Among a number of noteworthy photo projects screened at the 2013 Look3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month was “Pollinators,” a four-minute video featuring stunning macro images of insects and animals in the act of pollinating plants, by National Geographic contributor Mark Moffett. Part of the charm of the video is Moffett’s narration, which evokes the plodding soberness of nature documentaries of yore, and then takes a series of wry, tongue-in-cheek turns after about 90 seconds. (This video was provided courtesy of Look3 organizers, with Mark Moffett’s permission.)
Photographer Gregory Crewdson, who has inspired nearly as much awe for the size of his productions as for his evocative, cinematic work, told an audience at Look3 Festival of the Photograph on Saturday that he’s just starting a new body of work, and he’s done with shooting huge productions.
Crewdson offered no details about his latest project. “I don’t want to go too much more into it, because honestly it’s a bit of a mystery for myself,” he said. But he also said, “I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the [production] scale of Beneath the Roses. I feel no need to. So what happens next is going to be a smaller version of that.”
Crewdson made the remarks at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville Saturday afternoon, when he appeared on stage for a conversation about his work and career with NPR host Alex Chadwick.
Crewdson is known for his elaborately lit tableaux, shot at twilight in declining towns and neighborhoods of New England, that capture a sense of anxiety, mystery and foreboding. (more…)
Legendary photographer Josef Koudelka packed the house at the Paramount Theater in downtown Charlottesville during the Look3 Festival of the Photograph over the weekend, and the audience greeted him with a standing ovation after master of ceremonies, photographer Vince Musi, announced that Koudelka had been reluctant to participate. Koudelka, who has a reputation as a lone wolf among a group of peers known for their independence, has rarely granted interviews during a career that spans more than 40 years.
“Of course I don’t feel very comfortable to be here. I am not a good speaker,” said Koudelka, who was nevertheless gracious to Anne Wilkes Tucker, curator at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, who was also on stage to interview him. “I don’t know what she’s going to ask me, [but] I gave her assurance I would answer everything…I will try to be as honest as possible.”
Koudelka also told the audience at the outset that he “never listened much to what [other] photographers say,” and recounted how Henri Cartier-Bresson had asked him to read and comment on the text of The Decisive Moment before that book was published. “I said to Bresson I’m really not interested and I’m not going to read it.” Koudelka added, “I think the best portrait of a photographer are his photographs, so please judge me on my photographs.” (more…)
Look3: Richard Misrach on Documentary vs. Art, the Complications of Portraiture, and Digital Photography
Forty years after making his mark in photography with a self-published book of social documentary portraits of homeless people called “Telegraph 3 a.m.,” photographer Richard Misrach is working his way back to portraits–ever so tentatively–as part of his exploration of the passage of time, and the metaphysical questions of aging.
Misrach’s described his circuitous (and adventurous) journey during an on-stage interview with NPR host Alex Chadwick at the Look3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday morning. People have rarely appeared in his images, but Misrach explained that he is sneaking up on portraiture again with a follow-up to his “On the Beach” project, a collection of scenes from a Hawaiian beach photographed from the confines of a small 7th floor hotel balcony. The figures on the beach are small, but the ever-improving digital sensors of his cameras have enabled him to enlarge the details, and see faces.
Still, Misrach is showing only people with their faces obscured–by limbs, objects, or their positions–in his tightly cropped enlargements.
“Portraiture is just not ethically clean. It’s complicated,” Misrach explained.
He abruptly abandoned portraiture after “Telegraph 3 a.m.,” which he published in 1972, didn’t have the impact he had hoped.
“I had the best intentions of changing the world by showing these pictures of people living on streets [of Berkeley, California]. I thought this would really have huge impact on the world. Of course it didn’t. It fell flat, rather than change anything on the street, it became a coffee table book,” Misrach said.
Visual artist Carrie Mae Weems, who appeared on the main stage of the Look3 Festival of the Photograph last night for a conversation about her work with photo historian and curator Deborah Willis, is finally getting the recognition that she deserves. Weems recently received the Gordon Parks Foundation Award, and her rich, wide-ranging oeuvre from the past three decades is the subject of touring retrospective exhibition.
As an artist, Weems is not easy to pin down. She uses primarily photography, but also written text, audio recording, video and fabric banners to explore a wide range of topics, including race, gender, sexuality, and power. A common thread to it all, she says, is “an overarching commitment to understanding the present by closely examining history and identity.”
But the work is far more playful and accessible than all of that makes it sound. Her work is grounded solidly in reality. (Take a quick tour here: http://carriemaeweems.net/work.html.) And like so many other photographers, she goes to work every morning, follows her interests, and figures things out as she goes along.
