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Michal Solarski May 29, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Poland.
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Getting ready for Christmas Eve Dinner. Cieszyn,  Poland 2010

Michal Solarski (b. 1977, Poland) is a London based photographer. His interest in documentary photography stems from his background in political studies, where he developed the passion to adapt his thoughts and observations of the world in a visual manner. Photography enabled him to capture situations and environments in a thought provoking way. After graduating in Poland with a Masters in Politics, Michal moved to London and studied at The London College of Communication where he earned an additional masters in Documentary Photography. He divides his professional career between advertising, documentary photography, traveling extensively between the UK and Eastern Europe where he produces the majority of his work. Most of his photography is strongly based on his own background and experiences, with a strong concentration on migration and memories.

About the Photograph:

“Ever since I visited my dying grandmother at the care home, I wanted to go back there with my camera. She spent the last days of her life in  Cieszyn, it’s a beautiful town in southern Poland, just on the border with Czech Republic. The care home is called Boromeuszki – it took its name from the monastery that runs it. I was taking pictures there in the winter 2010/2011. This particular picture was taken on the 24th Dec 2010. After more then a year since she had a stroke, my parents were too tired to cope with the constant care she required. I remember that I felt great sadness looking at her as she lay in this massive gloomy room among other patients. It took me several years to came back. I found that life  there is really slow and filled up with routines. Day after day passes in the same way. There is a time to sleep, a time to eat, a time to clean, and very little in between. Most of people who live there feel unwanted and neglected by their relatives. I spent two weeks there just walking around, talking to the residents, playing games, and watching television with them. For two weeks I shared their life. Those were two very emotional weeks of my life. For me, my time spent there was a tribute to my beloved grandmother.”

Curran Hatleberg May 26, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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West Virginia 2011

Curran Hatleberg (b.1982, United States) is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Yale University. His work has been exhibited most recently at Know More Games Gallery and The Camera Club of New York. Curran’s photographs have been published in The New York Times Magazine, Slate and 0_100 Editions. His photographs have been shown at the International Center of Photography in New York City and are included in the Williams College Museum of Art and the Davidson Art Center at Wesleyan University. Curran is the recipient of the Richard Benson Prize for excellence in photography. He currently teaches photography at Yale University.

About the Photograph:

“I met Zach in the summer on the Guyandotte River. He didn’t say much, but was polite and eager to laugh. One humid afternoon, we drove up the steep, lush ridges above town to his house and family. We ate fresh blackberry pie and smoked cigarettes in the kitchen. We ate so long it got dark and  watched TV while dogs and children flashed in and out of the rooms. Later, they showed me an old family graveyard down the road. I could hear cicadas screaming in the trees. Someone’s flashlight caught a goose, waddling alone under the moonless night. Everybody laughed. As I was leaving to go back to town, they made me take the remaining pie and a two-gallon bag of berries.”

Object Lessons from Nina Berman May 24, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Editor’s Note: This article caught my attention because of Nina’s unique perspective and the disturbing subject matter combined with her observations about the ways photojournalists are adapting to the disruption in the media landscape today. While I admire what agencies like NOOR (the non-profit collective that she is a member of) are doing in terms of partnering with NGOs, I’m doubtful that it’s a sustainable model. I applaud Nina and her colleagues for being so proactive and at the same time doing such strong work. This article originally appeared in Columbia Magazine.

Object Lessons

by Nina Berman ’85JRN

A J-school professor discusses the evolving state of photojournalism — and shares evidence from her latest project.


Rogues’ Gallery / In a new work, Nina Berman photographs trial evidence from cases of slavery and human trafficking, in hopes of indirectly revealing the mindset of the perpetrator. A billy club used by the brutal Chicago-area pimp Alex Campbell. In 2012, Campbell was sentenced to life. / Photographs by Nina Berman ’85JRN

How should one teach journalism today, and especially photojournalism, when everyone with a cell phone is a potential witness to history? What does the new generation of students need to learn about the modern media landscape?

