Book Review: "Really Good Dog Photogrpahy"

for Four & Sons Magazine

by Sam Edmonds

Susan Sontag – photography’s most loved/hated writer and critical examiner of the medium wrote extensively about photography’s ability to usurp memory. Through the trust that we so heavily place on photographs and the mechanical nature of both their production and storage, we grew to rely on images as our primary means of preserving memories. But in the age of social media, one could argue a radical shift has taken place; along with the migration from film to digital cameras and with the ephemeral nature of Instagram feeds, photographs are short-lived, temporary or even elusive.

For Lucy Davies, author of Really Good Dog Photography, “photography has become less about preserving, more about conveying” and in her eclectic, heart-felt introduction to the astounding book, she lays out the premise quite concisely: the appetite for cute/happy/hilarious and gorgeous dog images online represents photography’s on-going non-commitment to man’s best friend. While almost the entire history of painting has embraced canines and revered them on the same level as members of our own species, photography has long exhibited a deficit in taking dogs seriously, peaking with the advent of social media. And it’s difficult to argue with her as 150,940,356 posts on Instagram tagged with “dog” serve as evidence.

By essentially cutting out the “fluff and slobber” of most modern dog photographs, Really Good Dog Photography focuses on an array of photographic practitioners and their incredible diversity of dog-centric photo essays and explorations. Along with curator Martin Usborne, Davies briefly takes the reader on a whirlwind tour through dog-art photographic history before dedicating an impressive number of pages to each photographer’s works. As Davies explains, the works have been chosen for their ability to “approach the dog as a sentient, intelligent and mortal being and because they consider the relationship that has formed between dogs and humans for the extraordinary and intriguing thing it really is.” But on top of this, many of the series address several issues facing dogs, humans and our relationship and Davies doesn’t baulk at peppering her text with some startling statistics: “The British rehoming charity Dogs Trust handles around 45,000 calls each year from people trying to give up their pets and the RSPCA picked up 102,363 strays last year, of which only about half were reunited with their owners,” she says.

But these numbers are mirrored closer to home as well as the RSPCA Australia reports having received 45,256 dogs at their shelters around the country in the 2015/16 financial year. And in a way, this issue seems to reflect so much of what Really Good Dog Photography seeks to address: just as dogs are now so often treated as re-producible, expendable commodities, the online cloud of photographs of them are often just as self-centred and uncharitable. As Davies explains: the way

people photograph their dogs is likely a poor representation of true experience - only happy, clean, energetic, cute, well-housed, for instance. It's skewing our understanding of how a dog 'should' behave, or look.” In Really Good Dog Photography, Davies and Usborne seem to have set out to undermine this; to collect and display those photo essays that do dogs the justice they deserve; to free them of anthropocentrism and through the varying lenses of the featured practitioners, celebrate them entirely for their own traits and abilities.

Just as Davies’ introduction to both the text and each featured artist has brilliantly contextualized the themes and ideas informing the works, Usborne’s curation has astutely encompassed a spectrum of methodologies and photographic voices covering the witty and comical observations of Elliot Erwitt to the precision of Jo Longhurst’s revealing typological study. Opening the collection of imagery, Charlotte Dumas’ catalogue of portraits of rescue dogs from the aftermath of 9/11 brings us humbly to the homes of these canine heroes and provides what Usbrone admits is his favorite series of the publication. “My eye often rests on the work of Charlotte Dumas,” he says. “Her images are particularly quiet - they don’t scream concept or statement - and as such the animals own voice seems to shine through. And ultimately that’s the most powerful thing I feel a picture of an animal can do.”

Further into the book, Magnum photographer Alec Soth’s Dog Days, Bogota explores a limbo of pending fatherhood as the photographer finds solace in the lives of Colombian street dogs while he and his wife wait to meet their adopted daughter. Further down the line again, Tony Mendoza’s extended portrait of a pint-sized egomaniac named Bob brings a Gilden-esque use of unflattering light to the canine world. And somewhere in the middle, Mark Ruwedel’s neutral palettes of abandoned dog houses in the California desert at once echo the “colossal economic and political” basis of the American frontier but also disclose a sense of the ephemerality of bonds, care and life itself; the shared existentialism between humans and dogs.

While photography may have some work to do to catch up with painters’ reverence for dogs, the bodies of work on display in Really Good Dog Photography certainly are a step in the right direction. Much like the canines surrounding Diogenes and his tattered clothes and up-turned bathtub, this book will provide a great companion and is sure to charm the pants off any reader – two-legged or four.

A Year in Review: Photojournalism 2017

for Capture Magazine

After the tumultuous year that was 2016, 2017 had a lot to live up to in terms of world events and high-calibre, in-depth photo-based reportage. But as the shellshock from the US election slowly faded, the now standard array of regular world catastrophes continued to guide photojournalists’ lenses. But at the same time, some of the industry’s best pushed the limits of editorial storytelling into unchartered territory and most notably, right here in Australia. Sam Edmonds takes a look back at the year thus far.

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Sometime around mid-July, a number of the world’s most noteworthy photographers seemingly in chorus, took to social media in praise of a story in the New York Times – a story told in Australia by an Australian photographer. Names like Peter Van Agtmael, Anastasia Taylor-Lind and a plethora of others were celebrating Adam Ferguson’s personal pilgrimage and photo- documentation of a several thousand kilometer drive to the heart of his home country. Breaking a number of readership records for the Times, the series takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of those parts of our country so often at the extreme periphery of both the world and Australians alike. And for those who saw the resulting images, the series seemed to provide a breath of fresh air in an industry presently grappling with a number of its own shortcomings. But not all is well and good on the home front, as journalistic departments around the country (both visual and otherwise) continued to suffer under the hammer of amalgamations and a funding cuts. At once in 2017, the world celebrated Australia’s photographic prowess whilst many local practitioners faced the threat of a dwindling investment in quality journalism. But on other editorial fronts, several of Australia’s most successful portraiture and fashion photographers are realizing new realms within their practice and a handful of Aussie sports photographers are thriving on the world stage. In a sea of the politics and ideology informing it, editorial photography is white knuckled and holding on for the ride in 2017. Which has made for compelling imagery across the board.

A Photographic Odyssey

In August of this year, a somewhat confronting quote from Donald Weber appeared in the British Journal of Photography: “I’ve just about had enough of photojournalism,” he said – going on to pinpoint “an almost complete lack of self-awareness” as the cause. While such criticism is always a little tough to digest, this might also serve to highlight one of the reasons for Adam Ferguson’s Photographic Odyssey’s incredibly wide acclaim among his peers. Appearing in the New York Times in July, the essay was the result of a solo road trip by Ferguson into the remote expanses of outback that most Australian city-dwellers rarely see. From burned landscapes to kangaroo hunters, remote indigenous communities and crocodile farms, the series speaks of several themes covering identity, youth, socioeconomics and our relationship with the land. But

importantly, the essay, which was both photographed and written by Ferguson alone was a personal journey for a Coffs Harbour-born, coastal Australian. Having made a name for himself covering conflict in Iraq, Ferguson has gone on to great success within the industry and in typical photojournalist form, most often been obligated to turn his back on his home country for large swaths of time. So in many ways, this project was Ferguson’s re-discovery of his home and perhaps so upheld by his peers as a shining exemplar of contemporary work as an undercurrent of Australian self-awareness is acutely present across the body of work.

Surprisingly, this story was the first that Ferguson has pitched to the New York Times – a process came with its own sense of both responsibility and ownership. But in approaching the publication, he says that “they didn’t just let me go and run around Australia with my camera so I was pretty clear that I wanted this to be a kind of critique of regional identity and a look at the outback”, but also stipulated that “this was going to be a personal journey.” Needless to say, the Times responded well and allowed Ferguson six weeks and an open itinerary – something virtually unprecedented for assignment parameters set out by a publication of the Times’ size. But as Ferguson explains, this sense of freedom was both a blessing and a curse in country where such a small population density often saw him on the road and not making images for days at a time. “There were multiple times throughout the project where I was panicking really hard. And mainly because it was my baby; because I had pitched it, it really had to pay off,” he says. “It wasn’t enough just to make an OK set of pictures.”

However, while Ferguson’s approach certainly implemented a certain level of openness and exploration, he was not going into the project without a pre-conceived idea of the Australian outback. For him, the image of Australia’s vast interior that has been so adored in Australian lyrical history and then romanticized by the likes of Baz Luhrman was something to be eroded; something to be interrogated. And as Australian working with an international newspaper based in the United States, this presented a unique angle for the communication of cultural nuances both in producing and presenting the work. “My aim was to strip the sentimentality out of it [the outback],” says Ferguson. “I said to my photo editor, ‘I’m not going out there to make beautiful pictures of stockman on horseback, I’m going out there to try and challenge what we think about this place. It’s not going to be a beautiful, sentimental piece about the outback’”.

While Ferguson and the team essentially broke new ground in simply their allocation of such a large amount of time for an editorial assignment, the real innovation came in the weeks and months following Ferguson’s time on the ground in Australia. From his new home in New York City and the offices of the Times, Ferguson and photo editors David Furst and Craig Allen essentially re-wrote the handbook for editorial publication workflows as the trio plus an in-house Times designer implemented not only a custom-built webpage for the story but a staggering 16 page section in the print version of the paper. “It was actually the largest photo spread that the times has ever done, which was pretty extraordinary,” says Ferguson. “Apart from doing a long National Geographic assignment, it was the most involved process I’ve ever worked on. We were editing with hard copy prints and there was a lot of dialogue. And that was just the photo part. Then there was the text. Which was this unwieldly beast which went on for months.”

But despite both the readership records and new editorial ground broken by this story, at the heart of it, the success of Ferguson’s photographic odyssey stems from his intrinsic knowledge of

this sundrenched continent. And as he admits, it was Australians who would be the toughest to please with this work. “I always thought that Australians were going to be my hardest audience because as a foreign correspondent, whenever I do a story on another country it is that country where the hardest criticism comes from,” he says. “So I wondered if Australians were going to like it. And I didn’t get one criticism which was extraordinary.” And perhaps in almost picture- perfect antidote to Weber’s concerns, the brilliance of this essay would seem to come from Ferguson’s acute awareness of not only the cultural facets of his subjects and his surroundings but also his own M.O as a photojournalist as his return to his homeland and what some are calling his magnum opus has come at the peak of his photographic career. As Ferguson describes, his approach to Australia and to this story was vastly different to his daily routine in the Middle East or Northern Africa: “I wasn’t just executing my craft like a professional and making strong imagery. I think if some of the images were isolated, they aren’t great, iconic images or anything but I guess I knew what I was saying, it was in my own head and it was my own story,” he says. “I guess a certain amount of sincerity shone through which might have been what people responded to”.

On the Home Front

Although Ferguson’s essay proved wildly effective at putting both regional Australia and Australian photojournalism well and truly back on the map, the Australian press photography world itself has continued its battle for survival in the face of funding cuts and diluted journalism. At the center of this has been a number of Australia’s largest newspapers but of note of course is the country’s most well-resected photo department at the Sydney Morning Herald. Over the last decade or so, the Herald has been no stranger at all to the trimming down of departments and photography has suffered heavily in this respect with an obvious overarching theme that photographic content is less important that its text-based counterpart. As veteran Herald photographer Nick Moir explains: “They see visuals as being secondary... that is until they actually realize that people will look at a story more if it has powerful imagery.”

The Herald, which this year has been running on a skeleton photographic staff of roughly six full-time employees has long been known within Australian journalism as producing some of the country’s most memorable images by a long list of noteworthy names including Trent Parke, Narelle Autio, Dean Sewell and Nick Walker. But as Moir details, the ever-trimming down of photographic departments in most news outlets across the world is drastically affecting the quality of visual content overall and the cumulative affect is a loss of genuinely experienced, passionate and reputable professionals. “There are loads of people doing combat photography but it’s people like Kate [Geraghty] that keep going off to cover that sort of thing,” says Moir, referring to Geraghty’s ongoing commitment to coverage of war in the Middle East. “She recently came back from Mosul and her work there... she’ll almost undoubtedly pick up a Walkley for press photographer of the year for it because it is just epic. I think she’s got a very good chance for a World Press photo award.” And similarly, Moir refers to long-time Farifax photographer Nic Walker as example of the loss of genuine talent and experience to a publication by funding cuts: “It was a real loss to lose Nick Walker because he had really established his skill. You could look at a picture and say that’s a Nick Walker.”

But as always, one port in the storm remains for photographers in the Australian press and documentary world as Oculi – a group partially founded by Moir himself approaches its twentieth year harbouring some of the nations’ best practitioners. As 2016 saw the addition of three new full time members to the group with Matthew Abbott, John Feely and Alana Holmberg, 2017 saw the first round of Oculi’s shining new internship program which seeks to pair budding Australian photographers with three senior members of the group for a year’s worth of mentoring. Reaffirming its positon as the country’s bastion of visual documentary practice, Moir details how the internship program was very much a reflection of the need for encouraging emerging talents. “There’s been times where we’ve looked around at wondered whether Oculi was going to make it,” he says. “Apart from helping each other survive and providing strength in unity, it is also about finding those new talented photographers.”

Welcoming Mridula Amin, Sinead Kennedy and Ella Rubeli as the inaugural interns, Moir is optimistic that the both the talent and the number of applicants for this year’s mentor program is a positive sign of a continued Australian institution in documentary photography. And as he describes, the immediate future looks good for the group that now boasts a spectrum of ages and technical abilities encompassing virtual reality and design practices. “Oculi will keep bumbling on. We’re close to twenty years old now and there are times when I do look at myself and wonder if I should get out and make room for others now,” says Moir. “Now that we have brought these new guys in, we just need to let them produce their next body of work and then we can move on from there. So I would expect to see either an exhibition or a book within the next couple of years.”

Sporting Goods

While hard photojournalism and documentary practice has seen a slightly rough ride so far this year, things have been a little quieter on the sporting scene as chance would have it: a number of the world’s largest sporting events are all scheduled for 2018. But as Australian sports specialist Cameron Spencer explains, this hasn’t stopped the industry from proceeding at full pace as most professionals and number of companies heavily involved in supporting them have taken the reprieve from work to focus on enhancing technological abilities that will make the upcoming Olympics and other events particularly spectacular. This has encompassed implementations not only across improvements to DSLR capabilities and design but also to new robotics systems, iPhone photography and action cameras. “Next year is huge for sport with the Winter Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the FIFA World Cup,” says Spencer – drawing attention to the sheer number of opportunities that will be on offer for excellent imagery. “The use of underwater cameras and robotics has grown and been taken to another level,” he says. “And with the rise of 360 cameras and Action cameras, there are new angles rigging these compact cameras such as Go-Pros to boards, wings, helmets and new types of VR photos that are surfacing as well.”

But while the dip in sporting action for 2017 has most definitely been noticeable, Spencer insists that in sheer contrast to the world of hard news reporting, sports photography remains a feasible professional arena for aspiring photographers and that the coverage of the small number of large sporting events that did occur this year (Mayweather vs. McGregor, America’s Cup, the Superbowl etc.) proves the media’s commitment to covering such stories. “There are plenty of opportunities for sports photographers

globally, whilst the media landscape is shifting with traditional newspapers growing to larger online models the demand for imagery has increased,” says Spencer. “With online and social platforms growing there are more and more outlets requesting imagery from sporting bodies. There are probably more sports photographers than ever working making it more competitive.” But despite that, Spencer is quick to posit some advice that are seeking to enter the market in 2018: “Those who have a quality product, a good knowledge of what they are covering, are up to speed with technology and the right work ethic are getting consistent work. With online content growing, clients are expecting more imagery and faster. For the modern editorial photographer, the ability to file fast is paramount, speed is critical.”

In and Out of Fashion

Between press photography, documentary and sport many differences may appear obvious as to the state of each discipline and the external influences upon their operation but one aspect that escapes no genre of photography is the precarious nature of its audience. And this was perhaps no more true than for fashion and portrait photography in 2017. Often at the center of photographic controversies and whispered criticisms over time, fashion photography especially has been punctuated with events that most would prefer simply to forget. And at a time when political correctness is at it’s peak of sensitivity, fashion is treading on egg shells more than ever. This was noted quite prominently by Laurence Butet-Roch in her article for the New York Times lens blog in August of this year than considered the ingoing canon of fashion photography as a political reflection of society. But what contribution have Australians made to this? And given our seemingly disproportionate political voice on the world stage, how are our fashion photographers reflecting Australian society in 2017?

According to celebrated Australian fashion and portrait photographer Michele Aboud, some of this genre’s professional elite are diversifying their practices in the face of adversity and while some are reviving devolved methods of photo reproduction for the sake of furthering aesthetic tangents, others are maintaining fashion’s reflection of societal facets by branching out to a broader swath of visual mediums. Having just returned to live in Australia after spending a considerable amount of her life living and working in the USA, Aboud has recently embraced the medium of film as way of tackling larger, more generic human themes. As she explains: “I’ve spent a good twenty years photographing fashion but now that I’m going into motion I can start exploring the greater aspects of humanity. When it comes to motion pieces that I’m conceptualizing it is really just what I feel like doing and mostly that is about people and about their stories.”

