Tag Archives: Documentary Film

Reflections in a Pashtun Cinema

Photographer Omar Mullick has spent the last decade passing through the countries of Central Asia on assignment. Here, he reflects on his photographs of a Pashtun cinema in Karachi, a space he found defied the preconceived images of the region.

These photographs were created, if I am brutally honest, from a loss of faith. Not in my religion or way of life, but from my understanding in how the eye of documentary photography portrays the Muslim world.

I didn’t buy it: the blurred melancholy and humorless conviction with which we documented native, usually Muslim peoples. It did not resonate—not even slightly, and even if I registered good intention in the work, it never mitigated my feeling that there were a thousand ways of looking at people in the West and only one way of looking at other people on the brunt of war. They were often confined to one visual language, or, to extend the metaphor, one set of visual phrases: suffering, victimhood, violence and trauma. And in the effort to prompt outrage and underline how bad war was, their subjects were often confined to the ‘other’. More specifically, people never surfaced in photographs—only symbols of war. What resulted was the worst absence possible in a photograph of another person: empathy.

The resulting photographs were shot, I realize now, as a response to that.

They were taken in Karachi at a Pashtun cinema before I was scheduled for an embed in Afghanistan. Working on a project called Basetrack and a documentary film about a Pashtun runaway boy, the photos were snapped on my days off. This place was my retreat, just as it was the retreat for the subjects in my photographs. My work, I hoped, was a portrait of people as they collectively exhaled. And in that I also hoped they kept, modestly enough, the company of photographers that emphasized sympathy over a desire to continue the string of visual metaphor: Kuwayama’s doves at Mazar E Sharif, Balazs Gardi’s tender Afghan father holding his son or Ladefoged’s The Albanians.

Pashtuns are known by legend and myth as warmongers, kohl-eyed and unforgiving, even unconquerable patriarchs to the last man—the blood and muscle of the Taliban. Here, displaced and withdrawn from their beloved mountains and heaped en masse in Karachi’s urban sprawl, they came to this movie theater—feared by outsiders—to see films and hear songs in their native tongue. And I—with my personal stories of bloodlines running all the way to Kandahar and Waziristan—schoolboyishly wanted to lose myself in their fold.

Men huddled and laughed in the aisles, smoking hash in advance of the film, people who saved their pennies for stale popcorn or samosas to be had in the intermission. Also men who, left alone, sat in the front aisles waiting in anticipation for a Pashto song to come on and then rushed the screen to dance against the projection to the song, cheered on by all. Runaway boys, who had made their way from Afghanistan or Waziristan to Karachi to pick trash by day, now chose the afternoon after Friday prayers to see a film. They preferred the sound of cinema to the buzzing drones that soundtracked their nightmares. Then there were the drug dealers, the boys looking to pick up johns by the bathrooms and the bulk of men who swore to kill any pedophiles they found taking advantage of children. But mostly it was of people at rest, disarmed. They were having fun.

These were men and young boys at ease enjoying themselves. In that they mirrored the loose pop flash photos I took of friends back home. I photographed the cinema barely looking through the viewfinder, the camera lofted above the fray and through ongoing laughs and phrases in Pashto, asking them what Waziristan looked like and who had been to Kandahar. And then I would shoot more, telling stories about my grandmother and her pride at being Pashtun and my mother’s own deep reservoirs of will and piety—markers they would surely recognize. In this recognition I found the most personal visual language I could muster.

Shoot them like you would your friends at home, I told myself: free of abstraction, their dignity intact. Shoot a portrait they might recognize of themselves, something they might love, something that may make them smile. At least once, let’s do that.

Shoot them as if your loss of faith in photography were redeemable, as if an image might actually be a chalice for humanity and you were all going to pass around the cup.

Shoot them as if your faith were already back.


Omar Mullick is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York City. He was an embedded photographer in the Basetrack project out of Afghanistan in 2011. His work on Muslims in America titled Can’t Take It With You received a solo show in 2009 at Gallery FCB in Chelsea, N.Y., and his recent film These Birds Walk was selected for 25 new faces of Independent Cinema in 2012.



Ari Cohen and Advanced Style

Several years ago, I heard from Ari Cohen that my work was being featured on his blog, Advanced Style.  He was showcasing the images of my mother as the blog features stylish women in their prime.  I have checked in with his blog ever since. I find this page especially encouraging!

You might call Ari the Sartorialist of the senior set, activity photographing women and men with distinction on the streets of New York. The blog has become a phenomenon, and is now a book, with and introduction by Maira Kalman and contributions by Dita vonTeese. It’s now available through Amazon.

 Ari has created a Kickstarter Campaign for ADVANCED STYLE: the documentary.

