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Nobuyoshi Araki

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Original author: 
Mikko Takkunen

Features and Essays

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Lucas Jackson: Haunting Night Scenes of Oklahoma’s Devastation (ABC News) Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson traveled to Moore and used the twilight night sky to illuminate some haunting landscapes the tornado left behind.

Katie Hayes Luke: Faces And Places The Tornado Left Behind (NPR Picture Show)

Ashley Gilbertson: Intricate Rituals for Fallen American Troops (NYT)

Steve Ruark: Honoring the Fallen (LightBox) One Photographer’s Witness to 490 Dignified Transfers

Luke Sharrett: Sacrifices Set in Adorned Stone (NYT Lens) Gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Sergey Ponomarev: A Supporting Role (NYT) In Afghan Transition, U.S. Forces Take a Step Back

Andrew Burton: Afghanistan (CNN Photo blog) Photographing ‘my generation’ at war

Eugene Richards: Inside Guantanamo (LightBox)

Ilona Szwarc

Ilona Szwarc

Ilona Szwarc: The Little Cowgirls (Telegraph) Deep in the heart of Texas, young girls are bucking the trend and breaking into the traditionally macho world of rodeo. The photographer Ilona Szwarc has corralled some of these junior ropers and riders into a compelling visual essay | Related article here

Aaron Huey: Pine Ridge (LightBox) Aaron Huey has photographed the Oglala Lakota for seven years on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Ilona Szwarc: American Girls (Photo Booth)

Andrew Moore: Stuck in the Shadow of Affluence (NYT Magazine) How the epidemic of empty, foreclosed homes in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods ignited a new form of guerrilla activism.

Justin Maxon: Gunland (LightBox) Chicago’s South Side

Billie Mandle: Reconciliation (Wired Raw File photo blog) American confessionals and reconciliation rooms

Christopher Anderson: Skin on Parade in Central Park (NY Magazine) New York Magazine sent photographer Christopher Anderson to meander around Central Park on a 79-degree day

Charles Ommanney: Heavy Metal Cruise (Reportage by Getty Images)

Anderson Scott: Civil War Lovers Can’t Leave the Past Behind at Awkward Reenactments (Wires Raw File)

Arne Svenson: The Neighbors (Photo Booth)

Martin Parr: Life’s a Beach / USA Color (Slate Behold)

Joshua Yospyn: America’s Quirky Coincidences (NYT Lens)

Saul Robbins: Behind Closed Doors at New York Shrink Offices (Slate Behold)

Ruth Prieto: Safe Heaven (burn magazine)  The second chapter of a documentary project about Mexican immigrant women in New York.

Lynsey Addario / VII for TIME

Lynsey Addario / VII for TIME

Lynsey Addario: Rich Nation, Poor People (LightBox) With its vast oil wealth, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest concentrations of super rich households in the world. But an estimated 20 percent of the population, if not more, lives in crippling poverty.  

Kiana Hayeri: Young Iranian Immigrants (NYT Lens) Leaving Tehran and Restraints Behind

Carolyn Drake: Two Rivers: A Journey Through Central Asia (Photo Booth) A photographic record of the area in Central Asia that follows the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, the region’s major rivers.

Linda Forsell: Refugee Crisis (zReportage) Syria | Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp is home to 170,000 people from Syria who have fled the fighting.

Kalpesh Lathigra: Passport-Style Portraits of Displaced Syrians Living in the Za’atari Refugee Camp (Feature Shoot)

Guillaume Herbaut: Chinese Weddings (CNN Photo blog)

Peter Pin: Life Beyond The Killing Fields (NPR Picture Show)

Angelos Tzortzinis

Angelos Tzortzinis

Angelos Tzortzinis: Societal Ills Spike in Crisis-Stricken Greece (NYT Lens)

Espen Rasmussen: Mud, Fire and Pain (Panos Pictures) Tough Guy claims to be the world’s most demanding one-day survival ordeal and it has been widely described as ‘the toughest race in the world’

Espen Rasmussen: Pain (Panos Pictures) As part of a longer project looking at masculinity and middle aged men, Espen visits the longest single stage cycle race in the world, from Tronheim to Oslo in Norway.

Kirsten Luce: Matadora (NYT Lens) In the Arena With a Smile — and a Bull

Brett Gundlock: One Small Town’s Fight to Banish a Brutal Mexican Cartel (Wired Raw File)

Yann Gross: A snake story in the Brazilian far west (Institute)

Kate Holt: Somalia surgeons: under the knife in Mogadishu (Guardian) audio slideshow

Siegfried Modola: Ethiopia’s ancient salt trail (Guardian)

Takayuki Maekawa: Wild Animals (CNN Photo blog)

Articles

030-035_FTMAG_0106_FINAL.indd

The Financial Times Magazine, June 1/2 2013

My friend, Robert Capa (FT Magazine) John Morris, former picture editor of Life, talks about the great photographer and his most historic roll of film – of D-Day

The month in photography – audio slideshow (Guardian) Vanessa Winship, Erwin Blumenfeld and Nobuyoshi Araki feature in June’s guide to the best photography around the world.

