like Chris and Tim, there is light in dark places and humanity is less distant. People need to be reminded of what is happening beyond their backyard, lest we forget we are one and the same and that we are all in this together. We owe it to each other.

  22. Michael, great reply. No arguing with your conclusion. Light in dark places. Yea, that’s what it’s all about. Great work. Admirable on every level. And I don’t have any problem with the camera. Just a bit uncomfortable with the app. Sorry, but that’s only a small quibble with otherwise excellent work. Bottom line is congrats on a fine achievement and thanks for the extraordinary effort to bring us these important images.


    Thank you for putting words to a wordless feeling that has been welling up in me over these past months.

    I had been one of those saying “No photo is worth your life.” That is until Joao Silva lost his legs and suffered serious internal injuries after stepping on a land mine in Afghanistan last October. Then Tyler Hicks, Lynsey Addario, Anthony Shadid and Stephen Farrell went missing in Libya in March. And finally Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed and you and Guy Martin were injured in Misrata on that tragic day in April.

    Each of these heartbreaking events shifted something deep inside me until now I understand. Yes, there are times when a photograph is worth risking one’s life for. It is those times that you refer to when you write “…because of people like Chris and Tim, there is light in dark places and humanity is less distant. People need to be reminded of what is happening beyond their backyard, lest we forget we are one and the same and that we are all in this together. We owe it to each other.”

    And that, my friend, is worth everything. As you already know because that is how you live your life too. May you be given many more years to shine light into dark places and help us recognize our common humanity. The risks you must take are risks that enrich the lives of all. And I am grateful to you and your courageous colleagues across the world for being willing to go there on our behalf.


  24. In the end people risk their lives for personal needs …….even the so called martyr soldier, suicide bomber, citizen or PJ will risk for a variety of reasons be it money, land fame or an unshakable belief in a cause in the end it is about self

  25. My only concern is from a technical point of view. Aren’t these all 5 megapixel jpegs? Alex Webb told me today that he drum scans all his 35 mm Kodachrome slides for exhibitions and book publication(!) I understand that advantage of shooting with an iPhone, but that was always the point of shooting with a film Leica or Contax T3 point and shoot–no one notices you. With the iPhone of course you look even more like a tourist which can be great, I just would not want to be limiting myself to jpeg files and such small print sizes for output. At the NY Photo festival I saw prints from the iPhone and they getting pixelated at around A3 size.

  26. davin
    the work looks good on the web though and the relative audience – web verses print and exhibition – is incomparable..
    web show feeds the work to millions..

  27. dellicson
    Five megapixel iphone pictures should print any size you like. My son has made great 14″sq. prints of his 3megapixel hipstamatic pictures from his older iphone. I’ve printed 16×20 prints from 2megapixel images upsized in genuine fractals which looked amazing. Pixelation should only occur if the images have been upsized without re-sampleing.

  28. I a few years, these photos will look as dated as a Johnny Carson Double Knit suit. In a few decades, the funky “look” will be seen as “art” and the context of the content forgotten by those viewing them. A black light Jesus looked too cool in the 1960’s. Today we realize it was the haze from the burning drapes that clouded our vision.


    in a few more years the Johnny Carson double knit suit will be back in style…

    in a few more years you will still be just as dated as you are right this minute….

  30. Son to father in ten years: “Dad, why do they photos have funny colors?”
    Father to son: “It was cutting edge. They were shot with an iPhone! Incredible, huh?”
    Son to father: “What’s an iPhone?”

  31. JIM POWERS..

    Son to father in ten years: “Dad, why do they photos have funny colors?”
    Father to son: “It was cutting edge. They were shot with an iPhone! Incredible, huh?”
    Son to father: “What’s an iPhone?”
    Father to son:Well, an iPhone was a camera that also doubled as a very poor telephone

  32. Many landscape painters would make quick sketches in the field, only to re-work the images into larger pieces later in the studio. John Constable was a pioneer in this, followed by J.W.M. Turner, Cezanne, and in Canada, the Group of Seven. It is this sort of approach I sense in Michael Brown’s essay, even though it is quite obvious this usually is not done with photography – the reconstructions of Jeff Wall being the exception. Impressionistic grabshots enhanced with iPhone technology. It works for me for by virtue of the originality of the capture; evolution meets Revolution. Maybe the square format is what does it here. I’ve been taught that it works best when two things happen; multiple planes intersect in a way that completes the square, and the image must be superior to a rectangular, 35mm, 4×5 or other format. In Michael’s case, #21 and #25 are the stand-outs, they work great as square-format, and all of his other images I believe would look better had they been rectangular. There is a feeling that all the other photos have been cropped…which results in the sketch-like feel with this essay.
    The sketch work of painters has become an integral part of the aesthetic enjoyment of painting-as-painting, even though in the early years it was not meant to be. In this sense, I have the feeling that Michael Brown’s work is startling original, and I’m stoked that he arrived at it so serendipitously after smashing his regular camera.

