February 24, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 24th February, 2107

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - Poulomi Basu wins the 2017 FotoEvidence Book Award and the Bronx Documentary Center showcases 38 independent photojournalists who covered New York's activist culture from 1980-2000.

2017 FotoEvidence Book Award Winner
Blood Speaks: A Ritual of Exile by Poulomi Basu 

Anjali Kumari Khang is 12 years old. " I am not happy. I do not want to get married. I hope my husband gets a job in a foreign city. Then I can come back to my mother's home and stay for as long as I want to." Child marriage is rampant in the north eastern district of Nepal. Girls are seen as a burden and an additional mouth to feed and are often married off at a very young age. However, it is also a popular belief that villagers often marry off their girls before their menstruation starts, as it is believed if they do so, then their immediate family will got to heaven. Einerwa Village, Saptari district, Nepal.

Born in Calcutta, India, Poulomi Basu describes herself as a storyteller, artist and activist. Her work largely focuses on issues that effect women in isolated communities and since 2013 she’s been investigating the causes and consequences of normalised violence against women in Nepal. You only have to read the stories (and please take time to do so) in order to understand the horror these women endure every month, as violence is directly related to the menstrual cycle. The only reprieve may be during pregnancy!

Blood Speaks: A Ritual of Exile deals with the root of this violence which stems from the Hindu belief that women’s menstrual blood is impure. Poulomi says, “Hidden, under-reported and unresolved, these women are untouchable and, as a result, this violence takes the form of ‘exiles,’ a way to keep menstruation shrouded in mystery and taboo, a weapon to shame women into subservience.” 

A goth, a space of exile by the river. Ujjwali, 48, who was living her exile there told me, "The good men understand what the women are going through, that it is difficult for women when they have to stay out of the house but there are many men who are stupid and illiterate and they don’t want to understand. They beat their wives, call them bad names and obligate them to stay out of the house in the goth. The ones who are educated and understand want their wives to stay at home but its mostly women who make other women stay out."

Saraswati, 16, must live in a closed dark room with her three day old baby because she bled after childbirth. They will be there for 15 days. Not only is Saraswati not allowed to clean herself, she must cook her food in the same tiny dark room even if it means choking her newborn baby with smoke. After childbirth she developed serious health problems. Because of staying in the goth and rarely being allowed to step outside, her legs are now swollen to a point that she can barely walk. She suffers from serious stress disorder and often has breakdowns. She barely spoke a word to me. Nepal, 2016.

"My name is Tanka Thapa. I think I am 25 but you can say what you want. It has been about 10 years since I came to this chau in Basti. My husband lives in India. It has been almost 2 years since I saw him." Tanka sleeps in a hole in the wall during menstruation while observing her ritual. According to her "Chaupadi is a tradition that we are not allowed to sleep at home so we have been told. All the women in the family have to stay in chau. It’s a little better now. Earlier I used to stay out in the open with no shelter." She appears very nervous and uncomfortable and expresses low self-esteem. She mentioned a few times in passing conversation that she is ashamed of herself and is dirty and ugly. She asks me, "Why are you here? No one has ever come to talk to me or spend time with me.” Tanka's self esteem is totally crushed. Basti, Achham. Nepal, 2016.

Devi Ram Dhamala, traditional healer. 59 years old. Traditional healers often use extreme verbal and physical abuse to heal young girls who are ill during menstruation or at other times, believing they are possessed by evil spirit. Surkhet district, Nepal.

A goth, a space of exile by the river. Ujjwali, 48, who was living her exile there told me, "The good men understand what the women are going through, that it is difficult for women when they have to stay out of the house but there are many men who are stupid and illiterate and they don’t want to understand. They beat their wives, call them bad names and obligate them to stay out of the house in the goth. The ones who are educated and understand want their wives to stay at home but its mostly women who make other women stay out."

A multidisciplinary project encompassing still and moving images and the book to be published by FotoEvidence later this year, Blood Speaks is designed to have broad reach. “I want to turn my audience into activists and crack open the veil of silence and shame around women whose lives are shattered by such gender based violence,” Poulomi says.

