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Three Minutes with Don McCullin

“But if people like George Rodger and Margaret Bourke White hadn’t walked into Bergen-Belsen and photographed what happened there, we might have believed what the English Professor David Irving said about it all being a big Zionist plot. Instead we know that he’s talking out the back of his ass.” – Don McCullin

It is interesting to hear Don McCullin reflect on his very distinguished career as a photojournalist as a waste. I can not speak to McCullin’s experience as a war correspondent and I am certain that any speculation of the impact of such a life on one’s psyche would surely fall short. My hope, however, when hearing McCullen speak, is that when he describes this waste, he is referring to the continuation of conflict and the correspondent’s inability to put an end to it.

My best argument for why journalists continue to put themselves in harm’s way is best stated by McCullin himself in the above quote. The cost of conflict is enormous, not only to the dead, but also to survivors forever changed by their experience. My argument isn’t shaped by professional interests, but rather my history studies at university. I believe the photos made at great risk of terrible things, are the proof of our folly and our history. I believe these photos to be among the primary documents with which the future will use to help understand the past. I believe that in making some of these photos, McCullin, and others, have provided a voice for the dead and have honoured them in doing so.

I recently watched the Eddie Adams documentary An Unlikely Weapon, and what strikes me is how hard Adams worked to outlive his experience as a war photographer and the stigma attached to one of his most iconic images. I understand that he spoke rarely about these experiences instead choosing to focus on his documentary work and his workshop. McCullin has become very clear and outspoken about his career and to take what he says literally, “The majority of the last 50 years of my life has been wasted” is to dismiss McCullin’s remarkable contributions to the historical record. Perhaps it is humility or resignation that has informed this perspective or perhaps it is the sheer brutal agony of having been witness to such unreasonable behavior. Nonetheless McCullin continues to trade on this legacy, his work continues to appear in print and collections featuring photos of war and conflict.

It’s been years since I read McCullin’s memoir, Unreasonable Behavior, but I recall it being both fascinating and heart breaking and it sits on my self to this day. The value of war photography is not aesthetic, it is in the power to to provide context and to serve as a stark and brutal reference when others pervert or trivialize events of the past.

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I’m going to leave you with a quote from Pam Roberts, Curator for the Royal Photographic Society, Bath, and taken from the catalogue of McCullin’s exhibition A Retrospective which toured Europe in the mid 1990’s.

“The camera gave him his eyes and his soul, his misery and his joy. It took him to places that scarred his mind and his body. It has unbalanced his life and, at the same time, given him a powerful reason for living. As we look at a tiny percentage of the images that one man saw through his camera lens, we should be thankful that he was there, and not us.”

Thankful indeed.

Updates from Instagram

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club” – Jack London

2014 Jan Instagram for blog-1

There is something to be said for 36+ mp hanging over your shoulder, but it’s also true that the best camera is the camera you have with you. Over the past month I have been playing with a couple new formats including a Fuji XF1 Point & Shoot and shooting with Instagram on my phone, and have found both of these formats a refresher course in creative photography. Using these different formats has been a great way to shake up my perspective. It also means that I don’t have to leave the house with a camera bag full of equipment and this in itself has been quite freeing. These pictures were all shot with my LG Nexus 4 with the Instagram app.

2014 Jan Instagram for blog-5 

Stanley Park, Fogcouver

2014 Jan Instagram for blog-4

Afternoon Coffee Break

2014 Jan Instagram for blog-3

Lionsgate Bridge, Fogcouver

2014 Jan Instagram for blog-2

Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames

2014 Jan Instagram for blog-6

Work.

Link : The Guardian – Syria’s Heritage in Ruins

“Photographs are the images of history rescued from the oblivion of mortality.”
-Neil Sheehan

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The toll of war in Syria has been unbelievably high. More than 4 million people have been displaced, 2 million as refugees into neighbouring countries and more 130,000 dead. I’ve lived my life in peaceful times and have been insulated from the high cost of conflict. There was a time when I entertained romantic notions of being a foreign war corespondent but I took a different path. My interest in how conflict is recorded and preserved, however, has not abated.

The Guardian’s Martin Chulov posted a piece (linked) about the toll of war on Syria’s heritage and the reason I’m sharing this with you is the before and after images included in the post. While there is no greater cost to war than human lives, the collateral damage to Syria’s history is heart breaking, and I can’t help but wonder if what will be left of Syria’s past is what is preserved by photos made prior to eruption into war.

