Author: Sahiba Chawdhary (page 1 of 5)

Elizabeth Kilroy on Tackling New Media Narratives

The New Media Narratives is the first program of its kind at International Center of Photography, drawing on the institution’s tradition of progressive, engaged, experimental photography in the pursuit of telling the most important stories. Spearheaded by its Program Chair, Elizabeth Kilroy, an award-winning interactive designer and educator the program continues its tradition in welcoming creative visual storytellers from many disciplines and artistic practices. ICP Hackathon is a weekend interdisciplinary opportunity for photographers, filmmakers, developers, designers, makers, journalists and visual artists to come together and collaborate on the future of storytelling. 

Recently, Blink’s Sahiba Chawdhary got an opportunity to quiz ICP’s Elizabeth Kilroy about their pilot New Media Narrative Program and its latest event this weekend, #hackthephoto, to continue its tradition to explore innovative storytelling.

Sahiba: Tell us about yourself and your work with ICP?

Elizabeth: I am the Chair of the New Media Narratives program at ICP. ICP has a long tradition of engaged photography in telling the most important stories since it was founded in 1974 by Cornell Capa.The New Media Narratives Program continues this tradition by welcoming creative visual storytellers from many disciplines and artistic practices who are interested in digital storytelling.

Sahiba: Tell us about the new media narratives program at ICP?

Elizabeth: We live in a visual age of collaborative consumption; we share. Social platforms have imploded how digital content is produced, distributed and consumed. Stories are shaped by and delivered through screens, mobile devices and VR headsets. More critically, this is changing how photographers and storytellers approach their craft.  As people upload an average of 1.8 billion digital images daily, new approaches and skills are required to tell the important stories of the day. The New Media Narratives Program at ICP is a new one-year certificate program offering a strong background in photography, visual storytelling and development for digital and interactive media, allowing students to make engaging and collaborative work and tell stories using a variety of new tools and platforms.

Sahiba: How did the idea come about? What is your goal with the program?

Elizabeth: This is our first year! The program evolved through discussions between myself and Fred Ritchin, Dean of the School. Compelling visual and interactive content is a way to break through the digital clutter and tell those stories. Photographers are now creating original video content and recording audio to accompany their stories. Visual storytellers are required to curate and make sense of the ubiquity of images. Data visualization and mapping techniques can be used to bring advocates, viewers, and participant closer to global issues. Photography has opened out and embraced multi-platform storytelling and New Media Narratives is designed to give visual storytellers the tools needed to create and engage.

Sahiba: What are your plans for the program? Where do you see it developing in the next few years?

Elizabeth: Technology will constantly change but telling a good story and having an engaging aesthetic and a clear voice will remain constant. It’s always about telling important stories and making meaningful work. We hope to grow the program and invite more students to apply.

Sahiba: What experience would you like to deliver through the brainstorming sessions?

Elizabeth: We are very open to seeing what happens and plan to let the hackathon happen organically. We will assign teams, pair content creators with designers and coders and see what they come up with.

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Sahiba: What are the key events to look out for over the weekend? Some inside scoop?

Elizabeth: We have some great speakers to kick off the event. Stephen Mayes is our keynote speaker. We have great judges and mentors plus we will feed you, give you drinks and award some great prizes.

Sahiba: What do you see as the future of storytelling?

Elizabeth: VR storytelling is the next frontier and I expect to see a lot of innovation in that field as well as improved technologies which will make the barrier to entry easier for aspiring VR filmmakers. The next version of Adobe Premiere will include VR editing, for instance. At the same time we will see more and more innovative mobile storytelling and filmmaking as your phone gets smarter and smarter.

Sahiba: How do you suggest traditional journalists adopt these innovations?

Elizabeth: Don’t be afraid of the technology. It’s just another tool. A good story is a good story and the same rules of journalism apply to both digital and legacy platforms.  

Sahiba: Where do you see tools like Blink evolve and benefit freelancers?

Elizabeth: Blink is a digitally native tool, a global platform for locating talent and hiring photographers. It should be the go to platform as more and more networking is done online and borders dissolve.


MORE INFO: http://www.icphackthephoto.com/ 

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Daniella Zalcman on the Impact of Double Exposure Photojournalism

Daniella Zalcman is a documentary photographer focusing on the legacy of Western colonization. She recently won 2016 FotoEvidence Book Award for documenting social injustice. Her project, “Signs of Your Identity”, explores the legacy of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, which began operation in the late 1800s. She has worked as a traditional visual reporter before finding her own voice by embracing double exposure and adding a layer of narrative to her stories. Boreal Collective’s photographer talked to Blink’s Laurence Cornet about her projects and about breaking the formal boundaries of documentary.


Laurence: How did Echosight come about?

Daniella: I moved to London in 2012 and started a personal project, New York + London, which explored my nostalgia around leaving New York, and how familiarity dictates the way we photograph. The result was a series of double exposures; one image of New York and one of London melted together. Echosight was more or less the same concept, with a collaborative component. I was shooting in London while a partner, Danny Ghitis, was shooting in New York, and we would combine our photos. We did that every single day for about a year and it became a little overwhelming so, we started to have guest photographers take over the Instagram account for a week; we have had incredible people come in and play around — Ed Kashi, Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Barbara Davidson, David Guttenfelder, and Ruddy Roye to name a few. Documentary photographers work with so many constraints; we are all constantly terrified of crossing the line of what’s considered ethical and appropriate. Echosight was a chance to completely drop all of that.

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From the series New York + London.

 

“Documentary photographers work with so many constraints; we are all constantly terrified of crossing the line of what’s considered ethical and appropriate. Echosight was a chance to completely drop all of that.”

 

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From the series New York + London.

 

Laurence: In this specific context of two works totally dependent on each other, what are the merits and challenges of collaboration?

Daniella: It’s incredible how much each contributor brings to a project. When two separate visual thinkers communicate well, they produce incredible work. The photography community is a family. The more opportunities we have to work together and give each other feedback, the better our work can be. At the same time, photography is everywhere. You have to do something extraordinarily different to get someone to stop and think about a story. I think that this is the reason why media outlets are now really receptive to alternative kinds of photography. Two great editors from Al Jazeera America and I came up with this idea to document the first anniversary of the Ferguson shooting by having a young black photographer from Ferguson and a young black photographer from Baltimore take photos, and I blended their images into echosights. This was a great counterpoint to the work that came out of those two cities. Many of the journalists who went to cover those stories weren’t familiar with the communities and didn’t necessarily understand the tensions that existed there — so we wanted the project to come from a place of more nuance.

echosight-1

From the commissioned EchoSight project about Ferguson and Baltimore, photographs by Michael B Thomas and Glenford Nunez.

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From the commissioned EchoSight project about Ferguson and Baltimore, photographs by Michael B Thomas and Glenford Nunez.

 

Laurence: There is definitely an opportunity with double-exposure on the individual level as well. Can you talk about the narrative possibilities of double-exposure and why you started to include it in your documentary work?

Daniella: Double exposures add an extra layer of storytelling. For example, take my project on the residential school system in Canada, a series of boarding schools for indigenous children founded in the early 19th century. In brief, these schools intended to whitewash and forcefully assimilate indigenous kids who were kidnapped from their reservations. They would be forced to wear Western clothing and were not allowed to speak their own language, to practice their own religion or their own culture in any way. On top of that, there was rampant physical and sexual abuse. This story deals with the past and with memory and to me, a straight series of portraits wasn’t going to be enough to tell that story. So, I created multiple exposures with portraits and sites relevant to former students’ experiences.

Portrait: Tyler Eagle Waswanipi First Nation Object: Sweetgrass, one of the four sacred plants (along with cedar, sage, and tobacco) used in First Nations rituals and ceremonies. "I've always wanted to sing and drum. I've always wanted to tell these stories. My parents took me to powwows and Cree was my first language. Being connected to your culture means knowing who you are and what you belong to."

Portrait: Tyler Eagle
Waswanipi First Nation
Object: Sweetgrass, one of the four sacred plants (along with cedar, sage, and tobacco) used in First Nations rituals and ceremonies.
“I’ve always wanted to sing and drum. I’ve always wanted to tell these stories. My parents took me to powwows and Cree was my first language. Being connected to your culture means knowing who you are and what you belong to.”

Laurence: Can you talk about this issue of the First Nation in Canada, maybe in relation to contemporary migrations?

Daniella: Canada’s First Nations were the original residents and the Western Colonizers were the immigrants. Yet, these colonizers certainly never had any of the problems that modern immigrants face today. In the meantime, I live in the UK, which at one point was part of the biggest empire in human history, and I am ethnically Vietnamese and of Eastern European-Jewish heritage – so, as you can imagine there is a lot of imperialism involved in those two histories as well. I’ve always been fascinated by the ways in which either post-colonial or neo-colonial communities interact with that history.

In Canada, the thing that struck me the most is that the HIV rates among indigenous population is one of the highest in the world, and the infection rate continues to grow at a high speed. Reading through medical journals and articles before I got there I really couldn’t find any explanation. Then, I realized that every single HIV positive indigenous Canadian I spoke to had gone to residential school, and almost nothing was written on it. This school system existed in the U.S. as well. This seemed to me like a huge failure of the North American governments, educational systems and media that we had not managed to tell this terrible story.

Laurence: Talking about sensitive and under-reported issues, you also worked on the evolution of homophobia and anti-homosexuality laws in Uganda. Can you talk about the challenges you faced and the way you approached this subject?

Daniella: I’ve always been drawn to stories about sexual and gender identity because I think that is one of the defining human rights movements of my generation. I was on my way to South Sudan to cover the independence in 2011 and I happened to get to Kampala shortly after Uganda’s first and most prominent LGBT rights activists had been murdered. So I shot a series of portraits of LGBT rights activists in double exposure. All of them were out in Uganda and happy to have their faces visible, but Ugandan media often appropriates imagery from Western journalists and runs theses images under headlines like “kill the gays”. Double exposure was a way to avoid this.

LGBT rights activist Sandra Ntebi in her home in Kampala on January 26, 2014. She works as a researcher for Makerere University but says the environment is so hostile that she almost always works from home to avoid harassment. CREDIT: Daniella Zalcman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

LGBT rights activist Sandra Ntebi in her home in Kampala on January 26, 2014. She works as a researcher for Makerere University but says the environment is so hostile that she almost always works from home to avoid harassment.
CREDIT: Daniella Zalcman/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

 

“All of them were out in Uganda and happy to have their faces visible, but Ugandan media often appropriates imagery from Western journalists and runs theses images under headlines like “kill the gays”. Double exposure was a way to avoid this.”

 

Kuchus in Uganda Roscoe, 27, Gay Roscoe is a personal fitness trainer. None of his clients, neighbors, or straight friends know he's gay.

Kuchus in Uganda
Roscoe, 27, Gay
Roscoe is a personal fitness trainer. None of his clients, neighbors, or straight friends know he’s gay.

Beyonce "Double Lives"

Beyonce
“Double Lives”

Laurence: Before doing double exposure, you did a few series that blur the line between reportage and fiction, such as the re-enactors of World War II or even the eco-villagers. Can you talk about the relationship of fiction to your work?

Daniella: In the case of the World War II re-enactors project, there was obviously a huge fictional element. I drew that element out by shooting with a medium format camera that I love and is almost from the same period. In a sense, I was reenacting along with them. The eco-village series is less about fiction and more about escape. While in New York during the Occupy Movement, I met people my age who were dissatisfied with their government and the status quo but I couldn’t get a coherent sense of what they wanted to change. When I met this group of thirty people living in the forest just outside of London, I could understand. On a very small scale, they created a solution. They were redefining how they wanted to live their lives. It so dramatically disagrees with what we all consider normal that it’s a fiction to some extent.

Terry Seymore and Dicky Bass Essex Second Battalion

Terry Seymore and Dicky Bass
Essex Second Battalion

Christopher Denby Private, Aufklarungsgruppe Grossdeutschland

Christopher Denby
Private, Aufklarungsgruppe Grossdeutschland

Mark Anthony Craig Oberfeldwebel, Kampfgeschwader 55 Platoon Leader, Luftwaffe

Mark Anthony Craig
Oberfeldwebel, Kampfgeschwader 55
Platoon Leader, Luftwaffe

Laurence: You just became a member of Boreal Collective. How does it feel to be a part of a photo collective who has a non-formal approach to reportage as well?

Daniella: I’m so honored to be a part of Boreal and I think that my work fits in very well with the spirit of what members focus and work on. They all work on these slow, thoughtful explorations of identity and environment. I have a lot of respect for that because it’s increasingly difficult to do. We all have editors who want us to work quickly. What photographers mostly need is a good collective conscience. Usually, we are very secretive about our work as we never want people to know what we are working on before it gets published because we are paranoid about someone stealing our ideas. So, it’s nice to have this trusted little family where I can send out a bunch of images and ask, “Does this make sense? Am I on the right track?”

Laurence: Is there anything you are looking forward to at the moment?

Daniella: The Canadian government created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission earlier this year, and one of the first recommendations was to educate children about what happened in residential schools. So, I’m trying to create a photo book that can also function as a textbook. It would contain all these first person interviews along with First Nations scholars’ texts. A lot of kids are visual learners and relate much better to individual stories than they do to desiccated, generalized history. If I can get a book in front of a kid that has the photo of someone who went through this, I think there is a much greater chance for that child to empathize and remember. It could potentially be an incredibly important teaching tool.

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Laurence: Be it with double exposure, fiction, or pedagogical tools, you break the constraints of reportage. Can you comment on the innovation and experimentation in photography for better storytelling?

