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Michael Christopher Brown


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Since arriving ten days ago, I have tried to understand the situation here in Libya. People swap facts, predictions and rumors, the news feeds me information, but the complexity of the conflict makes it impossible to fully comprehend. Once a picture is taken or a word is written it is already old news. There seems to be no way to catch up, as the database of history is filed before it is processed. And as a result I have become more confused. But I can attest to one reality, shown in these photographs. They form a loose record of my experience during the war in Libya.

Around midnight we piled into a tiny car and drove for 7 hours, from Cairo to the eastern border of Libya. A wide eyed nicely dressed Egyptian city man, our driver with slick black greasy hair, persuaded military officer after officer standing beside tanks that he had foreigners and therefore special privilege to pierce the curfew barriers and drive west, as if in a high-speed chase on empty highways, past the beautiful night city of Cairo and into a deep desert countryside as cigarette smoke escaped out the window. Somewhere sometime we passed the pyramids, not too longer after a pit stop with a McDonald’s and a shopkeeper selling ‘StarFuck’ ashtrays shaped as green coffee cups. The jetlagged dreams of 3 packed in a backseat took us elsewhere as the sun rose over the Mediterranean just beyond the sand dunes. The barren desert, looking left to nowhere looking right to the sea. The towns were simple shacks and here and there and rare were men in long robes without faces standing still. Wearing white robes and black robes, with camels near the sandy highway.

Would Libya be different? Would it be a different world? Something told us so. Something would be there for us. Danger, excitement, importance, freedom, death. Perhaps all. Smoking cigarettes. We arrived beyond Salloum where lines of trucks and cars waited for those leaving Libya. Arms in the air, Egyptians and Chinese and Indonesians crossing to somewhere safe. We moving in the opposite direction, elated. Then more journalists, then some we knew. On the other side more people piled up. A hall full of Indonesians, laying about as if dead so I exchanged my Egyptian money with their Libyan, using a rate in their favor and losing $100 in the process. Something to do. Then we walked the 1000 yards or so to the Libyan gate, guarded by men in plainclothes and rebels.

A man in dark sunglasses glanced suspiciously at us. They inspected our passports, we filled out a quick form and walked to Libya, to a road bordered on both sides by tall cement walls. Two Libyans of about 25 offered to take us to their hometown of Benghazi. We jumped into the van, looking a lot like my Jinbei in China. The concrete walls, looking like blast walls, surrounded trucks and cars wedged together in a narrow dusty strip with men wrapped in scarves holding automatics and eying the interior of our ride suspiciously. They were young men, these rebels, with old men in the background watching. No uniforms, like bandits, they were among the opposition who had recently wrested eastern Libya from Gaddafi. They nodded heads with our driver, who sped up, then sped up again, passing cars and whizzing past a littered landscape of wrecked automobiles and buildings and into an emptier desert than Egypt’s.

Faster faster our driver outsped his buddies in the other van, and his eyes faster than anything existing in the desert that day or anytime before. His eyes beyond the horizon, beyond what was happening in the country. All the fighting could not reach the (what was it in his eyes?) it in his eyes. A few windy turns but not many, the highway whisked through abandoned (after coming from china everything looked abandoned) tiny sand towns with few buildings, all small and plain and square or rectangular against the pastel landscape. But mostly phone lines, empty phone lines carrying messages to the west and we were messengers to the west. Driving faster now our drivers eyes not leaving the road. Faulty communication. I know little Arabic and him the word ‘smoking.’ One stop at a road café we ate tuna sandwiches and photographed a man and his gun. Our drivers buddies caught up and we raced each other down the road, the landscape turning from sand to rock then greenery. It began to rain. We made Benghazi by nightfall and arrived at the African hotel. The first night spent in a real bed in Africa, with dirty sheets and one cockroach.


Raised in Washington State, Michael moved to New York and began working as a freelance photographer in 2006. His clients include GEO, Time, National Geographic Magazine, Smithsonian, Fortune, The Atlantic and ESPN The Magazine, among others.

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Michael Christopher Brown

297 thoughts on “michael c. brown – libya”

  1. Michael…:)
    i love this…the photos..the how close u really are..the frames…the squares…the everything…
    i knew u could deliver but the above work is wayyyy above my expectations…
    Amazing, keep it up…
    your biggest fan: panos
    (btw next time i see u in brooklyn, im walking for the beers, ok;)

  2. Michael, you have captured something here that has been missing from the other PJ’s photos I’ve seen coming out of Libya. I’m trying to put my finger on it but the best I can come up with is mood. You’ve captured not just the people and the fighting but the mood of the whole struggle, at least the mood from the side of those who are trying to wrest power from Gaddafi. In your photos I see a hint of desperation in the faces of these young men who are putting their lives on the line. Desperation mixed with an air of bravado. And bravery. That’s for sure.

    This mood is reflected in your palette with its yellowish tone and rather harsh contrast. I feel the struggle as much as I see it. It vibrates in the air.

    Thank you, Michael, for going into the mouth of the lion, and I thank Burn for publishing your work in progress. Please stay as long as you can, shoot everything you see, but keep your safety in mind at all times. No picture is worth your life.

  3. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    Capa with an iPhone. And a touch of Hunter Thompson in the description. A lot of creativity to respond to here. A good day to burn.

  4. Patricia; “I’m trying to put my finger on it”

    A sense of the Michael being right in amongst those he is photographing and therefore drawing us into “his” vision.

    Bravo Michael!

  5. Wonderful work. I second everything said above.

    I love the treatment. Together with the imagry, many of these photographs remind me of illustrations in an old adventure novel or comic book. #21, the men in the truck is amazing. Like something from a Soviet era poster.
    Wow. Thanks for bringing us these terrific images. Good grief be careful out there.

  6. Amazing stuff – art, made out of war.

    I see that Brown has essentially been covering the same territory and even the same dead pilot as Tyler Hicks for the NYT.

    I hate to compare the works, but I think Hicks brings home a stronger sense of combat, but Brown a deeper look at the souls of the individuals engaging in it.

    I greatly admire what he did with the square format.

  7. Seems that besides France for everybody else it’s ok you shoot with heavy stuff on your countrymen and civilians, no matter what age, no matter what they have to say or why they protest.. once again the world prooves that oil and power is more important than human beings.. guess we’ll decide for a non fly zone when there will be no need for it anymore.. everyone shoving the responsibility to the other group sitting at the table.. Gheddafi is ok, as long as he keeps the Mediterranean Sea clear of immigrants and provides the black gold..

    This is a powerful set of images, personally I think it is a pity that such a talented and brave photographer like you, Michael, have fallen into the app-trap.. with all respect for you and your work.. the pictures do not need it..

  8. Great Stuff, love the writing. The images just show how close you were to the whole dream the rebel held up until last week. It seems the rest of the world just take for granted how nice and easy it is to live under democracy…

  9. DavidjSizemore

    FrostFrog, I have to disagree that Tyler Hicks of the NYT brings a stronger sense of combat, especially since Mike was shot yesterday. It was an in and out, through the leg, and he’s doing ok.

  10. WOW…
    Mike was shot yesterday?
    oh dear….
    sounds as if he is ok…

    and this is an great essay!!

    sending healing thoughts your way……


  11. Clueless here, what means app-trap, guys?

    PS:btw, Eva, and what makes you think that intervening in Lybia wouldn’t have (is already having, actually as far as I can read here and there) the likes of you claim it’s about power and oil? If one wishes to take the cynical road about the “world”, then one deserves to be ruled by cynical bean-counters… It all fits in, truly.

  12. Herve

    I think Eva is refering to the treatment. The photos appear to be post-processed with a photoshop action (or an i-phone app) that mimics the look of a polaroid SX70 photo.

    There are a huge number of phone apps, and photoshop actions that will give you a wide variety of looks with one click.

    It can be annoying and superficial, but here I don’t mind it. It would be interesting to see the un-manipulated images side by side.

  13. Herve… I just think it’s not ok to simply watch when military forces shoot down on civilians protesting or are at a funeral.. as it is not ok for our foreign minister to push back into Libyan territory boats full of desperate people without even knowing if they’re asking for political asylum.. trusting that Gheddafi will ‘take care’ of them.. we can imagine how.. but then, we’re friends with the man, he’s had his tent up in Rome more than once..doesn’t matter if he gives a damn about civil rights and we know it..as said, he’s got the oil, he keeps the Mediterranean sea clean from unwanted immigrants, what do we need more..

    Perhaps, and just perhaps, a change of government would give people a chance over there in Libya, as much as in Tunisia and Egypt and all the countries in turmoil right now.. it just seems that nobody wants to decide anything, the UE waits for the UN which waits for the NATO which wait for the Arabic Coalition which wait for the UE.. for sure there are forces at work of which we don’t know, weapons are all over, they do come from somewhere.. but it makes me sick to see kids shot down on the streets..

  14. i’ve kind of lost interest in work which leans-on the hipstamatic app on i-phone for interest..
    simply because most do just that – lean on the qualities of the app..

    these photographs are strong.. not for the app treatment, but because they are just strong photographs.. the app is as irrelevant as film format, equipment and exposure choices when work is this strong.

    and on libya – i’m really angry about whats been happening and the procrastination of the UN and nato.

    without actually setting up a no-fly-zone, there is a tremendous amount more which could have / could be done to help.. like europe not buying its oil from libya, (therefore funding the regime), while they commit such brutal counter attacks..
    training, supplying arms.. all kinds of options are said to be “open” and “on the table” according to the politicians.. without commiting military forces..
    yet it feels like the waiting for “other” news to overtake libya has now happened.. and it looks less and less likely that help to the rebels will materialize.

    i remember the world urging the kurds in northern iraq to rise up against saddam after “gulf war 1”..
    and then.. ?

  15. i remember the world urging the kurds in northern iraq to rise up against saddam after “gulf war 1″..
    and then.. ?
    use them and then lose them…classic, unfortunately :(

  16. Sorry, credits where credits are due.. make that foreign minister into an interior minister..

  17. strong essay, I really like it. But I just don’t understand why so many people these days try so hard to make their pictures look old/faded/polaroid-ish… what’s the point? is this particular aesthetic supposed to convey a certain feeling? it just seems gimmicky to me and distracts from the pictures’ content rather than serve a purpose.

  18. Carsten:)
    coz some of those “people”/photogs are artists and love playing around, experimenting with different media etc..
    Experimenting is not a bad thing…pretentious is..
    and Mike is playful, experimenting, but not pretentious…i loved his work before i even hear about the bullet..The bullet just confirmed that he was “closer” or at least “close enough”…:(
    I hope its a lie, but if its the truth…:
    Mike im wishing u a quick recovery and all the best.

  19. MIKE,

    I always very much enjoyed looking at your work…. and we have been fortunate to see several of your essays here on BURN…. this time, it seems to me that you have raised the bar which is great to see… Although we see Lybia covered all over the news media, you have brought an interesting vision, a different angle somehow…. closer more personal shots, with more of an artistic vision while at the same time reporting the drama happening there…. It is powerful work…. So many great shots…. well done!

    Beyond the work, I hope you are well Mike as I just read the comment from Panos just above which sounds a bit worrying….

    Keep us posted and stay safe!!!


