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EPF 2010 Finalist

Dima Gavrysh


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I took a photograph of Captain Harris, the commander of Combat Outpost Tangi, in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, as he was waiting for a helicopter to take him to the funeral of one of his soldiers. While he was covered by a cloud of dust, he seemed lost and overcome by his surroundings  the photo turned out to be truthfully despondent. His people are hated by the locals. He hates to lose his people to IEDs. I bet he hates the role he is assigned to play in winning hearts and minds of the locals, and he probably doesn’t believe in it even if he tries.

The photographs I shot through a night vision device had a quality reminiscent of early silver gelatin process and modern video games at the same time. In the first picture of my portfolio, the soldiers portrait acquired a GI-Joe-like quality, with the humanity taken out of his appearance. He looks like a war robot, a part of greater military machinery, and not as an individual human being. There is uneasiness and despair mixed with confusion. No one knows the right way to fight this war and when it is going to end, if ever. All of it looks like some huge experiment, where a civilization is being pushed forward through warfare. It doesn’t seem to work and yet we try.



Dima Gavrysh is a Ukrainian-born, New York City-based photojournalist. He started his career in the mid-90’s in Kiev, Ukraine. For the past 10 years, he has worked with major news agencies such as Associated Press, Agence France Press, European Press-Photo Agency, Gamma-Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg News.

Dima’s work has been published in magazines and newspapers worldwide including The New York Times, Time, People, Paris Match, Independent, Marie Claire, Stern and Newsweek.


AI+AP (American Photography + American Illustration): published in 2008- 2010 yearbook.

2010 PDN Photo Annual Contest: Photojournalism.

International Photography Awards ? Lucie: honorable mention: 2008-2009.

XVIII Eddie Adams Workshop participant: winner of an internship for the Washington Post.com: 2005


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Dima Gavrysh


83 thoughts on “dima gavrysh – insha’allah”

  1. The main (if not the only) goal of army training is to make a person a killing machine, with no hesitation in pulling the trigger…The foot-soldier, whether in the military or as a priest in the church, is the most basic weapon of those in power to do as they will, in the name of patriotism, religion or other such veils.

    It is good to see humanity still, in these beautiful photographs.

  2. he has worked with major news agencies such as Associated Press, Agence France Press, European Press-Photo Agency, Gamma-Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg News.

    Dima’s work has been published in magazines and newspapers worldwide including The New York Times, Time, People, Paris Match, Independent, Marie Claire, Stern and Newsweek.

    Fine work, but I’m curious by what standard this guy is considered “emerging?” What if Cartier-Bresson’s widow enters some of his pics next year? Think he might have a shot?

  3. Magnificent photojournalism. Many of these photos I have seen on the NY Times Pictures of the Day. Like Michael W, I question this obviously established photojournalist being identified as “emerging.” He may be young but Dima Gavrysh is certainly experienced. And very very good at what he does.

    David, I’d be interested to hear how you determine which of the many talented entrants to the Emerging Photographers Fund actually fit the classification as emerging? Now that the EPF winner receives such a significant amount of money, I expect that more and more young established photogs will submit their work in the future.


  4. Dima, congratulations on being published here. I like 2,8,12 and, my favourite, 18. Not sure what to make of the essay as a whole: some (most) good photography here but I don’t feel better informed, apart from 18 (and the written info about the photograph in your intro). I’d like to know how you came to your title for the essay. It seems a little too easy and lightweight?

    You mention that Captain Harris is assigned the role of winning hearts and minds: I’d really like to see some photographs of the meetings with the Afghan locals and interviews / quotes from them that give an idea of how the coalition troops are perceived: invaders or protectors? I’d on bet the latter. I’d also like some interviews / quotes from the troops. Does being embedded limit you? Thanks for sharing. Stay safe.


  5. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    Lots of conflicting thoughts about this body of work and its appearance here.

    As ‘conflict photography’ it’s capable if not adequate. But what I’m rather more interested in is your relationship to this work and to the ‘idea’ of this work. Why do you feel you need to do this kind of photography when it has been seen and seen again? What do you feel this body of work brings to the portrayal of war and young men and women out of their element that we as a virtually embedded audience dont already know? What is the personal attraction and why do you think this is any more relevant than every other entirely similarly rendered series of soldiers in war zones?

    I would truly love to feel an original kind of work here, but I feel like it is more of the kind of work that keeps news agencies (which seems to be your world and your work) in business and sales of digital cameras and flack jackets to photo journalists brisk.

    That said, image # 8 starts to get somewhere for me…..

  6. And is this a personal project? Covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for major worldwide news organizations? I want to be careful with tone here, I’m just a curious bystander, but it appears that this work is neither by an emerging photographer nor represents what should realistically be called a personal project. If this kind of thing is eligible, which it obviously is, perhaps you might consider changing the name to something like “Deserving Photographer’s Fund.”

  7. michael

    i only chatted briefly with dima on the bus back from lookbetween and, although he would want to expand for himself, he spoke about the russian connection.. his homeland and initial motivation for traveling to afghanistan.. in that sense it could be a personal project..
    i am certainly of the opinion that just because photos are sold and clients commission them it does not mean they cannot be part of a personal project – much of my work has happened in this way.

    dima – it was interesting to hear this perspective and view your work within the context of this personal connection.. could you tell us more?

    also – is there somewhere online it is possible to view the collaborative multimedia piece you showed at lookbetween? would love to see it again..

    (p.s. i am english and not proud of the british :ø)

  8. (p.s. i am english and not proud of the british :ø)
    that definitely sounds familiar…

    Missing u davidb….
    hope u doing more than fine up north… Biggest hug

  9. Congratulations, Dima!

    Love the “artificial” quality of light in most of this essay photos. I would have loved to see more portraits from the “Soldiers of Zerok” series: they really convey the meaning of your words “He looks like a war robot, a part of greater military machinery, and not as an individual human being.” (I got a similar feeling looking at the headshots of fully-equipped soldier, sort of Kafkian characters from The Metamorphosis, shot by Platon for The New Yorker: http://www.platonphoto.com/thenewyorker/service/index.html). The Zerok portrait, together with photo #8, open the essay towards a more personal research, away from typical mainstream media war imagery imo.

  10. Just took a look. I must think about this one a bit before I comment. Perhaps, even after contemplation, I will still be at a loss for words.

    I think Michael Webster’s question is an excellent one, however. I had wanted to enter this competition and had just the project, but after giving it serious thought I decided that, given my career as a photographer and one who has become reasonably well known though not famous, except in Alaska, it would be too much of a stretch for me to claim to be an emerging photographer, even though I continue daily to struggle to emerge.

    And here we have a fine photographer who, in many ways, would seem to have already emerged.

    I don’t begrudge him his appearance on Burn, however; I would just like to have my mind come to terms with the various definitions of “emerging photographer.”