Daniella: Right now, we are redefining the meaning of photojournalism and reportage. It’s funny how the World Press comes out with new stringent guidelines every year while I see more innovation and experimentation in photography. Is my double exposure work reportage? Maybe not. Is it journalism? I think so. I’m not going to argue my case for whether or not I should be able to submit to photojournalism awards. More and more people are agreeing with me and are expanding the definition of reportage. Anastasia Taylor-Lind is currently working on a project where she sends a postcard from Donetsk, with the names of the people who fought and died in the war there. That’s not photojournalism at all, but its storytelling, and it’s incredibly powerful. Our vision is getting much broader and more exciting. I’m happy to be working on the end of the spectrum.


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Writer: Laurence Cornet

Editor: Soraya Ferdman

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Inside The Weather Channel's Digital Content Team

The difference between The Weather Channel and other news outlets is that climate trump trending topics. Recently, Blink’s Spencer Smith chatted with The Weather Channel’s Senior Editor Edecio Martinez about his photo direction in weather reporting, VR, and what The Weather Channel’s Photo Department is all about.

Spencer: Tell us about yourself and the work you do.

Edecio: I’m the Senior Editor of Visual Storytelling and Innovation for The Weather Channel, a digital product from The Weather Company, an IBM business.

Spencer: What kind of original content does The Weather Channel produce?

Edecio: Most importantly, we cover breaking world weather news ranging from hurricanes to tornadoes to earthquakes. We utilize freelance photographers and journalists to get reporting from the field that we can bring to the audience on our site and app. But we’re also always looking for feature stories with a strong weather angle. We’ve run pieces on wildfire refugees, fracking and the legacy of Hurricane Katrina. We’re open to a lot of things that might surprise photographers.

Black Feather Mardi Gras Indian tribe Second Chief Corey Rayford stands for a portrait outside of his home in New Orleans East on August 3, 2015. Rayford lost five Indian suits in Hurricane Katrina and spent a year and a half displaced in Virginia. When he was able to get back to New Orleans, he says that it took him 2-3 years to get his financial stability back but he still couldn't resume masking as a Mardi Gras Indian. Finally, cousin Lionel Delpit, who was then the Big Chief of the Black Feather tribe, got sick in 2010 and said that 2011 would be the last year he masked as a Mardi Gras Indian. Rayford buckled down and made a new suit in only four months. "I'm so glad I had the chance to make a suit and mask with him," he said. "This has been in my family since before my time."

Black Feather Mardi Gras Indian tribe Second Chief Corey Rayford stands for a portrait outside of his home in New Orleans East on August 3, 2015. Rayford lost five Indian suits in Hurricane Katrina and spent a year and a half displaced in Virginia. (Edmund D. Fountain/ The Weather Channel)

Spencer: What do you look for when hiring a freelancer? Any suggestions in best practices for freelancers?

Edecio: The single most important thing that we look for is people who can tell a human-driven story in a single photo. Bringing these massive forces of nature into the human arena is difficult, but when it happens, the results are really powerful. We also look for people who have experience shooting in severe weather. It requires a certain set of skills and comfort-level to shoot in these conditions. In breaking new situations, it’s imperative to keep constant communication. Where are you? What are you seeing? What are you getting? I know that’s tough — especially if infrastructure has been affected — but it is helpful for us to know what’s coming in. In more feature-y assignments, communication is key, too. Just so that we both know what’s expected — and what we’re hoping for — before the first photos get taken.

Spencer: More specifically, what are the best ways to pitch to The Weather Channel?

Edecio: Firstly, photographers shouldn’t have a preconceived notion of what we’re interested in. Yes, we publish pieces on wildfires and typhoons. And climate change and its impacts are definitely part of our mandate. But our interests are broader than that. There are a lot of areas that are strongly influenced by the weather — outdoor life, travel, environmental health — we’re interested in all these areas. On the other hand, if you capture amazing photos of some extreme weather event, please call us first! But I think pitching us is easy. Know what you’re going out to capture, have some previous work ready for us to look at, and we are happy to talk.

A commercial fishing vessel leaves Bayou la Batre, Ala. on June 2, 2015. The town once thrived on oysters, but in the wake of both Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, oyster shucking facilities are struggling to remain open. (Edmund D. Fountain, weather.com)

A commercial fishing vessel leaves Bayou la Batre, Ala. on June 2, 2015. The town once thrived on oysters, but in the wake of both Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, oyster shucking facilities are struggling to remain open. (Edmund D. Fountain/The Weather Channel)

Spencer: What are the nuances of covering weather and how does it differ from traditional editorial news?

Edecio: The biggest nuance is that there’s a real mix of predictability and unpredictability. We know that there will be storms, we know the geographical area, but exactly how it’s going to play out on the ground sometimes isn’t clear until pretty late in the game. We have amazing meteorologists who make sure that we have an opportunity to get out ahead of the story. However, relatively small changes, a couple dozen miles in one direction or the other can cause change of plans.

Sayville, N.Y. during Superstorm Sandy on October 30, 2012. Go to weather.com to see how this area looks five years later. (Amy Medina/ The Weather Channel)

Sayville, N.Y. during Superstorm Sandy on October 30, 2012. Go to weather.com to see how this area looks five years later. (Amy Medina/ The Weather Channel)

Myanmar's leg rowers of Inle Lake, December 28, 2015. (Andrei Duman/The Weather Channel)

Myanmar’s leg rowers of Inle Lake, December 28, 2015. (Andrei Duman/The Weather Channel)

Spencer: How is covering unexpected disasters like earthquakes different from predictable ones, like blizzards?

Edecio: Covering unexpected events fits more into the “traditional” news mode. It’s reactive. We have no opportunity to line up photographers on the ground beforehand, so we’re scrambling like most news outlets. The difference between us and other outlets in this situation, though, is that an event like an earthquake will immediately become our primary concern. We aren’t worrying, say, about pushing election coverage to make room for it. It is our priority.

Spencer: Can you tell us about the web documentary that you just won an Emmy for?

Edecio: “The Real Death Valley” looked at migrants who have died in the heat while attempting to evade a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Texas. This was the product of a joint investigation with Telemundo and The Investigative Fund that wound up winning an Emmy for “Outstanding Investigative Journalism in Spanish.” We’ve invested in serious investigative journalism, in photo features, in magazine-style pieces. Last year we won almost 20 awards for our work, including an IRE Medal, the George Polk Award, awards from NY Press Club, and awards from the Society of Professional Journalists to name a few. I think the “The Real Death Valley” is a nice example of something you probably wouldn’t expect from The Weather Channel.

Weather.com producer Chenda Ngak stares at the night sky in the Atacama Desert, San Pedro, Chile, December 11, 2015. (Nicholas Buer, The Weather Channel)

Weather.com producer Chenda Ngak stares at the night sky in the Atacama Desert, San Pedro, Chile, December 11, 2015. (Nicholas Buer, The Weather Channel)

Spencer: What can we expect from The Weather Channel as you venture into Virtual Reality (VR) coverage?

Edecio: The short answer is “I don’t know,” which I think is okay, because I don’t think anyone knows, really. (If you know where VR is headed, please call us!) It’s such a young medium that it’s flat-out exciting to be here at the beginning, figuring out what sorts of storytelling it is suited for. So, you can expect experimentation, probably a few failures, but hopefully some really amazing pieces that couldn’t have been made any other way.

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Writer: Spencer Smith 

Editor: Sahiba Chawdhary

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Katie Orlinsky on Diversifying Photojournalism

After studying political science and Latin American studies, Katie Orlinsky moved to Mexico and found herself drawn to the world of photography and its ability to bring social change. From war to natural disaster, climate change to sports, Katie’s work has varied in nature but tends to center around the human experience. Orlinsky chats with Blink’s Laurence Cornet about her past and present projects and the many places photography has taken her.

Laurence: What made you pursue work in Mexico?

Katie: I was in Oaxaca, working as a stringer for the local newspaper, when the conflict broke out in the city. Photographers came in from New York and Mexico City; as I met them and saw what they did, I decided that it was something that I wanted to pursue as well. I spoke the language, I understood the political context and I could see what made a good picture. That means I was already at a pretty decent level, right? In terms of context, the situation was dangerous. But, because I understood the city well and I was working with local journalists, I was relatively safe. Local journalists are threatened in Mexico and face extraordinary risks, but foreign journalists are rarely targeted. Sometimes you can even protect them by being an outsider.

Women march at the Revolutionary Day parade in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 2010, at the height of reported drug war related violence in the city.

Women march at the Revolutionary Day parade in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 2010, at the height of reported drug war related violence in the city.

Laurence: That is a very different paradigm than in the Middle East, where you also worked…

Katie: Exactly. The Middle East can be very much the opposite; you are putting your fixers at risk by being with them. As a photographer, you need to be completely aware that whomever you’re working with could be made a target because of you. Even in Mexico, where I explained that being an outsider could protect local journalists, that is not always true. You need to understand that as well.

Laurence: What stories did you choose to cover in Mexico, and how did it impact your career?

Katie: In 2008, I moved back to New York and started freelancing for the New York Times. Around that time the drug war was really amping up. I was watching it happen from afar and I started to get frustrated by the coverage around it. Important elements from the story were missing, specifically the fact that many of the people caught up in the killings were innocent. A lot of media were using a government narrative that talked about the Drug War as “killers killing killers,” but that wasn’t the case at all. I found my way back to Mexico, traveling for an assignment and then sticking around longer to work on personal projects. After working there for a year or two, editors started to associate my work with the region.

Laurence: You truly dedicated yourself to Mexico, and you recently dived into a completely different place, Alaska. Can you talk about this work?

Katie: I’m very passionate about Mexico but I was also ready for something different. By chance, I had this assignment in Yukon, Canada and Alaska to photograph a sled dog race. It was a part of the world that I never thought I would cover and I was blown away. The people are fascinating and the landscape is beautiful. And, it’s all at the front-line of climate change. Since then, I have been trying my best to find other stories, pitch them, get grants, and collaborate with local people who need photographers. At this point, I have a Pulitzer Grant to document subsistence hunting and different needs of villagers that are being threatened by climate change. When we used up all our money, I managed to get a second grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation to keep the project alive.

An inmate and her daughter in the Ciudad Juarez Women's Prison. More women are participating in MexicoÕs drug war than ever before, and more are getting arrested. According to the Mexican government's National Women's Institute, the number of women imprisoned for federal crimes in Mexico rose 400 percent between 2007 and 2010.

An inmate and her daughter in the Ciudad Juarez Women’s Prison. More women are participating in MexicoÕs drug war than ever before, and more are getting arrested. According to the Mexican government’s National Women’s Institute, the number of women imprisoned for federal crimes in Mexico rose 400 percent between 2007 and 2010.

Laurence: How does the pace of Alaska feel different from your past work?

Katie: It is challenging to do a story about an issue that isn’t as fast-paced. Obviously, it’s climate change, it’s incredibly important, and there are places in Alaska that could disappear tomorrow, but it lacks the urgency other stories have that get them published. I feel terrible about all the photos I have of Alaska that no one has seen. Yet, I appreciate the fact that I’ve been able to take my time. All my stories have one thing in common; it’s about an extreme way of life and really interesting people leading it. Even the dog sled work. The bond between the mushers and their dogs is beautiful, as is the whole lifestyle that goes with it. It takes about a decade to train these dogs and build a good dog team. It was nice to find a story that was not all gloom and doom.

Laurence: You mentioned “we” in your previous answer. Who do you collaborate with, and why?

Katie: I’m a journalist, not just a photographer. I want to do stories that I think are important for people to know about. When you work with a writer, you’re making a story that’s going to come out soon and get attention. By “we” I meant Julia O’Malley, a freelance writer who I met while both of us were covering the World Eskimo Olympics  for Al Jazeera America. We made a good team as we got along and saw a future for different stories that we wanted to tell. The other figures out things that you don’t and you see things that he or she is not going to see. If I’m not working with a writer, I like to invite photographers to come with me too. I’m alone a lot, but not always.

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Laurence: Even less so now that you joined Prime Collective. What is it like to work with a community?

Katie: Being with Prime is a great way to stay connected. They’re really positive and inspiring people. What I love about being in the collective is that you are doing what you’re doing and if you’re on a National Geographic assignment, that’s your thing. They say: “We don’t want a piece of that; we’re just going to be around and talk to you if you’re lonely somewhere. And when we all have the time to collaborate and do interesting things together, we will.” It helped me when I was feeling a little bit disconnected from the documentary photography world.

Laurence: Can you talk about your residency at Levine/Leavitt agency in that context?

Katie: I won an award with the Young Guns, from the Art Directors Club, and part of it that year was an art residency with the Levine/Leavitt artists’ agency. It was a one-year artist residency that ended in September but I’m still on with them. It provides a place for my work that is not around journalism or editorial, but it doesn’t mean that I change the way I work or the subjects I choose. A lot of companies have humanitarian wings, and so commercial photography can now include projects around human rights and politics. There are ethical issues involved, for sure! Obviously, as a journalist, you need to establish moral boundaries and know whom you’re working for. But there’s also a huge world of opportunity out there.

The annual whaling feast in Point Hope, Alaska.  Photo by Katie Orlinsky

The annual whaling feast in Point Hope, Alaska. Photo by Katie Orlinsky

Laurence: You have been involved with the project Too Young to Wed by Stephanie Sinclair. Can you talk about the organization and your connection to it?

Katie: Too Young to Wed started with a photography project by Stephanie Sinclair about child marriage and has grown into this massive advocacy campaign and a not for profit organization. Oftentimes you wonder if you are making a difference or just documenting other people’s problems – like a vulture. “Are you documenting this just because it’s exotic, exciting, and sad?” Stephanie is not doing that; she is addressing the global problem and making a difference. The project has had impact on UN projects, public policies, and helped convince various countries to sign pledges against child marriage. In terms of my connection, I’ve been working with her and the nonprofit Humanity United, specifically to work on child migration from Mexico to the U.S.