But at a time of particularly fervent political turmoil, tackling larger human issues is no easy feat. And especially in a world where so much visual information is consumed by only few who are visually literate. In this way, fashion photography seems to have taken on an intrinsic and perhaps unwelcome large responsibility as practitioners are faced with the very real prospect that their images as facilitated by social media could be seen by millions of people in an instant. “The thing now with the world we live in is that a powerful image will say it all. But what goes with that is manipulation,” says Aboud. “We are living in the age of the image.” And in a Trump- ridden world, it is more important than ever for people to obtain the ability to filter out the fake news. But as Aboud continues: ““People have asked me if I moved back to Australia because of

Trump. I’d be much more worried about other countries around the world that have actual dictators. Everybody wants the world to go back to how it was... whatever that means to them. And how does that come out in images? People just want to go out and try and capture what they see is the truth. But the camera lies.”

Time Will Tell

From Australian odysseys to technology, fashion and everything in between, the year of 2017 has proved just as turbulent for editorial photography as the few years prior. While photojournalism continues to grapple with some of its own vices and seasoned press photographers struggle to scrape a living in the face of fake news, our obsession with sport continues to explode and unprecedented megapixel counts mean that we can print Roger Federer’s face larger than ever. But there is light on the horizon in other arenas. Australia’s beacon of visual documentary practice Oculi continues to provide safe refuge for our journalistic prodigies and some of the country’s most talented expats from both photojournalism and fashion photography alike are returning to our shores for some kind of reflection or another. 2018 has much in store for editorial photography.

 

The AFP400TX Project

for Australian Photography Magazine

After a brilliant idea from a Brisbane printmaker, a vintage camera and lens are now making their way around the country and the world, being passed between the hands of some of Australia’s most celebrated photographers. Limiting themselves to black and white film, the AFP400TX project is unifying photographic voices from Bourke to Bondi... 36 exposures at a time.

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Over the last few years, there have been a number of attempts made within the photographic community to share the image-making process and to experiment with collaborative publications. Spanning ideas of posting SD cards around the world, leaving disposable cameras on the street and sharing thumb-drives with strangers, these projects have come and gone, some more successful than others. But it wasn’t until recently that a Brisbane printmaker conjured up an idea in the shower (the birthplace of all great epiphanies) that Australia’s most promising collaborative photographic project was born. After a social media post describing the idea instantly gained praise from a network of eager participants, the AFP400TX project was born.

Creative Limitations

For Brisbane-based photographer and printmaker Renato Repetto, the process of working with film and traditional darkroom-based methods of processing and printing photographs has been both a passion and a career. Having seen some of Australia’s most canonical photographs proceed from a negative to gorgeous silver-gelatine prints, Repetto shares a love for film with the photographers who cut their teeth shooting it and since the mass migration to digital imaging, he has remained a strong advocate for the “shoot film not jpeg” mantra. It was this sentiment that formed the basis for his idea for the AFP400TX project – an attempt to galvanize some of Australia’s remaining advocates of film but also to highlight their individual photographic voices. The idea is simple: one camera – a Nikon F2 35mm SLR – and one lens – a 55mm f/2.8 micro - will make their way from photographer to photographer, each of whom has one roll of film at their disposal. “The decision to use the same camera, lens and film for each photo in the project greatly emphasizes each photographer’s unique visual signature as they are the only variable at play,” says Repetto adding that: “this consistency across the board will also impart a cohesive and unified aesthetic to the publication that would otherwise be impossible to achieve if each photographer were to use their own equipment.”

As Repetto also explains, the choice of camera, lens and film are really what set the project apart from many similar past endeavours as the simplicity of the SLR itself combined with the creative limitations of the equipment and black and white film allow for the real creative genius of the photographer to emerge – something that Repetto says, is often hindered by digital imaging. In a way, it would seem that the afp400tx project is a meditation on creative limitations and how their presence can help the creative photographic process. “The 'shotgun' approach to photography has definitely become more prevalent in today's digital world due to the ever- increasing automation of camera technology,” says Repetto. “Although shooting digital with self- restraint is possible, it would take the kind of maturity and discipline only a veteran photographer could muster.”

Enter the Veterans

Ironically, Repetto’s use of the veteran in this context is quite fitting as a number of photographers involved in the project are not only seasoned professionals of the craft but have also extensively covered war in the early stages of their careers; perhaps the most prominent of example of which is Repetto’s fellow Brisbane local, Tim Page who also happened to be the first photographer to be handed the reigns for the project. “I didn’t really realize but I was basically the guinea pig; I was going to be the lead batsman,” says Page. “He brought out of his bag these two beautifully re-conditioned Nikon F2s that he got from some place in Tokyo and said ‘you’ve got a week; here’s a roll of film’”. Having worked as a professional photojournalist for a number of decades and having been widely celebrated for his work covering the war in Vietnam, Page is no stranger to deadlines nor the intricacies of working with film cameras but as he admits, there is less forgiveness in a roll of tri-x than there is in a CMOS sensor. “When you only have 36 frames, you tend to really think out what you want to shoot and how to compose and when you use these older cameras you don’t have a light meter so really need to think out your exposures,” he says. “With digital, you can be a few stops out and still get a good picture whereas with film you have to be much more on the money in terms of both exposure and composition.”

For Page, the afp400tx project speaks to his liking for a more traditional take on photography and the pursuit of a purist approach. But in addition to the grain and tones of black and white film that seem somewhat unachievable by digital methodologies, Page expresses a concern for the automation of digital imaging and how a generation of young photographers might have missed out on the magic of “something coming alive from virtually nothing.” “How many people shoot on manual on the camera now? Very few,” he says. “They put it on one of these modes like shutter priority and have only an idea of what it is going to give them. If you have to go into the darkroom and to make a print, it will make you realize what it is that we really do with photography.”

However, some of the projects members are less convinced of the usefulness of film in the digital era. Michael Coyne, whose work has appeared on the pages of National Geographic, The New York Times and Vogue expressed his contentment with digital photography despite the time- consuming nature of working in Lightroom and Photoshop. Having worked extensively in the Middle East during his career, Coyne took an opportunity to pack the project’s F2 into his

suitcase for a return trip to Iran where he was conducting a workshop. Now a sponsored shooter for Fujifilm and regularly utilizing their stellar lineup of digital cameras, Coyne posits that returning to film was not such a steep learning curve however, being limited to one roll of film took some getting used to. “I have been working on a project with the Fujifim GF670 camera so film was not such a distant memory for me. But the one roll of film, that meant being really selective,” he says. “I panicked a few times and made a number of mistakes. I started to shoot portraits and wasted a bit of film so I put the camera away and didn’t use the it for a while before finally making a burst of images near the end of trip.” But as Coyne further explains, working under the premise of creative limitations wasn’t so difficult as his usual MO whether shooting film or digital always maintains an approach of reduced equipment and a focus on the photographs themselves. “Most of the time I like to work with one Fuji-X camera body and a short lens. It forces me to think about composition within the frame and encourages me move rather than standing in one spot,” he says. “I’m lucky enough to have great equipment that I can rely on so I don’t think about cameras, lenses et cetera, I just concentrate on trying to make images.”

Mastering the Art

Whether a fierce advocate of the need to shoot film or a fence-sitter in the film/digital debate, the afp400tx project seems to have conjured up much more conversation that the efficacy of physical or digital mediums. As one of the most distinguished members of the project’s list of photographers and arguably the godfather of modern Australian photography, Robert McFarlane’s experience with the Nikon F2 shines a light on several conversations sparked by the ephemeral nature of images, the impact of time on a photographer’s career and on the art of photography itself. Speaking both candidly and with the wisdom of a photographer whose career has spanned five decades, McFarlane admits that the animosity displayed by some toward digital is probably not called for. “There’s a lot of negative reaction among some traditional photographers toward digital but you know, as somebody once said: if digital had been invented first, we wouldn’t be leading a path toward film,” adding that as a 75-year-old, the convenience and lightweight nature of mirrorless digital cameras mitigates his reduced mobility in recent years.

Having spent large swaths of his career documenting daily life, politics, theatre, art and performance in Australia, McFarlane is perhaps most well known for his intimate portrait of “Bea” – a black and white nude shot in the living room of his Sydney home in 1978. For the afp400tx project, McFarlane chose to revisit the life of Bea and to revisit his use of Tri-X film, using the majority of his 36 exposures photographing her again but this time along with both her daughter and granddaughter. “I thought that would make for an interesting historical viewpoint on basically the things that I have done during my working life,” says McFarlane. “Bea has become a remarkable person and I try to keep continuity with subjects that have been important.”

Linking his approach to portraiture with his photographic MO in general, McFarlane explains that as opposed to “capturing” or “taking” an image, he firmly believes in the concept of

“receiving” a photograph – a methodology that was partly born out of the need to be conservative at a time long before SD cards presented us with virtually unlimited storage and an idea that largely reduces the need to shoot so heavily. “When we were using SLRs in the 60s, having 36 exposures on a roll compared to what we had immediately before that was amazing,” he says. “I had been using 2 and 1⁄4 square and others were using 5 x 4 and all that so 36 pictures then was a luxury!” Drawing on his time photographing Australian indigenous activist Charlie Perkins, McFarlane explains that “all those metaphors of ‘capturing’ and ‘taking’ pictures are a bit aggressive. I believe it is where the photographer places themselves to receive the image compositionally and behaviorally and the moment they choose which dictates how original the picture will be. That’s my general philosophy of making pictures.”

But perhaps the most pertinent example of the precariousness of shooting film in the digital age came with photographer Brian Cassey’s roll of film for the afp400tx project as an important portrait subject presented itself to Cassey after he had already shot the majority of his 36 exposures. After learning that his friend and accomplished musician Geoff Tozer had been diagnosed with cancer, Cassey was presented with a challenge: “I had ONE frame left when I met and chatted to Geoff and had to make that frame count,” he says. “I wanted an image that showed Geoff’s rugged past in the music industry and his current near death situation. I very carefully choose the light and eventually released the shutter.”

Future Past

Across the spectrum of ideas of those photographers involved in the afp400tx project and their varying levels of advocacy for film, the passing of a single camera and lens around the country is sure to highlight much about the collective creative workflow of contemporary Australian photography. Whether Repetto’s brainchild will spur a resurgence of the use of film in the Australian photography industry is up for debate but either way, it has and surely will continue to prompt questions about the permanence of images, the benefits of creative limitation and perhaps most importantly that, as Michael Coyne says: “It’s not the camera that takes the picture, it’s the eye of the person holding it.” While the official date for the finish line of the project still lies somewhere over the horizon, a series of exhibitions and a book are planned for some time in the not-too-distant future. Follow along on Instagram @afp400tx.

Photography's Struggle with Truth

for Photo Life Magazine

Over the last several years, photojournalism has seen a long string of controversies surrounding staging and manipulation in the industry. Not surprisingly, the world’s biggest publications and awards bodies have increasingly expressed their intolerance of these practices in news media but it wasn’t until recent revelations about one of photojournalism’s biggest names came to light that an age-old debate about objectivity was reignited. Photo Life spoke with a cross-section of industry professionals to understand how these recent scandals cloud deeper problems with the idea of ‘truth’ in photography.

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Whether you are familiar with the name Steve McCurry or not, you are probably familiar with his photographs - or at least one of them. e green-eyed Afghan girl of National Geographic magazine’s 1985 cover is one of the most recognizable images of all time and exemplary of McCurry’s long career documenting the far reaches of the globe in vivid Kodachrome saturation. McCurry’s enormous social media following coupled with his reputation as a photojournalist makes him arguably one of the most in uential photographers of recent history and it was this iconic status that made recent discoveries of unscrupulous manipulation in his photographs a particularly tough pill to swallow. After a visual glitch was noticed in a McCurry print at a gallery in Italy earlier this year, several of his most celebrated photographs were subsequently found to have been doctored in a similar fashion and a storm of criticism erupted from his audience and peers. But while most pointed to McCurry’s transgression of journalistic integrity, the frequency of terms like ‘truth’ and ‘objectivity’ amongst these anti-McCurry essays prompted a more interesting discussion about the naive enshrining of truth in photography. As a number of industry professionals concur, while McCurry’s deception of his audience should be condemned, photography is an inherently subjective craft and more pressing issues concerning technology, media practice and visual tropes should lead us to question whether staging or manipulation are really causes for concern while we learn to embrace new visual storytelling techniques that will further our conception of reality.

e World Press Ideal

While the allegations against Steve McCurry shocked most of the photojournalism world, a string of events over the last 15 years has exposed the frequency of staging and manipulation within the industry. In 2003, Brian Walski was condemned for merging content from two images for a photo that found itself on page one of the LA Times, in 2006, Reuters cut all ties with photographer Adnan Hajj after he added smoke to photographs of an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon and more recently, Giovanni Trolio’s First Prize in the World Press Photo contest was retracted due to evidence of staging. But while some might like to think of these events as anomalies in an otherwise mostly reputable industry, recent ndings published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in association with the World Press Photo Foundation found otherwise when their survey of 1,556 professional news photographers indicated that a quarter of

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respondents “alter the content of images at least sometimes” along with 52% admitting to staging images with the same frequency and 12% saying they did so “at least half the time”.

According to World Press Photo managing director, Lars Boering, the actions of Steve McCurry are exemplary of what is not acceptable in photojournalism and he states that there needs to be clear rules for photojournalists that attempt to maintain accuracy in reporting. “ e controversy around Steve McCurry’s pictures involves really serious claims that many of the images were either staged or manipulated through the addition or removal or content,” says Boering. “...had any of those images been entered into our recent contest, the problems would have been easily detected and the pictures would have been excluded as a breach of the current rules.” While Boering admits that photography is an interpretive medium, he maintains that in a journalistic context, clear limits on the extent of creativity must be put in place. “Photography gives us an interpretation of the world, and we celebrate that creativity,” he says. “But when we want pictures to record and inform us of the varied events, issues, people, and viewpoints in our world, when we want pictures to function as journalistic documents, we must set limits to how pictures can be made.”

Clearly, the rules and regulations of World Press Photo strive to de ne which techniques are acceptable when attempting accuracy in visual reportage and the foundation’s prestigious annual awards has perpetuated World Press Photo’s perceived role as the industry’s authority on ethics. As Boering explains, the need for accuracy in reporting has been always been the primary criteria when awarding excellence in photojournalism. “For news of the world, people want to know whether things are as they are shown,” he says. “ is context drives the demand for accurate, veri able visual journalism, and in our photo contest we reward the best pictures that meets this demand.”

Ethics in Practice

Although World Press Photo’s high ethical standards for news photography seem ideal, it is difficult not to notice at least a hint of naivety in Boering’s idea that objects, ideas or issues communicated by photographs can be “as they are shown”. For Australian photojournalist, Adam Ferguson, while standards and ethics are an important benchmark for gauging authenticity, the previous World Press Award recipient and regular assignment photographer for the New York Times denies photography’s ability to communicate any kind of truth and points to the process of disseminating photographs, the subconscious preconceptions of photographers and the in uence of technology in making photography a medium fraught with bias. “Every photojournalist chooses to convey a story in a certain way whether they are conscious of it or not and that can be as sophisticated as a photojournalist that is closer to the art world like Martin Parr for example - that chooses a very deliberate vernacular aesthetic to make a statement,” he says. “And then you have a stringer for AP that’s been given a [Canon] 5d and isn't as deliberate about their aesthetic but actually has one simply because of the technology that they have in their hands. ”

For Ferguson, the idea of photography’s accuracy is an illusion that has been maintained by the camera’s mechanical prowess as opposed to the interpretation of painting or sculpture and it’s in this way that the deceptive nature of Steve McCurry’s techniques are really brought to light. Whether McCurry considers himself a photojournalist or not, his career as visual storyteller in the eyes of his audience has been premised upon “capturing” the far reaches of the globe - not painting it nor posing it. “ ere is still kind of a misconception that if you point a camera at something then you capture something. It’s like a photograph captures the world. And that is a false notion but it is something that gives photography a great sense of power,” says Ferguson. “It is that ability to kind of trick people to think that they’re seeing something that was caught. And that’s what makes what Steve did totally unacceptable.”

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At a time when photojournalism seems to be grappling with it’s de nition of truth yet photographs are being consumed at an unprecedented rate, the McCurry debacle reiterates an argument to delineate areas of the industry where veracity is a given. In some ways echoing the World Press Photo mantra, Jonny Weeks, photo editor of e Guardian, Australia argues that while more conceptual strands of documentary practice may embrace techniques like staging, World Press represents the benchmark to which we measure photojournalism’s only currency. Weeks draws on his experience of viewing tens of thousands of images per day when positing that controversies over manipulation can be a healthy reminder of the industry’s only source of integrity. “Of course it's entirely acceptable to create/recreate an impression of a story if your work is artistic – but I think the point here is speci cally that the World Press is not the environment for such work,” he says. “World Press is for works of undoubted, un- manipulated honesty but personally I think that controversies like this are actually a really good way for the news industry to remind itself – and others – that we have to uphold our standards. It's a way of saying 'hey, hang on a minute, don't forget what our currency is here’.”