World Press Photo controversy: Objectivity, manipulation and the search for truth (BJP) Beyond the attacks leveraged against Paul Hansen’s winning World Press Photo, the recent controversy over image toning is symptomatic of the current state of photojournalism and its place in a society that has learned not to trust what it sees. Photojournalists, photography directors and post-producers speak to Olivier Laurent, and ask whether objectivity in photojournalism is actually attainable

Drama, Manipulation and Truth: Keeping Photojournalism Useful (Picture Dept)

chrishondrosfilm.com

chrishondrosfilm.com

Hondros: A Life in Frames – trailer (Chris Hondros film website)

Censored – images of our ugly truths, natural and man-made (Sydney Morning Herald)

A Photographer, A Fixer, the New York Times and Child Servitude in Haiti: A Story Gone Haywire, then Simply Gone (BagNewsNotes)

American beauty: Vanessa Winship’s photos of still, small-town US life (Guardian) Winship used her Henri-Cartier Bresson prize money well: to fund a book, She Dances on Jackson, in which she has captured the silence at the heart of a clamorous nation

Photographing What Endures For Australia’s Aboriginals (NPR Picture Show) Amy Toensing’s project for the National Geographic

Don McCullin guest of honour at 25th Visa pour l’Image (CPN)

A war photographer’s rediscovered images from Vietnam (CBS News)

Andrea Bruce

Andrea Bruce / Noor Images

War Through a Woman’s Eyes (American Photo magazine) Some of today’s top conflict photographers just happen to be women. We spoke with a handful of these photojournalists about their experiences—and how they differ from their male colleagues’

Photojournalists Tell the Untold Stories From Iraq (Slate Behold)

Kathy Ryan: Office Romance: Renzo Piano’s Light (NYT Magazine 6th Floor Blog)

Capturing ‘Out Cold’ Commuters with TIME’s Patrick Witty (Instagram blog)

Martin Parr: All the world’s a beach (FT Magazine) For one photographer, there is no better place than the seaside to observe human eccentricity in all its glory

Finding And Photographing Alaska’s Remote Veterans (NPR Picture Show)

‘Pictures from the Real World’: Derby, England in 1988 (LightBox)

Q&A: Why is Emphas.is now turning to its own platform to survive? (BJP)

Who Will Crowdfund the Crowdfunder? (NYT Lens)

Moving Walls (The Foreign Policy) Looking back on 15 years of human rights photography.

Through the Lens of Eggleston (WSJ) The selection of William Eggleston’s photographs, “At War with the Obvious,” currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, reminds us why he an American master. For the June issue of WSJ. Magazine,  the legendary photographer agreed to shoot part of his extensive collection of Leica and Canon cameras | Related

Garry Winogrand and the Art of the Opening (The Paris Review)

Wayne Miller obituary (Guardian) Magnum photographer celebrated for his images of the second world war and Chicago’s South Side

In Memoriam: Wayne Miller (1918 – 2013) (LightBox)

Stephanie Sinclair’s best photograph: child brides in Yemen (Guardian)

Featured photographer: Tim Richmond (Verve Photo)

Featured photographer: Albertina d’Urso (Verve Photo)

Featured photographer: Katharine MacDaid (Verve Photo)

Featured photographer: Joel van Houdt (Verve Photo)

The little girl in the photo, all grown up (AFP Correspondent blog) AFP photographer Jean-Philippe Ksiazek hears from a girl he photographed in Pristina at the end of the war in Kosovo

When Photography Imitates Voyeurism (NYT Magazine 6th Floor blog)

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

War and Representation: Showing the Limits of Comprehension (No Caption Needed)

Digital and the the desire for long form journalism (David Campbell blog)

What a Photograph Can Accomplish: Bending the Frame by Fred Ritchin (LightBox)

Chicago Sun-Times lays off its photo staff (Chicago Tribune)

Chicago Sun-Times will train reporters on ‘iPhone photography basics’ (Poynter.)

Alex Garcia: The Idiocy of Eliminating a Photo Staff (Chicago Tribune Assignment Chicago photo blog)

Do Newspapers Need Photographers? (NYT)

How the Internet Killed Photojournalism (PetaPixel)

Spitting on the Grave (Jim Colton website) On Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s comment ‘there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore’

Defining “News photographer” for the future (Reuters photo blog)

Anton Corbijn to shoot James Dean biopic, Life (Guardian) Control director to explore real-life friendship between 50s icon and Life magazine photographer in new film

Harlequin Without His Mask (Francis Hodgson blog) On Rankin

NY Times Public Editor Questions T Magazine Photoshopping Policy (PDN)

NYC Tribeca Residents Enraged Over Photos They Claim Violate Their Privacy (ABC News)

‘Control Order House’ by Edmund Clark – Photographing our response to terrorism (The Independent)

Ponte City: An Apartheid-Era High Rise Mired in Myth (LightBox) In 2008, South African photographer Mikhael Subotzky, in collaboration with British artist Patrick Waterhouse, set out to create a visual document of the building as monumental as the structure itself, exploring a long, complex history mired in myth.