Christina Piaia, Stephanie and I just had an exhibition in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. with the work of a lot of other great photographers covering the issue, like Kirsten Luce and Meridith Kohut. It was placed strategically so that the people directly affecting the exodus of child migrants – i.e. Senators, Congressman – will walk by and see these children’s faces on their way to work.

Laurence: Lastly, can you tell us about your future projects?

Katie: I’ve thought about working on a book, but I don’t feel quite ready. I know how much time it takes away from shooting and I don’t want to stop taking pictures anytime soon. I’d just like to keep photographing and finding stories that I care about. I’m definitely not bored of Alaska, there’s still so much to do there. I hope one day I just get tired, and then I will make a book!

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Writer: Laurence Cornet

Editor: Soraya Ferdman

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Inside CNN's Photography Department

CNN launched their photography blog in November 2011. From showcasing photo-essays around the world, this broadcast network’s photo blog writes about powerful photo-driven stories and a behind-the-scenes look at emerging and established photographers. Recently Blink’s Sahiba Chawdhary chatted with CNN Digital Senior Photo Editor Elizabeth Johnson about CNN’s photography department. Elizabeth joined CNN in 2011 where she helped their photo department grow rapidly with social media engagement. She has helped triple the number of @CNNPhotos followers in the past few years.

Sahiba:  Tell us about yourself and what you do at CNN.

Elizabeth: I’m a Sr. Photo Editor for CNN Digital and supervise the photo department at the Atlanta headquarters. I helped launched the CNN Photos blog in November 2011 and edited photography for the CNN iPad app when it launched earlier that year. Now, I coordinate daily news coverage and assign photographers to long form feature stories. I also run the @CNNPhotos Twitter account manage our Throwback Thursday franchise and occasionally write for the CNN Photos blog.

Sahiba: Does CNN assign freelancers to shoot photo or video stories?

Elizabeth: We work closely with our enterprise writers who create long-form stories. We hire freelance photographers for their stories to do anything from portraits to reportage to still life, and the occasional video. This year, we’re also doing a lot of original work on elections, CNN-hosted debates and conventions.

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Sahiba: What role does photography play at CNN?

Elizabeth: Photography is incredibly important because we’re a broadcast company. CNN does video and television so well that we’re at the top of it in a lot of ways. Photography tells complementary stories, often quicker. And to be honest, our audience loves photography and will spend minutes looking at it. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the age of gifs and multi-tasking, three minutes on one URL is saying something!

Sahiba: Tell us about the CNN Photo Blog, how it got started and what kind of work you are focused on publishing.

Elizabeth: The CNN Photos Blog began as a way for CNN to show that we care about photography. I remember sitting in meetings and discussing what it should be and we all agreed— it should be important photography. That’s it. We’re open and interested to any type of photography, about any subject, from any era. And so is our audience!

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Sahiba: What is the best way to pitch stories to CNN?

Elizabeth: The best way to pitch to CNN is to me directly, or find one of our photo editors on social media and connect. I can’t tell you how many stories have started from a Twitter conversation.

Sahiba: Are you looking for anything specific in the coming months? Are you open to pitches from freelancers on Blink?

Elizabeth: We’re always looking for interesting angles off the news. And yes! I get pitches from Blink members and I always look at everything I get, even if sometimes it might take me some time to get back. Like most photo blogs these days, we are looking to be the first outlet to publish a story. 

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Sahiba: Any new projects that you and your team are currently working on?

Elizabeth: Most recently, as you can imagine, we have elections and debate features coming up on the CNN Photo Blog in 2016.  We did these beautiful portraits of the Republican and Democratic candidates with Nigel Parry at the first two CNN debates, and had Vincent Laforet rig seven cameras in the Venetian Theater in Las Vegas. Some of our election work is going on display at the Newseum in D.C. in April.

Outside of the election, CNN photo department has recently commissioned work on Gun violence, the American Dream, a rape survivor and MLK’s neighborhood. On the photo blog, we’ve published work on everything from arctic researchers to bear dancers.

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Sahiba: What best practices should freelancers follow before, during and after a shoot?

Elizabeth: Ask questions before. Make sure you understand the assignment and the direction your editor is giving you. Know about your subject, do your own research before you go. If you find that something isn’t as you expected during the shoot, don’t wait until the end of the day to bring it up. I’d rather know that there’s a problem when there’s time to fix it.

For me, in news, it is imperative that I have caption information. I can’t tell you how often I have to ask for that more than once. So know what your editor is expecting from you and be sure to deliver.

Sahiba: CNN Photos has grown a strong social media presence in the past few years – what kind of strategies did you use to achieve that growth?

Elizabeth: Social media can be a tricky beast, and I’ve tried a lot of trial and error when posting. For @CNNPhotos, it’s about knowing the audience and catering to what they’re interested in, if that’s information, stats, or beautiful photography. And we always post with a picture — you might be surprised how much additional engagement that earns.CNN_NRA

Sahiba: How do tools like Blink help your team at CNN Photos? Are there any other tools you are using for sourcing great content and talent?

Elizabeth: For the blog, Twitter, Facebook, Blink and Visura are great resources. I also follow a lot of people and agencies on Instagram.  For assignments, I have a roster of photographers, but sometimes I just web search. I do wish more people would include where they’re based on their websites. I think photographers are afraid they will be overlooked if they aren’t in the city where the shoot is, and with budget cuts that’s possible. But I was recently looking for a photographer already in the area for an assignment. I was on a tight deadline and I closed out of half a dozen websites that didn’t have locations available. It was a bummer.

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Bryan Denton on freelancing in the Middle East

Freelance photographer Bryan Denton has spent most of his career photographing news in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Now a mid-career photojournalist, he is one of the few who makes a living on assignments. Blink’s Laurence Cornet chats with him about the evolution of journalism in the region, the current challenges for young photographers on the field and his future plans.

 

2/22/2010 Marja, Helmand Province, Afghanistan Cpl. Andrew Ryan, 26, of C. Co, 1-6 USMC rested between combat patrols as his unit assaulted the Taliban stronghold of Marja, in Helmand Province, during Operation Moshtarek in February, 2010.

2/22/2010 Marja, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Cpl. Andrew Ryan, 26, of C. Co, 1-6 USMC rested between combat patrols as his unit assaulted the Taliban stronghold of Marja, in Helmand Province, during Operation Moshtarek in February, 2010.

2/14/2013 Layadira, Afghanistan Afghan Army soldiers spoke with a poppy farmer in the small hamlet of Layadira in Pashmul, Kandahar Province, as Lt. Melin of 3rd Bat. 1st Armored Div. listened in.  President Obama announced in Tuesday's State of the Union address that an additional 34,000 troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2013, reducing the number of combat troops even further after reductions in 2012. In Kandahar Province, where US forces have consistently seen combat during the warmer summer months while other areas of the country have become more secure, troops from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Armored Division, currently deployed across the Zharay district are preparing for another summer of fighting with the Taliban, while at the same time, closing positions that were established at the height of the surge, and transferring them to Afghan National Army, who's battle readiness will likely be tested in the months to come.

2/14/2013 Layadira, Afghanistan
Afghan Army soldiers spoke with a poppy farmer in the small hamlet of Layadira in Pashmul, Kandahar Province, as Lt. Melin of 3rd Bat. 1st Armored Div. listened in.
President Obama announced in Tuesday’s State of the Union address that an additional 34,000 troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2013, reducing the number of combat troops even further after reductions in 2012. In Kandahar Province, where US forces have consistently seen combat during the warmer summer months while other areas of the country have become more secure, troops from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Armored Division, currently deployed across the Zharay district are preparing for another summer of fighting with the Taliban, while at the same time, closing positions that were established at the height of the surge, and transferring them to Afghan National Army, who’s battle readiness will likely be tested in the months to come.

 

Laurence: Do you want to start with a few words about your latest story?

Bryan: My latest assignment was in Southern Turkey, outside of Gaziantep, for the The New York Times. Chris Chivers and I went to see a family that had been struck by what they later discovered was mustard gas fired by forces from the Islamic State. The family’s newborn child ended up dying from the exposure and the story unravels the introduction of this terrifying weapon on the battlefield along with this family tragedy.

 

7/18/2012 Almar District, Faryab Province, Afghanistan A massive dust devil spun it's way across the landscape in Almar district of Faryab province, where insecurity has increased in the past year.  Faryab, one of the least secure, and remote provinces in Afghanistan's Northwest will soon see the departure of NATO forces, namely a Norwegian contingent. The withdrawal is taking place at a time when security in the province is deteriorating, according to local officials, as a complex mix of Taliban infiltration, and local ethnic feuds over land and power between powerful Uzbek warlords, backed by General Dostum, and their Pashtun neighborsñfeared to be Taliban waiting to rise up once western troops have left, are on the rise.

7/18/2012 Almar District, Faryab Province, Afghanistan
A massive dust devil spun it’s way across the landscape in Almar district of Faryab province, where insecurity has increased in the past year.
Faryab, one of the least secure, and remote provinces in Afghanistan’s Northwest will soon see the departure of NATO forces, namely a Norwegian contingent. The withdrawal is taking place at a time when security in the province is deteriorating, according to local officials, as a complex mix of Taliban infiltration, and local ethnic feuds over land and power between powerful Uzbek warlords, backed by General Dostum, and their Pashtun neighborsñfeared to be Taliban waiting to rise up once western troops have left, are on the rise.

12/24/2009 Washir Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. A US Marines of 3rd Recon Battalion stand watch over suspected Taliban insurgents in the Washir Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  US Marines from 3rd Recon Battalion patrolled through the Washir Valley in late December, entering villages in an attempt to draw attacks from suspected Taliban elements located in the area. While no ambushes were laid, the Marines took 5 detainees who are suspected of operating mortars and/or building improvised explosive devices.

12/24/2009 Washir Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
A US Marines of 3rd Recon Battalion stand watch over suspected Taliban insurgents in the Washir Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
US Marines from 3rd Recon Battalion patrolled through the Washir Valley in late December, entering villages in an attempt to draw attacks from suspected Taliban elements located in the area. While no ambushes were laid, the Marines took 5 detainees who are suspected of operating mortars and/or building improvised explosive devices.

 

Laurence: You are working on a lot of stories that put both you and your subjects at risk. How do you cope with that?

Bryan: I am not so much worried about myself, but I am worried about respecting the concerns of my subjects. My job consists of illustrating a story as best I can with limited access to people’s identities because they are afraid for their lives. In this case, it was challenging because I couldn’t show the father’s face completely.

He had been exposed to mustard gas, which is a blistering agent that burns your skin as well as your esophagus airway and lungs. He was about six weeks into his recovery when I photographed him, but he still had this terrible cough, which is a trademark of the gas. Every time he coughed, he would put a tissue up to his mouth to cover it. He was also very sensitive to light because the gas burns the surface of your eyes so he was wearing very large sunglasses indoors during the day. All you could really see in terms of his features were the bridge of his nose and his forehead so I thought that taking a portrait at that very moment would describe his condition, and at the same time protect his identity.

 

2/13/2013 Tieranon, Pashmul District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan The wall of a schoolhouse in the Pashmul district of Kandahar Province bore the marks of US ordinance. Pashmul was on of the most heavily fought over areas in all of kandahar during the US's surge there.

2/13/2013 Tieranon, Pashmul District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
The wall of a schoolhouse in the Pashmul district of Kandahar Province bore the marks of US ordinance. Pashmul was on of the most heavily fought over areas in all of kandahar during the US’s surge there.

 

Laurence: I am curious about your level of involvement in the investigative aspect of a story when you are working with a writer. Do you have an example of a highly collaborative story?

Bryan: Some of the stories that I did in Libya for Chris Chivers were very collaborative. In Libya, during the siege of Misurata for instance, Chris knew that I had been spending a huge part of each day in the triage tent that served as a refuge for people who had been wounded while fighting in the city. Chris would see me edit the pictures every night and he decided to write long captions for the photographs. He felt that the war was pretty known at that point and, while the story of the hospital wasn’t something he was interested in writing up as a big feature himself, he knew that the photographs should be seen. That was one case where photography dictated writing.

Often times, just by nature of how magazines and newspapers work, I spend a lot of my time illustrating other people’s words. I like it, actually. I’ve always thought that good visual journalism and good writing can amplify each other in a way that makes both better. And I actually enjoy working with a writer to bounce ideas off of one another. It’s a great part of the process of reporting in the field.

