Tag Archives: Multimedia

‘Americans’: Christopher Morris Captures a Nation Divided

My latest book, Americans, is the second in a series about America, even though I had no idea it would become a series when my first book, My America, was released in April 2006. That book examined Republican nationalism in the country during George W. Bush’s two terms as president. But in Americans, I’ve taken real pains to make sure there’s no political photography. There aren’t any portraits of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and no pictures of rally signs. Instead, I sought to make an anthropological study of America—not for this week, or for this past election cycle—but a body of work that future generations could look back on to get a sense of the country’s mood.

What I found, in the eight-year period during which these photographs were made, is an America severely divided. With two long-running wars and an economy slow to recover, there is a real sense that the country is in a depressed state. Traveling across America in several road trips, I found that the mood among citizens wasn’t upbeat or lively; people are really polarized in their political positions, yet everyone is concerned about the economy and what that means for the welfare of their families.

The book contains only a handful of formal portraits. The rest is reportage—pictures taken when people were alone, pensive in thought. I looked for these moments to convey this feeling of loss and depression that I felt across the nation.

Americans recently headed to the polls to elect their next president, and on Election Day eve, there wasn’t a clear frontrunner. In fact, many polls showed voters divided near evenly between Obama and Romney—a poignant indicator that despite the winner, Americans may very well continue to be divided.

Christopher Morris is a contract photographer for TIME and represented by VII

Americans, published by Steidl, will be available in early December.

Alma: A Tale of Guatemala’s Violence

LightBox presents an exclusive look at an interactive, narrative documentary about gang violence in Guatemala told through the story of Alma, a young former gang member.

“In an isolated house, there was a girl older than me. Blond, begging to be spared…my whole body was telling me not to, but in the end I killed her. I knew I would get killed myself is I did not obey.” —Alma

Alma was only 15 years old the first time she took a life. As a member of one of the most violent gangs in Guatemala, the Mara 18, Alma spent eight years of her young life in a world ruled by violence. After a brutal beating caused her to suffer a miscarriage, Alma had enough, but her effort to leave the gang was met with an assassination attempt that left her a paraplegic. Today, at 26, Alma hopes to help stop the kind of violence that ruled her life for so long.

Gang violence is an enormous problem in Guatemala—a country of just 14 million people with one of the highest murder rates in the world. Alma’s story is indicative of a pattern that has affected a generation of disenfranchised youth in her country. She grew up in a cardboard and plastic shack in one of the most dangerous slums in Guatemala City. With a largely absent mother and an alcoholic father, gang life appealed to a 15-year-old girl looking for protection and comfort.

“I feel I have never received love from anyone,” Alma said. “I looked for another family in a gang, in which all members were like me, undergoing lack of love…for the first time in my life I felt loved and respected. ”

Miquel Dewever-Plana—Agence VU

At the age of 22, Alma told her “homies” (the members of her gang) that she wanted to leave. The retaliation came on the same day when two of them attempted to murder her. She survived, but is now paraplegic.

In 2008, Alma met photographer Miquel Dewever-Plana, who has been photographing the violence in Guatemala since 2007. Intrigued by Alma’s beauty and candor, amid such a cruel environment, Plana stayed in touch with the young woman, eventually realizing her story could be a powerful way-in to explain the larger tale of violence in Guatemala.

“I became convinced that her intelligence and forceful nature made her the icon I was looking for,” Plana said in an interview with Le Pelerin weekly’s Catherine Lalanne. “She was the key to understanding the most secretive twists and turns of the gang phenomenon.”

After a year-and-a-half of consideration, Alma agreed to collaborate with Plana and writer Isabelle Fougere. Her story is at the center of a new, multi-platform project centered around an interactive web documentary that presents Alma’s narration in a straight-forward confessional format. Plana’s photographs of her Guatemalan neighborhood and its gangs help to visualize the violent world in which she lived and powerful drawings by Hugues Micol illustrate troubling scenes from Alma’s life.