  20. Hey Mike:

    First, and most importantly, I hope you are ok. I’ve talked to some friends here in T-dot and NYC to see if anyone new anything about your injury….haven’t heard, nor can confirm, so my thoughts and prayers go out to you that you are safe, heal quickly and get back on your feet…

    As for the essay:

    It is ironic, as just YESTERDAY, i saw a thread on Facebook talking about Mike’s essay (prior to its publication at BURN). There seemed to be a lot of criticism (unfortunately) about the pictures and the use of Iphone + apps. I didn’t write (for once) on the thread, as i was working on skype with Adam Smith’s project, so i didn’t much feel like writing yesterday about photography, so i’ll reserve my comments for BURN.

    To begin with, this is a strong, powerful initial body of work. The writing is wonderful, a cross between Thompson and Herr, with a bit of Indy tossed in. (‘StarFuck Ashtrays’ is one for the history books). The writing is strong not only because it is juiced by terrific and sinuous prose but more importantly (for me) it doesn’t function like so much anemic photo-statements/lifeless description. In fact, it is not explanatory of the essay, but rather an adjunct: prose as a statement of experience rather than as an explanation. For me, prose/statements should not explicate, but rather augment/assimilate/evoke not the pictures per se, but the experience that lay within the pics. It’s just terrific writing and it took me into that dessert den.

    The pictures are strong, period. Most importantly, Michael is close, damn close. It is true that the use of the Iphone with accompanying app allowed for the visual look of an old polaroid (as my one of my favorite young photographer/writers Ying Ang calls it “Faux-laroid”) but here, for me, it is IMPORTANT. To begin with, the power of these photographs and the essay has nothing to do with it’s new app look (or old polaroid look). The POWER of the essay rests with it’s content and the access (and the trust) that Mike has gained. This is really portraiture amid war and that is a pretty damn hard thing to both sustain and pull off. The framing and the depth of field point me to the fact that Mike is with these rebels and has earned their trust. The ‘style’ helps this, in that it ‘stops’ the action, the work itself looks as if these were movie stills. This ‘faux’ look actually (for me) enhances the power of the pictures, as it focuses my attention and my thoughts more easily, and grounds them, on their faces and that they are individuals: primarily young men, rather then the war, bombing, etc. This new app look (all the rage it does seem) works here because mike has used it not as a gimmick or fad but to enhance both the aestheticization of the moment (again, which enhances the surreal nature of the events) and creates a ‘distance’ for the viewer (the way that post-modern ideas argue that the deconstruction of the ‘truth’ of a photograph allows the viewer to see beyond the picture, to question it, and therefore question our own relationship to ‘truth’ and reporting.)

    But, it is because the pictures themselves are so strong, that here is works, completely. The ‘look’ also alludes to 19thCentury photography and to the photography during the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s (anyone familiar with the color-plated work and painted photographs through out N.Africa and the Middle-East that makes up a large and formidable part of that aesthetic), which (for me) anchors the work. But again, it is because Mike brings us directly in contact with these young men and captures them so well, not as warriors per se, but as young men, then lends this work such humanity and such heart break.

    Of course, the IPHONE stuff is everywhere. Teru and Balazs have used it in Afghanistan (as has Damon), and for me Balazs is still the master. My young students from Taiwan have been making all kinds of dream beauty stuff with iphone and android for a long time now and yes, it’s part of our visual culture and so why shouldn’t it be used by journalists? ANY visual expression, any photographic (or aesthetic) tool should be used by journalists, because what matters are NOT the photos but the story and the conveying of that story and each photographer must decide for herself/himself what means that is told. Damn, as a photographer, i’ve used everything too, because it is part of the exploration, trying to tell stories through different apparatus and different media. Besides, everyone and their grandmother is snapping phone pictures, another important reason journalists and artists should as well. And more importantly, within the context of Libya, is this:

    with such small ‘gear’ (the iphone), Mike is able not only to get close to these men but also can remain less conspicuous. In difficult and tense environments, it makes a lot of sense to ditch the ‘hey-i-am-a-photographer=here’ gear and have the lightness and the freedom and the ability to break distances between photographer and subject. The lens distances, as does so much of the formidable gear. Here, the iphone allows, in one sense, the photographer to break that distances.

    A word about the edit: i prefer the opening here to the one on your website (too me TV shots in the beginning, though i love shots of tv, always). I like that you (or David) has minimized the use of the shots of the TV and the son. I do, however, wished you’d included the shots of the dead rebels. I know you’ve kept the toe shot and the decapitation shot, but i think it is important that audience see the wounding: the deep, awful cavern created by the artillery. Maybe you’ve left them out for sake of the dead soldiers, but since this is a journalistic essay and not an art project, i think it is fare to have the audience and the magazine publish the dead.

    and by the way, i love your use of the iphone on your chinese work, which is very different from here…

    big congrats mike for a strong essay….

    and for goodness sake, stay safe…

    hugs from family Black


  21. I’m very sorry to learn that Mike was injured. May he heal quickly and fully.

    David, I appreciate that info and am fine with the fact that you disagree with me, but the fact that he got injured does not change my observation. Without a doubt, they have both been working in the thick of the same combat.

    But when I saw Tyler Hicks NYT Lens spread of the combat, it conveyed to me a sense of that combat like nothing else that I have seen and that includes this work.

    What Mike Brown’s work does, though, is give me a better connection to the souls of the individuals fighting it.

    In Hicks work, I see and feel the combat as strongly as I think it is possible for one who has not been there to feel from looking at a set of photographs.

    In Brown’s work, I feel the individual.

    Gordon, I’ve got to agree with you here – Bob Black’s analysis is incredible.

    I’m glad I took the time to read it.

  22. Best essay on burn for a long time and probably for a long time comming. why? This quality is rare.

    Everything is in there, in a certain harmonious tension. All elements fit to blend powerfully together. The NY Times photographer Tyler Hicks can be replaced by another photographer. MCB’s essay can’t.

    Because it tells a story on a personal level (just like Nachtwey), because he is really close and very direct (you feel himself in these pictures, instead of the replaceble closeness and not directness of the NYT photographer), because the framing and composition are strong without trying to be spectacular (integrity instead of trying to shock like so many war photographers), because off the complexity (not just a series of combat fighters like the NYT who can ‘almost’ be replaced by combat fighters in another war (which leads to nivelation of interest), but a story about their hope (pic 1), their aim (pic 4), their fear, the danger, the opacity of a brutal dictator (pic 2), their dreams and longing (pic 6), and so on…).

    Tell me, where do you see such a strong, complex, courageous, personally close war story? It struks my bone that there is even a contemplative level in this story (which Nachtwey doesn’t have).

    ((who cares if it is made with an Iphone or a pinhole camera…just a tool MCB uses really in a strong way))

  23. A photographer’s main instrument is his eyes. Strange as this may seem, many photographers choose to use the eyes of another photographer, past or present, instead of their own. These photographers are blind. – Manuel Alvarez Bravo

    MCB is not blind. Many war photographers are. They just pile up the same pictures over and over. Which leads to nivelation of interests in the viewers mind (and on a broader scale even to moral weakening). It takes courage, talent and personal vision to be different and to convey this really strong story.

  24. Kristof:)
    absolutely true..i totally second your above comments…thank u!
    yes, main instrument is the eyes…regardless equipment , cameras, phones, film, pixels…whatever..
    its the eyes…

  25. Very powerful photojournalism in this essay. Partially due to the closeness Michael gets to the men in field…and clearly stated vision which echo equally between pen and camera. Many of the images work incredibly for me for those reasons, but then add in the extra effort it takes to compose in square format, in dangerous conditions, and the essay becomes simply amazing.

    I’m very partial to multiple planes in square work; #4 is an excellent example. The fourth last image on Michael’s web-site also fits the definition, and I’m sorry it wasn’t included here. However, the downside to square format is the way it fails when it maintains rectangular style composition and is nothing more than what appears to be an even-sided crop from 35mm film negs. It has to fit to be square, otherwise cropping for rectangle would be more appropriate – and is even acceptable practise in square format to many photographers, who otherwise wouldn’t crop out in 35mm or 4×5 format. The original intention for square negs was to allow the image to be cropped; I feel many of the images here would be more effective if they were cut to a rectangular form.

    I also don’t really understand why, with the strength of this essay in content and eye, it had to have this particular post processing. To me it is unnecessary and gives the work an, I’m sure, unintended editorial bias. The images look yellowed and aged, almost as if the processing was done at some lab in a backwater village in Libya. It is as if Michael was documenting this conflict as an ignoble fight, and that certainly isn’t the case, is it? Another case where artistic expression becomes too ambitious, and our attention swerves away from story and information, and toward the essayist’s ego instead.

    But these observations are very, very small complaints. In the end, the essay is powerful and effective. Bravo, Michael!

  26. Bob… nice analysis with which I disagree. I never questioned the use of a phone camera, don’t care about the camera in use, as long as the result is there.. Alex Majoli for example has been shooting with point an shoot cams since at least 2005.. he actually keeps two of them around the neck, so while one can write down the files on the card he uses the second to keep shooting.. what I disagree with is that the look the pictures have due to the use of the app is not distracting to the content itself. It is. And you can see that in the comments since the beginning here.. the treatment is noticed straight away, I’d go even further, first thing some might see is the look, and then the content, perhaps not on this platform.. not sure..

    Which is a pity, to me. Especially in this case, with such a talented photographer, and such strong work.

    If you call art something that gives the same look to my shots as to anybody elses who uses the same tool.. well, I do not. Artsy look, yes, maybe. And just because everybody and their grandmother is doing something, it doesn’t mean that everybody else should too. They could, but they should, really??

  27. Speaking of Manuel Alvarez Bravo…having seen the latest book published on his work I stumbled over a photo book by Bravo’s wife Lola Alvarez Bravo. Seems she spent most of her life overshadowed by her husband and my very humble tastes way prefered Mrs. Bravo’s photos.

  28. Eva:

    The difference between art and artsy – very well put. Like the difference between the cute and the beautiful; one engages our interest while the other holds it.

  29. Eva: :)

    I think you’ve been snagged in a trap ;)….the first think is that you ‘see’ (or maybe react is better) this picture primarily through it’s ‘app appearance’ rathe than its appearance as a visual and narrative choice. to begin with, as i have written before, the visual choice that a photographer makes IS essential, because we are talking about a visual medium, the same way the words a writer uses to narrate is essential. Though i love Bravo and agree with much of that quote, i think photography is NOT only about the eye, but the relationship between eye and head. Seeing to begin with is an intellectual construct. Our eyes are not some objective, disembodied organ generating capturing and shaping reality. Rather, the eye captures visual stimuli and THEN the head processes that in whichever way it wishes to CONSTRUCT a reality. I know this as well as anyone. i am blind in my right eye, have not visual, lost all my depth perception for 9 months as a kid and then guess what: the brain re-created depth perception based on cues and memory. This is why most people who lose sight in an eye re-gain depth perception to one degree or another.