Advanced Style is a documentary film about stylish older women living in New York City.  The film follows the daily lives and inspiring moments of New York’s most fashionable seniors. These portraits of women aging gracefully with tremendous spirit will challenge conventional ideas about beauty, growing old, and Western culture’s increasing obsession with youth.
For three years we have filmed many stylish, older women in New York City, but we need your help to turn this project into a full-length documentary film. Through our discussion of style, we’ve started a grander conversation about embracing age and living life to the fullest. Our *senior* starlets share their tips for choosing accessories, and perhaps more importantly, how they cope with their changing physical appearances and abilities, sex at an older age and, inevitably, death. No topic is off limits.

Nancy Baron

For the last several years, I have had the great pleasure of seeing Nancy Baron’s photographs featured in the Palm Springs Photo Festival’s slide show, and last week attended the opening of her exhibition,The Good Life, Palm Springs, currently on display at the 825 Gallery/LAAA in Los Angeles.  Nancy offers an insider’s perspective of the high and the low life of desert living, and combines brilliant color with small nuances that make us want to start mixing the cocktails and getting our feet wet.  
Born in Chicago, now living in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Nancy has a background in documentary film making, and her work has been exhibited across the U.S, and published around the world.
The Good Life, Palm Springs
I like to discover and document, without judgement, the exotic
subculture next door, aiming to capture and celebrate the majesty in worlds that
could easily be overlooked, seen as mundane, otherwise misunderstood.
 Backyard Morning

In the time that Palm Springs has been my second home, I’ve found it to be exactly and nothing like what I expected it to be.  Having ridden the waves of economic and cultural trends, the town offers a wide variety of lifestyle choices, not all of which are apparent to the occasional tourist.  The idea of Palm Springs evokes a well-defined image internationally.  These varied definitions are all accurate and, yet, this oasis of layered Americana is often misunderstood.

Golf Course Plane

It’s easy to dismiss the town as a frivolous playground for whomever one imagines its visitors or residents to be.  The truth is, Palm Springs is a brilliant example of the American Dream; springing from nothing out of the desert sand, continually reinventing itself with hope, determination, and the belief that everyone is entitled to The Good Life.


 Bob’s Red Car


Red Sweater





Shaggy Pillows

The Vanity




The Girls

Pink Shoes
 Frank Sinatra’s Stereo
Lee’s Gone, Liberace’s Palm Springs Estate
 Howling Wolf

The Kaufman Papers

Golf Course Palms

Peter’s Hat
 Weekender

In Memory of Photographers We Lost in 2011

They went by several different names. James Atherton was a “news photographer” while Tim Hetherington preferred “image maker.” We just call them photographers. They make images, yes, often connected with the news. But they actually record the world–in all of its beauty, horror, pain and confusion–at a particular time and place.

For three of the photographers who were killed covering the civil war in Libya this year, the uprising to oust Muammar Gaddafi was far from their first experience in combat. Anton Hammerl, a South African who lived in London, documented violence in South African townships before the 1994 election. After years far from the sound of the guns, Hammerl traveled to Libya and went missing in Brega on April 5, along with two other journalists. Only when the other two were released by Gaddafi forces did Hammerl’s family learn that he had been killed.

The news would come more quickly for the families of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros. On April 20, a mortar round crashed in the middle of a group of photographers covering the fighting in the city of Misrata. Hetherington and Hondros both died of their wounds. Hondros had covered Liberia and Iraq, among other conflicts, including the 2003 photo of a Liberian militia commander jumping elatedly in the air after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at rebels holding a key bridge in Monrovia. Hetherington’s image making would take him to Sierra Leone and Liberia, chronicling conflicts no one wanted to talk about. He gained fame for Restrepo, a brilliant, agonizing documentary film he made with journalist Sebastian Junger that told the story of a company of American paratroopers during a year of nearly constant combat in Afghanistan. Only months after being nominated for an Oscar for the film, Hetherington was back where the bullets were flying and the mortars were landing, giving his life to tell stories few want to see, but none can afford to ignore.

Jerome Liebling was a true product of the greatest generation, who grew up in New York during the Great Depression. He fought in North Africa and Europe during World War II as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. In spite of the carnage of war he witnessed, or perhaps because of it, Liebling trained his lens on the poor, the hungry and the forgotten. He wanted to “figure out where the pain was,” he once said, “to show things that people wouldn’t see unless I was showing them.” Yale historian Alan Trachtenburg wrote that Liebling was a “civic photographer,” but he was also a gifted teacher, serving first as a professor of photography at the University of Minnesota, then founding the film, photography and video program at Hampshire College in 1969.

