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Sam Owens September 11, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Ohio University, United States.
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Belpre Christian Academy. Ohio 2013

Sam Owens (b. 1992, United States) is a graduate of Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication, where she studied Photojournalism and Anthropology. Growing up in a blended family made her inherently interested in the relationships blossoming and wilting around her. Photography is a tool that has allowed her the opportunity to be more than a curious observer. She seeks to document her interactions with others or their bonds with the world around them, while using whatever device is at hand to record moments of connectedness. She has worked for the Evansville Courier & Press in Evansville, Indiana, for the Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Virginia, and as a full-time assistant for freelance photographer Matt Eich in Norfolk, Virginia. She currently resides in Tampa, Florida, while working as photography intern for the Tampa Bay Times.

About the Photograph:

“This photo was taken during my last semester at Ohio University in September 2013. At the beginning of the school year, I was driving to the Washington County Fair in Marietta, Ohio, when I noticed a small grey and blue building on the side of the road as I was driving though the small town of Belpre, Ohio, along U.S. Route 50. That building happened to be Belpre Christian Academy, a private K-12 Christian school that has a religious curriculum that runs similar to a homeschooling program. I affectionately liked to think of it as a modern one-room school house. The school registers as a non-profit, and survives off of money made through donations, fundraising and student tuition prices.”

“I was initially drawn to photographing in the school because the school experience these kids were getting was completely different than my own. My mother has been a public school teacher all of my life, so naturally I went to public school. I did not grow up with a heavy religious background and the high school I went to housed over 2,600 students, which led to my graduating class being well over 650 people. This past 2013-2014 school year there were 34 students at BCA, from first to twelve grade, enrolled in the school; no kindergarteners were enrolled and only one graduating senior.”

In this particular picture, the faculty and students were participating in a daily morning prayer, which happens right after the bell rings and school is officially in session. The faculty members strived to create a calm and quiet nature at the beginning of each school day with morning prayers. I wanted to capture the mood of the quiet morning routines, which usually got pushed aside for much more active moods and activities once lunch time rolled around.”

Jim Lommasson September 1, 2014

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Arturo Franco, Willsonville Oregon 2005

Jim Lommasson (b. 1950, USA)  is a freelance photographer and author living in Portland, Oregon. Jim received the Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize from The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for his American Fight Club series. Lommasson’s first book, Shadow Boxers: Sweat, Sacrifice & The Will To Survive In American Boxing Gyms was published in 2006. He is currently working on a book and traveling exhibition about American Veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and their lives after their return from war called Exit Wounds: Soldiers’ Stories – Life After iraq and Afghanistan. Exit Wounds will be published in 2015. Lommasson was awarded a Regional Arts and Culture Council Project Grant for What We Carried: Fragment’s from the Cradle of Civilization about Iraqi refugees who have fled to the U. S. since 2003.

About the Photograph:

“This photo is of former Oregon National Guardsman Arturo Franco in his apartment in Wilsonville, Oregon. Arturo served in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Because of his PTSD and Arturo’s hypervigilance.  Arturo spends his days bunkered in his near-empty apartment playing Xbox video games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare with other gamer vets who speak to one another on headsets while they fight a virtual enemy.”

“Arturo was very frank about his experience at war. He said, ‘What will haunt me for the rest of my life is when we took prisoners of war. I had so much hatred for them. I didn’t care if they lived or died. I will not go into details for fear of the law, but things still haunt me. I remember pulling guard on an insurgent that was about to be turned over to the local warlords. He was flex-cuffed and shaking so bad. I gave him a smoke and started small talk. At some point I did a little hand gesture to tell him that he was about to get his head cut off, then I took the smoke from him and said some hateful words. Things like that still bother me. I did not like fighting in Iraq. I did not believe in why we were there. I went because I felt like I owed my friends that were killed over there. They had everything to live for: family, wife, kids. I had none of that, so why didn’t God take me?’ As I was interviewing Arturo while he fought virtual battles on the TV screen, the light from the setting sun projected his shadow on the wall of his apartment. I felt that this moment told his story best.”

 

Brian Shumway August 21, 2014

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Dean in Playground. Pleasant Grove, Utah 2009

Brian Shumway (b. 1976, United States) is a Brooklyn-based photographer with a degree in anthropology from the University of Utah. His work covers the seemingly disconnected territory of children, family, identity, suburbia, fashion, and sexuality. Brian has shot portraits and stories for editorial clients like People Magazine, TV Guide, XXL, Wall Street Journal, Men’s Journal, and Reader’s Digest. His photographs have been recognized by American Photography, Communication Arts, PhotoLucida, Santa Fe Center, LensCulture, The Magenta Foundation and New York Center for Photographic Art. Brian’s work has been exhibited at Soho Photo, Alice Austin House, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Arts, Camera Club NY and the Central Exhibition Hall Manege in St. Petersburg, Russia.

