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Michael Webster

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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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John Gladdy

Speakers Corner

 

Hyde Park Corner, London, England.
Every Sunday since at least 1872.

Between 2009 and 2012 I became a part of the ongoing street theatre that is Speakers Corner.

Graduating, slowly but surely, from detached photographic voyeur to fully-fledged participant/heckler/occasional bit player.

I have joined a cast of thousands that have come to this place to express their views, however controversial or off the wall, over the last hundred or so years. Religion is the current hot topic, especially Islam, but over the years the area has attracted notable political and human rights activists including Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and William Morris and still hosts a very lively Marxist forum and a selection of anarchist, conservative and socialist speakers.

This piece, as it stands, is not intended to answer any big questions or reveal any deep insight into the reasons people attend this place. I am not sure I am even qualified to ask those sorts of questions. I hope only in some small way to take you on a little sensory wander around the place. A selection of tapas if you like.

Enjoy.

 

Bio

John Gladdy (b. 1964) is an English photographer living in London.

He has no formal qualifications having been expelled from high school and no formal training as a photographer. He discovered he had a talent for image making while working with the photographer Brett Walker on a community project in 2003.

He came to photography very late in life and has worked his way back from initially using automated digital equipment to now using mainly fully manual film based equipment in a variety of formats. He processes and prints his own work, wherever possible using traditional darkrooms and materials.

His portrait work is held by collectors all over the world. He is currently resting in London trying to overcome heart problems and looks forward to being well enough to travel again and find a new project.

Started at 45 years old this is his first attempt at a long form photo essay.

 

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John Gladdy

 

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Michael Webster

New York

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The mythology of New York is known to anyone who has watched more than a dozen hours of television or skimmed magazines in a dentist’s office. But like ancient Greece, New York is too big to have a single, central story; its myth is carried by its demigods, or what in show business they call types.

Take a type we’ll call the New York Tough Guy. Now, there are tough guys all over the world; wherever you live you probably know at least one of them, and so the term “tough guy” will call him, specifically, to mind. This guy you know who talked about knocking a guy out as if it were nothing, and looked as if he could do it, is a tough guy, for instance.

But link these terms to New York and the focus shifts. The New York Tough Guy, for example, may be someone you saw perp-walked on the cover of the New York Post. Or he may be some actor who mugged a character on a movie you saw that was set in New York. He may be an antique figure with cross-hatched stubble, a lantern jaw, and a black eye-mask like the Beagle Boys wear in Scrooge McDuck comics. Maybe he’s tough in something other than a physical way. Some people (certainly not you, sophisticated reader) think Donald Trump is tough. Some people (perhaps you, sophisticated reader) think Anthony Bourdain is.

In any case, this image you’ve conjured matches the term New York Tough Guy more than the authentic avatars you actually know because there is Tough and then there is New York Tough, which may or may not be real Tough but which is certainly real New York. You almost have to imagine the Tough Guy standing defiantly against a filthy brick wall at night, harshly illuminated by car headlamps, and probably wearing shades, because all the New York Tough Guys wear shades. (Doesn’t Jay-Z? Didn’t Lou Reed?)

I’m not saying these people aren’t real tough guys, though I do think if somebody came at them with a knife a few of them might not react totally in character. I’m saying the Tough Guy, the Fast Talker, the Big Shot, the Wise-Cracking Waitress, the Hard-Bitten Journalist, et alia, are mythic figures. By that I don’t mean that they’re fake, though they often are, but that their usefulness is not to be found in the real world, but in the dream landscape that explains New York to the world and to itself.

This is why you often see people move to New York and immediately start conforming to stereotype. The pressure, whether overtly felt or only dimly sensed, of being part of something as overwhelming as New York blows the mind of anyone who does not have a perfectly solid-state personality, which is to say most of us. So citizens psychically run for cover under the robes and aegides of the demigods of New York myth.

(Where do you think hipsters  — that is to say, New York Hipsters — come from? New York magazine? Pitchfork media? They come from Patti Smith via Marlon Brando via George Cram Cook via Walt Whitman via Edgar Allan Poe via some ur-Hipster whom Peter Stuyvesant had to keep putting in the stocks for shirking.)

You and I could sit here all night identifying the constellations in the New York galaxy, but I wish to draw your attention to the least acknowledged member of the pantheon, who is nonetheless as important as any other: The Out-of-Towner.

The Out-of-Towner, aka The Greenhorn, aka The Rube, belongs to the mythology, too. His is a special role. Because one thing is true of all of the other New York demigods: They are Wised-Up. So they are all pretty evenly matched, and also extremely motivated to get over on one another. If they had only one another to deal with, things would quickly get ugly and stale — like the Manhattan of Escape from New York, an island of madmen with whom the rest of the world cannot deal.

