Politics in Photography

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Olympics Flame, Vancouver


The flame is burning bright in Vancouver—despite mishaps.

I admit that I’ve been nuts about the Olympics since I first watched it on TV way too many years ago. Right out of college I had the opportunity to edit a magazine focused on the Olympics. Unfortunately, the publisher had not cleared the name of the magazine with the Olympic Committee. I found this out after I landed in Colorado Springs to interview the entire training team and was told,” fuhgeddaboudit.” That IOC is pretty territorial, right up there with Disney.  Don’t tread on their name or logo or else! If this were a branding blog, I’d say there isn’t a better brand out there to protect.

But this year we have many Canadians and others protesting the “corporatization” and cost of the games.  But how do you stop the funding for what has become an addiction? A thrilling, agonizing, exciting, sometimes magical addiction, at that? “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat,” as Wide World of Sports used to day.

At Beijing in 2008, sponsors fretted China’s human rights abuses, but that didn’t stop the games. In Vancouver, they’re screaming about trampling on First Nation lands. But several First Nations were right there in the opening ceremonies. That relatively inexperienced luger, Nodar Kumarotashvili, died hours before the opening ceremonies in Vancouver and that didn’t stop the games. In fact, his accident was blamed on his inexperience, and he’s not here to say any different.  Officials, however, quickly made changes to the track.

The only thing that has stopped the games is war. The brutal terrorist attack on Israelis in 1972 only temporarily suspended the games.  The U.S. boycotted the Moscow games in 1980, but many were upset that careers were ruined because of it, not supportive that we were standing up for a principle. What was that principle, anyway? Oh yeah, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. That went well, eh?

Yes, I’m sick of the insane commercialization, particularly the promos delivered by Bob Costas about Dreamworks latest dumb movie and sticking in so many commercials the broadcast continues til to midnight. But sponsorship can have a good side. Because of Visa’s involvement with the new We Are the World recording benefiting Haiti, an edited version premiered during the opening ceremonies, followed by the full version the next day.

Reviled or revered, the Olympics is one event where the world does come together– even if we try to beat the other guy out of a medal.

Read Bill Plaschke’s columns from the Olympics in the L.A. Times for his eloquent commentary from Vancouver.


Onè Respe: Photographic Magazine Benefit for Haiti


Last week I posted about the book “A Thousand Words,” created in two years for International Medical Corps after culling more than 10,000 photos. This week I bring you word of “Onè Respe, A Photographic Benefit for the Survivors of the Haiti Earthquake,” a magazine created in less than 48 hours and thanks to Lane Hartwell, a Bay area photojournalist with a passion, plus her partner and friends who contributed.

The pictures in Onè Respe are not of tragedy, but of beautiful Haitians enjoying themselves fishing, eating, playing, and laughing. This is what the aid to Haiti is meant to restore.

Noted photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark and photographers Chet Gordon, Kari Hartmann, Peter Pereira, and Lindsay Stark, donated their work. The title “Onè Respe” comes from a traditional Haitian greeting meaning honor and respect. This seemed to be shared among Hartwell’s team, as well.

“We did it so fast because we had a great team,” says Hartwell, clearly amazed at the process. “It had a life of its own. I got the idea the morning of the 13th and contacted Derek Powazek at MagCloud and he got back to me right away. He said he had time the next day to lay it out.”

In the meantime Lane and her partner Michael Biven began brainstorming.

“I chose Peter Pereira’s essay about village life, but we didn’t have a theme until I saw the old Kodachromes from Chet Gordon. So we began looking for pre-quake images.” As she scrambled to contact photographers and get images, Hartwell thought, “What the heck have I gotten myself into? I was supposed to get all the images to Derek to lay it out and I didn’t have it!”

Miraculously, everything came together the next morning and in two hours the layout was done.

Hartwell had a good lesson in not listening to the naysayers.  “Some said I shouldn’t do it and some photographers said they could get us images in a few days.” But she needed them that night. “We knew we had to get it (the magazine) out fast. Now we have these historic images, and they’re hopeful.”

They used social media to spread the word. “Michael’s company paid for a press release and a friend put one together for us. Everybody did what they were good at and delivered. We tweeted and put it on Facebook.”

A friend checked the analytics and Hartwell said that in 50 tweets they reached about 70,000 people.”Bloggers and new media picked up on it more than old media.”

And there’s an advantage to just sending the Red Cross a few dollars. “With this you have something to discuss with your kids and family for just $12 and postage. All proceeds go to the Red Cross and you’re getting a beautiful print-on-demand 40-page publication on high-quality FSC-certified paper.

Even better, says Hartwell, “Anybody can do this. With print-on-demand you don’t need money up front.” So, yes, there may be a follow-up issue, after some time passes.  

“The media is going to be leaving soon. I would be interested in seeing what it’s like there in a few months,” says Hartwell.

Derek Powazek of Magcloud designed the issue, which is available at magcloud.com or directly at http://magcloud.com/browse/Magazine/57585 Magcloud is also covering the printing costs.


