Tag Archives: Out There

TIME Picks the Top Photographic Magazine Covers of 2012

The best photographs don’t always make the best covers. It takes a smart concept, a meticulously executed image, smoothly integrated typography and the combination of all those factors to create an immediate and lasting impact. Our top ten photographic covers of 2012 show exquisite use of photography.

The most notable is New York Magazine’s magnificent cover by photographer Iwan Baan of a half blacked-out Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. It’s instantly iconic and will become one of the greatest covers of all time. In the mix is also W‘s stunning fashion cover image of Marion Cotillard, ESPN‘s high-concept “Fantasy Football” cover, depicting an NFL player in a magical forest with a unicorn, and a photojournalistic cover, the Economist’s powerful image documenting the personal toll of the conflict in Gaza.

We also decided to include two covers in the mix that were striking photo-based illustrations. An aged Obama on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek as well as a thoughtful commission by the New York Times Magazine for the visual artist Idris Kahn to reinterpret an iconic landmark on their London-themed cover.

A great cover is always a collaborative effort. To caption each of our selected covers, we spoke to a mix of editors, photo directors, art directors and photographers who took part during different stages of the creative process. In our selection, we refrained from choosing any TIME covers, though if we were to choose one, it would be Martin Schoeller’s arresting image of a mother breast-feeding her 4-year-old son, “Are You Mom Enough?”

Kira Pollack, Director of Photography

Refugee Hotel: Strangers in a Strange Land

Bewildered, exhausted, displaced and lost in their own thoughts, the subjects in Gabriele Stabile’s photographs have traveled far and suffered greatly. Newly arrived refugees in the United States, they spend their first night in America in the temporary shelter of an airport hotel. Many of them endure torturous delays in their native lands—often waiting years in makeshift camps before finally gaining entry to America and an opportunity to build a new life. Once on American soil, these refugees from war, famine, religious persecution and every other imaginable human-made and natural calamity will spend a single night — 10 to 12 hours — at the hotel before they continue their journey, settling in far-flung destinations across the 50 states. Ukrainians to California, Africans to Fargo — the decisions made by the resettlement agencies are often based on existing communities that can offer support and aid in the acclimation of the new arrivals.

The Italian-born Stabile, now based in New York, covered five airports of entry for his project — Newark, JFK, Miami, Chicago’s O’Hare and Los Angeles International — and concentrated on documenting the immediate experiences of the new arrivals to a new world.

“I found myself focused on the gateway from their past,” Stabile says. “I used to say they live between uncertainties. One is their past, which they had to abandon, and the other is their future, because they don’t know what is going on, what will happen in America, or what it is going to be like.”

“It’s a suspended reality,” Stabile explains, “where you have to suspend your belief, too. You see an African family of ten people spending all night in the hallways of the hotel and refusing to get into their own rooms to sleep because they’re afraid that the officials are going to forget them — forget about them and leave them there.”

Stabile finds the situations close to “unphotographable.” Arriving in the dead of night, bathed in darkness, the refugees arrive at hotels with generic, fireproof furniture and ugly, flowery wallpaper — a surreal environment for a traumatized traveler to face.

These conditions aid, rather than disrupt, Stabile’s appropriately dark, atmospheric aesthetic. His layered compositions (and reflections) often convey the refugees’ disorientation. In other photographs, isolated refugees seem to emerge from the shadows of their unfamiliar surroundings, physically and mentally displaced and lost in their own thoughts. The mix of emotions and sense of shock are almost palpable.

Stabile and his subjects, meanwhile, appear to have understood one another through his camera. “I was hiding a bit behind it and they were kind enough not to [hide from it]. Some of the people didn’t want to be photographed but mostly they were open.”

He connected with the refugees not only through the lens but through simple acts of kindness, like lending his cell phone so they could call their loved ones and friends back home to let them know they had safely arrived.

As the refugees continued their journeys to their resettlement communities, Stabile maintained contact, becoming friends with some and receiving random calls from others.