    More importantly, a story and the CHOICE of story telling is NOT ONLY about composition, camera choice, narrative, but what that story teller wishes to convey and how that is convey. The comparison to Alex, to me, is not at all the same. this is NOT ABOUT a camera (point-shoot vs rangefinder vs slr vs phone) but about the processing of a look. ALL photograher process. You know that yourself, working in the darkroom. When leica took it’s first rangefinder, a lot of the photoworld was disturbed, just as when painted glass was usurped by patina and sepia and then collidial chemistry and then b/w….you CANNOT separate the ‘look’ of these pictures from the story that MIke is telling.

    Absolutely, the closeness and the framing and the moments that mike capture here would be the same had he used a tradition square format camera with film (even had he used a holga with a glass lens) but the other important aesthetic power would be lost. (again, can i refer you to the history of color and painted square format photography throughout the middle east in the mid-20th century + the photography that document the ‘arab’ uprising during the unsaddling of colonialism)….but also, it is critical NOT to parse good work, i mean the ‘app’ here is PART OF THE STORY. Shooting with an iphone and then using a app to process the pictures IS PART OF THIS STORY…the way TWITTER was part of the Egyptian revolution….

    shooting a leica or digital cannon slr is NOT THE SAME…we’re talking about a war here were a lo of the information is conveyed via social networks and other technological conveyance…and i am certain many many of these young men USE phones and use phones to photograph one another…and that is an important ingrediwent here…

    if for you (or others) the ‘look’ is in the way, that i would ask you: why are you a photographer?….a photographer uses ‘the look’ as an instrument, a vocabulary, in order to tell a story that contains both visual informatin, documentary information AND historical/emotional/intellecutal information…

    this is NOT art vs artsy….i hate that bullshit distinction…i often find it a contrivance of people who are uncomfortable with the art making process….and this story is not about ‘art’ (or Art)…this about documenting a war in a way that not only brings us incredibly close, but also has a very strong visual element to allow us as viewers in…does this not resemble the work of a photoalbum…and does that also not allow us to join ourselves more closely>

    think of Thomas book on Afghanistan….where he made an entire book of color photographs he found, portraits, in afghanistan…is that a construct (yes), is that less powerful…no….he did NOT even take the pictures, and yet that story is important and it is an important photobook…

    i would argue that if the iphone app is bothering you (or others) that is your/their problem….and that is ok….it is a barrier….

    for all photography uses an application…photography IS ABOUT TECHNOLOGY a priori…and to embrace it, in such a smart, historical and emotional way is fine…

    in truth, i’ll take these images over all the nytimes coverage…because mike, to me, is there with these men and this story, for me, feels more human, more about us then the objective reporting we generall get…

    then again, i’ve long wearied about most of the coverage we get….though i like and respect alot that work….

    i feel sad that so many are hung up on this…..

    same argument from people who lamented the death of the darkroom….

    and shit, i still use film….and yet, i value and believe in work such as mike’s….and the work of my young taiwan students….which kicks the ass of most of the documentary work i look at daily…


  30. BOB…

    i agree…simply put, is there any difference at all whether or not Mike used an SX70 or the iPhone that looks like the SX70? of course not…as you point out , THIS is a tech medium…the look is a look…how one arrives at “the look” of any particular image is irrelevant from the viewer standpoint…is it “cheating” to make pictures that appear to have been shot on Tri-x when in fact a Trix filter was used in the computer from a digi capture as Paolo and Chris and Alex M have been doing for years? what is the diff from what Mike has done here? the rub is simply that it is a popular overdone technique at the moment and an app that everyone has on their iPhone…well so what?…what about all the photoshop of Ackerman, d’Agata,Pellegrin which do not happen to be under attack at this moment, but certainly have been…i just do not get the moralizing on what kind of camera and why, when the final images are so so strong and the intent forthwith is so chock full of integrity….hell EVERYTHING has been a popular technique and overdone in use at one time or another..go to an art show and tell me if you do not start thinking the same thing when EVERYONE has selenium toned prints etc etc etc..any diff between a toned print and an iPhone app? if there is , i just do not see it…there is not one single thing that any of us do with photography that does not involve a tech effect…not one….and painters, and musicians, and film makers the same…

    those who use it best are the best….period

    cheers, david

  31. Bob.. I think I could say the same, you’ve been snagged in a trap. You give so much importance to the look these pictures have.. I think these pictures could, or better would be of much more impact, to me, if I had not to dig through the layers of the app thing, which is universal, as opposite to the pictures, which are very personal, there you can see the photographer.

    Michael is close, he’s done strong work, not BECAUSE of the iphone and relative app, but because HE IS close.. and that has nothing to do with what camera he uses or used or will use, that is HIM.. so I’m simply saying, to me it’s a pity it gets overridden, or at least takes away, makes jaws drop by something everybody and their grandmother play with.

    I did not compare Alex Majoli to Michael Christopher Brown, I simply said that the camera isn’t important.. point and shoot, phone, DSLR, Holga, whatever.. just, to me, the photograph should not be overridden by the camera, but the opposite.

    Of course it is my problem if this is bothering me, never said anything different, but from there to go to the opposite and say that the app is IMPORTANT like you did, there’s quite a step. I make any bet that if we’d have seen the pictures taken without app we would not miss at all that ‘important’ layer, as the pictures are strong.

    Thomas who, excuse me? I’m not buddy and familiar on a first name basis with many photographers I’m afraid..

  32. EvaL






    thomas dworzak


    not a buddy…

    no need for flipancy eva….



    PS. ooops, sorry for the caps…it is the school’s computer (i am not shouting

  33. Bob, you are back to your old self. If someone doesn’t think like you, it means it’s “their problem” and it makes you feel “sad”, basically you get it and they don’t.

    All of Eva’s points are valid, while because of different sensibilities and approach to the medium or to the event essayed/reported upon, some like you might not see it her way.

    PS: Remember what you wrote me yesterday: 3)right speech…. ;-)
    ps2: Eva: Thomas….Dworzak. I think his Afghan portraits were featured here.

  34. Bob and David, I agree with your larger analysis, but when looking at individual “looks,” one needs to consider the concept of “cliché,” just like with writing. My fear is that Michael is going to regret giving up all but a single aesthetic choice to a two dollar app for that very reason. I may be wrong, but I don’t think there’s an original image like a RAW file to go back to and re-edit if he changes his mind later.

  35. And again, no, if we talk of artistic rendering (rather than merely journalistic reporting) it’s not the story that matters, Bob.

    It’s how it’s told, and here, there is ample space to discuss just about everything that goes into the telling. I am reminded of Geof Dyer’s great book, “the ongoing moment”, which is exactly about how the telling is so much the subject, rather than the thing photographied, in a photo at times.


    yes, of course, but please tell which photo technique is not a cliche? how many are writing the great American novel? just a few days ago you were under attack for over saturation as cliche.. i think when the dust settles on this the MCB work will stand out and all the others who did not quite do it so well might be cliche…or most likely forgotten…by the time Alec Soth picked up an 8×10 camera it was really really a cliche to do so..what happened? he made it work so well that the naysayers (oh no not ANOTHER guy going for the large format “look”) had no place to go..in other words , yes we are seeing an overuse at the moment of various phone apps…but just because everyone using it does not mean all those pictures are going to have a place at the table…i think MCB will…and i am sure on his next essay he might use a different camera, different lens, whatever…like i said , all that matters is the rare eye….and the rare eye will rise way way above the hubub of academic discussion…

    cheers, david

  37. Bob.. Herve.. looked up Thomas Dworzak’s work, now remember having seen it, but not here on Burn (I’m bad with names, I need the pictures to remember).. then looking what ‘flipancy’ means..

    Bob, I have read what DAH has written..

  38. Pingback: Noodletron » Michael Christopher Brown covers Libya with his iPhone

  39. David, good points. Although I realize we can’t entirely separate content from look, they are in most ways two entirely separate things. And when it comes to the polaroid look you get with an IPhone app, just about anyone can get the exact same look. Of course you are correct that some will do much more with it than others. Those who can recognize what the software will do and compose accordingly will produce far more compelling images. In this case, I think #’s 18 and 11 are great examples of that. But still, it’s a big risk. If you read closely, I didn’t pronounce that the look of this essay IS cliched, but were it me, I’d sure be asking myself that question. I think he’s taken a huge risk, at least if I am correct that there is no original raw-like image to re-edit. Gotta admit, I have a lot of respect for that attitude and sincerely hope he doesn’t regret it.

  40. the camera is relatively important…relatively to all the other elements which make up a good (or bad) story. (I would say, the camera is of course hugely important, an evidence, without camera, no picture, but he is relatively bounded by other elements…if you want to make a unity)

    MWB just choose his camera right, look at the pictures..terrific! Maybe with another camera he wouldn’t have done what he did! It probably just felt right for him to use the camera he is using right now. And his personality, talent, eyes (and of course thinking..), sense of composition, humanism, directness blend toghether by the chice of a technique, here the “polaroid” Iphone.

    What can I care by which camera a good story is made? Only to learn something from it. Learn…not to buy an Iphone, beware me, but to see a great unifying body of work, which gives something out there.

    And…MWB pictures are galaxies away from the cliché images from Iphone polaroids and as well from the regular war photography..

  41. Herve :))

    sorry, was rushing to teach and now again rushing….let me see if i can be more succinct:

    yes, that IS what i tried to convey in my first and second comments….and i love ‘ongoing moment’ (wrote about it at Road Trips)…the act of making IS the act of telling, period…and that includes HOW and WHAT AND WHY a story is told….but it is integrated….the LOOK and the CONTENT…and yes, sometimes the LOOK IS THE CONTENT…and sometimes the LOOK is in the SERVICE of the content (as it is here)…my problem with the critique of eva’s is that they seem stuck on the look without delving into why that look is critical here and is integrated (for more than simlple aesthetics)….given the context the phone seems to be THE way to tell the story here…and also, the application to mimic the polaroid looks totally works….mike’s China work (also using iphone) looks totally different…this means that he is NOT A SLAVE to an application but using it, harnessing it…

    MICHAEL: all styles are cliche….shit, PHOTOGRAPHY IS A CLICHE…now more than ever, it is ubiquitous…and so what…we do that…michael employs a variety of style (which can be an argument against his body of work, then again, picasso style changes unendingly throughout his career)….the think is that, and i dont understand at all, people really seem hung up on the idea that this ‘new’ look or new application mimics old…or that it is just the taste du jour…and SO WHAT….good work transcends…and this is strong, intimate work….damn, tv’s have been photographed for decades (with the same look) and that’s ok…..the thing that matters is that does it work as a story, with the author’s intent…

    and it works totally for me, all the way…

    ALL PHOTOGRAPHY FAILS AND CAN be reduced to it’s failure…so what then?….

    EVA: Thomas’ book was shown and brought up at Burn that is only why i used his first name…not at all suggesting i’m some photo buddy ….


    said enough


  42. herve:

    when people say that the ‘photos’ would be better without the application that is a criticism….and a vitiation of the work…and i don’t know at all what kind of critique that it, except that the whole work falls apart…..it is an unfortunate one, i think


    yes “attack” was too strong a word..retracted

    on the look, yes everyone who uses that app gets that look…just like everyone using the SX70 got that same look…look as in texture , color , etc..everyone using TriX gets the same grain….everyone using a 200mm lens gets the very same distortion…quite a few photogs have cliched out of focus backgrounds from using a long lens..and on and on and on…

  44. “Though I walk in the midst of distress Thou quickenest me, Against the anger of mine enemies Thou sendest forth my iPhone app at hand, And Thy right thumb doth save me.”
    Steve Jobs Psalm 138:7

  45. Maybe MWB should have gone to the Lybian desert with canvasses and oil painting. Then he would surely have an own “look”.

