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Sigurd Fandango

Fast Food Heroes

play this essay


They may not be paid very well, and the hours might be long. But behind the counters of McDonalds, Rays Pizza and other more anonymous fast food joints I found the workers to have a certain pride in their job.


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Sigurd Fandango


editors note: Norwegian photographer Sigurd, jet-lagged from Oslo, shot two portrait essays during my weekend loft workshop recently…this is one of them….he and five others joined me for my first weekend shooting workshop…it is often very interesting for me to see what some can do in such a short time….each student worked on their own “mini project”…i see value in both the long term essay and the short intense immersion into a subject…i push my students very hard to try to do something that is at least a “beginning”…..a concept they can work on more when they return home…we will see if Sigurd chooses to continue or if this was simply an exercise in his stylistic portraiture….


-david alan harvey

71 thoughts on “sigurd fandango – fast food heroes”

  1. wow…
    beautifully done..
    the music..
    the narration…
    brought tears to my eyes…
    which one is he,
    I wonder….
    would like to see some horizontal shots
    in addition…
    lovely piece…
    very moving…
    fast food,

  2. Sigurd,

    I love your work. Such expressive portraits of these ordinary men and women that actually look extraordinary. 4,5,6 and 10 are my favourites but actually why choose…all very strong. I cannot believe you did this in such a short time. Portraits seem easy but capturing a real expression can be so tricky… I hope you carry on with this essay. Even the title “Fast food heroes” is great. Says it all!!!


  3. This is a MAGNIFICENT project (short term or otherwise)….I love that the portraits are all Vertical, and that the people are the real ‘city scapes” of this series, that they define the sky and buildings behind them, that their personalities take on the character of the environment behind them, they they in truth are larger than the surrounding sky and buildings and light.

    That the picture celebrate both their strength and character and oddity and that we are left, afterward (i’ve just watched it 3 times) not with ‘fast food hero’s” but with people, with interesting, inspired faces that allow to take a look a new at the people, the people (not the faces) that most of us so often fail to see or recognize or celebrate….

    the visual aeshetics are brilliant (the people as real, and vital landscapes) but besides the brilliant and strong visual intelligence of this essay is the great, humane celebration of their lives and this work….

    in their faces and their expressions and both the quixotic and the serious moments, you have capture what it is that allows all of that surrounds to continue: this teeming life, this metropolian madness of our lives and without each of our contributions, the nuts and cracks would not hold….a funny and insightful and in the end celebrant essay!…

    a wonderful and thoughtful and fuck-yea kick-ass work….1 weekend….great….:))))

    couldn’t be happier!

    thanks for sharing with us

    all the best

  4. Pingback: sigurd fandango - fast food heroes | burn magazine | The Click

  5. Hello Sigurd,

    I love your essay… the music… sound which is very good… and portraits vertical !! it is a very good choice… for a multimedia or a book (I believe to have seen only Raymond Depardon’s book, which had chosen the vertical format for all photos), I cannot believe also that you made it one week ! It is incredible !

    all the best, audrey

  6. Hi,
    I love the idea, photographing the hidden people helping our society continue on its merry way. This also brings up the question of the type of person who are doing these jobs – which could lead to a whole other project. Sigurd has done a great job in getting these people on camera.

    I find the post production work ham fisted and therefore distracting and detracts from the content. My eye is always drawn to the technical mistakes – back to that old argument of left right brain.


  7. I have to echo Ian’s comments above with regards to some of the technical issues with the images… some better/worse than others, but love the body of work as a whole. Yeah! Keep going!!

  8. Sigurd, Nice job – great start to an essay that could run and run! The voiceover is very mooving.

    If you continue, it would be great to follow some of these people home (home New York and home Mexico etc.). As Ian says, the hidden people.

    Best wishes and congratulations,


  9. siguard – i do really like the idea of these..

    where in norway? i´m in stavanger with min samboa, beate. – moving to bergen after a month in croatia during june..

  10. Is it really so perfect? No critique? You are always so sweet ;-)

    I do not like that kind of postprocessing. It is so offensive, people looks strange and unnatural. It grabs too much attention from the meaning of the pictures and the subject. I wonder to know if those portraits could be so “powerfull” without those PS techniques.

  11. Real people, real life. They live their own lifes in harmony with themselves. Very good control of light.

    If one day life takes me to New York again, I will try to get in touch David Alan Harvey. Well, I guess one has to be a quite rich guy in order to get an advice from David.


    obviously you do not know me…i spend so much time in New York seeing young photographers who knock on my door often with no notice whatsoever and with nothing expected in return whatsoever…95% of my advice, my mentoring, is done without any compensation to me….and any astute photographer can get a whole lot from me right here online….yes, some photographers do choose official workshops which guarantee my time for a whole week and the very talented with no funds are often given scholarships…whenever i travel internationally, i also review the portfolios and the aspirations of photographers who seek it…..if you keep an eye on my schedule, which i report right here, i will be pleased to review your work whenever we can both work it out (UK late June, Italy in July)…. you may not be “rich”, but neither am i…i am in a constant state of struggle……but, ask around Anthony, and i think you will find that most will tell you that my door is open…..

    cheers, david

  13. Overcooking matters when it hits me in the stupid eyes like a hammer, and does not let us get past the overcooking. That is the case for me here, and with Klavs Bo Christensen’s disqualified work (linked above me by david bowen).