But at a time where photography also nds itself disseminated primarily in a digital form, Weeks points to changes in protocol between the days of print and the days of the iPad that are in uencing the amount of pre-publishing scrutiny that once facilitated accuracy. “Realistically this means some photos are edited by professionals before being published, whereas some are pumped straight online without much professional input,” says Weeks. “Imagine a reporter taking an iPhone photo of a breaking news story – that pic can get tweeted, then the tweet gets embedded in a liveblog and boom it's online before it's gone through some of the more traditional controls that you'd associate with print journalism.” In an age of instantaneous reporting and citizen journalism, this fast pace of production is swaying photographers to act more quickly and perhaps, less accurately. While Weeks welcomes the diversity of sources and storytelling, the emphasis on digital news has done little to facilitate accuracy. “Personally I more enjoyed the print ethos: slow and steady... but online journalism doesn't come with that luxury so you have to accept what you're working with, trust your sources and publish when you feel it's right to do so,” says Weeks.

Truth is an Art

In some ways, it would seem that the dilemma of truth in photography is attributable to the medium’s unique blend of journalism and art. While accuracy is axiomatic to journalism and interpretation is a foundation of visual art, photography’s naivety as opposed to painting or lm might be derived from the idiosyncrasy of these attributes. is phenomenon became abruptly apparent during the 1930’s after it was revealed that Arthur Rothstein had staged his image, Steer Skull, Badlands South Dakota, 1936 that he photographed while documenting America’s dust bowl conditions for the Farm Security Administration. e image - depicting the skull of a cow resting upon dried, cracked earth - served to highlight the severity of drought in the Dakotas but was immediately undermined when several versions, displaying the same skull in slightly different locations emerged. While Rothstein’s defence was one of purely aesthetic intent, his critics claimed that his process invalidated the photograph. In either case, the message was clear: American’s steadfast belief in the photograph as a mechanical reproduction of truth was still strong but Rothstein had broken the rules. To move the camera to any position is allowed, but to move the subjects is not.

But it would seem that contemporary photography has somewhat matured when it comes to questioning the cobweb-adorned maxims of reportage. And even to re-consider Henri Cartier Bresson’s indefatigable “decisive moment”. Although photography has long heralded the decisive moment as the foundation for reportage, others argue that we do not really experience the world in still images - and we certainly don’t experience an entire scene in 1/250 of a second. For Canadian photographer, Sean J Sprague, his method

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of photographing a scene and blending numerous elements from each into a single frame may in fact be a more accurate technique than Cartier-Bresson’s famous maxim. Toronto-based Sprague, a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design says that employing such an approach in his body of work on factory farming allowed him to negate any reliance upon visual “anecdotal evidence” when a montage of images pieced together permitted a more precise rendering of what he witnessed over time.

But while Sprague’s technique may present the viewer with a theoretically accurate depiction of a scene, his approach works in stark contrast to those endorsed by most current authorities on documentary practice (including World Press Photo) - a clash that he sees as a non sequitur in the argument for accuracy. “I’m not interested in adhering to rules that have been set out by an establishment. I make pictures in a way that I think is best and am forthcoming about it,” he says, elaborating that the rules set in place by industry contests may spur an environment where creativity and diversity of approach is not celebrated - or even permitted. “I think the main concern about some of this stuff that I hear about in the documentary community is a result of these contests and awards where rules are set out in stone. So for someone to get recognition they need awards and to get awards they have to follow rules,” he says. “In terms of photography evolving, I’d say I don’t think many things evolve unless they’re in an environment that is conducive to take risks freely. Contradictorily, I think the rules of documentary may end up being a good thing in the sense that it sets up a framework to be broken. You need picture-makers willing to break them, and I think we’re seeing more of that willingness. It’s not going to work all of the time, but that process moves the medium forward even in its setbacks.”

Truth in Reality

Somewhat exemplary of some photographers’ discontent with the “decisive moment” adage is the Magnum photo agency’s adoption of several young practitioners that are encompassing somewhat avant- garde methods of photo-documentation. As the most famous and most purist collective of photojournalists in the world, Magnum’s modus operandi for decades has been to celebrate Cartier- Bresson’s precept but in recent times has taken on several nominees known for their work in directed imagery including Newsha Tavakolian and Max Pinckers. At only 27-years-old, Pinckers’ use of constructed images contrast’s Magnum’s reputation for classic reportage but the Belgian photographer says his approach has been warmly welcomed by the monolithic agency. “I think they are really in a struggle with this idea that Magnum is a mythical, very classical place for photojournalism and they are trying to rede ne themselves which you can see in a lot of the younger members that don’t really follow this stereotype of classical journalism,” he says. “I see it as a really nice challenge of how the way of looking at documentary photography can expand to different areas. Especially in an agency that reaches such a wide audience.”

Pinkcers’ body of work Two Kind of Memory and Memory Itself attempts to deconstruct the Western world’s romantic and fetishized image of Japan (whether it really exists or not) using the Belgian photographers’ primary technique of constructing essays that contain both posed and spontaneous images. e resulting photographs of loitering policemen, fatigued bankers and an homage to Hokusai’s Sudden Gust of Wind prompt the viewer to question their own preconceptions about reality in this foreign land. But as Pinckers elaborates, Japan’s stereotypical image as perpetuated around the rest of the world also becomes an example of the relationship between truth, image and reality. “It comes from that idea that a nation or a culture chooses to represent itself in a certain way for political and economical gains or power,” he says. “Of course, the resulting work is a very simpli ed way of dealing with or hinting at that but it is motivated by an extremely complex matter which you can re ect onto any kind of situation in everyday life when it comes to making choices of how one represents him or herself in order to then gain something from it.”

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Pinckers admits, through both his photographic and written essays that a diversity of approaches in communicating what we might like to term truth or realism is necessary simply because “reality is so much more complex than you could ever take a picture of with your camera,” he says. “And that’s where it kind of started for me - I think our reality is shaped by many things that we don’t we see or a lot of abstract concepts that we have that really shape the way we experience the world but that you can’t take a picture of. It’s really a conceptual reality that we live in.”

Objectivity or Objecti cation

It would seem that while painting, drawing and sculpture have matured to embrace their subjectivity, photography is still engaged in an adolescent struggle with truth. Perhaps due to a legacy of the mechanical nature of the camera but in any instance, a society so immersed in consuming photographs is evidently still convinced of photography’s accuracy and as the Steve McCurry debacle illustrates, to take advantage of this is to deceive an unknowing audience. And while photojournalism’s media and contest bodies continue to rule out the practice of staging in photographs, the industry’s most famous and most reputable photo agency is learning to embrace constructed images as a technique to further our understanding of reality. Perhaps, while any pursuit of truth in photography seems futile, a portrayal of our time’s reality might be more attainable and as the new generation of practitioners seem to reference Arthur Rothstein’s technique in their pursuit of effective communication, one wonders whether rules are being broken or if we simply need to abandon our faith in the camera’s aptitude for precision. But as Pinckers posits: the real problem with our celebration of adherence to the World Press Photo ethic is that it’s not only photographers playing by the rules - it’s the subjects as well. While the canon of journalistic images that precedes us grows ever longer, the roles of both those photographing and those photographed are further set in stone and what we might like to think of as reality is much more constructed than we realize.

Profile: Boreal Collective

for Photo Life Magazine

The world of freelance documentary and photojournalism is weathering a fierce storm. Over the past two decades, news outlets in both Canada and abroad have seen a consolidation of newspapers, slashed budgets and reduced staff ultimately resulting in less in-depth storytelling. Hardest hit by this phenomenon are the bastions of independent inquiry; those photographers committed to the visual communication of issues and stories that underpin a society. And in an attempt to stay afloat, freelance documentarians have turned to an age-old adage: strength in numbers. Since 2010, Boreal Collective has harboured some of Canada’s foremost photographers in what is now an establishment of both contemporary photographic practice and community engagement. But unlike similar collectives across the globe, Boreal’s drive and momentum has made it not simply a port in the storm but a stalwart flagship of documentary that is pushing the limits of the genre. And just as the Northern Lights themselves, Boreal Collective is shining a light on the often under-exposed north.


Foundations

For Ian Willms, AaronVincent-Elkaim, Brett Gundlock, Rafal Gerszak and Jonathan Taggart, the reason for forming a photographic collective was relatively simple: the Canadian photojournalism and documentary industry was somewhat stagnant; a tried-and-true formula for technical and aesthetic images was saturating Canada’s news outlets to the point of monotony while a paucity of interest in ethical, long-term visual inquiry meant making a living from anything outside of hard-news photography very difficult. With most of Canadians’ daily news images still conforming to the “tight and bright” mantra, Boreal’s founding members set out to further establish a more conceptual and in-depth branch of photojournalism as similar movements in the United States and around the world were being sparked. For Willms, the traditional photojournalistic aesthetics as so cherished by the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail were all but ubiquitous within the industry but as the Toronto-based freelancer admits, the idea behind Boreal was never to replace this ethos but simply to offer an alternative. “The general tone of most of these institutions was this sort of simple, formulaic, very technical approach to photojournalism that didn’t really have a lot of context, atmosphere or emotion and certainly no conceptual approach,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong with that kind of photography but we wanted to do something different. We wanted to do something more artistic and we felt like we were being dismissed a lot of the time or we weren't being taken seriously. So, we thought: let’s form a collective, let’s make a lot of noise with the kind of work that we want to do.”

After several years as a formal collective, the group saw expansions to their team of practitioners with the additions of Eamon MacMahon, Johan Hallberg-Campbell, Matt Lutton, Laurence Butet-Roch and Mauricio Palos in 2013 followed by Daniella Zalcman and Annie Flanagan in 2015. Now six years afloat and with a total of twelve photographers at the helm, Boreal’s original sentiment remains relatively unchanged, with the exception of furthering their emphasis on community outreach. As Willms, describes: “It evolved over time into a more general mission to support and foster documentary photography or more conceptually based photojournalism and try to provide opportunities for photographers to come together and learn from each other. But we are also trying to navigate this changing landscape of the editorial industry and we’re experimenting with different ways of bringing our work to the public and with different ways of actually earning an income so it is like a laboratory in a lot of ways but a really fun one full of people that you really care about.” Echoing Willms’ sentiment, fellow collective member Johan Hallberg-Campbell, referred to the groups’ penchant for “experimenting with different forms of storytelling” in the face of industry adversity, adding that while the group’s current mission statement, which admits the “photographic industry is being dismantled”, Hallberg-Campbell points to the positive impacts of an industry in flux. “Dismantled references the so-called ‘death’ of print media and the rapidly changing landscape of our industry. Yet we see this as a time when opportunities are bountiful though largely undefined,” he says. “It is not about what or how you photograph something. We would rather focus on the ethical and moral intent behind making choices, and not to follow a formulaic style.”

It’s here that perhaps Boreal really comes into its own; as slow journalism has gained more traction within contemporary media but also perhaps as the collective realizes the pertinence of such a discipline within their home country that is so fraught with deep-rooted and extensive social issues. And in describing his personal practice, Hallberg-Campbell seems to touch on so much of the Boreal approach. “My projects tend to connect thematically with each other, they always end up being long term and I strive to be proactive as an image maker, a storyteller, to look deeper, beyond the ordinary and the everyday,” he says. “I have seen much of Canada now… but there are so many different cultures and I feel in many regards that I’ve only scratched the surface. It’s a complex country.”  


Decolonizing Storytelling

One of the most evident of these complexities is the long-standing and constantly evolving relationship between Canada’s First Nations and a medium that is inextricably tied to colonialism. As long-form storytelling continues to find its feet in Canada, the legacy of photography as a practice historically dominated by white settlers of this continent has spurred the need for increased awareness by practicing documentarians - something that Boreal is all too well-aware of as a majority of the collective’s members have tackled issues surrounding indigenous rights and land treaties, environmental racism and settler colonialism. Most notably, this has included long-term bodies of work surrounding issues in northern Alberta, Ontario and a series of double exposures by Daniella Zalcman examining the legacy of Canada’s Residential Schooling System. Referring to the prevalence of First Nations stories amongst the collective’s member’s work, Zalcman points to cognizance of this history as a foundation of Boreal’s ethics. “Half of the collective is now or has been involved in documenting Indigenous communities in Canada,” she says. “We all need to be aware of how to responsibly and respectfully tell stories from communities that are not ours - particularly in the context of communities that have struggled for centuries of settler colonialism - and we need to help each other think about how we can better do that. That's definitely part of the broader Boreal ethos.”

Furthering Zalcman’s sentiment, Laurence Butet-Roch highlights the complexity of First Nations issues in Canada as past of the need for an embrace of less traditional storytelling techniques. In her ongoing work from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Butet-Roch has expanded her role as a photographer to a “facilitator” or “technician” - seemingly combating the complexity of such issues by encompassing a spectrum of creative influence well beyond the camera’s frame. “The problem often is that a lot of the stories that are coming out of Canada are not black and white issues - they are very complicated and that makes it a lot harder to pitch to foreign media because people aren’t necessarily ready to read a very complex, nuanced, layered essay,” says Butet-Roch. “I'm now more interested in working with the communities from the get-go, letting them decide how to express, produce and disseminate their stories -  for instance, one of the young people from Aamjiwnaang has been rapping about his situation for years. Finding ways to bring his songs to the fore, and explaining the connection they have to my work has become one of my focuses.”

Butet-Roch’s exploration of the issues faced by Aamjiwnaang, currently portrayed in her photo essay Our Grandfathers Were Chiefs, tells the story of the northern Ontario community’s safeguarding of traditional lands against an inundation of petrochemical plants in the region. Among the scenes from Aamjiwnaang, an ominous facility looms behind playing children at dusk, a flag held high in protest displays pride and defiance while photographs on a wall hint at loss and ephemera as Butet-Roch’s images serve not only as documents from Aamjiwnaang but as a reminder of indigenous issues across all of Canada. Working with the community since 2010, the photographer’s immersive approach also speaks to a cornerstone of documentary practice that lies outside the ability of run and gun photojournalism; a quality that as she describes, is axiomatic to thorough and contemplative storytelling surrounding such complex and systemic issues. “It’s one thing when you are being parachuted into a country and you have two weeks to report on a specific issue - you might not realize what some of the nuances are - but a lot of the Boreal photographers work for years on a project and when you do that you want to make sure that you approximate things as well as you can and make sure that you do the story justice and the people justice.” But as Butet-Roch further explains, this aspiration for precision within documentary is perhaps best achieved by a reduction of photo-ego. While the traditional modus operandi of visual storytellers so often (sometimes unconsciously) places those with the camera at the centre of any storytelling process, Boreal’s approach to both First Nations issues in Canada and reportage in general is moving toward a multi-author platform - one that encompasses the voices of those in front of the lens as well as those behind it. The important question to ask, says Butet-Roch is: “How do we include those voices within out work and it not just be our work? How do we change that idea of the single author behind an image?”


The Boreal Bash

Another pillar of the Boreal ethos and what has undoubtedly become a defining institution both within the collective and in the broader Canadian photography community is the annual Boreal Bash. Traditionally held in Toronto, the Bash was founded on the principles of camaraderie and support for emerging talents, drawing on Boreal members’ experience in the industry to facilitate workshops, talks and guest lectures by established artists. As Boreal member and photojournalist, Brett Gundlock explains, the idea behind the Bash was that “we have a certain amount of knowledge as a group at Boreal and we have been through some things that other emerging photographers are going through right now,” he says, eluding to the precarious nature of finding your way in a very competitive market. “That has really been the basis of the Boreal Bash since the beginning; we can either waste our energy fighting against each other or we can share and grow together.”

Now based in Mexico, Gundlock and fellow Boreal member Mauricio Palos were tasked with logistics for the 2016 Boreal Bash after the group’s decision to transport the event beyond Canada’s borders. Taking place across the states of Puebla and Oaxaca, this year’s Bash invited Mexican and Latin American photographers to attend the bi-lingual portfolio reviews and intensive workshops which were made further accessible by the distribution of five grants to Central American students. “We had about 50% of the programming that was purely in Spanish and then we also had a full-time translator during all the talks,” says Gundlock. “It really was the first time I have witnessed two different groups of English speakers and Spanish speakers communicate so fluently between the language barrier. It was such a good exchange.”

In keeping with the Bash’s original sentiment, this year’s event tackled a spectrum of large issues facing the industry as participating photographers shared stories and ideas surrounding dissemination of work and diversity within storytelling. “The overall idea for this year was alternative platforms for storytelling, which means talking about ways that we can tell stories outside of the traditional media,” says Gundlock. “This is something that is very relevant here in Mexico. There’s a large number of my friends that are photographers that don’t even have Instagram or websites - they just have their editor that they work with and they don’t experience much outside of their practice”. Highlighting the informal nature of the proceedings, Gundlock explains that in contrast to the regular format of speakers and audience at a photographic conference, a less structured workflow allowed for the varied perspectives across a bi-lingual and multi-geographical cohort to materialize. “One thing that emerged organically was the really great talks on women in the media and forms of representation. That was an intense room to be in during those talks. It got very emotional - the stories that were told in that space and also the advice and ideas for moving forward on the topic really took off and we continued that discussion in our workshop in Oaxaca.”