    (not so sure)

  46. on the look, yes everyone who uses.. gets the same… gets the very same… and on and on and on…

    Would love to have this discussion, don’t buy the idea that everything is a cliche, but hate to have it under a photographer’s work. Might be a good topic for a dialogue sometime?

  47. the look is not important, the camera is not, the shutter speed not…but it is important to blend them toghether with reality and personality into strong work, so it all is a unity which tells about the concrete moment and about something else out there. A certain flair of eternity in the moment. What do we ask more?

  48. The simple fact that most of the comments under this essay are discussing the LOOK of this essay, rather than the CONTENT, proves the whole point. The look distracts from the content, you simply cannot argue otherwise. The proof is right here in the comments.

  49. MCB hope you are well.

    i’ve got a little edit dancing through my mind…3,6,18,19,21,28…no words really for it but outside of time and within the personal, a powerful note in history and not, for a second, ‘old news’.

  50. The fact that this discussion is taking place is hardly proof that the look distracts from the content.

    I suspect those who are distracted by the look would have no objections if this essay had actually been shot with a real polaroid camera.

    Film burners, traditionalists, purists, those who invest a lot of energy and time to produce a particular look, sometimes resent and dismiss work that achieves a similar look with a mouse click. Technology has allowed us to make “look” choices after the fact.

    Ignore the fact that these are iphone pictures processed with a $2 app. Do you like the pictures?… yes

  51. trawl through the mobile phone video archive at http://www.libyafeb17.com/ and there is a wealth of “evidence” and “bearing witness” .. visuals shot by people in the middle of it for the ONLY true purpose of showing what is happening.. propaganda? news?

    for example – type Misurata into youtube and change the search criteria to see what happened there this past weekend.

    most of the lo-fi, crappy-phone footage is far more stark, far more shocking and far more upsetting than any of the professionally shot work documenting the unfolding tragedy…

    the people behind the camera-phones are literally dying to show the world..
    a casual search will find a handful of videos where the ‘cameraman’ falls at the end.

    they have more to loose and less accolades to “win”..
    there is no “time to leave” opportunity when things get dark.
    they are trying to win political change for their homeland..

    by contrast,
    we are a group of photographers who enjoy looking at work and commenting on it..

    the questions are;

    – does it matter what people are shooting photos and video with when the bbc, france24, al jazeera and more are lifting the, (least-shocking), footage straight from youtube for their live feeds and reports?

    – does joe public turn to his wife on the sofa at home in purley and say –
    “pah.. that camera-phone footage they’re using is spoiling the discipline of photo-journalism”?

    – and finally – does it really, ‘really’ matter what the photographer chooses to use in documenting whats in front of them?

    it’s not the equipment, nor the “closeness” nor the aesthetics nor the “heroism” of a PJ that makes their work relevant.. it’s their own accountability and the bond of trust between the PJ and the editors / audience..

    so here – shot on a hand held mobile phone – is some footage of fighting taken by a guy who falls at the end… no doubt he was shooting, hoping it may end up on a news network, (although libya has now largely fallen from the 24hour rush for NEWs).. or maybe just to add to the historical “evidence”.
    it’s not gruesome, nor gratuitous.. the camera he uses is far from “broadcast quality”.. and it doesn’t need to be.

    no “capa gold-medal”, no discussion on tone or palette and no photo-fans picking apart what he has done..
    because that wasn’t his point.

    he has left a record of a brutal battle in mid march 2011 between a youth movement and a professional army.
    it’s the INTENTIONS that take precedent.. not the equipment.
    and it’s the passion for communicating a perceived truth.

    the footage from libya, shot by libyans, has made me question myself.. and on reflection question my opinions of the recent surge in i-phone journalism..
    maybe it is not the photographers clinging to fads.. maybe they are desperately trying to reach an audience numbed by the swath of formal photographic journalism.. trying to connect in a new way.

    it’s worthy of note that MCB doesn’t mention his equipment.. only us.
    so which is the party that is clinging on to fads and gimmicks.. and by extension behaving slightly inappropriately…
    the photographer, or us – the audience here on burn.. the “fans” of our own perceptions of what journalism “should” be?

  52. Best explication yet of this so-called “issue”, David. Absolutely perfect!

    And at this point I would hope that if the conversation must continue it does so over in “dialogue” where it really belongs… simply out of respect for Michael Brown and this excellent essay.

  53. Michael Christopher Brown won this war simply because he created this discussion. Our leaned techniques and equipment are only the tools of expression. How Michael did this is unimportant except in the eyes of techies which might be considered cerebral masturbation. If the artist stopped you enough to make you contemplate, he won the war.

  54. :o)

    .. and to michael brown – if he has suffered an injury.
    heal quickly..

    from what i gather he went to look and report because he was in the region and felt obliged to do so.. the mark of a compassionate human being.

    musicians create astonishing, multilayered, textural, compelling landscapes for us to enjoy.. and then squeeze the life out of it and slap it on the internet..
    the message and vibe is still there, though not in it’s “purest” form.

    why would photography restrict itself from the opportunity to do the same, when the photos are urgent and the message needs to travel quickly..
    for all we know, michaels choices had as much to do with pragmatism as artistic intent.

    and still – such bloody strong photos.. using an app which restricts him to one photo ever 10 seconds..
    a real developed eye you have michael.

    keep on.

  55. Another very simple point. Michael was there (and more than there, having been shot) and “we” (parentheses are in because i do not mean that as a put-down) were not. That does also count for something, IMO.

  56. just, to me, the photograph should not be overridden by the camera, but the opposite……….. let the camera override the image no different to the role of process or text that is all part of the narrative and visual interaction. I did a shoot for a zoo once with a bunch of guys shooting high end nikons, canons etc like there was no tomorrow . I used an old film Olympus XA took a few shots got the spread…….. why because the editors thought the photos were accessible to the audience despite the loss of detail, colour shifts etc. It satisfied the need to connect

  57. Alex Majoli’s antics have become folklore not many remember nor care about the images but his image making process of 2005 lives on ……see the camera is all important here

  58. when people say that the ‘photos’ would be better without the application that is a criticism

    absolutely, Bob, and it’s good that here on BURN, people are critical sometimes without fear of being wrong, or fear of being told they are wrong, because it allows for further discussion between us all. Whatever the phrasing used, I see it all (Eva’s remarks) as points brought up rather than a final and disqualifying of Michael’s work.

  59. Re; having no RAW file to go back to and re-edit etc…

    By doing this the photographer has had to be superbly confident in the “look” he wants to achieve, and has the balls to see it through. Knowing that he can’t go back and re-edit gives him a more focussed objective and eye. It certainly concentrates your visual awareness knowing that you can’t re-edit something! A bit like shooting film; you press the shutter and that’s it; done.

    I admire someone with this type of courage; both in getting out into a potentially life threatening situation, and for putting all the eggs and not wanting (or being able) to re-edit.

  60. the fact is that those looking for the sharpest lens, latest kit and all that jazz may well be missing the best shots of their lives.

    the best tool must be ANY one which was used when strong work was produced..
    that’s a universal, be it large medium or small format..
    camera phone or this http://www.bophoto.co.uk/blog/pages/blog16.htm

    saying that billingham would have benefited from using better film stock or lightboxes is really a reflection of our own desire.. if i thought that was the case i would probably get myself some better film stock :o)
    damn that capa moving his camera on purpose..
    jeeze, parrs work could have benefited from using a pro lab rather than the high-street.

    second guessing and other retrospective thinking is great – it’s shaping those that indulge in it..
    acceptance and understanding is, time after time, what follows – for me.

    i also agree with what ross says above.. using an iphone limits the game.. like turning up to tame a tiger in a pair of speedo swimming trunks.. better for maneuverability, perhaps.. worse for the tiger taking you seriously.

  61. “how many are writing the great American novel?”

    Me! Me! Me!

    (Jumps out of his seat, waving his hand in the air…”

    In addition to all this damn photo/non-fiction work, I am writing the great American Novel!

    I started it 30 years ago. If get another 30 years with life and a semi-sound mind, I expect to finish i.

  62. I’ve re-read the postings here, and I haven’t found a single complaint wherein dissatisfaction was expressed with Michael using an iPhone for this essay.

    All the best Michael, in your recuperation.

  63. Pingback: Tuesday 15 March 2011 « P H O T O J O U R N A L I S M L I N K S

  64. Yea, about the content… just a fantastic “get.” Crossing the border into a mysterious land engulfed in a raging conflict. Very exciting stuff. Last word about the camera and style, like it or not, very Gonzo, I think, almost as much so as the physical realities. For me Gonzo is good.

    Unfortunately, what I see is pretty much just another episode of “Men with Guns.” And apparently knives big and sharp enough to cut someone’s head off. That’s the fault of reality rather than the photographer. Doesn’t give me any reason to hope the Libyan revolution, if it succeeds, won’t just be another episode of “Here’s to the new boss, same as the old boss.”

    Michael, best wishes from me on your injury as well. Although “shot in the leg” may not sound so bad to those of us who have never been shot in the leg, I’m sure it must hurt like hell. Here’s to a swift and thorough recovery.



    Thanks David. Funny the interviewer asks me why at 82, he hasn’t quieted down. Chomsky is actually pretty low-key, and always more professoral/bookish than a revved up activist.
    Well, if Eva listens to it, here we have a far-left progressive and a genocide/freedomfighting expert, who thinks it’s none of the West business to “intervene” in Lybia, as he doesn’t think, his life-long mantra, that “we” the West have never demonstrated we held any kind of moral ground to be helping people’s liberations.

  66. Listended to him.. and agree with what he says around 03.38.. and as a consequence comes the rest..or the other way around..

  67. Just wondering with all the attempts at changing the Middle East and the terrible situation in Japan if we are beginning to view a new world scenario.

  68. paul – where is the money.. :o)

    a possible collapse of the middle-east dictators and rise of democracy in their place, combined with the wests financial crises and astonishingly poor foreign policy.. and dependency on oil..

    it could point towards the end of the US empire and a future “world power” base somewhat further east that it currently is..

    although – as chomsky very dryly expressed in the link – nothing is actually changing that dramatically through the revolutions as yet.

    every empire has it’s shelf life..
    i wonder if the romans complained about the price of horse shoes as the empire crumbled?

  69. david b…

    BTW your thoughts on the recent surge in i-phone journalism… Right on and I agree with every word you wrote.

  70. if we are beginning to view a new world scenario.
    I think Michael’s title shot is quite iconic for that matter (peace sign, gun). Which spells and confirms for me: No, no new world, forever stuck with the ping-pong game of thinking dual… IMO, of course!