  11. Just to be clear, I recognize that it’s entirely Burn management’s call on how they conduct their contests. It’s just that, being a writer and all, I tend to get stuck on the meaning of words and apparently “emerging” has a totally different meaning for Burn management folk than it does for most everyone else. I guess I can see a scenario where that makes sense. Perhaps if you’re a member of Magnum and longtime NatGeo photog, someone who has merely worked for all the wire services and one-level-down mags such as Paris Match and Stern has yet to truly emerge. Whatever. None of my business. And as I’ve said many times before, I have great appreciation for the overall effort. I’m just a little concerned that many who share the more common definition of “emerging” might be less likely to enter if they understand they’re up against high level professionals.

    And if that’s not enough to piss people off, after thinking about it for awhile I find myself truly appalled by this particular essay and the entire concept of embedding. This is someone being used to produce naive propaganda at best and participating in active collusion in war crimes at worst. And I suspect the latter to be more likely. This essay does nothing but glorify war. It provides no perspective whatsoever beyond that of the occupying army. It’s at least one step worse than anything Leni Reifenstahl ever did because all of her service to the war machine took place before the actual war. If somehow we were to lose this war and something like the Nuremberg trials were set up, this photographer would be in much worse legal shape than Reifenstahl was at her trial. Fat chance of that ever happening, I know, but morally it is out there. Far out there. If you wanna do real journalism, go get embedded in one of those wedding parties that gets decimated by an unmanned drone. But that would be suicidal, eh. If not literally, at least career-wise.

  12. Dima, love these images. With a son-in-law about to be deployed to Afghanistan again for a second tour in a few months they hit an emotional button for me. I especially liked: #5 (the light in the dust); #6 (the juxtaposition of the soldier and the man praying; #7 (I find this the saddest–the taliban and the guard); #8 (the irony in little green apples and a soldier in full garb); #11 (the married soldier with that haunting look of missing his family); # 18 (wrenching at my heart before I had even read the caption).

    Fabulous work and it matters nothing to me if you are “emerging” or “semi-pro” or “pro”. You deserved to be considered in the final running in my mind.

    Inshallah: “if Allah wills it”. Hummm. Knowing the meaning of this word and the implications and faith behind it I hesitate to say it is a good title. It indicates to me that God is somehow interested in one side or the other winning a war. Pushing civilization through warfare doesn’t really fit with the God I know and I have never believed he is on one side or the other. I do, however, believe anyone on any side can reach out and ask for help in any conflict and receive it. I don’t, however, believe it is given in order to allow one side to win over the other, just one individual’s safety possibly being delivered due to reaching out for help from Him.

    Why did you choose Inshallah as a title? Good work Dima. I love the emotion you pulled from me in this essay. I will revisit I’m sure.

  13. Absolutely amazing. These are the first modern war photographs I’ve seen that have moved me.
    The camaraderie, the occasional overwhelming nature of war the loss, the heart pounding fear and excitement…
    This shows the true depth and not just the latest car bomb and the latest missile strike… this is deep. Keep up with this! Don’t lose your vision to appease the calling of images of action… the moments of silence in your photos speaks louder than any action photo!

    you have a good heart.

  14. Michael’s comment: “…appalled by this particular essay and the entire concept of embedding..”

    I have my issues with propaganda too; however, this felt more like showing me the lives of those that have chosen to fight in this war and the people living in war and fighting on the other side. The very human voice of war. If I were younger I would choose this to do. I want to see the human faces of war; only then can we truly see the truth of war. The difference in essays that depict war for me come down to whether it is glorifying it and showing the ego of the participants as a lot of the embedded photographers tend to show, or the true face of war so we can see the truth of war.

  15. Thank you very much for all the comments. I’ll try to answer all the questions here as much as possible.

    First of all, I still consider myself an emerging (rather than an established) photographer because, in my opinion, one becomes established only once s/he starts receiving assignments on regular basis from major publications. An established photographer’s name does not really need an introduction, and I do not think that is the case with me.

    I consider this project to be a “personal” one for many reasons. I volunteered to go because it was a topic of great interest to me. Like so many people, I was trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out why the best military force on the planet cannot defeat a bunch of illiterate guys in flip-flops armed with old AK-47s. Moreover, this is not the first time that the country I live in is fighting a war in Afghanistan without making much progress.

    I believe that my work on this topic has been different from the standard wire photography that is seen over and over again. This is my personal perception of this war. As I mentioned in my artist statement, far from glorifying the war, I was trying to show the frustration and confusion that more or less dominates regular soldiers in Afghanistan. For example, while a hot topic on the use of lethal force is being debated by the higher ranks and policymakers as a way to reduce collateral damage, soldiers in the field feel threatened and frustrated that they cannot effectively defend themselves and get the bad guys. This is just one of million nuances of the war in Afghanistan. For those who are really interested – read Ahmed Rashid’s “Taliban” http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300089028

    As far as propaganda goes, even though there are many limitations, I did not have my work checked before I sent it to AP.

    I did not interview any locals – there is usually only one interpreter per platoon and he is usually busy assisting the commanding officer (moreover, I usually do not conduct interviews in general). However, from what I’ve seen, U.S. troops are often viewed as infidels and foreign invaders, who the locals cannot rely upon — a notion that McCrystal and now Petraeus are desperately trying to change. Villagers know that eventually we will leave Afghanistan, and the Taliban, as it happened many times, will publicly chop off the heads of those who helped or worked with Americans. They live in crossfire, and have been for over 30 years.

    I’d love to be embedded with the Taliban, but I might end up beheaded before I manage to send out my photos.

  16. About Inshallah:

    The word, while clearly religious in origins, is often used as a word “hopefully” in the end of many sentences. It is the word that dominates conversations between the U.S. soldiers and the local elders. Here I used it to mean that hopefully it will all end well.

    About embeds:

    It’s not an ideal way to cover a war, but in this case it is the only way.

  17. Hi Dima.

    Its ironic that you use the title “Inshalla”, almost like taking the piss, as these images appear to have nothing to do with Afghans but rather of yet another foreign tribe entering in to this decades on going conflict through this place. If anything there evangelical in nature, almost biblical. Don’t see anything relating to winning the minds of the Afghan people here, so why the title when there seems to be nothing to do with Afghans in this essay.
    I can’t see how these images work to educate about what is going on, being so one dimensional, though I understand how limited you are in such an environment. I do wonder how many people would know if these images are from Afghanistan or Iraq.

    Image 6 to my mind works well.

    Stay safe Dima. Peter.

  18. OK. I’ve thought about it and I’ve looked at it a couple of more times. My initial feeling was that the images are excellent, but did not really advance my understanding of the war there. Then I thought, good as the images are, they are too peripheral and don’t take us deep enough.