“I’m interested in photography and I’m interested in literature and I’m interested in film,” she explained near the beginning of her wide-ranging conversation with Willis. “I’m trying to figure out how to use those modes as a vehicle for expressing certain kinds of ideas…I’m just interested in whatever works.”
Her conversation with Willis, accompanied by a projection of her images, shed light on her artistic process with a grand tour of her various projects over the years . One of the best known is her “Kitchen Table” series, for which Weems used a kitchen table–that iconic object of American domesticity–to explore the experience of women in their role as mothers, wives, friends, and objects of sexual desire.
Magnum photographer Alex Webb’s conversation with author and photography critic Geoff Dyer at the Look 3 photo festival provided a sweeping retrospective of Webb’s career, from his earliest black and white work through his development as a revered master of color photography on projects from Haiti to the US/Mexico Border, Florida, Cuba, and beyond.
Throughout the presentation he described his methods of working and ways of seeing, while giving credit to the happy accidents that resulted in several of his most iconic images.
But the program began on an emotional note for Webb: he told the audience that he was dedicating the presentation of his work to his mother, who died “somewhat unexpectedly” two and a half weeks ago, shortly after being diagnosed with leukemia. Webb went on to say that his mother, a sculptor, was “courageous in her art,” and taught him and his siblings “how to be committed artists.”
Webb’s conversation with Dyer proceeded chronologically through his career and work. Webb’s start was ordinary: he got his first camera at the age of ten, but a passion for photography didn’t ignite until he was about 15. The first two books that captured his imagination were Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment and Robert Frank’s The Americans. “When I started of course serious photography was black and white,” Webb said. “Color was sort of crass.”
By about 1975, he was photographing the American landscape in the spirit of Lee Friedlander and Charles Harbutt. By the age of 22, he was a Magnum nominee, which Webb downplayed as less of a big deal than it might seem now because there was a lot less competition back then, and nobody was talking about the death of photojournalism. Despite his early success, however, Webb said his work “wasn’t really going anywhere.”
Between 1975 and 1978, he realized that he needed to photograph “far away from New England, where I was from.” He made his first trips afield–to Mississippi, Haiti and the US-Mexico border.
The change of scenery “really shook me out of something,” he said. “I grew up in what felt like a slightly complacent world” of New York intellectuals (his father was a book editor and publisher, who worked with several famous writers.) The new places he was exploring were strange without being completely divorced from his cultural experience. “Some semblance of the world I understood intersected with this other world [he wasn't familiar with.] I can’t fully explain it, but clearly there are certain places that have gotten my photographic juices going.”
Initially, he continued shooting black and white, but soon realized his images were missing an element essential to Haiti and the US-Mexico border: color. By the late 70s, he was shooting in color because it “was the emotional photographic response to the places I was working in. If I had stayed in New England, I don’t know whether I would ever have started photographing in color,” he said.
The transition was awkward, however. While he was still shooting black and white personal work, he occasionally shot color when an assignment demanded it. “It was lousy, it was shit,” Webb said of his early color work.
But he explained to the Look 3 audience that he gradually developed a sense of color, including the color of light and how it can change so quickly outdoors. “Color is about emotion. That’s what I began to see and understand as a photographer,” he said. “On a trip to Haiti in ’79, all of the sudden I started to see in color,” he recounted.
Webb worked on numerous projects for years, many of them simultaneously: Haiti, the US-Mexico border, Florida, Cuba, the Amazon, and Istanbul. He also showed images from shorter projects and assignments in France, Germany, and Spain, and other places.
His Haiti project, for instance, began in 1975 and continued until 2000. He finally completed his US Mexico border project with the publication of his book Crossings in 2003. He made his first trip to Cuba in 1993, but didn’t begin shooting there in earnest until 2000, continuing that project through the publication of Violet Isle in 2009 (the book is collaboration with his wife, photographer Rebecca Norris Webb, whose images are interspersed with Webb’s throughout the book.)
Webb says it takes him a while–sometimes several years– to figure out whether exploratory trips to a new place will turn into a project worthy of a book. For that reason, he tends to have several projects percolating at the same time.
“I don’t always know a project is going to be a project until I’m well into it,” he said. Later in the presentation, he elaborated: “A project is like stepping off onto journey, but you don’t know where it’s going to take you or where it’s going to end,” he said. “As Rebecca [his wife] says, one’s photographs are wiser than one’s self.”
Lately, he’s started exploring a project about America’s industrial heartland, and expressed optimism about the prospects of that project at his Look 3 presenation. He’s visited cities including Eerie, Pennsylvania, and also Rochester, New York, to explore the demise of his film of choice: Kodachrome.
