December 09, 2016

Friday Round Up - 9th December, 2016

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up Stephen Dupont's Generation AK reviewed, Out of the Phone launches a new publishing platform for mobile photographers, plus links to Daniel Berehulak's brilliant photo essay and article on the Philippines savage anti drug campaign and the winners of Lensculture's Emerging Talent 2016.

Book review: Stephen Dupont 
Generation AK The Afghanistan Wars 1993-2012

I would that my photographs might be, not the coverage of a news event, but an indictment of war - the brutal corrupting viciousness of its doing to the minds and bodies of men; and, that my photographs might be a powerful emotional catalyst to the reasoning which would help this vile and criminal stupidity from beginning again. W. Eugene Smith.

This quote from W. Eugene Smith appears at the beginning of Stephen Dupont's opus on Afghanistan, which is a heavy tome in every sense of the word. But don't let that deter you as this is a story that needs to be told, needs to be looked at. What we know of Afghanistan is largely influenced by what we see on the nightly news and in newspapers and magazines. But these snapshots can't give an insight into the country and its people the way Dupont's 20 year study does.

Generation AK is sectioned into chapters each of which begin with diary entries from Dupont. Words and pictures need each other and Dupont's reminiscing helps to draw the reader into the photographer's world, albeit if only in our imagination because if you haven't done it, you cannot really imagine what it must be like to submerge yourself in a war zone. To do so voluntarily is another story altogether. But without photographers like Dupont these stories would never be told.

Dupont has an engaging storytelling manner, and his words sweep you along in the drama. As you move through the first chapter, The Civil War 1993-2001, the sounds of rockets exploding and bullets screaming overhead become an inner soundtrack to the anxiety riddled faces of the people who came under Dupont's gaze.

In the chapter on the guerrilla leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, Dupont tells how when he was travelling to meet Massoud he shared a helicopter ride with a dead Afghan General, the aircraft filled with the smell of "rotting flesh, formaldehyde and diesel fumes." My nose twitches with the suggestion, but the thought is quickly replaced by the force of the images, which capture Massoud with his followers as well as in quiet, reflective moments that make you wonder what this man who was idolised by his followers was really like.

Dupont's series Stoned in Kabul, where he followed two heroin addicted brothers Reza and Hussein, is also featured in Generation AK. I've seen this work in exhibition and it's truly startling, raw and unnerving, reflecting the savagery and desperate nature of life on the streets of Kabul.

The series Axe Me Biggie (explained as "a crude Anglo phonetic rendering of the Dari for Mister, take my picture") also features. Dupont shot these pictures in a three hour window on the streets of Kabul. The series comprises 18 portraits of Afghans photographed in front of a piece of black fabric rigged up to create a makeshift studio. These portraits say 'take my picture, let people see me, let people know that I am not defeated, let me look you in the eye and tell you my story'.

I first interviewed Dupont in 2008 not long after he had returned from Afghanistan where he'd narrowly missed being blown to pieces in a suicide bombing. He'd been travelling with a poppy eradication unit. In the book Dupont gives an account of that day and how he was operating on auto-pilot as he shot and filmed the scene, in which fellow Australian journalist Paul Raffaele was seriously injured. The pictures leave the viewer with little doubt that Dupont was lucky to have escaped this tour with his life.

Generation AK is a book that requires time to look at otherwise it become too overwhelming and the story gets lost in the horror of war. Dupont is a master storyteller. He knows how to build the pace, to combine images that convey a narrative that is complex yet accessible.

It always feels odd to talk about aesthetics when the subject matter is so grim, but this is a beautiful book and the reproduction of images in both black & white and colour is superb, which is what you would expect from Steidl. The book features a foreword written by Jacques Menasche.

When I look at Dupont's work the overriding emotion I feel is respect. Respect for this photographer who is driven to tell these amazing stories often at great personal risk and cost. And respect for the human spirit and the will to survive even in the face of untold horrors.

This is important work. Don't look away.

To buy the book visit Steidl 
To see more of Stephen Dupont's work visit his website

On-Demand Books:
Out of the Phone Publishing

While we're talking about books, for those who can't get a deal with the likes of Steidl, or who just want to get their pictures off their phone and onto paper, Paris publishing house Out of the Phone (OOTP) has come up with a print-on-demand book idea that allows photographers to produce inexpensive books that are quirky and personal.

The first OOTP print-on-demand photo book is a travel notebook with a specific format and pagination that allows you to present up to 50 pictures. Produced in France, the travel notebook has an artisanal look and feel. Founder of OOTP Pierre Le Govic is hoping to raise funds on Indiegogo to build a website for what he is calling the 'world's first print-on-demand photo book platform for mobile photographers'. If you’re interested, take a look here.  

Weekend Reading: 

New York Times

More amazing work by Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Australian Daniel Berehulak on the savage anti-drug campaign being waged in the Philippines where Berehulak documented 57 homicide victims over 35 days. Berehulak photographed and wrote the story for the New York Times. Here's an excerpt: 

“The rain-soaked alley in the Pasay district of Manila was my 17th crime scene, on my 11th day in the Philippines capital. I had come to document the bloody and chaotic campaign against drugs that President Rodrigo Duterte began when he took office on June 30: since then, about 2000 people had been slain at the hands of the police alone….”

Lensculture 2016 Emerging Talent

Check out the top 50 in this year's Lensculture Emerging Talent competition, including Polish photographer Wiktoria Wojciechowska who I met at Paris Photo last year. She was one of eight in the Jurors's pick for her body of work, Sparks, which she describes as 'a multifaceted portrait of a contemporary war', in this case the conflict in Ukraine. 

The gold leaf depicts those who didn't make it home

No comments:

Post a Comment