There is a perception that photojournalists are misery chasers who jump from story to story looking for the next big thing — war, famine, tsunami — and when the action is over, they fly home and wait for the next disaster. That’s last century’s photojournalist.

Today, some of the best photojournalists work more like anthropologists or artists. The most serious ones are taking the long view and spending years on a story, publishing pieces along the way. Sometimes their work is funded by publications, but increasingly it is underwritten by NGOs and foundations, blurring the lines between journalism and advocacy. The model of the globetrotting photojournalist dispatched by New York photo editors to the far corners of the world to witness great moments in history applies only to a handful of working photographers today. Technology has democratized and globalized the industry, which means that breaking- news images are increasingly sourced from Twitter and Instagram, where pictures are shot by amateurs, writers, and local photojournalists already on the scene.


A mallet used by Donnell Baines to beat his victims in an Upper East Side sex-trafficking operation. In 2013, Baines was sentenced to sixty-two years in prison.

In class, I teach ethics, which is simple, and not. The number-one rule is that photojournalists cannot construct scenes and then pass off the pictures as found moments. Photojournalists observe and frame; the final image cannot contain people or objects that didn’t originally exist in that frame, nor can people or objects be removed from that frame. Everything else — color, saturation, contrast — is largely up for grabs. This is where things get murky.

Image effects are allowed today that weren’t considered appropriate in journalism just a few years ago. Influential photographers, sometimes in collaboration with a photography lab or digital retoucher, champion a style or create an app that is embraced by editors, and before you know it, we’re seeing a million pictures in the press looking the same, regardless of where they were shot or what they capture. A few years back, increasing the clarity and desaturating the color was popular. Now we’re in love with high dynamic range and blazing perfection. Soon it will be something else. I challenge my students to consider how these aesthetic decisions fit into a broader conversation about stereotypes and points of view.

People still cling to the idea of photography as an objective or neutral medium that captures a shared truth. There is nothing remotely objective about photography.

There are stylistic trends in art and in literature, and everyone acknowledges them. But rarely are they cited in photojournalism, perhaps because people still cling to the idea of photography as an objective or neutral medium that captures a shared truth. There is nothing remotely objective about photography. Where I stand, how I got to that spot, where I direct my lens, what I frame, how I expose the image, what personal and cultural factors influence these decisions — all are intensely subjective.There are stylistic trends in art and in literature, and everyone acknowledges them. But rarely are they cited in photojournalism, perhaps because people still cling to the idea of photography as an objective or neutral medium that captures a shared truth. There is nothing remotely objective about photography. Where I stand, how I got to that spot, where I direct my lens, what I frame, how I expose the image, what personal and cultural factors influence these decisions — all are intensely subjective.


This souvenir notebook with the Statue of Liberty on its cover was used by enslaved women working in New Jersey hair-braiding salons to record their tips, which were then confiscated. The trafficker, Akouavi Kpade Afolabi, was sentenced to twenty-seven years in prison.

With digital photography, there are so many processing options but little discussion of what those choices tell us about the storyteller and the story. In class we ask, does the aesthetic draw you in to the subject in a revealing and interesting way, or does it overpower the subject? This was a conversation when an almost too perfectly processed image from a funeral in Gaza won World Press Photo of the Year in 2013. What does it mean when an ordinary scene showing a village in Haiti is amped up with a torrent of color and contrast, giving the scene a drama that appears forced? When we see US politicians turned into a cross between Dr. Strangelove madmen and Ringling Brothers clowns, as they were in a recent photograph on MSNBC.com, are we looking at a crude use of black-and-white post-processing or a brilliant commentary on the moral emptiness and vulgar salesmanship that characterizes American political campaigns?

In the old days, a photojournalist might pitch a story to a publication and be sent off for a week, maybe with a writer, and the piece would be published, and it would end there.