The discontinuation of the film has forced him to start shooting digitally, which raised questions from the audience about how the change has affected his work. Webb compared the difference between digital and film to the difference in sound quality between CDs and vinyl records. Digital “is a little cleaner than the world. Film feels like the messiness of the world,” he said.
But he’s resigned himself to the change. Had Kodak continued making Kodachrome, he said, “I probably would have been happy to photograph in Kodachrome until I died.” But the market is requiring him to switch, and he says, “I realized I can be a bit of a dinosaur, and stick with things too long. I thought that maybe it’s time to move into the 21st century.”
Describing his approach to his projects, Webb said he doesn’t do much in-depth research in advance. “I’ll read some fiction to get a taste of the place, and maybe read some guidebooks,” he said. “I bring books with me, and read them while I’m there. I want my visual knowledge of place to grow at same rate as my intellectual knowledge.” The danger of knowing too much before he goes, he says, is that it primes him to make images that represent aspects of the place, according to what he’s read, at the expense of what he might experience.
That approach of limited research, he noted, “is different from how most photojournalists [work],” but he added that he does more advance research before he travels to new places for assignments.
Webb says he prefers to shoot alone. “For me it’s a very solitary process. First of all, hanging out with me while i’m photographing is really boring. I’ll be here, I’ll be there, I’ll circle around, and come back.” (There are occasions when he needs to hire a fixer, and he’s worked along side Maggie Steber and other journalists in the Haiti when political tensions made it particularly dangerous there. “Another photographer or writer can pull you out if you run into trouble,” Webb said.)
Webb’s is capable of making images of enormous complexity, with shadows and light, reflection, color, optical illusions, juxtapositions, symbolism, and multiple layers of content. (See some examples here.) Not all of his images work so hard (and challenge viewers in the process) but almost every project includes notable examples.
When Dyer reminded Webb that the photographer has questioned the meaning of some of his own complicated photographs of Haiti, Webb responded, “I like photogoraphs that ask questions and open up possibilities. I certianly don’t have answers,” so his pictures shouldn’t pretend to have them.
One other noteworthy topic Dyer raised was Magnum. “How does it suit you being a Magnum photographer?’ he asked.
Webb said he was closer to other Magnum photographers earlier in his career. “But we all have gone different ways. We have families. Our work is going in different directions. Some aspects of Magnum are really great, some are problematic. Every Magnum photographer has gone through, ‘Im going to leave this fucking agency. I can’t stand so-and-so.’ It’s not an easy place, but anyone at any agency would say something similar.” He then added, “There’s a real question about whether Magnum is needed…The reason for its existence when it was formed sixty years ago isn’t there anymore.”
Donna Ferrato brought a quick wit and joie de vivre to an onstage interview with NPR personality Alex Chadwick at the LOOK3 photo festival in Charlottesville on Friday afternoon. A unifying theme of their wide-ranging discussion was Ferrato’s belief in the life-affirming power of emotional intimacy and mutual respect that has informed her work and career.
Ferrato paid homage to two men in particular, whom she credited with shaping her career: her father, an accomplished amateur photographer Ferrato praised for living life with such passion, and the late Magnum photographer Philip Jones Griffiths, with whom Ferrato had a daughter–and a rather complicated personal relationship.
Her father, she said, “was the greatest teacher for me in all aspects of life.” Ferrato said he filled the house with his photographs, and she showed a number of examples that demonstrated his talent as a photographer, as well as an outrageous sense of fun. One image, for instance, was a portrait of an attractive flight attendant he had talked into posing with a bag of bloody fish that Ferrato’s father was carrying home from a fishing trip.
“My father and I are the same–both soft and hard, whereas my mother is all hard,” Ferrato said. “My mother wore the pants in the house. She wanted me to be a lady.” (In a heartbreaking story at the end of the talk, Ferrato told how her mother threw away a lifetime’s worth of her father’s photographic work over the betrayal of his infidelity. “All the family history that this man had done with so much love,” Ferrato said. “Gone.”)
Ferrato wanted to be an actress, she said. “But I watched [my father,] and how much passion he had taking pictures. He was irrepressible, my old man.”
When Ferrato picked up photography, she “just wanted to be a newspaper photographer. Mostly I just wanted to hang out with people because I really like people,” she said. “They would take me to their homes and tell me their stories.”
Ferrato said she was able to work that way “to her heart’s content” during the 70s, 80s, and 90s, before post 9/11 wariness made street photography so much more difficult. She is known for her impossibly intimate work, most notably her images of domestic violence, but also images of friends, neighbors, and strangers in completely unguarded, everyday moments.