Interviews and Talks

Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII

Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII

Anastasia Taylor-Lind (Nat Geo Live) Mothers, Models, and Fighters | A rising star on the photography scene, Anastasia Taylor-Lind documents the lives of women who live isolated from male society, including in schools for Siberian supermodels and military training camps for Cossack women | video

John H. White (CNN) Howard Kurtz talks to Pulitzer prize-winning photographer John H. White about what the layoffs mean for the news industry after Chicago Sun-Times drops photographers

Jonas Bendiksen (Vice) Bendiksen Takes Photos in Countries That Don’t Exist

Winners from the 2013 World Press Photo Contest (WPP) Nineteen prizewinners discuss their award-winning work.

Alec Soth (A Photo Editor)

 Tom Powel Imaging inc.

Richard Mosse, The Enclave, 2013. Six screen film installation, color infrared film transferred to HD video. Filmed in Eastern Congo. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery. Photo: Tom Powel Imaging inc.

Richard Mosse (Frieze Vimeo) The Impossible Image | Artist and photographer Richard Mosse reveals the stories behind the making of his latest film, ‘The Enclave’ (2013), in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which will be shown in the Irish Pavilion at this year’s 55th Venice Biennale.

Lauren Greenfield (Rookie magazine) Money Changes Everything: An Interview With Lauren Greenfield

Donna Ferrato (Vogue Italy) “I really believe in the power of photography to change the world. I think without it we would be like cavemen”

Fabio Bucciarelli (Photographic Museum of Humanity)

James Nachtwey (National Geographic magazine) Longer version on Stephen Alvarez’s Facebook page here

Maggie Steber  Part 1 | Part 2 (Leica blog)

John G. Morris (Vogue Italy)

Tim Page (Radio Australia) Page on history, photography and the Vietnam War

Thomas Dworzak (Roads and Kingdoms) Dworzak’s Instagram Chapbooks

Saul Leiter (In-Public)

Alan Chin

Alan Chin

Photojournalists on Covering the War in Iraq (The Leonard Lopate Show / WNYC) audio | Michael Kamber interviewed photojournalists from many leading news organizations to create a comprehensive collection of eyewitness accounts of the Iraq War—Photojournalists on War. He’s joined by photographers Alan Chin and Ashley Gilbertson, who discuss trying to cover the war in Iraq and examine the role of the media and issues of censorship

New booktells ‘untold stories’ from Iraq (MSNBC) Photojournalist Michael Kamber joins MSNBC’s Craig Melvin and fellow photojournalists Carolyn Cole and Ed Kashi to talk about his new book, “The Untold Stories From Iraq: Photojournalists on War”.

Doug Richard (ABC Arts) A New American Picture: Doug Rickard’s Google Street View road-trip

David Guttenfelder (The World) Inside the Hermit Kingdom: David Guttenfelder on Photographing North Korea

Mads Nissen

Mads Nissen

Mads Nissen (Panos Social) The Making of Amazonas

Ben Lowy (ABC Arts)

Ben Lowy (MSN Australia) Covering warzones with an iPhone

Kai Löffelbein (Leica blog) A Hidden World in Hong Kong

Tomas van Houtryve (The Story)

Michal Chelbin (The Voice of Russia)

Sue Ogrocki (LightBox) Moments of Hope in Oklahoma: One Photographer’s Story

Paul Hellstern (CNN) Photographer captures snapshots of courage after tornado levels OKC school

Ed Jones (LightBox Tumblr)

Stacy Pearsall (Peach Pit) In the Trenches with Combat Photographer

Katrin Koenning (No Borders Magazine) A sense of belonging

Alonzo J. Adams (LightBox Tumblr)

Laura Pannack (Photo Whoa) Speaking Through Your Photographs & Connecting with Your Viewer

Mikko Takkunen is an associate photo editor at TIME.com

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By Paul Loomis exclusively for ASX, Interview conducted on Monday, February 11th, 2013

Antoinette De Jong and Robert Knoth are the authors of a book called “Poppy: The Trails of Afghan Heroin” that has transformed the way we think about photojournalism.  It doesn’t fall victim to the reporter’s myopia of five hundred word stories three times a week, nor does it follow the western media’s coverage of religious extremism.  Instead it does something that is magical, and that we at ASX have not seen a book of photojournalism do before.  It opens a world that you rarely consider and shows you its pulsing red insides.

Knoth and De Jong are married, and have worked together for many years.  They are from the Netherlands, and have learned to share the task of explaining their project harmoniously.  When they speak, they seem to leave some for the other to finish.

A search for their names on the Internet is little good, you merely find them on Dutch television shows, and maybe encounter a blurb about one or the other.  For us, after reading Poppy, this internet silence was Pynchonesque mystery, and so when they responded to our request for an interview, we were elated. We were not disappointed.

 

ASX: You were both photojournalists before you left the world of commercial journalism and started working on Poppy and other projects.  What led you set out on your own?

De Jong:  I worked in newsrooms for a long time before finally quitting my job and going to India.  From there I went to Afghanistan because at the time, in the 1990s, everyone was telling me how beautiful it was, and saying how much I would love it.  The best times of my life have been in Afghanistan.  Riding through the mountains there on horseback, you just can’t beat it.  I became fascinated.

Knoth: I think it was when I was in Pakistan after 9/11 and then suddenly 3000 journalists showed up all looking for a story.

De Jong: Yes, I had the same experience.  I had been working in Afghanistan, and I was mostly the only person there.  When there are no other journalists you are free to pursue the stories that you feel are important, but when everyone shows up you cannot sell your story, because then there is only one narrative and everyone wants to tell the same tale.