This is courageous work as the stigma and superstitions run deep, but Poulomi believes now is the time to put these stories on the international agenda and fight to end these “brutal rituals”.

You can pre-order the book at FotoEvidence.

Exhibition: New York
Whose Streets? Our Streets! : New York City, 1980-2000

Bronx Documentary Center

(C) Sandra Lee Phipps

The timing of this exhibition couldn't be more apt. On show is the work of more than 38 independent photojournalists who have captured the collective activist heart of New York over two decades documenting peaceful protests and rallies as well as violent confrontations. This is the first time these photographs have been exhibited together. It's a fantastic collection, and an important historical record. The show is curated by Meg Handler, former photo editor of The Village Voice, historian Tamar Carroll, author of Mobilizing New York: AIDS, Antipoverty and Feminist Activism, and Michael Kamber, founder of the Bronx Documentary Center.

(C) Corky Lee

(C) Nina Berman

(C) Lisa Kahane

(C) Ricky Flores

(C) Frank Fournier

(C) Mark Peterson

(C) Ricky Flores

Until 5 March
Bronx Documentary Center
614 Courtlandt Avenue (at 151st St.)
Bronx, New York 10451

February 17, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 17th February, 2017

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up a retrospective of Maggie Diaz's work, who passed away last year, opens at Fox Galleries in Melbourne, Q&A with Donna Ferrato and some interesting weekend reading.

Exhibition: Melbourne
Maggie Diaz - Between Two Worlds

The Real Australian (AKA The Corner Guy) Punters Club Fitzroy, 1988

From the moment I saw Maggie Diaz's work I was intrigued to meet the photographer. When I did get to sit down and talk with Maggie in 2011 I wasn't disappointed. Even though she'd lived in Australia since the sixties, her American twang, a hybrid of her native New York and Chicago where she first picked up a camera, was still evident. As was the attitude that clearly helped her carve a place in the male-dominated photographic scene of Melbourne into which she walked. Maggie earned her living as a commercial photographer, but her true love was found in photographing the misfits, the artists, and those who slipped through the cracks of society. 

Walking up from the beach, 1970s

Artist Sidney Nolan's mother, 1960s

Peter James, 3AW Breakfast Presenter, 1960s

Author Peter Carey, 1960s

Nuns and Kids, Lower North Centre, Chicago c1958

Girl Hero for Paddle Shoes commercial, 1960s

Erudite, curious and just a little bit wicked, Maggie was a great interview, and over the years I caught up with her, and the curator of her collection and her muse, Gwendolen De Lacy, a number of times. Maggie passed away in October last year. Fox Galleries is hosting a retrospective of her work, including limited editions and a number of original prints never before exhibited.

19 February - 8 March
Fox Galleries
79 Langridge Street

Donna Ferrato

(C) All images, Donna Ferrato

American photographer and activist Donna Ferrato has championed women’s rights through her work on domestic violence for nearly 30 years. I had the chance to chat with her about what she's learned and what's next. Here's the Q&A I promised to share:

AST: Who or what taught you the most early on in your career?

DF: I would have to say the strongest influence was Philip Jones Griffith who was my partner in the 1980s. We were together for about ten years and have a daughter, Fanny. Phillip, who was with Magnum, was the greatest anti-war photographer who ever walked the earth. As a photographer he challenged everything. He knew so much about the whole business of photography better than anybody I’ve ever known. He was also technically brilliant and knew what makes a great photograph. Whenever I had trouble with a story I could just talk with him all night long about why it wasn't making sense and how I could make it better. He would go through my contact sheets with me and edit them and we would pick pictures apart. We did this regularly and he was the one who designed my book Living with the Enemy (1991). I trusted him as a lover, a friend and a mentor.

AST: What was the biggest career risk you took?