    And then I was looking at that last image, full screen, on my Apple Cinema screen and it suddenly hit me what a strong and powerful moment that was. How, after all the talk of heroism and camaraderie, here was that one, lonely, heartbroken soldier, standing alone in the dust with his gun. So, yes, it did advance my understanding. I then went back and took a new look at the entire take and this time all the pictures seemed to take me where I had not been before.

    So good job.

    I think that, in a way, it might have worked best as a single image. That last image. That’s the one that makes the definitive statement.

    By your definition of “emerging photographer,” probably 95 percent of us, even folks like me who have lived solely off their work for over 30 years, remain emerging photographers.

    Damn. I should have entered the contest.

    Oh well.

    Probably wouldn’t have won, anyway.

    But you never know.

  19. “First of all, I still consider myself an emerging (rather than an established) photographer because, in my opinion, one becomes established only once s/he starts receiving assignments on regular basis from major publications. An established photographer’s name does not really need an introduction, and I do not think that is the case with me.”

    I think that these days with globalisation via the net anyone receiving assignments on regular basis from major publications is going to be the exception not the norm even for the established photographers, scribes consultants etc. The platform has changed and will further erode the established getting all the offers. Editors, publishers have access to a lot of great photographers from anywhere in the world at the touch of a key.

    So “emerging” as in the old equation is no longer applicable in today’s wwdot world and that is why there are so many questioning the the photographers in your position who applied as emerging. To many your argument is very thin and clutching at straws. Personally I feel that the award should be for a project not a photographer so “emerging” will no longer be an issue

    By the way interesting work though I feel it could be tightened by narrowing down conceptually and maybe evolving into a couple of bodies of work.

  20. Like in so many things, there are no more bad pupils in photography, only good pupils and it’s the rule of the game that good pupils pick up awards, employements, and emerge rather than burst out.

    Pardon me, I see Griffiths’s “Vietnam inc” blinking at me from a shelf….

  21. Dima. you said “soldiers in the field feel threatened and frustrated that they cannot effectively defend themselves and get the bad guys.” Have you not considered the thought that maybe you were embedded with the ‘bad guys’?

  22. Excellent work Dima. I could see myself taking the same types of images in the same situation (not a knock), though the last doesn’t fit with me…

  23. Can somebody point me to a body of work with the photographer embedded with the local Afghani police forces? Thanks.

  24. Hi Eva.

    I’m a little apprehensive about suggesting you to view my web site, but it may be interesting for you, where I have a series of images from Afghanistan. These images were from prior to 9/11/2001. But they are from the perspective from the Northern alliance, as the Taliban were making ground north of Kabul. My web site is photoshelter.com/user/petergrantphotograph

  25. some very strong images here – love 14, 16, 18.
    i think the politics of it all and the rights and wrongs of embedding is too huge a subject to engage with here. and in any case, that’s the individual’s own call. once he’s decided to go that route then the only question is: how well did he do in capturing his chosen subject?
    my feeling, looking at these, is that either it needs to be expanded – like twice as many images – to give a fuller picture of life in the front line; or re-edited on purely visual considerations, perhaps 2 sets of images that hang together aesthetically. Numbers 2 and 6, for example look like they could have been shot by different people – a bit jarring within such a small selection. i think a set of just the night shots (and more to go with them) may have been stronger overall, for mood and feel etc.
    not so crazy about the title either … sounds a bit tokenistic, like probably the only word of Arabic they bother to learn. but on the whole some excellent work.

  26. i think the politics of it all and the rights and wrongs of embedding is too huge a subject to engage with here. and in any case, that’s the individual’s own call. once he’s decided to go that route then the only question is: how well did he do in capturing his chosen subject?

    Can you really not think of a situation, a hundred situations, were applying that logic would be unmitigatedly evil?

    The Nuremberg references in my above comments were probably over the top, but the basic point remains. The photographer went where the army told him he could go, photographed what he was allowed to photograph and essentially (given the first two handicaps) published what he was allowed to publish. And predictably, all of this cast his keepers in a favorable light. Those photographs could easily be used for an advertising campaign for the army to get new recruits. I’ll bet some PR bureaucrat somewhere got a gold star when they got published. And when we consider the big picture — hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced, mass disappearings, torture, the hundreds’s of billions of dollars wasted, the serious deterioration of our democracy, and so much more — participation in these little propaganda exercises is very difficult to justify.

    You know, (and this may not be the case here, just in general), when people gush about some photographer who took such accomplished images with no formal training in photojournalism, they miss the point entirely of what good a good education in journalism is. It’s not just how to compose a photograph and press the shutter. Most of it is about history, philosophy, law and ethics. Without that kind of grounding, it’s all too often impossible to identify just what a “good” photograph is, or a “bad” one for that matter. In many cases, particularly when it comes to war and other grand social issues, the quality of a photograph is as much dependent on what it says to the viewer about that particular issue than it is about composition, mood, etc. And when it says what the authorities want it to say, odds are fair you just may be looking at a “bad” photograph.

  27. Peter, thank you, have spent some time with your pictures, will go back!

    David B, watching and listening as I type, thanks.. one question keeps coming back: does anyone have a link to work made by an Afghani photographer, from an inside point of view.. and I don’t mean a Taliban POW..? Which leads me to the next question: why is there none to be seen, or very little, while we see a lot of work of US embedded pjs?

    I’m not judging anything or anyone, I’m just wondering how it comes, if it’s a question of demand and supply, if work like this is sellable, as opposed to the Afghani take? Another question: US military is based on a volounteer base, right, meaning that military service isn’t mandatory like for example in Switzerland?

  28. Michael, i actually completely agree with most of what you say and was obviously a bit sloppy in expressing myself. What i meant was, because it is such a huge subject – and hugely important – and without the time to properly address it, I will limit myself to the question “how well did he do in capturing his chosen subject?”
    One of Kierkegaard’s main philosophical projects was the interplay of the ethical and the aesthetic and the choices we make for one or the other. how we balance these conflicting priorities. Yes we are all complicit in the construction and representation of the world and how those representations are used and interpreted (this is a chain i whip myself with on a regular basis). But as i am very far from sainthood, i dont expect it from anyone else either. So i am prepared to take this piece on its own terms: there is a story to tell, did he tell it well or badly?


    i suppose looking at any photographer’s bio would be a subjective call regarding “emerging” or “established” as are any curatorial efforts related to photography period..and “emerging” is a subjective word obviously….and perhaps we would be wise to simply change the name to the Burn Grant or whatever IF appeasing some readers wishes was our goal…however,

    to my mind Dima is clearly an “emerging photographer”…not to be confused with a “beginning photographer”….