  71. Well, I don’t see a reason why all of the audience here praise these pictures so much… the author was there and took images the way he saw the situation and the way he was able to take them – pictures are OK… However, if these pictures are taken on that small iphone’s sensor – they look decent as small pictures on a computer screen but will not print well as gallery prints… as a photo book – they will print quite badly as well… a lack of image detail and heavily processed digital look will always be there reminding that photographer didn’t have a normal camera… photography for internet representation, that’s it… the only thing that makes them different is this square format and that digital processing filter used to create this particular aesthetic… I wonder if having a normal camera in those situations would have been a problem… seems like flashing your phone in front of those warriors looks even more suspicious than being a real photographer with your camera and doing what you are supposed to do… Guys with cameras where allowed to be there, weren’t they??…

  72. I wonder if having a normal camera in those situations would have been a problem

    iphone IS also a “normal” camera….what the hell “normal” means btw?

  73. Anthony…

    Why do you think they won’t print well for gallery? I’ve been to many a gallery show with images no bigger than 5X7 (inches, that is). Not everything needs to be three feet X 5 Feet or whatever.

  74. whatever that “normal” means… it’s still a tiny chip in a phone that is also able to take an image… these are fun phone cameras – iphone, nokia n8… but I don’t see how photographer can go beyond internet show taking images with the tools that aren’t able to produce decent quality for gallery prints, book, collector print…

  75. michael kircher,

    … to risk your health and life… and not being able to print a bigger print or a good quality book???…

  76. but I don’t see how photographer can go beyond internet show taking images with the tools that aren’t able to produce decent quality for gallery prints, book, collector print…
    gotta broaden your horizons my man…but we had this discussion million times…see Alex Majoli and his “fun toy” (your words) point and shoots that actually were just 6mp, pretty much as “small” as an iphone…if photogs would think like u , we wouldnt have Majoli in magnum or michael C B in NYT or nat geo or pretty much everywhere:)

  77. “but I don’t see how photographer can go beyond internet show taking images with the tools that aren’t able to produce decent quality for gallery prints, book, collector print…”

    This is disposable journalism, and it fits perfectly with the transient nature of the Internet and our lives these days. Who cares if you can’t put it in a book and on the wall? Don’t try to grasp it, to hold onto it. You can’t. There will be 10,000 more images from Libya by tomorrow. Experience it. Move on. Images now are grains of sand on the beach. You don’t have a place (in your mind or on your walls) big enough to contain them. Watch them go by and then let them go.

  78. horizons…:)) Alex started to shoot small sensor olympus later in his career, not before entering Magnum… and just for a very short period… and you still can’t compare those very good compact olys that Alex shot with and iphone or any other phone camera to date… Yes, in photography have always been – the bigger the better, but… photographers don’t necessarily have to choose, or choose the best… usually they choose the best compromise… mega pixels isn’t all that counts in technical image quality… 6 mp on a very good sensor is more than enough…

  79. Jim, that makes sense… if one understands his work as disposable… then it’s his choice… the life of human being is disposable… who needs those books and pictures… everything is just temporary… the life itself has no meaning what so ever..

  80. michael kircher,

    … I hope too… to me seems sad as well… what reasons would that be???…

  81. Jim u r not wrong… Although photography was “always” like “that”… Nothing new…
    Pixels or silver..!! There was always that 5% of photogs that made the difference..
    and the rest of 95% talking about gear and criticizing ..
    Nothing new indeed:)

  82. panos skoulidas,

    yes… narrow horizons can see only narrow horizons in everything – that is typical, and nothing new… no discussion.

  83. Think of Saddam Housein’s execution/hanging .. Taped by blackberry..
    When u r in a “war” or the world need / expecting news ASAP , there is no time for Ansel Adams to set up.. ;)

  84. I watched the essay again, with the idea of that processing you all been talking about (hard not to, with all that yakyak-ing). I find it even better now. It brings out just not the events themselves, but where so much of it takes place, in the desert, so Michael used a funny little techno gimmick in a funny camera (do I understand that’s what you’re saying it is?) to great effect, or intuition, to get the feeling of the desert in his….Well, desert shots.

    “don’t show me what you see, show me what you feel”. David Alan Harvey

  85. Following on last night’s post, I was greeted this morning with another example of a journalist covering major events of the day with an iPhone. Michael Christopher Brown has a photo essay of the conflict in Libya in Burn, the online photography magazine published by David Allen Harvey.

    The images have an intensely personal feel, really putting the viewer in the heart of the action. They seem quite distinct from other more traditional images that are currently running in mainstream media. Brown used the Hipstamatic app to create this essay, as did Damon Winter for his images of the war in Afghanistan.

    In the very near future, I think we’ll get over the novelty of the fact that a camera phone can be used to create solid photographic work, and we’ll take for granted that many images we see are taken with smartphones. In the end, the tool used to create these images is not what’s important – it’s the risks the photographer took, the extreme close proximity to these people and events, and the quality of the storytelling.


  86. “Does it really matter what camera Damon Winter used to make these beautifully composed images? I don’t think so. It’s the images that are important.

    Whenever possible, I avoid writing about camera gear. The photographer takes the picture, not the equipment. Few people care what kind of typewriter Hemingway used.”

    James Estrin

  87. “Composing with the iPhone is more casual and less deliberate,” Mr. Winter said. “And the soldiers often take photos of each other with their phones, so they were more comfortable than if I had my regular camera.”
    Damon Winter

    Mr. Winter even found himself taking a few iPhone pictures during firefights while he was shooting video with his single-lens reflex (a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, as long as we’re on the subject). The Hipstamatic app forced him to wait about 10 seconds between photos, so each one had to count.

  88. Not so long ago when it was only the kids friggin around with this stuff it wasn’t considered as serious enough stuff for photojournalists……………..

  89. ….hmmnn that re minds me I better have another look at Robert Frank’s storylines and learn some more InDesign stuff ……..

  90. Panos…

    It’s the force of Apple and the iPhone which has made the mobile phone images cool, trendy and acceptable for many photojournalists. This would not of happened if Nokia was the only one producing mobile phone cameras. The power and cult of Steve Jobs.

  91. Nah Paul lots of the kids don’t own iPhones and still were into that grungie look. Most don’t know Jobs from a baboon and don’t care what he does

  92. To me, seems sad. I hope there are deeper reasons for risking it all.

    From personal experience, I’m guessing adrenaline. All else is just the monkey talkin.

  93. “Does it really matter what camera Damon Winter used to make these beautifully composed images?… The photographer takes the picture, not the equipment. Few people care what kind of typewriter Hemingway used.”

    Those are nice sounding little aphorisms but crazy wrong. Yes, it does matter what camera someone uses to take a picture. Different cameras, as you all know full well, produce radically different images. And it is the camera (and in some cases film) that takes the picture. albeit at the photographer’s command. Photographers compose, which is the more important part of the equation.

    My position, like pretty much everyone else’s here, is that we can compose on whatever camera we want and judge the results independent of the gear, but that doesn’t change the reality that different gear will produce different results and that some gear gives a much wider range of storytelling possibilities than others. Duh.

  94. last comment on this essay, as i’ve said my piece…it is powerful, intimate and thoughtful work….

    as to Jim/Antony and others who wonder whether or not Mike will ‘regret’ shooting on an iphone based on some silly notion of posterity/book/printing, let me remind folk that MOST of all photographs are gone, disappear, do not make it to a book, a wall, or even our memories (collective, historical or otherwise)…it all disappears, and mike’s story is of the moment and is important because it is not an ‘art’ project with the eye toward posterity but because he is reporting in and of the moment….and because, like the entire history of journalistic work, this story was compelling because he felt the need/desire/inspiration to go to a place and reflect upon it and share it….now before the surge in photobook making, and most people saw pictures in newspapers (most folk never even go to a gallery to begin with, let alone in history) and most people will never buy a photobook and even photograhers/photolovers look/buy at a lot less photobooks then picturees….

    and maybe, just maybe, there are photographers who carve up stories for sake of sharing the experience of the moment, now, to inform, to share, to narrate, to tell…to speak…and guess what, it will be forgotten too..and this does not vitiate the importance or strength of mike’s endeavor…

    JIm: that is just nonsense, because all the photographs that you gobble up, and you publishe in your newspaper are gone too…so, does that delegitimize your paper’s snappers work?….we’re a narcissistic, history-chewing crowd….and i would just ask, for once, that people put away their pretentious goals and just enjoy and celebrate work that speaks of the now…and most importantly, all that work beging shot by citizens, is that less important because it won’t be published in a magazine/website/gallery/book….we process pictures, we process information and then we forget it….it’s our brains and our lives….and so be it, that is the world we live in and that is the world we have always lived in….and yet, maybe, a story makes a difference in a person’s life…and that is meaningful..

    and lastly, i remember 10 years ago, folk talking about ‘digital’ pictures will be no good on walls, not good for books, etc…same old argument…phone pics can be in a book…and if not, who cares…they exist, or at least they existed in a time and place and that had meaning…

    story telling….it is important not because it becomes immortal but because it can and does affect the lives and stories of our life….and of our moments, before they swelter away.


    risk is just inherent in this work…i have had 8 photographer friends who lost their lives while and because they were taking pictures…2 of the 8 in war….3 of the 8 shooting from helicopter….3 misc…one backed onto skylite, one snow avalanche, one stepped in front of car (most likely)…looking through viewfinder takes most of your other senses away temporarily or makes you do things you just would not do without a camera…all of it risky…i think photojournalist is not what you want to put down on your life insurance application….

  96. Imants…

    I was talking about the growing trend with the PJs shooting images with mobiles they are the ones who go to war with iPhones. As you quite correctly mentioned, kids have been doing this for years. I’ve been in charge of a warehouse for the last 10years(Teaching photography is part time after work), always had 18-25 year old kids working with me…they come and go, hard work and bad pay as usual and they leave pretty quickly. Always 4 kids at the warehouse working with me so I’ve seen a lot of kids… their mobile phone is the centre of their life, everything revolves round it for communicating and remembering. They text, they take photos, make videos and sometimes make phone calls… yes and few care or know about iPhone… just too expensive.

  97. David, very sorry to hear about your friends. No disrespect was intended. As I know you know, many do get hooked on the adrenaline rush they get in fire fights. In war zones, I’ve only been in potential ambush situations and hated that feeling, but as one who used to drive fast cars fast, I think I can somewhat relate.

  98. What I find sad is how much of this kind of brilliant work is seen as “disposable journalism”, especially seeing what risks these guys go to get these images. The price to pay is extremely high especially as we’ve seen MCB.

  99. Sorry Paul, but I very much doubt that anyone in this thread or the other ever said that the final image isn’t ultimately what counts. We all know that. The nuance comes in how we get the final image. There are many different options. They matter.

  100. mw…

    Laughing… had to look that word “catechism” up!
    Would you feel more at ease with this essay if MCB had gone into Libya with a 1dsIII or d3x.

  101. mw…
    Of course they matter but you are always searching for what’s missing! That’s great! Makes Burn dialogues far more interesting than my complete acceptance of everything…

  102. Storytelling is important, because it is part of our visual memory. And must not be forgotten. Not be disposable.

    Having been at Paolo Pellegrin’s ‘Dies Irae’ exhibit a few days ago ( http://events.magnumphotos.com/exhibition/dies-irae-di-paolo-pellegrin ), having seen more than 200 prints up at a wall, one next to the other and next to the other and next to the other of what horrors humankind inflicts on the next of kin, it sure has much more of an impact than browsing through an essay on the net. It leaves a more lasting effect. As do the pictures we see of the Holocaust, of the Vietnam war, of Abu Grahib… and the same counts for pictures coming out of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrein, Syria… or a book like that by Marcus Bleasdale presented to those who can make a change.. or simple people like you and me, who even in our small way can take action.. disposable, these stories? No, thanks.

