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Reflections on the 2015 World Press Photo Awards March 3, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Pakistan.
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Lahore, Pakistan 2013/ Geoffrey Hiller

As both a photographer and the editor of Verve Photo, I feel compelled to add my two cents to the current discussion centering on ‘manipulation’ by one of the World Press Photo (Contemporary Issues category) contest winners, Giovanini Troilo, who was accused of staging his photo essay.

First I’ll speak as a photographer in the field. This question of setting photographs up is a delicate one that I’ll bet all of us can relate to, and have seriously thought about in my own work. For example, there were times when I instinctively knew I had just missed THE SHOT, and I asked the subject in question to ‘just hold it’, or even to repeat a gesture. Reflecting on these situations, I felt as though I was cheating. Most of the time it’s pointless anyway because the genuine moment is gone, never to be repeated again.

As the editor of Verve Photo, I would like to share my editorial process with you. When I see work that strikes a chord in me, I initiate contact with the photographer. The first thing I do when considering anyone’s work is click on the link to his or her website. Even after twenty years of the web, there is a moment of anticipation and excitement while the page loads.

In order to be included on Verve Photo, a photographer must have four strong photo essays. Often it’s clear instantly if the work touches me. What counts is light, composition and moment, as well as intention and authenticity. Most important is the entire body of work, rather than one or two ‘lucky shots’.

Troilo’s images from Belgium titled The Dark Heart of Europe, as intriguing as they are, just don’t have authenticity for me. Even though the photographer got permission from his cousin who is engaging in sex, the situation is a bit too surreal.  As I write this more questions are being voiced about the stated location of the photographs.

What is included on Giovanini Troilo’s website is not photojournalism or documentary work. The Dark Heart of Europe is the only ‘story’ on his site. The rest of the work is illustration and portraiture. This isn’t a value judgement on his work, but if World Press Photo is about photojournalism, I’m confused why this work was ever considered at all for this contest?

Nick Kozak March 2, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Kenya.
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In the village of Makina, an informal settlement of Kibera. Nairobi 2014

Nick Kozak (b.1982, Kuwait) is a freelance photojournalist whose current work is focused on the issues of community and identity. He is the acting Photo Editor for the award winning iPad magazine, Wondereur. Nick’s work has been supported by the Toronto Arts Council and exhibited in Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Poland, Bangladesh, and the United States. His editorial clients include the Toronto Star, Toronto Life, Report on Business Magazine, La Presse, The Grid, and Toronto Community News. He has had major commissioned projects with Facing History and Ourselves and the Atkinson Foundation, among others.

About the photograph:

“In this photograph from the village of Makina in the informal settlements of Kibera, a child stands near two men working; one is resurfacing a mud wall of a residential house, as the other looks on. The overwhelming majority of homes in Kibera are built of mud with corrugated tin roofs and a dirt or concrete floor. The work at this home involved digging up a little patch of land next to the house, mixing the earth with water, and applying it to the exterior walls. The work these men do is precarious and is usually secured by organizing together in groups. I would often run into groups of young men in the same areas standing or sitting, waiting, or performing some tasks. They would tell me they are hustling  which always meant they were either working or looking for work.”

“In 2013 I made my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa. Like many visitors to Kenya I was drawn to the informal settlements of Kibera (nearly half of Nairobi three million residents live in one of over sixty such neighbourhoods). Stepping into Kibera for the first time I was immediately fascinated by the ingenuity of its residents. Kiberans are masters at overcoming adversity through resourcefulness, creativity and by placing an unprecedented value on the role of community in individual survival. For a period of a month I spent almost every day in Kibera and connected with people through the Kibera Film School and I helped run mini workshops on photography. In 2014 I returned for a second month, in part thanks to a Toronto Arts Council Grant, which allowed me to further strengthen relationships. The conditions of poverty in Kibera prevent most Kiberans from attaining what people in developed countries would rate as acceptable standards of living but the disadvantages do not stop them. The energy, talent and ingenuity, of young people in Kibera, an environment that presents so many obstacles, especially inspires me.”