“There’s a family in Mobile, Alabama. Every year, on the anniversary of their arrival, they call me,” Stabile says, “because I was the first western guy to show interest in their story and lent them my phone. They remembered that as an act of kindness. The guy wants me to talk to his seven daughters and wife and we don’t even speak the same language!”

A letter from a young refugee named Samira, meanwhile, struck Stabile deeply enough to alter the course, and expand the scope, of his entire project. After meeting her upon her arrival in Newark, he had photographed Samira and her family in Minneapolis — a location he visited that was not a port of entry, but rather a destination for refugees. After he had largely lost touch with the family, Samira wrote Stabile a letter that he characterizes as “very tough, accusing me of disappearing from their lives after [initially] showing interest.”

Gabriele Stabile

Samira Ebisu takes a moment to herself on the day of her arrival in Minneapolis.

This recognition finally led Stabile to expand the refugee project to tackle the larger and, in many ways, far more emotionally fraught story of resettlement — how refugees affect the America is which they now live, and how America has affected (and continues to affect) them. This journey, his journey, is something that, Stabile says, all photographers eventually end up shooting: getting lost in America.

Stabile’s Refugee Hotel is the first photo book published by Voices of Witness. The book is structured into three distinct chapters — two photographic and one written. The first is an impressionistic documentation of the refugees’ first night in the hotel. The second chapter, written by co-author Juliette Linderman, is a series of first-hand accounts and oral histories. The testimonies are stark and full of yearning to rebuild lives beset by adversity and delayed by circumstance and bureaucracy. The third chapter focuses on their resettlement to the smaller communities of America.

The photographic bodies of work are separated by four years and aesthetically are two distinct entities. The first was mostly shot in color Kodachrome and the second with black and white film. The sections were shot during two different periods of Stabile’s own life, between 2007 and 2012 — the first as a young photographer recently arrived in the U.S. and the second as a permanent resident and father of two.

The project represents a serious amount of investigative journalism, with organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) providing tremendous help in tracking down the refugees.

In the second half of the project, Stablile concentrated on the smaller towns the refugees were dispersed to — towns that weren’t as ethnically diverse as the larger metropolitan areas the refugees first arrived in. The second chapter accentuates the paradox of American culture and reinforces the surreal nature of their first nights here.

“The actuality is that there are African people living in Fargo, North Dakota — lost in the fog of an environment in which all you see after a while are roads and strip malls and little towns. These people are trying — scrambling — to make it work in that environment, which is totally and unbelievably different from what they’re ready to approach,” Stabile says.

Many of these resettlement programs are successful. There’s a road map to becoming an American, and it’s an intricate plot. But it does work, especially with young refugees, because they are able to adjust more easily.

Stabile notes: “We live in a very controlled environment in which you’re supposed to take steps to improve — get a better job, put together your retirement money, send your kids to college and have a nice car, for example. That’s what America is about. Not only do many of the refugees not share these values — some even find them offensive. Change is a big undertaking for people who are in their forties and fifties. So they hang onto their beliefs, their ways of doing things.”

Although some share in the ideal of the American dream, others Stabile visited in Mobile, Alabama, for example, were practicing polygamy in the accepted tradition of their culture — a tradition where it is not only recommended to have more than one wife, but where it’s permissible to buy and sell women.

But this is not always what it seems.

“One man waited all night until his wife returned from a trip from Dallas. He was crying because he was finally united with his wife after maybe three days. So they meet and hold each others’ hands and start praying to God that they were actually together again. And this is a guy who bought this woman from a farmer next door. You realize that these are structures we impose on ourselves — of the way our society works. What matters is what you feel, how you relate to your environment and to the people that surround you — but if you think about it, this is happening under the radar in Alabama. Are these guys actually Americans now? They’ve lived here five years.”

“Some of them have these two voices in them. For example, they want their customs to survive, you know, moving to America — they’re afraid they’re going to lose their identities by losing their ways. They are farmers who will never farm again, architects that will never design another building. They find themselves cleaning restrooms at the country club, doing maintenance jobs or working as car mechanics.”

“One thing that I think was common to all of these ethnicities, to all of these experiences, all of these stories, was that misery, once you experience it, never really goes away. You carry it with you.”