Now, publishing might be the last part of a much larger scheme. Stories are projects with foundation and NGO partners; they incorporate social media and data and are seen by the public in the physical world as installations or exhibitions as well as printed pieces.


A diamond ring and cufflinks worn by the pimp Alex Campbell, who called himself “the Cowboy.” Campbell also tattooed the horseshoe logo on the women he enslaved, some of whom came from Belarus and Ukraine.

I’m working this way on something called the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project — six photographers documenting the impact of fracking in states linked by the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation. Funds came from the Sprout Fund, the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, and others. The product is a series of traveling photography exhibitions and artist talks in museums, university galleries, and community spaces in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. We still publish the work — in Wired, the New York Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and others — but truly, the publishing is seen as amplification. So, is it photojournalism? Most definitely.

I’m in the final stages of a project at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan (opened in 2012 to house Syrian refugees), where I photographed refugee life along with photographers Andrea Bruce, Alixandra Fazzina, and Stanley Greene, all of us from the Noor photography and film collective. We’re printing the images large and then pasting them on two hundred meters of security wall that surround the camp’s entrance. I’ll document the installation, Instagram some pictures, do blog posts, and at some point publish the project. In this case, photojournalism is being used as a conversation within the refugee and NGO community. The project, and the creative process behind it, becomes a way to talk about the larger story of Syrian refugees and their lives in Jordan, and, we hope, makes the refugee camp itself feel less like a penitentiary.

Finally, this May, I’m working with another Noor photographer, Jon Lowenstein, to launch a public-art and media-awareness campaign looking at human trafficking and forced labor in Chicago. One goal is to raise funds to treat trafficking victims. We’re hosting a workshop with other artists, advertising creatives, nonprofit service providers, and law-enforcement officers to make a blueprint for the campaign.

Sometimes photojournalists’ work is funded by publications, but increasingly it is underwritten by NGOs and foundations, blurring the lines between journalism and advocacy.

Ten years ago, I never would have thought to work like this. Now, it’s increasingly common, and more and more grant makers are demanding it.

One of the questions we’re asking is, how do you depict modern-day forms of slavery, human trafficking, and forced labor? Should the visuals be only of the victims, which is the norm? I looked at slavery in the United States from the criminal-justice angle, investigating successfully prosecuted cases of human trafficking and forced labor, sexual and otherwise. I photographed trial evidence: a wooden box in which a trafficker kept the tips she confiscated from girls brought from Togo, who were forced to work at Newark hair-braiding salons. (All their earnings, even their tip money, were given over to the trafficker.) I photographed a hatchet in Memphis used to terrorize girls in the commercial sex industry. I photographed texts that perpetrators would force victims to write, submitting themselves to their captors — the rules of labor, so to speak. I also photographed crime-scene locations and survivors. My hope was that by showing the evidence in these cases, I could indirectly reveal the mindset of the perpetrator, which is a new way to approach the subject.


A wooden box in which the trafficker Akouavi Kpade Afolabi kept the tips of the women she enslaved. She recruited girls from Ghana and Togo with promises of education and then forced them to work without pay in hair-braiding salons.

While I was looking into a case in Chicago involving Alex Campbell, a particularly brutal character who was sentenced to life in prison for sex trafficking, overseeing forced labor, and other crimes, Gary Hartwig, the special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations in Chicago, challenged me to do more with my pictures. He had worked so many really disturbing cases, and the idea that I was coming along with a photo project that promised no tangible change frustrated him.

He voiced an attitude that is running through the photojournalism and documentary- film community worldwide: maybe words and pictures aren’t enough. Yes, do the work, make the images, find new visual approaches, subvert stereotypes, but use the material to make an impact in the world. And do it without succumbing to the predictable narratives of rescue and redemption that make the language of advocacy so limiting. This is the future of storytelling, and this is where it gets interesting.

Nina Berman ’85JRN is an associate professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Her documentary photography has appeared in two monographs, many of the world’s leading magazines, and major museum exhibitions. More of her work can be found at ninaberman.com.