  33. From time to time I find myself agreeing with you, Jim, but not on this occasion. The photos relate a story and relate it well, so does it really matter on which equipment they were produced? In ten years’ time people will most likely be looking at photos of some other conflict (sad to say). Some great photos in this essay and No. 22 is simply brilliant.

  34. Tony, I actually agree with you to a large degree. The images, technique and the conflict they picture are as transient as everything is these days. In the context of a quick look at an online slideshow, and a “cool technique” observation, it works. With the bazillions of photos that will flash before our eyes in the next 10 years, these photos will become invisible. Which is fine. In the context of a quick look at an online slideshow. I have no trouble with the concept of short-lived content. I’ve spent my working life shooting for newspapers where images are here today, gone tomorrow.

    I recognize it is a mindset from another time, when we tightly held onto the illusion that the things we held in our hands were solid.


    i do know what you mean…i still want SOLIDarity so to speak…hence my darkroom….hence my love of books, particularly handmade or special edition books….while i do glean information from the net,tv, newspapers, magazines etc, i do not get confused by what i see flashing by and what i want to savor…Mike’s pictures here may work on several levels in the long run…and sometimes an image that flashes by can also be stopped, printed, framed, and hang on my wall…multiple use of photography..why not? utilitarian at times, for pure aesthetic enjoyment other times…or just for a memory…my mom’s refrigerator door is still the “museum” of record…solid


  36. Agreed re the mindset thing Jim. Sometimes I’m left wondering what passes for documentary photography. Things I’ve seen (not here on Burn), leave me thinking that today, research and presentation often take primacy over the actual photography.

  37. Some images just never flash by, always up to date – iconic… The Che Guevara image.
    I saw the other day a teenager on the bus with a T-shirt with Che on it.

  38. a civilian-mass audience

    When you reach the top, keep climbing.”

    P.S…MICHAELCB don’t forget the signal:)

  39. EVA

    exactly..this is what i wrote the other day…men love war/combat…..or to simulate it one way or another…


    an original fiber based print of Che full horizontal frame (most think this a vertical picture) printed by Korda himself and signed hangs on my wall..well almost, the original is in a bank vault…a fine copy is on my wall..

  40. These images in and of themselves are currently relevant, moving and powerful. Whether in today’s contemporary culture anything has any lasting value is debatable. The rate of novelty is expanding exponentially and with it what was novel yesterday is pushed aside to make room for tomorrow. Technology being the biggest driver of innovation across all domains including photography. This rate of innovation being exponential will at some point hit a node of maximum novelty or singularity which as Terrence McKenna postulated in his Time-Wave Zero mathematical model points to the end of time, or the end of our current level of consciousness. My point being that I don’t see any reason for debate with regard to using the iPhone to take photos in any circumstance. It is a part of an an ongoing process of novel ingression that is unstoppable. Images are are burned on our brains in our dreams and nightmares, does it matter what chemical or alchemical process is responsible for their omens, warnings, guidance and numinosity? What this essay highlights for me is the degree to which we as a species are heading ever-fatser toward planetary and humanitarian crisis at which point we will reach a state of disorder and chaos or evolve to a higher order, to enlightenment… utopia. With the personal sacrifice of Tim, John and Michael our eyes are opened to our plight, to the common suffering of the human condition, and possibly may point to why we are on our present course.

  41. David…

    I remember seeing in American Photo magazine a picture of your loft, with the Che picture and also one of Bruce Davidson’s photos from East 100th Street. Oh and above them all a real big picture from Divided Soul, my personal favourite… the kids playing in the playground.

  42. If an IPhone file suffices then why do people like Richard Mosse or Alec Soth or Stephen Shore shoot on an 8×10? At some point, the quality of the file DOES matter. You can see it when you go to exhibitions these days, often a digital file at 50×60 inches looks digital! whereas prints at the same size made from scans of negatives look great with depth and texture. Alex Webb would not be drum scanning 35mm negatives unless he thought there was an aesthetic reason to do so. I would think an Imacon scan would suffice, but alex assures me that indeed the way to go is to drum scan your little negs!

  43. Michael – congratulations on this exceptional body of work. It really is solely driven by your vision, which I always found so unique and can extract powerful pictures out of any situation. I think very few people can do this.

    Hugs ==> L.

  44. Pingback: La République libyenne par Michael Christopher Brown « RapporteursPhoto

  45. Pingback: Libia, fotografías de una guerra. | Premio Internacional de Fotografía Luis Valtueña

Comments are closed.