  14. to find a subject in so short of a time and photographing the heroes this way,
    this part was the most catching for me.
    from a nonphotographer standpoint,
    these pictures (most) are not very flattering.
    the light hurts my eyes and
    it looks like they should be hurting the heroes’ too.

  15. uh,stoop
    now i see that’s what you’re saying too.
    duh, didnt realize that until i read you again.

  16. Anthony R.Z.:

    I am as far from which as a photographer can get…my wife (also an artist) struggle to literally make ends me, pay the bills, raise a teen age son, buy film, print photographs, pay the hydro bill…and over the last 6 months, i literally have had extra cash to buy only 3 rolls of film, truth…

    and yet, I can call and consider David a friend, a person with whom I have talked (in person, on the phone, on the web), about whom i’ve talked about photography, life, money, family, everything. I have probably not asked for Advice from David (i guess im too stubborn, too independent ;)), but i do not think of so much as a Magnum Great Photographer (which is certainly is) but as a friend, a colleague, a person to whom i can be honest and expect honesty. he’s a part of my family’s life, and this was NEVER born from an attempt to ‘hook up’ with a famous, great photographer, but because David and I connected through love of this life, the photographic life…he didnt know me, and actually, i didnt know him, but somehow, it connected…

    David is one of the most GIVING beings on the planet…and you dont need anything to talk to him, to sit down with him, except this: time, locale, patience to get to him….if he’s blinded by anything, it is endless energy of doing doing doing….i worry about him often, but you aint gotta do anything more than contact him….talk to him here, knock on his door in nyc, get too him at a festival…he’s an over-booked man, and like 10,000,000 run after him (i’d never want that in my life, got enough already), but you need nothing to talk to david, to get his advice, except to be an open, honest human being…that’s fucking rare in the photo world, filled with lots of sharks and self-important folks….he’s a rareity…i say that as a friend…

    all the best

  17. David, it‘s so nice to hear… It’s unbelievable… Of course, I don’t know you, but about three years ago, when I chose photography as my life, I spent a lot of time in the evenings looking at your work, again and again… and I loved watching you working in Cuba on youtube :). David, any chance to see you in Lithuania? Just kidding :)

    Best regards

  18. Hi Sigurd,
    The plus of this project is……..
    1. The simplicity.
    2. The straight forwardness of the shots.
    3. The faces looks proud and the a tilt of your camera from bottom to upwards gives a nice feeling of their satisfaction to their work.

    Partha Pal

  19. I somewhat disagree about the overuse of photoshop- I felt Sigurd’s essay was incredibly emotional, using whatever techniques he needed to use to help others connect to the average man. Overproduction is a problem for lots of documentary folks, but this doesn’t seem to me the type of straight documentary piece that would require a literal interpretation of what is supposedly real. It’s about making monuments out of, forgive me, “unskilled” laborers, distorting reality..Anyway, was there even much PS used?

  20. A set of portraits which convey the pride of these ‘common men’, that is what I like the most in this essay. Honestly, contrary to the common belief here, I don’t find ‘too much’ of Photoshop here! Having said that, I would like to add that if we take the cover photo as an example, there is a distinct hallow by the edge of silhouetted building on the left. Subject to correction, I think this has been caused due to ‘incorrect’ / ‘lazy’ (I don’t know if the hallow is intentional) use of shadow/highlight option in Photoshop! Sigurd has also used fill-flash, which in digital photos sometimes makes the images appear more ‘photoshopped’ than they are actually. Now, I think every digital image needs some amount of PP/correction and as long as those corrections are within ‘limits’, these should be acceptable. Bringing out shadow details should be acceptable. I am no good in Photoshop myself, but I feel that the PP corrections in the Photoshop are minimal in these photos.

  21. Dietmar wrote: “The people look like drawn in a comic book”.

    yep, because they are presented as (super)heroes… the whole essay, as conceived, shot and postproducted, works perfectly imo, also consdering the very short time it was realized… compliments, Sigurd!

  22. Some strong portraits here though beyond that I wonder…. are they really so proud or is that just a natural reaction by anyone when they are pulled aside and asked to have their picture taken? I’m not saying they are or they are not, just raising the question.

    I don’t mind the p.p though wish it was a bit more even throughout (some of the faces too washed out imo). #8 is my favorite.

  23. This is a significant body of work in terms of both art and humanity. The POV–looking upwards into the subjects’ faces–makes them appear larger than life, and for many of these hardworking folks I’d guess that is a perspective from which they have rarely if ever been viewed. Keeping a consistent vertical format and exposure gives the essay a painterly quality I find most engaging. I too hope that Sigurd will continue this project in his own and other countries. I can see a book in the making.


  24. Reading your views on the workshop that produced Fast Food Giants, I can only say bravo.
    I took a week long workshop by Magnum in Toronto once. We were told to randomly photograph the streets. I love shooting on the street but I don’t have have to spend 1000k plus airfare etc to do that.

    I wish that we had been given the latitude to focus on a project, short or long term. I believe that I can speak for the rest of our class here. We felt like we were afloat on the sea. Directionless. Too bad, there was talent in the room that wanted to be tested and taken to task.