    Dima is an emerging photographer in the context of anything i have ever written about, published, taught, stood for etc etc my whole life and career…anyone who does their homework on me as the curator of Burn or as a photographer in general would surely know what i consider to be “emerging”…..

    i do use “emerging” totally in the context of emerging to the highest planes of publication , exhibition, etc…Dima himself has defined it pretty well, and i would only add that Dima also has no established representation, nor major books, nor exhibitions etc nor name recognition that would in the minds of most publishers, editors, curators, or other photographers put him outside the “emerging” category…so he is a minimally published photographer but clearly an emerging photographer imo….but, he is very close to a “breakout” and soon will be no longer “emerging” i must clearly add….again, others may have a different definition and those with a different sense of it should obviously apply for different grants, awards, contests, etc…i can send you a list of potentially appropriate contests etc for photographers who are just starting out….

    however Michael, i do not understand why anyone would be “pissed off”…at what? we at Burn run our asses off trying to raise money to give to some deserving EMERGING but NOT BEGINNING photographers who just might deserve a break in this bleak publishing atmosphere, and someone (obviously you) is “pissed off” !! …please give me a break…at what point would you not be pissed off?? give the award to someone with less talent, less experience???

    where is your emerging “common denominator” ?? where would you draw this imaginary line??? where would a photographer be considered the best in his peer group , but yet not too good to be considered too good, but not too bad to be considered a beginner???

    nobody is forced to enter the EPF….and anyone with just a modicum of research of either my philosophy or past recipients should “get it”….the EPF is totally voluntary and with all of the entry fee either going to pay for production, Doctors Without Borders, or right back to photographers published here on Burn …

    anyone who enters EPF knows full well who the curator of Burn is and what i stand for and can either take it or leave it regarding judgment calls of any kind….and of course comment as they wish as you have openly done…no problem for dialogue in any direction is my assumption…

    any reader here can talk to me personally at any time as you well know about all of this or about anything……astute readers know exactly how i developed EPF, how i choose the jury , who the jury is, and when and how the process works….with adjustments of course as life often dictates….in any case, surely organic….

    sour grapes do make for really fine grappa….

    cheers, david

  30. No David, I’m not pissed off about anything. Was just concerned you might be, and correctly so judging by your comment. No, I’m just, as I wrote, a stickler for language and was curious to understand your definition. Being relatively new here, I guess I missed where you expanded on it at such length. But I’m not the only one, you know. Several have made similar comments questioning the definition of “emerging” since the announcement of the finalists. I think it’s good that you have clarified it once again.

    Regarding your questions about where I would draw the line, I don’t know and since I don’t have to choose, I guess I won’t. My interest was entirely in where you drew the line. And it’s an academic interest entirely. A question of definition. Nothing personal whatsoever. Speaking of which, I trust the sour grapes quip isn’t directed at me. As you must be aware, especially since we spoke about it, I didn’t seriously enter the EPF contest, just donated $25 to help support your work in a very small way.

  31. eva – as i understand it much, if not all, of the footage seen after suicide bombings and the like are filmed by locals on contract because it is simply too dangerous for westerners to venture beyond the confines of the embed.. now this could bring a debate on the validity of journalism in this new kind of war where the journalist in question finds out much of what they report from the head office in london / new york and through PR conferences..

    with photographers – it must be extremely dangerous as a local to venture into photo journalism given that the areas being fought over are transitory spaces in so far as who controls them.. without defined front lines and safe areas beyond the bases themselves, i cannot imagine a local wanting to put themselves forward as an eye for the international news agencies.
    what we are left with is the taliban footage shot of IED explosions and the like, footage from local stringers who video the aftermath and the embed work such as dima has presented here.

    what is clear is that while war has become more mechanized from our side, it has become less easy to report as well as less easy to win.
    an f16 fighter cannot prevent an IED.. much of the cold war machinery is not relevant to a war fought over ideology rather than geography.
    random and unintended civilian death has become more pronounced and journalism in the form it took for past wars has all but gone – perhaps the lack of the latter enables the former..
    as the mortality rate for journalists soars getting balance seems ever more difficult…
    it is an interesting point and i´m just thinking on the debate..

    the paradox of the embed system is that while journalists are safer while ´on the onside´, they become seen as puppets of the ISAF forces and much more at risk ´on the outside´.. and so films, such as langans ´meeting the taliban´, have disappeared as journalists, (embedded parts of a platoon), become part of the machinery which is being fought against and targets in themselves.

    the embed system has it´s reasons and logic for certain, in the digital age of immediate uploads and the like.. it´s pro´s and con´s seem the only option for now, despite the accusation of controlling journalism.
    i think the 1982 british war over the malvines islands was a turning point – when don mccullen was refused entry to cover the war because his images were regarded as too tough.. too real..

    do i regard dima´s work as propaganda?
    not at all.. i would not for one moment want to project myself into the photographs.. especially not the final image, which dima talks about in the statement.. not the dust bowl claustrophobia.. i think the world photographed here through restricted night vision and basic living conditions is as terrifying and miserable as it gets.

  32. @ John Gladdy

    This is an extremely complicated conflict (it was such even before US entered Afghanistan). I do not think that there is anyone who is 100% good or bad. It is easy to attach labels from here, while things become a lot more confused once you get there.

    However, I felt free to loosely call the Taliban “the bad guys” not because of their opposition to US forces, but first and foremost because of the atrocities they commit against the local population. It might be popular to think that the Afghan people started suffering only after US entered the war. But after I read in detail what exactly transpired in Afghanistan during the decades of the civil war, I am actually surprised that there is any civilian population left at all.

  33. The debate over the standpoint and moral positioning of a photograph is an important one, criticism touches so many nerves on this stage on a personal level. The topics raised by M.webster are quite valid.
    Propaganda, of course they are, but who’s propaganda. The “authorship” in this series belongs to who. I’d suggest that it belongs not to the photographer but the media. It’s the media who’s selling an idea, an idea of what war is about. And beautiful photographs sell ideas better (not better ideas).
    Is there more to the future of photography than this, I don’t doubt; but I don’t see it coming from media driven photographers waiting to “emerge” into a position of secure incomes and regular commissions.
    Is this what this award is about?
    The ‘crisis’ in photography is more than a deficit of salaries and commissions.
    Who’s left in the voice-box?

  34. David B, you make a few interesting points, actually more than a few.. I think there’s no easy solution to all this.. nor a only right or only wrong side.. but I do fear that ‘humanizing’ war, as in the above essay is done in my eyes, doesn’t do any good against the idea of war..

  35. Leo, my feeling is that the ethics of representation is something that can and should be discussed in the abstract as an issue any photographer should be aware of, but not in the specific about any particular photographer or photograph. Unless you’re a saint then personal ethics are always and always have been a question of where you let yourself off the hook.
    there are all kinds of photographic gigs i wouldnt do on principle, but i do shoot commercial travel that is, at best, ‘a-political’. I’m well aware of this and I do ‘other stuff’ to square it with my conscience. Here we have someone engaging with war and conflict but getting criticized for not doing it in quite the right way. this seems to me just a few steps away from potentially fascist thinking.
    Its invariably more complicated than that. I recently licensed a picture to be used as a poster at a fashion trade show – big 4-figure fee. The picture was of a pile of skulls, victims of the Khmer Rouge. Deeply repellent to think of that image being used at a fashion trade show, but how to play it? I made the sale and donated the fee to a land mine charity. Right or wrong, you tell me. but sooner or later these are the kinds of deals we all cut. its never black and white.

