At midnight, the New York #Dysturb team slipped out of a cream colored Cadillac, popped the trunk and swiftly gathered a large rolled up poster, a ladder and a bucket of glue. Within 20 minutes, Olivier Jobard’s (M.Y.O.P) image of displaced migrants taking refuge in a Tioxide plant was planted firmly on the granite of the Manhattan Bridge.
This is the second time that #Dysturb has taken the streets of New York to inform the public through imagery. Blink caught up with Pierre Terdjman and Benjamin Girette, the founders of #Dysturb, to talk about their operation and its future.
K: How did #Dysturb come about?
P: I wanted to give more visibility to my stories, so this project began with my pictures. We quickly saw that people liked it and decided to paste pictures by other photographers.
This idea was born out of frustration. Photographers can spend weeks, sometimes months, on a story. These stories are published, but they have a tendency to evaporate into the continuous cycle of news. We paste these images, these snippets of stories, so that they can resonate with others. And, in some ways, we want them to transcend the cycle, because these events that we’re documenting are shaping the world in which we live.
K: You use guerrilla style street art tactics to paste images, yet you are not activists?
B: We do not consider ourselves activists because we do not have any agenda with regards to social or cultural changes. We simply want to inform and we do this by pasting current news photography in public spaces.
The primary goal of #Dysturb is to provide free information to the public. And in particular, we aim to educate youths, especially those still in school or university, on how they can read/ digest current journalism, and discuss current events with others.
P: There is this idea floating around that photojournalism, in general, is a form of activism. As Benjamin said, activism implies choosing a side, and, as (this is) the case with most forms of photojournalism, it is our duty not to (do this). We are only allowed to document the facts.
As members of #Dysturb, we can understand why some refer to us as activists, but ultimately the only “taking of sides” we do, is taking the side that wants to promote discussion about international issues and events through imagery.
K: Many people believe you are in competition with JR, are you?
P: We are not in competition with him. JR is doing wonderful work, and it is refreshing to see an innovative take on portraiture. While we do share some similarities, such as large format, black and white imagery, the dissemination of others’ stories in public spaces, or even the fact that we are both French, there are some very prominent differences.
Firstly, he is an artist and we are photojournalists. Secondly, photojournalists from around the world contribute to #Dysturb, either by submitting their images or by helping to paste imagery. Remember, this is a reaction to the failing economic model of the news industry, and it is our wish to inform others about current events despite the lack of funding or interest.
Once upon a time, photojournalists were well paid and their work motivated entire nations to address societal issues. Now however, media mistrust has desensitized readers to the validity of our photographs. This is why we have focused on working with educational facilities.
B: There is one thing I want to add. The only reason why #Dysturb uses black and white printing is because it’s cost effective!
K: Can you talk about #Dysturb’s work with schools?
B: At the moment, we are working with schools in France, Australia and the United Kingdom, to whom we send current photojournalism on a monthly basis. We usually begin this relationship by hosting a workshop or holding a lecture/ talk with a certain demographic at an educational facility.
It has been overwhelming to see how responsive students are. As you may know, we only paste international news within a country, so some of these children are really curious about the different worlds that are portrayed. We have taught, and pasted with, students as young as 10 years old, and regardless of the age, everyone finds them fascinating.
K: Apart from these types of collaborations, do you have any other ways of developing #Dysturb?
B: As we continue to expand our operation, we hope to add an interactive element so that the audience, regardless of their age, can communicate with the photographer and his/her stories.
We already have a functioning app (for smartphones) that enables you to view the closest images to you and information about each of them. However, we are looking to enhance it by introducing features that allow users to immediately follow the photographer on social media, to access articles in which the picture has been published, and to see alternative images that relate to a particular topic.
#Dysturb is also looking to include Podcasts into the operation. This would give photojournalists a chance to speak in detail about the story behind the image, and about their experience in the field. We really want to create a sense of intimacy between the photojournalist and the audience, and this is something that is completely absent from current media publishing platforms.
K: Does #Dysturb have any incoming revenue? How would your economic model differ from that of a traditional media portal?
B: Through our collaborations with schools and festivals, we are covering operational costs. At the moment, this is by no means enough to sustain #Dysturb, but we believe that if enough educational facilities partner with us, it could be.
P: Yes, we are also looking for NGO’s and GO’s for support. There is one thing I want to clarify, we don’t use advertisements for revenue.
K: If an organization donates money to #Dystub, you wouldn’t place their logo on your images?
B: No, we wouldn’t. We might make a thank you announcement via social media, or place their logo in our ‘Sponsors’ section of our website, but otherwise no.
K: Do you think photo collectives, like #Dysturb, help struggling photojournalists?
B: We believe that the idea of community is important. We are fighting together, and we give each other tips and assignments, etc. It is hard for everyone! Even people who have won a World Press award have had hard months. So, as a freelancer, it is a good idea to be involved in a collective.
Disclosure: Kyla Woods has worked for #Dysturb on a freelance basis since early 2015.
Pierre Terdjman began his career in the Israeli daily left wing newspaper Haaretz. In 2007, he returned to France to join the team of photographers at Gamma agency. Since then he has covered the post-election violence in Kenya, the Russian-Georgian conflict, Afghanistan (where he spent a year following a French unit for Paris-Match), and Haiti after the earthquake. More recently, he photographed the Arab Spring, covering both the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt and the struggle for liberation against Gaddafi in Libya. He is also regularly in Israel, and is documenting the fall of the Israeli dream in a long term project called “La La Land”. In 2012, he won a scholarship Photoreporter Festival of Saint-Brieuc to continue his work in the long term. In 2013, he covered the uprising of violence’s in Central Africa for the French magazine Paris Match. Earlier this year, he won the Lens Culture Award for a picture from his work in Central African Republic. His photographs are regularly published in Paris Match, GQ and The New York Times Magazine. In April 2015, Pierre joined Getty Images Reportage.
In 2014, Pierre and Benjamin Girette co-founded #Dysturb, and then in April 2015, Pierre joined Getty Images Reportage.
Benjamin Girette is a photojournalist based in Paris. In 2011, he joined IP3 Press agency, and since then has been covering both national and international news stories. His reports include the fall of President Ben Ali in Tunisia, illegal immigration in Italy, the Indignados movement in Spain and the fall of Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. One of his most recent reports was on the uprising in Ukraine, in Kiev. His photos have been published in French and international newspapers and magazines.
Kyla Woods works as a freelance writer based in New York, specializing in current affairs, photography, and design. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Kyla has contributed to articles featured in Long Cours, Le Figaro, Le Point, Gatopardo, This is the What, and Foam Magazine. Kyla has also been featured in the French magazine Jalouse. Since 2013, Kyla has regularly written for Musée Magazine, a digital magazine dedicated to displaying the work of international emerging photographers, Peril Magazine, an online magazine that focuses on issues of Asian Australian arts, and worked at the Bronx Documentary Center. She was also involved in the 2015 PhotoBook Melbourne Festival.