A Thousand Words

Special Envoy for Haiti Gives Interview Outside Haiti Hospital

Photo caption: William J. Clinton (background, centre), United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti and former President of the United States of America, gives an interview outside the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince as a child badly injured in Haiti’s earthquake (forefront) takes a nap.
18/Jan/2010. Port-au-Prince, Haiti. UN Photo/Logan Abassi. www.un.org/av/photo/ 


While the aftershocks continue to rock the rolled and crush Haiti, the International Medical Corps will remain long after the world public moves on to another crisis, having arrived there just 23 hours after the 7.0 quake hit. I learned about this group at Photo LA because of a book recently published called “A Thousand Words, Photos from the Field.”

Edward Robinson, associate curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Dept. at LACMA, moderated a panel featuring author/editor Stacy Twilley, six-time Picture of the Year International winner Colin Finlay, photojournalist Sara Terry, and Stacey Freeman from IMC, along with stunning images from the book, published in 2009. The current horror in Haiti hung in the air, underscoring the urgency and importance of IMC’s work.

Twilley discovered 25 years of photos in the files of the Santa Monica-based humanitarian organization that trains locals in basic medical care while she was a volunteer. From 10,000 photographs taken by pro photographers and aid workers, she, with the help of notable collectors including Richard Gere and Anjelica Huston, and museum curators, culled the collection to the most powerful, disturbing and haunting images that told the stories of 21 countries in crisis.

“I realized that I had stumbled onto an unprecedented account of history,” says Twilley. “I knew that more people needed to see these photos to understand the tremendously important work International Medical Corps was doing.”

Emotion won the vote, not who shot it. So the two-year labor of love melded the work of pros and aid workers with one-third shot by pro photographers and two-thirds by volunteer workers. The book traces the paths “from war, genocide, conflict, and devastation, to compassion, healing, resilience, and hope.” 

Colin Finlay’s passion is palpable in the darkened room as his heart-wrenching images appear on screen. His voice nearly quivers as he speaks about his volunteer missions.  “It’s all about building awareness. We’re not there for the money or a job. This is the job of being witness, to convey emotion, show empathy, compassion. And I wonder, am I going to be given a photograph? A person has to allow me, share that soul agreement, permission, to take the photo. That’s an essential energetic element, the engagement process. I kneeled before this starving man and he allowed me, without words, to take this photo.”  


Read more at International Medical Corps or WorldFocus.

A Thousand Words: Photos from the Field” is available on Amazon



Hell in Haiti

Billtacular on Flickr


Because we are being barraged with mages of Haiti I was not going to add to it here. But I have to. On Flickr I found Billtacular’s image of Haiti from last summer, assembled into a collage. And he is using this in a unique way to raise money for relief efforts. See his offer below and challenge below.

“Please check out my Haiti photos: www.flickr.com/photos/billysbirds/sets/72157606614861223/ For every 10 Flickr comments in that set (either on an individual photo or on the set itself) I will donate $1 to relief efforts (up to $20).

“We visited Haiti last summer and the people there are truly suffering. It was an eye-opening and culturally shocking experience. The recent earthquake only puts more pressure on this country and it’s people to survive.

“I know $20 isn’t going to rebuild schools and hospitals, but if enough people donate a small amount, it will add up. I know that’s cliche, but it’s true and I don’t think a clever spin needs to be put on it.

“I encourage everyone to share this and RT if you’re on Twitter: twitter.com/Billtacular

“If you have photos or anything else from Haiti, I would suggest using a similar idea to help raise money and awareness (or come up with your own ideas)!

Thanks everyone for reading and commenting.”

The Red Cross has raised over a million dollars through a text message campaign. What could Flickr and other photo sites contribute?


Space: Photo Frontier

090416ARP galaxy-1600pix

Cameras are everywhere now—from inner space at the nano level, to the outer reaches of space.

The amazing thing is how similar these images can be. It’s similar to how the most minute detail of a story often reveals a universal truth.  This week we’ll start with the greater than global view–the most recent glorious photos from the Hubbell Space Telescope that has been traveling the far reaches of space for 19 years.

In future posts we’ll focus in tighter—into the tiniest slices of life and technology in future posts.

One of the things NASA and other space observers does best is capture images of things we will never, ever see up close.

Hubble recently captured this peculiar system of galaxies known as Arp 194. Says NASA: This is an interactive group made of several galaxies, along with a “cosmic fountain” of stars, gas, and dust that stretches over 100,000 light-years.

Arp 194 is located in the constellation Cepheus, approximately 600 million light-years away from Earth. These photos were taken in January 2009 with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Images taken through blue, green, and red filters were combined for this magnificent image.

If nothing else, an image like this can transport your mind from the mundane or tragic—to the possibilities of, well, the universe. Have you ever photographed star fields? Or stars and planets through a telescope? What did you discover? Let us know! More space spectacles to come.

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