    It was an amazing week, we all took something away from it, but still, it fell short of the mark in many respects. Facilities being one of them.

    Amazing essay Sigurd, I enjoyed every frame.

  25. panos skoulidas

    DAH…!!!?.. rich..?????
    Hey David (rich guy)..
    Don’t forget your sleeping bag so
    you can sleep on my “luxurious” floor..
    DAH… rich…
    Moping the floor ..

  26. TED…

    thank you for your report of last year’s Magnum workshop in Toronto…i must say it does sound disappointing and as the person at Magnum who handles our education programs i need to know these things…please accept my apology…..as you know , i was not able to attend Toronto last year, so i do not know exactly how things went….however, i will be there this year…

    if you are in the Toronto area, i now invite you gratis to come to any one of our workshops starting May 4 to help make up for your not so happy experience last year….if you cannot make this, then please contact me by e-mail http://www.david@burnmagazine.org and i will offer you several locations for a free workshop during 2009..there is a very serious portfolio review required for my loft workshop in New York in the fall, but if you can make the cut, then i will offer you this workshop free of charge as well..this is my own workshop and not affiliated directly with Magnum….

    i have only one question for you Ted…if you had a week to shoot, why did you not work on a project?? i doubt any of us would tell you what ” to do” or give an assignment per se…however, any good mentor should figure out a way to key in on the personality of the photographer, factor in their skill level, and push them in ways they never dreamed and towards a “result” of which all can be proud…

    many great photographers are not necessarily great teachers….i know some photographers at Magnum and elsewhere who would really have trouble with a student who was not totally self motivated and/or naturally impassioned…in other words, that is how they “are” , so they may have a hard time understanding how to motivate someone who is not naturally motivated or ready to jump into the fray…..this works out ok for some students who fly into the first day and are ready to rock..but, this does not work for everyone…some need the key passed and some great photographers are just not skilled at passing the key….

    however, no matter what, nobody should walk away from a Magnum workshop feeling as did you…

    again, i apologize for your experience in Toronto last year and i hope you will accept my compensation to you….

    cheers, david


    nice observation amigas…you “got” one of the things Sigurd thought about a lot…such a simple thing and obviously unnoticed consciously by many, the very subtle low angle giving these fast food workers dignity…and , of course, i fell in love with the sound track..we all did..we could not help ourselves constantly quoting the narrator…we would walk around my loft saying “always”…..

    cheers, david

  28. David, it was easy for me to catch on to Sigurd’s POV since it looked so familiar to my eye. Hey, that’s how I see everyone from my scooter. You’re ALL larger than life to me!!!


  29. Very fresh and “contemporary” use of B&W! The angle, depth of field and use of flash help build an uplifting mood. Combined with the great expressions you captured, the series works very well on many levels.
    You manage to have a subjective but not pompous take on the subject. A clear vision.


  30. Fine work, and yes, Patricia, right on on the angle, Ithere is absolutely no doubt that Sigurd approchad his subjects with total respect.

    Yet for me, unless he wanted to convey that urban minimum wage workers are greek Gods on their own (and we are all, if we compare our basic rights with those of average men in older and ancient societies. Most of us do comparatively live like kings 2 or more centuries ago) it is a bit too stylistic and formal an approach given the simplicity of the subject, as Sigurd introduced it to us.

    The dramatic skies, almost ciseled in marble, do steal, IMO, from te subjects, throw me off totally. It’s as if they are an equal presence, and an intrhoning (not threatening) presence to the individuals in the shot.

    Maybe, as with Gilden’s NY street work (I sense a small influence actually), we are first thrown off a bit, then conquered by such stylistic approach.

  31. Sorry, but these portraits do nothing for me. I find the post-processing doesn’t work for me (are the subjects so boring that you had to “spice things up?”). I also think that doing these in black & white and a lack of environmental context causes me to shrug and say “so what?” If I didn’t know they were fast food workers I would have had no idea, or not without close examination of their shirts. The whole thing seems like a pointless exercise…sorry if that’s harsh. The intention of the photographer is not enough, though plenty of people seem content with that. Honestly David, does there have to be a soundtrack? It’s a weird concept. The photos should stand on their own. I find the first thing I do when I check the latest Burn RSS feed is hit PAUSE and MUTE. Cheers.

  32. Nice work. such a simple project – but done so well. i like that you brought each person outside and photographed them in the same light, angle, etc – instead of in their environment. nice.