    Or, in Pellegrin’s words:”My duty – my responsibility – is to create an archive of our collective memory.”

  103. eva:

    ALL things are forgotten….but more importantly, just because something is NOT printed in a book or or a wall, does not mean it is ‘disposable’…

    we delude ourselves…

    do you know the memory of your great-great great grandfather’s voice…the sound of his voice…and yet, some part of you is reflected in that…

    telling a story is more important than its lasting permanence…

    because the ACT of telling becomes the act of faith….

    because the same stories, the same wars, the same tragedies get repeated…and we learn nothing…but in the moment, for a moment, we can (deluded or otherwise) somehow coallesce…and even then it’s gone…

    this morning i received a photograph from my student north of tokyo of her city that overlooks the nuclear powerplant…not published….any less important?..

    the ‘we must not forget so as to not repeat history’ is a lie..what is more important is that, even in our forgetting, do we act….

  104. mw…

    A theoretical example… just imagine for one moment you suddenly found out DAH’s “Divided Soul”, Natchwey’s “Inferno”, or Salgado’s “Workers” had been shot on an iPhone would it suddenly dramatically lose value for you?

  105. Bob, if we do not know, we do/can not act, as simple as that. In order to know there must be something tangible.

    Plus, never said everything needs to be printed, nor ever said what is not printed is not important. Simply saying printed matter does have its value, high as that, from my point of view.

    The ability to tell stories that have an impact, a long lasting impact, is not of everyone, but of some. I guess that this is the reason that some (few) are photojournalists/photographers, and some (many) take pictures but are not. That does not mean the photographs taken of the latter have no importance at all.

    Don’t agree that all will be forgotten, nor agree that we learn nothing. Some will forget, or try to make us forget, yes, but not all will, even if it is harder to live with a memory.

  106. Paul, those works were not shot on an IPhone and based on the physical laws of this universe could not possibly have been, so for me to realistically imagine that they were, would require some skill at writing science fiction

  107. “JIm: that is just nonsense, because all the photographs that you gobble up, and you publishe in your newspaper are gone too…so, does that delegitimize your paper’s snappers work?”

    I wasn’t being sarcastic in my post. Everything we publish here is on the bottom of a bird cage the next day. We simply can’t hold onto images anymore, they are disposable. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. It’s all part of the flow of life. None of these events that Eva was referencing as important will be of interest in a generation or so.

    Even something as significant as the Holocaust is too far removed from a 25 year old today to have any real meaning to them, even with the photos that survive. Still another war in Libya, or wherever, published photos or not, will mean nothing to the 25 year olds that are living 25 years from now.

    But the photo taken today means something to us today, so whether shot with an Iphone or IDMkIV, and whether enjoying one day of exposure on the web or in a daily newspaper, it has value. Trying to hold onto these images, though, is useless. Images are simply moving by too quickly and in too much quantity to hold onto.

  108. Speaking of risk, was it posted here that Tyler Hicks, Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell and Anthony Shadid of the New York Times have gone missing in Libya? Tyler and Lynsey have been documenting the oposition fighters for weeks now. Their photos have been as close as one can get, amazing stuff. It is thought that they were swept up by pro-Qaddafi government troops during Tuesday’s attacks on the rebel’s position near Ajdabiya.


    I can’t tell you how this upsets me. These people have shown incredible courage in their determination to offer witness to the truth of what is happening in Libya. May they be released unharmed and SOON!


  109. Jim.. do you really think that pictures of 9/11 will not “”be of interest in a generation or so””? That’s in 10 years.. or so.. or perhaps it depends on where you live in relation to where things happen?

  110. Y’all worry too much about What Matters and What Lasts. It’s really not a factor of the megapixel count, and you have no control over it. The only thing any of us can control is shooting the next frame.

  111. ”Well, literature is really just journalism that doesn’t grow old. Like literature, photography is best when it looks at ordinary things rather than sensational ones.”
    Larry Towell

  112. The thing is this essay would probably not be accused of dissposable and iPhone this and iPhone that if didn’t explain the moment and instead tried to reflect upon it.

  113. Jim, there is a lot of truth in what you are pointing out. As photographers we want to see what we do as precious.

    To those who worry that i-phone pictures cannot be printed and shown in gallerys and book, not to worry. You would be shocked how well low resolution pictures, including iphone pictures print. My son made a lovely 16×20 in. print once from a 2 megapixel point and shoot file. He up-rezed it with Genuine Fractals. He has also made prints from his older 3mp iphone which look amazingly good.

  114. Gordon..you’re absolutely right…absolutely definitely u can print great from phones nowadays…
    All those purist bullshit is just excuses for laziness..
    oh , if im not in India then my photos suck..
    oh, if i dont have a Leica or an eos MNBYHIIIIIXXXX mark the 11…then my photos suck…
    (“your” photos will always gonna suck imho..;)

  115. As photographers we want to see what we do as precious. ………not all only some.
    aaahhhh one has to love the immortality squirrels hoarding to their last breath

  116. IN Pellegrin’s words:”My duty – my responsibility – is to create an archive of our collective memory.”
    A bit pretentious, said this way. Only the collective memory (which can’t be one man only) can create the archiving. IMO.

  117. Even something as significant as the Holocaust is too far removed from a 25 year old today

    Typical Jim Powers’s. Just in Europe (where the holocaust comes back, arguably, more often to the “surface” than in the US), that’s a lot of 25YOs to pigeonhole. Like, slightly off the subject, but not that much, who knew about the 25YOs from Tunisia, then Egypt 2 months ago…

  118. JP…”Everything we publish here is on the bottom of a bird cage the next day. We simply can’t hold onto images anymore, they are disposable. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. It’s all part of the flow of life. None of these events that Eva was referencing as important will be of interest in a generation or so.”

    Find some old Life Magazine and take a look back and see if these images; Eugene Smith’s “Country Doctor”, September 20th 1948, “The Tragedy at Kent State” May 15th 1970 or Cartier Bresson’s “Inside Castro’s Cuba” March 15th 1963, don’t hold up today. Great work is great work and nothing less. Maybe their impact lessens over time, but great images and stories will always endure time.

  119. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/07/wikileaks-gaddafi-britain-lockerbie-bomber

    The British government’s deep fears that Libya would take “harsh and immediate” action against UK interests if the convicted Lockerbie bomber died in a Scottish prison are revealed in secret US embassy cables which show London’s full support for the early release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

    Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, made explicit and “thuggish” threats to halt all trade deals with Britain and harass embassy staff if Megrahi remained in jail, the cables show. At the same time “a parade of treats” was offered by Libya to the Scottish devolved administration if it agreed to let him go, though the cable says they were turned down.

  120. Stephen

    There will always be iconic images which represent a particular historic event. The right place at the right time. There also will be the images of those with extraordinary vision. Time will sort out who they are.

    Jim is slightly over-stating his case here, but not by much. Certainly there will be images that endure. However, from the top of my head I honestly cannot think of many from the past few years.

    The stream of images in the digital age, compared to the film age, is a tsunami compared to a lazy creek. In the early sixties, when I started making photographs, just getting a sharp well exposed image was a minor miracle. Getting other people to see it was another issue.

    Anyone can produce endless images now at will. There are millions of keen amateur photographers, who produce amazing stuff. One can sit on the internet and view millions, literally, of new images every day, there is spectacular work being produced everywhere. Spend a few hours on any popular photo sharing site and witness and endless procession of amazing imagry.

    Think of it like dance, or live music performance, art forms that exist only in the moment.

    As far as older iconic images holding up today if they were removed from their context? Some of them perhaps would, others pale.

  121. “Jim.. do you really think that pictures of 9/11 will not “”be of interest in a generation or so””? That’s in 10 years.. or so.. or perhaps it depends on where you live in relation to where things happen?”

    Let’s try this. What does the Vietnam war mean to a 20 year old today? Nothing. I’ve asked them. A footnote in a history book. All the photos in the world cannot give that war meaning to a 20 year old. Once all of us are gone that lived through that time, the emotions of that time will be completely unrecoverable. Images still exist, sure. But the context and conflicts of that time exist only in the minds of 60 and 70 year old people!

    9/11 will mean little to a person who is 20 years old 10 years from now. And that only to those very close to someone who knew someone who died then and have listened personally to their accounts. The photos will be removed from the cultural and emotional context 20 years removed.

    Again, that’s not to say photos taken NOW are not important NOW. But they are important now because the context and raw emotion are connected directly with them. That will not be the case for those same images in 2020. And they will have been buried by billions of more images, immediate images that are happening at that moment in 2020. Too many images, too many people, too many wars and catastrophes and too much political upheaval have passed under the bridge.

    As context…When I was born in 1950, there were 70 million people in the United States. There are now 308 million. Where there were millions of snapshots taken in a year, there are now billions. Where I could see one hour of news a day on TV during the 1950’s, I can watch news 24 hours a day on satellite. The images and events they depict rush by. They are not sharply delineated as they were “back in the day.” There are a blur, too fast to fully grasp. Modern times.

  122. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    It’s an interesting but fairly limited debate – this one about technology (iPhone vs. ‘real’ camera) – and one that I think misses pretty entirely the point of this, what I’m sure we all agree is, amazing photography.

    I say the debate is limited because the discussion hasn’t moved very far from “I like it” or “I dont like it” which is all so subjective and personally preferential while the larger discussion of the merits of the work lays there with large, unblinking eyes.

    I would prefer, for example only, a discussion about Mr. Brown’s choice of embedding with the ‘rebels’ instead of the government troops than his choice of cameras. This would seem a more relevant topic to me and speak to larger issues of media, sympathy, identification and historical memory than what app was used.

    Any other thoughts?

  123. Gordon..No doubt about it, there is great work being produced every day, and as you say take a look around the internet and you will see it, the digital age has produce million’s of picture takers, though not all of them are photographers, as Gary Winogrand said; ” Photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the picture as judgment that the photograph is good”. Enough said about that…

    JP..”Once all of us are gone that lived through that time, the emotions of that time will be completely unrecoverable. Images still exist, sure. But the context and conflicts of that time exist only in the minds of 60 and 70 year old people!”

    It’s sad to think and I refuse to believe, that these images will pass on into oblivion and be forgotten. I look back with fascination at old copies of Life, Look and Geographic, stunning work produced by journeymen and women for all of us to devour and hopefully aspire to. Sure I wasn’t around in the 40’s or even 50’s but I can appreciate and wonder at the work that was done. I can feel the emotion of Dorothea Lange’s “White Angel Bread Line” 1932. I have not had to have lived it to feel the power of that image, to be able to understand the circumstance around it. Or to the quiet beauty of Bruce Davidson’s “East 100th Street”. Powerful and enduring still. History it’s all about history…its only purpose is educative. If I’m not mistaken they give degree’s for this.

