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" 

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