Knoth: It becomes very focused on just a few things, like religious extremism, terrorist groups, attacks, the Taliban, and Afghans beating their wives.  These kinds of stories are what everyone is after.  That was one of the reasons that I began leaning towards these long-term projects instead of the daily news.  When you write three stories a week they are bite sized, and no one knows what is going on in the larger picture.  With Poppy, we were able to cover so much more.

ASX:  As a child I lived in the Netherlands, and it was a very peaceful, idyllic time of my childhood.  What do you think drove you to get on the plane to Somalia or Afghanistan for the first time and go so far away from that European safety?

Knoth: We both grew up in the Netherlands and had very happy childhoods.  My grandfather was a military man actually, as were other people in my family.  My grandfather had a travel agency in the 1920s.  He organized trips all over the world and was one of the first people to take tourists to Africa, the Middle East, and the United States.  He was also a great photographer, a lot better than me. So I think it’s in your blood sometimes, a little bit of gene programming. 

I went to Somalia in 1993 simply because the opportunity arose, and while we were coming over the city I saw a UN convoy moving very fast through Mogadishu.  Then when I stepped off onto the runway I was almost run over by a UN tank, and there were all of these smiling Somalis asking “Whose he? Why is he here?”  I just thought it was a big mistake, almost turned around and got back on the plane, but I ended up staying.  Some people can do this kind of work and some people can’t.

ASX: Which conflicts have you covered for the international press, before starting on the Poppy project?

Somalia in the 1990s, starting in 1994, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tamil conflict in the 1990s, Kosovo, Sudan  and others.

ASX: Somalia gets a lot of press as one of the wildest places in the world.  I think a lot of westerners couldn’t even imagine going there.  Describe a typical day of reporting there, what should a visitor never do there?

De Jong: (laughing) Walk around alone on the street! That’s something you shouldn’t do.

But a typical day there, well, I would always be sick!  Usually I never got sick, and Robert was the one who was sick everywhere we went, but in Somalia it was me.  So I would wake up, boil the water, filter the water, chlorinate the water and then boil it again, and then still get sick!  Then we would go out with our translator and try to take some photographs and talk to some people.  I remember that almost every day there Robert would reach for his camera in the street, and almost in exactly choreographed motion, these little boys would reach down to pick up rocks to throw at him (laughing), it was just hilarious.

Knoth: Its true!  Also in Somalia it never is a smart thing to offend anybody. That might get you killed on the spot, conflicts over work and payment included.  In this case it’s a bit of a story: Weeks before our arrival in the region of Geddo in Western Somalia everyone was already aware that we were coming. We were warned that quite a few people were already competing with each other to provide us with a car and fixer to earn some cash. If you pick one, you piss off the others, who then might pressurize you in working with them.

Before our arrival we already had arranged a safe fixer and car, while landing at the airstrip of Bardera we already saw other cars waiting for us. One of them was Abdi, a nephew of the king of the Marehan clan, which we found out later.  Off course Abdi wanted to work with us, guaranteeing our safety, and he was not inclined to let us go. We managed  telling him that we already had another team, which took a while.

The next day, just when we thought we would not see him again, Abdi returned triumphantly. With him was an old man who was introduced to us as ‘the king of the Marehan.’ Abdi handed us a letter starting with: “Read this letter carefully, it is good for you.”  The king of the Marehan recommended we work with Abdi. If not, the letter read, our safety could not be guaranteed. After a quick discussion amongst ourselves we promised to work with Abdi tomorrow, after which they left. Within half an hour we were on our way to Garbahaarrey, knowing that it would be rather suicidal to return to Bardera any time soon. It’s like being in the Godfather. Offers you can’t refuse.

But I love Somalia.  The people there, they are incredible.  They have this wonderful sense of humor, a playfulness about them, and they really know how to enjoy life.  For them, the fact that you are a westerner isn’t important, it often plays a complicating  role when working in Africa.  It’s a fabulous country.

 

 

ASX: So in all of these countries you must have spent a lot of time finding the right people to talk to. Did you have a method?  Or more broadly, how did you do it?  For example in Afghanistan when you were photographing people working in the illegal poppy fields they seem very relaxed and unconcerned.  This is the case for many people and situations you’ve photographed.  Is there a strategy that works consistently?

De Jong: Just walking in the street and getting to know people is a great way to do it.  You get invited into homes, invited to eat, and people tell you stories.  We prefer to stay in one place for a longer period of time rather than go to five places in the same period.  And always we are looking for people who, by sharing the details of their lives with us, tell the region’s story.

Knoth: An excellent translator is the most important thing. They not only translate but they also introduce you to people in the community.  But no, there is no method that works consistently everywhere.  Working in Afghanistan is completely different than working in Somalia.  The only consistent thing is that you must have someone to break the ice between you and the community. 

De Jong: We also try to always have fun wherever we go.  With the people working in the poppy fields we have a good time, we laugh, and take their pictures.  This is the same everywhere we go. 

ASX: What kind of camera(s) do you use?