  33. MIKE…

    no, there does not HAVE to be a soundtrack…students choose whether to have music, live sound, or silence with their work….i am so sorry you did not come to the show, for you would have seen all three choices employed…as well as different styles depending on where each photographer was trying to “GO” and where they were coming “FROM”…

    you are quite correct, photographs should always be able to stand on their own…however, for slide shows very often a sound track is effective particularly for presentation to a live audience….as i have said many times before, an exhibition of work is one thing, a printed piece another, and a slide show quite another….sometimes the viewing medium dictates how any ancillary material is to be used…

    i fell in love with this particular monologue…found it poignant …..and i felt his words matched very clearly his face…he looked like the man who would say those words…obviously it did not hit you the same way..fair enough Mike….

    i cannot imagine you would see a sound track as a “weird concept” right at a time where one tremendous section of our whole craft is thundering towards not only live sound but video implementation as well…

    if you hit mute BEFORE you see the show, how in the world do you know if you like it or not???

    frankly , i do feel that multi-media is in the future going to be way way overdone just because technology will allow us to do it so easily…however, masters will appear in this new craft…an interesting one is coming here in a few days….if you hit “mute” on this one coming Mike (Crest Hotel) it will be like cutting the sound track off before watching Lost in Translation…now that would be a “weird concept”…

    we talked quite a bit with Sigurd about context…to have or not to have a McDonald’s sign or building in the background to give context…to quite literally “tell us” these were fast food workers….finally Sigurd decided against such banal overly obvious signage…as did Avedon for his portraits in the American West….as you may remember , not a mountain or prairie in sight..

    i do not think anyone would think that this essay is a final product or a “done deal” nor would i imagine everyone to like these portraits or for “everyone” to like “everything” no matter what is presented…..Fast Food Workers is definitely a “work in progress” OR maybe Sigurd will drop the idea completely..but, to call this one day shoot a “pointless exercise” is a bit tactless Mike IMO given that i doubt you have any idea where 22 yr. old Sigurd was with his photography BEFORE meeting these fast food workers….sketches lead to paintings….Sigurd is simply sketching, which is exactly how it was presented here on BURN….

    Mike, please join us next time around….just pop in and hang out…….it would be good to see you again and i still am anxious for you to do some writing here when you have time…Look3 for you??? at least please drop me a note at http://www.david@burnmagazine.org so we can make a plan….

    cheers, david

  34. Love The soundtrack. Very touching.
    Finding it hard to love the frames though. I do appreciate that you have given them some dignity back[maybe they never lost it, who knows?], and for a short series it does have cohesion[which apparently is important], but despite all this I find myself ‘noticing’ the technique above the work. I am sure that a lot of work has gone into the making of this set, and it does have a lot to say, and people really are liking it, but it isnt quite there yet for me and I believe its down to the treatment of the treatment.

  35. So. I have been having trouble with this essay since it came upon us. i love the soundtrack, love the music. what i have been having difficulty with is (what is to me) putting people on a ‘stage’ in a role.
    i like people as they are. but, sometimes, we need to light up people who are against the wall, in a corner, behind something to awaken our senses and realities. to show us something, tell us something. you know those people at parties or in groups sometimes who are quiet? who knows how interesting they are? you made me wonder about all these people. their expressions are engaging. I don’t really care about your PP; it’s your deal.
    What impresses me most is that YOU cared. You worked hard to do a mini-complete project. there are layers of thought and creativity going on here. big time. That’s making it happen. you stayed with it. you did it. i’m so respectful of that. you didn’t flounder around, shooting from your hip and being surprised with the results. loved seeing it. listening. and mostly thinking and thinking. thank you. anne

  36. ANNE…

    it is always nice to hear from you my friend…we have lost touch a bit and i wish it were not so….i miss your energy and enthusiasm for life which shows so clearly in your work…please let me know either here or by private e-mail what you have been doing…i KNOW you have been doing something because if there is anyone on this planet that i can be sure is creating something near and dear to the heart, it is you….

    if you ever get all the way down down down to the Carolina outer banks please please visit me…there is nothing i would enjoy more than your presence in my home….

    hugs, love..david

  37. i am working on some things i’m excited about. alex and becky have had a look. i’d love to share them with you. anywhere. i am obsessed with the outer banks and am planning a trip there for one of my projects…
    “about the sea” not waves and stuff, but fishermen/women that feeling you can taste by looking and being by the water…i miss you. i’ll be at Look3 as a visitor, but before that, i’m on my way to you.
    love you. anne

  38. on the ESSENTIAL nature of sound/soundtrack….nothing to add to what David has suggested either, when i consider sound, it is as a part of the presentation, not a last-minute decision…whether i use music (as i did for bones and for the EPF presentation at Look3 last year), or natural sound (which i actually prefer best of all) or voice, it all depends…a book is silent….an exhibition can be either silent or filled with sound…a slideshow presentation can be both, or contain both (i used silence at the end of bones, but most people were like, hey the music stopped, so i guess that idea failed miserably)…anyway, this is NOT the same thing, but i’m posting a video from a wonderful Columbian artists who now lives in Toronto…my wife had the pressure to meet and befriend her….magical work, but take a listen….it isnt photography of course, it’s video/filmmaking, but LISTEN to how important sound is here (the singing and the clattering and clinking of the ice/bones)…..

    by the way, i loved too the voice narration in Sigurd’s piece..

    ok, the video FEBRUARY, Julieta Maria



  39. Oh Anne, not another photographer on the outer banks! And I thought I had this place all to myself…. just kidding. Stop in to my studio when on Hatteras, about 25 miles south of DAH, or LOOK3 for me in Charlottesville somewhere. Crabs are steaming, gotta run.