Alfredo Bini February 26, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Ethiopia.
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Ethiopia
From the project on Land Grabbing in Ethiopia 2011

Alfredo Bini (b. 1975, Italy) is a freelance photojournalist whose work has been published in Paris Match, El Pais, National Geographic, Italy and the New York Times among others. His project Transmigrations is about the journey of African migrants through the Sahara desert. It has been published in African and Black Diaspora by DePaul University and Harvard University in the New Geographies Journal. It won several prizes and has been exhibited worldwide in festivals and solo exhibitions. Land Grabbing or Land to Investors? was selected for the 24th Visa Pour l’Image in Perpignan, the 12th China Pingyao International Photography Festival and Photoville. It was recently released as a video documentary. Alfredo is represented by the French agency Cosmos.

About the Photograph:

“Lopiso Lagebocomes is from Kambata, a small town 800 km from Metahara, in the Southern part of Ethiopia. For Lopiso, work starts at 5 A.M. when the plantation is set on fire, and as soon as it cools down, he enters the field and starts cutting cane, finishing at 12 or 1 o’clock. He cuts up to five tons of sugar cane a day and earns 80 cents. The company recruits the entire work force around his home town, where land shortage drives the workers to emigrate. In order to boost sugar and biofuel production, the management of government-owned Metahara sugar factory, has confiscated over twenty thousand hectares of land inhabited by the Afar people, causing discontent among those who refuse to move their village to make room for the plantations.”

“The financial risk to the companies involved in Land Grabbing is almost nonexistent. Governments, motivated by food security concerns, allocate the initial funds to be invested overseas. The EU provides funding to other companies that will produce materials overseas that make it possible to comply with EU green policies for bio fuel production. The World Bank and the IMF also provide companies with funding, and it is possible to purchase insurance against loss that may result from stability issues in the country where the funds are invested. These land use decisions are made far away from the land itself, and even further from the people whose lives and livelihoods are rooted in the land. To investigate these issues in Ethiopia was a natural choice because it is a country where more than six million people survive because of UN food aid, while it exports agricultural products cultivated on land leased to foreign investors.”

Stefan Falke February 23, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Mexico.
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Photo artist Aldo Guerra on the roof of his apartment in Tijuana, Mexico 2008

Stefan Falke (b.1956, Germany) photographs stories and portraits for international magazines and movie stills for film studios. His work about a stilt-walking school in Trinidad resulted in the book MOKO JUMBIES: The Dancing Spirits of Trinidad. For his latest project La Frontera he photographed 180 artists who live on both sides near the USA – Mexico border. The images were exhibited at Photoville 2014 in Brooklyn, New York and a book about the project was published in Germany. His work has been published in The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, GEO Spain, PHOTO, The Financial Times, New York Magazine, La Repubblica, Die Zeit, Der Spiegel and many others. Stefan is a member of the German photo agency Laif.

About the Photograph:

“This is an image from my long-term project La Frontera: Artists along the US Mexican Border. I traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, for the first time in 2008. The news from there was really bad then. Daily reports about kidnappings, murder and drug-trafficking. I wondered how people were going about their lives in places that seemed to be ruled by violence and decided to visit and photograph artists in order to show that there is more to the border region than we hear and read about. Over the next few years I found an astoundingly vibrant art scene in border cities like Matamoros, Reynosa, Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana and other cities on both sides. To date I photographed artists along the entire length of the border from the Pacific to the Atlantic. This photograph is from my first visit to the border and it shows the photographer and video artist Aldo Guerra on the roof of his studio in Tijuana. I like its composition and the feel to it. Tijuana became one of my favorite cities along the border and I revisit as often as I can.”

