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Resistance, Rebellion, and Death

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Virgil DiBiase

One Man

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“You should not learn your lines, you should not hit your mark, and you should never follow your light. Find your light — that’s my opinion.” — Joaquin Phoenix (actor)

“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” — Henry Chinaski (barfly)

 

We’ve seen these men. We’ve seen them as we pass through dilapidated downtowns, probably within a few blocks of the bus station where transients congregate; hard lean men, cigarettes hanging from their lips, maybe a half pint in their back pocket. We’ve seen them under a bridge or pushing a shopping cart filled with meagre possessions through the trash-strewn vacant lots that pollute the urban landscape. The sight of these men makes us feel discomforted, nervous, maybe a little scared. If we have a camera, we are probably tempted to use it on them, if we think we can get away with it.

What do we find so attractive about these men that we want to capture their image? Photographers are overwhelmingly middle class, probably upper-middle class, if not trust-funded children of great wealth; as are most gallery owners, museum curators, publishers, editors and audience for high-end photography. Yet somehow we are hopelessly attracted to images of these gritty “others,” especially when they are framed by staggering poverty. The result is far too many photos that say, in essence, “Look ma, poor people!” Or black people, foreign people, disabled people, mentally disturbed people, and so on. The rough is more pleasing than the smooth. The face with the stubble more attractive than the clean-shaven. Dark skin more pleasing than the light. The unruly hair more interesting than the well-coifed. We want images of people with some kind, any kind, of problem or difference that sets them apart from, if not below, our comfortable middle class existence.

We tell ourselves and anyone else who will listen that we photograph these men to draw attention to their plight, to help them though the publicity the photos provide. Suffice it to say, I’m skeptical, both about the purity of the motive and the likelihood that any help will be forthcoming. Some no doubt see these kinds of images as a career opportunity, a chance for self-aggrandizement. For most, taking these kinds of photos will end up, at best, as a learning experience. Of course there’s rarely a single motive for our actions. But whatever the differing motives for photographing these men; whatever the differing opinions about how they have become what they have become; whatever any of us may think should be done about it; just about all of us share one thing in common: These men should not be as they are. We think something is wrong.

At this late stage in photo history, it’s nearly impossible to make photographs of men like these, or have any kind of photographic vision about them that has not been done before. To shoot the subjects that everyone wants to shoot, the ones that have been done the most, it becomes ever more difficult to produce original work. See what I mean. And it’s not just that the photos we are likely to make of these men are clichés. Much more often than not, the photographers who take them become clichés. Go out and take a picture of a sleeping bum and tell me you don’t feel at least a little embarrassed.

Given all that, when I saw the first photo in Virgil DiBiase’s series “1 Man,” my first thought was “oh no, more pictures of bums.”

But as the slideshow progressed, I couldn’t help noticing the eyes of these men.

Against expectations, the photos did not seem to show men who had lost everything. They were not about men who had become what they had become. They were about men being who they Are. They showed men who had found something. Men who had found freedom. You could see it in their eyes.

And I realized those eyes said something about the photographer as well. These men were not objects of pity. They were objects of esteem. They had found freedom. The photographer was seeking it. Again, you could see it in their eyes.

Their freedom is much more than simple freedom from dull jobs, asshole bosses and office politics; of soul deadening social obligations and the bills that everyone else finds stuffed in their mailboxes every day. These men seem free of regrets, guilt or any kind of embarrassment about their situation, unlike most the rest of us who are, at best, free only to the extent we can choose our own prison. These men, rather than choose prison, choose the open sky. That their faces mirror the trashed out dwellings of the urban landscape through which they roam tells us the price of that freedom was steep. Their eyes tell us it was worth it.

I know Virgil would like me to end this right there. “1 Man” is  about the photographs, not about the photographer. But since I’ve opined at such length about other photographers’ motives, I feel I should tell you something about his.

He didn’t set out to make a photo project of homeless men or drifters, much less to photograph any nebulous abstraction such as freedom in the eyes of “others.” He sought a friend of his who had become mentally ill and disappeared. He made many trips looking for that friend and over many years got to know the seedy downtowns, vacant lots, bridges and underpasses throughout the urban American landscape. Sometimes he found his friend, sometimes he didn’t. Along the way he met a lot of similar people, saw something special in them, and photographed what he saw. That’s the story behind the story. Those are the facts.

