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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.”

Clara Vannucci April 28, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Italy.
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Theatrical production at Prison Volterra in Tuscany Italy 2012

Clara Vannucci (b.1985, Italy) studied graphic design at the University of Architecture of  Florence. In New York after an Internship with Magnum Photos, she had access for a two years to work on a project in the battered women’s section at Rikers Island prison. Her clients and publications include Repubblica, L’Espresso, Touring Club, Private, La stampa, The New York Times, Le journal de la photographie, Le Courrier International and Vogue Italy among others. She is currently participating in a year long residency at Fabrica, the communication research center of Benetton group in Treviso, Italy.

About the Photograph:

“This picture was shot during the show Mercuzio non vuole morire in the corridor of  the Volterra Maximum Security Prison. Both subjects in the picture are prisoners and actors. Every year, the inmates at Prison Volterra in Tuscany put on a show. They are directed by Armando Punzo, who established the Compagnia della Fortezza in 1988. About a third of the 170 men imprisoned participate. Many are dangerous felons who are in prison for life. Most of them come from criminal gangs.”

“Prison theater is about redemption. It teaches prisoners to work collaboratively. They become actors, not only prisoners. They take their show around the country. For one week they were on tour performing in a small town close to the border. During the day they were free to walk around the square without being guarded. Afterward, they were driven to the local prison where they slept in cells. I asked a prisoner why no one tried to escape. He said, ‘Why should I run away’? Where would I go? I’ve lived in prison 20 years. Now I have something to live for. Life has meaning.’ ”

Brennan O`Connor April 24, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Karen State, Myanmar 2013

Brennan O`Connor (b. 1970, Canada) has worked for many of Canada’s leading publications before dedicating himself full time to cover self-generated under reported stories in mainstream media. In 2010, he relocated to Asia to follow a long-term project on Burma’s borders and subsequent effects for ethnic populations whose traditional territories’ fall on both sides of the dividing lines. The project, will eventually cultivate into a book, has taken him around the region to photograph the numerous rebels, refugees and migrants residing in the borderlands. Brennan’s work has been published in Burn (USA), The Walrus (Canada), The National (UAE) and Al Jazeera (Qatar).

About the Photograph:

“Before this photo was taken in rebel controlled Karen state, the Karen National Union (KNU), (right) and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA); now named the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (center), were still fighting with each other. This image was taken in an area that both rebel groups controlled at different times and documents a joint medical operation only months after the two Karen armed groups mended their relationship. The carefree children passing by on the left depict the reliance of civilians that have had to accommodate the various armies that frequently passed through their villages during a civil war spanning over sixty years. In recent years a ceasefire was signed with both the KNU and DKBA-5, but the region still remains largely militarized, playing host to large numbers of armed groups, especially government troops.”

Anna Maria Antoinette D’Addario April 21, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in India.
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Devotees flock to the ghats on the night of the full moon of Kartika. Varanasi, India 2013

Anna Maria Antoinette D’Addario (b. 1981 Australia) moved to Rome in 2005 where she  studied photography at the Institute ISFCI. In 2007 Anna was awarded a MAE Scholarship grant from the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs for her photographic studies. For the past three years she has been assisting photographer Stephen Dupont in Australia and in 2012 was appointed Assistant Director of the Sydney based Reportage Festival, for which she curated various exhibitions in 2013. Anna’s work has been published in Vogue UK, The Guardian UK and Art Rocker Magazine. She is currently working on a series of long-term projects primarily focused in India and The Philippines. Aligned with Getty Images this year she will soon be contributing to their editorial coverage in Asia.

About the Photograph:

“Every year on the full moon of Kartika, November to December, Dev Deepavali is celebrated. The Festival has been called the ‘Diwali of the Gods’ and it is believed on this night that the gods come down to bathe in the holy Ganges, India’s sacred river that flows through the heart of the city. Thousands of devotees flock to the ghats of the city to attend Ganga Aarti and watch the river glow with innumerable (Diyas) earthern oil lamp candles, electric lights, fireworks and lanterns.”

“Varanasi also known as Kashi, Benares, The City of Light, one could say is the axis on which all the mythology, the darkness, the light and all the truth and beauty of India rotates. One of the oldest living cities in the world and the holiest in India, it has been a continuous source of inspiration for philosophers, musicians, poets, artists and photographers for centuries and played an essential part in the development of Buddhism. This photograph is from a series of images from the 2013 Dev Deepawali and a part of a larger continuing project in greater India focusing on myth and identity.”