  124. I don’t know, Imants, we respond to Jim because we respond to him. He’s probably right about pictures going straight into oblivion, but IMO, we are, here(on BURN and some other places, on the net and in our lives), interested in that 1% of improbability vs the 99% probable.

  125. A QUIZ
    no cheating please.

    Do you know the fate of the turkish nomad family?

    Can you recall the names or faces of any of the Kids from the odessa sewers?

    What was the name of the salvadorn refugee featured in Destino?
    Can you recall a single image of her?
    Do you have any idea what has happened to her?

    Where is the last mine, and what does it produce?

    How is the renovation of the Ukranian white house progressing?

    How is Fisnik?
    Do you remember his dream?

    Do stories matter if all we do is consume them?

    Answers on a postcard to the usual address……

  126. Herve… I think Pellegrin is referring to what he can do, or tries to do, with his work, but I don’t think he pretends to do it universally, only his part.. an archive isn’t built up by one, but by a multiple of… there’s an interview out there on youtube with him, but it’s in Italian, haven’t found an English version yet..

  127. Hey all,
    Apologies for the delayed commentary. It is true, I was hit in the leg during a battle near Bin Jawad. Though was lucky it was a flesh wound (the bullet did not pass through bone/ligament/etc) and was able to walk normally the next day. So much to say about the experience though have had little time to reflect, as already in a van going back to Libya. It also seems most if not all of the comments were answered by other comments. So I have nothing to add at this point. If there is anything I can answer specifically please ask. And thank you for spending time with the work.

  128. “I would prefer, for example only, a discussion about Mr. Brown’s choice of embedding with the ‘rebels’ instead of the government troops than his choice of cameras”

    jamie – given what has come to pass, with restrictions in place on reporters in tripoli, others being kidnapped, beaten and actually murdered in the case of al jazeeras ali hassan al jaber i would guess the choice to report from the rebel side is a pragmatic one.

    the most interesting point my mind returns to is the same now for bahrain as it was for libya – the most powerful and enduring images i have yet seen are sourced from youtube, shot on a mobile phone and moving.. or captures from moving image.
    i think it’s these publicly sourced videos which have probably contributed greatly to the now implemented no fly zone in libya..

    it could be that the humble crusader / photographer, with a nylon bag full of clean ethics and anger at oppression, has been diminished by the subjects of their work doing-it-themselves.. at least with the crisis in the middle east..

  129. still heavy shelling and fighting in misrata according to reuters.. 25 protesters dead since “ceasefire”

    more than one way to skin a civilian..

  130. David Bowen

    Given the world’s opinion of Ghadafi, I wonder how a journalist imbedded with government forces would be recieved by western media. Coverage so far has all been from the Rebel perspective with no doubt left as to who the west thinks the bad guys are.

    While I am not defending the Libyan regime, or any totalitarian regime, what is taking place is an attempted overthrow of a government. Clearly not all Libyans are behind the rebels.
    In my own country, Canada, we have separatist who’s aim is to remove Quebec from Canada and become a new country. In 1970 they began a campaign of bombings and kidnappings. America had a civil war which killed many thousands. The shaw of Iran was overthrown in 1979 and replaced by an Islamic government who are by all accounts much worse than rule under the shaw.

    This is all a big can of worms, and a huge grey area.

  131. Gordon, exactly. And why anyone would want the U.S. to go on yet another murder spree with no good end in sight in another Muslim country so close on the heels of the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan is a real mystery. Even if you put the moral, ethical, and strategic questions aside, who is supposed to pay for yet another stupid war? Fire more teachers? Further destroy the middle class? Give more giant tax breaks to the wealthy? Killing people isn’t free, you know. And unfortunately, there’s no guarantee it will make anyone free either, unless you mean free of life.

  132. Usa is busy enough as it is…let Europe take action it’s about time some other country apart from usa helped out in the world.

  133. Too early to say yet, but I give it to John Mc Cain, who knew that if the UN/USA was showing intent to move in, Kaddhafi would blink without having to fly one single plane to enforce.

    That is great statesmanship, and puts back in its place all the useless banter uttered on the social medias. The fact is, as world/country shaping events go, these (social medias) are great tools for people freeing themselves, but only a container for righteous indulgent scribbling for the already free.

  134. WOW!! Absolutely amazing work! Some of the best work I have ever seen on Burn. I love the stylized photos as well as the content. Most of it is drop dead gorgeous. I kept saying wow, out load just about the whole way through. I am a fan Michael.

  135. gordon..

    “Coverage so far has all been from the Rebel perspective with no doubt left as to who the west thinks the bad guys are.”

    there have been a great number of televised reports from tripoli delivered by journalists kept under what sounds like a kind of house arrest and gadaffi has actually, (and at length) had his say well publicized..

    i’ve been thinking about haviv covering arkans tigers and the serbian perspective as they worked their way through the villages.. or langon covbering both sides in afghanistan with his dispatches documentaries, (when it was still possible to do so.. before he himself was kidnapped)..

    in that context i think the news would be received and distributed by western media, or reported at least, yet it seems none have been able to “embed” with the loyalists.. perhaps that was what hicks was attempting?

    on the point of “invasion/intervention” there is already a certain amount of complicity going on.. as the rebels intercept a tanker of fuel on its way from greece to tripoli, it’s revealed that egypt has been shipping arms over the boarder for days – with tacit US approval.. lots more going on besides.

    the UN resolution was only possible with china and russia abstaining rather than vetoing.. and they abstained only because the arab league eventually called for the NFZ..
    the actions being proposed could be seen as the UN finally winning back some credibility.

    then again – there have been some horrific reports coming out of bahrain this last 48 hours.. bahrain where the US fleet is.. their use of saudi military, to suppress unarmed protesters, is very unlikely to get any attention fron the UNSC..
    and we’re back to square one with the UN.

    it is a can of worms, of course..
    my family would have been a completely different shape had it not been for the blitz killing them.. in that sense i think europeans understanding of “invasion”, while drifting from living memory, is by no means naive..
    perhaps following the rest of europes swift condemnation of daffy duck, (even recognizing libyas transitional government), forced a “tipping point” whereby europe realized that gadaffi was potentially much more of a risk than saddam.. or anyone else..
    with more economies here dependent on his oil, (90% bought by europe), and only a thin shipping lane between him and us – once he made his threats to our economies, civilian and military targets on europes mainland as well as his own people, our involvement became (politicaly) plausable..much more plausible.. dominos falling..

    in any event – the can of worms is open and regardless of intervention and western projections of “democracy”, until those who worship the same god can fundamentally abide each other, peace seems remote.

  136. yesyes – the essay..
    if reading and able – what are your intentions upon returning again to libya?
    do you have fermenting ideas?

  137. http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/typing-error-by-maltese-agent-causes-malta-embarrassment-over-arms-exports-to-libya

    A ‘typing error’ in documentation submitted to the government by a Maltese shipping agent of the vessel transporting the cargo of an Italian arms manufacturing firm, has led to Malta being erroneously put into the spotlight by a European report that alleged €80 million – rather than €8 million – worth of weapons transited through Malta from Italy to Libya in 2009.

  138. “However, if these pictures are taken on that small iphone’s sensor – they look decent as small pictures on a computer screen but will not print well as gallery prints…”


    I will respectfully disagree on this point, and here’s why. I recently had the opportunity to view some of kael Alford’s work from her book, Unembeded, (about the first Iraq war) when she gave a talk here. In the gallery, some of the prints were quite large – up to 4′ x 6′. They looked very good.

    One point Kael made while we were talkign is that they had very basic cameras with them by today’s standards – 3 megapixel devices that saved only in .jpg. The emlargements hung were made from these files. When I commented on how good they looked, kael told me that they have even newer prints that hadn’t been ready when they hung the exhibit, that look much better.

    Now, of course they weren’t the same as a MF digital back, or large format film scans. But they weren’t meant to be that way. Master printers with the right software can do pretty impressive things with even basic files….

    good light, all.

  139. Andrew B…absolutely…folks that usually bring those “purists” aphorisms…are simply gear heads that never really printed/experimented much or not at all….just theoretical sadness..what if this, what if that..
    comparing cameras, cars , etc…no substance..:(

  140. Michael Kircher
    Ah, what a difference a year makes
    Yes, 2009 was run of the mill, this one so far is very special and we are only mid-March! ;-)

  141. gordon..
    this just turned up..
    “Christopher Morris is familiar with working in controlled environments. From following the rigid protocols of the White House to the totalitarian bubble of North Korea, he has captured lyrical and telling moments under watchful eyes and strict boundaries. Over the last two weeks, Morris, a TIME contract photographer, has been on assignment in Libya and encountered some surprising similarities to some of the places he’s worked in the past.”

  142. Andrew B

    Today just to satisfy my curiosity I downloaded some full size iphone 4 files from the web and printed them. At 240 dpi the native print size is slightly bigger than 8×10. I did print an 8×10, and it looked great. Rule of thumb printing digital, if it looks good 8×10, it will look good any size, up to billboard size. viewing distance increases as size increases.
    I also printed some hipstamatic files from my son’s older iphone. Native size 5x5in at 300dpi. I uprezed in photoshop to 12″sq and they printed beautifully.
    Upsizing with Genuine Fractals or similar software would improve the quality even more, as would a few photoshop sharpening tricks.
    This is really a non-issue.

  143. I couldn’t care less if a picture is made with an iphone, a leica, or a holga. what I do find a bit annoying is so many people going for the same trendy “hipstamatic” look, be it straight from an iphone or achieved through photoshop.

  144. Gordon, that’s kind of like saying it doesn’t matter if Jimi Hendrix played purple haze on a Stratacaster or with Garage Band. One is created by the artist oh so much more than the gear, the other is created mostly by programmers, hence much more a result of the gear than the artist. So in the context of art, it’s kitsch at best. In the context of journalism, it’s just wrong. (note for those not reading closely, I’m talking about the app, not the camera. Again, talking about the app, not the camera.)

    You know, it’s okay to disagree with me, but I did do my homework. I bought the app and did a little project with it. I suggest those of you with iphones give it a try and then let’s hear what you think.

  145. Gordon, let me try an analogy. Granted, it’s a ridiculous one :)

    Imagine I happened to like impressionist painters, but for some reason, they all started using the same brand new, trendy magic brush and all of a sudden Cézanne, Monet, and Renoir paintings all looked the same. Am I then allowed to be annoyed at that trend?

    Hipstamatic is the new magic brush, and decidedly too many people are using it.

  146. If you are happy having a piece of kit that makes every single choice for you.
    If you are happy having a plus/minus shutter accuracy of between 1/10 and 1/5 of a second.
    If you are happy to remain deluded that this is analogous to film stock choice. [utter nonsense]
    If you wish to believe that a facsimile is ‘good enough’
    …then go ahead and be ‘hip’. I mean, its not like the rest of the world gives a rats either way.

    Little story.
    I have a young assistant. 22/23 ish. made two award winning documentaries already(funded them both himself too, by working hard). Went to north Korea to shoot a doc and wanted to have a super 8 ektachrome look for the video and an sx70 type 69 type vibe for the stills.
    What did he do?
    He shot on super 8 and with an sx70. AUTHENTIC! and hes 22.
    new orleans doc
    A good kid. If he survives working for me he will go far :))


  147. Michael Webster

    “In the context of journalism, it’s just wrong.”