Carlotta Cardana May 22, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Julian and his son Elijah, Fort Yates, North Dakota, 2013

Carlotta Cardana (b. 1981, Italy) is a portrait and documentary photographer based in London. After obtaining a degree in theater and performing arts and a photography diploma, she lived in Argentina and Mexico City. In 2013 she was named “Discovery of the Year” at the Lucie Awards and was shortlisted for the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards and Lens Culture Exposure Award. Her photographs has been exhibited at Photo L.A., in the New York Photo Awards exhibition, the Portrait Salon in London and at the Royal Photographic Society. Cararlotta’s Mod Couples series has been featured in The Guardian Weekend, D Repubblica and Rolling Stone. Parallel to her photographic practice, she works  as music video director and cinematographer in short films and commissioned social documentaries.

About the Photograph:

“This image shows Julian, 27, a Native American from the Sioux tribe, holding his one-year-old son Elijah. Shortly after the baby was born, Elijah’s mother left and Julian is now raising Elijah on his own. Long hair is a matter of pride among Native Americans. Julian has never cut his son’s hair and says that Elijah will not be allowed to do so until he turns 13. The photograph is part of my most recent personal project, which intends to explore the role of traditional identity in the daily struggle of Native Americans living on reservations. Having their cultural practices and language almost vanished by the various attempts at assimilation, the tribal peoples suffer a sort of forced segregation at the very bottom of American society. On every indicator, from the 88% unemployment to the worlds second lowest life expectancy, the reservations stand as Third World islands in the biggest economy on earth. This project, however, would like to depart from the gritty depiction of these issues common in other works on the subject. By portraying American Indians in a positive light and exploring how they rediscover and use pride as a tool for survival and advancement.”

Mindaugas Kavaliauskas May 19, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Singapore.
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Changi Airport, Singapore 2009

Mindaugas Kavaliauskas (b.1974, Lithuania) acquired his BA and MA in Art history from Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas (1996 and 2000). He also studied photography and art history at the the  École nationale de la photographie (Arles, France, 1997-98). Internships at Rencontres d’Arles (1998-2002) and Musée de l’Élysée (Lausanne, 2001) were decisive in his decision to launch the Kaunas Photo festival (from 2004 until present). Mindaugas has published two books: Kare- Portrait of Kražiai (2009) about a historic village in Lithuania at the crossroads of change and Travel’AIR (2012) about the human experience of the air travel. His photographs have been extensively exhibited throughout Europe

About the Photograph:

“It is always like that. When I fly intercontinental, I never get enough sleep before taking off. On my second trip to Australia during a layover at Singapore Changi airport, I did not think of kangaroos and had only three things on my mind. First, getting connected was vital – hearing how things of the festival back in Kaunas were running was crucial. Looking for an opportunity for a jet-lag killing nap was my second urgency. Third was seeing whether I could take a shot or two of this new and polished airport for my travel’AIR series. Last on my priority list, a photo opportunity was the first one to happen. The resulting photograph was nothing but my state-of-mind self-portrait.”

Ellen Jacob May 15, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Rita and Jacob, Central Park, New York 2010

Ellen Jacob (b.1955, New York) picked up an Kodak Instamatic camera when she was 12 years old. She started her career as an art director for the advertising agencies BBDO and Grey and was a creative lead in children’s publishing and head of her own book design and packaging company. Ellen is the recipient of a Ford Foundation Grant and a Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association. She holds a BFA with honors from Pratt. Her work has appeared in Slate, The Daily Mail, Huffington Post among others. Her photographs have been selected for exhibition by The Center for Fine Art Photography, F-Stop and the Soho Photo Gallery in New York.