  40. STOOP:

    no time to write, but you’ve got to be kidding me….have you read all 3 parts of his analysis?…..the irony is that he begins this diatribe with an interesting observation…from Part I

    “Haiti doesn’t have much to offer its own people, but it does have two important things that photographers can appreciate. 1) There’s a constant stream of personal hardships happening there, that normally a would-be contest winner would have to travel all the way to Africa to capture….”

    and this doesn’t betray or underlie the same superfluity that he accuses Klavs and others of engaging…the difference, one has to do with the ‘appearance’ of a photograph (an uninteresting image that’s been Shopped into being) and the other (his mentality) as to do with the superficiality of what constitutes photographic (i imagine he’d name this engaged or humanitarian) philosophy….

    the irony too, is that he extolls the virtues of his own work while diminishing that of the others…his shot of Phelps???…give me a break….the irony of his argument, and the argument of others, vis-a-vis the post-production of a phtoograph within the framework of Journalistic practice, completely fails to come to terms with the inherent nature of both photography and the bias of reporting to begin with….

    you know the fabled beginning of Kundera’s The Lightness of Being?…as magnificent of an example of the role of photogrpahy, history., conceit as one can articulate….the problem IS NOT the appearance of images, but the reading of them, the intention of the photographers, the use of them, our own failure to understand beyond the power of the photograph….

    Jarecke’s kind of hectoring logic is just as superficial as those running around p-shopping their pict to make them look edgy…..

    good journalism is very simple:

    tell the story in the clearest way you know how and allow the readers to draw conclusions for themselves, based on the inspiration of the story, the presentation, to get them off their asses and reflect or search for more…

    this kind of shit is just empty and serves no value to either 1) reduce the practice of mechanical, operatic journalism or 2) cattle the biting dogs of photographers…..

    the whole debacle, including this diatribe, and much i’ve read, smacks of pompous, self-important witch hunting….

    i hope he’s not applying for membership into our beloved SPA…check that, maybe we need just that: both of them ;))


  41. David

    No need to apologize, but thank you for doing so.

    I will not be in Toronto until May 15-18th this year, so the Toronto workshop looks doubtful.
    It is extremely kind of you to offer me a workshop in 2009, it is an offer that would be hard to pass on. In fact it would be unthinkable to pass on such a generous offer.

    I will have to get a selection of some recent work to you. Would a pdf slideshow suffice. I will need an email address to send it to. Unfortunately I cannot post this work publicly.

    In regards to your one question, “why did you not work on a project??” I did break ranks and started shooting my own project. But only for two days. To me, or what I was hoping for, was to get close to a subject/story and develop a relationship, not just being physically close but getting close on an emotional, human level and having that reflected in the images. That approach embodies the Magnum philosophy to me. It is where I needed to push myself. Shooting randomly on the street fell short of that.

    The photographer that I choose for the workshop is someone that I have the highest level of respect and admiration for. I still do. I took away what I could from the experience. This being a public forum, I don’t want to mention specifics or air grievances, but I would be willing to communicate to you privately.

    I am disappointed David, but I wouldn’t say that I failed. I flew out of Toronto with some work that I am happy with and in the end that is what it is all about. The Magnum photographer that led the course is still tops in my book, perhaps the workshop breakdown was systematic. All the best.


  42. Sidney: :)))

    Often, I will change a word class depending on the intent or what meaning I’m after, in order to suggest something more emphatic or metaphoric. I particularly enjoy using nouns as verbs, for Verbs are the engine of sentences and the electricity of thought (as opposed to adjectives or nouns or adverbs)…so, i often (especially in essays or poems, or when im riffing on an idea) use non-verbs as verbs, if both the music and the meaning of the phrase i’ve written holds….something i learned to love from joyce, cummings and salinger and antunes…most of my prose contains that kind of reworking…


    To Cattle: meaning both to heard/to corral with the suggestion that the group becomes a herd, but with the viciousness of a pack of dogs…..

    hope that makes sense….then again, maybe I should be doing all this acrobatic shit here and save it for the written, hand-held page :))))…

    all the best

  43. to cattle: to collectivize toward the ‘non-thought’ of a group of cows (who also, eventually, will stampede if provoked)…..though, gotta confess, i LOVE LOVE cows….the non-human kind…

    an example, a COW POEM


    The distant hills call to me
    Their rolling waves seduce my heart
    Oh, how i want to craze in their lush valley
    Oh, how i want to rush down their green slopes.

    Alas, I cannot.

    Damn the electric fence!
    Damn the electric fence!

    -The Far Side
    Gary Larson

    sorry for the hijack Sigurd :))


  44. hello to all
    i guess i am ok with this set, but a few things do bother me, for what its worth, i am not particularly fond of close range portraits with wide or semi wide lenses, from a lower angle this tends to create a rather unflattering distortion, the big belly syndrome. also not really into looking up the nostrels to much. i think the light also is a little over expressed. kind of gimicky, and overly dramatic.
    the thing i like about these pics are the people. i like normal people that have the wear and tear of life etched into their faces, but to me it seems as though the photog is more concerned with his methodology and technique than doing justice to the subject and their story.
    on another note, wodering what the criteria for work to be exhibited here is, is there a panel that gives the thumbs up or down, or is it DAH only, does it help if you are writing thoughtfull comments, or unthoughtfull comments or having had taken a workshop etc etc, i have my own thoughts about this but if i am to blunt or insensitive DAH might flip like he did before.

