June 10th, 2012

Look 3 Report: Alex Webb on His Creative Process, Kodachrome, and Magnum

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.”

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Look 3 Report: Donna Ferrato on Philip Jones Griffiths, Don McCullin, and Complicated Relationships
Look 3 Report: Stanley Greene on Luck, Film, and Supporting Young Photographers

June 9th, 2012

Look 3 Report: Donna Ferrato on Philip Jones Griffiths, Don McCullin, and Complicated Relationships

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.”

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Look3 Report: Stanley Greene on Luck, Film and Supporting Young Photographers

 

June 8th, 2012

Look3 Report: Stanley Greene on Luck, Film and Supporting Young Photographers

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.”

(more…)

February 23rd, 2012

LOOK3 Festival Announces Featured Artists and Speakers

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/

Related: LOOK3 2011 Recap: Photographers and Other Fest-Goers Discuss the Highlights
More LOOK3 2011 Coverage

January 30th, 2012

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June 15th, 2011

LOOK3 2011: A Defining Moment for LaToya Ruby Frazier

At this year’s LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, VA, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier made her intentions as an artist and activist clear in a powerful presentation of her work that combined diaristic snippets about her relationships with her grandmother and mother with stories about the community of Braddock, PA, where she was raised. Frazier’s reading, reminiscent of a prose poem, was intensely personal, heartfelt and, at times, forceful and defiant, drawing on the history of Braddock as a once-prosperous steel town, and on its current state where poverty, joblessness and pollution-related health issues plague the largely African-American population.

Frazier’s work has previously been included in high-profile group exhibitions such as the 2009 Triennial at The New Museum and a 2010 group exhibition at PS1 MoMA, and she has had solo and two-person shows at her gallery, Higher Pictures in New York, and elsewhere. The work she has presented thus far has been comprised primarily of self-portraits and portraits of her grandmother and mother, whom Frazier taught to photograph and considers a collaborator. Yet the full breadth of her work and her ambition for it has not been widely known, she says.

“Until I spoke today, I don’t think people were aware of what the work was about, because it’s complicated,” Frazier told PDN after her Master’s Talk. “Today was a huge breakthrough to be able to come here and talk to people.” (more…)

June 13th, 2011

LOOK3 2011: Ashley Gilbertson’s Exhibition About Dead Soldiers Defaced

The public had a strong reaction to the exhibition at the LOOK3 Festival of Ashley Gilbertson’s Bedrooms of the Fallen photographs, which show the bedrooms of soldiers who died as a result of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The photographs are being exhibited outdoors on Main Street in Charlottesville, VA. Hours after the photos were put up, Gilbertson tells PDN, dozens of pairs of military issue boots were placed underneath the images to represent soldiers lost in the nation’s wars. Pairs of civilian shoes were also placed under the images; Gilbertson speculates they were meant to represent civilian deaths.

A couple of days later, the day before the festival was to begin, Gilbertson received an email telling him that an image of PFC. Richard P Langenbrunner’s bedroom had been defaced. Langenbrunner committed suicide at age 19 on April 17, 2007 in Rustimayah, Iraq. Someone had cut the word “suicide” out of the caption under the photograph, and had carved the word “hero” into the bed depicted in the photo.

After Gilbertson conferred with festival organizers and curator Scott Thode, the image was replaced.

“It was really violent in my opinion,” Gilbertson told PDN. “It was just a really aggressive and disrespectful response. Not everyone agrees with me on this, the fact that it was disrespectful,” says Gilbertson, “but I feel that it was disrespectful to the content, to Richard and to his family. The family hasn’t been public about the fact that their son shot himself in Baghdad up until this point, and he killed himself after accidentally firing on a civilian car and killing some of those who were inside of it. The Army opened an investigation and he ended up shooting himself at his base in Baghdad.”

He added, “I don’t know who [defaced the print]. I guess that they were so affected by this that they needed some way to express what they were feeling. This is the way that they chose to do that.”

Gilbertson’s Master’s Talk was one of the highlights of the Look3 festival for many photographers who attended. During his heartfelt speech about war, post-traumatic stress disorder and his Bedrooms of the Fallen project, he spoke about how his anger over certain issues, like inadequate treatment for soldiers with PTSD, drove him to create bodies of work that would engage the public.

Though he doesn’t agree with the reaction, Gilbertson is glad that someone reacted strongly to the images.

“That to me is evidence that people are engaging, it’s just that some of the people must have difficulties expressing what they’re feeling in a civil manner. If this is how deeply affected people are by this work it’s a sign that something about it is successful,” Gilberston says. “This is a very deep feeling of loss that people are experiencing. Why hasn’t this been happening when they publish the names of the dead in the newspaper? It’s too foreign, it’s too hard to understand and connect with, but when you’re confronted by a space as personal, as intimate and familiar as a bedroom, I think that people are really engaging. Maybe going forward when I show this work there needs to be some way that people can express what they’re feeling because these are very intense images. But I’m glad that people are connecting in any way. I just hope that the content of the pictures is respected and not defaced.”