Those facts are interesting, but only as a footnote or sidebar. I think they partially explain the success of the work. Only by having no interest in photographing street people, of actually being hostile to the general idea, could he so successfully photograph street people. But that is not central to the story, or even necessary. It’s the realities and fictions we see in these men’s faces and in their eyes that are the tale. That, and how we see, or fail to see, something about ourselves in them. Facts have nothing to do with it.

— Michael Webster

 

“How many hypocrites are there in America? How many trembling lambs, fearful of discovery? What authority have we set up over ourselves that we are not as we Are?” — Allen Ginsberg (poet)

“What goes through my heart and soul as I meet these guys is my longing for the freedom they seem to have. On the surface we all are so quick to judge. Wouldn’t it be nice to be the rich guy with a house and car. Or how sad to be homeless with no shoes. Neither is true. So we are all on this personal journey to find freedom. Truth is, all we need to do is choose freedom. Anywhere. Anytime.” — Virgil DiBiase (photographer)

 

Bio

Virgil DiBiase is a photographer living in northwest Indiana.

 

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Virgil DiBiase

Virgil DiBiase was a student in the Miami 2012 workshop. Some of these photographs were taken during the workshop.

 

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Andrei Becheru

The Fountain

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I think you come to grasp a place better when you spend a considerable amount of time there; by seeing and listening to everything around you, you develop a constant connection, you react to it, and then, in the end, you distil everything; in my case, with images.

But, first of all, it needs to be a place where everything is found in abundance. It must be a wild territory. A piece of land with a vast history, a land that still bears the mark of past colonizations. A land battered by the tumultuous feet of several generations who lived, fought and died in this place.

When I started (around 2009), I did not view this material in the form of a project. I was traveling in the South of the country where I live, Romania, I had been exploring photography for two years already when I begun to gradually discover this place called Dobruja.

I had read some material, I had seen some documentaries about the Danube Delta, about the hardships which the people inhabiting this area have become accustomed to, or not. I came to know the story of a mining town built in Romania’s Communist era, hidden behind sedimented hills used for copper extractions.

It is difficult to approach the topic surrounding the prosperity of this mining town in the Socialist era, at this point, but one can track down the drastic consequences brought about by the Post-Communist period, consequences mirrored in the people who remained here, on this land ravaged by the effects of industrialization.

After more than a year of exploring this place and starting from a few “trigger” images which illustrate this scenery, I had the impression that I was beginning to discover and approach different subjects. I thought that these images made up a beginning of something that might subsequently crystallize into individual projects. I continued to photograph the day to day life in this scenery. I was conscious of the diversity of the images gathered, but I could not contain them; I felt the need to spread them out.

 

Bio

I, Andrei Becheru, was born in 1984 in Bucharest, Romania.

From early on I chose drawing and painting as means of expression. I completed my studies in the field of design at the National University of Fine Arts of Bucharest in 2007. Absorbed by a past aspiration, which, in the meantime, had become an inner necessity, I started taking photographs three years ago, first on film, and then adopting the digital medium.

One year into digital photography, I nostalgically returned to images on photographic film that had marked my memory.

Presently, I work as an art director for an online fashion store. In parallel with film photography, I began experimenting with moving pictures using an old video camera.

 

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Christopher Capozziello

A State Of Mind

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This story began two years ago at a funeral home in the center of my hometown in Connecticut.

I stood in a line of a thousand or so people, with my good friend Laura, and her mother Bea. As we mourned the death of our friend Vinnie, a recovering drug addict, who relapsed and died of a heroin overdose, Bea told me how Vinnie had helped Monica, her youngest daughter, detox from heroin 5 months prior. She explained how afraid she was that his death would put Monica into a tailspin. Unfortunately, that is how this story goes.

When Monica was a young child, the pastor of the church she and her family attended, allegedly molested her over a 5-year period. When she was 18, she told her family what happened. Her accusations have never been confirmed and since the offense took place so long ago, Monica’s parents cannot bring suit against the pastor. Her parents believe this explains her many years of drug abuse.

Last year, Monica became pregnant with a man she met in rehab in Florida. Monica and Kyle stayed clean for 7 months before they both relapsed; just two months before the birth of their daughter Juliette. Following the birth, they both continued to intravenously use opiates.