Gabriele Stabile is an Italian photographed based in New York. Refugee Hotel, published by Voice of Witness, is his first book.

Voice of Witness is a non-profit organization that uses oral history to illuminate contemporary human rights crises in the U.S. and around the world. Founded by author Dave Eggers and physician/human rights scholar Lola Vollen, Voice of Witness publishes a book series that depicts human rights injustices through the stories of the men and women who experience them.



David Goldblatt Revisits “On the Mines”

As the German publisher Gerhard Steidl prepares a series of books on the life work of David Goldblatt, Jeffrey Ladd spoke with the South African photographer about the newly edited and designed release of his long out-of-print collaboration with Nadine Gordimer from 1973, On the Mines.

Jeffrey Ladd: Alongside the political and economic realities of mining Gold or other natural resources there can be any number of powerful metaphors associated with “mining.” For example: what is “on the surface” and “what is hidden”; social strata within the apartheid system; light and darkness; heaven and hell—what initially drew you working on a project about the mines?

Images:

The cover of On the Mines by David Goldblatt, published by Steidl.

David Goldblatt: I was drawn to photograph the mines not by any metaphor in which they might be seen but by their overwhelming presence in the life and landscape into which I grew. Photography offered both the justification and the medium for greatly extending experience and understandings begun in childhood.

JL: One of your earliest images, from 1947, is linked to mining. It shows an area called The Millsite dump purported by the local population to be the largest tailings dump in the world. You roamed this area and the mining estates as a child.

DG: As White children growing up in Randfontein my friends and I enjoyed almost unfettered freedom to roam among the mines that curved around our town. There were two provisions: never enter the fenced off areas that carried the skull and crossbones and the warning, ‘Caving Grounds’; and not to play on the slimes dams, formed by the mud that came from the mills. But we did play on the sand dumps, especially one called Whitey because of its fine white sand.

There was blind innocence to our meanderings on the mining estates. We took care to avoid the Pondo miners—our myth had been that they were ‘dangerous.’ We didn’t know their language, we didn’t know anyone who had been harmed by Pondos, but we feared them. We never wondered about the lives of the Black miners, living 40 to a room and far from their families.

JL: As a photographer were you able to see firsthand how the mineworkers lived in their compounds and hostels?

DG: Permission had been given to me by the ‘head office’ to take photographs in the hostel of the Western Deep Levels mines in Carletonville. Without consulting me the hostel manager sent out an instruction that men of each tribal group were to present themselves to me in tribal dress. I had no desire to do ethnographic “studies” and was preparing to withdraw. But then I saw the men and that they took the occasion very seriously and with great dignity. And so I photographed several groups.

JL: The book begins with a few photographs shot in color that date from the mid-to-late 60s, you turned to working primarily in color much later in your career, were these among the earliest of your color images? Was there a moment in working that you decided to use color?

DG: Professionally I worked in color on commissions since 1964. The color photographs in the new edition were made experimentally rather than from conviction that that was the ‘right’ medium for the subject. In addition, in the late 60s and in the 70s and 80s I did quite a lot of color photography underground for mining companies but I did not bring this into what I regard as my personal work.

JL: How were you able to gain, what appears to be, unrestricted access to the mining estates to photograph?

DG: Access to mining properties was quite severely restricted. If I was roaming on an estate that had ceased operations many years before, a mine policeman might appear suddenly as though from the earth to challenge me. Sometimes I would be allowed to proceed, sometimes not. On some properties I approached senior management first and was given permission to photograph. Photography in the compounds/hostels and underground would have been impossible without such permission.

JL: The 1973 edition of On the Mines is strikingly different from this second edition. You have redesigned, added 31 photographs and removed 11.

David Goldblatt

A spread from the book: “Notices in English, Afrikaans, Sotha, Xhosa and Tsonga, on the bank at New Modderfontein, Benoni, 1965.”