The plight of the poor not only drove Milton Rogovin to document their struggles, it also led him into politics. While working as an optometrist in New York during the Great Depression, Rogovin began taking classes at the New York Worker’s School and discovered the photography of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine. His black and white images call to mind Walker Evans and Gordon Parks; his subjects were often people he met on the street, and he often had to convince them he wasn’t a cop or working for the FBI. “All my life I’ve focused on the poor,” he said in 2003. “The rich ones have their own photographers.” The poor he documented have their own place in history–most of Rogovin’s archive is collected in the Library of Congress.

It takes a second, looking at the cover of the famous “butcher” album to realize the moppy-haired youths are John, Paul, George and Ringo–the Beatles, who Robert Whitaker shot for the cover of the album Yesterday and Today. Maybe it’s the lab coats, or the raw meat; more likely it’s the dismembered dolls. Though the Fab Four’s handlers later replaced the image with a bland, hastily shot portrait, the cover survived as one of the most original–and strangest–music photographs in history.

A list of celebrities photographed by Jonathan Exley would alone take up an entire blog post: President and Secretary Clinton, Jerry Seinfeld, Marlon Brando, John Stamos (I’ll stop there). Yet Exley counted among his favorite subjects the brilliant, often kooky Michael Jackson. “Working with Michael was like working with a partner,” Exley said of photographing the King of Pop. His portrait of Jackson clad in a black scarf with the wind blowing his hair across his face, which was the cover of Rolling Stone’s tribute issue after Jackson’s death, captured the inner torment of Jackson’s final days like no other image or story possibly could.

After a career that spanned four decades during which he photographed Presidents from Truman to Nixon, James Atherton bristled at the term “photojournalist.” Instead, he wanted to be known as a “news photographer,” a somewhat anachronistic term that reminds us that photojournalists are, first and foremost, photographers.

Great photography is often a serendipitous event–the right photographer, shooting the right subject at the right time. Those elements came together for Barry Feinstein‘s 1966 image of Bob Dylan inside a car, as fans pressed their faces against the window to get a closer glimpse of the iconic musician.

When the 1973 Pulitzer committee awarded prizes for photography, the Feature Photography prize went to Brian Lanker, who died in March at 63. Lanker’s winning submission was a piece titled “Moment of Life’ for the Topeka Capital-Journal, which showed an exhausted, but elated mother as her just-born daughter was placed on her stomach. He would go on to make several arresting images of both everyday people and celebrities, including a beautiful picture of basketball player Wilt Chamberlain pretending to be asleep in his home in Bel Air.

LeRoy Grannis, once called by the New York Times “the godfather of surf photography” came late to the profession. At age 42, Grannis, who had surfed since his teens, took up photography on the advice of his doctor who said he needed a hobby to relax. Grannis became the lead photographer for Surfing Illustrated and in 1962 he co-founded International Surfing, which is now known as Surfing magazine. Grannis, who died in in February at 93, caught his last wave in 2001.

Long before he founded the photo agency Sipa, Goksin Sipahioglu was an accomplished and renowned photojournalist. A native of Turkey, he was one of the few “western” photographers in Havana during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He covered riots in Paris and while on assignment at the 1972 Munich Olympics, he found himself chronicling the kidnapping of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists. With the notoriety from that assignment, Sipahioglu founded Sipa, which along with Gamma and Sygma dominated international news photography until the digital age.

Guy Crowder seemed to have a knack for being where the action was. He was standing next to Robert Kennedy moments before the senator was assassinated. Crowder covered Martin Luther King, Jr’s funeral and Muhammad Ali’s popularity. Shunned by mainstream periodicals during the 1960s, Crowder took photos for the Los Angeles Sentinel, Wave newspapers and Jet and Ebony magazines.

Theodore Lux Feininger
Feininger was a renaissance man. As a student at the Bauhaus, a school for the arts in Weimar-era Germany, Feininger collaborated in experimental theater, played in the jazz band and was a painter. But it was as a photographer that he may have had his most lasting impact. Feininger captured images of the Bauhaus and the avant-garde Germany between the two World Wars that stands as a unique record of a time and group that have largely been forgotten by history.

As a child, Leo Friedman wanted to be an actor, so it was only natural that he was drawn to the theater. Over the course of his career as a photographer, Friedman photographed more than 800 Broadway shows for magazines and newspapers and often as the official photographer for the shows’ producers. He shot some of the most famous shows in Broadway history but one of his most famous photographs was a staged publicity shot of Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert running down the street smiling and holding hands for the original run of West Side Story.