  45. Bob,

    Judging from what you’ve written above, I think you’ve pretty much misinterpreted everything I said in my three “Let’s Be Honest” blog posts.

    1) In my opening paragraph which you’ve quoted above, “Haiti doesn’t have much to offer…”

    I was attempting to use a literary technique know as “irony”. Perhaps I failed in that regard. What I was trying to say is that more often than not photographers looking to win contests usually travel to Haiti because it’s a lot easier to get to (from the states) then Africa.

    It was interesting to see this played out during the POY judging that was streamed online. The judges were literally putting more value on pictures of lesser quality simply because they imagined that the photographer was working under dangerous or more stressful conditions.

    Ironically (will see if it works this time), making good pictures of war, famine, floods, earthquakes, pick your hardship, are usually much easier than making good pictures in your own neighborhood.

    I’m not quite sure what you were trying to communicate in your third paragraph. Are you suggesting that I think it’s OK for me to photograph human suffering because I have some altruistic or humanitarian ideals to hide behind and thus consider myself better than those that simply want to win a contest?

    If so, you may be right.

    2) I suppose that now and then I do extol the virtues of my own work over others. Don’t you?

    This of course was not the goal of publishing the image of Phelps with one of his gold medals. The astute reader (perhaps you should give my posts another read) will know that the reason I posted that picture was to illustrate the fact that the badgering of forty or fifty photographers, on the behest of their editors who feel the need to publish pictures like this, actually works to destroy the chances of making a decent picture and chases the readers away from the publications that print them.

    Maybe we got caught up on the irony thing again.

    The rest of your post above is your opinion. Which is completely cool. Of course you’re entitled to say what you like. I will however make a couple more points to help clarify my postion(s).

    Now that digital equipment has removed much of the technical (well at least chemical) obstacles to making pictures and everyone has access to an audience via online outlets, journalism is indeed simple. One only has wait for the next unplanned news event, chances are the first report and images will come via Twitter.

    Good journalism, not to mention “great” journalism is still fairly rare and elusive.

    I’ve never been an advocate for one type of capture method or another. I strive to use the best tool for the job. In fact, I’ve always been a vocal advocate for the, for lack of a better term, “personal journalism” which is practiced in the Magnum tradition.

    The last thing I want, and I stated this fairly clearly I believe, is a bunch of people making pictures as if they were going to be used for evidence in a criminal trial.

    I think we are a little self-important in our own minds. What other perspective do we have to go on (I’m not looking for spiritual guidance btw)? But let me assure you, I gave Klavs every benefit I could with the information I had.

    One of my other concerns, which I never mentioned though perhaps should have, was that Klavs probably was in Haiti for a very short while and was simply trying to make the best out of his limited time there.

    If these images were published in a magazine, I wouldn’t have went after him (just the magazine). I learned a long time ago that there’s usually a big difference between the photographer’s vision and goals, and what ends up published. These images were entered into a contest however, which means Klavs should have had plenty of control over his work at that point.

    So I don’t think I was doing much witch-hunting.

    I’m not sure what SPA stands for, but I’ll try to avoid crashing your party if I can.

    All the best,

    Btw, thank you Stupid for the link.

  46. My problem Ken, has been the language in which this entire debate has been and continues to be couched. It is not a personal condemnation of your work. I have been a journalist (a writer) and am also a photographer. I think a reasonable code of ethics is essential to the practice of not only journalism but all professional conduct. What i find most frustrating in much of the coverage that I’ve read (at Lightstalkers, on blogs and professional communities) is that the heart of the issues are often but aside through a wringing of condemnation for a colleagues style or, can i suggest, grammar of depiction. Though I do not entirely subscribe to all of the particulars, i do try to lead an ethical practice, as a writer (when i wrote for newspapers) and as a photographer who works within a documentary tradition. The problem i found with the logic of your post, as well as much of the condemnation that arose amide the professional photographers I interact with, is that it indeed became more like an incendiary witch hunt that a careful and circumspect discussion of the role and use of imagery within the tradition of journalism.

    My one concern, as a professional photographer and writer, with regard to the judgment of the ethics of other colleagues is what was their intent and what is the relationship to the pictures/story to the event and people. I find, in truth, much often events are, in fact, managed by a calvary of photographers, whether that’s in the war zones, the developing nations, or the news-center areas. The onus should come not from our categorical judgment of others, but on our relationship to our own code of behavior. Suggesting that Haiti is a fine place for photographers to haunt because of the human grief is to suggest, for me, what is more venomous and deleterious about our profession.

    It seems, often in our profession, we’ve confused ethical behavior with aesthetic disagreement. Part of this, for sure, as to do with the photo worlds infantile need (like hollywood) to self-congratulate itself with all these stupid awards. Even the idea that photographers think about that, is an indication, that something has gone amiss. Suggesting that post-production is deceiving or unethcial (as it is, when the factual information is just wrong, i.e., the beginning of Kundera’s tale of visual revision of 1968 political leaders and a missing hat) when it in fact may be no more than just poor judgement, is a slope upon which each of us must be very careful before we assault others with.