About the Photograph:

“This image of Rita and Jacob is from Substitutes, a series of photographs of nannies and the children they care for. When I was young, a wonderful woman named Martha took care of me. She was black; I am white. I haven’t seen Martha for over 30 years, but I remember her face vividly. Substitutes is about the indelible impressions these women leave, and the persistent questions they raise about race, class, family, equality, love and much more. I made these photographs over four years on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where I live. The women pushing the strollers are almost always black and the children white. I wondered why. Rita has known Jacob since he two weeks old. They play in Central Park almost every day. We met in the park on a warm June day and I made this photograph while waiting for Rachel, Jacob’s mom, to join them.

Rita has been a nanny for more than 25 years. She says she has cared only for white children. Like virtually all the women of color who are nannies here, Rita says race doesn’t matter. ‘I just see them as kids, as babies. Not like, oh, you black, you yellow…. No, I just see them as kids, babies. And, you know, I love them; I give them my love…’ Rachel is very grateful for the love Rita and her son share: ‘It’s just such a great thing. You don’t have to worry at all. I leave him with her, and it’s like he doesn’t even care that we leave.”

Sean Davey May 12, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Papua New Guinea.
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Bride Price ceremony in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea 2010

Sean Davey (b.1979, Australia) studied photography throughout high school, where he developed a keen interest in documentary photography. From 2000-03 Sean worked as a newspaper photographer with Fairfax Media in Sydney, after which he spent a year in Europe and America photographing solely for himself. During this time Sean made the pictures that would become his recently self-published book Dog Food & Oysters (2013). Since 2005 Sean has been working in Papua New Guinea, where he has collaborated on, and taught art education workshops to residents in Port Moresby. Sean’s photographs are centered around his own personal experiences; small stories that co-exist as chapters in his continuing exploration of the medium. In 2011 Sean opened The Photography Room, a gallery that promotes and represents selected contemporary photographers in Australia. Sean balances his time teaching, photographing on commission and pursuing his own practice.

About the Photograph:

“My photography in Papua New Guinea is mostly focused on time spent there with my friends. I have made 15 trips to PNG since 2005 and every time I go, my work gets closer, more representative and more honest to my own personal experiences of being there. This photograph was made in Port Moresby during a Bride Price ceremony. When a couple are to be married in PNG, the groom and his family must make a big celebration for the family of his bride. It is very customary to have a Bride Price ceremony in contemporary Papua New Guinean society, and they are most often held in the family home. Extended family members of the groom dutifully bring gifts that are presented to the bride’s family. They are signs of how much she is valued as a new member of their family. The nature and value of the gifts also show the wealth of the groom’s family, which is assurance that the bride will be well looked after.

In this photo are my friends Jude, Sharon, Fiona and Kelly. We were all at Uncle E.K’s place as it was his daughter Elsie who was to be married. I photographed the party and the ceremonial presentation of gifts to Elsie’s family. There must have been over a hundred people in attendance. Most of the afternoon and evening was spent eating, drinking, dancing, telling stories and listening to music. The party went on well into the night. What I love about visiting PNG and photographing there is that it has really taught me to be patient and aware of what is right in front of me. There was nothing much of note happening when I made this photo. We were all simply hanging out together. Sharon is inspecting Kelly’s hair for lice, a common practice while Fiona looks directly at me. Jude can be seen in the bottom left corner of the photo, in mid conversation with her cousins.

I love that my photography from PNG comes from genuine moments of personal experience, moments that I spend with family and friends who I have very strong relationships with. I have no interest in photographing people in traditional costumes in far flung parts of PNG. Most of my work there centers in and around the capital Port Moresby.  I’m often  asked what parts of PNG I have traveled to, and the reaction is often one of surprise when I mention a few places but then say that I really only visit Port Moresby. I have never traveled anywhere in PNG without an invitation, and at the end of the day it wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t go any further than the capital. I am not out to show Papua New Guinea to anyone in my photos. The act of photographing is purely a personal instinctual one that has become part of who I am and how I experience the world. The biggest compliment I can get for my work is satisfaction from my friends when I give them pictures of themselves and their family on subsequent trips.”