Working with a team of designers at the French creative studio Upian, Plana and Fougere, say they intended to create a final product—with a sensitive and innovative approach to a narrative— that would be interactive and accessible. The final product, which took two years to develop, is incredibly in-depth—allowing its audience to explore the story through the innovative web piece, two books and a film, all available in four languages. Supplemental materials were also designed for classroom use.

“This combination of media communicates Alma’s reality in the most effective way,” Plana said. “The web documentary was designed to inform young people about the dangers of gang life. That was my ultimate goal.”

Plana and Fougere recognize the confusing emotions that came as their relationship with Alma developed. “I see Alma as a friend,” Plana said. “But I never forget what she did, and it is impossible for me to justify her deeds.”

Plana has worked and studied in Guatemala’s since 1995 and has documented the country’s gang violence since 2007. It was this experience—which included extensive interviews with mareros in prison—that prepared him to understand and contextualize Alma’s situation.

Despite the risk of exposure and the discomfort of reliving such painful experiences, for Alma, the project was an opportunity to bear witness to her past and to attempt to prevent other youth from choosing the same fate.

“It was very painful for Alma to talk without feeling judged, to empty her haunted conscience of all these gruesome memories and guilt,” Fougere said. “This web-documentary is her path to redemption.”

Watching Alma speak on screen, it is difficult to connect the words with the woman. Soft-spoken, with long black hair and soft features, Alma slowly describes in brutal detail taking the life of another woman and enduring beatings at the hands of her “homies.” But it is precisely in this disconnect that the power of this project lies—it emphasizes that Guatemala’s gang violence is not the result of a few crazed individuals, but a tragic consequence of social problems so endemic that they can turn a young girl into a brutal criminal.

“Alma’s extremely violent story seemed emblematic of the desperation of youths from shanty town, totally abandoned by a society rife with corruption and impunity,” said Fougere. “[she is] Both victim and perpetrator of this endemic violence.”

Today, Alma lives a quiet life. Confined to a wheelchair, she works as a gift-wrapper  in a shop and lives with her boyfriend, Wilson, in a rented room. Further retaliation from her former gang is a constant threat, but she focuses on her dream of going to college to study psychology.

“I hope that [one]day I have the means to help these young people fascinated by the world of gangs,” she said. “And to finally break this chain of violence which only leads to a certain death.”

Miquel Dewever-Plana is a photographer represented by VU’. See more of his work here.

Isabelle Fougere is a French journalist, writer and director focused on human rights.

Alma: A Tale of Violence was released on arte.tv on Oct. 25, 2012. It was produced by Upian, a French creative studio that has won numerous awards for their web documentaries including First Prize in World Press Photo 2011.

All quotes by Miquel Dewever-Plana and Isabelle Fougere are from an interview with Le Pelerin weekly’s Catherine Lalanne, which is a component of the Alma project.

Camp Lee Mar: 60 Years of Summer Fun for Special Needs Children

Sixty years ago my grandfather, Joe Laub, urged his dear friend Lee Morrone to open up a summer camp. An overnight camp for children with special needs – a remarkable proposition at a time when people didn’t so much care for but deal with such children, often hiding them away in institutions. Camp Lee Mar would be different.  And throughout the years, I was told stories about just how different. Today, children come from all over the United States, Canada, Europe and the Middle East for seven weeks every summer in Lackawaxen, Pa. Lee, they say, is a miracle worker.

Finally, two years ago, I went with my parents to visit Lee at camp.  I knew of the history and Lee’s vision; I grew up hearing the uplifting camp stories. But to be honest, I was afraid. I expected sadness – how could you feel anything else witnessing all the limitations of disabled children struggling in a setting known for fun and frivolity?

I remember we arrived in the early evening and Lee escorted us to the dining room, where the children were having dinner. You’ve never seen such well-behaved, mannered children! Lee pointed out a child who came to camp having never eaten with utensils of any kind, and there he was, happily eating with fork and knife in hand. Lee walked by each table to say hello, checking in as the kids greeted her with bright smiles and loving eyes. “Don’t chew with your mouth open,” she’d say. “Sit up straight.” Nearly every child came to camp with a resume of what they couldn’t do. Lee would quickly recount this resume, remembering the list of “don’ts” and “can’ts.” Then, she’d invariably point the child out and say, with this boundless pride, and just a hint of indignation, “And now look at them!” Sure enough, they’d be doing what others said they’d never be able to do.