The Out-of-Towner brings some air and light into the action. For one thing, he can be a victim, and replenish the ecosystem with whatever the wise guys can get out of him. He can be a foil, a straight man to set up their jokes and set off their unique qualities, and an audience to flatter the endless self-regard of the true New Yorker. And on occasion and with sufficient motivation, the Out-of-Towner can stick around and, if he has the moxie, become a citizen himself.

Indeed, every New Yorker who was not born there enters the town in this role, and struggles to divest himself of it. Why, for example, do New Yorkers respond so positively to being asked for directions? Because this offers them the chance to show that they’re not Out-of-Towners. (This is especially important in front of present Out-of-Towners.)

But there’s a catch. Every wise guy in New York is in perpetual danger of reverting to Out-of-Towner status. For one thing, the town is always changing — hot spots, catchphrases, top Filipino lunch places — and it’s a struggle to keep up. But more importantly, unless he has become so jaded that nothing at all matters to him anymore, the wise guy will always retain a touch of Out-of-Towner about him. The things that excited him before still excite him — though he has become of necessity very good at concealing it, lest he over-effuse and give his roots away.

All this is to begin to say what I like so much about Michael Webster’s “New York.” I do admire the formal schtick of shooting it all from the top of one of those horrible tourist double-deckers that strafe the streets (ah, there I go, sounding like a wise guy). But it’s more what the schtick reveals that pleases me. The tour bus passengers — sometimes cheaply plastic-slickered against rainy weather — seem anonymous, ordinary, like the opposite of the thing they’re observing. (And those few observed New Yorkers who notice them seem surprised but unimpressed.) But the New York vistas and tableaux that Webster sees are lovely, specific and suggestive at the same time; you could write novels about the five folks waiting for the Seventh Avenue bus, for instance, or just bask in their ennui. And the wonderful thing is, they are as available to those bus-riding Out-of-Towners as they are to anyone else. Like those two well-dressed Indian folks in the front row: They certainly look like they’re enjoying the scene. Maybe they, too, see in New York what we see. Or maybe — you know, we can hardly admit it, even now — they see more.

– Roy Edroso

 

 

Bio

Michael Webster is a photographer currently living in Brooklyn.

 

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Michael Webster

Roy Edroso

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Leeor Kaufman

Sabras – The story of Wadi Fuqin

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Wadi Fuqin, a small Palestinian village, carries the inconceivable complexities of the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The village is a well preserved model of a traditional agricultural way of life, developed thousands of years ago. The community has harnessed the water flowing from the valley’s eleven springs to nourish their fields. Kilometers of canals direct the spring water to storage pools and onwards to the many fruit and vegetable fields. Currently, the agricultural way of life and natural landscape is endangered by many threats. To the east, the massive development of the Beitar Ilit Settlement is posing an immediate danger to the springs, to the west, the planned separation wall threatens to harm more springs and close the village in between the wall and the settlement.

The villagers are not permitted to cross to Israel nor are they allowed to cross to the settlement. Some of the villagers, left with no other income possibilities work in the settlement’s (with special permission) construction site. Building the threat to their village themselves. As an Israeli I approach this story with great passion. A known saying in Hebrew determines that a person is the scenery of his childhood. Wadi Fuqin is part of the scenery of my childhood. The smell of the fresh vegetables, the clear water are a good part of my memories, I grew up in a country mixed with Jews and Arabs and no walls in between. Its true that the atmosphere was not always welcoming on both sides but is still part of my memories, part of who I am. I document the beauty of the place, the significance of the scenery and produce the land brings to its owners, the villagers. I pay close attention to the joy and love the place and produce bring to the villagers, it is important for me to document it, before it might change, for them and for myself.

 

Bio

Leeor is a filmmaker and a photographer. A graduate of the Tel Aviv University’s Film department and the International Center of Photography Documentary and Photojournalism program.
Leeor has worked on independent films and commercial television programs as a cinematographer, film editor and director. His short and feature length films were screened in film festivals and television channels world wide. Currently based in New York, working on film, photography and multimedia projects and teaching at the International Center of Photography.

 

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Leeor Kaufman

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Paolo Pellegrin in Libya for the New York Times Magazine…

Features and Essays - Paolo Pellegrin: Scenes from the Libyan Exodus (NYT Magazine: March 2011)

Sunday Herald (Scotland) picture editor Ross Gilmore kindly sent a link to a Libya slideshow he had put on the newspaper’s website… Several brilliant photos by John Moore (see below), Marco Longari, et al….