  36. I don’t intend to criticise the the photographer, I’m simply considering the factors that weigh in when selecting work worth praising and awarding.

  37. Spectacular photographs Dima, here as well as on your site. You don’t seem so much emerging as exploding onto the scene.

    I’ve never seen war pictures quite like these.

    Yes, Afganistan is a terribly complicated situation, with no obvious solution. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think that this is a fools mission for the guys on the ground. There is no way this is going to end well.
    Good guys/bad guys. Just a reminder that the Mujahideen, some of whom later became the Taliban, were the good guys, “freedom fighters” according to Ronny Reagan when the USSR was involved.

  38. Dima,

    Quite amazing in terms of technical qualities – this almost a contradiction with much of what we regularly would see around these parts. #4 and many others are almost studio like in their presentation. Well done you.

    Only thing i’m not getting is a sense of conveyance or the actual story behind these (if there is one). Perhaps it is the magnitude of the experience. If they are a string of military images unrelated and without purpose then fine, i am actually getting the meaning, but if intended as something more powerful then for me, they don’t quite get there. That being said, I appreciate for some people particularly with emotional attachment to the personnel involved that these images will speak volumes. For others they may not. For those that it doesn’t perhaps the studio like qualities will be enough.

    Anyhow, respect and peace.


  39. This is a solid piece of work, which can can be summed up in one word: Professional.

    Having said that, I have one concern. Does the 500 USD go to AP or Dima?

    All the best


  40. About good guys/bad guys or taking a repellent image and countering it with good stuff …………if we go into the ” logic/thinking everything can be justified.
    The trouble is when it is up to the individual to draw the line in the sand it is a pretty flexible line and open up for abuse.

  41. Petteri…
    We are watching EPF finalists at this point…
    Although I can see through your sarcasm ..:(
    I need to ask why is it such a taboo if an emerging
    photog is being represented by an agency or gallery?


    If you are a writer and a stickler for language, like you say, and you go and read the TONE in your numerous (!) comments here under this essay, where you, in an inappropriate way, question both David and me (burn management “folk”, jesus, thanks man….) regarding “emerging” and related decisions,

    and if after that you read your reply to David, who calls you out on it, by saying “oh no, this is out of genuine interest because i want to know”,

    then I think there is something seriously wrong.

    Obviously you are entitled to your opinion, and entitled to express your opinion, and entitled to express your opinion however you want. We’re always up for good debate.

    But your opinion is beside the point here.

    Even your deliberate insulting tone is beside the point and taken with ease by us; and you’re smart enough to know exactly the tone that you wrote those comments in.

    What actually insults, is your reply to David when he called you out on your tone; instead of at least owning up to your intentions, you then sweep all this under the rug as “genuine concern to know”. If you genuinely wanted to know, your tone would have been entirely different. At least be honest about your intentions.

    That’s where you cross the line IMHO.

    David and I will be glad to personally refund your $25 if the tone of your first three-four comments is really how you feel. Please email me your paypal account number at anton@burnmagazine.org and I will personally take care you get refunded.

    BURN has an open door policy and has her share of strong opinion, vivid discussion, helping each other, genuine knowledge seeking, and the occasional good fight. But everyone here at least is honest about their intentions. Even Jim Powers was totally straight up.

    but BURN has NO place for “insult disguised as” any of the above.

    so please, don’t insult my intelligence as “BURN management folk”, by trying to reverse the tone of your comments into something else than you intended, especially because you only do it after you get called out for i


  43. LEO…

    if you look at Burn carefully, you will quickly see that few of the photographers here are “media driven”…this year’s EPF grant recipient Davide and Dima might fall into that category, but the other finalists surely are not, nor are most of the photographers we publish here…last year’s winner, Alessandro Chaskielburg was far far from a media photog,….the jurors of EPF Bruce Gilden, Alessandra Sanguinetti and Nick Nichols , as i am sure you have noted, are certainly not media driven by any stretch of any imagination nor is Anton nor am i…yet, the we and the jurors did choose a media photographer…could it not be simply because this photographer had a strong visual voice? in any case, check out the other finalists, and others that we regularly publish on Burn…media is no more or less represented than any other form of authored photography….i do share your concerns, and others, about photographers getting caught up in a propaganda machine…and i think we should do a serious story here soonest about photographers who are simply tools for the media machines who might be tools for government machines..or not. to be discussed…

    cheers, david

  44. Yea the media driven photographers do it pretty tough compared to art photographers like me. I can make up stuff, twist it turn night into day t heck I can even photograph stuff that doesn’t exist nor ever will.

  45. In my opinion, if anyone wants to see what DAH is hoping to do with the Emerging Photographer Grant they should look no further that the work of the winner of the first grant: Sean Gallagher. I must admit here that when the result was announced, I was not convinced that Sean’s work was the best; but DAH saw something that I didn’t, either in the photographs or in the possibilities that the story held and it is truly satisfying to see Sean and his essay develop and mature.


  46. Well, no Anton, I wasn’t dishonest in the least in my reply to David. Certainly no “insult disguised.” And that was a really nasty personal attack, btw, certainly far worse than anything you think I did. Calling me a liar, and a pathetically petty liar at that. I really didn’t expect something like that from you guys. But I’ve been around the internet a long time. Ridiculously wrong (on several levels) personal attacks happen. Happen all the time.

    Speaking of being around the internet a long time, you give me way too much credit. Smart enough to control how tone is perceived in a comments section? Man, I wish. I could sell that knowledge and get rich beyond my wildest dreams. If you actually re-read my comments, you can note that I was openly concerned about tone and explicitly pointed out that I didn’t mean it as I feared it might sound. But I think it’s more the jokes that get me in trouble. Cartier-Bresson “emerging” from the grave. Not exactly in the best of taste, particularly in context. Talk about smart? I learned a long time ago that it was usually unwise to attempt humor in these forums. I know I should be much more grey and humorless, keep the pink socks in the drawer and the clown shoes in the little car. Yet I persist. So is it a lack of intelligence or self-control? Of course I flatter myself and say self-control, but it’s probably both.