About the Photograph:

“This is a portrait of Dean, my nephew, age 13, just beginning his teenage years. The word “Shit” (a naughty word in the conservative Utah town where he lives) is written on his hand as he wraps his body around a toy at a children’s playground where he sometimes plays, as if clinging to childhood. This moment very much represents the beginning of the loss of innocence. He’s trapped in that murky period of life where he’s no longer a child but not quite grown-up either. The photograph is part of my project called Suburban Splendor that grapples with my suburban heritage and peeks behind the veil of banality surrounding suburban life focusing on my teen and pre-teen nieces, nephews and their friends in Utah as they make their way through contemporary suburban America.”

 

Isadora Kosofsky August 11, 2014

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Rosie, Los Angeles 2013

Isadora Kosofsky (b. 1993, USA) is a documentary photographer based in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of the 2012 Inge Morath Award from the Magnum Foundation for her multi-series documentary about the lives and relationships of the elderly. Her work has received numerous distinctions from Women in Photography International, Prix de la Photographie Paris and The New York Photo Festival. Isadora’s projects have been featured in Le Monde, The Huffington Post and The New Yorker Photo Booth, among others. She was chosen as a participant in the 2014 Joop Swart Masterclass of World Press Photo. In addition, her long-term documentary “Vinny and David,” about the life and incarceration of two young brothers, was recently published in TIME Lightbox as “The Intersection of Love and Loss: Confronting Youth Incarceration.”

About the Photograph:

“I first met Rosie when I was photographing residents at a nursing home in Los Angeles. After Rosie was released, I continued to photograph her at home. I was particularly drawn to Rosie’s relationship with her caretaker-husband, Adam, who was twenty years younger. Her illness relegated her to bed for the two years that I shadowed her life. We sat for hours at a time, and when there was no more conversation, we stared out the window at Adam’s half-dozen cats and watched a bougainvillea grow and overtake all open space in their yard.”

“This image was taken before an excursion to a desert date farm two hours from the confines of her home. Rosie was embarrassed to leave the house because of her appearance. She often talked about not even wanting to be seen at a supermarket. Eight months after this photograph was taken, Rosie passed away. At her funeral, her sister spoke of Rosie’s once jovial nature and how her house had always been full of friends. Yet, as her sister pointed out, after Rosie became ill, those friends disappeared. Adam became her sole comfort. Moments after this photograph was taken, Rosie cried in the open doorway, frustrated with Adam and apprehensive about venturing out into the unknown. This photograph marks Rosie’s defiance of being hidden.”

Erika Larsen July 31, 2014

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Destiny and Daisy from the series; ‘People of the Horse’. Pendelton, Oregon 2012

Erika Larsen’s (b.1976 USA) work uses photography, video and writing to learn
 intimately about cultures that maintain strong connections with nature. She has been working as a magazine photographer since 2000 specializing in 
human-interest stories and sensitive cultural issues. Her work has been included in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery,
 National Geographic Society, The Swedish Museum of Ethnography and Ajtte Sámi Museum. Erika’s first monograph, Sami-Walking With Reindeer, was released in 2013. Her work is represented by Redux Pictures. Erika is a recipient of several grants including a Fulbright Fellowship, New Jersey State Arts Council Fellowship, Women in Photography Individual Project Grant, Lois Roth Endowment and a World Press Award.

About the Photograph:

“I took this picture as part of the series People of the Horse to illuminate the unique bond between the horse and Native American culture. Destiny is of the Wampum tribe and is depicted here with Daisy. I met Destiny and her brother Nakia for the first time in Pendleton, Oregon where she was taking part in the yearly Indian princess competition.  Even though the horse was first embraced for war, hunting and transport in time they became partners in pageantry and a way to show tribal pride. This tradition of pageantry is still very strong today. A year after I met Destiny I made arrangements to photograph her alone, away from the pageant. The first attempt was in the early evening and she and the horse were both dressed beautifully. But when we began to shoot, something spooked Daisy and in seconds Destiny was thrown in the mud and water and Daisy was also soaked. I was so impressed with her resolve as she rose from the mud, mounted and steadied the horse. However, I asked if we could arrange to shoot again the following day after the regalia had been cleaned.  In the early morning this image appeared.