Pierpaolo Mittica February 19, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Japan.
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Near the Fukushima nuclear accident. Tomioka, Japan 2011

Pierpaolo Mittica (b.1971, Italy) studied photography with Charles Henri Favrod, Naomi Rosenblum and Walter Rosenblum, his spiritual father in photography. His photographs were exhibited in Europe and United States and have been published in I l’Espresso, Vogue Italia, Repubblica, Panorama, Photomagazine, Days Japan International The Guardian, Asian Geo and others His work is in the Permanent collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Fratelli Alinari Museum, Florence Chernobyl National Museum, Kiev, Fotografiska Museum, Stockholm and the Auer collection in Switzerland. His books include: The Balkans, from Bosnia to Kosovo,Chernobyl- The hidden legacy, Cip is not Afraid and Ashes/Ceneri. Pierpaolo is based in Italy.

About the Photograph:

“I took this photograph in July 2011, only a few months after the Fukushima nuclear accident. I was inside the Exclusion Zone with an Italian journalist and friend Pio d’Emilia. We were inside illegally without official permission from the government to report the situation. The Zone was completely empty. It was evacuated two days after the accident and the government on April 20 created an exclusion zone of 20 km radius around the plant. No one was allowed to go inside.”

“After a few days around the zone, we arrived in Tomioka, one of the evacuated towns. Tomioka had sixteen thousand inhabitants before the evacuation. We heard noises in the distance and thought they were the police so we approached silently to try and understand what was happening. We discovered that there were about 15 people in white suits with masks and gloves going around the town and inside houses, like ghosts. We approached them and  discovered that they were residents coming back with a special permit from the government to collect their belongings in their evacuated houses, and then leaving forever. We stayed with them all the afternoon, interviewing and photographing them. This image was made towards the end of our meeting with the residents. The three people inside the bus were waiting for their neighbors to evacuate and leave their houses forever. After a day had passed they were absorbed in their thoughts and feelings with a mix of sorrow, sadness and anger. They took away only a few things: documents, photographs. Only a few memories of a life they would never return to again.”

Selma Fernandez Richter February 16, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Myanmar, United States.
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Planet Hook beneath the flag of the Karen State, Saint Paul, MN, 2012

Selma Fernandez Richter  (b. 1974, Mexico) has been a photographer since 2001. She works in both the United States and Mexico. Selma spent the first ten years of her professional career in Monterrey, Mexico´s most industrial city, where she photographed people in the business community and editorial assignments for Time-Expansion Editorial Group, Financial Times Deutschland, Bloomberg Businessweek and CNN Mexico, among others.Three years ago, Selma moved away from Mexico and started photographing her ongoing project “The Ache for Home” about the refugee communities in Minnesota, while experiencing her own adaptation process to a new context. She is currently based in Minneapolis.

About the Photograph:

“This image is part of my ongoing project The Ache for Home about the refugee communities in Minnesota. The families and individuals that I photograph primarily come from Burma, Bhutan, Eritrea and Somalia. I am interested in photographing the first months and years in their new context. I observe them improve language skills, search to find jobs that match their specific abilities, the struggles of adapting to a cold Minnesota winter, and their efforts to maintain a cultural identity that is familiar and resonates. Above all, I have come to know the sacrifices parents make for their children and the dreams and hopes they hold dear for the next generation. In this picture, Planet Hook is in his living room beneath the flag of the Karen State. Planet was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. His parents are from the Karen ethnic group in Burma and because of persecution, they fled the country in 1997. In 2010, the family resettled in Minnesota.”