    Even though I know it’s human nature, at least for a lot of humans, I still don’t get why people feel the need to attack someone personally who they perceive disagrees with, or criticizes them. I know you are both aware that I didn’t seriously enter the EPF contest — I actually spoke with David about if you think that entry was something I would pin some kind of hopes on, then you must think me stupid indeed. So why do you persist in implying that I’m some pathetically petty little man stomping furiously a big barrel of sour grapes into bitter wine? And this accusation about something I made no effort whatsoever to try to win? Where’s the honesty in that? Although I hate to dignify baseless ad hominem attacks with a denial, I simply am not that petty, even if I would have entered and hoped to win.

    No, I am, as I said, mostly a disinterested observer concerned about the meaning of words.

    Am not, you say? Am too.

  47. I actually spoke with David about if you think that entry was something I would pin some kind of hopes on, then you must think me stupid indeed.

    Should read “I actually spoke with David about that publicly and…”

  48. Hey Michael,

    Yes i have been around the internet since it’s inception too. in all its facets. that is exactly why I call this.

    On the other hand, I see from your replies that we are not going to resolve this, and I have no intention to fight you over “semantics” and “tone” forever.

    Over and done, next chapter.

    Dima is a great guy who I had the privilege to meet for the first time at LOOKbetween, and then again in NYC. Great young talented emerging photographer AND a really great guy to hang out with… at the same time working hard hard hard to make it in this world.

    I support him with all my heart in what he does, because after meeting him in person, I believe in him.



  49. Panos,

    Sorry if I got it wrong. I thought all essays published after 1st of July got 500 USD. On the credits AP came up before Dimas name, so I thought I had a legimate question.

    When it comes to taboos, I have no problem what so ever if one or all of the finalists are represented by an Agency or Gallery. I am sure some of the non-finalists have represantation as well.

    All the best


    Ps. Excellent work regardless of who owns the copyright.

  50. “To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.”– Montesquieu

    I know david alan harvey personally…and i aint a student and i aint a sycophant and david and i have had disagreements and arguments and have always found the respect and energy to support and care about one another, as professionals and as friends.

    There is not a truer sense to both David and Anton that that Montesquie quote and in my eyes, they’re both great people and not because they’re photographers or editors or curators or perfect saints but because they’re generous and open to admiration and criticism and remain who they are, standing side by side with people and not above them….trust me, i and stood, sat next to and collapse beside….

    and the SOONER we all get over the bullshit about who wins or whether or not they’re worthy the better….all photographers emerge, all photographers, committed, strive for one think alone: to continue the work that they were meant to do…

    arguing about photography: great…..

    questioning the legitimacy of the effort that people make to SUPPORT ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS (which is what burn/epf does in glorious ways) is just plain selfish….

    and Dima: fabulous work! big congratulations!


  51. Petteri…
    big hug…nature of the internet beast…sometimes something looks like a sarcasm…although it wasnt meant to be…so yes..u brought a great subject on the surface once again…who owns the copyright? obviously Dima owns his…
    one love y’all..:)


    take a deep breath….

    now, if Anton came firing out at you with both barrels, i think you really should go back and re-read your missives to perhaps see if, why, and when, our Anton attacked you personally…Anton is a pretty mild mannered man if ever there was one, so you surely did something quite unique to “get his goat”….it seems your words, which you chose ever so carefully, were certainly in the passive/aggressive arena of discourse and surely would have been considered insulting by almost anyone…hardly a curious inquiry as you say was your intent….

    alas, there is a pattern to your critiques in general as it turns out…you always always play off what appears as either uninformed supposition or shoot from the hip style verbiage as your brand of humor and sort of apologize later as if none of us got the joke or you should not have told the joke in the first place…ha ha ha…hmmm, not really working for you anymore Michael…that might work once or twice, but not after….now mind you i am not attacking you personally…i like you personally….but i am questioning your attempt at “gee what did i say wrong?” attitude…don’t you see the pattern??….for example, was it your joking brand of humor that had you comparing Dima with Leni Riefensthal?? first you pretty much question Dima as passing himself off as “emerging” when you see him as the most pro photog out there, then you compare him with one of Adolf Hitler’s lovers and key photo propagandist for the Third Reich….again, ha ha ha…i got it…er, huh, hmmm, choke choke, that is just plain weird Michael…

    now of course it is totally fair and appropriate and encouraged, as Anton and i both always say, to question what , why, and wherefore with anything to do with Burn…questioning “emerging” is nothing new and a question that is asked and answered quite often here….and surely we all question the ethics of the media and the role they might play in government or military propaganda….our pictures can all be “used” in a variety of ways of course to propagandize one thing or another…all of this fodder for good discussion…but if you are going to play provocateur, then you must also really have done your homework, have all your ducks lined up, or be ready for a bit of backlash…you cannot sling it and then whimper pasa nada….

    ok, now let’s figure out how to take your video skills and put them to good use…i am looking forward to a one on one meeting with you as soon as i return to new york…i know your long term project is most likely nearing end…anxious to see that work and to figure out the best way for you to create a really top notch multimedia….

    i might from time to time give you a hard time in some ways Michael, but nobody will work harder to make sure you live up to your own dreams either…count on it….

    cheers, david

  53. DIMA,

    Very, very nice work. Especially 5,9,11.
    For me I prefer to see more photographic not only journalistic stuff.
    I mean, own style it is what I do not see.
    visual game.
    But this is my opinion only.
    you have very good eye, and for sure you will made a great carrier as a journalist.

    Wish you the best.

  54. I emerged from the shower this morning and I was reminded of the great Malaysian photographer Izzi E. Murjin and the way he merged such humour and pathos in his seminal images of margarine.

    But i digress. So, once more with feeling, congrats Dima. I’m sure you’ll go far…

  55. Yes, David, thanks, and fair enough. Of course I recognize that my tone was way off in those posts, and apologize. I think both the tone and the frequency are a sign I need to step back a bit and I will. Still, I was genuinely surprised at the personal nature of the response. Even if you read my questions about your definition of “emerging” as harsh criticism, which although not my intent, is understandable given the tone, it would have been professional criticism, not personal. I know no excuse justifies that kind of thing, but it was one of those “it’s a bad week to quit drinking coffee” type weeks. And unfortunately, regarding the jokes, I yam what I yam. Comedy is inherently dangerous. I will no doubt err again. Anyway, once again, apologies.

    I’m sorry about the tone in the photo critiques as well, but not the substance. Although quite harsh to Dima as a professional, nowhere did I engage in any speculation as to what kind of person he is. I laid out a series of facts and opinions based on those facts. Essentially: given the hundreds of thousands dead, millions suffering, millions displaced, disappearances, secret prisons, torture, murder, war crimes, billions, if not trillions, wasted, democracy degraded, etc., I think it’s wrong to collaborate with the government to produce pro-war propaganda. Then I argue that this piece is pro-war propaganda based on the premises that the government/army provided access and control and got the story they wanted. I quit there because I knew I was going too far for polite discourse, but would have added that the story that they wanted and got is, at least as I see it, one of heroic camaraderie in the face of the hardships and tragic losses of war, a story governments and armies have approved of for as long as there have been governments and armies. And if you accept the premise that horrible war crimes have been committed, then the example of Leni Reifenstahl is arguably germane to the discussion (I just assume that all of you have seen “The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Reifenstahl.” If not, you should. Fascinating stuff for photographers). She was actually tried for war crimes because of photographs she took before any war. I think her example pretty much has to be considered in any conversation about photographers collaborating with governments/armies during wartime.