Giles Clarke May 8, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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From the series, ‘Toxic Gumbo’ Baton Rouge, Louisiana 2013

Giles Clarke (1965, England) started taking pictures in Berlin in the mid-eighties where he lived for three years. He worked as a professional black and white photographic printer for many top London based fashion and advertising photographers and in 1995 moved to New York where he began an intense year in the Richard Avedon studio. Since September 2011, Giles has been heavily involved with documenting the ‘Occupy’ movement all over the world, and recently won awards for his coverage of ‘Occupy Sandy’. His work has appeared in VICE, CNN, The Guardian and The Nation. Giles is a featured photographer with ‘Reportage by Getty’.

About the Photograph:

“This picture is part of a story called Toxic Gumbo – a project about the devastating effects of big industry in an area known as ‘cancer alley’ that runs north of New Orleans along the Mississippi River. The cancer rates in this part of Louisiana are amongst the highest in the entire United States but with toxic emissions climbing annually and with more huge refineries slated for construction, this area is surely doomed to yet higher rates of cancer-related deaths. Micheal, the man in the photo lives directly over from one of the Exxon Mobile plants just north of Baton Rouge. He rears hogs and burns others people’s trash on Sunday’s when the fire marshal’s don’t work. I was standing shin deep in a watery oil slush when I took this photograph.”

Mafalda Rakoš May 5, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Israel, Palestine.
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Leen and her niece Valentina. Bethlehem 2012

Mafalda Rakoš (b. 1994, Austria) attended the Vienna Institute of Graphic Design and Audiovisual Media. Her work has been published in various magazines and was shown in various international festivals, as well as in Vienna. In 2013, she and her two colleagues were awarded the Jugendinnovativ-Prize for their collective book project “3rd Generation” about Arab and Israeli youth. Mafalda was awarded the Prix Revelation SAIF during Festival Voices Off at Rencontres d’Arles for her series Il y a des jours sombres. She is currently studying Anthropology at Vienna University while pursuing her own photographic projects.

About the Photograph:

“This picture was taken in the course of the project Third Generation, a collective documentary book project, realized by me, another photographer and a graphic designer. It deals with the individual realities of young Palestinians and Israelis the same age as me. The photo was taken in Bethlehem where I was hosted by Leen’s family. She always told me that she had no interest in letting the conflict disturb her- that her main goal was to be happy and to enjoy every moment of her life. We gathered at her sister’s place to make Pizza together. In this peaceful and untroubled atmosphere, we went out on the balcony. The wall that divides the Palestinian Territories from Israel was ten only meters away. Leen and Valentina kissed through the glass – a cynical metaphor for these moments of happiness that take place in an isolated setting.”

Aujin Rew May 1, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Korea.
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From a project about Catholic  priests in South Korea 2013

Aujin Rew (b. 1976, South Korea) is a self-taught photographer who initially studied architecture. While attending engineering graduate school at Stanford, she bought a small digital camera and started to immerse herself in  photography.  Aujin recently attended the 25th Eddie Adams workshop and was a recipient of the National Geographic Magazine Eddie Adams Grant. Her clients include: Hubert Burda Media in Hong Kong and the The Golden Tree Group . In A Private Moment was recently exhibited at the Taipei Art Photo Show in Taiwan. Aujin is currently based in Singapore and Seoul.

About the Photograph:

“In 2013, I set out to meet and photograph the Columban missionary priests in South Korea. They first came to Korea from Ireland in 1933. My grandmother lived in a small town near one of the first churches and her whole family was baptized there. I grew up as a Catholic and the Columban missionary priests were my first encounter with the outside world. Many years later, I met one of the priests from my childhood and remembered my curiosity about them as a child. This time, armed with a camera, I wanted to photograph the remaining missionary priests in Korea. Sean Conneley was the first priest I interviewed in a small room in the missionary society office in Seoul. Father Sean was involved in student movements in the 1980’s when the Korean society was undergoing a tumultuous period. While telling me about his life as a priest in those years he put his head down on the table during an emotional moment.”

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