Knoth: I have always used film cameras for a few reasons.  A Hasselblad, a few others.  When you go to Afghanistan with digital cameras you run out of batteries in a few days, and then you’re in trouble with no electricity available.  Film cameras also tend to be lighter, and we try to travel as light as possible.  Then you don’t seem as official or as much like a journalist.  Your not holding the newest digital camera.  People tend to forget about you and allow you to work, they don’t give you the same respect and they are more natural. 

De Jong: I shot video the last time we were in Afghanistan with a 200 Euro flip camera.  It was small, lightweight and cheap, but the footage was good and that is what’s important.  One of our translators in Somalia used to make fun of Robert all of time for using these old cameras.  He couldn’t understand why a westerner would use old equipment.

ASX: Poppy is a powerful book, and much of this power comes from how succinct it is.  Although very large, it distills a vast amount of information into a single volume.  Did you have a method for synthesizing so many years of reporting into a single book, once all of the work was done?

Knoth: This was one of the most horrible parts of the entire project.  We agonized over what to include and what to leave out for almost three years.  This project spanned twenty years of our lives, and when you look at it you might think that we set out to do it, that we began with a plan.  But no, there was no plan, we merely realized at some point, several years ago, that we had worked in the region long enough to see something really large and unique.  We saw that it was many of the countries or issued we had been reporting on were in various ways connected and decided to make a book.

De Jong: Of course there were many arguments over what to include and what to throw out.  We both had things that were very important to us.

Knoth: Yes we fought a bit didn’t we?  But after going through 1000 or so rolls of film, maybe more, we had come out with a series of photographs, around 1500, that we felt showed our experience.  Then the book designer got involved, and we gave him what we had.  After he’d looked at it we asked him if it made sense and he said no, he had no idea what had happened or what we’d seen. It made no sense at all. So he broke it up into these epochs, sort of trails that we’d travelled, and suddenly it all began to come together.  That was around a year before the book was published.

The photos were incredibly difficult to choose from because we had all kinds of formats.  I have shot in these regions with large format black and white, with my Hasselblad, with 35mm color, and then Antoinette with an old Olympus 1,her flip camera and a digital Canon, so the mediums really were incredibly diverse.  At one time this might have been unacceptable, but now with the internet, you could even shoot pictures with a cell phone camera, the aesthetic standard has been seriously altered.  We threw out all of the aesthetic photos and focused only on the story. That was a very important part of the process.  We discarded everything that was merely beautiful and had nothing to say.

De Jong: Combining all those different formats also worked well to provide an element of fiction to the book, and at times an almost surreal feeling. As far as keeping it succinct, rather than going in depth on some issues, we felt it was more important to paint a mosaic. Often you only need to hint at something or suggest something in a few words and images. That can already show the fluidity of events and explain the chains and networks and how it’s all connected. We wanted to provide a high density of all sorts of information that seemingly had nothing to do with each other and then peel off the layers and allow the reader to see the story emerging.

We split it up in three layers: first a historical timeline, second our own observations/reportage elements and diary fragments, and the third was captions/extra information related to the pictures shown. And then the main text. Each element was needed to understand the others.  For each country we started to collect information, roughly from the beginning of the Afghan civil War in 1972 till 2011. So it was quite methodical.

ASX: That confirms my initial suspicion that all of the images are highly curated and none are lightly placed. One of the photographs I remember best best from the entire book is the one of Mamik, the blind girl you photographed first in 2001, and again in 2009.  Her transformation was so tragic, and it is one that reveals the desolation and poverty that drives so many people in Afghanistan to cultivate poppy.  Have you seen her again?  Can you talk a bit about your relationship with her?

De Jong: Yes, Mamik’s image was one I was absolutely convinced had to be in the book.  When we first met her we were riding on horseback, not even in trucks, through the mountain communities who were experiencing a terrible drought.  There were many fresh children’s graves.  All of the men had gone off to Pakistan, to Iran, or to Kabul to find work because nothing could be grown any more in the villages.  There were only women and children and old people, and many of the old had stopped eating in order to save food for the children and their mothers.  It was devastating.

When I met Mamik the vulnerability of her position was immediately clear.  There was no medical care for her, and only her friend to take care of her in these very difficult conditions.  She said it herself; she said that she didn’t know what she would do without her friend.

And when we came back almost ten years later, her friend had been married off to another village, and Mamik had to live with her brother and there she was pretty much confined to the house, without anyone helping her. She had no hope left. I thought her position was like that of much of population and in that sense it helps to explain the context of life in Afghanistan.

ASX: When I saw the first picture I thought that you understood her situation much better than she did, and that the horror of that second picture is part of life’s fundamental horror. In that second photograph she has been finally introduced to her own reality.  I thought too that she in many ways represents many of the people in the book, people who participate in the global drug trade because from their situation it is a very viable, reasonable option.  I kept having this reaction to Poppy as I was reading and viewing the photographs, realizing that people react in a logical way to their surroundings, and that if I were them I would almost certainly do exactly the same thing.  I would become involved in the drug trade if it was my only option.

De Jong:  I’m glad you said that, because throughout the book we tried very hard not to be judgmental, to show people in the places they live with their options around them.  This was very difficult, and I worry sometimes that to some people the book might seem a judgment on those it depicts.