 

T.J. Kirkpatrick February 12, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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The Spot Bar in Steubenville, Ohio 2012

T.J. Kirkpatrick (b. 1984, USA) is an independent photographer living in Washington, D.C. while working on long-term projects across the country. T.J.’s work is split between seeking the connections shared by different people and observing the quirks of American cultures. After receiving a degree in journalism from Boston University, he spent several years on the staff at various newspapers in New England. He has since worked throughout the U.S., in East Africa and Southeast Asia, and in 2009 was an intern for VII Photo Agency and a student at Eddie Adams Workshop XXII. His work has been recognized by the American Photography 28, 29 & 30 annuals, the International Photography Awards, and NPPA Best of Photojournalism, among others. T.J.’s clients include Esquire, Time Magazine, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

About the Photograph:

“This image is from the final weeks of the 2012 presidential election, when I based myself in Ohio to freelance for a variety of clients who had me running all across the state. I had already spent many months on-and-off of the campaign trail in various states in 2011 and 2012. Steubenville is a steel town on the Ohio River that has seen a steady population decline since many steel mills in the area closed in the 1980s. While I was there, Bloomberg contacted me looking for images of the campaign away from the candidates. I spent a day with volunteers for both the Obama and Romney campaigns covering their various phone bank and canvassing efforts, and another day at local hangouts like The Spot Bar making daily life features. Since it was expected that Ohio would be instrumental in picking the next president in the 2012 election, it felt like a good spot to place myself for the last couple of weeks before election day.”

“I spent a good deal of my time on the campaign trail trying to show the set-up, or, if you will, peaking behind the curtain to see the guy manipulating the wizard. Part of that effort involved meeting the people who were expected to buy into the show, and I got the sense that many of the locals were just worn out from the extended and aggressive campaign. The number of undecided voters in Ohio counties that had any chance of a swing were pretty small, but both campaigns had huge get-out-the-vote machines in place that caught up the deciders along with any voters who could be swayed. By the end of October it had all gotten a bit overwhelming, which is some of the feeling I tried to show with this bar scene from The Spot Bar in Steubenville, Ohio.

Teun Vouten February 9, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Honduras.
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Easter Week, Comayagua, Honduras 2008

Teun Voeten (b.1966, Netherlands) studied Cultural Anthropology and Philosophy. He has covered conflicts in Bosnia, Colombia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, Honduras, DR Congo, Mexico, Libya and Syria. His work has been published in Vanity Fair, Newsweek, The New Yorker and National Geographic. He also works for the UNHCR, Doctors without Borders and Human Rights Watch. In 1996, he published Tunnel People, an anthropological journalistic account of living for five months in an underground homeless community in New York. How de Body? Hope and Horror in Sierra Leone, was published in 2000. Teun has also contributed to the documentary Restrepo’. He is working on a PhD dissertation on extreme violence in warfare.

About the Photograph:

“After covering murder and mayhem for  more then a week in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Honduras, I read in my tourist guide about the special Easter Parade in the picturesque town of Comayagua. The town is right between the San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, the two epicenters of violence, but Comayagua is beautifully restored to its colonial splendor and is even a Unesco Heritage Site. For months, the Comayaguan’s prepare the Easter Week celebrations which culminate on Good Friday. All through the night before, people work non-stop to make incredibly beautiful carpets out of sawdust. These months of hard labor will be trampled the next morning when the Easter Procession parades through town. The most touching part is the children that play out the 14 Stations of the Cross. Dead serious, as if their lives depended on it.”

Jessica Todd Harper February 5, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Mary Ann, Marshall and Becky. USA 2012

Jessica Todd Harper (b. 1975, USA) spent hours of her childhood wandering around museums looking at depictions of interior and family life by painters such as Mary Cassatt, Vermeer, John Singer Sargent and John White Alexander. After a childhood of copying these masters with crayons and later pastels, she turned to photography and started looking at the families around her. The sold out “Interior Exposure” (Damiani 2008) won recognition from sources as varied as Oprah Magazine, PDN, and the Lucie Awards.  Her latest book “The Home Stage” was recently published and with many painterly references, looks at family life with young children. Jessica’s work is collected by museums and appears regularly in publications ranging from Die Zeit to Real Simple. She is represented by Rick Wester Fine Art.