On the Horizon

It’s with this momentum and under the guidance of conversation surrounding such issues that Boreal is propelling itself onward and upward in the world of documentary practice. The topics tackled by Boreal’s members and the attendees of this year’s Bash are sure sign of their ability to take on the more rusty aspects of this photographic genre and luckily so, as Gundlock admits the rough road ahead under the shadow of president Trump. “This next four years is going to be a war. It is going to be a hard fight and it is super discouraging that that large of a population with that kind of mentality was able to take control of a country,” he says. “As an artist, that means we are losing and as someone that is pursuing social issues as basically they’re profession, it means that we are losing at educating these people.” But in this David and Goliath battle, the discourse surrounding documentation of social issues lies firmly within Boreal’s arsenal and when addressing such topics as indigenous land use rights in Canada, drug cartels in Mexico or environment destruction in South America, Gundlock asserts the revalidation of his craft at a time when it is obviously so necessary. “It hurts your soul but I think if anything it re-establishes the importance of having these kinds of voices in the world and doing the work that we are doing - individually and collectively,” he says. “I think that this going to be a time of intense conflict but also a time of intense growth of the social consciousness on a world level.” And in typical Boreal fashion - interviewed from the other side of a sprawling continent - Ian Willms is on exactly the same page. Affirming the the synchronicity of Boreal members’ faith in visual storytelling yet their acute cognizance of the medium’s precariousness, Willms concurs that the power of documentary photographs in the face of adversity is only increasing. “Telling a powerful story has universal importance now regardless of whether you have a million followers or a hundred - anything has the potential to go viral if it is meaningful and powerful and just so happens to come at the right time,” he says. And as Laurence Butet-Roch further harmonizes, the original sentiment of Willms, Elkaim, Gundlock, Gerszak and Taggart still lies well at the heart of Boreal Collective, as they continue to propel documentary practice in the north. “I do think that in general, things are looking up within Canada,” she says. “The level of photography is tremendous and the talents are out of this world…. so it’s just a matter of making the rest of the world take notice.”

Conserving Canada

for Photo Life Magazine

Human - induced climate change is rapidly affecting Canada’s wilderness. As global mean temperatures rise and the adverse effects of warming on northern ecosystems intensifies, the need to document and communicate the ensuing issues was never more important. From the coastal forests of British Columbia to the windswept Maritimes, Canadian conservation photographers are tirelessly working to bring stories of habitat destruction and wildlife loss to the public eye. Because of our higher latitudes, the effec ts of anthropogenic warming are becoming blatantly clear and r ecent issues like the sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart in the Great Bear Sea, the controversial BC wolf cull and the trophy hunting of grizzly bears have reignited debate over issues like habitat fragmentation and wildlife (mis)management. All of which hav e benefited greatly from the visual documentation conducted by groups like Pacific Wild and photographers like Paul Nicklen and Ian McAllister . As Canadians have thrived for so long on a healthy relationship with our abundance of n atural surroundings, it only makes sense that a thriving population of Canadian conservation photographers has grown to help stand up for ecosystems and the animals we share this landscape with. But to what extent can photography influence policy? Are we s eeing enough support for these photographers and dissemination of their work? And most importantly, does photography really hold the power to save Canada’s wilderness?


Supernatural British Columbia

While most provinces across the country are facing a s pectrum of conservation issues and all are feeling the affects of climate change, a recent spate of ecological concerns facing British Columbians has spurred fierce political debate. A great example in the lead up to BC’s most recent provincial election was the BC Liberal party’s reversal of policy on the trophy hunting of grizzly bears in the Great Bear Rainforest as a larger constituent of the province has aired their concern over welfare of the species. Organizations like Pacific Wild and Vancouver - based Wildlife Defence League, have managed to galvanize BC’s voter population by utilizing imagery of grizzly bears in their natural habitat coupled with the documentation of horrendous trophy hunt practices in BC’s mountain ranges.

One photographer involved with this issue, April Bencze spends most of her time deep within
the wilds of British Columbia’s coastal forests - in close proximity to the very bears at stake in this debate. And in even closer proximity to coastal wolves, spaw ning salmon and the towering conifers of her home. Based on her Instagram feed alone it would be fair to assume that April was a permanent dweller of the forests but in reality, she spends her time split between the wilderness and the concrete jungle of Va ncouver where she advocates tirelessly for the protection of bears and wolves around the province and is currently working to end the trophy hunting of grizzly bears with Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Having cut her teeth at Pacific Wild under the gui ding hand of Ian McAllister, April’s images speak of the precariousness of ecosystems on BC’s coast and the intrinsic relationship between ocean, trees, salmon and people. But as she admits, the quantity of problems on BC’s coast is startling. “The abundan ce of important stories to be told through photography on this coast alone is energizing, inspiring, and overwhelming all at once. There are so many issues that need attention and support, and my role as a storyteller means having to choose which ones to f ocus on,” she says. “It feels in a way like what I would imagine an ER doctor experiences triaging a room full of critically injured patients. That being said, the protection of wild salmon on this coast is especially significant to me because salmon are t he thread that weaves together the tapestry of life found here, including my own species.”

Having worked on both the trophy hunt and annual wolf cull issues in BC, Bencze says that photography is telling the story of why the trophy hunting of grizzly bea rs is unacceptable ethically, scientifically and economically and has managed to unite views about the problem across the province. As she further expresses, it’s photography’s ability to speak to a wider audience that has lead to it’s success on this issu e as visual mediums speak so effectively to human beings. “Anyone can look at a photo and take something away from it; we are visual creatures by nature, so communicating in this way makes sense to me,” says Bencze. “I believe it can help us understand and work towards solutions for all ecological, conservation and social issues”. As her portfolio of stunning wildlife imagery and intimate moments with some of Canada’s most elusive wild animals steadily grows, Bencze has learned the power of individual image s to influence our perception of wild nature to elicit a response to conservation issues. “In my mind, the ideal conservation image keeps you awake at night with the image emblazoned in the backs of your eyelids,” she says. “It is an image that makes you t hink, perhaps plants a seed that grows into a new worldview and creates a change in your behaviour. The ideal conservation image would communicate a new perspective for you to take away and digest, and incorporate into your daily life.”

The Science of Co mmunication
Despite residing on the other side of Canada in the country’s urban center , fellow photographer, conservationist and educator Neil Ever Osborne couldn’t agree more with Bencze’s sentiment. Currently, Photographer - in - Residence at Canadian Geographic Magazine and Nikon Canada's newe st Ambassador , Osborne’s work has appeared in a plethora of publications around the country and the world, c ommunicating issues of ecology and
sustainability to their readers. According to Osborne, “conservation photography combines nature photography with the issue - oriented approach of documentary photography and in doing so becomes a tool for change.” But how exactly does it achieve this? And what’s the difference between documentary (or humanitarian photojournalism) and conservation photography? As someone who splits his time quite evenly between the farthest wilderness of the Canadian landscape and working on his agency, Evermaven in one of the country’s biggest cities, for Osborne, the real key to successful conservation photography is broad dissemination. “Conservation photography is really about the actions a photographer takes after the images have been ma de and the real responsibility starts after the shutter has been tripped,” he says. “It is about getting your images in front of the influential people that really need to see them. In this sense, conservation photographers put images to work. If an image of an issue or a cause can be used to emotionally engage people, then the image is doing its job.”
So, what is the best route for dissemination in Canada? In the age of the iPhone and social media when millions of images are being uploaded every day, how can budding conservation photographers expect their images to stand out from the crowd? And how can they bring their story to light? One solution Osborne offers is partnering with NGOs that already possess an established audience and often a large reach on social media platforms. “So many organizations working towards ecological sustainability are visually undernourished, investing in advertising is simply just not a priority for so many of them and this scenario is further confounded by rules that prohibit organizations from marketing like for - profit businesses,” says Osborne. “The result is that we don’t see or hear enough messaging that directly relates to the issues we’re facing. I still see a lot of car commercials and ads about video games but not enou gh about forest conversation or whales.”
But as Osborne adds, it’s important for emerging conservation photographers to consider several other aspects to their practice - namely; their skillset and their audience - that will make for effective conservation photography. Based in Toronto, Osborne’s agency, Evermaven seeks to bring together creative talent with a range of skills to produce a scope of communic ation services. Due in part to the recent explosion in technological advances and the very recent proliferation of consumer and prosumer drones, as Osborne says, “no longer is it enough for a photographer to simply be a lone wolf . Our teams need to h ave cinematographers and producers, drone operators and audio specialists to really create the compelling visual stories that make people react.” But diversifying your abilities is only half the battle. Once you are able to nail the technical aspects of th e craft, a good knowledge of who you are communicating those images to is paramount to efficacy. “I’ve shared a story about two photographers that take an image of the same tree. If one of the photographers is a grade 4 student and the other is a National Geographic photographer, who ends up with the more powerful image?” The answer might not be so obvious,” says Osborne. “If the viewer is the grade 4 student’s father, you can guess which one he might think is the stronger image. So, a good conservation ima ge first has to consider who is the audience.”

Keeping it Wild
Crossing Canada again - this time to the far reaches of the northern Yukon - conservation photojournalist Peter Mather is most likely to be found somewhere on the Dempster Highway: a fearsom e stretch of potholed dirt extending from somewhere near the town of Dawson to well north of the Arctic Circle. Attracting a small portion of only most adventurous tourists in the summer months, the Dempster Highway and it’s spectacular Tombstone Territori al Park provide endless vistas of sub - arctic tundra home to the famous porcupine caribou herd, a healthy population of bears, wolves and foxes and somewhere among the low - lying vegetation; Mather and his telephoto lens.
For Mather, the importance of audie nce and dissemination remains present but focus on immersion within the story and the environment is paramount. Describing himself as a photojournalist, Mather’s portfolio reveals several series of photos produced from lengthy stays within the Gwich’in Fir st Nation territory and Fishing Branch Territorial Park - some of the Yukon’s most remote and inhospitable landscapes. Taking the form of photo essays on Mather’s website - these stories read like traditional humanitarian photojournalism but are comprised equally with dynamic compositions of candid moments and what seems like conventional wildlife imagery that result in a well - rounded story of people and animals in the far north. As Mather explains, “the strength of conservation photography is in our abilit y to engage viewers, and I think to do that we need images that tell stories. When I’m shooting, I want a variety of images to tell the story that i’m seeing, so I compile these images as I’m working and determine what is missing or needed to connect the p ieces.”
In this way, Mather’s work successfully blends humanitarian stories with wildlife issues - effectively appealing to both spheres of photojournalism and conservation photography. But inevitably, certain stories of environment and ecology will require omissi on of humans from their consideration altogether as threats to the existence of species around the world are often of little consequence to people but our expanding circles of empathy are learning to perceive the plight of certain animals as an injustice. But, as Mather ponders, this might come for some species before others: “I think Canadians identify with a number of species,” he says. Wolves because they are so similar to people, beavers because they are our national symbol, loons because they are the s ound of Canada and caribou because they represent our far north.”
Echoing this is BC - based photographer Connor Stefanison whose focus on wildlife imagery has recently seen him awarded the Rising Star Portfolio Award in the London Natural History Museum Wi ldlife Photographer of the Year competition two years running. Known partly for his technical approach to wildlife camera traps and capturing wildlife images candidly, Stefanison submits that “people always seem to be drawn to the charismatic megafauna and owls. Storybook animals are always going to be popular with people too,” he says. And “the bias towards charismatic megafauna is similar to people’s obsession with photos of people like Kim Kardashian.” But perhaps what poses the biggest challenge to cons ervation photographers here is advocating for the protection of those animals that are often seen as less than adorable by Canadians. Namely, predators. “From what I’ve seen, Canadians have mixed feelings about
predators,” says Steafanison. “Certainly, peo ple in the big cities have more positive feelings towards predators than people in more rural communities but I think more people are starting to care about them. There has been a lot of predator conservation awareness in the last few years, and I’ve seen people come around.” However, citing the work of BC - based conservation organization Pacific Wild, Stefanison offers the solution that wildlife issues are more likely to quickly gain traction once they become “cool”. “I’m sure everyone now knows about the G reat Bear Rainforest,” he says. “British Columbia coastal conservation is now cool amongst Canadians, largely because of the outreach work being done by groups like Pacific Wild. Caring about conservation issues needs to be cool for the general public to b ecome involved.”
But despite Stefanison’s international success as a wildlife photographer and the efforts of Canadian conservation groups in appealing to a young audience, the twenty - five - year - old says he is shocked by the lack of aspiring wildlife photo graphers in his home country. Citing Canadians taking wilderness for granted as a possible cause, Stefanison says the lack of budding wildlife photographers among the Instagram generation is worrying: “At the photo festivals I’ve attended in Europe, I’m al ways shocked at how many young nature photographers there are - I’m almost certain that there are more young nature photographers in London than there are in all of Canada. Although Europe has some amazing wildlife, it doesn’t come close to what we have he re. Perhaps the lack of wilderness in Europe makes Europeans appreciate it more so maybe Canadians will change if things go bad here.”

 

Anthropocene
In this way, it would seem that Canadians’ ability to appreciate conservation photography is perhaps un iquely advanced as most residents of the country have grown up immersed within all that the wilderness has to offer. But Stefanison’s diagnosis of our deficit in wildlife photographers prompts some interesting questions that pe r haps point to the complexity of this relationship as a nation that has long thrived off logging and now mining of the Earth . Vancouver - based fine art and conservation photographer David Ellingsen’s family his tory within the Canadian landscape runs deep. A history that he says has allowed him to tap into the psyche of a country of people who’s relationship to the land is vast and complex and is something that puts us in great stead to understand the need for co nservation. “My story is certainly not unique - I think most Canadians, urban or rural, strongly identify with this vast, wild land,” says Ellingsen. “Whether we are regularly immersed in it or not, we have a sense of connection with it, of pride. I think, through these connections to our land, Canadians have an incredible potential to rise to its defence.”
Ellingsen’s family history in British Columbia is closely tied to logging in the province’s
southwest regions and much of the photographer’s work now a ddresses his personal divergence between his family’s legacy and contemporary discourse surrounding climate change and ecology in within his fine art practice. Somewhat dissimilar to the approaches of Bencze, Osborne, Mather and Stefanison, Ellingsen’s pra ctice resides somewhere closer to the realm of the conceptual and philosophical yet address the questions of anthropocentrism and ecology just pertinently as his contemporaries whilst additionally raising more metaphysical themes of time, place, self - aware ness and the concept of time. But as Ellingsen says, to most efficiently address such environmental concerns, both the conceptual and the literal should be equally embraced. “We need both as they speak to different audiences. People access and accept photo graphy in different ways and will find meaning in work that, for whatever reason, speaks to them In the context of the environmental crisis it’s crucial to have “all hands on deck” right now as we are currently within a time period where we still have the ability, according to some scientists, to pull things back from the brink of catastrophe for humanity.”
Applying such a method, Ellingsen’s catalogue of works to date has set out to quantify the accumulation of climate warming and explore a sense of ident ity within the fallen conifers on his family property but perhaps most prominently, in his series Anthropocene, prompt a resignation of our species ecological self - awareness. The series of photographs which utilized a focus stacking technique exhibits larg e (36 x 36 inch) prints of human skulls and other anatomical objects. As Ellingsen explains, in creating the body of work, he was “looking for a way to raise questions about our current relationship with the natural world and ideas of historical relationsh ips between humans and their environments that might be re - integrated as we attempt to positively navigate through our current dilemma.” From previous works, Ellingsen was well aware of the unsettling power of skulls and bones and “wanted to use this to cr eate photographs that spoke to a deeper, primal place in the viewer.”

Cultivating Concern
Considering the chorus of conservation photographers’ voices across our country, it would seem that they are in harmony when predicting the future of our planet and conservationists’ role in preserving it. As Ellingen furthers, the stage is set for people to re - consider their role within the environment and the importance of natural ecosystems. “I am hopeful that an awakening to the peril of one of the pillars of our national identity will stoke a reaction the likes of which we have not seen before in Canada. If we do reach this critical mass of moral outrage, then Canadians would really have something to be proud of,” he says. “We have everything we need in place exc ept the will of the majority.”
Echoing this, April Bencze says that this generation has its work cut out for it in “tackling climate change, keeping fossil fuels in the ground, preventing extinction, redefining how we coexist with wildlife and keeping wild erness alive. There’s a hefty list to tackle,” she says. But Neil Ever Osborne is optimistic when it comes to the ability of photographers to incite change as Canada’s conservation photography greats have continually proven their incredible
commitment to C anadian wilderness - and most importantly: completely independent of the camera. “I think the community is so strongly connected because of the inherent makeup of the people involved,” says Osborne. “The camera is just a tool. Take it away from Ian McAllis ter or Paul Nicklen and there’s no doubt in my mind these gentlemen would still be creating change.” As one great Canadian conservationist once said, the idea behind being in this business is to put yourself out work. In this way, it would seem that there is light on the horizon for both conservation photography and the health of ecosystems in Canada as i ncredibly passionate photographers like Bencze and Osborne are work ing tirelessly to put the environment first and their careers second.

