Politics in Photography

Middle East Explosion–Thanks to Twitter

The Middle East has been exploding in one way or another in 2011 with the latest uprising in Libya. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told that government to stop the bloodshed and the whereabouts of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi is unknown. The U.S. is planning evacuations of U.S. diplomats and it appears members of the Libyan army are defecting. This year’s revolts are historic, beginning in Tunisia, then spreading to Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, and Iran. Fueling it all are images and empassioned pleas by protestors on social media. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone on NPR’s Fresh Air said he first saw the implications for Twitter in 2008 when a photographer learned that groups were notifying each other of where to meet using the micro blogging, now global communicastions outlet. Never did he imagine it would help overthrow governments.  Not only could protesters tweet, they could call special phone numbers, thanks to a Google partnership, and have their voice messages turned into text tweets. The world is indeed becoming a very small place. Phooto Credit AP


Putting Funny in Photography

The final shot

How the photo was staged


I’m happy to be back in the saddle here at digiphotomag.com after a tumultuous year. Thought I’d break the format a bit during the holidays by featuring a photographer who has a ton of fun.

Jay P. Morgan is one hot shot.  No, not the famed financier J.P. Morgan, but the photographic storyteller with visual wit. You’ve seen his work over the years—dramatic, dynamic, tongue-in-cheek stories presented in one incredibly detailed shot like this one. Or perhaps you’ve seen his burning cow on the moon or sumo wrestler on skis.

To create them, sets were built, wires run, models attached to welded metal supports—and fingers were crossed. The effort often took a week to produce. He used Nikon, Hasselblad, and a field camera, all of which he still has and loves. But why tackle such difficult challenges?

“I loved building things,” says Morgan. “My dad helped me build the sets so it was a lot of fun. I held my breath until we were done.”

Morgan’s still turning out exciting work but now with the freedom of digital tools and Photoshop expertise of his wife. More about that in my next post. Check out all of Jay’s work at jaypmorgan.com, and have a laugh while you marvel.


Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Part I

Jess, Bend Oregon- Cover of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by Jeff Sheng, the first photobook featuring the portraits and emails of closeted service members in the United States military who are still serving and are affected by the laws that mandate the discharge of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-identified soldiers.

Photographer and Los Angeles native Jeff Sheng has taken on the plight of Mike, John, David, Natalie, Rico, Alexander, Craig, Matt, Jess, Anthony, Harold, Charles, Mark, Catalina, Nick, Kenneth, and Glynn and Celine—just a handful of the estimated 65,000 LGBT soldiers serving their country today. Another million are gay veterans.

Yet, as one husband of a gay soldier serving in Iraq wrote in an email to President Obama, “The day he deployed, I dropped him off far from his base’s main gate, and he walked alone in the dark and the rain to report for duty. Where the rest of his buddies were surrounded by spouses and children at mobilization ceremonies, he stood by himself.”

“I wanted to bring light to this incredible injustice,” says Sheng, in his Culver City studio. “This is open discrimination by a government founded on the equality of all.” About two soldiers a day are being discharged for being gay. This, as Sheng says, when we need trained and talented soldiers more than ever.  “We’re losing medics, linguists, highly trained soldiers. When you’re lying somewhere injured from battle, you don’t care if the person saving you is gay, straight, nothing. You only want to live.”

And the penalties for admitting to being gay is brutal. In addition to being banned from ever again serving in the military, this from an email in the book from the Legal Defense Fund: “the service member’s DD214 (discharge paperwork) says on it ‘homosexual conduct,’ which is significant because many future employers will ask for that paperwork…”

In addition, they have to repay any bonuses and costs of education at a service academy like West Point, even if they’ve been in the military, 10, 15, 20 years serving the country they love.

One has to ask, how can this be?

Sheng did just that, beginning this project at the urging of many who viewed  his previous project, “Fearless,” a collection of portraits of openly gay high school and college athletes that toured the country with more than 40 exhibitions. He couldn’t say no.

Sheng, a Harvard graduate from Thousand Oaks, CA, took out two lines of credit and began his self-financed, worldwide trip to photograph the soldiers who asked to be part of the project, to bring light to the great risks they were taking by doing so.

Read more the process and experiences next week in Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), Part II, coming March 19.


International Women’s Day

From Library of Congress
Women speaking up and changing the world.
Bain News Service, publisher.
14-yr. old striker, Fola La Follette, and Rose Livingston
[no date recorded on caption card]

For more information on this photo, and other photos from the Library of Congress,visit http://bit.ly/aXFXZM

March 8—100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day

There are facebook pages and stories here and there in the media. Here are two that seemed pretty worthy to bring to light.

First, suggestions for improving the status of women from Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times:

“Today is International Women’s Day, and in fact the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. It’s a date that is much better known abroad but is beginning to get more traction in the U.S. as well.

So what interventions get the most bang for the buck in raising the status of women around the world? What is most helpful in overcoming injustices such as human trafficking and acid attacks? I’d welcome your ideas below, but let me toss out a few of my suggestions for most effective interventions:” Read the rest at http://nyti.ms/aho2sG

The International Medical Corps has stories to share and ways to help. From their latest enewsletter:

“Today is International Women’s Day — a day to celebrate women’s achievements and to reinforce our commitment to those whose well-being remains at risk.    While there have been impressive strides in recent years, women around the world are still disproportionately affected by natural and man-made disasters.

For many women living in unstable regions without access to medical care, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are often a death sentence. In Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, women have a 1 in 22 chance of dying in childbirth, compared with 1 in 8,000 in industrialized countries.”  Read more at http://bit.ly/czY1uM

Progress still needed.


Chilean Witness

chilean earthquake by todos nuestros muertos

Saw this photostream of the Chilean earthquake on flickr site todos nuestros muertos.

Take a look at the rest of his pix there. Let’s let the photos do the talking this week. It’s been a rough year already for earthquakes–Haiti, Okinawa, and Chile top the list.

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