In the images she projected during the talk, most subjects seemed oblivious to Ferrato’s camera, a Leica, which completely changed her photography when she got it, she said. “It was so unobtrusive,” she said. “It’s essential, and sensual.”
Her domestic violence work shows confrontation and abuse unfolding at a close, visceral range that would have amazed Robert Capa (who is famously credited for having said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”)
Ferrato said that without the support of Philip Jones Griffiths for her domestic violence work, she never would have had the confidence in herself to pursue it, or get so deeply embedded with her subjects.
At the time she was working on the project, editors wouldn’t touch it, Ferrato explained. That fed her doubts about it, and discouraged her. Ferrato recounted, “Philip said, ‘I’m the president of Magnum. I’ve never seen anything like this so fuck all those editors who keep saying no.” He insisted she continue working on the project, telling her, “I believe in you.”
Griffiths ended up designing her seminal book about domestic violence, called Living With the Enemy (1994). “Nobody is more passionate than Philip,” she said. “[Producing that book] was very emotional. It was like building a house. By the end of it, we were broken up, because Philip didn’t like my text.”
Ferrato explained how she managed to get images of one of her subjects, Garth, in flagrant acts of abusing his wife, Lisa (the couple was central to the project.) Ferrato was spending the night at their house with her three-month old daughter, after Lisa expressed fear that Garth might harm her, and invited Ferrato to come over. In the middle of the night, Ferrato heard Garth and Lisa fighting down the hall in the bathroom. She grabbed her camera, ran toward the commotion, and started taking pictures. “He doesn’t give a fuck” that he’s being photographed, Ferrato told the Look3 audience, with one of the images projected on the screen behind her. “He’s a man in his master bathroom.” Ferrato says she tried to stop him, and his reaction was, “She’s my wife. I have to teach her not to lie to me.”
Asked later how she got men like Garth to sign photo releases for such incriminating pictures, Ferrato explained that they are blinded by their egos, and see nothing wrong with their behavior. In fact, Garth saw himself as the victim, Ferrato said.
Ferrato doesn’t stand for the abuse of women and children, and her deep offense over that drove her domestic violence work. It has also led to more recent stories about abuse and injustice, notably a story about the rape of children in South Africa. She has also taken up her camera in a campaign against the objectification of women in advertising. (She also told a story of how she tried to warn some under-age Guns’ n Roses fans to keep their clothes on when they appeared to Ferrato like sitting ducks back stage at a concert. Later that night, she said, she forced band leader Axl Rose to destroy naked pictures that he ended up taking of those same girls, in order to protect them–and him.)
Ferrato is no prude, however. Her interview with Chadwick was preceded by a warning that the presentation included explicit content that might not be appropriate for children. And it wasn’t just a warning about her domestic violence work. The talk was laced with Feratto’s joyful, uproarious bawdiness.
When an image of two women eating ice cream cones appeared on screen, Chadwick obsrve that one of the women “is not happy you’re taking her picture.”
“Ah, screw her,” Ferrato shot back, more for effect than with actual malice. She added, “Everything is phallic to me. Baguettes, ice cream cones. We’re surrounded by balls and cocks.”
“I always photographed sex even before domestic violence,” she told Chadwick. She didn’t have a problem with sex, she explained. “I think it’s a problem that females have to wait around for men to tell them what pleases [the men]” instead of asserting their own sexuality.
At one point, a picture of Ferrato photographing herself in a mirror with an orgy under way in the background appeared on the screen. Ferrato was naked. It helped explain how she manages to make people comfortable in front of her camera. But Chadwick questioned whether Ferrato’s nudity in that situation crossed a line.
With no apologies, Ferrato said, “I’m naked. I’m not going to be a freak” by being the only one wearing clothes at an orgy, she said. Pointing to the clothes she was wearing, Ferrato rounded on Chadwick, albeit in a good-natured way: “Do you think I’m going to be in there dressed like this? What would you do?”
Quoting from an interview Ferrato gave more than a decade ago, Chadwick reminded Ferrato that she had pointed out that her pictures of sex aren’t erotic, unlike the images of Helmut Newton
“They’re not airbrushed, they’re not stylized,” Ferrato said of her images of sex. “Nobody is living out my masturbatory fantasies. They’re not being coerced into this.” Ferrato said, in effect, that her sex images celebrate the passionate give-and-take of consenting adults. “This was a great time in the liberation of our sexuality. The seventies were a great time.”
More generally, what Ferrato has celebrated through her work is the sanctity and joy of trusting relationships in all forms. And she brought that sensibility to photographs of her own family photographs of Griffiths and their daughter. Just because it’s family, she explained to the Look3 audience, doesn’t mean you shoot head-on portraits that show you and your loved ones “just looking at each other.”