Related: LOOK3 2011: Ashley Gilbertson On War, PTSD and His Project Bedrooms of the Fallen

June 10th, 2011

LOOK3 2011: Christopher Anderson On Working Close to Home

Christopher Anderson opened the morning program of Masters Talks today at LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, VA, in front of a packed crowd at the Paramount Theater downtown.

Anderson is exhibiting his latest body of work, “Son,” at the festival. The project focuses on his family as his young son grows from a baby into a toddler and his father battles illness.

During his talk Anderson called the project, which shows his wife and son, his father, and landscapes and cityscapes, “the most important work I’ve ever done,” though it deals with what he called “simple, obvious themes” of life-cycles and the relationships between fathers and sons.

Though he mostly let the work speak for itself, he presented other photographs from throughout his career as a way of telling the story of how he ended up, after living out of a suitcase for seven years, working close to home.

While shooting a group of refugees fleeing Haiti in a wooden boat, Anderson nearly lost his life as the boat sank. He was rescued by the Coast Guard. The experience was transformative, he said, because it made him wonder why, when he thought he was going to die, he chose to make pictures that “no one would ever see.” Photography is “a way of explaining the world to myself,” he said, a “vehicle to process and understand” what he was experiencing. He realized he needed to take pictures that were about more than simply reporting the facts of a situation.

Because editors “decided I would put up with a certain amount of discomfort” he was asked to photograph war and he took those assignments in places like Afghanistan and Lebanon without ever making a conscious decision to become a war photographer. By 2002 he was burned out, though, and bored with the pictures he was making.

He began carrying a Holga around and playing a sort of game where he would take just one frame of a particular subject. The work was turned into a book, Nonfiction, and it also helped him realize he was interested in making pictures that were less technically focused and more emotional and direct.

He funneled that direct approach into his study of Venezuela, Capitolio, which was published as a book and iPad app, and then into his work about his family.

Up until his son was born and he began photographing at home, photography had been a way of escaping Abilene, Texas, where he grew up, and a way of avoiding being “who I was supposed to be.” (When asked during Q&A who he was supposed to be, he said he had long since forgotten.)
–Conor Risch

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June 10th, 2011

LOOK3 2011: Antonin Kratochvil Chats With Scott Thode

Look3, a festival that invites a mix of emerging and professional photographers to take a subjective look at the current photographic landscape, kicked off last night with a slideshow of Antonin Kratochvil’s work, titled “In America.”

This touching show of black-and-white imagery was followed by a casual conversation between Antonin Kratochvil and photo editor (and co-curator of this year’s Look3) Scott Thode, who have been friends for over 20 years.

Thode started off by prompting Kratochvil to share his story about leaving the Czech Republic in 1967. As a refugee in Holland, Kratochvil first picked up a camera while taking classes at an art school. Having escaped the Czech Republic and being forced to leave family behind, Kratochvil has a strong empathy towards refugees and the suffering of others. Throughout his career that sense of connection has driven him to make dynamic images, full of feeling. After he took photos exposing the terrible conditions he found in an old folks home in Holland, forcing the institution to close down, he became even more motivated to use his photography to create awareness of injustice.

Thode went on to ask Kratochvil about his photographic process. Kratochvil’s choice of slanted horizon and blur is an extension of his instinctive way of working. The audience had a good laugh when he revealed that his characteristic style of composition– placing his subjects in the corners or directly in the middle of frames—was sometimes a ploy to prevent his images being placed in less than favorable ways in magazine layouts. Thode commented that Kratochvil’s way of reinventing himself is to be always looking for a new way to see. Kratochvil does most of his own editing, and he only allows people he trusts to edit his work, like Thode and Kathy Ryan, director of photography at The New York Times Magazine. “Someone else might have a drastically different opinion and I feel strongly about protecting my own voice and vision,” Kratochvil said. He also remarked that he hates sentimental photography, and photographs that are so obvious they don’t raise questions or elicit a feeling. Thode asked Kratochvil if there’s an anger that drives him to make certain pictures. But Kratochvil replied that he’s not really in control. “If you try to do it, it will be obviously fake, “you just got to feel it. And it takes someone like you [Thode] to recognize it.”

After describing the poetry and emotion in Kratochvil’s work, Thode asked him what his idea of home is. “It doesn’t exist,” said Kratochvil, whose exhibition titled “Domovina” (“Homeland” in Czech) is now on view in Charlottesville. He couldn’t return to what was then Czechoslovakia for many years after he left. Since he started his own family, Kratochvil said, he now makes better pictures, especially when he photographs children because he has a connection with them and a greater understanding of their lives. As an example, he talked about a photo he took of child in a refugee camp in Zaire. Kratochvil explains that now home is wherever he is, and that happens to be back in Prague.

–Amber Terranova