 

Tom Leininger July 24, 2014

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Story Time in my son Alex’s room. Denton, Texas 2012

Tom Leininger (b.1971, United States) knew he wanted to work in newspapers the first time he shadowed a photographer to a high school football game. After graduating from the University of Kansas’ William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, he moved to Indiana where he worked for 11 years as a daily newspaper photographer. Tom holds an MFA from the University of North Texas College of Visual Arts and Design. His photographs have been exhibited at the Photographic Center Northwest, McNeese State University, Texas Woman’s University, Rayko Photo Center and projected at the Annenberg Space for Photography among other venues. Currently, Tom is exploring the intersecting ideas of family and suburban life. He is also an adjunct instructor and photography lab manager at the University of North Texas as well as photography book reviewer for Photo-eye.

About the Photograph:

“I have been documenting the lives of my children from the moment of their births. In a way, they gave the joy of photography back to me. This was the initial spark that carried me into graduate school. When I started school, I was spending more time with the kids because of my schedule. This lead me to document their daily lives, as I would have as a journalist. As the children grow, the project changes. This project has changed as they grow and our lives change. Here is a moment I found after coming home from teaching a night class and found my wife Katrena reading to Sofia and Alex. I am interested in finding pictures that present aspects of life that are real and meaningful.”

Laura Morton July 7, 2014

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Debutante Ball in San Francisco, 2009

Laura Morton (b. 1984, USA) grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and began to pursue a career in photojournalism during her undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated in 2006 with a degree in Political Science and Journalism. Her personal work currently focuses on wealth and the way it affects those who have it. She has received a 2014 Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund grant and is a winner of the 2013 Magenta Flash Forward Emerging Photographers exchange. Her series The Social Stage was awarded in the 2012 PDN Photo Annual and was a winner of the 2013 Hearst 8X10 Photography Biennial. She is based in San Francisco where she is contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal and Getty Global Assignment.

About the Photograph:

“This photo was taken at a debutante ball in San Francisco. I wanted to explore coming-of-age rituals for women and was particularly drawn to debutante balls because of the deep-rooted history of these events. Historically their purpose was to introduce young women to society so that they could find suitable husbands. Today most of the events are focused on giving girls the confidence, connections and social skills to help them succeed in college and later on in their careers. It’s surprising to think about how the opportunities available to women in this country have changed in the last decades. I wanted to explore who these girls were and why they chose to participate in what is often described as an antiquated ritual. This photograph was taken just before the ball. You can see the debutantes and their escorts relaxing after long hours spent preparing for the festivities. I loved this scene because everyone seemed to be engrossed in their own thoughts. As a photographer, I’m particularly drawn to different layers and my favorite photos are often ones you have to study and linger on for a moment. When the employee from the hotel started setting up the chairs in the background, unnoticed by the debutantes and their escorts, I knew I’d gotten the shot I wanted.”

Bryan Schutmaat June 19, 2014

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Ellie, Wyoming 2010

Editor’s Note: I will be taking off for a two week summer break and leave you with Bryan’s photograph and backstory to reflect on. Happy solstice. New postings will continue on July 7th. ~ Geoffrey Hiller

Bryan Schutmaat (b. 1983) is an American photographer whose work has been widely exhibited and published in the United States and overseas. He has won numerous awards, including the 2013 Aperture Portfolio Prize, Center’s 2013 Galllerist’s Choice Awards, the 2013 Daylight Photo Awards, and the 2011 Carl Crow Memorial Fellowship, among many others. In 2014 Bryan was selected for PDN’s 30 new photographers to watch; in 2013, Dazed Magazine named Bryan one of Paris Photo’s “breakout stars,” and he was chosen as a Flash Forward Emerging Photographer by the Magenta Foundation. His first monograph, Grays the Mountain Sends, was published by the Silas Finch Foundation in 2013 to international critical acclaim. His photos can be found in the permanent collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and numerous private collections. He lives in Austin, Texas and is represented by Sasha Wolf Gallery in New York City.

About the Photograph:

“The process for this photo was entirely different than all the other portraits in Grays the Mountain Sends, and, in a way, I don’t consider it part of the project. In the book, it comes after the colophon – a sort of coda that comes just before the book is closed. ‘Ellie’ is photo I very much had in my mind before I made it – an homage to both Eggleston and the poet Richard Hugo. I’ve talked a lot about Richard Hugo as an influence, especially his poem, Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg. It’s a somewhat bitter, hopeless poem, but the final few lines are uplifting: The car that brought you here still runs. / The money you buy lunch with, / no matter where it’s mined, is silver / and the girl who serves you food is slender and her red hair lights the wall. So my photo of the red haired girl is borrowed entirely from that last line, and she’s a ray of hope at the end of an otherwise pretty sad series. Like I said, I definitely had this photo in mind. I searched all over the American West for my red-haired waitress, or any waitress who had an illuminative presence.”