About the Photograph:

“This is a portrait of my cousin, my sister, an ancestor from four  generations ago and my ketchup stained little boy. We were all gathered for cocktails and dinner at my uncle’s house, a space where the family members from the past simply take up a lot of wall space. So it is likely that wherever you are, there is a painting of an ancestor in the background. This photograph is part of my book The Home Stage, that explores the home environment and life with small children in my family and friends’ families. In this particular image of multiple generations, I am reminded how much our environments and the stories we hear about our families influence us. The ancestor in the painting, Mary Ann, is shown at the age of 16. Hers is a tragic story as she died in the Arctic, the biggest steamship disaster before the Titanic.  I grew up hearing about the adventures and tragedies of long ago family as if they were still with us.  And sometimes, as in this photograph, it is almost as if they are”.

Robbie McClaran February 2, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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From the project Hot Rod and Betties. Portland Oregon 2014

Robbie McClaran (b.1955) is a documentary photographer based in Portland Oregon. His work focuses on the American people and landscape. Robbie began his study in photography in 1975 at the Center for Photographic Studies with C.J. Pressma, and continued at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester NY, where he studied with Nathan Lyons. His commissioned work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Time, Smithsonian, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Bloomberg and Forbes. The prints from his controversial 1996 book project, Angry White Men, are in the permanent collection of the University of Oregon. His personal work has been featured in Plazm, Photo District News, The Photo Review, ID Design, and has been recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Arts, American Photography, and Communication Arts. Robbie is represented by Redux Pictures.

About the Photograph:

“Most of my recent personal work has been large or medium format black & white film based projects that involved traveling to other parts of the country. I began to think about working closer to home on a series of short stories, one or two day projects working with a small camera in color. The first of these was on Hot Rod culture and I began with the Portland Roadster show. My idea was to juxtapose images of the cars with the people who are the car builders, collectors and fans. I’ve always had a little bit of gear head in me so not only did the show present a wonderfully colorful opportunity, it was a lot of fun.”

“Hot Rod culture is unapologetically macho and the women who are part of it are known as Betties. In an age of increasing concern over the impact of the automobile on the environment, hot rod culture continues to celebrate speed, chrome, oil, rubber and steel. It is quintessentially American for better or worse. The idea was to shoot fast and loose, not quite shoot from the hip but almost. So there’s a high failure rate working that way. But you also get these wonderful moments that would otherwise escape with a more deliberate approach. This image of the red haired young woman was made in the method described above, a fleeting moment in passing. So I was particularly pleased to see the resulting image.”

Geoffrey Hiller/ Daybreak in Myanmar Book Launch December 11, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Editor’s note: I’ll be out of the country this January in Myanmar and will resume showcasing new photographers on February 2, 2015. Hard to believe that Verve Photo has featured close to 1,000 photographers from over 80 countries during the past seven years. Happy New Year to all of you out there!


Listening to a transistor radio in a Yangon tea shop, Myanmar 2013

These images are from my new book Daybreak in Myanmar. I’ve returned to Burma several times since my first trip in 1987. The country was frozen in time until a few years ago when the government announced a democratic opening. Most of the visible economic and social changes have occurred in Yangon, but in the villages change is slower. On-going trouble in the border areas with ethnic minorities (including the Rohingya) continues to flare. The Burmese people know that there is still a lot of political uncertainty going forward.


Students near the university, Yangon 2012

The book is 192 pages with 170 color photographs printed on 157 gsm matte art paper. Trim size is 18.5 x 25.5 cm. It’s sequenced by time of day showing Burmese daily rhythms and includes six short interviews with leading Burmese writers and activists by UK journalist Francis Wade. Order a copy of the book here $29.95 + shipping. Thanks for supporting this project. By doing so you are supporting documentary photography and all of the work that has gone into creating Verve Photo.