    Eh? Gotta love ya Michael, you make some really valid points on burn at times, and then… boom. There is nothing inherently “wrong” with using an application when it comes to journalism. Nothing. Again, nothing.

    As long as you are not selectively altering what the camera shows (beyond choosing framing, exposure, etc.), you’re all good.

  148. wasn’t just the bandwith expanded? Now there is yet another tool to make pictures. I find the discussion around the hipstamatic app a bit dogmatic. The previous tools still exist and have their place.

    ..and I agree with Jared “As long as you are not selectively altering what the camera shows (beyond choosing framing, exposure, etc.), you’re all good.”

  149. John..(smiling) to address your points.

    I do not personally use an iphone or do anything that looks like a hipstamatic picture, but.

    A polaroid SX70 makes every single choice for you, is unable to shoot in poor light, and the final results are pretty much inferior to the hipstamatic version.

    Why is shutter accuracy an issue?

    Who cares if the results are analogous to film stock. I prefer to think of this stuff as inspired by film and odd cameras rather that trying to replicate exactly.

    Good enough? depends on the results.Is a polaroid sx70 print good enough? Authentic? these are authentic hipstamaitic pictures.

    A little story.

    I have an old friend who after a career shooting high end commercial work, chucked it all to persue his art. He spent many years learning how to make Dye transfer prints, and has spent the last couple of decades learning how to make colour carbro prints. It takes him days…weeks, to make prints.
    In the meantime, inkjet printing has progressed to the point where one wonders why he went through all that trouble.

  150. Carsten:

    a lot of painters use (used) the same brushes, same specific paints as others….shit, which writer, for years, didn’t believe in the magical power of the olivetti typewriter ;)))…..not to mention the faber pencil, the lousiville slugger, the Brunswick balling balls, ginsu knives, italian marble, belgian linen for canvas, leica camera, kodak film or does it really matter what boards rodney mullen or mark gonzalez used?….

  151. The way I was trained, straight news journalism must try to depict the world as accurately as possible. By those ethics, purposely changing the colors is wrong. That’s what I meant. Can’t say that at this late date it bothers me all that much. What old timers consider the golden era of journalism is all but dead, and it’s heyday was brief as it was. By today’s standards, it’s okay to editorialize, probably even necessary. Whether it’s reporters imposing their views or photographers imposing their palettes… Still, I prefer to draw the line. I’m not judging Michael’s work as straight journalism, btw, so not saying it is wrong in that way. The kitsch line was worse. Kinda forgot where I was. Sorry. Would really like to have this conversation in dialogue some time.

  152. Purposly changing the colours? Goodness, film choice changes colours, and heavens, black and white removes the colour altogher making blood appear just black.

  153. Yea, but Bob, Carsten’s analogy is dependent on the painters using the same magic brush that makes all their palettes look the same. You’re stretching pretty far, bud. Though you guys do have a bit of a point about film. But of course some film was better than other… And then there was the processing… And camera settings… In many ways unlike Carsten’s magic brush.

    There is, btw, software that provides the old magic brush, or there used to be anyway. I definitely remember one with a Van Gogh style. And Seurat. Looked pretty cool, but for some reason work manipulated with that software never made any headway in the art world. Wonder why that was?

  154. And Gordon, again limiting it to straight news journalism, there were always places where the lines were blurred, but the attempt to objectively represent reality without editorializing was worthy. Do you really think we’re better off now when any clown with a corporate and/or government approved opinion (cough Fox News, cough, Pravda, cough) can insert it into any and every single story?

  155. . In the context of journalism, it’s just wrong.
    yeah..hmmm….sorry Mike but i agree with Jared on this one…u totally lost me here too ;)

  156. “The way I was trained,” …..hmmn a problem here could be the training killed the free spirit.
    Yea Bob the magic pills is alive and commercially successful………… a new iphone, a new fuji X100, a new app the list goes on and on and on.

  157. michael :))

    yea, i like to exaggerate ;))…but the analogy is apt in that folk believe that using the same tools will result, not necessarily on the same look, but in the magic itself…and most photogs probably use certain tools (bodies/glass/film or post-processing techniques darkroom/photoshop) to hope that their work has the ‘authenticity’ (read: quality) of all those photogs they like/emulate etc…

    i guess point is a simple one, lots of folks use phones and hipstomatic apps and who cares, it doesn’t make or break the work for me, the questions is in it’s summation: does it come together to wring something from me…..

    but then again, as a photographer i always wanted to break the desire and need for my own work to look like the work by which i’m inspired….

    then again, i just spent the morning writing before breakfast writing an angry post at LS against a famous photographer of whom i have always had the highest regard (and own 2 of his books) after listening to him rant about how younger photographers have no craft/understanding, etc…..this kind of mentality not only breaks my heart but sickens with its aristocratic, male-chauvinistic antipathy….god save us from ourselves…

    this, just makes me sick at heart….and why increasingly, i can’t stand being around olderphotographers….


    david harvey, a rare and uncommon exception, in his love for and embrace of the new, the now and all those following in his path…

    gotta fly

  158. I agree with John using a SX70,old cine cameras, old forgotten cameras changes the way one approaches a project both visually and conceptually.

  159. lol… Bob, your comment made me laugh :) I know you get the point of my silly analogy.

    look, I am not saying one thing is right over another. just expressing personal preference – this is a matter of taste, as so many things are. I don’t like the hipstamatic look, and I think it’s way overused these days. Right now as we speak, there are 4 facebook friends of mine with hipstamatic pictures in their status updates. “hey look, I can make my pictures look artsy with the push of a button!”

  160. Bob The Burnett & Jarecke show sounds like a couple of ex politicians crying in their beers over lost junkets and a crappy superannuation payout.

  161. ere are 4 facebook friends of mine with hipstamatic pictures in their status updates. “hey look, I can make my pictures look artsy with the push of a button!”……… and good on them evidently it makes them feel positive about the images.

  162. So Bob, I guess an interesting question would be: has there ever been a style in art or anything else that you felt became so overused as to be clichéd or kitschy? Velvet Elvis’s? Star filters? The phrase “it is what it is?” Anything?

    Not saying that would be a bad thing. Just curious.

  163. Bob…
    Yes of course! :)) And i can can always hop over to our Burn dialogue and change subject…so yes you’re quite right…sorry and hoping as usual to see your new essay very soon! :)

  164. It’s raining (first decent rain in over two months)…… there are a couple of seals in my pond, maybe I should get out there and train them in the “old ways”

  165. “hey look, I can make my pictures look artsy with the push of a button!”……… and good on them evidently it makes them feel positive about the images.
    true, true..nothing wrong with being happy and positive:)))))))

  166. Regarding traditional journalism ethics, Panos, Gordon, anyone else, they once existed and were very worthwhile. The world is not a better place since their demise. And that’s speaking as one who hasn’t done a lot of straight news journalism for a long, long time. But in traditional journalism terms, even as a member of the church, I still believe in the separation of church and state. If I’m reading a news story on the front page of the New York Times, or seeing a photograph, I don’t give a flying fuck about the opinion of the reporter or photojournalist. I just want to know what’s happening. Which, circling back to one of David Bowen’s points, I think the phone cameras are great because so many of the images we get from regular people on the scene are pure from a traditional journalism perspective.

    Art is something else altogether. A good thing, but not the same thing.

  167. yes yes..teach them how to play chess and how to print in a darkroom:).. better to train them and use the iphone as bait

  168. pacman stuff mario
    yes to pacman and mario from a traditionalist’s purist’s point of view..
    viva classic greece..viva jesus…viva mohammed…all women at the back of the train…

  169. People have been editorializing forever. Country Doctor was mostly posed. Hell, I kind of doubt that this heyday of straight journalism ever existed except in the minds of those old photographers. I sure have never seen objective reporting. Or photography. Some closer than others, sure.

  170. Gordon, et. al., regarding black and white photography, it need be noted that until recently, pretty much the last ten or twelve years, color photography was not an option for mass circulation publications. For most of photographic history, black and white was all there was. Then for another long time, color was either not very good or too expensive to print. It’s only recently that black and white has become an artsy affectation. Previously it was the best way to represent reality as accurately as possible. Traditional, objectivity as the goal journalism has changed accordingly. It’s all color. If it’s black and white, it’s because it’s on an inside page where they didn’t want to pay for color. (again, for those who don’t read closely, I’m only talking about news journalism, not art or commentary. News only. Not art. Not opinion. Don’t care what camera it was captured on)

  171. I’m only talking about news journalism………. people expect more than just news from publications they want to be entertained etc. Just news is not enough there are better sources of media for that these days

  172. Michael W

    I understand what you’re saying. Just pointing out that colour rendition is really arbitrary. Incandescant light photographed with daylight film was not an accurate portrayal of the reality, exposure choices can make a dark scene look lighter, or a regular scene look menacing. Lens choices, point of view, moment of exposure etc etc all affect the perception of any given scene. Objectivity is really an illusion. Not to say that it is not a worthy goal.


  173. BOB BLACK;

    You are exactly right… I used to ride a Rodney Mullen board, and my skateboarding did not resemble his in the least – mine was much, much worse.


    For me, the Hipstamatic app makes iPhone photos palatable. Personally, I cannot stand the standard aesthetic of cell-phone photos – the low resolution and blown-out highlights are much more distracting than any image-massaging performed by an app.

  174. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton struck a tone highly unusual in the annals of American military interventions: humility.

    “We did not lead this,” she told reporters.

    But her modest words belied the far larger role the United States played as international forces began an open-ended assault on Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s military capabilities. U.S. warships fired more than 110 Tomahawk missiles into Libyan territory to disable air-defense systems. And the French and British warplanes that began to enforce the emerging no-fly zone operate under U.S. command.


  175. The demonstration in Washington on Saturday merged varied causes, including protesters demanding a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those supporting Bradley Manning, the jailed Army private suspected of giving classified documents to the website WikiLeaks.

    One chant that was repeated was: “Stop the War! Expose the Lies! Free Bradley Manning!”

    Manning is being held in solitary confinement for all but an hour every day at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. He is given a suicide-proof smock to wear to bed and is stripped naked each night. On Sunday, a protest will be held in Quantico, outside the brig where Manning is being held.


  176. Objectivity is really an illusion

    Very, very false. See great discussion of that thought here. Part 4 discusses “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” the Borges story I mentioned elsewhere that touches on the issue of the hipstamatic software.

  177. Michael W

    I tried really hard to wade through your link, but I’m afraid my feeble intellect can’t manage it. I’m sure to loose any philosophical argument I attempt anyway. I once remarked to the prof in my philosophy 101 class that philosophy seemed a lot like mental masturbation.

    In any case how’s this. Aside from photographs taken with security cameras, complete objectivity when making photographs is illusive and difficult to achieve.

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  181. Michael, this work is very strong. Thanks for bringing your pov to the fore. I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future. With the medium format and film, the details and the colors provide a contrast to the stream of images on display in most of the leading news outlets. One can often assume that the “look” of the Canons & Nikons are reality. These images induce a consciousness that lets us experience the scene & our interpretation of it, while a thread lingers to images viewed of past wars, with an awareness of the familiarity of the horror. Well done.

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