 

2/9/2011 Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan Crpl Brock Bean of Ainsworth IA, holds a "Holly Stick" used for searching for IED's while on patrol in southern Garmsir, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Members of 1st Platoon, Echo Co. 2/1 found 5 different IED's within aprox 1 km while on this patrol. In early December, Corporal Chad Wade of 1st Platoon, Echo Co. 2/1 USMC stepped on a Taliban improvised explosive device while on patrol with 1st Squad near Patrol Base Hernandez in southern Garmsir district, Helmand Province. His best friend, Corporal Seth Voie, a bomb dog handler had deployed with Wade, and was walking in front of him when the blast went off, kocking Voie to the ground. On February 9th, Crpl Voie returned to the place where his friend was killed for the first time since the incident.   Despite the tough, Alpha-male and "suck it up" image they are known for, after almost 10 years of war, the USMC has recently been putting it's units through the new OSCAR program(Operational Stress Control and Readiness), which seeks to assist Marines in combat who may be having difficulties dealing with their wartime experiences. Rather than removing Marines having issues from the battlefield, Chaplains, senior Non-commissioned officers, and Corpsman, among others, are being encouraged to keep lines of communication open on the front lines, in the interst of keeping an at risk Marine with his tight-knit squad—which officials believe is the best support structure available.  Credit: Bryan Denton for The Wall Street Journal

2/9/2011 Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Crpl Brock Bean of Ainsworth IA, holds a “Holly Stick” used for searching for IED’s while on patrol in southern Garmsir, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Members of 1st Platoon, Echo Co. 2/1 found 5 different IED’s within aprox 1 km while on this patrol.
In early December, Corporal Chad Wade of 1st Platoon, Echo Co. 2/1 USMC stepped on a Taliban improvised explosive device while on patrol with 1st Squad near Patrol Base Hernandez in southern Garmsir district, Helmand Province. His best friend, Corporal Seth Voie, a bomb dog handler had deployed with Wade, and was walking in front of him when the blast went off, kocking Voie to the ground. On February 9th, Crpl Voie returned to the place where his friend was killed for the first time since the incident.
Despite the tough, Alpha-male and “suck it up” image they are known for, after almost 10 years of war, the USMC has recently been putting it’s units through the new OSCAR program(Operational Stress Control and Readiness), which seeks to assist Marines in combat who may be having difficulties dealing with their wartime experiences. Rather than removing Marines having issues from the battlefield, Chaplains, senior Non-commissioned officers, and Corpsman, among others, are being encouraged to keep lines of communication open on the front lines, in the interst of keeping an at risk Marine with his tight-knit squad—which officials believe is the best support structure available.
Credit: Bryan Denton for The Wall Street Journal

 

Laurence: You work on a lot of assignments but you also work on personal projects. Can you talk about your Hezbollah story and the way you work on your own?

Bryan: The Hezbollah story initially started as an assignment for the Times and I continued for about two years afterwards based on the access that I had had on the first assignment. Early on, I spent a lot of time in Afghanistan doing personal work, which ended up becoming a big part of my assignment work in 2012/2013, and a lot of 2009-2011. Before then I was embedded in Afghanistan, but without any real assignments. It’s a daunting way of working but at the same time it’s also a way to afford yourself time to explore a subject and build your story.

At some point in everybody’s career, you have take that scary step and embark on something really personal and long-term without necessarily knowing if you are going to get paid for it. These days, I think you are very rarely sent on a long-term story on a subject that you haven’t already spent time covering before.

 

2/4/2010 Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. A large sand model was set up for a rehearsal of concept drill for Operation Moshtarek, the US Marine Corps offensive on the district of Marjaóthe centerpiece of the Marines' deployment to southern Afghanistan.

2/4/2010 Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
A large sand model was set up for a rehearsal of concept drill for Operation Moshtarek, the US Marine Corps offensive on the district of Marjaóthe centerpiece of the Marines’ deployment to southern Afghanistan.

 

Laurence: You moved to Beirut in 2006. Can you reflect on the evolution of the situation in the past 10 years from a journalistic perspective?

Bryan: Evolution, or devolution? When I came here in July 2006, I was on assignment to cover the war – my first big assignment for the Times. They sent in Tyler Hicks and Joao Silva later on, but I was the closest to Beirut at the time so they sent me before we knew how big the war was going to be.

I arrived and it quickly became clear that it was going to be a huge story.

They kept me here on assignment for 40 days but I was mainly doing smaller features in Beirut while Tyler was down South covering the impact of air strikes. That was my first really big news story and, maybe I’m misremembering it, but what I remembered is that you would show up at these scenes and it would be an absolute bedlam in the number of photographers that were there. There were a lot of mid-career photojournalists, photographers distributed through agencies along with some who had a guarantee from a magazine. There was enough money in circulation to warrant this entire section of the industry that no longer exists on big news stories like this one. I think that was about the last time I really saw that.

It’s sad, especially in terms of conflict photography, because those slightly older freelancers were the ones who kept the younger ones like myself alive a lot of times.

 

2/18/2013 Kakeran, Afghanistan The smoke from a controlled detonation of an improvised explosive could be seen through tall grass in the hamlet of Kakeran, where US and Afghan forces conducted a joint clearing operation, in Zhari district, Kandahar Province.

2/18/2013 Kakeran, Afghanistan
The smoke from a controlled detonation of an improvised explosive could be seen through tall grass in the hamlet of Kakeran, where US and Afghan forces conducted a joint clearing operation, in Zhari district, Kandahar Province.

 

Laurence: Maybe now you are the mid-career journalist who protects and advises…

Bryan: That’s true, and I do try, but I don’t think there are enough people at that mid-career stage anymore, while wars today are incredibly more dangerous in terms risk.

I don’t work in Syria anymore because of the risk of abduction, and I don’t know of a single reputable outlet that’s really sending people into rebel areas at this point. But, I still get a lot of requests from freelancers who are trying to plan trips – young people starting out mostly. There’s nowhere to go to school for that type of work, you have to learn through experience, and one of the ways that we all learn is through older people.

Unfortunately, that institutional knowledge and experience is getting less and less common as time goes on because the older you are, the less likely you are to work without institutional backing from a media outlet. You want to know that you’re covered for medical expenses if something happens to you.

 

4/10/2012 Sangsar, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan Lt. Col. Guy Jones, commander of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiments Second Battalion, spoke to a village elder, placing his hand on his knee, during a shura with locals and a visit by the provincial governor, in Sangsar, Kandahar Province. Sangsar currently has no representation in the district shura, because they have not agreed on who will represent them thereóin turn prohibiting them from receiving funds for projects. Elders say that they are afraid of reprisals for cooperation.

4/10/2012 Sangsar, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
Lt. Col. Guy Jones, commander of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiments Second Battalion, spoke to a village elder, placing his hand on his knee, during a shura with locals and a visit by the provincial governor, in Sangsar, Kandahar Province. Sangsar currently has no representation in the district shura, because they have not agreed on who will represent them thereóin turn prohibiting them from receiving funds for projects. Elders say that they are afraid of reprisals for cooperation.

 

9/28/2010, Combat Outpost Nolen, Arghandab District, Kanahar Province, Afghanistan. Sgt Zavala (L) reflects on the days events on the roof of Strong Point Lugo as his comrades ate dinner nearby, following a heavy firefight that began when Taliban militants attackedtheir position, in Kandahar's Arghandab River Valley. Soldiers of Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 101st Airborne Division, have had a hard deployment. Since they occupied COP Nolan in July--taking on the roll of provisional infantry in one of Kandahar's highly contested districts, they have sustained at least 20 combat casualties to their company-sized force--mostly to Taliban improvised explosive devices causing gruesome amputations for the less fortunate, and sever concussions to the more lucky. Combined with a lack of available replacements, this has stretched their operations to the brink of combat ineffectiveness.  The IED threat, combined with almost daily fighting from the walls of their combat outpost and strongpoint has left many of Alpha's remaining soldiers with visible combat stress, and morale that at times seems to hang by a thread.

9/28/2010, Combat Outpost Nolen, Arghandab District, Kanahar Province, Afghanistan.
Sgt Zavala (L) reflects on the days events on the roof of Strong Point Lugo as his comrades ate dinner nearby, following a heavy firefight that began when Taliban militants attackedtheir position, in Kandahar’s Arghandab River Valley.
Soldiers of Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 101st Airborne Division, have had a hard deployment. Since they occupied COP Nolan in July–taking on the roll of provisional infantry in one of Kandahar’s highly contested districts, they have sustained at least 20 combat casualties to their company-sized force–mostly to Taliban improvised explosive devices causing gruesome amputations for the less fortunate, and sever concussions to the more lucky. Combined with a lack of available replacements, this has stretched their operations to the brink of combat ineffectiveness.
The IED threat, combined with almost daily fighting from the walls of their combat outpost and strongpoint has left many of Alpha’s remaining soldiers with visible combat stress, and morale that at times seems to hang by a thread.

 

Laurence: For that matter you are lucky enough to work mainly for The New York Times. Is there something else?

Bryan: What have I done this year? It has been a little funny with my wife’s pregnancy and the baby. I took three months off, which was a terrifying experience. But yes, I’ve done work for other editorial clients and in terms of income I’m starting to do a lot of print sales, which I haven’t done in the past. This involves being organized about your editions, printing, retouching, keeping track of everything and also pricing. That’s been the interesting new field of my business!

 

10/7/2010 Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Flight Medic SGT Ian Bugh of Charlie Co. 6-101st prepares to treat Private Ivan Sears, 20, 2-16 USMC who lost both of his legs after stepping on a Taliban improvised explosive device, immediately after picking up the wounded marine from the point of injury in southern Marjah, Helmand Province. The Helicopter Medevac teams of Task Force Destiny, based at Forward Operating Base Dwyer in Afghanistan's war-torn Helmand Province have a tough job. Servicing a large area that includes still restive southern Marjah, and much of the Helmand River Valley, TF Destiny answers the call to transport gravely wounded US Marines and Afghan civilians from the point of injury in the field to Role 3 trauma centers on bases in the area--often times landing under fire to extract Marines and soldiers that would otherwise succumb to their wounds. After the Medevac helicopter and it's "chase" UH-60 Blackhawk companion aircraft get a call, they can be on the ground picking up a patient in as little as 20 minutes--delivering the fallen to a surgical theater within what flight medics refer to as "the golden hour"--or the hour after a catastrophic injury during which a patients transfer from basic battlefield triage care to a modern trauma surgical unit can mean the difference between life and death. .

10/7/2010 Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Flight Medic SGT Ian Bugh of Charlie Co. 6-101st prepares to treat Private Ivan Sears, 20, 2-16 USMC who lost both of his legs after stepping on a Taliban improvised explosive device, immediately after picking up the wounded marine from the point of injury in southern Marjah, Helmand Province.
The Helicopter Medevac teams of Task Force Destiny, based at Forward Operating Base Dwyer in Afghanistan’s war-torn Helmand Province have a tough job. Servicing a large area that includes still restive southern Marjah, and much of the Helmand River Valley, TF Destiny answers the call to transport gravely wounded US Marines and Afghan civilians from the point of injury in the field to Role 3 trauma centers on bases in the area–often times landing under fire to extract Marines and soldiers that would otherwise succumb to their wounds. After the Medevac helicopter and it’s “chase” UH-60 Blackhawk companion aircraft get a call, they can be on the ground picking up a patient in as little as 20 minutes–delivering the fallen to a surgical theater within what flight medics refer to as “the golden hour”–or the hour after a catastrophic injury during which a patients transfer from basic battlefield triage care to a modern trauma surgical unit can mean the difference between life and death. 

 

Laurence: Now that you’re a father, do you feel that you want to step back and work on other types of stories?

Bryan: It’s really a pivotal time in this region’s history, more so than at any other point in the few years I’ve been here. The process will probably redefine itself and there’s still a lot to be decided. I am interested in commenting on the direction that this region is taking.

Iconic photographs from the 20th century stand alone as individual pictures, but I think we have now entered the age of iconic bodies of work. The emphasis is less on single images, and more on storytelling narratives that bridge photojournalism and fine art. So, I am refocusing and thinking about ways to tell stories that would enable me to be home without sacrificing the quality of my work. That probably involves doing more personal work sometime in the very near future and branching out a little bit if I want to be keep myself interesting.

 

 

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Glenna Gordon on Raising Stakes

Glenna Gordon first went to Nigeria in 2011 when the African Artist Foundation exhibited her work at The Lagos Photo Festival. She was in the country for only three days, exhibiting work on Sierra Leone, when she realized she wanted to work there. A year later, she got her chance.

Here, Gordon tells Blink about her work in Nigeria, her experience in different parts of the country, and her unique take on documentary work and photography. She also just finished her first book, Diagram of the Heart.

Rabi Tale, a popular novelist, in the courtyard of her office at the Ministry of Information on October 3 in Kano, Northern Nigeria. She is one of the few novelists who has a "day job" in an office. Many men allow their wives to write because they can do so without leaving the house.

Rabi Tale, a popular novelist, in the courtyard of her office at the Ministry of Information on October 3 in Kano, Northern Nigeria. She is one of the few novelists who has a “day job” in an office. Many men allow their wives to write because they can do so without leaving the house.

Khadija Gudaji works on her novel while laying in bed at her home in Kano, Northern Nigeria.

Khadija Gudaji works on her novel while laying in bed at her home in Kano, Northern Nigeria.

Laurence: Can you describe your projects in Nigeria?

Glenna: When I first went to Nigeria, I was doing a combination of assignment work and a project called “Nigeria Ever After,” where I basically crashed dozens of Nigerian weddings. I realized that I could use marriages to tell different stories. Weddings allowed me to talk about gender, class and religion in a way that is not overt but provided an important entry point. As I covered various ceremonies, I found out about a mass wedding in the North. After reading the novel, Sin is a Puppy that Follows You Home, I made plans to cover the mass wedding and also start a new project on Nigerian romance novelists. While I was in the midst of spending all of this time in the North, the schoolgirls abduction story broke and I wanted to cover it. I had taken many photos of the notebooks that women novelists had written their stories in and it occurred to me that I could find the schoolgirls’ notebooks. A lot of editors were asking me for photos of the protests in solidarity of the “Bring back our girls” movement, but I knew going in that direction would have distracted me from what I wanted to do. So, I turned down those jobs and used the protests as an opportunity to meet people from Chibok, the town where the girls were kidnapped. At one protest, I met a man who helped me collect the majority of the items belonging to the girls that I photographed in a studio in Abuja, the capital.