DF: It came very early on back in 1977 when I was taking some photography courses at the San Francisco Institute and thinking about becoming a newspaper photographer, which was my dream back then. I was so thrilled when I was offered a job as a staff photographer on a paper in New Jersey. But at the same time I’d met this crazy artist who was going off to Portugal to start an artist colony and he’d invited me to travel with him. I knew he was a con artist, but I was excited by the idea of living by my wits. As soon as we got to Europe I split and immersed myself in the photography scene in Paris and later Brussels. So I was facing this crossroads and I chose the freelance path over the security of a staff position. A lot of good things came from taking that risk because I really honed my survival skills and at the same time was able to work on my photography in a way that I wouldn't, had I been working on a newspaper. Everything I’ve learned has been from the streets and from people I respect.

AST: Which of your personal projects have taught you the most?

DF: Photographing people’s lives is very personal for me, whether they are strangers or my family, getting deep into people’s lives is what drives me. But photographing domestic violence has taught me the most as a photographer. For me it is all about getting access, getting into situations where no one else is or has been. I’ve developed this incredible intuition over the years about when to take pictures, or when to talk or intervene. In these violent, highly emotional situations you have to be there and not just as a photographer. I’m also an activist and that has come from really wanting to help, to change the status quo, not just to document.

AST: How would you describe your style?

DF: I have an invasive style. I try to get as close as possible, to really almost get under the skin of the person I am photographing. That kind of access comes from spending a lot of time with people and building trust. It's a real honour that people let me into their lives in such an intimate way and for such extended periods of time.

AST: What turned out to be the most helpful thing you did to advance your career?

I think becoming a mother really prepared me to become a kickass photographer who would fight for my pictures, like a mother has to fight for her kid. I wanted Fanny to grow up to be independent and strong minded and not put up with any bullshit and I knew that to show her that, I had to live my life the same way.

AST: What’s the most important thing you could tell someone else about creativity?

DF: I think creativity and inspiration are the two most important things in the world. I wasn't that academic when I was young, but I was always creating things and not following anybody. Creativity is an existential thing, you can’t really touch it or even perhaps define it, but it is what makes you run, makes you get up in the morning, it’s your food. To be creative, to keep producing, and making new things keeps you vital, keeps your brain pulsing. Creativity keeps you young.

AST: What’s your next big challenge in photography?

DF: I think my next big challenge in photography is going to be taking off to create a body of work on Trump’s America, not alone I want to do it with other photographers. We have to go where the people think that they are really going to benefit from Trump’s Administration. I want to see what’s working, what's happening, without any judgement, but I think we really have to follow it, watch it, document it. This could be the biggest thing that’s happened here since 9/11. We have to get out there and see what’s going on.

Interesting Weekend Reading: 
WPP-winning image “a staged murder for the press” says jury chair - BJP
Impressa magazine - "outstanding works by female photographers" 

February 10, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 10 February, 2016

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up Steve Schapiro's new book Misericordia, the winner of the inaugural Mongolian Photography Scholarship is announced in Melbourne and a selection of images from Donna Ferrato's Why They Marched photo essay.

Book Review:
Misericordia: Together We Celebrate - Steve Schapiro

In the 1960s American photojournalist Steve Schapiro traversed the country photographing for LIFE and other news magazines, covering the major political and cultural happenings of the time including the Civil Rights Movement. He photographed Martin Luther King at Selma in 1963 and later covered King’s assassination. He spent months with Robert Kennedy, travelling with him throughout the US and to South America. For Sports Illustrated he hung out with Muhammed Ali shooting the boxer over five days in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

In the 1970s Schapiro turned his camera on Hollywood establishing himself as a movie stills photographer. He created what is considered the iconic series for the Godfather Trilogy as well as shooting on Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy, Rambo and Risky Business amongst others.

Over a career that has spanned more than five decades Schapiro has photographed countless celebrities, tripped the light fantastic with pop culture icons including Andy Warhol, published numerous books, held exhibitions of his work around the globe and starred in the documentary film ‘Steve Schapiro: An Eye on American Icons’.

It’s a stellar legacy, but Schapiro isn’t finished. Now in his eighties he is still making new work and his latest book, Misericordia: Together We Celebrate is a portrait of a unique community and one of Schapiro’s finest, and most celebratory collections to date. 