 

Photojournalism's Startling Gender Disparity

for Capture Magazine

Last year, World Press Photo and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism published a startling statistic: that only 15% of news photographers are women. At a time when diversity is being advocated in all elds, photojournalism remains mysteriously homogenous in comparison to other photographic genres. Sam Edmonds gained an insight from some of the industry’s leading gures.

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Due in part to the recent rise of the social justice left, discourse surrounding gender equality in industries across the board has recently peaked with erce debate examining those professions traditionally dominated by men. Since an infamous Sky News article pitted alt-right broadcaster Milo Yiannopoulos against journalist Reni Eddo Lodge to hash out the (un)success of women in chess and STEM subjects, columnists around the globe have given their two cents regarding gender-imbalanced métiers. But (as do many creative industries), photojournalism seems to have own under the radar of this debate until a recent statistic was revealed in the newly implemented annual World Press “State of News Photography” report. Relying on an online survey of 1,556 news photographers who entered the 2015 World Press Photo contest - the report outlined that 85% of respondents were male. Compared with several other industries, this makes news photography almost uniquely unbalanced when it comes to the inclusion of both men and women. So, why such a disproportion? How has this gone relatively unreported (or unaddressed) until now? And should we be aiming for a more even-sided ratio of male and female professionals?

History, Stereotype and War

For photojournalist Andrea Bruce, part of the answer to several of these questions lies with the history of the news photography industry as male-dominated and the stereotype it has built. Photographers like Robert Capa and Eddie Adams gave way to James Nachtwey and perhaps most prominently in Hollywood, the image of the Bang Bang Club: four rugged male photographers with scarves, stubble and Leicas at the ready, anked by their attentive (and attractive) female photo editor. All of which has accumulated in the subconscious image of a male photojournalist in the minds of photo editors. “I don’t think any editor is purposefully not trying to hire women of course but I think that there is this stereotype that people have in their mind,” says Bruce. “When they think ‘Oh, I need to send someone to Mosul’, they are going to think of a scrappy, young man and they are going to call that person.”

Celebrated as one of the world’s best photojournalists and a co-owner and member of the NOOR photo agency, Bruce spent eight years at the Washington Post focusing on the United State’s presence in Iraq before making the plunge to freelance - a process that she says starkly highlighted the gender imbalance when unregulated by workplace mandates. “ ere are two different worlds in photography when it comes to documentary and photojournalism: there’s the newspaper world and then there's the freelance world. In

the newspaper world, you have organizations where people keep an eye on diversity to some degree,” she says. “But then I left the Washington Post and dove into the freelance world where it is a completely different ball game - it is de nitely not equal.” But Bruce’s time both as a staff photographer and a freelancer in Iraq served to illustrate many of the outside forces on the perception of women’s ability in war zones in general, noting a particular experience with the US Marines. “I had one situation where I showed up at a really remote outpost in Ramadi in Iraq and they wouldn’t let me stay where all the rest of the guys were staying. I had to stay in a shack pretty far from where the rest of them but it was little unsafe so the commanding officer made them stay up all night lling sand bags to cover my little shack to protect me,” she recalls. “It was one of the most humiliating situations.”

In addition to this, Andrea recalls a number of situations on the front-line where her gender became the focus of questions as to her ability in con ict zones. Recounting that “I have had soldiers tell me that I’m not supposed to be there just because I’m a woman” - Bruce points to the long standing association between this male stereotype of photojournalists and the idea that women may be less suited to the role because of a de ciency in stoicism or natural aggression. e former of which she highlights as unnecessary but the latter as perhaps just an unfortunate bi-product of an extremely competitive industry. “It’s funny because I think people assume that assuming the stereotype of a tough guy will help you in a war zone but I don’t think that is really true,” says Bruce. “But, unfortunately, a lot of women nd it difficult to be as aggressive as male photojournalists in the eld. is is a very very tough eld and you have to be pushy. For a woman it is hard to be pushy and be accepted so, women can often seen as being too aggressive. It’s like that thin line that women have to stand on between being too passive or being too aggressive. I think that is still an issue.”

While Bruce speci cally ags outdated stereotype and a con dence/aggression gap as key elements to the issue, UK/USA - based documentary photographer Daniella Zalcman extends the list of in uences on women to include “routine societal sexism that pervades most industries, a lack of institutional support for young independent female photojournalists and frequent sexual harassment at the hands of editors, fellow photographers, and subjects” but importantly; notes female photo editors as succumbing to stereotype as much as men. “Change doesn't happen overnight,” she says. “Just because some of the people in a position to hire women right now are women themselves doesn't mean we can undo decades of institutionalized sexism.” In fact, it would seem that “some” might be an understatement as women presently represent the overwhelming majority of top-tier photo editors at Time Magazine, e Washington Post, National Geographic, e British Journal of Photography, e New York Times, e Sydney Morning Herald and many other of the world’s most prevalent publications. So why this discrepancy between two very closely related roles in the industry?

According to Zalcman, the answer lay in hiring practices and photo editor’s predicament of simply not being able to nd a large number of female photojournalists to choose from. In response, Zalcman founded “Women Photograph” - a repository of female photographers’ portfolios from around the world that, in her words would attempt to “eliminate that excuse”. As she further explains: the impetus for founding Women Photograph was simple. “ ere's a huge diversity problem in the photojournalism industry, and that's dangerous. is is less an issue of affirmative action and more about making sure that we're being responsible journalists,” she says. “We can't continue to represent the world to the general public through the eyes of only white men.” In addition to the reservoir of portfolios on the Women Photograph website, the organization has recently launched a series of grants, will soon be launching a mentorship program, and also aims to begin a travel fund available to non-western photographers. But from the organization’s initial M.O, it would seem that Women Photograph primarily seeks to put the ball in the court of photo editors.

Heralding Women

But is it naive to assume (or even to insinuate) that gender imbalance could be solved simply by placing the onus on photo editors to halve assignments between men and women? Now that Women Photograph exists, can we expect to see 50/50 rather than 15/85? Or what else is at play here? As Sydney Morning Herald photo editor Mags King details, there is much more to consider than just splitting it down the middle. At the helm of the photo department for one of Australia’s largest print and online news outlets, King is tasked with the processes of both editing visual content for the Herald and with tasking the Fairfax photography team with assignments both locally and internationally - a process that she says considers the individual personalities of her team members but most importantly, the sensitivities of the subjects involved. “Day in, day out you have news and people stories that might be for example a mother that has lost a child or a breast cancer victim; something that is sort of sensitive,” says King. “In those cases it does cross your mind. You think; OK, I don’t think a female subject that has been through something horrendous will feel comfortable if I send a male photographer.” e result of this, says King, is an immense bene t not only for the subject but also for the photographer and the resulting images. “What I get [in these scenarios] if I send someone like Louise Kennerley or Kate Geraghty is a subject who is far more relaxed and it will be a far more easier procedure. If you only have an hour with the subject, they can feel at ease much quicker.”

King explains that for an experienced photo editor of more than twenty years, this process of pairing subject and photographer is “almost natural - it’s an instinctual thing” but as she openly admits, her reliance on the behaviours patterns and sensitivities of men and women to do her job well can at times feel anomalous in a society where political correctness remains word of the day. “ is is the interesting thing because at the moment we’re in the whole world of ‘we shouldn’t have these traditional thoughts in our head’ but it is actually being human beings,” says King - alluding to an assignment on which she sent Fairfax staff photographer Kate Geraghty to document the daily life of Hamas leader, Khalid Mishal. “In those photos you can see that that guy was completely open with Kate and at ease with sharing his very very private life and his family. And the pictures that she got were just incredible,” says King. “But if you had sent a man on that job, it could have worked the opposite way. With testosterones and cultural differences etc. I can almost bet that that would have played a part in un-peeling and revealing who this person is.” Boasting a number of Australia’s most celebrated photographic names including Geraghty, James Brickwood, Nick Moir and Peter Rae, King’s quiver of talents to draw upon at the Herald is substantial however, while photographic competence is high across the board, King points to the variability in con dence between her male and female staff. “When it comes to down to it, women are really concerned about getting the work done properly, they tend to be more concentred about ownership and they will ask questions. But what I put it down to is that they just don’t want to fuck up,” she says. “ ese are people that have been photographing for twenty or thirty years yet the con dence level is not there. But If I give a compliment to a male photographer, if I tell them something they did was really good, the response is really ‘oh, cheers but I knew that anyway - I know it’s good’”.

In response to this, it has been King’s personal mandate to facilitate the assertiveness of her female staff saying that “I think it is really important for me to boost females’ con dence, to herald them and to push for their names for equality. Only by having those affirmations can you build con dence and make younger female photographers feel con dent as well.” Attesting to this and in stark contrast to Bruce and Zalcman’s idea of sexism among photo editors, Herald staff photographer Kate Geraghty says that her career both at Fairfax and physically on the front lines in the Middle East has seen her constantly supported by Mags King and other photo editors at the Sydney Morning Herald. “I was the rst female photographer that Fairfax sent to con ict and during that, my editors had my back,” says Geraghty. “I’ve actually been chosen to go to con icts and cover for the Herald because of experience and because I’m the

right person for the job. In my experience, I’ve never ever been knocked back from an assignment because I’m a female. Especially con ict.”

Having risen quickly to the top of Fairfax’s ranks, Geraghty is now one of Australia’s most prominent photographic voices and since joining the Sydney Morning Herald in 2001 has ostensibly become King’s go-to person for con ict coverage. Having covered stories Bali, Jakarta, Sumatra, Iraq, Lebanon, Cambodia and Singapore, Geraghty has made a name for herself as a seasoned and adept con ict storyteller which has been recognized by several Walkley Press Photographer of the year awards and a United Nations Peace Award for Photojournalism. But as Geraghty says, while this illustrious career was made possible by the efforts of female photojournalists before her, she believes the focus now should move to advocating simply for ethical storytelling. “I was blessed to be starting my career at a time when female photographers have already championed their position and I am deeply respectful of that,” she says. “But I think now, in today’s society we just need good photographers telling great stories and doing it ethically. It shouldn’t be about male or female but then again, I live in a country where in society, women are equal to men so, I am coming from a very privileged position. Of course, you want stories to be told by both genders but at the end of the day, if people are telling stories ethically and respecting the subject matter, I don’t care who does it.”

e Future In Equality

Since the publication of World Press Photos’s inaugural report in late 2015, the “State of News Photography” has since seen it’s second edition with absolutely no change to the original statistic. Women are still outnumbered almost 9:1 by men in news photography. So, what does this array of some of the industry’s most prominent female practitioners see for the future of women in photojournalism? As Zalcman says, the issue of gender disparity in news photos will remain stagnant as long as “societal sexism” still prevails and that “we can't hope to truly tackle it in our industry until it's being addressed more effectively societally.” One point Zalcman emphasizes is that better equality among assignment distribution boils down to “a matter of knowing what each photographer's strong suit is - and [knowing that] that has nothing to do with gender.” But also posits that “on average, women sometimes tend to be more drawn to longer, slower, more intimate stories.” So, in news photography where the work ow is inherently shorter, faster and less intimate, does this perhaps shed some light as to a partial cause for the lopsided gender ratio? As Mags King says: “ ere is de nitely an underlying, more sort of cautious approach in all the female photographers at the Sydney Morning Herald. I don’t know where it stems from but perhaps - if I’m going to align myself with them - it’s probably about not wanting to fail and really doing your best because its your name at the end of the day.” From this, it would seem that Zalcman’s and King’s sentiments, while seemingly at odds, both tacitly and explicitly (respectfully) admit to a subtle difference in the modus operandi of men and women in news photography. e only difference is in the trajectory from this point. While King and Geraghty seem to have thrived in a photo editor/ photographer relationship that sees both making decisions partly in uenced by Geraghty’s strong points and abilities as a woman in the eld; Zalcman seems less inclined to embrace this more “traditional” thought process but advocates simply for a more even split between who is telling the "most important stories”. Both of which seem to be striving for the same heights: making sure that we're being responsible journalists.

Seven Questions with VII

for Capture Magazine

Like all genres of photography, the world of photojournalism, editorial and conflict photography has changed significantly in last two decades ago, to the point where it’s practically unrecognizable. The influences of citizen journalism, the World Press aesthetic and the epoch of iPhone photography have drastically influenced the discourse of professional reportage and in place of aesthetic documentation, a mass of shock-value imagery saturates media. But fifteen years ago, at a time when digital photography was slowly taking hold, a group of the world’s leading photojournalists got together form a photo agency dedicated to empowering photographers and preserving the art of reportage in the face of technology.

VII was founded in 2001 by seven of the world’s leading photojournalists (Ron Haviv, Gary Knight, Christopher Morris, John Stanmeyer, Alexandra Boulat, James Natchtwey and Antonin Kratochvil) and has since become an institution for maintaining quality in reportage while their archive of images represents an stunning synopsis of the late twentieth centuries defining moments. Now ensuring the future of their craft with the revered VII mentor program and with new CEO Andy Patrick at the helm, Capture spoke with some of VII’s founders to gain an insight as to the future of the collective and the future of their industry.


Capture: Why was VII formed?

Ron Haviv: VII was born in a time of dramatic change in the business of photography. The initial impetus to start VII was the consolidation of photo agencies by Corbis and Getty in the late 90’s and early 00’s. The realization that photographers were not having enough of a say in the way their work was managed from start to finish led Gary Knight and John Stanmeyer to look for a solution. The advent of digital technology was beginning to allow photographers to manage the distribution and archiving of their work, something that had never really existed before. In short, the combination of the market and technology along with the realization that we needed to be more in control of all aspects of our photography cemented the need for the creation of VII.

John Stanmeyer: To empower our work during the beginning of the era where we saw many photo agencies being purchased by large entries. Also as a means to collectively unit with likeminded people with the same purpose, passion.

 

 

Capture: How has the world changed since the beginning of VII? And how has this impacted your work and approach to photography?

Ron Haviv: The world continues to spin and VII continues to document the motion. Our audience has changed since our inception. We have moved more towards being publishers than content suppliers. VII uses the changing tools of visual storytelling to find different ways to reach our audiences.

Gary Knight: The main challenge for the agency is the change in the market not politics or society. Storytellers have to deal with the world as they find it, that is part of the magic of this job. The market changes have been dramatic and we are still managing them. The two principle daily challenges are the means of production and the sale of product. We could never have anticipated how enormous those changes would be. The means of distribution have also changed, the obvious benefit is of course that we can reach our audience directly but the cost of that has been that revenue from image sales has dropped significantly. We now work more in partnership and collaboration with others. The new economy has been interesting for me. I decided that I wanted to stop photographing war during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, about the time the media really started to struggle. I was lucky and was able to leave that world early and migrate to a space where my photographic, academic and entrepreneurial interests could all be developed.


John Stanmeyer: Changed exactly as envisioned…where the power to communicate has never been more profound and purposeful, especially for small collective groups. Profoundly, in a wonderful way. Expanding and communicating in astonishing ways we only imagined when starting VII, today actually seeing those wheels turning. It is an exciting, empowering, engaging time for photography and humanity.

 


Capture: What is the key advice given to those partaking in the VII mentor program? What does VII try to encourage in up-and-coming photographers?

Ron Haviv: There is a great belief in the idea of helping the next generation of photographers. Many of us benefitted from formal and informal mentorships in our career. The mentees are guided both in their photographic path as well as the business path, to help them not only survive but thrive once they leave the program.

Gary Knight: I think anyone involved in that program needs to be bold and really demand a lot from the person mentoring them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The value of the experience depends on how you mange the relationship with the mentor. I think the greatest value is structural - how to structure your work, how to build a career - rather than aesthetic.

John Stanmeyer: There isn’t one universal piece of advice for those in the Mentor Program. Each is a creative, impassioned individual in their own right. We (the members who are support/collaborating with other photographer/mentee, tries to nurture and expand that individuals vision, purpose, helping and guiding them to foster their careers and fire. There isn’t one universality.

 


Capture: What are your views on the current state of the industry? What is of concern to you? And where are we making progress with photography?

Ron Haviv: The industry remains in flux, as it has been since I started more than 25 years ago. Sources of funding and ways to reach audiences remain challenges. At the same time, there do exist great opportunities for photographers to have impact with their work and make a living while doing so. And ultimately, it must be remembered that visual storytelling is crucial in keeping the world community connected, so there must be constant support for this work.

Gary Knight: I just take it as it is and try to adapt. I think that is the best way to survive or thrive. I think creating value in specialization is the key for agencies like VII

John Stanmeyer: No concerns whatsoever. Limitless potential. Just completely different than 15 years ago, utterly different than one year ago. Very different than 6 months ago and will be astoundingly different in a year from now. Concerns would only be for those who do not realize the enormous possibilities taking place.

 


Capture: How would you suggest photojournalists/documentary photographers survive in these challenging times?

Ron Haviv: Survival today is accomplished by having smart ideas in combination with a great visual voice. It’s that simple.

Gary Knight: Work vertically rather than laterally. Become known for deep knowledge of something. Think of yourself as a specialist in an issue first and a photographer second.

