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.

Video: Get Off The Road with James Marshall

“When one tugs at a single thing in Nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” -John Muir

I’m excited to share this video featuring my friend, and frequent subject, runner James Marshall. You’ve seen pictures of James before, but Film Maker, Jeff Pelletier captures in this video something that is almost impossible to capture in a still frame. Both Jeff and James are accomplished runners and experienced 5 Peaks Alumni, both of whom I photograph many times though the event season. Stuck in my ‘quiet season’ I have been scouring the web for inspiration and project ideas for 2014. Any ideas?

2013 James Marshall Mtn Portaits-2

2013 James Marshall Mtn Portaits-1

Video – Photographer Clark Little on Oahu’s North Shore

“You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper.” – William Albert Allard

Hi Shredibility: Clark Little popped up on my social media radar a couple weeks ago and I’ve had it tucked away since knowing that I would come back to it at some point. What appeals to me about this short piece by Vice Magazine is the quality of the visual storytelling and the quality of Little’s photography both of which are evocative of an experience unique to a very special piece of geography in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The strength of Little’s photography lies not only in his skill or aptitude with equipment and technique, but his true and genuine love for his subject matter. It is not enough to be in love with photography as a medium, I believe it is the connection to the subject that creates truly outstanding work. I’ve always regarded my best work as that which has been driven by passion, by a strong set of feelings, whether through a personal connection, empathy or curiosity. Photographers know when we ‘phone it in.’ We don’t make pictures for the sake of making pictures, making a picture is an act of sharing an experience, whether it is yours as a photographer or that the subject’s.

Little’s photography illustrates his relationship with the ocean, it is an evolution of his experience as a surfer charging shore breaks, and it is this experience which informs his unique perspective and approach to what he does. There is a definite eye candy quality to his photographs and it would be easy to dismiss his work as such if it weren’t for the physical commitment he makes to each photograph. Getting worked by heavy shore break on Oahu’s North Shore is no easy feat. It requires skill, strength and perseverance. Little takes risks to make his photos as much or more as any photographer; getting caught inside is no day at the beach and in the end he makes photos that set an impossible bench mark for everyone else to meet.

I have to admit that finding this video was something of a discovery. I am familiar with Vice Magazine, and I have the Vice Guide to Travel DVD on my shelf, but I wasn’t aware that Vice shot these sort of short pieces. After watching Hi Shredibility I watched a few other stories and I was pretty impressed with what I saw and invite you to seek out Vice Magazine’s YouTube page.

Vice Magazine on YouTube: Vice

More about Clark Little: Clark Little Official

Video & Link – National Geographic Proof

Photography Can Change the World

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Two days ago, National Geographic launched a new page dedicated to the photography and photographers who’ve shaped the magazine. In one of the first posts, this video, The Photographers on Photography, some of the best recognized names in photojournalism, and perhaps least recognized faces, speak to the power, capacity and responsibility of photography. If you’ve ever wondered why or how a photographer can put themselves in harm’s way, or continue to shoot when a scene turns to something less savory; this short video addresses many of those questions.

The Editors at Proof describe Proof as National Geographic’s new online photography experience. Launched to engage ongoing conversations about photography, art, and journalism. In addition to featuring selections from the magazine and other publications, books, and galleries, this site will offer new avenues for our audience to get a behind-the-scenes look at the National Geographic storytelling process.

The Video: The Photographers on Photography

The Web Site: National Geographic Proof

Flim – Photographer James Balog and Chasing Ice

chasing Ice Blog Res

I saw the trailer for Chasing Ice more than a year ago. I was immediately drawn in by how visually striking the imagery was and the innovative way in which cameras were tasked to document the remote places featured in this film. Chasing Ice documents photographer James Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey project which, with great objectivity, turns the lens on glacial recession across the far north.

This is a documentary that demonstrates my first covenant of photography; you have to be passionate not only for the medium of photography but also what you turn your lens to. James Balog describes photographing ice as an experience close to that of a portraitist like Irving Pen or Richard Avedon finding infinite differences in familiar subjects. Clearly Balog maintains a fierce passion for what he does and for what this project represents. After a career spent documenting the natural world, Balog sought out a way to document environmental change that had few visual references beyond the nightly news video loop of drought, fire and the growing phenomena of extreme weather. The Extreme Ice Survey Project created a visual metric for climate change that is indisputable.