Beginning in 1980, Lou Capozzola was a prolific photographer for Sports Illustrated. He shot the last time Wayne Gretsky skated on the ice in an NHL uniform in 1999, a behind the back, no-look pass from Shaquille O’Neal to J.J. Hickson in 2010 and thousands of hockey games. Capozzola, who died in August at 61, shot the Stanley Cup playoffs for his final assignment, where the Boston Bruins ended a 39-year championship drought. His photo of goalie Tim Thomas hoisting the cup became the cover of SI’s commemorative issue.

We lost great photographers this year. They photographed Presidents and popes, rock stars and rebels. They risked their lives, and some of them gave their lives, so that we can better understand our own, the place we inhabit, and more importantly, the areas of the world we would otherwise never see. —Nate Rawlings

Photographer #331: Mike Piscitelli

Mike Piscitelli, 1978, USA, is a editorial and commercial photographer and filmmaker who also focuses on his personal work. He spends his time between Los Angeles, New York and Sydney working on various assignments. Amongst his client list are DVS shoes, Columbia records and Vans. He made editorial work for magazines as Another Magazine, Dazed and Confused and i-D Magazine. His photography is full of life, youth and joy. He wants his images to convey a realness that leaves you feeling like they really happened. He has worked with a large number of celebrities, both as a photographer and as a music video director. In 2010, together with director Mike Fleiss, he released his first feature length documentary film called God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. The following images come from the portfolios Book I, Fashion and Accident Prone.

Website: www.mikepiscitelli.com

Documentary Film: One Thousand Pictures: RFK’s Last Journey

On June 6, 1968, in the midst of his campaign to be president of the United States, Robert F. Kennedy died from an assassin’s bullet. Two days later, after a funeral mass in New York City, his casket was placed on a special train bound for Arlington National Cemetery. A journey that should have taken hours took all day, as thousands of Americans lined the 225 miles of track in a spontaneous outpouring of grief. Paul Fusco was the only journalist on the train, and he ended up taking more than a thousand pictures from his window. These images can be seen in the Aperture publication Paul Fusco: RFK.

Now on the 43rd anniversary of the event, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Stoddart brings Fusco’s images to life. Atlanta Search engine Optimization . Personal stories are told by Fusco, and RFK’s then-press secretary, as well as by the people who appeared in Fusco’s images, recalling the emotional impact of Kennedy’s assassination on the country. The film also includes video and audio clips of Bobby Kennedy speaking so eloquently and passionately about his hopes and dreams for the country.

Watching the documentary was a moving experience for an American like me, who lived through those sad and rocky moments in America’s history. And once again, I am reminded of the power of photography to capture a mood and feeling, and how a multimedia presentation like this documentary can serve to intensify the meaning of almost each and every image.

The documentary film, ONE THOUSAND PICTURES: RFKS LAST JOURNEY, airs on Wednesday, June 8 at 8 p.m. ET. And tonight, Monday, June 6 at 6:30, Paul Fusco and filmmaker Jennifer Stoddart will host an artist’s talk and book signing at the Aperture Gallery and Bookstore in Chelsea. zoekmachine optimalisatie . 547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor.

The trailer for this film can also be viewed at HBO.

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Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 1968

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Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 1968

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Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 1968

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Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 1968

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Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 1968

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Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 1968

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Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 1968

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Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 1968

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Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 1968

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Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 1968

Mary Ellen Mark: Tiny

Mary Ellen Mark

Tiny Holding Her Dog (During Streetwise), 1983, © Mary Ellen Mark

Tiny, Mary Ellen Mark


Exhibition on View:

Wednesday, March 2—Saturday, April 2, 2011

Patricia Conde Galeria
Lafontaine 73
Col. Polanco, Mexico City
Telephone: (52+55) 5290-6345

Mary Ellen Mark’s series Tiny documents the lives of children and young adolescents living on the streets of Seattle in 1983. The companion documentary film, Streetwise, premiered in 1985 and brought audiences deeper into the lives of Tiny and her friends.

Aperture magazine, issue 181 featured an interview with Tiny (real name Erin Charles) by Mary Ellen Mark and Martin Bell 20 years after they first met her at age 13. In the 2005 interview, Tiny (age 35) discusses motherhood, aging, and the surprise of survival.

Mary Ellen Mark contributed to Aperture’s anthology Things as They Are: Photojournalism in Context Since 1955 as well as being featured in Aperture issue 146 and  187. Aperture also published Mary Ellen Mark’s monograph Twins, which is available with Martin Bell’s documentary film of the same name.

Aperture is honored to have Mary Ellen Mark’s limited-edition print, Heather and Kelse Dietrck, 7 years old, Kelsey older by 66 minutes, 2002, available for purchase.