Coincidentally, Monuments Men, a new film by George Clooney tells the story of a group of men, pressed into service in World War II, tasked to save the cultural artifacts stolen by the Nazis, is set to be released and I am looking forward to seeing it. Please have a look at Martin Chulov’s piece.

The Guardian – Syria’s Heritage in Ruins

Photo Walk – Fogcouver

“Fogs and clouds which conceal the overshadowing mountains lend the breadth of the plains to mountain vales. Even the small-feature’d country acquires some grandeur in stormy weather when clouds are seen drifting between the beholder and the neighboring hills” – Henry David Thoreau
 2014 January Personal Fogcouver Stanley Park-1
It’s been a weird winter in Vancouver, and by weird I mean it’s been remarkably dry. There has been little rain overhead, and everyone is missing snow in the mountains. In a move to get me away from my computer, I have been spending more time walking with my camera and despite the lack of snow above, the lack of rain has made it a lot easier to be outside. I write this, ironically enough, having replaced my mobile phone two weeks ago after a long hike at Buntzen Lake on an outrageously wet day.
It’s been super foggy in Vancouver over the past couple of weeks and I took the opportunity this past weekend to get out to see if I could capture some of the more moody atmosphere in the low hanging fog. The truth is I never, or rarely ever, shoot this way. Over the past couple of years I have been so focused on client work, and finding client work that I haven’t spent much time shooting just for the fun of it. Over the last few weeks, however, I have been having a blast getting out to shoot for myself and I have been producing photos that are a departure from my norm. This is one of the many understated values of pursuing personal work; it provides an opportunity to see things differently without the risk of screwing up something intended for a client. That said, I don’t typically shoot landscapes for clients, but I have been enjoying the opportunity to seek images different than others in my archive.
A couple of things have contributed to this change in approach. The first being Instagram which I have taken to as a tool to keep me thinking in frames even when I am not shooting, and the other is using a Fuji XF1, a Point & Shoot camera bought last summer. Each of these factors have already had an impact on the way I see and approach scenes in front of me. Interestingly enough because both the Fuji and the camera on my Nexus 4 are so slow to operate I spend a lot more time composing images and I feel freer to be more creative because I’m not shooting with my pro gear, a Nikon D800. This is absolutely counter intuitive but I feel more freedom to make mistakes, and I am unconcerned with the outcome. Who knew?!
Below are shots from Stanley Park on a 10km walk through some of the thickest fog I have ever seen in Vancouver.
2014 January Personal Fogcouver Seawall Blog-1
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While the above images were all made with the Nikon D800 and a 35mm f2, this last image was shot with the Fuji XF1 and toned in Lightroom 5. I have been using the Fuji more and more lately and have been having a blast.
2014 January Personal Fogcouver Shooter Blog-1

Don’t forget, I’d still like to see your food photos. I’m giving away a signed copy of Hana Dethlefsen’s collection of Japanese home favourites, and you have just less than three weeks to show me your stuff!

Let’s Cooking Cookbook Giveaway

Find me on Instagram

“A Photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”-Mark Twain

Instagram Promo 1

I am so late to the party there is nothing new I can possibly say about Instagram, other than you can now find me posting photos. Sometimes featuring my morning coffee sometimes it will be work in progress or images captured on project scouts or photowalks. There is, no argument here, an overabundance of junk on Instagram, but there are also hundreds, thousands of professional and accomplished hobby shooters posting to an exponentially growing archive of images from every part of the world. It is an amazing way to pique your visual curiosity. Come find me at @robshaerphoto.

Don’t forget, I’d like to see your food photos. I’m giving away another cook book this month. Check out Hana Dethlefsen’s collection of Japanese home favourites:

Let’s Cooking Cookbook Giveaway

The Next Giveaway: Let’s Cooking

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” – Craig Claiborne

Lets Cooking Cover

I can’t believe we are already into the second week of the new year. Not only has this week gone by with the frenetic energy of first love, but with it has come the 2014 event season. It might sound premature, but in looking ahead I see about 40 event on the calendar this year already. In fact, I had to go old school yesterday and buy an agenda, the Google calendar on my phone just isn’t going to cut it. While I scramble to shoehorn double-booked events, I’d love to start the year off with something a little more celebratory. I want to give you something.