 
River shrine, Hpa-an 2000

Vincent Catala December 8, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Brazil.
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Central do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro 2014

Vincent Catala (b. 1975, France) lives and works between Europe and Brazil. In 2000 he graduated from McGill University with a Masters Degree in Intellectual Property. He became a photographer in 2006 after having various jobs. Vincent often photographs for urban planning and architecture clients. He also does portraits for music labels and the press. Since 2012 he has been involved in a personal research focusing on the evolution of the city of Rio de Janeiro. His work has been the subject of various exhibitions in Paris, Amman, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Tbilisi, Braga and was awarded several prizes and has been published in Le Monde, Télérama and The Sunday Times Magazine. He is represented by Agence VU.

About the Photograph:

“This picture was taken in April 2014, next to the bus station Central do Brasil, in Centro. It was raining and this guy looked lost and a bit crazy. Normally I do my personal work with a large format camera, but in this situation I took the photograph with a 6×7 camera. It’s part of my current work about Rio de Janeiro because (contrary to what many people think) I feel there a lot of loneliness/emptiness here. There is probably in that vision a lot of my personal story, and this is why I always shape my work taking into consideration the space as well as the individuals, trying to extract from their interaction a common sense (place in the world, freedom). I love to work in Rio when the weather is gray and rainy (also because in color, when it’s sunny, the light proves often too harsh for me). There is no sadness in this kind of picture for me, rather a quest about oneself and the place surrounding us, searching a sense and an order.”

Elena Chernyshova December 4, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Russia.
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Norilsk , Russia 2012.

Elena Chernyshova (b.1981 USSR) is a self-taught photographer who after two years of work as an architect left her job and bicycled from Toulouse to Vladivostok and back again: 30,000 kilometers, 26 countries and 1,004 days. The trip led her to decide to become a photographer. In 2011 she received a grant from the Lagardère Foundation to create the photo documentary ‘Days of Night – Nights of Day’ about the daily life of the industrial city of Norilsk, located 400 kilometers north of the polar circle, in Siberia. Elena’s work has been published in National Geographic, Le Monde, Internazionale, Days Japan, A/R magazine, Newsweek Russia, and Ecology and Life. Her awards include: World Press Photo 2014; Days Japan Awards and others.

About the Photograph:

“I was attracted by this couple and wanted to do a photo without disturbing them but at the last moment the girl noticed me and glanced in my direction. We spoke a bit after. They were both born in Norilsk. Their parents came in the 1970’s, attracted by high salaries and economic advantages. They planned to work for five years and leave, but ended up staying. A typical Norilsk story. Now the young are dreaming of leaving Norilsk to build their own lives in other parts of Russia. There are no green areas in Norilsk so people have to travel 30 kilometers by bus and walk for about four  kilometers to reach nature.”

Pierfrancesco Celada December 1, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Japan.
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Shibuya Station, Tokyo 2011

Pierfrancesco Celada (b.1979, Italy) has a PhD in Bio Mechanics but is currently working as a freelance photographer. In 2011 he  interned at Magnum Photo and won the Ideastap and Magnum Photographic Award for his project Japan, I wish I knew your name, his current book project. Pierfrancesco’s work has been exhibited internationally and published in Newsweek, Times Lightbox, Amica, D-LaRepubblica. He is currently working on the second chapter of Modern Megalopolis: People Mountain People Sea about  life in Chinese Mega-cities.

About the Photograph:

“The Japanese megalopolis is a strip of land that stretches on the east side of Honshu Island through Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo. More then 80 million people live in close contact, making it one of the most densely populated regions in the world. This photo was shot outside Shibuya station in Tokyo, a few hundreds meters away from the well-known Shibuya crossing. Behind the glass is a smoking area where thousands of commuters stop for a cigarette. The space is narrow and the chances for interaction are high, but people choose not to interact.”

“My goal was to look at the difference between rural societies where people have more of an active role, with multiple connections and greater effect on the community compared to cities where people often struggle to communicate with each other. The aim of the project is trying to answer questions such as: Is it still important to be, or feel, part of a group? Are we alone in the crowd? My book project Hitoride is currently being featured on the crowd funding site indeastap”

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