Knoth: The heroin trade in Afghanistan set off in the 1980s, as way of funding the Mujahedeen which received large sums of money and weapons from the West and the Saudis, and being quite aware of the fact that they were dealing in opium and heroin on a large scale. Much to the chagrin of the DEA they were not allowed to go after these cartel.  From Afghanistan the drug trade  started to tap into this emerging global network and it has continue to grow ever since. Millions of people now depend on it.

Drugs have become an integral part of our economic system and drugs have been a byproduct of modern warfare since the dirty wars in South East Asia in the 50ties and 60ties.

ASX: This sort of brings us to my next question.  I live in Mexico City, and Mexico has an enormous drug trafficking problem.  I had a friend who was a journalist here in the city, and who sadly died in mysterious circumstances shortly after I met him.  Before he did, he told me that the only option when it came to drugs was to put them in the hands of Governments and Corporations, who he claimed were only potentially evil when they were not regulated, in order to keep them from falling into the hands of criminals, who in his opinion represented a legitimate evil.  After tracing the effects of an extremely powerful (politically and physically) drug, what policies would you urge Western governments, who have drug consumption problems, and other governments, who have drug production and trafficking problems, to pursue?  Do those policies include legalization and taxation?

De Jong: We tend to support legalization, but reluctantly. It’s not going to be the silver bullet, there will always be a parallel market, but it will reduce a lot of the negative side effects, crime, healthcare issues and addiction. We think it is difficult to implement smart policies.  For example the semi-legal marijuana laws in the Netherlands have had some serious drawbacks, and are now playing out in organized crime and violence.  So yes to legalization, but with great care.

 ASX:  So that is one option, if governments decide to legalize, but for many Western governments that does not seem like a political reality within the next several decades.  Do you envision any kind of decline in the global drug trade in the next 50 years?  One precipitated, perhaps, by more advanced surveillance and enforcement methods by governments?  Or will the drug problem grow as new markets open up in the developing world?

Knoth: It is quite impossible to contain the flow of drugs or any other goods for that matter. Much if it having to do with scale.  New technologies and developments have allowed us to increase the scale in/of which we do things and also at a cheaper price.  Container ships can now carry up to 11.000 containers: in less than 10 years’ time the amount goods transported more than doubled from 332 million tons to 828 million tons. It’s impossible to check everything. At the same time drug cartels clog the judicial system with drug runners, often tipping off the police themselves while the big shipment bribe their way through. Another example are IED’s, they are cheap to produce, so in Afghanistan the Taliban have figured out that while planting one IED has little effect, planting a hundred of them is a very effective way of taking on an opponent who in terms of resources is vastly superior. The same goes for human traffickers, counterfeiting goods, etc. Scale has been an effective strategy for the ‘little men to take on the strong men’ so to speak, and to obstruct the entire system of control. The fact that crime has gone transnational makes it even worse since governments are restricted to operate within their own countries. The US and NATO logical response is drones and special forces operating in more than a hundred countries in a desperate attempt to stem the growing anarchy.

Whether that is the smartest response is a different matter altogether.

ASX: In Mexico the Narcos have more planes and better guns than the police.

Knoth: Right, they are being outspent.  It’s a matter of money. 

ASX: On the back of “Poppy” the first line is “In the 21st century, globalization has opened up the world for better or for worse.”  This question is simple, and at some point everyone decides it for themselves.  For you, globalization is ultimately what kind of force?  Do you fear its impacts or believe in its liberating power?

Knoth: Well I don’t know, it’s very difficult to say, I think it’s both.  For me it’s both.  It’s much better than the cold war.  (laughs)…  It has improved the lives of millions, if not billions of people though, without a doubt.  On the other hand some of the consequences we have seen are very dire.

De Jong: Absolutely, it’s very complicated and very difficult to understand as a phenomena.  Poppy is a result of it though, in many ways.  Its coverage, its expanse, which you have mentioned, was only possible with the Internet. But 21st century globalisation is a process of transformation, as it was in late 19th century when we moved from an agricultural society towards an industrial society.

Knoth: Back then it also led to massive instability eventually leading to WW1 and WWII. At the moment the chaos around us is growing as well. So maybe it’s time to start looking at what is going from a different perspective, the economic rationale behind it instead of religious extremism vs democracy. Our book is an attempt to do that. If anything Poppy is about transformation.

De Jong: Without the Internet… you’ve mentioned your debt to the Internet in terms of what you are aware of and what information is available to you, we are the same.  The amount of information that we were able to integrate into Poppy would not have been possible without the net.  Our research phase was enormous, and honestly I don’t think the series of realizations that made such a huge portrait possible would have ever been set into motion without the enormous amount of data at our fingertips. 

Knoth: There something called data journalism now, where you don’t listen to anyone, you don’t read the papers, you just look at massive amounts of data.  And frequently what you see in that data is completely different from what everyone is saying.  Poppy is somewhat like that.

ASX:  It actually makes more sense to me now, the book does.  Now that you’ve mentioned your debt to the Internet and its ability to put so much information at your fingertips, I recognize Poppy as a very unique object of our age.  I said repeatedly that I really know of no other book like it.  I think it is singular in its scope and perspective and in the vast amounts of information it synthesizes.  An impressive achievement.  What’s next?

