Category Good Work

Color in a Dark Time


You can look at this post on the Leica blog two ways: with lust over the newest Leica rangefinder or with lusciousness at the images Huw John created with it.

I, I choose both.

Looking Back at Joe Rosenthal’s Iwo Jima Photo

Seventy five years ago today, Joe Rosenthal made made, perhaps, the most iconic photograph – the flag raising over Iwo Jima.

There have been many stories written and told about what happened that day, from how he heard about the planned flag raising to whether he posed the photo (he didn’t, let’s be clear). I’ve talked about this photo almost every semester that I’ve been teaching (and, having worked from various readings and talks I attended, got a few elements wrong), but the Associated Press has put together an extraordinary package about the making of the photo, its impact and the man behind it.

Dorothea Lange and Her Role Developing Modern Photojournalism

Well worth reading: Alice Gregory at The New York Times’ Style Magazine takes a look at the role of Dorothea Lange in the growth of photojournalism as the Museum of Modern Art opens their second retrospective on her.

Sigh … I may have to go to New York again …

Her contemporary Ansel Adams called her pictures “both records of actuality and exquisitely sensitive emotional documents.” She was an artist under the guise of a journalist and an activist under the guise of a dispassionate civil servant, and it would be impossible to think of any of these roles today without her influence.

And this section, written about her final months:

Lange was only eating soft foods by this point and rarely ventured outside. She kept a camera around her neck, though, “for health,” and continued to take photographs — of her house, of her family.

A Sense of Interiority

There are many great quotes in this interview with Dawoud Bey, but this resonated deeply with me:

African-Americans in photographs have very often been viewed through a lens of social pathology. So, I wanted to respond to that kind of representation by making photographs that conveyed a deep, complex humanity.

I want there to be real sense of interiority, to go beneath the surface.

We talk about making images with intentionality quite a bit, now I’ll add interiority to the conversation.

“That’s My Profession, To Look”

Robert Frank died in September of 2019 and he made The New York Times Magazine’s end of year retrospective, The Lives They Lived.

This is an interesting look at his work, moving well past his seminal book, The Americans, and into some of the other work that helped pay the bills inlcuding promotional work for the Times.

All these pictures had such loose, grainy softness that the lack of concern for formal composition suggested Frank was after something else: essential human feeling extracted from the blur of life. “I saw a lot of things other people didn’t see,” Frank said. “The eyes were always fine and could always find a place of interest and zoom. That’s my profession, to look.”

The Best of Season Begins

Over the next few weeks, most publications and agencies will start pushing out their annual best photos of the year galleries.

National Geographic’s stood out to me because of the bylines – if you scroll through their 100 best images, 37% were made by women.

The Washington Post’s gallery includes some propaganda/hand-out photos, about 19% of them were made by women.

If you’re curious, my Advanced Photojournalism class this semester was 89% women. My section of the introductory class was 83% women.

Keep that in mind as you look at bylines through the season.

More Photographs of Notes

This is becoming a trend … Getty Images photojournalist Mark Wilson walks through his image of the president’s notes.

Pay attention to his thinking behind the gear he was carrying – being prepared is key.

Turning Dust Into Stories

I’m going to be ordering another book … photographer Jessica Wynne’s project on the chalkboards of professors was written up in The New York Times and I’m fascinated by this. There’s an evidentiary nature to this work, the residue of work … I just love this and have encouraged The Red & Black to think about this sort of a project on campus.

She Learned to Hear by Seeing

I love this quote from The New York Times story on the late Ida Wyman:

Taking pictures enabled me to hear the stories of the people I photographed.

Listening is such an integral part of journalism – if we cannot listen it is incredibly difficult to see the stories unfolding in front of us. And listening is a very different act than hearing. Listening is an active state, it involves attention and intention. We listen when we are immersed in conversation, we hear without that sense of purpose.

In studying her work, that sense of purpose is there – her street photography/feature photos are nuanced and layered, they are not casual observations. They reveal something about a place. Look at the image of the men studying the newspaper in Hebrew, or the man looking into the garbage can on the pier. Those are not one-dimensional frames, they required her to actively see those scenes, to watch them evolve.

I’m pondering what the parallel phrases are for seeing now. Watching vs. seeing? Open to suggestions here.

Building a Sense of Place at Woodstock

The New York Times takes a look at the (ahem) three rolls of film Roger Ballen exposed at Woodstock, 50 years ago.

This exchange alone makes it worh a read:

You’ve said that so much of photography is actually rooted in having experiences and not just sitting behind a camera or computer.

Yeah, this is the truth of the matter. When I grew up in photography, it was about getting on the street, experiencing events, getting in the middle of things, coming back with the goods and the experience to talk about.

It is very easy to think so much about where photographs go, so much so that we can lose sight of the magic needed during the process. If we are not immersed in the moment, we can’t fully understand and appreciate the event and that will lessen our understanding.