DG: The design of the original lacked wholeness and indulged in visual excesses in which I no longer believe. The first chapter (The Witwatersrand), was strongly graphic and contrasty, with some of the pictures going across the gutter; the second (Shaftsinking), was blighted by an ill-conceived attempt at drama, dropping the pictures into a black surround; the third (Mining Men), was classical one-picture-to-a-spread. In the new edition I wanted to give greater coherence and unity to the whole, and while not attempting to provide contemporary photographs, I wanted to enrich the mixture with many more photographs from the original archive. I invited Cyn van Houten, a designer with whom I had worked on magazines in South Africa and who had designed three other books for me, to design this one. We have a good understanding of each other’s thinking and so it became a real pleasure to put this book together.

JL: I recall you telling me that Sam Haskins offered advice with the design for a couple of your early books, did he help also with the 1973 edition of On the Mines?

DG: Sam’s influence is strongly evident in the first chapter of the first edition—bold, graphic, contrasty, but as far as I can recall, he was not involved with the design. Sam was remarkably generous to me. At a time when I knew nothing about using photographs in a book, he designed a dummy for my first essay, Some Afrikaners Photographed. In the end, I adopted a completely different approach from his, but in the process I learned a great deal about book design. The design of the first edition of On the Mines marked a sort of hybrid point in my understanding, where the first chapter is heavily indebted to Sam’s thinking and the last one, my departure from there.

JL: As Steidl publishes other volumes of your life’s work, will they all be completely revised and newly designed?

DG: I can’t say at this stage how we will approach subsequent books. I would hope to come to each on its merits. For me the particular attraction of a new edition is the opportunity to correct errors and to strengthen what was done originally.


The new addition of On the Mines is now available from Steidl.

David Goldblatt is an award-winning South African photographer represented by Goodman Gallery.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions.



The Last Road North: Ben Huff’s Alaska

When you run out of West, head North. The hunger to see the edges of America drew photographer Ben Huff to the Dalton highway, a storied stretch of road along the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. Over the course of five years, Huff fueled up his truck at home in Fairbanks and drove north to photograph the path to the most remote reaches of the U.S. – and confront the clash between breathtaking wilderness and industrial ambition. “Everything that I was struggling with or trying to find was encapsulated in this one 500 mile stretch of road,” Huff said.

The Dalton Highway was first known as simply The Haul Road, a groove worn into the tundra by fleets of tankers on their way up and back from the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field. It was eventually named the Dalton Highway after an oil engineer in the 1980s, and about a decade later, it was opened to public traffic.

Huff became enchanted with the road on a day trip to the Arctic Circle with his wife when they first moved to Fairbanks. Though an impressive gateway to the earth’s frozen north, the Circle is only one-quarter of the way up to the end of the road. The question remained, “What else is up there?”

The answer is both “not much” and “everything,” depending on how you look at it. When pushing past latitudes where sunrise and sunset defy the conventions of time, with no cell phone service or basic amenities for hundreds of miles, reference points for regular life skitter away. “Nothing can kind of prepare you for seeing sunsets on the North Slope,” Huff said. “The alpenglow and the space and the quiet. The quiet is just unnerving.”

Huff encountered not only the truckers (now simultaneously mythologized and de-mystified by shows like Ice Road Truckers) but a fascinating parade of drivers and dreamers who were on a similar quest. “Everyone’s tired, everyone’s seeing this heartbreakingly beautiful landscape. No one’s showered, everyone’s eating out of a cooler or freeze-dried stuff. We’re just dirty and on the same path,” he said. “There was a point where the portraits started to feel a little bit like self portraits, in a way.”

Huff’s photographs took shape not by a need to encapsulate the enormity of his surroundings, but by the curious experience of seeing it through a windshield. The frames are narrow, and the landscapes, however ecstatic, are almost always defined by a slice of road. “I struggled with the space for so long and finally I kind of resigned myself to the fact that I was trying to do the impossible,” he said. “I  was never going to really ever going to communicate the space that is up there.”

After five years of driving through all seasons and all states of mind, Huff said he left the project with more questions than answers. “It would be easy to go on the road and make a sort of political stance against oil, against the pipeline, against a road through that environment,” he said. “But I was fortunate to spend five years running that road. I put countless gallons of gas in my car to do it. I saw things I’m incredibly grateful for.”