When the baby was born, Bea traveled to Florida to help her daughter’s transition into motherhood. While Bea was there, Kyle became extremely volatile one night, and threatened to kill Monica, yet they remain a couple. Before Bea left for Connecticut, Monica told her to take Juliette, ‘I can’t raise her like this, not while I’m using.’

Today, baby Juliette is safe with Bea and her husband Don, in Connecticut, while Monica remains in Florida. I plan to investigate deeper into the molestation allegations.

 

Bio

Christopher Capozziello (born 1980) is a freelance photographer and a founding member of the AEVUM photography collective.

His work is primarily about inviting the viewer into personal stories in order to understand different facets of life. His projects often make unpleasant realities beautiful, not by misleading anyone, but by allowing the viewer to stop and look more deeply at the subject.

Christopher’s work has been honored by World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, the Alexia Foundation, the Aftermath Project Grant, PDN Photo Annual, Photolucidas Critical Mass, Review Santa Fe, American Photography, Communication Arts, National Press Photographers Association, among others.

He currently lives in Milford, Connecticut, where he accepts assignments and works on long-term personal projects.

 

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Christopher Capoziello

 

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John Delaney "Kazakh Golden Eagle Nomads"

We are now officially announcing the Emerging Photographer Fund award for 2012.

We will now award $15,000. as three different grants.  We are trying to spread the love a bit.

Burn will give $10,000. to one photographer,  and two smaller grants of $2500. each . Three awards instead of one.

Each intended to get a photographer going, and with efforts on our part to create more funding to finish an essay  depending on what the photographer produces.

The whole point of these grants is to support emerging photographers in our craft. All types of photographers. This is not a photojournalism grant, nor an art photographers grant, but could be garnered by either or both. We just want to support committed authored photography of any ilk. Please click here  and see who has secured this grant in the past and who our jurors have been.

The deadline for entry will be May 15, 2012. No extensions for any reason.

In 2011 we will have published here on Burn at least 50 of those who enter and feature in advance of the announcement of the recipient at least 20 finalists.

Our Burn finalists can be published in print via Burn 01 and Burn 02  and of course we have already Burn 03 as a limited edition magazine/book in our head.

Apply here.

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Teresa Cos

I Was There – Observations on “The Society of The Spectacle”

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“I Was There” is the first chapter of a long term (lifetime) project which explores western society and its obsession with success. I started by depicting the worlds of art, fashion and culture, where anxiety and struggle for success, together with the desperate need for recognition and approval are ubiquitous; where people live with the constant fear of being considered losers. The images have been taken in 2010 at Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice Film Festival, Milan and London Fashion Weeks, Frieze Art Fair in London and Paris Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC).

I chose these events because they are globalised examples of a bubble (for instance the art industry) that is on the verge of explosion. As wrote Jean Baudrillard: When one looks at the emptiness of current art, the only question is how much such a machine can continue to function in the absence of any new energy, in an atmosphere of critical disillusionment and commercial frenzy, and with all the players totally indifferent? If it can continue, how long will this illusionism last? A hundred years, two hundred? This society is like a vessel whose edges move ever wider apart, and in which the water never comes to the boil.

If one substitutes current art with current society the equation doesn’t really change, does it? And who are these indifferent players, if not us? I want to keep on exploring and understanding photographically the Hyper reality created by consumerism, where people aspirations are dangerously confused with the models of living that the society of the spectacle is constantly selling us and where need has become desire and admiration envy.

To me, it is fundamentally important to understand these social dynamics because, by creating the idea that through a selfish individualism everybody can finally reach extreme forms of wealth and success, one drastically contributes to the social and economic disparities in this world.

 

Bio

I was born and grew up in a small town called Latisana, in the North East of Italy, a one hour drive from Venice, where I ended up living for six years as an architecture student. It is thanks to architecture that I discovered photography, because it taught me to look at the world through different eyes.

After graduating in 2008, I was in the Italian team of architects and urbanists in the international table of consultation wanted by the French government to produce ideas for the future of Paris. I lived for seven months in the suburbs of the French capital, producing my first important body of work, Banlieue 08/09, that allowed me to be accepted last year onto the Photojournalism & Documentary Photography MA program at London College of Communication, where I graduated with Distinction.

I live and work in London and I am also part of the photography collective Five Eleven Ninety Nine.

 

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Teresa Cos

Collective Five Eleven Ninety Nine

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