Chasing Ice is really two stories, that of Balog and his team and that of the profound rate at which these glaciers are changing. My blog is about photography, and I try to keep it at that, but whatever your position on global warming, it is impossible to deny that change on a global scale is happening. Whether or not you believe that the endeavors of human kind are at fault for this change are immaterial to the fact that glaciers are receding at an unprecedented rate and all that water has to go somewhere.

I believe that documentaries are portraits, they are revealing, suggestive and sometimes inspiring. Chasing Ice is no less a portrait of Balog than it is a position on climate change. We are invited into Balog’s home, family and hospital room where he is prepped for one of a series of knee surgeries that the photographer hopes will see him through his project. For those of us with 9-5 jobs, it might be difficult to understand this kind of drive or resolve; it can appear selfish, obsessive, even insane to those of us who maintain very narrow zones of comfort. This is the nature of photography at it’s best, it takes us places that we might otherwise fear to go and it takes people like Balog and his team to take us there. Photographers take risks so that others don’t have to so we can all better understand the world we live in.

Chasing Ice is available on NetFlix and on iTunes, but if it comes to a theatre near you check it out on the big screen, it’s worth it.

Chasing Ice

Check out the trailer here:

James Balog’s Ted Talk presentation:

 

Today’s Archive Image – Steve Smith at Crankworx 2012

2012 CX CDN DH Steve Smith WR-1

There are daily reminders that Crankworx is less than two months away. Crankworx turns Whistler into a gong show and it was the most fun I’ve had shooting almost anything in a long, long time. There are more than a few photographers in town over this ten day period and competition for access is intense. I hope to return in 2013, and have submitted an application, while in the mean time reaching out for any assignment that will get me on the mountain.

I am excited that this image in particular, of Canadian Steve Smith coming over Heckler’s Rock during his winning run at the Canadian Open Downhill, has had so much traction, but it has also been a bit of a lesson for me. When you are contributing to a pool of images it is difficult to track where your images end up and whether they have been used with appropriate attribution. These are things that you learn with either a vanity search or with Google’s reverse image search where you can upload an image and Google will locate any number of pages on which your image has appeared.

In the days that followed Smith’s winning run, this image appeared on Facebook, in print and on a dozen different web outlets, some are included below. The exciting thing for me is though my week in Whistler for Crankworx had been a total gamble I saw my photos sent out to the Mountain Bike community world wide, especially cool since is Mountain Biking is among my favourite things to shoot, but also something I consider to be a weak link in my portfolio of experience. Now, almost a year later, this image still has legs and has recently appeared a travel magazine, with permission and attribution, destined for thousands of hotel rooms in Whistler.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

The Whistler Question:

2012 Crankworx clips 1

MTB Review:

2012 Crankworx clips 5

Pedal Magazine:

2012 Crankworx clips 6

Sick Lines:

Sick Lines CX Steve Smith Screen Shot

Where Whistler:

Where Whistler CX Screen Shot

Ten Years of Crankworx

Video – A Talk With AP Photographer David Guttenfelder

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The International Center for Photography recently honoured Associated Press Photojournalist David Guttenfelder as an Infinity Award recipient for his work in North Korea. With all the recent news of North Korea’s posturing, it is easy to think that the hermited nation might have more in common with the land Oz than it does with it’s neighbours or others in the international community, but Guttenfelder’s photos reveal a degree of what passes as day to day normalcy. This is the revealing power of photography, showing us not only the things that divide and horrify us, but the similarities we share that may be otherwise hidden by fear, bureaucracy or secrecy. This is 12 minutes worth watching. This video was produced by Media Storm and was found at Alan Taylor’s In Focus blog at The Atlantic. Click either the image above, or the link below to watch the video.

Beyond the images of North Korea, Guttenfelder speaks a little of his career and time spent in Africa and Afghanistan as a photojournalist with the Associated Press. Guttenfelder comes across as humble, thoughtful and unphased by the intensity of his experiences. He talks about thinking of himself in a certain way after a decade of photographing conflict and violence and how that changed with an assignment to cover a three day reunion of families divided for 50 years by the Korean Conflict and how that pushed and drove his interest to look deeper into the North. This is another great power of photography, it is transformative. Photography changes us, our perspective, our understanding, and how we see others. It has an indelible affect on not only the audience but also the subject and the photographer forever changed by the events seen through the lens.

A Talk With AP Photographer David Guttenfelder – In Focus – The Atlantic.

Links:

Media Storm

In Focus

International Center For Photography

More about the ICP Infinity awards including videos:

ICP Infinity Awards 2013