In a place where Wal-Marts and McDonald’s are now as ubiquitous as sourdoughs and homesteaders once were, the highway embodies the confounding nature of the 49th State. “Even though it’s a beautiful landscape, and it’s beautiful light, and it’s Alaska, and it’s the arctic,” Huff said. “You’re still standing in the middle of a road.”


Ben Huff is an Alaska-based photographer. His work will be exhibited in February at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, his current home. The photographs are also collected in a new book, The Last Road North.

Valerie Lapinski is a video producer at TIME.

Light from the Middle East

The Middle East, a sprawling and nuanced geographic mass that is home to many cultures and traditions, is often seen through the lens of politics. The Victoria & Albert Museums latest photography exhibition, however, manages to transcend this overarching narrative, producing a show that focuses on the subject of contemporary photographic practice.

As the exhibition’s curator Marta Weiss acknowledges, until now, the V & A Museums collection of photographs from the region reflected the Eurocentric term itself: Most of the photographs that we have that relate to the region were made by westerners, she says. This exhibition marks a departure from that, recognizing instead the wealth and variety of photo-making from this diverse region. This is very much an exhibition that is not about outsiders, but rather a view of the Middle East from the Middle East.”

Spanning over three decades and encompassing the work of some 30 artists and photographers, the show is divided into three parts: recording, re-framing and resisting. The categories, explains Weiss, show how photography is being employed by photographers.

The ambitiousness of the show lies not in its geographic scope, but rather in the drawing together of a diverse group of practitioners who have engaged with the medium in multiple ways.At one end of the spectrum, there is the iconic work of Magnum-photographer Abbas, documenting the unfolding revolution in Iran from 1978-1979 in his series Iran Diary, a precursor to the events attested to recently in the Arab spring. Nermine Hamman focuses on this very subject, photographing young Egyptian soldiers in Tahrir Square. Displayed in the “resistance” section of the exhibition, Hammans digitally altered images remove the soldiers from their immediate surroundings and place them instead among candy-colored mountain scapes and cherry blossoms. Entitled Upekkha (2011), the images have a postcard-like quality, drawing a parallel between the spectacle of Tahrir Square to that of a tourist attraction.

Despite the intention of the curators to shift the emphasis away from the political, Weiss acknowledges there is a lot of politics in the works. Though some of the photographers openly challenge this. Shadi Ghadirians re-staged portraits of Iranian women in the Qajar period (1786-1925) play on the tensions between tradition, modernity and gender. linkwheel . The warm grey theatrical studio photographs feature playful reminders of modernity, including an explorer bicycle and Pepsi can.

The artists on show do not limit themselves to just the Middle East however. Taysir Batnijis series documenting Israeli watchtowers in occupied Palestinian is a clear homage to German artists Bernd and Hillary Bechers iconic typologies of industrial structures in Europe. Yousef Nabil, who once worked with David LaChapelle, also looks to Europe for inspiration, photographing elderly Yemeni men in England. By hand-coloring the portraits in the style of old Egyptian film stills however, Nabil celebrates the rich tradition of Middle Eastern image-making, which, as the exhibition is testament to, is as strong and vibrant as ever.


Light from the Middle East: New Photography is on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from Nov. 13 through April 7, 2013.

Kharunya Paramaguru is based in TIME’s London office.


World War II Through Soviet Jewish Eyes

In 2003, a young American historian named David Shneer was conducting research in Moscow when he heard about an exhibition of photographs called Women at War. At the time, displaying photography on gallery walls was still a fairly novel concept for Russia, and the exhibit was not meant to be a blockbuster. To get inside, Shneer found that he had to ring a doorbell at a nondescript building, at which point a raspy voice came over the intercom and demanded: “Who are you? What do you want?” But the images inside astounded him.

Not only had they been taken with incredible skillarranging light and form in a way that would put to shame many of today’s war photographersbut they were from the Soviet battlefields of World War II, which made the surnames of their authors seem all the more strange. About four out of five of them, Shneer noticed, were Jewish surnames. “How is it possible,” he thought, “that a bunch of Jews, who are supposed to be oppressed by the Soviet Union, are the ones charged with photographing the war?”