Laurence: You like to tell stories by using artifacts rather than facts. As you write in the introduction of your book, you try to step back from traditional photojournalism. Can you tell me about your approach to  documentary work?

Glenna: When I first started working on DIAGRAM OF THE HEART, I did very formal portraits of the novelists and photos of the production of books. It was a very straight-forward approach. I knew I wanted to do more but I didn’t really know what. When I was back home in New York, I showed my work to friends and other photographers and the most common suggestion was to reenact the scenes from the books. I never felt drawn to do that approach. Instead, I tried to think about how to look for abstract moments, images that were a little bit quieter and told a nuanced story about a place. I kept doing the things I had always done – going to weddings, hanging out with ladies, stopping by and greeting people, and I just kept taking pictures. It took me awhile to make sense of the pictures, to make them hold together and point to something – something that I hoped couldn’t quite be articulated in words.

Laurence: Do you think your approach is also a way to go against the typically codified iconography of Africa?

Glenna: Yes, it’s really easy to go as a photographer and take images that confirm our preconceived narratives about Africa – whether it’s famine and refugees or mobile phones and a new elite. Generally speaking, I think there’s the Africa Rising narrative, and then the Africa Failing narrative, and now there’s also the Everyday Africa narrative. Each of these has truth and value in our media ecosystem but my priority is to find specific stories – a specific set of people in a specific place at a specific time.

Books are tied up and packaged at the local market in Kano, Northern Nigeria. While Northern Nigeria is best known for Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group whose name means ‘Western Education is sinful,’ there’s a small but significant contingent of hijab wearing ladies writing subversive romance novels.

Books are tied up and packaged at the local market in Kano, Northern Nigeria. While Northern Nigeria is best known for Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group whose name means ‘Western Education is sinful,’ there’s a small but significant contingent of hijab wearing ladies writing subversive romance novels.

© Glenna Gordon

© Glenna Gordon

Laurence: How do you find a balance between what you believe, what you want to develop, and the stories you have to shoot to finance such projects?

Glenna: It’s definitely not an easy balance. When I was working on the novelist project, I applied for a lot of grants and never got any of them. I’m grateful for the support of Open Society Foundations for putting the shows together and bringing attention to the work. To work on this project, what I did was that I took every assignment that I could find in Northern Nigeria – news assignments, NGO assignments – so I could go back. I was lucky to meet a woman who let me stay at her place for as long as I needed to work on this project.  She was a Taiwanese woman who another journalist found on couch surfers. She put me up again and again, I knew this is something I wanted to do. The first time I was in Kano, I pitched a slide show of pictures and a publication wanted to take it and pay me $200, no expenses. I knew this was bigger than that, and I’m glad I waited.

Laurence: What are the risks of working in Nigeria?

Glenna: Nigeria as a whole is one of the dicier places in sub-Saharan Africa to work. (Though with attacks on soft targets in “safe” countries, who really knows anymore…) The risks differ depending on where you are. When I walk in the street in Lagos, a lot of people hassle me. Whereas in the North, people comparatively more respectful towards women.  However, kidnapping in Lagos is generally of a commercial kind, if you’re kidnapped in the North it’s political and ideological. I feel very lucky to have been able to work safely in the region for a couple of years but that doesn’t change the fact that something could happen tomorrow and no amount of preparation and precautions could prevent it.

The diagram of a heart drawn on the outside of a school in Kano, Northern Nigeria.

The diagram of a heart drawn on the outside of a school in Kano, Northern Nigeria.

A bride looks out the window before her wedding in Kano, Northern Nigeria, on February 28, 2014. Many of the books are about love and marriage.

A bride looks out the window before her wedding in Kano, Northern Nigeria, on February 28, 2014. Many of the books are about love and marriage.

© Glenna Gordon

Piles of books are stacked up before they are taken to the market to be sold, Kano, Northern Nigeria. April 8, 2013.

Laurence: In the end of your book, you thanked Tim Hetherington. How did he help you?

Glenna: I met Tim in early 2009 when I moved to Liberia from Uganda. He had come back for an assignment and had copies of his book. I had never seen a photo-book like his before: it blew my mind. Tim wasn’t just a photographer, he helped the UN after the war in Liberia to collect evidence and prosecute people. When he left Liberia, a lot of the jobs normally offered to him were given to me. This was in 2009, when the media was in really bad shape and there was little money for expenses. I was not only very lucky to get these gigs, but also fortunate to have Tim’s help as I developed my profession. He was an amazing example to follow in terms of expanding the limits of documentary photography and being truly intellectually rigorous in his approach and all that he did.

Laurence: What were other transforming points in your career?

Glenna: I was living in Liberia and getting a lot of work.  I came back to New York for the first time in 2011 where I met photographers Alan Chin, and Jason Eskenazi, from Red Hook Editions. That meeting was important for me in terms of thinking about the photos that could work within a long term project and were not necessarily photos that I would choose for my assignments. I remember Alan saying: “This is a great situation where you failed to make a great photo.” I also remember Jason asking me what poetry and music I liked. All of those questions really set the course for the next couple years of my work. Winning a World Press last year also changed things, especially since the photos that won were not typical photojournalistic images. It’s always hard to say how much external validation like that matters. I certainly was working for many years without it, and I’d like continue to make work for many more years with or without more of it.

© Glenna Gordon

Piles of books are stacked up before they are taken to the market to be sold, Kano, Northern Nigeria. April 8, 2013.

© Glenna Gordon

A bride walks through a corridor connecting two homes. Many houses in Kano are constructed with several rooms leading into a shared open space, and corridors connect one home to the next, especially in the old city. Kano, Nigeria, September 2013

Laurence: Since you’re talking about influences, do you think that being a writer also influenced your work?

Glenna: Absolutely. To have started as a writer and to now be doing a photography project about writing had a huge influence on my work. It changed the way I conceptualize stories. And considering I just made a photo book about writers, I continue to think about the space between images and words.

Laurence: Where do you see opportunities for photographers to develop and distribute their stories?

Glenna: I continue to believe that when you do good work it finds an audience. There are a lot of conversations about ways to use social media to promote and distribute your work. But that conversation loses the first step in the process, which is, how do we improve our work? I’m not sure an editor would ever have thought to assign me to crash dozens of Nigerian weddings, but I continue to be please by how many are excited about publishing this kind of work.

Officers of the Hisbah, the Islamic "morality" police who censor the novelists work and also enforce other social order.

Officers of the Hisbah, the Islamic “morality” police who censor the novelists work and also enforce other social order.

© Glenna Gordon

A Hausa film plays in an office in Kano, Northern Nigeria. The translation at the bottom explains, “But you rebuff and he now cost your marriage.”

© Glenna Gordon

Wedding guests at a small party in the old city of Kano, Northern Nigeria.

Laurence: What is your next move?

Glenna: I’m finishing my book and am excited to start new projects in new parts of the world. It’s daunting because I know West Africa so well but I feel like it’s time for me to push myself to work in new places. I want to continue to raise the stakes in my work. Previously I’ve done that by going to new places – harder and harder and more dangerous places, but next up after Northern Nigeria is places like Syria and Pakistan and I’m just not willing to take those risks. I’d like to take other risks, risks within my own work. I don’t know what that means, or what that looks like, but every time I’ve shifted from one phase of my work life to the next one, I haven’t known what it will look like. I’m certainly afraid that whatever I do next won’t be as good as what I’ve already done. But I also know that if you aren’t failing, you aren’t really trying. So I have a certain expectation of failure in the immediate future and in a lot of ways, that is very liberating.

***

Writer: Laurence Cornet

Editor: Soraya Ferdman

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Joannie Lafreniere on Navigating Audiovisual Contexts

Photographer and director Joannie Lafreniere blends fiction and documentary techniques with a rare freedom. Her most recent film, La Femme qui a vu l’ours (The Woman Who Saw the Bear) has won awards in Montreal, as well as much international acclaim. Blink’s Laurence Cornet talks to her about her work and her way to navigate various audiovisual contexts.

Laurence: You started as a photographer, what made you transition to video?

Joannie: In 2011, I entered a competition that took ten people on a tour around the world. We had four days in each country to do a film and only found out where you were going next in the airport, at the end of those four days. The idea of traveling without knowing where you were going next was exhilarating. I had seen the advertisement for it on TV when I was little and even then was totally convinced: my dream was to apply when I was old enough.

I had never shot video before so for the purpose of the application, I did three films, trained in a program and I was chosen to participate out of 600 applicants. A good friend of mine was also selected so we went together on this tour around the world. We did six movies in two months.

PARADIS (Heaven) is the name of Lucille and Michel’s hunting lodge located in Petit-Saguenay, Quebec, 2014

PARADIS (Heaven) is the name of Lucille and Michel’s hunting lodge located in Petit-Saguenay, Quebec, 2014

Laurence: Can you tell me about some of those movies?

Joannie: We first went to Tahiti, the result of which was the worst film I have ever made. But then we went to Japan and finished a fictional story about RockabillyStrangers, imagine Tarantino on acid. I still love that movie a lot. Then we went to Cambodia, where I filmed a profile on a man who was obsessed with the 1960’s and owned a boutique hotel called 1969. In Sri Lanka, the film was about the caste system, but we narrated it differently. The plan was to walk around the streets of Colombo in search of a special moustache. It was a random hunt, a person’s moustache could determine their caste.

Laurence: What was the impact of that experience?

Joannie: It was wonderful. I met and connected with a great group of people. The environment wasn’t competitive, but it was challenging and it introduced me to a new creative medium. Before starting, I had always thought photo and video were the same. This trip completely reversed that notion: the two are very different languages, each with their own advantages and drawbacks. Both mediums are linked by my curiosity. It’s still the only reason why I do documentaries. I love human beings and the camera is a pretext for encounters. It’s quite an exceptional privilege: if you are genuinely curious about people, they in turn  are generous and let you learn about their lives.

Lucille dries fishes in her workshop after having stuffed them. It takes several weeks for them to be completely dry. Laterrière, 2015

Lucille dries fishes in her workshop after having stuffed them. It takes several weeks for them to be completely dry. Laterrière, 2015

Inside Lucille’s house. Laterrière,  2015

Inside Lucille’s house. Laterrière, 2015

Bow hunting in winter. Bow and arrows made by Lucille. Laterrière, 2015

Bow hunting in winter. Bow and arrows made by Lucille. Laterrière, 2015

Laurence: What did you next?

Joannie: I started to work in TV producing documentary stories. I did another absurd movie about a quest for Santa Claus. Both were fun projects that did not pay very well. Then I worked with NFB (National Film board of Canada) on a few interactive projects as well. NFB is an institution that offers three departments: documentary, animation and interactive. Documentary is traditional in its approach, animation is widely liked, and interactive is the most forward thinking in terms of new technology. I did two projects with the interactive department.

Laurence: What kind of work did you do with NFB?

Joannie: The first film was a project on illiteracy that I co-directed and co-conceptualized with three other people. The film followed three different illiterate people and their daily struggles. Before shooting, I had never asked myself what it meant to live without of reading. The strategies these people invented in order to get through their days shocked and inspired us. One of my favorite parts about the film was its interactive elements:  we made the letters on the screen blurry, almost illegible, to help the viewer empathize directly with the characters’ struggles. The other project was a sad story about the diminishing tradition of family farms in Canada. At first we didn’t know how to shoot it. While thinking up ways to film the subject, someone mentioned the idea of talking to a property auctioneer. I thought that was a great idea, so I found a list of farms for sale. The auctions for those farms became the angle with which we documented the story. We presented two points of view: that of the auctioneer, and that of the family. The final piece was an amalgamation of sound, photo and video.

A reindeer hunted by Lucille in the Great North is exhibited in her workshop. Laterrière, 2015

A reindeer hunted by Lucille in the Great North is exhibited in her workshop. Laterrière, 2015

Mooses of Saguenay. Petit Saguenay, 2014

Mooses of Saguenay. Petit Saguenay, 2014

Laurence: You just released a short movie about a female taxidermist called The Woman Who Saw the Bear. Could you tell us how the movie came about?

Joannie: I met the protagonist, Lucille, while working on another project. I was looking for kitsch environments and got in touch with her. I went there and found her fascinating. This woman was only about 100 pounds and 5 feet tall and would carve up a bear with bare hands.  It took me two years but I called her and asked if I could go hunting with her.  We went together with her boyfriend to the forest. There I discovered a world of people who lived completely at the margin of society.  I went back every season for two years: each time we either hunted, worked on her animals, or went fishing. From our time fishing, I only kept one scene but it’s one of my favorites. She’s on the boat, singing, doing exactly what makes her personality so unique. She’s a natural person without filter, without an internal nervousness: the ideal character for a documentary.

Lucille, hunter and taxidermist. Laterrière, 2016

Lucille, hunter and taxidermist. Laterrière, 2016

Stuffing of a moose in Lucille’s kitchen. Laterrière, 2016

Stuffing of a moose in Lucille’s kitchen. Laterrière, 2016

Lucille practice bow hunting on a hare. Laterrière, 2015

Lucille practice bow hunting on a hare. Laterrière, 2015

Laurence: What was the final outcome of the project?  

Joannie: It took three different forms. While I was working on the movie, the project was presented in a gallery. There was an exhibition with my photos and video clips along with Lucille’s stuffed animals. In the meantime we released the film that premiered at the film festival “Regard sur le court-métrage”, in Saguenay. It was great because it took place in Gaspesie, where she lives. The screening room was full and fortunately the movie was received well. Honestly, people love Lucille. At the end of the screening they would push each other to talk to her like fans at a rock concert. Given the fact that people normally distanced themselves from her because of her marginal place in society, it was a kind of a sweet revenge.