Misericordia, which means heart of mercy in Latin, is home to more than 600 children and adults with developmental disabilities. Everyday the residents of Misericordia, which spans a 31-acre campus in Chicago, go to work, take education classes, exercise, create artworks and enjoy the warmth of a loving and supportive environment.

In talking about Misericordia, Schapiro’s voice rings with genuine pleasure. “There is a flowering of personalities and they have a great sense of humour and everyone is filled with joy,” he tells me. “You walk into a room and someone holds out their hand and wants to know your name and then they want to tell you their name and it’s just a joyous place”.

Schapiro says he is now more focused on doing documentary projects and telling stories he’s interested in like Misericordia, which is beacon of hope and love in one of America’s largest cities. Schapiro, who lives in Chicago, spent months working with the staff and residents at Misericordia to create this intimate portrait of an exceptional facility where many spend their entire lives.

Within the pages of this beautifully produced book published by powerHouse New York, Schapiro takes the reader on a visual journey into the daily lives of this diverse community. Here we are introduced to residents, their carers and family members, at work and play. “When I’m taking a portrait, I want to capture the spirit of a person,” he explains. That objective is very clearly met in the portraits in this book, which radiate with optimism, love and sincerity.

“I love Misericordia. It is always fun to be with old friends and meet new friends. 
There are always new things I can do here, I never feel bored. 
I like everything about Misericordia and I love saying good morning to all the staff on my way to work. 
Misericordia helps me to always feel good about myself!” Anna D., a resident. 

This quote is just one example of the sentiments expressed by those who live at Misericordia. In the book there are comments from residents as well as staff. The book is sectioned into 11 parts including Work Opportunities, Creativity Art, Technology, Children, Water Therapy and Athletics, Music and Dance, and Parties.

Misericordia provides a full continuum of care and services for those suffering mild to profound disabilities across diverse racial, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. Founded in 1976 by Sister Rosemary Connelly, who is the Executive Director of the Center, Misericordia not only supports its residents, but also operates an outreach service that helps more than 150 families in the community with children living at home.

Schapiro says, “Being a good photographer comes from that unique point of view that we all have and trying to do things with that sense of yourself and also of doing things you really care about”. Misericordia is that philosophy in action. It’s a wonderful, uplifting book. Its arrival comes at a time when some would try and shake our belief in humanity to the core. But Schapiro reminds us of the joy to be found in the smile of a child, the power of a hand extended in friendship and hope, and the significance of a place where everyone is welcome.

Misericordia: Together We Celebrate
Steve Schapiro
Published by powerHouse New York
186 pages

Inaugural Mongolian Photography Scholarship

Last year Melbourne’s Magnet Galleries hosted the exhibition Mongolian Lens 1 curated by Melbourne photographer and RMIT lecturer Jerry Galea. A feature of the exhibition was a ‘silent’ auction of 30 individual prints to raise funds for a scholarship to be awarded to a Mongolian photographer.

I’m pleased to report that the inaugural Mongolian Photography Scholarship goes to Mr. Delgerjargal Davaanyam, a young freelance documentary photographer from Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar. A member of the Batzorig Foundation of Documentary Photography, Davaanyam teaches photography at the Radio TV Institute, one of the few places where photography is taught in Mongolia. The scholarship allows Davaanyam to spend four weeks in Melbourne, mentored by Magnet and RMIT.

(C) All images Delgerjargal Davaanyam

Photo Essay:
Donna Ferrato - Why They Marched

On the day Trump was elected I was due to interview Donna Ferrato. Of course the outcome was so insane that contemplating doing an interview was the furthest thing from Donna's mind. I'd waited two years for Donna to commit to that interview - yes I'm tenacious - so waiting another day was no big deal. And it was worth the wait! We canvassed a whole lot of subjects and I'll share the interview in full with Photojournalism Now readers in the not too distant future. 