As delicately as he could, Shneer put the question to one of the curators, who in typical Moscow style had a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other. “She looked at me like I’m an idiot and said, ‘Yes, the photographers were all Jewish.’” It turned out she was the granddaughter of one of them, Arkady Shaykhet, and their conversation that day is what led to the exhibit that opened on Nov. 16 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. Links backlinks blog comments . It has the same title as the book Shneer wrote from his researchThrough Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War and the Holocaust.

The show explores the way World War II was covered in the pages of Soviet newspapers such as Pravda, casting light on a side of the Holocaust that often gets short shrift in western history books. The genocide against the Jews, usually associated with images of Nazi death camps and gas chambers, was also perpetrated through mass shootings across Eastern Europe. Later termed the “Holocaust by Bullets,” it took more Jewish lives than the concentration camps, says Shneer, and it was documented most poignantly by the Jewish photographers of the Soviet press.

Although none of them are still alive to tell their story, Shneer spent the better part of a decade tracking down their relatives in Moscow and collecting nearly 200 works from their family archives. The prints were often no bigger than a pack of cigarettes, taken with beat-up cameras and two roles of film allotted for each battle. There are more faceless soldiers in these frames than intimate portraits of victims, and the most common theme is emptiness, at once bleak and monumental. But given their historical context, what seems most striking is the duality that runs through the lives and works of these photographers. On the one hand, these are works of Soviet propaganda, glorifying the Red Army in the tradition of socialist realism. “They needed photos of nurses doing good work on the home front, patriotic soldiers conquering territory,” says Shneer. “And their Jewishness rarely appears in that kind of material.”

But it does appear when they go off assignment to explore the Jewish ghettos in places like Ukraine and Hungary. There they found survivors living among the ruins of Europe, the yellow Stars of David on their overcoats still marking them for death. In the Budapest ghetto, the photographer Evgenii Khaldei found the corpses of his fellow Jews strewn about the floor of a gutted shop, a scrap of butcher paper covering the face of a man whose body lies in the doorway. Images like this did not appear in the mainstream Soviet press, but they were published in Eynikayt, or Unity, the Yiddish-language newspaper of the USSR. “We have this image in our heads that Jewishness was completely suppressed in the Soviet Union,” says Shneer. “But that’s really apost-war image of the country.”

Antisemitism only became part of Soviet dogma in 1948, the year that Israel was founded and Josef Stalin began his campaign against the”cosmopolitans” a Soviet byword for Jews. Many of the best Jewish photographers lost their staff positions at Pravda and other major publications that year, and phrases like “too many Jews on staff” began appearing in the official correspondence between the editors and their government censors. Some of the photographers continued working as freelancers for the propaganda press, but even after their experiences on the front, they rarely embraced their heritage. “None of these guys were buried in the Jewish cemetery,” says Shneer. “None ever tried to leave for Israel. None learned Hebrew.”

Soviet patriotism and its predilections came first, in their lives and in the work they produced. Even long after the fall of communism, when Shneer was conducting his research, the last surviving photographer from this group refused to meet with him. “He was still living in the Soviet world where meeting with a foreigner was scary.” In their style and execution, the images they captured are rooted in that world. They document the greatest triumph of the Soviet Union. But regardless of whether they are viewed on the pages of Pravda or a gallery wall, that world does not bind their relevance as monuments and works of art.


Simon Shuster is TIMEs Moscow reporter.

ThroughSoviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War and the Holocaust will be on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage from Nov. 16 2012 to April 7, 2013.

Steve Schapiro, Then and Now: Rare Images from a Photography Legend

Just the list of people Steve Schapiro has photographed during his career reads like a Who’s Who of the most influential politicians, celebrities and newsmakers in American history over the last five decades. But that Schapiro captured his subjects during their pivotal and seminal moments—Robert F. Kennedy during his 1968 presidential campaign; Marlon Brando on the set of The Godfather; Andy Warhol and muse Edie Sedgwick in The Factory, among others—lends his photographs an added significance. They aren’t just remarkable portraits of remarkable people, but snapshots into our country’s historical and cultural milestones.