    I repeat. As a journalist, I was assigned the task of a simple thing: to make a story as clear and as honestly and as open to the readership as possible. Photoshopping photographs (or over processing in a dark room) is clearly an example of when the aestheticization of a moment becomes more important than the subject’s of that moment, to which I too instinctually feel troubled, but i think the problem is not that, but with the nature and our relationship to that, of reporting. I am not convinced that photojournalism, in its entirety, as come to terms with this. If they have, why is it that we see are fed stories of the world through the focus of primarily western reporters, or at least, reporters who are visiting the spot of document?….

    The problem is a lot more complicated that the blogsphere has, for the most part, attended. That is what i am suggesting.

    All the best

    p.s. a code of ethics to which i’ve tried to adhere:


  47. last think, promise. in the code there is the line

    “Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible.”

    In one of the papers that I wrote and shot for, which at the time was owned by the NY Times, there was that very specific mandate by which guided the reporters and editors worked beneath with regard to ‘technical development’ of pictures. In the work David has published, as well as the work you site on the blog (including some of the work that won WPP awards this year (and last), there are varying degrees of post-production manipulation, enhancement, change, alteration. The question, from the point of view of reporting, have these altered the story? This is a profoundly difficult question because photography, and language, is already a subjective means, a ‘corrective’ expression of the passage of an event. The digital pictures made now do not AT ALL look like reality. We both know that, yet we allow for that, just as Capa’s pics on D-Day or PJG pics did not look like Omaha Beach or Vietnam, but their ‘look’ was not necessarily in the service of the aestheticization of the subject. This is the difficult and very hard-to-answer question.

    Since when did German or Japanese glass look register the world as the eye and mind do? Therein lay the problem. All the more reason, we must be careful to discuss, argue, wrestle with these questions.

    A overly-saturated photograph of an impoverished back yard seems in poor and immature taste…but is it the same as photo-shopping in an additional missle or burning building?….

    I am happy Stoop brought up your blog essay, because these are important issues that each of us wrestle with (as with the comments pertaining to Anton’s picture), the question however is this:

    have we lost sight, on both sides, of why it is we’re using photographs to tell stories and to document?…aren’t both sides of the argument (the guys doing all the crazy PS as making pics look, ummm, more award-winning and the guys condemning the hell out of them), missing the bigger point?…

    i dont know, but that’s how it feels to me, as a writer and a photographer….

    all the best

  48. one last point to consider, top think about….(sorry, my brain in in space)…

    the issues raised also came up with the magnificent work of Chris Anderson’s Presidential Primary coverage….I’ve sat over a beer with chris and chatted about this very issue, and it came up again at the Magnum Blog when Chris was hammered by folk who judged the work as poor ….

    for sure, that work, and the strange, disorienting, strong use of flash was odd for most (i loved it, no secret there), and wouldnt be published in newspapers…but, it ran, i believe in Newsweek…one could argue, that by using the argument of many at the moment, that the work itself was a violation of standard reporting protocol….i’ve written enough and way too many words at Magnum about that point of view (i think chris’ work was insightful and powerful and, like a fine essayist writing, added much that was needed using the tools of photographic vocabulary), …anyway, how does one deal with those images?….

    anyway, just something to add to the discussion…

    all the best bob

    chris’ story

    Here: http://tinyurl.com/cw522o (michigan primary with the great show of Mitt in the car)

    and here: /d5r8qu (add the tiny url information to the beginning to get the link)

    all the best

  49. Love it!

    Wonder if the look in discussion is not merely the result of Sigurd’s way of using his flash …

    Just a thought.
    Love it as it is, though.

  50. Hah! First time I check this website, and I find a series from a “local” photographer I have often been impressed by. Cool! I think the low angle fits with the “heros” theme, but also see that it’s not perfect. I agree that the images may be seen as overly dramatic, but I like them a lot. Nice work! Funny to see the Far Side poem again – one of my favorites :-)

  51. I definitely have mixed feelings about this series, but I feel as if my opinion could be swayed with an explanation from the artist on why he shot these photos in this style. My first impression is that the portraits are not flattering; the harsh lighting combined with the sharpness exaggerates the pores/imperfections on the skin, not to mention the angle seems to distort them as well. I do not see these details as a photographer’s error, but more less something very intentional (that I would love to hear about!) I am always curious about the thought process during a shoot or in the development of an idea like this one. I see this as a portraiture series in which the artist took people who are typically overlooked as food service workers and kept them at distance, but deemed them “heroes” at their profession. Why does the artist label them heroes? Why can’t we have more insight into their lives outside of their workplace? Are they heroes because they pride themselves in their jobs? What is the connection between their profession and the manner in which their portraits were taken? Once again, I would love to have some insight into this body of work.

    Best Regards,

  52. So, why are we talking about photojournalism and photojournalistic ethics in this thread? Maybe I’m just stupid. And where the f*&% are the oranges?

  53. Sigurd, just went through your website, should have earlier. Very, very impressive work from portrait to reportage to fashion, and clear distinctions between. Am looking forward to seeing new work there in the future.

  54. Bob, as a friend, if I may call myself that, I have to say with all kindness that I re-read your original post regarding Kenneth Jarecke’s blog and I really do think you both misinterpreted a number of his points and overreacted in your rebuttal. To characterize a respected photojournalist’s opinion, or frankly anyone’s opinion who logically and carefully presents their point of view, as “superficial,” “shit,” “empty” and of “no value” seems uncharacteristically harsh for the buddhist in you. He did not present his argument in those terms at all, why are you? I understand you are frustrated but I believe you may owe him an apology. You okay Bob?