Ferrato projected an image Griffiths shot of her lying naked on their bed, right after she delivered their daughter. And she showed some of her images of Griffiths over the years, including recent images of him as he was dying of cancer. Don McCullin, who was one of Griffiths’ closest friends, came to see him every day toward the end, Ferrato said. She noticed during those visits that McCullin would often go alone to the back yard, but she wasn’t sure why. Finally, she asked him.
“He said, ‘I get very emotional when I see Philip like this, and I have to cry.” He also expressed fear of intimacy with men, even an old friend as close as Griffiths (they met as Fleet Street photographers more than 40 years ago). Ferrato said she asked McCullin, “What are you afraid of?” and then ordered him to stand behind Philip so she could photograph them. “And I said, ‘Go ahead, hold him in your arms.’ ” McCullin complied.
“How many of you would tell Don McCullin to go do something?” Ferrato asked the audience, as she projected the picture. She continued, “This is what we have to do more. So many people need permission to be human.”
With equal measures of grace, humor, wisdom, and humility, photojournalist Stanley Greene regaled a packed house with tales from his storied career at the LOOK3 festival in Charlottesville last night.
Greene sat on stage at Charlottesville’s Paramount theater for a one-on-one interview with Jean-François Leroy, founder of the Visa pour L’Image photo festival in Perpignan, France. During the discussion, he talked about the trajectory of his career, his most recent project on the global impact of electronic waste, the moral imperative of supporting younger photographers, his objections to digital photography, and his new-found appreciation for the challenges of picture agencies, now that he’s the co-owner of one.
A central theme of many of Greene’s stories was the recurring role that chance has played throughout his career, in large and small ways.
“I honestly believe photography is 75 percent chance, and 25 percent skill,” he said in response to a question from an audience member toward the end of the talk. “In accidents, we really discover the magic of photography.” (He had been asked how he manages not to rewind exposed film rolls completely, which resulted in some serendipitous images on a roll he accidentally exposed three times.)
As Greene described it, much of his career has been a string of dumb luck stories from the start, when he became an assistant to the late, great W. Eugene Smith. Greene met Smith through his girlfriend, who happened to be one of Smith’s asistants. Greene recounted how he was sitting around with his friends one day, smoking cigarettes soaked in a hallucinogen. “We were out of it. He [Eugene Smith] came through the door dressed in black, and we thought he was God,” Greene said, eliciting a laugh from the audience.
One day Smith happened to develop a roll of film from his assistant’s camera. It was a roll that Greene had shot. Smith noticed it, and told his assistant, “That guy you introduced me to–I think he could take pictures.”
LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph announced today that Alex Webb, Donna Ferrato and Stanley Greene will be the featured “INsight” artists at this year’s festival, to be held June 7–9 in Charlottesville, VA. As featured artists the photographers will create solo exhibitions for the festival and speak about their work during the program of talks and presentations.
This year’s festival is being curated by Washington Post visuals editor David Griffin and photographer Vincent J. Musi.
Outdoor exhibits will be presented by Hank Willis Thomas and David Doubilet, LOOK3 has also announced. Doubilet will be this year’s “TREES” artist, hanging work in the trees that line the Charlottesville Mall.
LOOK3 also released a partial list for the series of “Master’s Talks” that takes place during the festival. Bruce Gilden, Robin Schwartz, Camille Seaman, Lynsey Addario and Hank Willis Thomas will all speak at the festival, the organization said.
For more information please visit: http://look3.org/
The need to tell stories
Social injustice is not new to our planet. As life-threatening diseases take hold of global populations, their burden weighs most heavily on the shoulders of developing and emerging nations. When organizations of all types collaborate together they have the power to make a difference where it’s needed – and they often do. But the first step is raising awareness of the issues; without awareness there can be no advocacy, and advocacy is a direct path to action.
More often than not we at BD choose to tell these stories through photography. We know that the power of the medium cannot be overstated: a photograph has the ability to convey emotion, mood, narrative, ideas and messages. We know that you know this, too.
So who is BD, anyway?
Often described as a “humanitarian healthcare company”, BD makes fundamental medical technology focused on improving drug delivery, diagnosing infectious diseases, and advancing research and production of new drugs. The breadth of our capabilities gives us the privilege to help combat many of the world’s most pressing diseases. Our company’s purpose is Helping all people live healthy lives, and with our partner organizations, we are able to serve mankind in both the most industrialized and the most impoverished places on earth.
For more information or to enter the contest, please visit: www.bdphotocompetition.com