Laurence: In the movie, you experimented with animation and photographic frames. How do these kind of stylistic experiments shape the story you’re telling?

Joannie: I used animation in The Woman Who Saw the Bear to depict the beheading of animals when I felt that filming it would overwhelm the viewer. Instead, animation helped to hold their focus, remind them that they were watching her craft, her profession, and not to focus on the gore. I love staging. I don’t think that doing documentary prevents you from doing funky things. An staging doesn’t have to make a scene inauthentic. In fact, I love when things are frozen, when the movement comes in my frame and I don’t need to change the position of my camera. It makes for a nicer shot. What I love about video is its flexibility: rather than being tied to a particular form, video offers you the opportunity to mix traditional techniques or completely new ones.

Lucille, a woman among wolves. Laterrière, 2014

Lucille, a woman among wolves. Laterrière, 2014

Laurence: Your language is definitely imbued with fiction. Tell us more about your direction…

Joannie: I studied journalism but found it very square. I would have loved to be a music critic but was not ready for all the sacrifices that go along. And then, I discovered photography with an old Minolta camera that was so heavy, I could have killed an animal with it. That Minolta was the first step to everything opening up. Even though my photos were bad at the time, I knew the career would would lead me to people and new experiences. But photography in the traditional sense still wasn’t enough: studio work bored me. Instead, I found useful my love for costume and staging. I didn’t want to photograph for photography’s sake, I wanted to create and experiment and for my photographs to document from those explorations. In the end, my profession isn’t really fixed in photograph either. I do photo, video, direction of photography and artistic direction. I work on a variety of projects, anything to keep me from corporate work. I’ve always preferred to have less money and more fun. This lifestyle serves as proof that anyone can do documentary without being tied to a narrow scope of clients and distribution. It’s all about finding your own system, especially now that there are so many possibilities. Just find the model that fits you!

***

The Woman Who Saw The Bear

Writer: Laurence Cornet

Editor: Soraya Ferdman

Recent Awards

2016 – 3 grand prizes at the Prends ça court Award (Centre Phi, Post-Moderne and Vidéoservice grand prize), Montréal

2015 – Winner of the best Canadian short film for The woman who saw the bear, Moncton International Film Festival (FICFA, Nouveau-Brunswick

2015 – Winner of the People’s choice award for The woman who saw the bear, Festival international Images en vues, Iles-de-la-Madeleine

2015 – Finalist for the International Grand Prize of Nouvelles écritures for The woman who saw the bear,  Zoom festival in collaboration with Free Lens

2015 – Recipient of Flash Forward Prize for the photo serie The woman who saw the bear, Magenta foundation

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OSF on Photojournalism as an Agent of Change

Open Society Foundations (OSF) has had a long history of supporting documentary photography, particularly work that covers issues on human rights and social justice. This year, they are holding the 23rd iteration of the Moving Walls exhibition. The included projects are both journalistic and conceptual in nature with an aim to portray people as agents of change, rather than victims. Here, Amy Yenkin the Director of the Documentary Photography Project, and Siobhan Riordan, the exhibition associate, talks to Blink’s Laurence Cornet about the Moving Walls.

Sofiane at the deserted building of Columbia Records in Athens. He stayed there for six months. He went back to his homeland, Algeria, since all his strong efforts to reach France were unsuccessful.

Sofiane at the deserted building of Columbia Records in Athens. He stayed there for six months. He went back to his homeland, Algeria, since all his strong efforts to reach France were unsuccessful. © Dionysis Kouris

A record sleeve of Zozo Sapountzaki a well-known Greek actress and performer also called the queen of the Athenian nightlife. Many record sleeves and other paraphernalia are found at the abandoned compound of Columbia Records in Athens, Greece. Until it closed down in 1991 it was the preeminent Greek record company and most of the country's big performing artists were signed to the label. During the seventies many Arab musicians from either Egypt or the Middle East used the studios for their recordings.  Hundreds of refugees and economic immigrants have squatted there since 2009 without water or electricity. Most of them were Algerians although there were also some Moroccans and Sudanese. All of them were trying to find a way to various European countries. Police evacuated the building in January 2012 but some immigrants still found shelter until June 2013 when the run down building was finally sealed. © Dionysis Kouris

A record sleeve of Zozo Sapountzaki a well-known Greek actress and performer also called the queen of the Athenian nightlife.
Many record sleeves and other paraphernalia are found at the abandoned compound of Columbia Records in Athens, Greece. Until it closed down in 1991 it was the preeminent Greek record company and most of the country’s big performing artists were signed to the label. During the seventies many Arab musicians from either Egypt or the Middle East used the studios for their recordings.
Hundreds of refugees and economic immigrants have squatted there since 2009 without water or electricity. Most of them were Algerians although there were also some Moroccans and Sudanese. All of them were trying to find a way to various European countries. Police evacuated the building in January 2012 but some immigrants still found shelter until June 2013 when the run down building was finally sealed. © Dionysis Kouris

Laurence: Can you talk about why Open Society Foundations is driven to support photojournalism?

Amy: To understand why the foundation supports photography you have to pull back a little bit and see the funding of photography in a broader context.  We are a political foundation and advocacy oriented. OSF has been supporting independent voices documenting social justice and human rights issues through journalism, film, and photography. So, it’s not about supporting photography for photography’s sake, but for what it can do in the world to advance social issues. We started funding photography because many photographers were doing long-term independent work on human rights and social justice issues, but support for these projects was diminishing as the media environment changed. Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas conceived of the exhibition Moving Walls in 1998 when OSF moved into an office space on West 59th Street. Seeing the vast number of empty walls, Susan thought that a photo exhibition would be a good way to display the issues the foundation cared about while also supporting the photo community.

Laurence: Apart from Moving Walls, how does the program support photography?

Amy: We have funded organizations that support photography such as the Aftermath Project, Art Works Projects, and the Magnum Foundation, as well as Market Photo Workshop, a school that trains photographers in South Africa. We have, in the past, funded individual photographers from Central Asia and Caucasus who were working on human rights stories in their home countries. We paired them with a mentor who worked with them for six months. For 10 years, we have awarded a grant called the Audience Engagement Grant, which supports photographers who partner with NGOs to bring their work in front of audiences that are in position to effect change. In addition to those efforts, we started an Instagram account over a year and a half ago, and every week a different photographer takes over the feed. The foundation’s photo editor, Maggie Soladay, has reached out globally to find photographers documenting diverse stories and we now have over 86 thousand followers. For people who are interested in human rights and social justice photography, it is a great place to see fresh work on important topics.

Syrian refugees struggle in Lebanon © Liam Maloney

Syrian refugees struggle in Lebanon  © Liam Maloney

Actual text messages, translated from the original Arabic, sent between a refugee in Lebanon and a loved one still trapped in Syria, July 2013. © Liam Maloney

Actual text messages, translated from the original Arabic, sent between a refugee in Lebanon and a loved one still trapped in Syria, July 2013. © Liam Maloney

 

Laurence: Has the site been used for other purposes besides a gallery space?

Siobhan: It’s interesting that we call it a gallery space because at the same time it’s not. It has a space dedicated to exhibitions that draws an audience interested in photography, but it is also a functional space where people like civil society actors, academics, researchers, activists and staff come in for meetings and conferences centered around the issues that the foundation is dedicated to. So we’re able to bring a diverse audience together in a way that few other spaces can.

Amy: With this new space we really see different opportunities. Moving Walls brings together this community of artists as well as advocates, NGOs and policy makers, and it is always interesting when they come together in the room to discuss an issue.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 1.58.04 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 2.01.57 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 2.05.26 PM

Laurence: How about this year’s exhibition?

Siobhan: When our selection committee got together to review the applications we had received for the current show, Moving Walls 23, we saw these five bodies of work rise up together, all touching on the idea of a journey. Both literally, in terms of a migration, but also in a more abstract sense, in terms of a creative journey or a journey of identity.

Amy: One of the other things that attracted us in these works was that in all the cases, they were showing the perspective of empowerment and self-determination.

Farida Ado, 27, is a romance novelist living in conflicted and rapidly Islamicizing Northern Nigeria. She’s one of a small but significant contingent of women in Northern Nigeria writing books called Littattafan soyayya, Hausa for “love literature.”

Farida Ado, 27, is a romance novelist living in conflicted and rapidly Islamicizing Northern Nigeria. She’s one of a small but significant contingent of women in Northern Nigeria writing books called Littattafan soyayya, Hausa for “love literature.”

Books are tied up and packaged at the local market in Kano, Northern Nigeria. While Northern Nigeria is best known for Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group whose name means ‘Western Education is sinful,’ there’s a small but significant contingent of hijab wearing ladies writing subversive romance novels.

Books are tied up and packaged at the local market in Kano, Northern Nigeria. While Northern Nigeria is best known for Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group whose name means ‘Western Education is sinful,’ there’s a small but significant contingent of hijab wearing ladies writing subversive romance novels.

Laurence: Can you talk about the variety of work you’ve selected and what the collection says about documentary photography today?

Amy: We’re really excited about Liam Maloney’s work and the way it pushes the boundaries of documentary photography. There are a lot of debates about what is photojournalism, what is documentary, and what is fine art. While it’s important in news reporting to adhere to a journalistic standard, Maloney’s work challenges its rigidity by taking a more conceptual approach. Shahria Sharmin does this too; we love that her depictions of trans-experience contrast the conventional narrative. Rather than perpetuating stereotypical imagery that emphasizes story of passive victimhood, Shahria conveys a less common and more intimate perspective of their personal hopes and dreams as they seek acceptance through each other, at home, or in their adopted country. And then there’s Jeanine Michna-Bales’s project that documents the journey that many African American men, women, and children took in the nineteenth century to resist slavery and escape the South using the Underground Railroad, heading north to Canada. The artist relied on research and oral history to imagine one path toward freedom and re-envision various sites and stops along the way.

Magnolia Plantation on the Cane River, LA; "They worked me all de day, Widout one cent of pay; So I took my flight in de middle ob de night, When de moon am gone away." - chorus of Geo. W. Clark Liberty Song. © Jeanine Michna-Bales

Magnolia Plantation on the Cane River, LA; “They worked me all de day, Widout one cent of pay; So I took my flight in de middle ob de night, When de moon am gone away.” – chorus of Geo. W. Clark Liberty Song. © Jeanine Michna-Bales

Just Across the Ohio River; Outside of Madison, Indiana © Jeanine Michna-Bales

Just Across the Ohio River; Outside of Madison, Indiana © Jeanine Michna-Bales

Laurence: How was the exhibit designed to highlight the photographer’s message?

Siobhan: For instance, Liam Maloney’s Texting Syria is an immersive installation that shows back-lit portraits of Syrian refugees living in a slaughterhouse in Lebanon after having escaped the conflict in Homs. These are portraits of them at night, texting their family and friends who are still trapped in Homs. But alongside the portraits, Liam presents the actual text messages, translated into English. These text messages are included into the exhibition in two ways: a selection of them are shown on a monitor, so that you can read them side by side to the portraits, and there is also a phone number you can dial to start receiving those messages on your phone. To interact with the work on a level that intimate, to have your own phone ring or buzz with a life or death message, is a powerful emotional experience. That’s something we tried to do for all the artists’ installations, to include some additional pieces of the story. For Glenna Gordon’s work about northern Nigerian romance novelists, we were able to feature their books in the exhibition. We created an installation that puts you in the market place where these books are sold, and we included translations of some of the books as well, so that you can dive into those stories first hand.

The doors to their original homes are shut forever. Shumi (22) L and Priya’s (26)R new life offers the rules of a guru in exchange of a new home. © Shahria Sharmin

The doors to their original homes are shut forever. Shumi (22) L and Priya’s (26)R new life offers the rules of a guru in exchange of a new home. © Shahria Sharmin

© Shahria Sharmin

© Shahria Sharmin

Laurence: Does the exhibit specifically aim to break the boundaries of photography and documentation?

Amy: We hope that the Moving Walls exhibition encourages the field to rethink traditional boundaries of documentary photography. Sometimes that involves bringing the subject’s voice into the work; sometimes it means taking a more conceptual approach. We want to show photography that portrays people as agents of their own change, as opposed to victims of their situations. We feel it is a very important shift that needs to take place in photography, not only stylistically but also in the way photographers report about people.

***

Writer: Laurence Cornet

Editor: Soraya Ferdman

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Alvaro Ybarra Zavala on 1984 & Stories of a Wounded Land

The only formal training Alvaro Ybarra Zavala ever received as a photojournalist was when he participated in the 2010 Joop Swart Masterclass, organized by World Press Photo. Prior to this, it was his grandfather’s guidance and his deep desire to document the contradictory facets of human behaviour, which drove him into the profession. Recently, Blink’s Kyla Woods spoke to Alvaro about his work in Venezuela, his upcoming book “1984”, as well as the process behind developing one of his more provocative reportages, “Stories of a Wounded Land.”

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - DECEMBER 2015: Followers opponents Nicolas Maduro's government celebrated the electoral victory of the Venezuelan opposition. In the photograph, the followers of the Venezuelan opposition, sing the national anthem in front of the headquarters of the MUD (Democractic Unity Roundtable). The elections to the National Assembly are considered by the opposition as a historic opportunity to begin the political change in Venezuela. The elections were held on December 6 marked a historic day in the country. The MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable) won the elections with an absolute majority. An election result that even the late President Chavez accomplished during his political career.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – DECEMBER 2015: Followers opponents Nicolas Maduro’s government celebrated the electoral victory of the Venezuelan opposition. In the photograph, the followers of the Venezuelan opposition, sing the national anthem in front of the headquarters of the MUD (Democractic Unity Roundtable). The elections to the National Assembly are considered by the opposition as a historic opportunity to begin the political change in Venezuela. The elections were held on December 6 marked a historic day in the country. The MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable) won the elections with an absolute majority. An election result that even the late President Chavez accomplished during his political career.