This wasn’t a place of sadness; there was love and acceptance everywhere. This wasn’t a place of humiliation; every camper had a story of extraordinary achievement. The only limitations, I learned, were the expectations I had brought with me. Lee’s biggest miracle was the camp itself. And with Ari Segal, her co-director of twenty years, and a staff of devoted counselors, she has inspired a new generation of professionals dedicated to people with special needs.  When I learned that this year Camp Lee Mar would be celebrating its 60th anniversary (as well as Lee’s 85th birthday), I knew I wanted to document it. It’s not often, after all, that you get a chance to be so close to so much miracle-making.

Gillian Laub is a photographer based in New York and a frequent contributor to TIME. See more of her work here

For more information on Camp Lee Mar, visit LeeMar.com.

apertureWEEK: Online Photography Reading Shortlist

Aperture aggregates the best posts from this past week in the photography blogosphere.

›› Vice‘s Motherboard blog released the never-before-told story of the first photograph ever uploaded to the World Wide Web, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next Wednesday.  The image, which has been referred to as “a Photoshop disaster,” has been met with equal parts adoration and horror since its release. The story also appeared on Gallerist NY and ABC News’ Tech This Out, which digs a bit deeper into the naïve roots of the image.

›› PIX, a proposed “photography lifestyle magazine for women,” has drawn commentary from photo editors Stella Kramer and Jasmine DeFoore and Jezebel blogger Katie J.M. Baker for its fluffy content—stories like “Smudge-proof makeup tips for long days behind the camera”—directed towards young female photographers.

›› Two years ago, Scott Blake, the digital artist behind the “Chuck Close Filter” website, was confronted by Close himself for what the painter believed to be unfair use of his copyrighted artwork. Blake recently recounted his dormant dispute with Close in an online essay, raising questions about when art is derivative, when it is plagiaristic, and if it’s possible for it to ever be entirely original. Wired reported, bloggers weighed in.

›› Les Rencontres d’Arles was in full swing last week. As The Guardian reported, Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood took home the festival’s author book award, the second year in a row that a Mack-published photobook has won the award—Taryn Simon’s A Living Man Declared Dead…was the 2011 winner. Jonathan Torgovnik won the €25,000 Discovery prize for Intended Consequences, and The Latin American Photobook was awarded the festival’s historical book prize. Additionally, Magnum celebrated its 65th anniversary at the festival, announced nominees Zoe Strauss, Jerome Sessini and Bieke Depoorter, and considered what the future holds for the organization.

›› Yoda reviewed photobooks a couple of weeks ago on Blake Andrews’ blog. We can’t believe we missed it. Work by Vivian Maier, Duane Michals, Rinko KawauchiAlec Soth and John Gossage, and The PhotoBook Review were amongst the titles critiqued by the Jedi Master. On the Gossage/Soth collaboration The Auckland Project: “Tack this poster to their dorm room I’m guessing few collectors shall. In protective cover will it remain. Hmm. Yeesss.”

›› The Rolling Stones celebrate their 50th anniversary this week and Magnum has reached into the archives, posting on their Facebook page a vintage Guy Le Querrec image of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at a show in 1967. Over at The New Yorker, Photo Booth has launched an 11-image slideshow of photos from the band’s early years, including a birds-eye shot of fans mobbing the band’s vehicle after a press conference at the Hilton, NYC in 1965.

›› More in anniversary news…In celebration of  the 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s first solo exhibition, at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is planning Regarding Warhol: Fifty Artists, Fifty Years, which opens in September and will also feature works by photographers Cindy Sherman and Robert Mapplethorpe. Over at NokiaConnects Joel Willians recounts the 5 Strangest Habits of Andy Warhol, asking the age-old question, “Eccentricity and genius go hand in hand, right?”