One of the things I asked Donna about was what she saw as her next big challenge in photography?
Here's what she told me - "I think my next big challenge in photography is going to be taking off to create a body of work on Trump’s America, not alone I want to do it with other photographers. We have to go where the people think that they are really going to benefit from Trump’s Administration. I want to see what’s working, what's happening, without any judgement, but I think we really have to follow it, watch it, document it. This could be the biggest thing that’s happened here since 9/11. We have to get out there and see what’s going on."

On January 21 Donna was out there, at the Women's March in Washington. Here are some of her images taken for Macleans.  

(C) All images Donna Ferrato
--> -->

February 03, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 3 February, 2017

This week an interview with Chinese documentary photographer Pang Xiangliang about his incredible series on the Daqing Oil Fields. Also American photojournalist Daniella Zalcman launches her new Women Photograph site and Melbourne's Magnet Galleries extends its Excessive 80's exhibition "by popular demand!'

Feature Interview:
Pang Xiangliang  - Iron Man Spirit

In China’s far north, where the country borders Russia and Mongolia, winter brings sub-zero temperatures, snowstorms and ice sheets. In summer the ground thaws turning to steaming, muddy swamps. In this challenging environment more than 250,000 workers toil on China’s largest oil bed at Daqing Oil Fields in Heilongjiang Province.

Working in these conditions takes brute force and a will of steel. While technology aids in getting the black gold out of the earth, the physical effort required by the workers to operate the machinery makes Daqing Oil Field one of the harshest places to work.

“This is work that truly brings out the Iron Man spirit,” says Chinese photographer, Pang Xiangliang (Mr. Pang) who has spent five years documenting the workers of the Daqing Oil Fields and battling the same conditions. When Mr. Pang says Iron Man he’s not talking about a super athlete who surfs, runs and lifts weights. The Daqing Iron Man stems back to the 1960s when the oil fields were first developed. During this time Wang Jinxi the manager of rig 1205, led the workers through what Mr. Pang describes as “unimaginable difficulties” instilling a fighting spirit that saw the drilling of many high quality wells. “Later, he was named Iron Man Wang and his legend lives on in the spirit of the workers.”

In his youth Mr. Pang, who lives in Daqing City, worked on the oil fields, and he says the natural affinity he holds for the drill crews allowed him to gain access that others might have found more difficult. Certainly the intimacy of the images shows a deep trust between photographer and subject.

“I am the offspring of ‘old battle Daqing oil field’”, says Mr. Pang who tells that his father worked on the first oil field in 1961. “I have deep feelings for the oilfield. Daqing is a modern city because of the oil. For more than forty years, no matter what jobs I’ve done, I’ve always thought about the development of the oil field.”

In his series titled “After 80”, he focuses on the young men born from 1980 onwards, many of who are following in their fathers’ footsteps. Others are university graduates who are attracted to the work for its high wages. But money alone is not the motivator and Mr. Pang says all the workers he met hold great pride in the work they do.

He began this project in 2008. At first he found the high tech drilling equipment visually engaging and only concentrated on photographing the machinery, but as his documentation of the oil fields progressed he began to turn his attention to the drill workers.

“When I stepped on the rig floor and saw the workers were busy with drilling operations, that unique kind of atmosphere and environment, the rumbling rig, the powerful action of the drill shook my soul.”

To make his images even more authentic he immersed himself in the drilling culture, reading everything he could lay his hands on and seeking advice from technical personnel and experts to explain what he was seeing. “This helped me to take better pictures and to interpret the stories in my works.”

Many of the images in his series were shot in the thick of winter when the ponds and swamps were frozen. He says the freezing conditions provided a more favourable environment in which to shoot. “In summer there’s too much steam from the ponds”. The winter climate also delivers a particular aesthetic that gives the pictures an almost painterly feel – eyebrows encrusted in white, clothing sculpted with frost created by body heat, backdrops of sleet and snow.