  55. Kathleen Fonseca


    i am not a fan of CPL, no not conspicuous panty line but Conspicuous Photoshop Look. I absolutely hated the Haiti pics in that link. Looked like the memory card was put through a Mr. Coffee machine. It accomplished nothing but to artificially amp up the drama. *yawn*..on the other hand, in this essay, the photoshop was anticipated from the get-go to get your point across. And it works big time. Sure, you had to get it done fast and it looks like you went a little bit overboard on some but this is like a first draft and you’ll no doubt be tweaking this project till you get just the look you’re after. That’s to be expected. So no complaint from me there.

    Elevating these wonderful subjects by shooting low and capturing them in front of those turbulent skies is really quite touching. If we saw these people on their jobs we’d look past them, through them, around them. And that’s your point. With your photos we are forced to look not just at them but up at them, or up to them (a subtle but very intriguing distinction). This food they shovel out to the masses, that is grabbed, gulped down, forgotten, heh, is that elevated as well? These hugely individual powerful people, well is it possible they could make something as insignificant as an Egg McMuffin? No surely they must be putting the final touches on the Washington Monument or the GW Bridge. At least! These photos make me wonder about where they’re from, what their dreams are made of. And there’s nothing that makes my day more than photographs of people that make me wonder, make me care. So, kudos to you..you did it..i LOVE this project!!! It’s smart, it’s respectful, empathetic, accomplishes a higher good and has the potential of changing perceptions and prejudices.

    I did find it curious that there’s all this poo-pooh’ing of photoshop in this essay and nothing but defense of it’s use when it came to Daria’s photo. Now, i don’t want to be cynical guys. Surely it has nothing to do with the fact that Daria is a nubile babe using photoshop to make her even more nubile-y and babe-like while these gritty, greasy guys (and lady) in wrinkled shirts look like they could take you out with one punch? nah…couldn’t be…nah, kat, you’re just being cynical..yeah, i thought so..

    best to all and gooodnight!


  56. or frankly anyone’s opinion who logically and carefully presents their point of view, as “superficial,” “shit,” “empty” and of “no value” seems uncharacteristically harsh for the buddhist in you.

    Bob? Merda or not metta…….. That is the question! :-)))))))))))))))

    Off to Picardie, guys… great region, still full of the memories or XXth centuries wars, I think Marcin, Anton, you feel that in some places, in your own countries too. Something in the air, the feeling is still powerful, just being there.

  57. yes i do hervé, yes i do.

    our grandfathers and great grandfathers bled for the soil i now live on…

    good luck in picardie, amigo


  58. Young Tom, Ken, all:

    let me say it simply and clearly, colleague to colleague:

    1) Ken is an excellent photographer. I know and knew his work before Stoop posted Ken’s blog. I respect him as a photographer and colleague.

    2) I have never met Ken in person and felt no personal disdain or disrespect with regard to him.

    3) I read the “Let’s Be Honest” Essay (all 3 parts) 2 times, slowly, before i posted my original thought, it was purposely provacative (my comment): my bad

    4) I re-read the blog posts (all 3 parts) 2 more times last night.

    5) I agree with some of what Ken has written, but there are parts of the essay and the tone of language that i feel are equally as problematic with regard to the character. The language used toward Hait, the language about the ‘hoard of twenty or so Dutch photographers yelling and screaming for the women to give them something like this image instead (who the heck brings a strobe to the Olympics anyways?).” etc….I’m wondering if this orientation was different from my own language of dismissal? ;))) (which was part of my intent)

    6) I have made it a practice in my off-line and on-line life to try to not dismiss colleagues or their practice, though as a working photographer have been frank and open to all about my own ideas and experience. I try to promote the photographic life and the work of other photographers much more than my own work/photographic life.

    7) In the joust of on-line banter, much has been lost, particularly given how i write.

    8) I meant no personal disrespect for either Keith (as a colleague) or Keith’s ideas.

    9) choosing the use a digital camera which produces essentially color raw files and then printing as b/w is, for me, no different than post-production intrusion: it’s all the same orientation, the question is this: again, what is the service and reason of the image.

    10) I do find dismissal of others’ work frustrating.

    11) My apologizes if that was improperly or rudely or disdainfully conveyed. The intent was to challenge the tide of reactionary criticism that has housed in a place of I-am-more-authentic-ethical photographer mentality. I DO NOT feel that Ken has this orientation. I did feel, that the ideas, contained a lick of that.

    12) What matters is how we behave not what we think. I am sorry if i offended.

    bye and cheers

    all the best


    i flipped?? laughing ….i only “flip” when i think someone is being rude…dissent i welcome…so “dissent” away….yes, i am the only one choosing pictures for publication on BURN….and the pictures come to me through the “submissions” zone at the top of the page…so, basically they are coming from the readers here….very few pictures published here come from my workshop students, but occasionally they do…i do not believe i have ever seen you submit anything for BURN, and i remember clearly suggesting that you do so….

    cheers, david

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