Dave Anderson at the Center for Photography at Woodstock

© Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson has photographed in tough places—a surviving Ku Klux Klan bastion in Texas, New Orlean’s post-Katrina Ninth Ward—but his photographs are rarely gritty. His Aperture monograph One Block, which documents the rebuilding efforts of one block of Ninth Ward residents, focuses less on the neighborhood’s despair and more on its hopes for renewal. Anderson knew that to photograph amidst such hardship he would have to tread lightly: “I was super-cognizant of ‘photographers fatigue’–people were sick of photographers showing up night and day and making grand promises,” he mentioned in a Color magazine profile. That Anderson spent time living and forming relationships with the residents he photographed is evident in the work—the subjects appear at ease, comfortable sharing their struggle to rebuild with Anderson and his lens.

Anderson produces videos as well as photographs—he is the man behind Oxford American’s SoLost web series, a video exploration of “the side roads, backrooms, cellars and psyche of the modern South,” which so far features 29 four-to-seven minute mini-documentaries on subjects ranging from a couple constructing a medieval castle in Arkansas, to Alabama menswear designer Billy Reid, to photographer William Eggleston. SoLost is a one-man operation, which accounts for the easy rapport between Anderson’s camera and his subjects, and why these videos feel like privileged glimpses into the richness and diversity of life in the American South.

Anderson will give a lecture about his image-making projects at The Center for Photography at Woodstock, this Friday, July 13 at 8pm. If you’re in the area, it will be worth checking out.

›› Watch a video of Anderson speaking about One Block with Aperture, and head to the Aperture store if you’re interested in purchasing a copy.

 

Kristoffer Axén at ICP, Photoville

The Rabbit Hole, At Sea At Night by Kristoffer Axén

Congratulations to Kristoffer Axén, whose images Day Three and The Conversation will join the Photography Collection at the ICP next month. The photographs are part of a new, on-going, series called ‘Events in Nature’ (from which a selection can be viewed at this year’s Tierney Fellowship Exhibition at Photoville, the new Brooklyn-based photo destination).

The Tierney Fellowship was created in 2003 by The Tierney Family Foundation to support emerging artists in the field of photography. Axén will be exhibited among a promising roster of artist, which includes Nicholas Calcott, Luo Dan, Ishaan Dixit, Gabrielle Goliath, Emily Kinni, Bryan Krueger, Carlos Licon, Mack Michael Magagane, Bruno Ruiz, Rubi Rose Siblo-Landsman, Roberto Tondopó, Aubrey Tseleng, and Terttu Uibopuu.

The Tierney Fellowship Exhibition
Opening | Friday June 22, 7 to 10PM, on view through July 1
Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York City

 


›› The successful Fotojatka festival that traveled to cinemas around the Czech Republic – screening specially produced photographic slideshow – is now over. But, you can still view Kristoffer Axén’s contribution online, featured alongside slideshows by more than a dozen contemporary photographers, amongst them Erwin Olaf, Nikos Economopoulos and Reiner Riedler.
›› For those interested in introducing prints from Kristoffer Axén into their personal collection of photography, we recommend The Rabbit Hole from the series At Sea At Night, available via Aperture

Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie en Gaspésie

Anja_Neidringhaus_At_War%5B1%5D

Vanessa_Winship_Georgia

Jocelyne_Alloucherie_Sirenes_Venise_2009

Over 900 photos | 30 photographers from Québec and elsewhere, recognized or emerging | 20 activities in the presence of photographers | 14 host municipalities in the Gaspé

On the theme of “Shaping the Course,” the third edition of Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie en Gaspésie, being held in the summer of 2012, is an invitation to travel the Gaspé Peninsula and follow the artistic trajectory of over 30 photographers from the region and elsewhere.

The holding of Rencontres here means that a tour of the Gaspé amounts to a trip around the world. “Our objective is to inhabit the huge Gaspé territory, and to use all the means placed at our disposal to present and champion artists’ work,” emphasizes Rencontres executive and artistic director Claude Goulet.

The focus of Rencontres this year is the role of the artist in society, the idea being to provide experiences for the eye and food for thought while addressing different esthetics, different probings of the landscape, the environment, the region and the representation of day-to-day life.