John Stanmeyer: Adapt. Embrace. Work relentlessly, passionately. There has never been more opportunities in photojournalism/documentary photography then there is today. Again, it is simply utterly different than 3-6 months ago, as if 15 years past was the Palaeolithic era.

 


Capture: How is technology impacting the industry? And how should photojournalists be looking to interact with this?

Ron Haviv: Photography has always intertwined with developments in technology; the two go hand-in-hand. The relatively new tools of VR, along with the somewhat older tools of video and audio should be incorporated when needed. Photographers have never been afraid to push to the
next level.

Gary Knight: Like any business or craft it is important to understand all the new technology advancements and chose what you want to use and engage with but you probably don’t need it all. Ultimately the technology is a tool, not a strategy. Use the tools you need to execute the strategy.  My main focus is critical thought, analysis, research, understanding and communicating ideas - and then using the technologies I need to achieve those aims. I don’t start with the technology and then see what fits.

 


Capture: What does the future look like for photojournalism and documentary photography? And how will this influence the direction that VII takes in the future?

Ron Haviv: The future is always going to be about how can we reach our audience. I exist to tell a story and I want it to have impact. As our audience becomes more fragmented, we face more challenges in being part of the conversation. This constant struggle of how to rise above and stand out will shape the direction of VII as we move into the future.

Gary Knight: I have no idea what the future holds. What I think is critical is this: VII needs to have the best management team that it can afford to adapt to the market, it needs to be entrepreneurial and light-footed, and we need strong photographers who produce insightful and thoughtful work. With those things in place we can adapt and have a chance of surviving - and hopefully thriving!

Andy Patrick: Photojournalism and documentary photography are under continual pressure. Whether it's the collapse of the editorial market, the collapse of the re-sale market, the impact of digital and the Internet, or that nearly everyone now has a camera in their pocket – the fact is that to be successful in the photography business requires a broad and agile approach combined with a lot of hustle. Broad as in looking at the full spectrum of the market to identify business opportunities. Agile as in being flexible with your business, reassessing frequently so as to make adjustments to your approach. And hustle as in working your tail off, keeping your eyes open for opportunity, and leveraging your networks. As applied to VII, this means you'll see us experimenting with new ways of reaching audiences around the world, learning in the process and adjusting as we go. With the billion or so images uploaded to the Internet every day, it is now even more important that a distinction be made between being able to 'snap a picture' and being able to develop a visual story that has intimacy with its subjects, authenticity in its approach, and heart at its core. The younger generations in particular now use images as their primary means of communicating. Details of this vernacular are still evolving, but the requirement for authenticity is a key element. As some of the most authentic humans on the planet, photojournalists and documentary photographers are central to our understanding of what it means to be alive. In this sense, there could not be a more important time for our craft.
John Stanmeyer: In many actualities, possibilities, simply removing the names -- i.e., Social Media or what should be called Self Publishing. The future for VII? You will have to ask those at VII who are full-time, active members. In the last year or two I have become what we call a Distinguished Member or Emeritus Member of VII, a division or place within VII where those who do not want or need support of a agency can exist in their own autonomous space while still being connected to VII. There’s an added anomaly regarding my relationship with VII…I also am represented by National Geographic Creative agency which manages all my work through National Geographic. VII only represents my historic archive, where my interaction with VII primarily exists through group books, projects, education and exhibition.This is why I shared that the purpose and future of VII should be determined by those who are more engaged. As an opinion, my answer to your question would be simple: Extremely bright.

 

A Year in Review: Editorial Photography

for Capture Magazine


2016 has been a tumultuous year. Spanning the refugee crisis to Trump, Brexit, climate change and terrorism, the world’s photojournalists and editorial photographers have fired all on cylinders to churn out insightful and meaningful visual storytelling. But while the Western World’s media giants embraced new technology at unprecedented rates, some skeletons from photography’s closet dared to emerge in similarly established places. Sam Edmonds spoke with some of the industry’s best to find out why.

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Photojournalism in 2016 could perhaps be surmised by one image made this year. The dazed expression of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh sitting in the back of an ambulance after an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria stands at once as a symbol of our growing inurement to war but the images of the bright-eyed boy that captured hearts around the world also re-validated the power of the photograph in what seems like a sea of conflict images. Equally significant to the photographic ethos was World Press Photo’s inaugural State of News Photography report that revealed a swath of discrepancies in ethical practice along with several issues of underrepresentation. The launch of Instagram stories and it’s swift addition to the news media’s quiver of dissemination methods saw a new paradigm for real-time storytelling. And the revelations that one of photography’s most established figures had purposely defied his audience brought to light a painfully age-old debate about truth and objectivity. What ties these episodes together and what would prove to be the theme for our industry in 2016 is that photojournalism seems to be taking a good, hard look in the mirror. Or perhaps is in need of one. While the face of Omran Daqneesh reflected the importance of photographs in personalizing world events, the boy’s gaze served as a brief reprieve for a discipline struggling to keep up with its own ideals. And in Omran’s confusion, photography caught a glimpse of its bewildered self.


Adversity in Diversity

Setting the scene for 2016’s photojournalism industry was World Press Photo’s inaugural State of News Photography report. Published in December 2015 and quizzing a field of 1,556 photographers from over 100 countries whom entered the 2015 World Press Photo contest, the 76 page report, outlined a startling  array of statistics revealed by Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study Journalism. Among the facts and figures, the respondents revealed that more than two thirds of professional photojournalists have tertiary educations, an overwhelming majority of photojournalists have been affected by unauthorized use of images, 52% of news photographers stage photographs at least “sometimes” and that a quarter alter the contents of their images at a similar frequency. But for documentary photographer, lecturer and contributor to TIME magazine’s Lightbox column, Anastasia Taylor-Lind, the most perturbing of the revelations is the dominance of men in contemporary news photography with 85% of the survey’s participants being male. According to Taylor-Lind, this represents a long-standing and presently unaddressed issue of underrepresentation in the photography world - a matter that concerns not only women but also a lack of racial diversity and an almost non-presence of LGBTQ practitioners. “If you look at the statistics you would hardly believe that it’s 2016,” says the UK-born photographer. “The questions really is… are photographers cognizant of this? And I find time and time again when I speak to photographers about the issue of underrepresentation in photography, people deny that there’s a problem.” As Taylor-Lind further submits, the problem lies not simply with a need for inclusivity but that as visual historians, the viewpoints of a vast of array of ethnically and sexually diverse individuals serves as the basis for truly accurate reporting on global events. “Geographical diversity is a huge issue,” she says. “The majority of stories being told in the international Western media regardless of where they are reporting on are stories being told by white, heterosexual middle-aged men from the richest countries in the world. The reason we need more Iraqi photographers, for example, is that our industry will be better because of it. So, the argument for having more diversity is not to help some poor photographer in some African country or to make it cheaper for a picture editor - the reason we need to encourage more diversity in photography is that it will make out industry stronger.”  

While the need for diversity among storytellers seems axiomatic to the notion of true documentary, 2016 has seemingly witnessed similar call for diversity in storytelling methodology after Spanish photographer Daniel Ochoa de Olza’s images of Parisian attack victims were withdrawn from atop the World Press podium by his agency, Associated Press. By re-capturing physical photographs laid out by victims’ families and friends now adorned with rain droplets from their exposure to the elements, de Olza’s work brilliantly altered current photographic vernacular by reinterpreting the flow of information from victim to audience. But while AP’s reason for their withdrawal of the photographs still seems unclear, Taylor-Lind says this is symptomatic of the industry’s inability to accept non-traditional photojournalistic methods. Using postcards sent to an audience all over the world, Taylor-Lind’s current long-term body of work Welcome to Donetsk is exemplary of a new approach to visual dissemination. “Increasingly, our job as photographers will change,” she says. “It is not only to create pictures but also to curate pictures and to verify them… I’m using others’ photographs in my work now… there are many examples of photographers who are curating photographs… but, we still need to change professional photojournalism because what those photographers are curating will be a reflection of who they are, what they know and where their interests lie.”


Changing with the Times

Although Taylor-Lind’s concern for underrepresentation of both photographers and photographic technique is clear, for arguably the world’s largest disseminator of photo essays and classical reportage, the more traditional techniques remain tried and true. And as Taylor-Lind describes the cliche of “shining a light on dark corners of the world” as “archaic”, New York Times Senior Photo Editor Craig Allen says that to shine a light is “what they have always done, and that isn't changing any time soon.” Pointing to a string of photographic successes this year including coverage of conflict in the Middle East, climate change and malaria in Venezuela, Allen argues for the Times’ unparalleled photographic quality but amongst the cohort refers to Australian photojournalist Adam Ferguson’s coverage of Brexit as a particularly good example. Ferguson’s black and white street scenes of everyday voters cast in dark shadows and vibrant compositions seemingly brought a political issue to a new audience with photographs that made a complex matter much more digestible. “Brexit was a very non-visual story that we knew was going to be tough to illustrate. That's why we commissioned Adam to do a photo essay that would run on the day of the vote,” says Allen. “We asked Adam to commit a fairly significant amount of time to the project and to really think about which areas would have pro-Brexit voters, so we could show what those places look like. In the end, it worked very well, and we were one of the only news organizations who had a visually compelling story to present on June 23 and I do see it as one very good example of contemporary journalism.”

Of equal importance to the Times and to the world this year, was the image of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh bright-eyed and bewildered in the back of an Syrian ambulance. After flooding social media and bringing news anchors to tears on live TV, the footage certainly seemed to “shine a light” but according to the Allen, among the galaxy of images depicting child victims of war (including Tyler Hicks’ infamous image from 2015), the image of Omran speaks the most to the nature of our industry as heartstrings around the world were pulled but the gruesome realities of conflict were omitted. “It’s heart-wrenching, but not graphic,” he says. “Graphic photos don't go viral, and most people have an extremely limited appetite for the true realities of war. If Omran were dead, this photo would not have been shared the world over. I think the photo says more about the audience and the nature of viral photos that it does about photojournalism.”


What’s the Story?

But as The New York Times continues as the flagship of contemporary reportage, while a fleet of smaller outlets have hastily added any and all new technologies to their arsenal of dissemination methods, as Allen recognizes, “We've embraced emerging technology as quickly as we can, but a ship as large as The Times doesn't turn on a dime.” Referring to the quick uptake of Instagram Stories by media big guns like TIME magazine and their coverage of immigrant vessels by Lynsey Addario, Allen admits that while his publication has maintained a robust presence on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter this year, the ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories has so far been a deterrent for The Times. “We've delved into Virtual Reality, Facebook Live and 360 video this year but Instagram Stories are perishable, and since they disappear after a day, at the moment we have decided not to use this feature (yet).”

This concern for the quick and easy consumption of photographs is shared by Canadian/Australian photojournalist, David Maurice Smith, citing the inability of such concise communications to facilitate any real reflection. And with Instagram’s change to its algorithms this year, photographers have a right to be concerned that their images are now subordinate to more ulterior motives. “I am questioning the “next big thing” conversation around new social media like snapchat, Instagram stories. Now with the changes to algorithms we are seeing it emerge as simply another tool owned by a large company to generate cash for shareholders,” says Maurice Smith. “I still use it and enjoy it but to be honest I put very little “real” value on social media. It is a necessary evil. It is changing the way we look at work… fast and brief visual encounters vs. slow and reflective (in print). As a visual storyteller this is something I struggle to appreciate.”


On the Horizon

For Antipodeans like David Maurice Smith, the demise of Instagram in 2016 has certainly been a blip on the radar but while a number of Australian names are continuing to make it big on the world stage and names like Daniel Berehulak even gracing the (web)pages of the World Press Awards, back home, the scene has been more bleak. “Australian editorial photography has had a rough year -  essentially there are really no publications commissioning stories and giving actual photographic assignments anymore,” says Maurice Smith.  “The publications are firing people, not hiring, and in order to work for them you have to be willing to work on the cheap. There has been a veritable bloodbath with Google and Facebook sucking up advertising dollars at insane rates, leaving publications with a very difficult road ahead when it comes to funding.”

However, there is light on the horizon. August of 2016 saw the addition of three new members to one of Australia’s foremost photography collectives - Oculi. Adding  the emerging talents of John Feely, Alana Holberg and Matthew Abbott to their current collection of well-established practitioners, Maurice Smith says that “While all different, the three of them are all working in different realms which do not rely on the editorial market for supporting their practice.” But whether these new recruits from Australia’s next wave of professional photographers come to rely on the editorial market or not, it would seem that Oculi’s upgrades represent a continuing bond to what keeps editorial photography and photojournalism alive. Something that uber-successful editorial photographer Brian Finke says is at the heart of his work. Shooting this year alone for names like National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine and Conde Naste, The New York-based practitioner points to the core of photographic ideals as the source of his success and adds that a strong photographic voice is ultimately what editors will respond to. “I believe in a photographer building their own visual style and feeling confident about that,” he says. “Subject matter-wise, I think it’s about photographing whatever someone is really interested or drawn to and then editors always respond to seeing a photographer being really passionate about something and taking their own time to work on it.”

Evidently, 2016 has seen a rocky road for editorial photography and photojournalism and to some extent, the turmoil seen in global events this year has been somewhat reflected in the reportage industry’s handling of these affairs. But while underrepresented photographers are struggling among a sea of Instagram stories, the industry’s leviathans are still proving the power of imagery in influencing perception and on our home shores, the tradition of aesthetic and delicate storytelling marches on with new recruits proving that Australian photography has both its head and its heart in the right place. 

The Political Climate Change

for Capture Magazine

Since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced by natural disasters. As our consumption-based habits further fuel the climactic conditions that spur such events, humanity faces a time where the term “climate change” graces the headlines of our newspapers at an ever-increasing rate and photographers’ portrayal of these events is more often seen through the lens of “conservation”. Sam Edmonds investigates the shift of climate issues from the periphery to front and centre of news media and photojournalism’s new shade of green.

Conservation photography has traditionally been a part of documentary practice that takes place only at the furthest reaches of the globe. While the greats of National Geographic have been heralded for their coverage of stories in the driest deserts of Africa or on the coldest ice sheets of Antarctica, as global climate change and environment issues continue to increase in both frequency and severity, contemporary photojournalists are finding work covering such issues closer to home. At this stage in economic and industrial development, with the need to more seriously reflect upon our role on the planet, conservation photography is evolving to suit its new role as a more frequent theme in mainstream media. But in the wake of journalism’s embrace of both visual and written climate change nomenclature, the ethical implications of reporting on climate science are coming to light along with a redefinition of the line between journalism and activism. And while the ominous nature of climate change reportage may be a tough pill to swallow, the need for traction amongst a young and highly visually literate audience puts photography at the forefront of communicating the future of our species.  


Fanning the Flames

May 1st, 2016 saw the start of what may become the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history when a wildfire ignited near the community of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Over the following six weeks, approximately 2,400 homes were destroyed and an estimated nine billion Canadian dollars of damage was inflicted. But what makes the Fort McMurray fire particularly interesting was the media reporting that ensued as several of the word’s largest publications covered the story as a climate change issue. In what surely fanned the flames of debate surrounding economics vs. ecology, the town’s role as the gateway to Canada’s oil sands (one of the most destructive resource extraction sites on the planet) was ironically cited as part of the catalyst for what destroyed it: record-breaking temperatures in the area causing dried boreal forest and early snow melt that lead to an increase in wildfires.

Ian Willms is a Canadian documentary photographer and photojournalist that, in addition to covering the Alberta fire for the New York Times, has been visiting Fort McMurray for the past six years for a long-term project examining the town’s changing landscape. Willms' body of work on the area will seek to explore the cross roads between different cultures, different ideas of the economy, the conflict between economy and ecology and the issue between sustainably and immediate benefits. An exploration that has put him somewhat at odds with the media’s take on Fort McMurray. “I’m certainly hesitant to jump on that bandwagon because really what I’m doing up in Fort McMurray is more of an historical document about the changes that have been occurring there over years,” he says. While some publications were certainly quick to jump on this climate-change bandwagon, Willms posits that at this stage, the diagnosis might just be speculation. “It’s hard to say in any situation what climate change is causing and what it’s not causing and it’s a very heated argument, especially in For McMurray where people there depend on the oil and gas industry for their livelihood,” he says. “From a humanistic perspective, sure you could make the argument that that fire is a result of climate change but you could also make the argument that it’s not and for somebody who’s sitting there who lost their house to that fire, it’s a pretty tough wound to open up.”

Willms maintains that his publisher was asking valid questions about the issue,  but the Toronto-based photographer posits that in doing so, we should be careful to understand what arguing for climate-change really means for the future of photojournalism. “It’s a tough thing to make a case for in journalism - to go to a person who’s town flooded and say ‘well, your town flooded because of climate change so I’m going to cover it from this angle’ and they say, well ‘the town flooded fifty years ago, too’,” say Willms. “What do you do as a storyteller that’s trying to be objective, when you’re covering an issue that the population doesn’t seem to agree on and the science is unfolding as we speak? I don’t doubt in my heart that it’s a big problem but you’re really pushing the line between journalism and activism when you’re reporting on climate change.”