Schapiro’s output over his more than 50-year career has been prolific, and many people have probably seen one of his photographs whether they realize it or not. But his new book, Then and Now, gives readers a look at Schapiro’s lesser-known work; the majority of pictures have never been published. “There were so many pictures that I loved but didn’t fit with the format of my previous books, so this was a chance to bring forth that work,” he says. The book is comprised of single images shown over a spread, as well as spreads of disparate images that share a composition or theme—one such example has a portrait of Martin Scorcese holding a gun and grapes on the left page, and a portrat of Mia Farrow holding a baby on the right. “I wanted to make a book that was interesting on every page,” says Schapiro. “That evolved into the idea of working with double pages where one picture worked with another.”

Schapiro first took an interest to photography at 9 while at summer camp. He fell in love with “the magic of photography” in the dark room, where he became fascinated by how pictures came to life after being dipped in various formulas. But it wasn’t until he discovered Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment, as a teenager, that his interest really took hold. He began trying to capture his own decisive moments on the streets of New York City, before going to study the formal aspects of photography under W. Eugene Smith.

In 1961, amid the height of the Civil Rights movement, Schapiro started working as a freelance photographer for publications such as LIFE, Rolling Stone, TIME and Newsweek. Over the next 10 years, which Schapiro calls “the golden age of photojournalism,” he would cover the decade’s most significant events, including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 march in Selma, and later, King’s abandoned motel room after this assassination, as well as the “Summer of Love” in Haight-Asbury and Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. “It was an incredible time to be a photojournalist because there was more of an emotional flow—an ability to do more emotional pictures that captured the spirit of a person,” says Schapiro of the period. “I was able to spend a lot of time with people—Bobby Kennedy went to South America for four weeks and I got to go with him. When I got really sick there, Ethel Kennedy brought me Bobby’s pajamas to wear. Bobby was someone who I became friends with, but everyone who worked with him loved him.”

Despite his success as a photographer, Schapiro maintains that he hasn’t taken his most important picture yet—and doesn’t have any idea what it might be. In the meantime, there’s one subject who continues to elude him: “President Barack Obama. I would love to photograph him.”


View more of Schapiro’s work here.



This Means War: A Look at Conflict Photography

“War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath,” is a huge, tough-minded and very moving new show at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It lays out the ways cameras have been put to use during 165 years of world wars, undeclared hostilities and barely organized fang baring. Cameras turn out to be the transformer tools of warfare, adaptable as battlefield aids for reconnaissance and surveillance, as peerless instruments of propaganda and, above all, as a means to witness the atrocious facts of war. You may not be able to end war with a camera, but you can do a lot of useful things with one — even tell the truth.

Instead of being organized chronologically, the Houston show suggests that war is better considered as an eternally recurring narrative. It divides its story into chapters, from prewar buildup through postwar remembrances, with wars from all periods combined in each. The weaponry evolves from sabers to torpedoes to rocket-propelled grenades. (For the record, sharpened steel is forever.) The photo equipment changes from 19th century box cameras to cell phones and satellites. But the fundamentals of war — brutality and suffering, grief and self-sacrifice — don’t change much. They haven’t since the first time a caveman figured out how to use a rock.

The main problem for war photography today is image overload. The tidal wave of pictures all around us, with every cell phone adding to the deluge every day, threatens to make even atrocity photos into just more pictures, as morally weightless as the movie stills they so often resemble. For all that, the scores of unforgettable pictures in “War/Photography” make clear that even in a world that contains too many pictures, pictures of war, the best ones, still have the power to stir your emotions. They may not be able to compel any particular judgment about the wars they represent, but they can insist that attention must be paid. After that, if photos by themselves can’t stop war — and they can’t — then the fault is not in our pictures but in ourselves.

(MORE: Read more of Richard Lacayo’s take on the show.)


WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston until Feb. 3 and will then move to Los Angeles, Washington and Brooklyn.

Richard Lacayo is an art critic and editor-at-large at TIME.