    Of course there’s plenty of room for argument in all of that. You can legitimately challenge many of my premises and certainly all of my conclusions, but can you really challenge the idea that it’s important to consider these issues in the context of this work? And this war? I know it’s got to be unpleasant for the individual who produced the work, but we’re talking about professional war photography. Real lives are at stake. You’ve got to expect some scrutiny. I weigh my concern for the feelings of an individual against this massive horrible clusterfuck of a war and the profession of journalism which I love, and come out of it with the belief that war photographers, and this war photographer in particular, need to hear and consider this kind of criticism. It’s not personal.

    Anyway, peace. Out.

  56. Michael you are making a mountain out of a mole hill most of the world’s people will not see, not care or give rat’s arse about your propaganda angle ………. can’t see too many people losing sleep over the images either.

  57. I remember someone saying in a workshop I was in that they would measure our work against the best of what’s out there and critique accordingly. It was gloriously brutal but not unkind. It’s good to see the EPF finalists setting the bar so high and, to me at least, it renders any debates over career level categorical definitions as inconsequential, at best. If I were submitting work to EPF, I would expect nothing less than to be up against the best and if I didn’t make the cut, then I would relish the work presented, smile, and say, damn this work is good, this is what can be done, I can get there, I can get there if I really commit my life, my heart, everything, risk everything, and I am sure all the finalists have.

    Damn this work is good.

    (Michael, don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.)

  58. Tom Hyde – totally agree with you.
    If you don’t measure your own and other’s work against the best that is and was out there, there is no point in measuring at all.


    back when i had hair it was long and i was an activist anti-Vietnam War hippie civil rights movement righteous poet photographer etc etc…so one war replaces another and i have not changed my views one single bit and would most likely agree with you on everything anti-war and yes yes all issues concerning integrity are important and up for discussion…..however, i simply would not kill the honest messengers….too many of them have been killed at least trying to give the rest of us a sense of the senseless…

    cheers, david

  60. Beautiful essay. I don’t see it as propaganda at all.. I think Dima did an extraordinary job turning his access in Afghanistan into an artistic statement on the nature of the occupation. I think the photos that some are interpreting as photographs of camaraderie, or advertisements for the war, are actually photographs about alienation. To me, the night vision shots represent a degree of separation between soldier and war. Long gone are the days of looking at your enemy eye to eye. The essay is far from the sleek and sterile images the Army would use for their recruitment campaigns.
    That said, the essay reminds me of the Army’s old advertisement slogan: “An Army of One” Though in this essay the solitary soldier appears despondent as opposed to empowered.
    Congrats on the publication.

  61. DIMA :))

    sorry for the very quick, succinct and very un-bob black-like comment about the work :)))..but it is just that: fabulous…

    but, i wanted to add a bit more for you. In truth, this essay and many of the photographs reminded me, powerfully, of visual brothers to Michael Herr’s brilliant and iconic book on vietnam DISPATCHES. It’s all there: the visual delerium and confusion, the fatigue and ennui with bursts of madness, the hurly-burly environmental orientation with replaces one’s natural bearings. the ‘explosion’ pic is just extraordinary as are the haunted, hypercaffinated red/green pics….it all speaks to me the way Herr’s wilding prose does….someone mentioned PJG’s Vietnam, INc (a book dear to my heart) though i see Dima’s work not related to Inc so much as Dispatches….Inc is a level headed, enraged and steely focused depiction of the horror of vietnam, while dima’s work, to me, is much more closer to a psychological portrait of the men in a particularly environment….in a sense, to me, it’s more about the madness and disorientation than about the war, or the politics of war, per se…again, another important story…..and done with visual imagination as well….all the stories contributed about war are important and necessary and i hope and trust they align our senses of the futility and the loss, immense, and consequences of war….it’s alienation and reckoning…….absalam, absalam…

    congratulations again dima on powerful, thoughtful work….

    that the american/western public tend to get images of the american/western coalition over the ‘enemy’ or the civilian is in fact not a fault of the photographers, but a problem of the audience and a more important condition: we must recognize and contextualize what it is WE are seeing….there are and there will be story tellers that contravene (thank god) the american version, just as there are folk to put the fire to the behavior of the former controlling interests in afghanistan, but these issues are larger and more significant than 1 photographer…i think Michael, it is a shame that you equate dima (or any embedded photographer/writer) with Reifenstahl. To begin with, though a remarkably talented filmmaker and decent photographer in her own right, she knowing understood the useage of her films (and the films she’d been an actress in). Her later ethnographic work in africa suggests the same. Moreover, at the heart, and beyond the visual intelligence of Reifenstahl’s 2 Nazi-era films, of her work lay a clear and obvious suggestion about the superiority of a constructed philosophy and order and that her work adhered to (including it’s aesthetic) to that political idea. Dima’s work is simply focused on 1 story in a particular theatre and is not had all focused on legitimizing or defending the american presence in afghanistan. To the contrary, he was given a specific task, which was to tell the storie of those men in women in that theatre and doing so attempting to share with the audience what is being endured by them.

    Just as tim hetherington’s remarkable photography and remarkable new film Restrepo is not propaganda but a thoughtful, urgent and necessary story about what it means to experience battle and the consequences of that, just as Taxi to the Dark Side give us the truth about the failures in Afghanistan….the public needs all stories from all sides and must be thoughtful enough to understand what they are seeing/reading and to search for the ambiguous and contradictory truth that is both war and geopolitics….if not, is to perpetuate the suffering…..


  62. and i thought i might add this….it’s from Kyo Maclear’s blog on Yoga practice….and intensive month long yogo retreat with michael stone….here Kyo’s speaking about Basho….it’s applicable to the discussion…maybe all discussions ;)))

    “Basho is asked by a passerby: What is your practice?

    He answers, “Whatever is needed.” In other words, situational ethics. In each moment we’re responding, there are no eternal laws or truths to be followed which hold true at every moment for all time. Instead of following edicts, the heart of non-violence is to enter into any situation without one answer, the only response is your presence, to act ethically and creatively. The point is to take life in all its variety, just as it is, with its 10,000 opposites. To let things be, instead of getting in their way, to allow each person, and everything, a meaning and purpose distinct from my own. The conditions are always changing.”
    -kyo maclear



  63. I think there is more to the personal attacks on Burn than meet the eye and feel the thinking behind permitting it to continue is erroneous. Sometimes it is necessary to adopt an aggressive tone to deal with authors who put themselves above “the people”. Now I see Bob on here quoting Montesquieu – “To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them ” which really has me laughing and given the vast amount of ‘propaganda and cheesecake’ that CONTINUES to put out, fully understand Mahatma Gandhi’s: “I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers!”