One of my favourite images is the one where workers are drilling while the wind whips snow about them. Mr. Pang concurs, nominating others that he also favours such as ‘young roughneck Zhoupeng’, ‘rolling steel cable’, ‘drilling in the wind and snow’ and ‘casing in’ which he says evokes the “typical character of the drilling industry”. As an aside, ‘casing in’ is part of the construction of the well giving the drill hole strength and functionality.

Mr. Pang says photographing on surfaces slippery with oil, snow and frost made for challenging moments. Once in early winter a snowstorm covered, but didn’t freeze, one of the mud pits and he narrowly avoided falling in. Another time he had to wear a safety harness to climb the ten meters to reach the derrick floor platform, which was covered with ice and oil.

“I have to think about my own safety and also protect my camera equipment. I use a special cold climate cover to limit the impact of the weather on the gear, but in spite of this, in five years of photographing I damaged two lenses”. That doesn’t seem such a bad trade off for the extraordinary pictures he has taken. The arthritis he’s developed as a consequence of being in such harsh conditions is a more serious outtake.

Over five years Mr. Pang made multiple visits and worked his way across the entire oil field, photographing more than 100 drilling crews. As the workers got to know him they allowed him into their world. “I have a natural affinity to the drilling workers because I was a drilling worker too. When I was taking photos on the well site, I ate and lived with the drilling workers. They treated me as one of their own. We talked and laughed and some even shared stories about their marital problems with me! They always let me know when major activities are happening so I can photograph them. They trust me very much”.

Rich in detail, Mr. Pang’s photographs introduced me to a world I knew nothing about and I found the images incredibly engaging. He smiles and says his motivation in wanting to exhibit these photographs is partly educational. “I would like the audience to know how much work goes into drilling the oil, one of the resources of which we depend. The drillers deserve respect because they work in the most difficult place and they work so hard for the oil industry. I would also like people to know that the young people who were born in 1980s in China have a sense of responsibility and they work on the well site without complaint or regret”. This last point is telling and reflective of the impact the opening up of China to the west has had on the younger generation.

“The young men born in this time (after 1980) grew up in the period of Chinese reform. With the development of the market economy and the collision of east and west culture, their world outlook was affected by the ideas of ‘money worship’, which made some young people have a lack of faith and goals in life. But the “After 80” drilling workers who I shot have a definite goal in life, and personal ideals and ambitions.” It is obvious he admires their commitment and application.

Daqing oil field was constructed in 1960 and has generated more than 2.1 billion tons of crude oil production since that time. Mr. Pang says Daqing “has been hailed as a miracle in the history of the world’s oil industry”. Daqing City is home to more than 3.6 million people and while oil production is the main industry there are also oil refineries, chemical fertilizer plants, automobile factories and other enterprises.

Mr. Pang says he hasn’t finished photographing the oil workers, but he is also keen to keep expanding his subject matter. “I’ve loved photography for 15 years. I will continue to take photos which are not only related to the oil and drilling, but also to the people's livelihood and the Chinese Buddhist culture”. All photos (C) Pang Xiangliang 

Women Photograph
New Resource for Photo Editors 

A National Police officer behind a riot shield is pushed backwards by a crush of demonstrators during the March of the Empty Pots, which coincided with International Women’s Day in Caracas, Venezuela. March 6, 2014.Credit Natalie Keyssar

Freelance photojournalist Daniella Zalcman, who was the 2016 winner of the FotoEvidence Book Award for her series Signs of Your Identity, has launched a new site - Women Photograph - which features the work of 400 women photojournalists, from 67 countries. These women have five or more years of editorial experience and are available for commissions. The hope is that photo editors will see this site as a resource and engage women photographers in numbers greater than we are seeing now. It’s a fantastic initiative. You can read more about Women Photograph in the story the NYT Lens Blog ran.

Excessive 80's 
Elton John (C) Bruce Postle

Due to "popular demand" Melbourne's Magnet Galleries has extended the run for its Excessive 80's exhibition. If you haven't popped in yet, you've got until 18 February. 

Mirka Mora (C) Greg Scullin

Berlin Party, Inflation (C) Rennie Ellis

Level 2
640 Bourke Street