While the Burgoo, Food For Comfort Cookbook giveaway didn’t draw the number of entries I would have hoped for, I am at it again. If you’ve been following along, you might recall that I had a second cookbook release this fall for a project that was shot almost two years ago. Let’s Cooking is a collection of Japanese-style home cooking recipes, which I can tell you are much simpler to prepare than they look. Let’s Cooking is a bit of a how to manual going beyond what most of us recognize as our Japanese fan favourites. Apparently Japanese food is more than just Sushi!

Since getting a test copy of the book last year, we have tried a number of dishes including what has become an easy favourite, the Okonomiyaki which invites infinite variations depending on what we have in the fridge, or what might have been left over from last night’s BBQ. From rice and noodles to elegant and whimsical Kanten Let’s Cooking is a primer for a style of cooking and food that couldn’t be more different than the food many of us grew up with but has become a staple for many of us on the West Coast.

So warm up what ever camera you have close and share your food experiences with me for a chance to win a signed copy of Hana Dethlefsen’s Let’s Cooking.

What I would like to see:

Your original work featuring food, cooking, or the social nature of a shared dinner table. I would like to see your photo with a short caption describing it’s creation and something about why it is significant to you. Top photos will be shared on this blog with credit and attribution with the winner being selected mid February. Please include your watermark if possible. Due to the constraints of international shipping the winner will be selected from North American-based entries.

I am excited to see and share your quality images, but most of all I want to see something beyond a glossy magazine style photo. That said, if your photo shares a story and is evocative and engaging I am not concerned if it was shot with your iPhone, compact or Pro DSLR. I care less about your technique of capture and more about the evocative nature of the content. Show us food that makes us hungry, show us a scene we’d be eager to be a part of.

I don’t want to see your whole portfolio, entries are limited to three images at a minimum resolution of 300 dpi at 1024 pixels on the long side.

What I don’t want to see:

Previously published photos will not be considered nor will photos submitted under false pretenses; I want to see your work, not the work of others with your name on it. Any work I deem in violation of copyright will be disqualified immediately and will be shared with the creating photographer where identifiable.

The Fine Print:

I reserve the right to change or alter contest terms based on the number and quality of entries. If I only receive one entry, I won’t be sending out the cookbook, but rather trying again in a couple of months.  I am the sole judge and jury and I can be whimsical and subjective. Contest closes on February 15, 2014

Submit your images to me at Rob@RobShaer.com

Food - Let's Cooking Cookbook 2011

Food – Let’s Cooking Cookbook 2011

Hana Dethlefsen FEEDback Project Participate Gallery-4

 

 

Photography: The Good.

“I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.” – James Nachtwey

Family Finds Missing Son In a ​USA Today Photo

Associated Press Photojournalist Jacquelyn Martin captured this image of 20 year old Nicholas Simmons in Washington DC a few days into the new year and almost two weeks after he left his parent’s home in Greece, NY. Shot on January 4, Martin’s image ran in USA Today in part of a gallery featuring images of the recent East Coast cold snap. After missing for almost two weeks someone close to the Simmons family saw the feature in last Saturday’s paper and recognized Nicholas. Simmons has since been admitted to a DC hospital where his father was able to reconnect with him. While I am sure there is much more to this story, this has struck as living up to the best ambitions of photography and photojournalism. There is no question there was a bit of good luck was at work. I can only speculate the number of images and assignments that Martin must have shot on this day, but somehow Nicholas made it into the edit and a photo editor at the USA Today decided this was the image to run. It is possible that having survived the edit Nicolas will survive this ordeal.

I often think of the power of Photojournalism in an international context, of photojournalists in dangerous places recording the history that would otherwise go unseen, but this is only one component of the medium. Martin was covering the community she lives and works in. For her, this happened pretty close to home, and affirms that all news is local news. Does Photography and Photojournalism make a difference, does it really save lives? Clearly it does, and I expect the Simmons family will be forever grateful to Martin and her photograph.

For however long the link is active, here is the gallery Martin’s image of Nicholas Simmons appeared in:

Winter Storm Hits the Northeast

The story as I read it on Gawker:

Family Finds Missing Son in USA Today Photo