Features and Essays - Sunday Herald: Libya (various photographer: Libya (Sunday Herald: March 2011)

Articles - Guardian Eyewitness: Emilio Morenatti: Migrant workers on the Tunisia-Libya border (Guardian: March 2011)

Guardian: Protests in Benghazi, eastern Libya (Guardian: March 2011) Protesters mass together under the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag in the court square after Friday prayers in Benghazi, which has become the capital of the rebel movement

Dictator chic… Vanity Fair: Colonel Qaddafi—A Life in Fashion (VF: 2009)

Michael Christopher Brown doing Hipstas in Libya…

Features and Essays – Michael Christopher Brown: Libya (Photographer’s website: March 2011)

Don’t remember having seen Kosuke Okahara’s work in colour before…

Features and Essays - Kosuke Okahara:  Refugees at Libya’s borders with Tunisia (Russian Reporter: March 2011)

Kozyrev….

Updated TIME gallery with Yuri Kozyrev’s Libya work

NYT have continued to update their’s also… The below Lynsey Addario photo from 8 March really stuck in my mind…

Updated New York Times Libya gallery, up to 248 photos when I’m writing this

Nicole Tung in Libya, covering her first war, on BagNewsNotes…

Features and Essays – Nicole Tung: Eastern Libya (BNN: March 2011)

Features and Essays - Gabriele Stabile, Andy Rocchelli: Tunisian-Libyan Border (Cesuralab: March 2011)

InterviewsTyler Hicks In the Thick of Libya’s Brutal Fighting (NYT Lens: March 2011)

Zed Nelson had the Guardian Weekend cover today with 24 photos over 10 pages inside….

Features and Essays - Zed Nelson: Disappearing Tribes (Guardian: March 2011) Zed Nelson’s photographs capture the human face behind disappearing Britain – the war veterans, the miners, the boxers and the fishermen. Blake Morrison reflects on the price of progress

Features and Essays - Patrick Zachmann: Chinese Journal (Magnum: March 2011)

Features and Essays – Anastasia Taylor-Lind: The Return of the Female Cossacks (Marie Claire: March 2011)

Features and Essays – Sean Smith: Gang violence in Caracas (Guardian: March 2011) Gang warfare killed 14,000 people last year alone in Caracas. Sean Smith documents the violence that plagues the slums of Venezuela’s capital. Warning: Contains distressing images

Features and Essays - Ivan Kashinsky and Karla Gachet: Tunupa’s Tears (Panos: March 2011) Bolivia

Features and Essays - Michael Webster: Brooklyn Carnival (Burn: March 2011)

Features and Essays - Finbarr O’Reilly: Looking Through Afghanistan’s Closed Doors (NYT Lens: March 2011)

Features and Essays - Chris Gregory: The Well: Covering Capitol Hill (Chris Gregory Vimeo: March 2011) Gregory’s website

Features and Essays -  Majid Saeedi: Deadly legacy: Afghan landmine victims in portraits (TIME: March 2011)

Features and Essays – Emily Bunt: Beloved (Foto8: March 2011) Bunt’s website

Features and Essays - Alex Masi: Buddhas of Bamiyan (BBC: March 2011)

InterviewsElizabeth Biondi (lalettredelaphotographie.com: March 2011)

Interviews - Alec Soth (Photocrew.com: March 2011)

InterviewsAlex Prager in conversation with Yancey Richardson (Aperture Foundation Vimeo: 2011)

Interviews and TalksJoel Meyerowitz (BJP: March 2011)

InterviewsMartin Brink (Ubranautica: 2011)

EventsChris Steele-Perkins Photovoice talk in London on Monday 14th March.

Grants MF Announces Funds for New Independent Documentary Photography Projects (Magnum Emergency Foundation Emergency Fund)

Articles – Guardian: Featured photojournalist: Andy Wong (Guardian: March 2011) Beijing-based Associated Press photographer Andy Wong captures daily life in the Chinese capital

Articles – Guardian: Featured photojournalist: Rodrigo Abd (Guardian: March 2011) The Guatemala-based, award-winning Associated Press photographer joins the world’s biggest party as Rio de Janeiro celebrates carnival

Articles – PDN: Tax Rule Changes and Tips That Will Save You Money on Your 2010 Returns (PDN: March 2011)

Videos - Pieter Hugo:  Spoek Mathambo music video (Dazed and Confused: March 2011)

Articles / Tutorials and Tips – Lightstalkers: Insurance for freelancers working in conflict zones (LS: 2011)

Photographers - Andrew Moore

Photographers - Tom Jamieson

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