Preaching to the Choir

Evidently, a need to maintain journalistic integrity is axiomatic to the communication of any conservation or climate change story but for Australian documentary photographer Patrick Brown, the line between journalism and activism can be crossed simply by using the very term “conservation photographer”. Best known for his long-term body of work, Trading to Extinction, which examines the commercialization of the illegal animal trade, Brown has launched his career in documentary photography by visually addressing one of Asia’s longstanding conservation issues but says that he consciously avoids labelling himself as anything other than a documentarian. “By labelling yourself with conservation photographer then you’re labelling yourself an activist and that automatically is going to alienate you from a large portion of the population. In my view, you are going to change more opinions and more perception if you show people what you have witnessed, not to dictate to them.” It’s in this way that Brown points to the importance of recognizing the ability of your audience. “You are dealing with an incredibly articulate, visually literate audience that can make up its own mind,” he says. “And as soon as you start to label yourself a conservationist photographer, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot.”

As Brown further elaborates, we are now living at a time where the ability of photographers to recognize and cater to their audience will essentially be make-or-break for the future of our planet. While a long legacy of what was essentially wildlife photography of the sixties and seventies laid the foundation blocks for our perception of wild nature, Brown asserts that a shift has taken place in which that same strand of documentary is now pointing the lens at us - and we are more willing to listen. But as he makes clear, maybe we shouldn’t be turning to the New York Times for dissemination of climate or conservation photography when those who really have the power to make change might be too young to be reading such a newspaper. “How many young adults are reading the New York Times? It’s more for a mature audience and they have already made their political choices when they were in their early twenties. It’s the younger publications that seem to be more in tune with the environment than the old, mainstream media,” he says. “That’s where you will be able to gain your traction to be able to get people to look at the world in a different way. And they are the future generation that will control the future of the planet, politically and morally.”

But while Brown’s argument for the autonomy of photographers from both the “conservation” label and working with the vested interests ofNGOs may seem the most logical when advocating for independent storytelling that an audience can trust, Melbourne-based photographer and videographer, Tim Watters argues that visual media’s role within the work of large NGO’s can spur conservation efforts by other, more direct means. Watters' extensive history working with non-government organizations such as Sea Shepherd Conservation Society became the basis for his understanding of communicating on behalf of such groups but several instances throughout his career have also proven the role of photographs to directly affect legislation or the understanding of conservation policing bodies. This was made abundantly clear during Sea Shepherd’s “Operation Driftnet” campaign, on which Watters’ images of illegal fishing practices as presented to Interpol and the UN by the former’s naval captains, resulted in the shut-down of 100 fishing vessels and the suspension of licenses from those involved - an effort that was only made possible by the images two-pronged effect on both a general audience and on those in power to make the change. “The images we were able to capture really served two roles - they were able to educate people about what was happening and gain an emotional connection. But an important other role was that the relevant governing bodieswere made aware,” says Watters. “So the supporters of the world supported via donations which allowed the Sea Shepherd vessels to stay down there and interfere using direct action but on the other side, getting all those photographic documents to the governing bodies saw the vessels suspended. So, without these photos, all these governing bodies would have known as little as the individuals that support us.”

It’s in this way that Watters’ points to the megaphone affect of NGO’s when communicating issues to an audience and while this may only communicate the journalistic message to an already converted following of the organization, it’s the power of establishment, strength in numbers and availability of resources that organizations have at their disposal that serve to amplify their photographic voice. As Watters admits, while his photographs for Operation Drifnet were incredibly successful, he doubts the ability of pictures he would have shot independently in causing the same stir. “If I would have bought a tinny, gone out and started documenting this issue, I doubt that it would have had the same effect.” he says.


Natural Aesthetics

Seemingly in harmony with Brown’s sentiment of independence from the term conservation photographer in documentary and news contexts, editorial outlets for natural history and biology have long accepted the conservation message inherent in their visual communication without a need to underline it. But in the world of National Geographic, The Smithsonian and equally for Chrissie Goldrick, editor in chief and previous picture editor of 14 years at Australian Geographic, the beauty of the natural world is paramount when eliciting an emotional response from the viewer. As Goldrick explains, the need for preservation is simply a given in most Australian Geographic stories. “Our magazine is a geographical magazine so basically it’s about the Earth, it’s about the land and the way we treat that land,” she says. “Clearly, in a magazine in which that is the main editorial focus, there is a conservation element to it because most of the time when we are reporting on natural history, we are addressing the threat to that natural history and climate change, increased loss of habitat etc.” But while the conservation message is a constant, Goldrick says the sobering nature of such communiques are often made more palatable by aesthetics. “People can become very switched off when reading these stories of climate change and loss so we use photography to really engage people, to get their attention and what we hope is that they understand the issue,” she says.  The way we do that is not really by showing the problem, what we try and do is show them the beauty of nature and show people what we all have to lose rather than what we’ve lost already.”

In addition to recognizing the sensitivities of an audience when consuming visual media that so often speaks of impending environmental destruction or the end of an innocent species, Goldrick posits that the job of disseminating information about conservation issues is made more complex simply by the plethora of images to which we are exposed every day. “Learning about the natural world, weather through the biology or the aboriginal/cultural people in Australia, it is not the most easily consumed information when you’ve got so many other things vying for attention,” she says. However, the result of this is arguably a doubled-edged effect: while the voice of those expressing concern for our ecological future is often drowned out by the sheer amount of other photographs to which we are exposed, this mass of imagery has actually made us better at understanding what a good photograph is (at least, in an aesthetic sense). Proof of which, says Goldrick, can be found on social media every day. “We have this idea that we are so bombarded by photographs and therefore the standard of what counts as good have dropped over the years… but what I see on Instagram is the opposite of that and really amazing photographs getting a really big reaction.” she says. For the team at Australian Geographic this serves to corroborate their mantra that the way to educate and inspire about acting on conservation issues is through spectacular imagery. “We spend serious budget every year in the magazine to produce beautiful and original material that is good quality because we need to reinforce the fact that this is an important part of people’s lives - it is important to consider the environment around them because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.” says Goldrick.


Shifting Perspective

While an aesthetic appreciation of the world around us is arguably one of the most effective tools for encouraging a need for conservation, some would argue that the history of this tactic has been somewhat predicated upon only seeing the natural world through professional photographers’ eyes and perpetuating our only conception of ecological issues through the lens of Western people who are almost solely those socioeconomically privileged enough to call photography their career or their full-time hobby.
Canadian photographer Peter Mather’s long term project Caribou People visually explores the lives of thirteen First Nations in Canada’s remote north with the intent of uncovering a whole new perspective on ecological issues. Mather’s photo essay seeks to document the lives of a people that have always thrived on a symbiotic relationship with the 200,000 - strong Porcupine Caribou Herd that roams their land. A herd that is directly at stake from the oil reserves beneath their hooves. But for the Whitehorse, Yukon - based photographer, this series speaks volumes not only about the responsibility of wealthy nations to address such concerns but also about the need for conservation efforts in the developed world to embrace a more cultured approach. “You feel that if there is going to be a balance struck, it is going to happen in those countries that have the money and can afford not to have development. They can choose to value things other than money and oil and gas and say well, this culture and these caribou - which are disappearing throughout the world are more important,” says Mather. “In Canada and the US we have the financial ability to make those choices where as in some third world countries where people are just scraping by to get food on their plate - those choices would be much, much harder.”


Future Preservation

In several ways, it would seem that the term conservation photography will soon be forgotten. This branch of photojournalism that found its roots in the documentation of wild places now bears the ominous thorns of a collective communiqué fraught with uncertainty for the future of our species and we perhaps turn instead to the need for preservation photography. As matters of climate change and habitat destruction become issues not just for the exotic animals of this planet but for the lives of billions of people, we see the images addressing such matters move from the depths of National Geographic to page one of the New York Times and as Patrick Brown so soberly admits: “This is no disrespect to all the war photographers that are my deep friends and colleagues but that is nothing compared to what happens if the environment goes pear-shaped.”

Daniel Berehulak Profile

for Capture Magazine

For one of Australia’s most decorated photojournalists of all time, Sydney-born-and-raised Daniel Berehulak arose from surprisingly humble beginnings. From a hobby farm in the city’s western fringes to UNSW, the olympics and eventually the UK as a Getty stringer, Berehulak’s road to success as a photojournalist was far from smooth sailing. But as his recent accolades attest to, he is now sitting pretty as one of the country’s most recognized and well- respected visual journalists.

by Sam Edmonds. ___

Australia seems to have some kind of habit of producing brilliant photographers from small communities. From the blue-collar suburbs of Newcastle came the messiah himself Trent Parke, from the Banana capital and sleepy coastal town of Coffs Harbour came whizkid Adam Ferguson and from somewhere in outback Queensland, the late Warren Clarke. No exception to this rule is Daniel Berehulak. Hailing from a hobby farm in Camden (west of Sydney), the 43-year old has cleaned up in recent years with a startling number of Pulitzer Prizes and World Press awards corresponding with his coverage of the Pakistan oods, the Japan tsunami, Ebola and violence in the Philippines. But Berehulak’s road to success was just as rocky as the next photographer’s. Seeing the death of his sister during his early career, a newfound passion for life spurred Berehulak to pursue his want for photography voraciously. Breaking free of the Sydney sports- shooting ranks, he was quickly discovered by Getty higher-ups in the UK and soon found himself in some of the world’s ugliest disaster zones with a need to confront not only what he saw but his own ability as a photojournalist. Now recognized as a bastion for insightful and meaningful reportage, Berehulak’s in uence as a photographer has skyrocketed. But from his new home in Mexico, he is setting his sights on so much more.

From Camden to Karachi

Born to Ukrainian refugees of World War II and growing up mainly among 500 orange trees and thirty head of cattle just west of Sydney, it would be fair to say that Daniel Berehulak comes from humble beginnings. Attending small local schools before eventually earning a history degree from the University of New South Wales, Berehulak describes growing up in a household where a copy of National Geographic was rarely out of reach. But as the son of parents whose lives were much less than opulent, he admits that while travel was certainly appealing, he never even considered that photography could be the impetus for it. “I really took for granted the images that I saw while growing up. I imagined what life was like on the other side of the world but photography was something that I didn’t even realize was a profession until I realized that photography was a way of capturing moments and recording history,” says Berehulak. “So, going on school excursions and family outings and stuff, I was often taking photos but never even considering that it would lead anywhere.”

However, during his high school years and into university, a natural talent for volleyball provided Berehulak with an unexpected opportunity to start travelling. Venturing to Indonesia then further abroad

to Lebanon and Germany, Berehulak lugged a camera with him wherever the sport dictated. But on a trip to Europe when Berehulak and a friend traveled independently to Vienna the penny nally dropped. “We stumbled across a World Press photo exhibit,” says Berehulak. “I remember walking in and just being totally blown away by the photographs because in Australia we’re often pretty sheltered from some things that are going on in the world so the images were extremely diverse and showed things that I didn’t necessarily know about.” But while an unexpected exposure to photographs of this calibre certainly provided part of the catalyst for Berehulak’s photographic inspiration, it was closer to home that he found the true motivation to pursue his dream. Not long after his return to Australia, Berehulak learned that his sister was terminally ill. “She had lupus and passed away quite suddenly so at that point I was like 'fuck this, life is too short and I’m going to stop doing what I’ve been doing’,” he says. “‘I don’t know how I’m going to get into photography but I know that I am going to do it’”.

With this motivation behind him, Berehulak turned his sights completely to going pro and like many smart photographers who are considering their most efficient springboard for entering the industry, he stuck with what he knew: sports photography. Utilizing his access to the volleyball scene, Berehulak photographed the tests events for the 2000 olympics in Sydney and thus set the scene for the next 4 years of his photographic career: as a Sydney-side sports shooter. But even at this early stage, perhaps drawing on his experience with the World Press Vienna exhibition, Berehulak remained acutely aware of the broad horizon beyond Australia and his want to explore foreign lands. Finally, in 2004, Berehulak made the transition from working at a small agency (that was run out of a residential garage in Sydney) and started freelancing for Getty. After another two and half years in his home city, he left with the plan to travel around the world and base himself in various places but on the way to Athens, Berehulak passed through the Getty UK office and they offered him a staff news job in London.

Floods, Tsunami, Disease

It was here in London that Daniel Berehulak began his metamorphosis into a photojournalist. During his time in Sydney, the young photographer had dabbled in covering issues beyond the sports arena starting to cover bush res and entertainment but it wasn’t until he landed in Europe permanently that assignments and features to cover politics plus the occasional foreign sojourn began to further shape Berehulak’s understanding of the world both as a photographer and as an individual. Of note among his assignments during this time, Berehulak was tasked with covering the return to Pakistan of Benazir Bhutto from self-exile. “I was on the plane with her and landing in Karachi, greeted by thousands and thousands of people. I had to wade through all the crowds to get the photographs and then later that day there was suicide bomb blast,” he says. “ at was my rst aftermath of something like that. I ended up staying and covering the story for like another 2 weeks or so. Later that year Bhutto was assassinated. is particular assignment was one of those ones where I really sort of cut my teeth and got to work with a number of amazing photojournalists.”

Now with a taste of such assignments and having caught a glimpse of how important photojournalism could really be, Berehulak returned brie y to England before packing his bags and moving to India - somewhere that he could more easily reach the world’s war-torn areas and more densely populated parts of the continent. During the rst year of his time in this region, Berehulak admits freely his naivety as a photojournalist but as time would tell, his perception for quality storytelling in the face of adversity would develop rather quickly. “I found myself gravitating toward Pakistan and Afghanistan plus a little further a eld to Lybia, Egypt and then Japan for the tsunami aftermath,” he says. “What I experienced was that working for a wire agency you have a limited amount of time to cover a story and I found that the amount of time that I was getting to cover stories wasn’t doing the stories justice.” So, in 2013, Berehulak made the leap of faith to go freelance and began a relationship with the New York Times out of their bureau

office in Kabul - a relationship that afforded him the basis for his now signature in-depth storytelling MO along with the exibility to pitch story ideas and pursue leads more freely.
However, it was three years before this that Berehulak learned perhaps his most important lesson as a developing photojournalist when tasked with covering the 2010 Pakistan
oods. As one of the region’s most devastating disasters in living history, Berehulak spent over a month traversing the country documenting the millions of displaced people and for his work there would go on to win a World Press Photo award. But despite the mass destruction and suffering that he bore witness to, on this occasion it wasn’t until some time after he left the country that Berehulak learned a rather painful lesson for any budding photographer. “I remember being at the World Press photo exhibit and one of the editors and another photographer said to me ‘so, tell me about the background of the people in this shot. Who are they?’. And I just didn’t have an answer,” he recalls. “On that speci c day, the driver was 5km away, we had waded through water, it was sunset, I didn’t have a translator. So, I took this photo that ended up being one of the times top 10 photos of the year.... but when I was asked about the subjects I just didn’t have an answer. From that I had this overwhelming sense of guilt and shame that I didn’t know the background story of the people in my photos.” As a way of rectifying this, Berehulak pitched a story to his editors in London: a chance to build upon the one year anniversary of the oods, return to the exact village he has been photographing and to nd the subjects of his award-winning image. Armed with little more than the GPS co-ordinates of the site, his editors bought the idea and Berehulak was able to nd, interview and photograph his subjects once more. “For me, that was one of the biggest turning points in my career because I learned that it is not only about the power of the photographs, you need to be a journalist, you need to understand the context of the photograph and who the people are to truly convey the message,” he explains. “Since then I have really focused on spending time with people, interviewing people, nding their backstories and learning as much as I can before an assignment. e better that I can understand the story, the better that I can communicate what is going on and you only get that through time.”

Crisis in West Africa

For many photographers and non-photographers alike, the name Berehulak is probably most synonymous with the New York Times’ coverage of the Ebola crisis. And it was this event that would again prove a pivotal moment for the Australian photographer’s career as his commitment to the coverage of such a catastrophic and horrifying event would set in stone his name as a truly invested photojournalist. And similarly, for Berehulak himself, the event would serve to illustrate the raw power of visual reportage in affecting diplomacy whilst also revealing a disturbing aspect of the news media industry. As one of the rst western journalist with boots on the ground in the affected area, it was Berehulak’s name who graced the captions of the rst images to emerge from Ebola-infected Africa. And as history would tell, it was through these photographs early on that most likely mobilized the US government to send forces to West Africa as prior to that point in time, there was a lot of misunderstanding about the true severity of the situation. As Berehulak says, “that was my kind of introduction into the real power of photojournalism. I was getting emails from messages from people around the world who didn’t necessarily understand the situation but were learning from our photographs and from our reporting. It is hard for us to quantify the impact the impact that we have had as photojournalists but that was an assignment that has had a direct correlation.”