    I have not read the full discourse on here by the way (just the page above) and unfortunately do not have time to study this particular photographer’s entire life’s work before I make the following statement:

    Dima: Congratulations on your work! Your images are very interesting and some of them are incredibly powerful – that last one in particular. It cries out to be shown as a single and I wonder whether its power may be being diluted by being positioned at the end of the sequence. It simply says it all – or rather captures my own feelings about war.

    I also love the images that remind me of video games and think a sequence where all but the last image were in that vein would be immensely powerful especially as a gallery piece – IF the last image were to show a man (or woman) in all his/her humanity.

    If the images were presented in these ways, perhaps it would be more obvious to ALL that message is anti-war and not painting those who take part in it, for whatever reason, as heroes.

    “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” Ernest Hemingway

  64. By the way, the comment about ‘propaganda and cheesecake’ was not referring to this title.

  65. I am not sure why Dima Gavrysh said the Captain looks confused?

    War is never nice or good looking. The images you captured are ok. The comments that “you” presented seem a little slanted toward the negative, negative of the soldiers fighting a war that they did not start nor can they stop.

    Soldiers come home soon.


    yes, i just do not know where or how to create a measuring stick that somehow would fall below what i feel or perceive to be the highest possible standards…sure subjectivity is always a part of photography judgment calls as it is in judging Olympic ice skating performance or best dog at Westminster..i honestly would not know where or how to draw a somehow “lower line” nor could i respectfully ask for the quality of the jurors we have had for the last two years to come in and jury anything other than first class applicants…none of the 12 or so jurors we have had in the last two years even once said to me or to anyone connected with the EPF that what they were seeing was anything other than the best of the unknown but “should be soon known” photographers….they know an emerging photographer when they see one…

    cheers, david

  67. David :)) If you don’t mind my stating the obvious, you and Anton and whomever else is helping behind the scenes have done a hell of a good thing here. I am so glad you have kept it all real, but again, I know you could do nothing else. It was amazing to have been there at the inception. I am sorry to have not been around more but I’ve been riding the waves up and down. Seas calming, fog parting, horizon coming into focus. Time to start rowing again. I hope you keep the EPF around long enough for me to submit something worthy, and I hope that won’t be too long. Thanks again for keeping it real.

  68. DAVID…
    The work shown on BURN is an inspiration to me every time I look at it. It broadens my horizon. It pushes my hunger. And I don’t mind some subjectivity – photography is nothing like an exact science. (Thank God!!!) Knowing that your measuring is done against the best that is and was – that’s what brings out the best dogs (not only from Westminster). So cheers to you and Anton, we have a great pack here. Hug, d.

    I didn`t even comment on your brilliant essay – excellent work that hits my nerve. You can really see and feel the disorientation and confusion. Congratulations!!!

  69. A couple quick notes since so many people have addressed me directly. I’ll try to be more prosaic, if not exactly concise. After this, if anyone wants to continue the discussion, you can skype me (mweb202) or trade emails or otherwise take it elsewhere.

    First, questioning the results and ethics of embedding is not some kind of off-the-wall pyscho nonsense. J schools study it. Journalists and academics write articles about it. Several books discuss the practice extensively. The overwhelming consensus is that embedded journalists practice extensive self-censorship to maintain their relationships and, on average, produce more sympathetic coverage of the war and its perpetrators than independent journalists. This example from the book Weapons of Mass Deception describes a big part of why it works:

    “Sheer genius,’ commented US public relations consultant Katie Delahaye Paine….The sagacity of the tactic is that it is based on the basic tenet of public relations: it’s all about relationships. The better the relationship any of us has with a journalist, the better the chance of that journalist picking up and reporting our messages.” (Rampton and Stauber 187).

    And look what might happen to those who don’t get with the program.

    A funny, not funny, thing (which supports your point Imants) is that almost all these academic discussions about embedding occurred soon after the start of the second Iraq war. Everyone agreed that embedded reporting is, as intended, a powerful weapon in the military’s propaganda war, then apparently accepted the practice and forgot all about its ramifications. Of course it’s possible, if not likely, the issue will come up again if the war goes badly, particularly if Republicans regain power and ownership of their war. Human rights grounded military critics have been such softies under Obama. There are several scenarios in which that could well change.

    But just because the great majority of journalists get snookered doesn’t mean that all journalists do. Michael Hastings, the reporter that broke the “General McChrystal is a treasonous twat” story was, and still is, embedded in Afghanistan. He hasn’t lost any access over it, at least so far. Of course it might be different if everyone from the marine on the ground to the President of the United States didn’t hate McChrystal. Pissing off the people protecting you might be significantly different. Hastings actually caught more flack from his colleagues than he did from the government. The soldiers thanked him and treated him like royalty. Still, his case is evidence that embedded journalists don’t always compromise and won’t necessarily lose access for pissing off the military commanders.

    I keep those contravening facts in mind, you know. My opinions are not necessarily fixed regarding embedding in general or Dima’s essay in particular. I’ve looked at it many times over these past few days, considered everyone else’s opinions, tried really hard not to see what I see. Believe me, I’d much rather be with the majority on this.

    Finally (please), my intention is not to shoot the messenger. My concern is with the objectivity of the message.

    I think that covers it. Gonna have to.

  70. michael

    just a quick follow up….questioning embedding IS AN IMPORTANT ISSUES, INDEED!…in fact, it’s been discussed and SHOULD be discussed and many many question/argue the nature of being embedded and the inherent conflicts of that including the relationship and the bonds formed with military…most thoughtful journalists wrestle with this (I’ve personally had discussions a bunch of friends who have made their names covering the wars as embeds…like Teru, Eros, Tyler, Louie, Erin, michael, Rita, etc)…in fact, i recommend the book Unembedded…one of my personal friends, rita, is a contributor….but, in truth, there is now OBJECTIVITY within the gaze of a photographer…it is born, a priori, by their heritage and background and the reasons as to why they’re covering the war….it is still all slanted perspective and any descent reader of war understands that and takes, with both umbridge and salt, the visual and written text of all stories….the question, should be I think, a simpler one: does one story render one perspective to the reader that allows the reader to pick at their own understanding and feeling for the meaning of what is happening….sometimes yes, sometimes no…..i have friends who would never embed and some friends who have embedded and the irony is that, in many senses, both end up with the same perspective….

    the cost of war is most greatly taxed upon the heads and shoulders and limbs and organs and lives of the innocent….the civilians….and that is something we should all remember, regardless of orientation or perspective…


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