Knoth: That’s still uncertain. We have some ideas for new work. We have carefully considered a film adaptation of Poppy, but that is still not much more than a plan.  We are continuing with Fukushima, and some other smaller projects. Right now we don’t have anything planned on the scale of Poppy. I guess Poppy is just once in a lifetime given the scope and depth of the project. It’s actually quite difficult to decide what is next in that sense.

 

 



















 

(All rights reserved. Text @ ASX and Paul Loomis. Images @ Antoinette De Jong and Robert Knoth)

The post ASX EXCLUSIVE: INTERVIEW – “Antoinette de Jong and Robert Knoth” (2012) appeared first on ASX | AMERICAN SUBURB X | Photography & Culture.

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Viviane Sassen’s gorgeous, inscrutable fine art images from Africa have earned her acclaim and a place in the Museum of Modern Art. But recently, her surreal and equally beautiful fashion photography has been garnering attention, too: in 2011, Sassen won the prestigious International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award for Applied/Fashion/Advertising Photography, and more than 300 of her fashion images are on view at Amsterdam’s Huis Marseille Museum for Photography through mid-March 2013 in a show titled, Viviane Sassen / In and Out of Fashion.

Born in Amsterdam, Sassen lived in Kenya — where her father worked in a polio clinic — between the ages of 2 and 5. Because the continent looms so large in her work, I asked her to describe her earliest memories from Africa.

“I remember,” she told me, “how Rispa, our nanny, woke me up one early morning and took me to a deserted football field to pick small white mushrooms. I remember the taste of sugarcane and ugali [a dish similar to polenta], orange Fanta and the bloody goat heads in the market in Kisumu.”

Returning to the Netherlands was difficult for her: “I didn’t feel I belonged in Europe, yet I knew I was a foreigner in Africa.”

As a young woman, Sassen enrolled in a university fashion design program and also modeled. Recalling her modeling work, she says that she “can relate to how a girl might feel in front of a camera: sometimes bored, tired or simply stressed or insecure. And then the shoes … three sizes too small but with killer heels. It’s not always fun to be a model.”

Nevertheless, she says she “got to know a lot of photographers; they made me aware that they controlled the image. That’s what I wanted, too; I wanted to be in control of the image … to create it.”

Viviane Sassen

Viviane Sassen

Sassen made the leap into photography. She recalls that “in the beginning, [photographers] like Nan Goldin and Nobuyoshi Araki [were] very important for my work because of their formal language, but also because they depicted their own lives in a way that appealed to me.”

A turning point in her own photography came in 2002 when she returned to Africa with her husband. The fine art photography she has made there in the past decade shines as some of the most original, unexpected work to emerge from the continent by a Western photographer. But one finds no victims of war or famine here; instead, the viewer confronts contemporary Africans engaged in sophisticated, if mysterious, dream performances.

“Working in Africa opens doors of my subconscious,” Sassen explains. “Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning after very vivid dreams or if I just suddenly have an idea, I sketch. My photographs are sometimes almost literal pictures of these sketches.” At other times, she says, “I might just find something on the street that excites me.”

Her images are somehow primal and hallucinatory at once: two youths embrace in the dark, a giant banana leaf sprouting between them; a figure lies nestled in the diaphanous green cloud of a fishing net; a boy lounges on the ground, his limbs painted bright turquoise. Critic Vince Aletti says that Sassen “tends to treat the body as a sculptural element—a malleable shape that combines with blocks of shadow and bright color in arrangements that sometimes read like cut-paper collages, bold and abstract but full of vibrant life.”

One key part of the body that is often missing or obscured is the human face, as models turn away from the camera or appear with their faces cloaked in shadow. As Aaron Schuman noted in Aperture, the images might thus “appear to ignore the individuals they portray and instead inherently possess—maybe even propagate—the problematic histories, legacies, and relationships between Africa and the West. But perhaps in Sassen’s case this is the point, at least in part, and where the power of her photographs lies.”

Viviane Sassen

Viviane Sassen

Within these mirror-like voids, Sassen allows the viewer to reflect on the clichés and prejudices Westerners so often fall back on when engaging the vast continent and its inhabitants.

“I want to seduce the viewer with a beautiful formal approach,” says Sassen, “and at the same time, leave something disturbing.”

Sassen’s fashion work borrows much from her fine art—obscured faces, extraordinary color. The acute graphic sensibility of Sassen’s fine art, meanwhile, works wonders in magazine spreads. In an elemental way, though, the museum show and Sassen’s images (made for magazines like Wallpaper, Purple and Dazed & Confused, and for brands like Levi’s and Stella McCartney) don’t make sense at all.

As Sassen told the British Journal of Photography in its December 2012 issue, “I find exhibitions of fashion photography within the context of a museum rather problematic. Most fashion images aren’t art, they’re fashion photographs—which is fine, but if you put them in a museum, enlarged and in a frame, they become something else…. Art photography doesn’t have to serve any purpose, fashion photography does, and that makes a difference…. [Then] there are images which are really between art and fashion, which I hope I do myself.”

Sassen hit upon a solution to this conundrum: projecting fashion images on museum walls, so the work retains a “kind of disposable feel.” Furthermore, Sassen has said she doesn’t care much about clothes. “My interest is not the interest of the fashion industry. My interest is to make fascinating pictures…. It’s always about desire and fear, about making images that are both appealing and unsettling.”