In hindsight, it would seem from the outside that this recognition would have an immediate and drastic impact on Berehulak’s own sense of the importance of his role as a photojournalist. As his images of Ebola began to appear on more and more front pages of newspapers around the world, a direct correlation with the medical and diplomatic response in the region became evident. “We talk a lot about empathy and wanting to get people to stop and think and maybe even act after they see a photograph and this was one assignment where you did see a direct impact,” says Berehulak, going on describe the case of a German

lady who contacted him directly and donated 10,000 euros to the family of a young Ebola victim. Evidently, these events would serve to immensely fan the ames of Berehulak’s investment in quality storytelling, going on to spend a total of 103 days covering the crisis for the Times. “At one stage, I was about 2 months in and I was so mentally and physically exhausted. I remember going back to my apartment in Delhi and I was meant to have couple of weeks off but I sat down on the couch, just sat there and within an hour I was like “what am I doing here? is is still far from being over and who am I to start taking time off ?’,” he says. “I just felt an urgency to get back out there so I called my editor and that night I ew back out from Delhi to Brussels to Liberia. So, often you feel this compulsion to be there, to be covering the story and that was certainly one of those for me.”

In addition to the coverage that Berehulak felt the situation warranted, a worrying trend among his fellow journalists that emerged on the scene further impacted his sense of responsibility when covering the event as thoroughly as respectfully as possible. As a situation that clearly held potentially disastrous affects not only for Africa but for the rest of the world, Ebola was an episode that would go on to attract hundreds of freelance photographers who attempted to cover the story. However, as Berehulak recalls, the commitment of most was far from the ideal. “CNN were coming out for like 4 or 5 days and would send a local Liberian camera man to get the footage while they themselves were reporting from a restaurant very safely, very far away but claiming that they were on the front lines of Ebola,” he recounts. “So, I really saw a lack of dedication to journalism and I felt therefore felt more of a responsibility because I had this opportunity to be there and to report. I felt it was what I needed to do because every day there was something happening and if you’re not there and you’re not photographing, so many stories are not being documented.”

El Futuro

Having covered some of the most devastating and impactful events of the 21st century across his career already, Daniel Berehulak is continuing to prove himself as not only one of Australia’s most celebrated photographic exports but as one of modern photography’s most renowned visual journalists. But as an Australian, Berehulak now falls well within the league of those antipodean exports residing almost entirely in the northern hemisphere, always far from home. When question if a Ferguson-esque pilgrimage to his homeland was on the horizon, Berehulak again tacitly admitted to his unwavering sense of duty and commitment to documenting the world’s regions most in need of visual reportage. From his new home in Mexico, the now uent Spanish speaker reminisced of his home and his want for time with family but also spoke at length about the need to bear witness in the central American region. Clearly, like many of Australia’s now extensive lineup of stellar photojournalistic exports, a deep-seeded and intrinsic sense of the need to bear witness keeps Daniel Berehulak with a camera in hand and on a plane to some of the planet’s areas in most dire need. And perhaps still propelled by his sister’s encouragement, there seems to be no stopping the kid from Camden.

Interview with Joel Meyerowitz

for Australian Photography Magazine.

A New York Times article once stated that to view the photographic works of Joel Meyerowitz was to view a recent history of photography itself. While this statement might seem somewhat hyperbolic, it isn’t as far fetched as it sounds, as Meyerowitz has spent the majority of half a century with a Leica in hand, re-writing what photography meant to both the fine art world and to society in general. Over five decades after coming under the spell of Robert Frank and after paving the way for street photography to be considered a legitimate art form, Meyerowitz’s new publication “Where I Find Myself” is the first major single book retrospective of the master’s work. Organized in reverse chronological order, the book spans the photographer’s career from his works on trees to his coverage of Ground Zero, but as he insists himself is not simply a “best of Joel Meyerowitz”. Whilst the book certainly serves as a comprehensive retrospective of one of the greatest photographers of all time, it all serves to chronicle the evolution of the medium from the rigid, confined version of itself as Meyerowitz discovered it to the revered, colourful, insightful and joyous medium he turned it into. Meyerowitz hopes the book will simply pose the question: “Can you see me?” - a line that hints at the photographer’s own philosophy behind his approach but also - perhaps more pertinently - for a moment acts as a question posed by photography itself: the post-metamorphosed medium seeking final recognition as it emerges and flourishes in every hue.

 

SE:
So, Joel. Five decades is a long time! What sort of changes to photography have you witnessed during that time?

JM:
“It’s been 55 years that I have been making photographs. I started in 62 so it has actually been 56 years! And really, the arc of photography in the twentieth century - the rise of it from a kind of a basement level characterization - you know, it was’t in the museums as a significant art form, it wasn’t being sold. I remember in 1964 going to see an exhibition of Ansel Adams’ work and the pictures were $25. And nobody was buying them. So, my friends and I thought there’s no hope for us. We had to find another way to make a living while doing photography in a serious form; the way we thought it was meant to be. And I think it was my generation that started to push the medium forward against all the resistance that the art world had. And look where it is today, it has quite a strong parity with fine art or with painting. I think watching that happen these 50 plus years… plus the acceptance of colour. When I started, the first rolls of film I shot were colour because I didn’t have any understanding of photography whatsoever but I knew that I wanted to try and make photographs on the street so I borrowed a camera, I bought some colour film and that was it.

My first shooting buddy was Tony Ray Jones. He was a graphic designer like I was at the time and somehow we found each other in the lab. We looked at each others’ dreadful, early photographs and somehow we just had the right spirit to we decided to go shooting together to try to learn about how to make photographs, how to be invisible on the street, how to be in the right place at the right time. In that time together - the two of us, two guys in their early twenties talking about photography and talking about colour - I think that what was so striking was that both of us were using colour in a way that no-one cared about at that time. It seemed too commercial or too amateur so in a way, we were pushing and we could feel the resistance from the art world. Whenever we would show our pictures they would say “why aren’t you shooting black and white?” And we would respond with: “Why would we? The world is in colour; we are going to shoot in colour.”

The darkroom was and still is the punishment of the medium. You had to go in there and spend long nights and days developing your body of work and your skill and your sensitivity to the medium. And nowadays people are more content sending you an email, putting it up on Instagram or something like that. To me, I think you might get your work out there to thousands of people who will click the “like” button but who knows if anybody is really paying deep attention to the work. It is such a generalized resource, these online depositories of photographs. I think there are certainly interesting changes; the audience is greater but not necessarily more educated. Clicking a like button isn’t necessarily a critique, it is a casual “that pussy cat is cute or that is a really nice sunset”. I don’t get much of a dialogue between photographers however there are lots of people like yourself and others who are doing podcasts and the like who are really getting down in there and being critical in the very best ways. So, I see it as a kind of mixed blessing between the mundane and the profound.

“I see it as a kind of mixed blessing between the mundane and the profound.”

SE:
You’ve mentioned how important it is for your process that you were able to experience shoot various formats (6x7, 8x10). Are photographers missing out on the benefits of that today?

JM:
I’m grateful that I have had that desire to make the change - tom experience something else because when I switched from 35mm to 8x10, I wasn’t shooting solely 8x10. I always carried a 35mm and I still do (although it is a digital Leica now). When I made that switch, I needed something - I needed a particular kind of descriptive quality that would allow me to make very large prints. This was in the early ‘70s when large prints were not part of the vocabulary of photography - people made an 8x14” print and that was sort of the standard form - Robert Frank, Gary Winnogrand, Diane Arbus was about 20 inches square but everybody printed at this hand size and because my argument for colour was strong and I was always projecting slides on the wall, I had the experience of big scope. After all, 35mm film was being used for Hollywood movies so I thought “why can’t I make extraordinarily large prints with this film?”. However, when I tried, the quality wasn’t so great. So, in order to have greater descriptive power, I moved to the 8x10 and of course when you make a move like that, it changes the way that you shoot because it is not a 35mm camera - you are dealing with a different beast. So, I discovered that I had a second personality I’d say in that instead of being this jazzy guy doing these little riffs on the street, I could also be more contemplative and slower and look at things from a kind of time-perspective that was much more spacious. So, I developed this other side and it was wonderful at the time - it was really wonderful to find that I had this other side to myself and that I could make the enquiry in a genuine way without having to give up the other side. So, it was like I had my own internal argument between what was the subject matter for an 8x10 and what was the subject matter for a 35mm. That moment was a very expansive and very creative moment for me. I was in my early 40s so I had my curiosity and my passion was intact and developing even stronger because it was like I was learning the whole medium over again.

Sometimes you just get lucky; you ask the right question and photography gives you answers that are surprising. A dialogue between the artist and the medium is essential. Before I was a photographer I was a painter and lot of my friends were abstract expressionist painters. They were into the liquidity of paint, the way it ran on the canvas or whether you have to push it, smear it, shape it or squirt - I mean, the physical characteristics of paint and whether you put it on canvas or glass or whatever - that was part of the discussion because the actual moving material was something you had to investigate. So, I think a discussion or an interaction with the characteristics of the medium should be no different for photography. Even though photography seems narrow - like a camera and printing paper - it’s more than that.
SE:
What are your thoughts on truth and objectivity in photography today? Photojournalism in particular seems to be going through some kind of growing pains in this respect. What are you thoughts on this?

JM:
One of the burdens that photography has always carried is that it was used to document and show things as they were. There was once a great show at MOMA called “Evidentiary photographs” - they were the pictures made in factories, in laboratories when someone was shooting bullets into something or crashing cars or blowing things up. The camera was used to document the way that things looked upon impact or upon explosion so that the evidence as recorded by the camera was believed. The camera was believed to tell the truth and it was used as evidence in court. Well, we have lost that now because with Photoshop you can eliminate the things you don’t want, you can add elements that you think enhance it. And this kind of flexibility or fluidity has been adopted by lots of artists in order to make their own newly-imaged worlds. As if the reality of reality is not good enough. It needs to be enhanced or modified in ways to make it art. I come from that time that still believes in the authenticity of the moment. I don’t know about truth because you can photograph something but you’re looking at it head on. Someone else photographing it from ten feet to the left, looking at it on the oblique is going to see things behind what you see and you can’t get in your picture. So, their version of that moment of truth is going to look different. So, truth has always been flexible. I don’t get too upset about [Steve] McCurry’s adaption because I have seen a couple of times when I’ve been working that the scene in front of me is changing. So, I make the picture and just as I make the best moment, the frame isn’t as beautiful as I like it but a second I make another picture because someone has walked into the frame. Believe me, I have thought a number of times “I was there! It just didn’t happen” but I could take the second picture and blend a piece of it into the first picture because it was a continuity - one thing happened but then another thing happened just a fraction of a second afterwards. So, there is the sensation that I could do that. I don’t do it because I am of the belief that what you see and what you get is what you have to deal with. Even it is not perfect. But someone in the field like Steve or documentary photographers might want to extend the moment as if their lens was wider and they could grasp more. If it could enrich the reality of the moment so that we understand what was going on in a better way, there is something to weigh there. Pure artifice, I don’t really care about. I am of that old-school Cartier-Bresson school where you have to move to get that frame. Otherwise, you just have to say “oh well, I didn’t get it”.

I was just in Spain for an exhibition and the foundation which built their own museum collect a lot of Robert Frank’s photographs of when he spent a lot of time in Spain in the late 40s. They hung a huge contact sheet on the wall. So, I’m looking at it and saying to myself “I know that picture but… he’s cropped it!”. And I said to the director who was with me: “I know that picture and there’s a piece of it that’s not in the print”. So we went and looked at it in the next room and I would say that if it was a 14 inch print that about two and a half inches was missing. It is a picture of an elevator operator. He had originally included the outside of the elevator where there was a person walking away but in the print he cut it off so it looked like a 35mm format. So, all our lives we thought that Bresson and Frank didn’t crop. So, because of that, my generation thought that we couldn’t crop - we have to use the frame as it is. So, in a way I think that we tend to misread something about the standards of our time and to adopt something about those standards as our law; our aesthetic law. So, I think the new aesthetic laws are stretching something about what we choose to put in a photograph. It changes the appreciation of the skill of the artist. For my generation, it wasn’t the quality of the print but something about the perception of the artist because when you press that button of 1/1000th of a second you are working at the limits of your perception.

SE:
Has the vast spectrum of editing options available to us in the digital age served to enhance or detract from the overall quality of photography today? Are we better off with or without Instagram, VSCO, Lightroom and LUTs?

JM:
I think when there are too many options dangled in front of you and they are so rich in potential, so full of distractions - it is like when you have a box full of 40 chocolates and you can’t make up your mind. But when people buy a single camera and commit themselves to it, they go deep into the system of photography that that camera supports or offers in a way. And then they enrich themselves. I think it is the marketing structure of today’s world and how rich in possibilities it is that makes it so confusing for photographers. For me, the basic question of photography is: “what is your identity as an artist and how is it manifested in the photographs you make?” In one sense, everybody is generalizing; a sunset or a flower belongs to everybody and you can’t tell who the fuck made that flower picture but then you get some people who really go in and they become they find their identity in the flowers they choose. So, suddenly you realize “oh, this is a Mapplethorpe flower or an Irving Penn flower” because their identity is so powerful that they show you themselves no matter what the subject. I think people are actually in search of their identity but they don’t quite know it. I have a thousand times: “I am so bored with my photographs” and it is because they are not discriminating, they are not entering into a dialogue with themselves and they can but they don’t quite believe it.


SE:
Can you tell us a bit about the new book? Did you employ your usual editing process for such a significant publication?

JM:
The scope of this book is so large that my usual editing process didn’t quite work exactly the same way but in general when do a book about a subject or a body of work, I make little card sized photographs so that I can shuffle the deck all day long and lay them out in runs because… here it is again: Robert Frank. When I was a young photographer, the only book I had was The Americans. That book was so powerful and mysterious and the rhythms in it… I thought: one day, maybe I’ll make a book because it is fixed in that order and you can read through it like poetry. But how do you get to make that book. So, I would carry prints around and I would lay them out in order until I found one that had an interesting arc to it. Then, often when I had it all laid out. I would photograph them in that sequence, print it, fold it and put it together like a book; kind of page it in miniature to see how it held up on its own. In this new book, I did that with the chapters because I had to make it manageable in size.

I was talking to my wife about editing this book and I said “I just don’t feel like starting where I began because I’m at this point now where I am looking back through my own history and I can see how things line up. So, she said “start from the present! Work your way backwards”. So, I started putting in the pictures I am working on now then seeing how arrived there, looking at the pictures I made before. So,
sometimes a little stroke of luck or curiosity unfolds a little curiosity.

SE:
What does this book mean to you? What does it mean to publish such a in-depth retrospective of over five decades of work.

JM:
This book offered me that kind of opportunity to stand at a crest in the road and to look back over all the little hills and valleys and to consider how I got to where I am now. So many times, we come to a cross road and we decide to go left or to go right. And that changes your life, even if it is just a small decision. If you go east, then everything to the west you are never going to know. Photography has done that for me: every decision I have ever made has brought me to where I am so in a way I wanted to try and store those sudden appearances of instinct and impulse because if you don’t follow your basic instinct then you are going counter to who you are. I think it is important to validate and to de-mystify for the reader this quality of photography that depends on absolute instinct. We all make decisions that use instinct but photography requires the instinct of the moment and I think instant and instinct: these two things together give shape and direction to every photographer’s work. What I hoped to do with this book was to lay out the cards on the table and to show what this kind of life - the curious life of a photographer - has allowed me to see. So, it is an offering in that way. It isn’t the best hits of Joel Meyerowitz or anything didactic about how photography should be, it is just asking the question “Can you see me?” That is basically what I am asking.

“It isn’t the best hits of Joel Meyerowitz or anything didactic about how photography should be, it is just asking the question “can you see me?” That is basically what I am asking.”

SE:
As the closest thing that modern photography might have to a godfather, what do you forecast for the next five decades of the medium? Where are we going with photography and how will it be used in the future?

JM:
I’m not a prophet, I’m a realist living in the moment but if you base a forecast on what has happened in the last 50 years is that at least a billion people now walk around with a camera in their hands or their pocket every day. It used to be that you had to buy and camera and to carry it. So, that was a decision that everybody made - not everybody wanted a camera - but everybody wants a smartphone and along with that comes a camera. And what I see is that the increase in appetite is going to produce an abundance of new minds - fresh, original, young minds who are seeing the world through this telephone-camera-instrument and whose appetite will be expanded maybe enough to go and buy a real camera and to pursue the quality of life around them in ways that will be very expansive in this new millennium. I am looking forward to seeing what means will come to allow 3D projection because I have a feeling there may be in the future some kind of holographic, 3D image that will produce something - an image right in front of you that will allow you to see the Antarctic world right in front of you, shimmering at ten feet away in a room. I may be completely wrong but it seems to be that with virtual reality being so much in the news recently that it is moving towards a goggle-free presentation of a shimmering imaging in space. It seems like that is just waiting to happen.

Really I think the most important thing is that we are going to have a larger amount of people entering the serious world of photography from a larger amount of backgrounds, bringing a new kind of energy to it. I think the boundaries of what is photographic are going to be enlarged in so many ways. I am still basically grounded in a value system from the 20th century and I look to see that in other peoples’ work and how they hold onto those values of perception but how they also moved into the presence. That is my yardstick for when I look at new photographers: how they push against the resistance of the past and just like I pushed against the resistance of black and white by using colour. So, it is in the hands of the young, really.