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, SEPTEMBER 4 - 2015: The cockpit of a major Venezuelan television prepares one of the many special programs broadcast on President Hugo Chavez Frias. Control over the media is a reality today in Venezuela. Digital media only saves the news blackout imposed by the government. The policy to persecuted independent media and journalists by the Chavez government is constantly denounced by international human rights institutions.  Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro's government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, SEPTEMBER 4 – 2015: The cockpit of a major Venezuelan television prepares one of the many special programs broadcast on President Hugo Chavez Frias. Control over the media is a reality today in Venezuela. Digital media only saves the news blackout imposed by the government. The policy to persecuted independent media and journalists by the Chavez government is constantly denounced by international human rights institutions. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro’s government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

KW: What got you interested in covering Venezuela?

AZ: It started in 2004 for a small assignment on the Bolivarian revolution. I started photographing daily lives in the Venezuelan society. From the moment I got there, I gained access to the political movement of Chavismo. One thing led to another and as I gained more access, the more I started seeing the other face of the Chavismo.

KW: Is “1984” about the Bolivarian Revolution?

AZ:  The project “1984” documents the legacy left by President Hugo Chávez Frías and his Bolivarian Revolution. A legacy which questions the feasibility of an inspiring project for the most disadvantaged parts of Latin America, which ultimately also became an authoritarian regime, responsible for the systematic violation of human rights of the Venezuelan Society. In the last 14 years, many international bodies have accused the Bolivarian Government of having used the Security Forces or the Pro-government armed groups to enforce its policies. Practices such as the lack of procedural safeguards and judicial independence, restrictions on freedom of speech, the persecution of human rights activists, political discrimination and the government interference in labour and electoral laws have been denounced by these bodies during this 14-year period. A project which depicts this reality following the script of George Orwell’s 1984. A synonym at the time of portraying governments that duplicate totalitarian and repressive attitudes, as those depicted in the novel. A large majority of Latin America considers the Bolivarian Revolution to be a great opportunity for change. The dream of a fair and free Latin America, offering more opportunities for individuals, irrespective of their roots, meant a revolution for a society which only knew armed struggle as a failed attempt to change. Chavez wished to change society from society itself, and everybody was part of the change – the ultimate expression of democracy. However, time made us wake from a dream. The revolution has become its worst enemy and turned into a totalitarian revolution. With 1984, I am trying to document a great lost opportunity brought by a government which has made of the systematic violation of human rights its idiosyncrasy. A project depicting today’s Venezuela, where Civil Society lives under the yoke of fear and nobody, neither the government nor the opposition, offers a true alternative of democracy and change for Venezuelan Society.

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA - MARCH 11: Students building anti-government barricades on March 11, 2014 in San Cristobal, the capital of Tachira state, Venezuela. Shortage of such products as flour, milk and sugar have made life increasingly difficult for residents of Tachira, which has been a focal point for anti-government protests for almost a month. Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher). With the world watching on, and some neighboring Latin American countries speaking out against the actions of the Venezuelan government in their crackdown on the protests, the situation looks like it will get worse before it gets better. President Maduro has increasingly accused the protestors of being armed extremists trying to stage a coup, has used the police and armed forces to clamp down on them, and is carrying out a policy of rounding up and arresting any leading figures in the protest movement. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro's government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA – MARCH 11: Students building anti-government barricades on March 11, 2014 in San Cristobal, the capital of Tachira state, Venezuela. Shortage of such products as flour, milk and sugar have made life increasingly difficult for residents of Tachira, which has been a focal point for anti-government protests for almost a month. Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher). With the world watching on, and some neighboring Latin American countries speaking out against the actions of the Venezuelan government in their crackdown on the protests, the situation looks like it will get worse before it gets better. President Maduro has increasingly accused the protestors of being armed extremists trying to stage a coup, has used the police and armed forces to clamp down on them, and is carrying out a policy of rounding up and arresting any leading figures in the protest movement. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro’s government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA - MARCH 2014: Anti-government student pose next to a barricade on March 13, 2014 in San Cristobal, the capital of Tachira state, Venezuela. Shortage of such products as flour, milk and sugar have made life increasingly difficult for residents of Tachira, which has been a focal point for anti-government protests for almost a month. Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher). With the world watching on, and some neighboring Latin American countries speaking out against the actions of the Venezuelan government in their crackdown on the protests, the situation looks like it will get worse before it gets better. President Maduro has increasingly accused the protestors of being armed extremists trying to stage a coup, has used the police and armed forces to clamp down on them, and is carrying out a policy of rounding up and arresting any leading figures in the protest movement. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro's government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA – MARCH 2014: Anti-government student pose next to a barricade on March 13, 2014 in San Cristobal, the capital of Tachira state, Venezuela. Shortage of such products as flour, milk and sugar have made life increasingly difficult for residents of Tachira, which has been a focal point for anti-government protests for almost a month. Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher). With the world watching on, and some neighboring Latin American countries speaking out against the actions of the Venezuelan government in their crackdown on the protests, the situation looks like it will get worse before it gets better. President Maduro has increasingly accused the protestors of being armed extremists trying to stage a coup, has used the police and armed forces to clamp down on them, and is carrying out a policy of rounding up and arresting any leading figures in the protest movement. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro’s government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

KW: You spoke about Venezuela having an authoritarian regime, how does this affect your work?

AZ: We, photojournalists working in Venezuela, are aware that the government follows us very closely. They monitor everything and implement censorship on your work which puts you on their radar and you become a target. Venezuela has a history of implementing media censorship and to date, there is no independent media except for El Nacional and other online media outlets that speak against the revolution. However, if you are on the government’s radar, you become a potential target of los colectivos as well, which are the radical followers of Bolivarian revolution. The colectivos are the left wing paramilitary of the revolution. They control the streets, the cities and are responsible for most of the crime in Venezuela. You are never safe while working in one of the most violent countries of the world.

KW: So you are always dealing with potentially dangerous situations when you photograph?

AZ: Venezuela is probably the most dangerous place I have ever worked, even worse than Iraq. Here, you take high risks on a regular basis to take any kind of photograph. Insecurity from a political point of view is really high. If you are on the black list, you are in trouble with the government.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - NOVEMBER 2009: A family mourns at the funeral of a man who was shot dead with 16 shots to the head, while coming out of his home with his daughter, by one of the 'colectivos' of Caracas. He was a member of a rival criminal gang. 'Colectivos' are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez's administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. They are still involved in their traditional criminal activities such as the drug trade. This particular group is a 'colectivo motorizado' meaning they ride motorbikes or scooters, the vehicle of choice for carrying out drive-by killings. The walls are decorated with revolutionary propaganda.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – NOVEMBER 2009: A family mourns at the funeral of a man who was shot dead with 16 shots to the head, while coming out of his home with his daughter, by one of the ‘colectivos’ of Caracas. He was a member of a rival criminal gang. ‘Colectivos’ are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez’s administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. They are still involved in their traditional criminal activities such as the drug trade. This particular group is a ‘colectivo motorizado’ meaning they ride motorbikes or scooters, the vehicle of choice for carrying out drive-by killings. The walls are decorated with revolutionary propaganda.

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA - MARCH 2014: The broken glass of the entrance to a condominium in San Cristobal after an attack by a pro-government paramilitary armed group.Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher).

SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA – MARCH 2014: The broken glass of the entrance to a condominium in San Cristobal after an attack by a pro-government paramilitary armed group.Over the past few weeks and months there has been increasing unrest within Venezuela against the leadership and government of President Maduro. The protests have been driven by supporters of the opposition, but predominantly by students, and have seen pro-government marches and violence in response, with increasing levels of bloodshed, and deaths on both sides (official figures say 31 but reports on the ground suggest the number could be significantly higher).

KW: How long did it take you to navigate through the area and build a strong network of people that you can trust?

AZ: At the moment, I work with four motorcycle drivers from the local slums in Caracas. They grew up with the gang mentality of violence, drugs and extortion. These drivers are excellent readers of varying situations on the streets and are the best security measure I have. They are my family in Caracas, and I’ve have been working with them since my first trip to Venezuela. Each time we go to the slums, we have to get the ‘OK’ or ‘an approval’ from the Colectivo, which are basically gang members who control that area. The only reason I can photograph there is because they trust us, and the lives of my drivers’ families are our guarantee. To work in Venezuela, you need to know the country well, and this is not something that can happen in two days.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - OCTOBER 2009: The interior of the headquarters of an armed group of the Bolivarian revolution in la Vega, Caracas. . 'Colectivos' are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez's administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. They are still involved in their traditional criminal activities such as the drug trade. The Bolivarian groups define themselves as the guardians of the Bolivarian revolution and the legacy of President Hugo Chavez Frias. They are accused by both the opposition and international human rights institutions to be violent lobbyists in government service. This paramilitary groups exercise the authority in neighborhoods that are part of  its territory. Besides being the armed authority they also exert social and community service work. His critics accuse them of being directly organized criminal gangs belonging to government service crime.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – OCTOBER 2009: The interior of the headquarters of an armed group of the Bolivarian revolution in la Vega, Caracas. . ‘Colectivos’ are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez’s administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. They are still involved in their traditional criminal activities such as the drug trade. The Bolivarian groups define themselves as the guardians of the Bolivarian revolution and the legacy of President Hugo Chavez Frias. They are accused by both the opposition and international human rights institutions to be violent lobbyists in government service. This paramilitary groups exercise the authority in neighborhoods that are part of its territory. Besides being the armed authority they also exert social and community service work. His critics accuse them of being directly organized criminal gangs belonging to government service crime. 

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - NOVEMBER 2009: A group of Chavez supporters waits in a official car in the streets of Caracas. In the background, local officials enable very poor residents of a slum in Caracas to trade in unwanted junk, furniture, etc for food handouts. The many slums of Caracas are the traditional strongholds of the 'colectivos' in the city. 'Colectivos' are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez's administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro's government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – NOVEMBER 2009: A group of Chavez supporters waits in a official car in the streets of Caracas. In the background, local officials enable very poor residents of a slum in Caracas to trade in unwanted junk, furniture, etc for food handouts. The many slums of Caracas are the traditional strongholds of the ‘colectivos’ in the city. ‘Colectivos’ are criminal gangs which have been armed by President Hugo Chavez’s administration, and have been converted into left-wing guerrilla groups through the introduction of political ideology, in order to act as death squadrons serving the Bolivarian revolution, carrying out politically-motivated killings. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro’s government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

KW: As a photographer, you put yourself in places as a spectator. I wonder if you have any conflicting emotions about being there, and witnessing what takes place in Venezuela?

AZ: As photojournalists, we have a chance to live with different truths that lay undiscovered. Sometimes, there are a conflicting truths, sometimes everyone has their own truth. In “1984”, yes, I am familiar with the colectivos. I spent time with them and they believe themselves to be the guardians of the revolution. But they are also normal people like you and me and I built strong friendships with them. But in the end, they live in another world and reality, they will shoot you with the same ease as they will give you a hug. As the saying goes, “Es otro mundo, con sus propias normas, con sus propios valores a,”’ it is another world with its own rules. Life does not mean anything there. Most of the kids in these slums end up in the colectivos or in the gangs don’t pass the age of 18 or 19. All of them grow up in a violent environment, where confronting death is a part of their daily life. As for my conflicting emotions, I always try to put myself in those situations and think, “What would I have done if I grew up in a neighborhood like that?”

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, JULY 30 - 2015: A women walks past a grafity with the face of Chavez in the Bellas Artes neighborhood of Caracas. Caracas is decorated with thousands of anti-imperialist and revolutionary propaganda grafities. The face of the commander and leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, is always present in the whole country. The personality cult of Hugo Chavez Frias is a constant by the government to keep alive the spirit of the revolution.

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, JULY 30 – 2015: A women walks past a grafity with the face of Chavez in the Bellas Artes neighborhood of Caracas. Caracas is decorated with thousands of anti-imperialist and revolutionary propaganda grafities. The face of the commander and leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, is always present in the whole country. The personality cult of Hugo Chavez Frias is a constant by the government to keep alive the spirit of the revolution.

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, SEPTEMBER 7 - 2015 : A grafity with the eyes of Chavez in las Mercedes neighborhood. Caracas is decorated with thousands of anti-imperialist and revolutionary propaganda grafities. The face of the commander and leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, is always present in the whole country. The personality cult of Hugo Chavez Frias is a constant by the government to keep alive the spirit of the revolution. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro's government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

CARACAS. VENEZUELA, SEPTEMBER 7 – 2015 : A grafity with the eyes of Chavez in las Mercedes neighborhood. Caracas is decorated with thousands of anti-imperialist and revolutionary propaganda grafities. The face of the commander and leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, is always present in the whole country. The personality cult of Hugo Chavez Frias is a constant by the government to keep alive the spirit of the revolution. Venezuela is experiencing the worst political crisis of its recent history. The economic crisis, shortages, levels of violence and political persecution have divided the country. Nicolas Maduro’s government is being accused by the opposition of systematically violating human rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people. They accuse the government of abducting state institutions and to turn Venezuela into one of the worst political regimes in the world. At present, the international community views with concern the Venezuelan crisis and especially the situation of political prisoners.

KW: Can we speak about “Stories of a Wounded Land”? How did the project start?