“There was a young waitress I found in Wyoming who was wonderful– the way she talked to the guys who came in, laughing and teasing with them. She made their days better. She was beautiful too. I made her portrait, but the picture I took didn’t evoke the right feeling. It was too direct, and she became a protagonist alongside the men, rather than the embodiment of this fleeting enchantment I felt when I imagined Hugo’s redhead. It would be better to have my photo distilled to the symbolic red hair, and I wanted her anonymous – not a portrait of her but what she resembled. I didn’t want her fulfilling happiness, but rather just giving a small taste of it so that the men’s struggle within the narrative would still remain when the book has ended.”

“At any rate, the picture I ended up making that worked was not a real waitress (a fact I try not to broadcast), though she was a stranger to me. I her met her in a bar in the early evening. It was a weekday, and she was alone in the outdoor portion of the bar, reading a book. Of course I was drawn immediately to her hair. We had a short, awkward conversation, and I explained to her that I would love to take her picture. We exchanged numbers and met up some days later at a nearby diner I had scouted out beforehand. The owner let us come in after hours and we borrowed his apron and notepad. This setup was strange to me at the time, because all the other portraits in the series were taken in a relatively rigid documentary vein. In no other instance did I photograph people in places other than where I encounter them (unless if I was invited into their homes, which are always excellent places to make portraits). This photo, however, was so refreshing to make, because I freed myself and imposed my will entirely, and I think it was an instrumental experience to my process moving forward.”

Andy Freeberg June 12, 2014

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Spinello, Pulse New York Art Fair, 2010

Andy Freeberg (b.1958 New York, NY) graduated from the University of Michigan. He began his photography career in New York taking portraits for such publications as Rolling Stone, Time, and Fortune, photographing the likes of Michael Jackson, Bill Gates, and Neil Young. Andy has recently emerged on the contemporary art scene as a wry commentator on the art industry itself. His series Guardians, won the Critical Mass book award and was published in 2010. He is represented by the Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles and the Andrea Meislin Gallery in New York. His work is in many collections including SFMOMA, MFA Boston, and the George Eastman House. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

About the Photograph:

This photograph was taken at the Pulse New York art fair in 2010. It’s from a project on the big art fairs and the pictures focus on the dealers and gallery workers in their booths. The guy on the left is the Miami gallery owner Anthony Spinello and he’s sitting with the artist Zachari Logan. I was walking through the fair and went into Spinello’s booth and noticed the larger than life size nude paintings. When I came back 20 minutes later, there they were sitting and talking at the desk. Their positioning was quite a gift. I took a few frames and moved on, they didn’t notice me. The pictures were taken between 2009-2011 at the big contemporary art fairs in Miami and Basel, Switzerland and also in New York during the Armory Show. Most of the photographs in the series are completely candid. I was trying to document the scene, the styles the market, the current technology of this crazy art world. The series was recently released as a book titled, Art Fare by Sojourn Books.”

Jenny Riffle June 5, 2014

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Washington State 2011

Jenny Riffle (b. 1979, United States) received her MFA in Photo, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts in 2011 and her BA in photography from Bard College in 2001. Jenny received the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer’s Fellowship grant in 2013 and the juror’s award at Newspace Center for Photography’s 2012 juried show for her project Scavenger: Adventures in Treasure Hunting. Her work was has been shown at Newspace and will travel to RayKo Photo Center, San Francisco and The Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins in 2014. She is currently living in Seattle where she teaches at the Photo Center Northwest .

About the Photograph:

“This photo is part of a series called The Sound of Wind, a re-appreciation of the northwest through my memories of it and my present experiences. It was shot on Thanksgiving day 2011 when my boyfriend and I were driving from Seattle to his mother’s house on the Olympic Peninsula with our friend in the backseat. Right before we got to Tacoma the car broke down. It was cold and wet outside, so we sat inside the car waiting for the tow truck to come get us.”

“I spent a lot of time in cars when I was a child because my parents split up and lived in different towns that were three hours apart. Time in the car was always a time to switch from one life to another, from mom’s house to dad’s, a time to think, to stare out the window and watch the world go by. After growing up and leaving the Northwest to live elsewhere, I found that once I moved back I appreciated the Northwest with new eyes. All these memories of childhood surfaced and I wanted to drive through the Cascade Mountain Range and run around in the forests of my youth.”

“Photography has the ability to play with memory, and in this case, this photo is of the experience that I went through with my friends waiting for the tow truck, but it also captures the experience of my childhood self riding around in the back seat of the car. In all of my portraits, I like to create a narrative. Not necessarily a specific narrative relevant to the moment captured, instead I like to capture an introspective moment or feeling that invites the viewer into the image, bringing their own memories and experiences to it.”

Curran Hatleberg May 26, 2014

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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

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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

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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.”

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.”

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