Viviane Sassen

Viviane Sassen

Nevertheless, Sassen says she loves the “swiftness of fashion” as opposed to the “contemplated process of making art.” I asked her about the difference between shooting for magazines and shooting for advertisements.

“What I like about fashion magazines is that they create a platform to experiment and to work closely with people who can be super inspiring. I call it my laboratory. [It] should be like an adventure; not knowing where your play will lead you. When you’re working on fashion campaigns for a commercial brand it’s often much less experimental, but still creative in the sense that you have to match the pieces of a puzzle.”

Sassen has used a computer to retouch some of her images, but mostly avoids it. “I think that something beautiful is even more charming when it’s not too perfect. You don’t want to feel the artificiality of the image, you want to believe in it. I feel related to reality, while slick images feel exchangeable.”

Sassen’s lifelong interest in Africa — and her ongoing explorations of her own subconscious — have contributed to some of the most riveting fashion photography being made today. For a photographer rooted in (or, as she puts it, “related to”) reality, her magazine work is a revelation.

See more of Sassen’s work at VivianeSassen.com.

Myles Little is an associate photo editor at TIME.

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Victor Cobo

Behind the Smoke Colored Curtain

play this essay

The images that I collect are often as much about myself as they are about the subjects being photographed.  A broad exploration of real and imagined journeys, which often entail not only a physical displacement but also a psychological and emotional passage.

The act of seeking out characters of interest has become a therapeutic process by means of escapism, yet it is also an addiction whereby I can express who I am and delve into my current state of mind.  A deeper representation of my relationship to this vast world we live in.

I am both an actor and choreographer in my photographic diaries and similarly to the subjects I work with, I live on the fringes of society between dreams and memories. For me, the search for my subjects makes me realize they are my reflections and my companions, each one a Dante within a personal inferno. They are the renegades, outsiders and survivors.  In the end, their trials represent all of us and define these moments of solitude that we all experience in our lives.

Bio

Victor Cobo (b. 1971) is a Spanish American photographer based in New York City. His works explore our evolving isolation through memory, dreams, sexuality and the translucency of the psyche. Cobo is a self-taught photographer who was originally trained in painting and life-drawing.  His work has been featured in the New York Times Magazine; Newsweek; Time; Surface; the San Francisco Chronicle; Ojo De Pez; Burn Magazine; Leica World; Courrier Int’l.; The Advocate; Private; Foto8; American Suburb X; Idomenee and Eyemazing.  In 2007 he was the winner of the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer’s Fellowship. Cobo’s photographs have been exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is featured in many private and public collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Akron Art Museum, the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive and the Amon Carter Museum, as well as numerous private collections.

Related links

www.victorcobo.com

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Roppongi Hills 2, 2005Adrift in the city of superflatBy Marc Feustel, Originally published in FOAM Magazine, brought to ASX by FOAMDuring the extraordinarily turbulent and dynamic post-war period , Tokyo became a great photographic city: a city with a distinctive, immediately recognizable photographic aesthetic. Just as Paris’s visual identity became intrinsically linked to the humanist

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Name- V.D. (Vincent Delbrouck)
Age- 35
Where are you from?- I am from Brussels (Belgium), but I don’t feel rooted here. Maybe I lived somewhere else in a previous life...a tropical place. There, this is my home and my light. I have been living one year in Nepal from 2009-2010. Now, I am back in the old and grey Europe (living in the countryside), but I hope not for long.
Your equipment- I used to work with a Rollei Afm 35 point and shoot film camera and a Polaroid (and sketchbooks, permanent markers, painting, tape,...) and I changed for a Leica Minilux 35mm (and small notebooks). I love film.
Influences and photographers you like- Film directors : Krzysztof Kieślowski, Pedro Almodovar, Michelangelo Antonioni, Kim Ki-duk, Anh Hung Tran,... Writers (I love especially short stories) : Raymond Carver, Charles Bukowski, Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Reinaldo Arenas, Ernest Hemingway, John Fante, Fernando Pessoa, Wendy Guerra, Marguerite Duras, Aimé Césaire, Duong Thu Huong, Junot Diaz... Photographers : (I started with Raymond Depardon, and other Magnum photographers), William Eggleston, Malick Sidibe, Robert Frank (from Mabou period), Wolfgang Tillmans, Juergen Teller, Mark Borthwick, Bertien Van Manen, JH Engström, Arno Nollen, Ed Templeton, G.P. Fieret, Takashi Homma, Araki, Masao Yamamoto, Paul Graham, Boris Mikhailov,...(and other friends photographers) Painters : Peter Doig, Luc Tuymans, Andō Hiroshige,... Jonathan Meese. Wise men : Ajahn Chah, Krishnamurti, Chögyam Trungpa,... Places : Centro Habana, Kathmandu, Lower Mustang, Gokarna, Veracruz,...
Some of the photographers I love today : Juan Carlos Alom, Viviane Sassen, Seba Kurtis, Chris Shaw, André Cépéda,...
A little about you- I am currently working on a new book about experience in Nepal and I am also studying and practicing shiatsu.
vincentdelbrouck.be 

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ALL PHOTOS BY VINCENT DELBROUCK

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