Alvaro: Journalist Silvina Heguy asked me to visit Misiones in Argentina to investigate a local health problem. When we visited this area and delved deeper into the story it turned out to be a global issue. This story didn’t unfold instantly. We started working and one thing led to another as we uncovered peculiar situations, we began to get threats. Doctors started to come forward detailing health problems. Then we went on a road trip and we found these crops and villages full of cancer victims. There were children that had malformations, and the rate of abortion had increased dramatically. We decided that the best way to move forward was to build a team of doctors and lawyers. Research was crucial but we didn’t end up having to look very hard. Every village we visited, there were stories. It was scary. In villages of between 400-450 people, you could easily find 20 kids suffering from a malformation and that is a really high rate.

QUIMILI, SANTIAGO DEL ESTERO, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER, 2012: A group of farmers fumigate a crop. Most of the properties of small farmers who have withstood the pressure exercised by large landowners have been isolated and surrounded by the properties of large landowners. Only a few of them have resisted and only a few of them are fighting for their rights. The MO.CA.SE (Farmers’ Movement of Santiago del Estero) is the only movement which officially supports the demands of farmers. However, the MO.CA.SE has its own political agenda, very close to the current government, that supports the intensive production model with the input of agrochemicals. Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images.

QUIMILI, SANTIAGO DEL ESTERO, ARGENTINA – NOVEMBER, 2012: A group of farmers fumigate a crop. Most of the properties of small farmers who have withstood the pressure exercised by large landowners have been isolated and surrounded by the properties of large landowners. Only a few of them have resisted and only a few of them are fighting for their rights. The MO.CA.SE (Farmers’ Movement of Santiago del Estero) is the only movement which officially supports the demands of farmers. However, the MO.CA.SE has its own political agenda, very close to the current government, that supports the intensive production model with the input of agrochemicals. Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images.

CORDOBA, ARGENTINA - OCTOBER 2012: Group of demonstrators protest on the streets of cordoba against the construction of a new factory for Monsanto. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images)

CORDOBA, ARGENTINA – OCTOBER 2012: Group of demonstrators protest on the streets of cordoba against the construction of a new factory for Monsanto.
(Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images)

ROSARIO, ARGENTINA - APRIL 2014: A ship carrying corn in Port of Rosario. The Port of Rosario is one of the major grain exporting ports in the world.(Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

ROSARIO, ARGENTINA – APRIL 2014: A ship carrying corn in Port of Rosario. The Port of Rosario is one of the major grain exporting ports in the world.(Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

KW: At what point did you discover that you needed the help of a lawyer?

AZ: We met a well-known Argentine doctor, who was researching what was happening there, and he connected us with a lawyer. He pointed us to an official document that the Argentine government had hidden under the table; it was a government study showing solutions to the problem which further implies that the government knew, and decided not to make it public! Thanks to the help of activists, we discovered that global corporations like Monsanto, as well as numerous others were involved as well. We spoke to them directly, however we received no response. That’s when we decided to release the first publication of our work, focusing on health. At that moment we did not have a wide picture, this is something big that is happening now in Argentina. That story got published in Clarin. That’s when Silvina started getting threats; then we realized how many economic interests were behind this model of production. Even people from Clarin Company; the owners have a lot of interest inside the agribusiness model, because they are landowners in Argentina.

KW: How did you get the access to tell the other side of the story?

AZ: We believed that a story like this needs to tell both sides because it is an important issue, and we did attempt to contact them multiple times. However it was only once the publication was released that they decided to respond to us. This story has a global focus, as it links producers from Latin American countries or African tribes with the large corporations and consumers of the developed world, and it tries to reenact the consequences of this model and to find an answer to a question that has never been discussed seriously and without fanaticism: Does the agro-businesses represent a solution to end global hunger, or is it simply a way to poison the world? This method of large scale production of food, with high economic returns, is based on the use of biotechnology to obtain genetically modified seeds that are resistant to agro-chemicals. The scariest part about pursuing this project was that people who had initially supported the project stopped – they didn’t want anything to do with it. This is still an ongoing project.

AVIA TERAI, CHACO, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER, 2012: Milagros Alcaraz. She is 6 years old and suffers from Myelomeningocele. She has no medical follow up at all, and she can hardly walk. The Napenay community is constantly affected by the spraying of agrochemicals from aircrafts and spraying machines which do not abide by the legislation in force and act in complete impunity and with the consent of the authorities. The products sprayed are Gliphosate, 2,4 D, Endosulfan and Chlorpyrifos. Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images.

AVIA TERAI, CHACO, ARGENTINA – NOVEMBER, 2012: Milagros Alcaraz. She is 6 years old and suffers from Myelomeningocele. She has no medical follow up at all, and she can hardly walk. The Napenay community is constantly affected by the spraying of agrochemicals from aircrafts and spraying machines which do not abide by the legislation in force and act in complete impunity and with the consent of the authorities. The products sprayed are Gliphosate, 2,4 D, Endosulfan and Chlorpyrifos. Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala / Reportage by Getty Images.

CHARATA, CHACO, ARGENTINA - MAY 2014: One group of workers in a store Monsanto in Charata review orders. behind them, hundreds of drums of Roundup - glyphosate - Monsanto's most controversial product. The consequences to the health of the local population - who lives with the spraying of agrochemicals such as glyphosate or some substances banned in European countries but permitted in-producing countries is systematically reported from Argentina and Brazil. Official studies show that in areas fumigated there is a rise in cases of cancer and malformations in newborns. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

CHARATA, CHACO, ARGENTINA – MAY 2014: One group of workers in a store Monsanto in Charata review orders. behind them, hundreds of drums of Roundup – glyphosate – Monsanto’s most controversial product. The consequences to the health of the local population – who lives with the spraying of agrochemicals such as glyphosate or some substances banned in European countries but permitted in-producing countries is systematically reported from Argentina and Brazil. Official studies show that in areas fumigated there is a rise in cases of cancer and malformations in newborns. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

ROJAS, ARGENTINA - MARCH 2014: Monsanto Factory in Rojas is the world's largest factory in production of transgenic maize seeds. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

ROJAS, ARGENTINA – MARCH 2014: Monsanto Factory in Rojas is the world’s largest factory in production of transgenic maize seeds. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

KW: Do you both want to keep continuing this? Would you like to expand your team?

AZ: We are considering getting more photographers and writers on board. I do not believe that we, the photographers, are important in this story. It does not matter who takes the photographs, the most important thing is that the story goes on. Silvina and I have spoken to some colleagues  who might jump on board and this could end as a collective project that could be big. To be honest, both Silvina and myself are unsure if we are able to finish the project in the way that the project deserves, in the way these people deserve. That’s why we need more people.

ROJAS, ARGENTINA - MARCH 2014: A worker shows Monsanto GM seeds inside the Monsanto plant in Rojas.  Monsanto Factory in Rojas is the world's largest factory in production of transgenic maize seeds. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

ROJAS, ARGENTINA – MARCH 2014: A worker shows Monsanto GM seeds inside the Monsanto plant in Rojas. Monsanto Factory in Rojas is the world’s largest factory in production of transgenic maize seeds. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

SINOP, MATO GROSSO, BRASIL - JULY 2013: Elder Piccinini viewed from above of the harvester as it downloads the harvested corn. ( Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/ Reportage by Getty Images)

SINOP, MATO GROSSO, BRASIL – JULY 2013: Elder Piccinini viewed from above of the harvester as it downloads the harvested corn.
( Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/ Reportage by Getty Images)

ALICIA BAJA, MISIONES, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 2012: Lucas, who is 1 year and 10 months old, and his brother Gabriel in their home. Lucas was born with a malformation, and suffers from ichthyosis. Both his father Harnoldo and his mother Rosana Maria have spent their working lives cultivating of tobacco and other local crops such as corn and yerba mate. They use agrochemical products for the cultivation of their fields, following the guidelines set out by the cooperatives of large local producers, who require the use of such agrochemicals as a condition to the purchase of their crop. Among the agrochemicals required are glyphosate and 2.4 D, a product found in Agent Orange. The financial costs of these products always fall on small producers, who only retain 40% of the value of the crop, which is unilaterally fixed by the cooperatives of large producers. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

ALICIA BAJA, MISIONES, ARGENTINA – NOVEMBER 2012: Lucas, who is 1 year and 10 months old, and his brother Gabriel in their home. Lucas was born with a malformation, and suffers from ichthyosis. Both his father Harnoldo and his mother Rosana Maria have spent their working lives cultivating of tobacco and other local crops such as corn and yerba mate. They use agrochemical products for the cultivation of their fields, following the guidelines set out by the cooperatives of large local producers, who require the use of such agrochemicals as a condition to the purchase of their crop. Among the agrochemicals required are glyphosate and 2.4 D, a product found in Agent Orange. The financial costs of these products always fall on small producers, who only retain 40% of the value of the crop, which is unilaterally fixed by the cooperatives of large producers. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

KW: It’s interesting that you can see beyond yourselves..

AZ: I think that a lot of people in our business give too much importance to who we are. To be honest, I think that is a huge mistake. We cannot forget that we are photographing these kinds of projects for these audiences that are much more important than us. Egos cannot be a part of this. The project is going to live on even after you pass away.

KW: Were there any Latin American policy reforms that came about from the reportage?

AZ: To be honest, no. However, many of the photographed children were relocated to new areas. We were able to get hospital treatment for the disabled as well. Surprisingly, photographers started to reach out to us, wanting to be involved in the project. Our thought process was that the more information we can accumulate, the general public will have more visible information on the dangers of the globalized agricultural business. Unfortunately, it became apparent that many of the people who contacted us only focused on the people we had originally photographed. This became such an issue that the activists we were working with told us that they’d stopped helping journalists. People kept retelling the same story, and it was diminishing what we had originally accomplished – these people are suffering from cancer, they were brave enough to step forward in an attempt to fight multinational corporations, and this is all in an attempt to bring about change. I am still spending a lot of time on this project, and Silvina and I are very active in helping most of the families that we’ve worked with – every week we catch up on Skype.

AVIA TERAI, CHACO, ARGENTINA - MAY 2014: A technician prepares the chemicals for fumigation in the tanks of an aircraft. Official studies show that in areas fumigated there is a rise in cases of cancer and malformations in newborns. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

AVIA TERAI, CHACO, ARGENTINA – MAY 2014: A technician prepares the chemicals for fumigation in the tanks of an aircraft. Official studies show that in areas fumigated there is a rise in cases of cancer and malformations in newborns. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

SAN VICENTE, MISIONES, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 2012: Fabian Rodgriguez suffers from hydrocephalus. His mother, Candida Rodriguez, works in the tobacco industry, as does her husband. They use agrochemical products for the cultivation of their fields, following the guidelines set out by the cooperatives of large local producers, who require the use of such agrochemicals as a condition to the purchase of their crop. Among the agrochemicals required are glyphosate and 2.4 D, a product found in Agent Orange. The financial costs of these products always fall on small producers, who only retain 40% of the value of the crop, which is unilaterally fixed by the cooperatives of large producers. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

SAN VICENTE, MISIONES, ARGENTINA – NOVEMBER 2012: Fabian Rodgriguez suffers from hydrocephalus. His mother, Candida Rodriguez, works in the tobacco industry, as does her husband. They use agrochemical products for the cultivation of their fields, following the guidelines set out by the cooperatives of large local producers, who require the use of such agrochemicals as a condition to the purchase of their crop. Among the agrochemicals required are glyphosate and 2.4 D, a product found in Agent Orange. The financial costs of these products always fall on small producers, who only retain 40% of the value of the crop, which is unilaterally fixed by the cooperatives of large producers. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

NAPENAY, CHACO, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 2012: Sebastian, 14, in the arms of his aunt outside his house. He suffers from hydrocephalus and myelomeningocele. His grandmother, Matrona, is the matriarch of the family. He lives with his grandfather, his uncles and his cousin Matias, completely surrounded by crops that are constantly fumigated with glyphosate and methamidophos calibre 25, a phosphorous-based chemical prohibited by the Stockholm convention. The Napenay community is constantly affected by spraying of agrochemicals from aircrafts and spraying machines which do not abide by the legislation in force, and act in complete impunity and with the consent of the authorities. The products used for the spraying are glyphosate, 2.4 D, endosulfan and chlorpyrifos. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

NAPENAY, CHACO, ARGENTINA – NOVEMBER 2012: Sebastian, 14, in the arms of his aunt outside his house. He suffers from hydrocephalus and myelomeningocele. His grandmother, Matrona, is the matriarch of the family. He lives with his grandfather, his uncles and his cousin Matias, completely surrounded by crops that are constantly fumigated with glyphosate and methamidophos calibre 25, a phosphorous-based chemical prohibited by the Stockholm convention. The Napenay community is constantly affected by spraying of agrochemicals from aircrafts and spraying machines which do not abide by the legislation in force, and act in complete impunity and with the consent of the authorities. The products used for the spraying are glyphosate, 2.4 D, endosulfan and chlorpyrifos. (Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Reportage by Getty Images)

MATO GROSSO, BRASIL - JULY 2013:  aerial picture near SINOP shows the fragile border that exists between arable and forest land in the expansion of agricultural lands in Brazil. ( Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/ Reportage by Getty Images)

MATO GROSSO, BRASIL – JULY 2013: aerial picture near SINOP shows the fragile border that exists between arable and forest land in the expansion of agricultural lands in Brazil.
( Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/ Reportage by Getty Images)

KW: Has this project been exhibited?

Alvaro: Silvina and I, both knew what it meant to support a project of this nature, and it was evident from the beginning that there would be many who would not support it. There were people who stood by me, the first one was Jean-François Leroy, someone I trust and have worked very closely with. His unconditional support was very important to us, and the fact that we exhibited the project at Visa pour l’Image in 2014 allowed many more doors to open.

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