Jonathan Harris April 19, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Bhutan.
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Sonam Wangmo talks about happiness in Bhutan 2007

Jonathan Harris (b. 1979, USA) studied computer science and photography at Princeton University. His projects include We Feel Fine, a search engine for human emotions; I Want You To Want Me, an installation about online dating; Cowbird, a public library of human experience; 10 x 10, a system for encapsulating moments in time; The Whale Hunt, a series of photographs timed to match his heartbeat; and I Love Your Work, an interactive film about the daily lives of sex workers. He won a 2005 Fabrica fellowship and three Webby Awards. Print Magazine named him a “2008 New Visual Artist,” and TIME Magazine named his project, Cowbird, one of the “50 Best Websites of 2012.” Jonathan’s work has been exhibited all over the world, including at MoMA (New York), Le Centre Pompidou (Paris), the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing). He has lectured about his work at the TED Conference, MoMA, Google, The New York Times, The World Economic Forum, the Sundance Film Festival, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia, and Yale Universities, and The Rhode Island School of Design.

About the Project:

Balloons of Bhutan is a portrait of happiness in the last Himalayan kingdom. Bhutan uses “Gross National Happiness’ instead of ‘Gross National Product’ to measure its socio-economic prosperity, essentially organizing its national agenda around the basic tenets of Buddhism. In late 2007, I spent two weeks in Bhutan, interviewing 117 people about different aspects of happiness. I asked people to rate their level of happiness between one and ten, and then inflated that number of balloons, so very happy people would be given ten balloons, and very sad people would be given only one. I also asked each person to make a wish, and then wrote that wish on a balloon of their favorite color. On the final night, all 117 wish balloons were re-inflated and strung up at Dochula, a sacred mountain pass at 10,000 feet, and left to bob up and down in the wind, mingling with thousands of strands of prayer flags. Balloons of Bhutan was sponsored by the Bhutan Youth Development Fund, an NGO working to provide opportunities for local Bhutanese youth.”

Cassi Alexandra April 17, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Gaza political rally, Orlando , Florida 2009

Cassi Alexandra (b. 1986 United States) is a New York based Photojournalist and Editor, born and raised in Florida where she graduated from the Southeast Center of Photographic Studies and The University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in Photography. She had her start in photojournalism at The Orlando Sentinel in 2009, and quickly after became a contributor for The New York Times. After graduating in 2010 she gained valuable experience at The Flint Journal and The Saginaw News in Michigan. In March 2011 she moved to Brooklyn, New York where she continues to shoot and edit for various news organizations.

About the Photograph:”

“This was on one of my first photojournalism assignments while shadowing staff photographer Jacob Langston at The Orlando Sentinel. Shortly after arriving at the Gaza Rally in Downtown Orlando I began weaving in and out of the people taking as many images as my finger could snap while Jacob, a seasoned photographer took images with precision and thought. I couldn’t stop myself. It was the most energy I had been around in a shooting atmosphere. I was like a kid in a candy store, running around to try every angle. After going through the take several times and then with classmates at Daytona State College this image was finally selected. It wasn’t till I began editing others work that I was able to see the gems from my shooting. This is the day I fell in love with photojournalism and realized it was exactly what I wanted to spend my life doing.”

Andrei Riskin April 14, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Ukraine.
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Rosh Hashanah, Uman, Ukraine 2012

Andrei Riskin (b. 1975, Russia) graduated with a Master’s Degree in large-scale energy production and distribution systems in 1997. The following year he moved to the United States where he worked in Silicon Valley as a software engineer for two years. In 2001 Andrei traded the comfort of a cubical for a career as a freelance event and documentary photographer. His work has been exhibited at Rayko Photo Center and The World Affairs Council in San francisco. Andrei also teaches photography at Academy of Art University and Photo Center in San Francisco.

About the Photograph:

“This photo was taken in Uman, Ukraine a place famous for hosting the yearly pilgrimage of twenty-five thousand Hassidic Jews on Rosh Hashanah. Most of them are drawn to the grave of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the Breslov Hassidic movement who promised a year-long blessing to those who visit him on that Holiday. A few years prior to his passing away in the early 1800’s he moved to Uman from Breslov as he wanted to be buried next to those killed in a recent massacre. Throughout its history Ukraine was infamous for it’s anti-semitism  and oppression of its Jewish population, of which now there are hardly any remaining. The pilgrims, most of whom are very religious, seem to ignore the country’s grim past. Most just pray and celebrate their centuries-year-old tradition.”


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