From August 18 to 25, professional week is taking place, which will bring together all the photographers participating in Rencontres around the subject of creation. That week constitutes a unique opportunity for the public to meet – at projections, workshops and lectures – the more than 30 professional and emerging photographers from the Gaspé, elsewhere in Québec, and from Canada, the United States and Europe.

The public can visit the photographic installations and exhibits from July 6 to September 10 in the 14 host municipalities: Cap-Chat, Marsoui, Rivière-à-Claude, Grande-Vallée, Gaspé, Percé, Chandler, Paspébiac, Bonaventure, New Richmond, Maria, Carleton-sur-Mer, Nouvelle and Matapedia.

Rencontres internationales de la photographie en Gaspésie is an invitation to come and meet these artists in a region where photographs and landscapes unite around an artistic project. For further details: photogaspesie.ca.

RENCONTRES INTERNATIONALES DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE EN GASPÉSIE
3rd Edition: Shaping The Course
Exhibitions : July 6 through September 12, 2012
Professional Week : August 18 through 25, 2012

›› View video interviews featuring guest photographers here.
›› View a full schedule of the summer’s events here.


© Anja Neidringhaus, At War
© Vanessa Winship,
Georgia
© Jocelyne Alloucherie,
Sirènes, 511 Gallery, New York

Game Changer: MediaStorm Launches Pay-Per-Story Video Player

MediaStorm broke new ground in digital publishing on Tuesday with the launch of a pay-per-story video player, one of the industry’s most exciting attempts to capitalize on the strength of multimedia productions. Now in its seventh year, the Brooklyn-based multimedia studio has developed an industry-wide reputation for producing strong online documentary multimedia. Before the launch of their new player, which was two years in the making, all content on their site was available free of charge. Now users have to pay $1.99 to watch full stories. As has been MediaStorm’s tradition, half of all revenue generated is shared with the photographers whose work is featured.

Users can watch the trailer for free, but then are prompted to pay to watch the full video. Registration and payment takes about two minutes to complete. “Everyone was initially against it,” says Brian Storm, MediaStorm’s founder and executive producer, of the staff’s resistance to charge for content. “Everyone wants people to see their work, but the reality is if a million people watch our story, it costs a ton of money…we have got to diversify our revenue and say, ‘This is worth your money.’”

By charging for its videos, MediaStorm is sending a message to its viewers that their content is worth more than just their time. Storm’s ultimate goal in launching the player is to advance the way the organization is telling stories—to do more of it, and do it better.

More importantly, Storm feels strongly that this player could be an integral part of how visual journalism is viewed and shared on the Web. MediaStorm has already licensed the player to the Guggenheim Museum and NGOs, and has further plans to make it available to others.

“If we figure this out and share it with others, that’s what success looks like,” Storm says of the player. “Helping the industry get better at what we do.”

Beyond that, the success of the player stands to have big implications for the cadre of visual journalists who could use it to get their stories out there. “That’s Yahtzee. That’s the Holy Grail. This is one step in the process of building that solution,” Storm says.

What it really comes down to for Storm is promoting visual journalism – regardless of whether that originates in or outside of the walls of his company. “The playback of our content is central to who we are, so to take ownership of that and innovate around it was a critical move,” Storm said. MediaStorm Developer Shameel Arafin and Interactive Designer Tim Klimowicz crafted a player that allows full control for branding and video playlists among other functions.

The coding that MediaStorm used to build the player allows the company incredible control – like knowing where their content is being used and viewed, and retaining the ability to turn it off remotely if the player is being misused.

The launch of the player coincides with the publication of two gripping stories in which award-winning photographers Phillip Toledano and Maggie Steber documented the death of one of their parents.

“We’ve been able to reach millions of viewers by distributing our stories for free,” Storm said. “But the reality is, no company or industry can sustain itself for long without producing a product for which people are willing to pay. Our industry is in need of a sustainable business model that will allow us to continue to report and produce compelling stories.”

Ultimately, Storm’s goal is that people will continue to log in, watch the story and learn.

Brian Storm is the founder and executive producer of MediaStorm.