Tag Archives: Quiet Moments

Marco Longari: TIME Picks 2012′s Best Photographer on the Wires

Of the millions of pictures moving through the news services, or “the wires,” in 2012, an astonishing number have already proven unforgettable. Distinctive images of daily life in Pakistan from Muhammad Muheisen, an Islamabad-based chief photographer for the Associated Press; unexpected visual stories from Jerusalem-based AP staffer Oded Balilty; uniformly strong work from Reuters’ peripatetic Goran Tomasevic (who in the past 12 months shot in Congo, Afghanistan, Syria, Kenya, Somalia and Egypt); Spanish-born Manu Brabo’s searing photos from Syria — over and over again, the wires provided signature photos from unyielding conflicts, rebellions and upheavals the world over.

But even in this celebrated company, the work of Agence-France Presse photographer Marco Longari stood markedly apart. The Italian-born Longari’s pictures from across the Middle East in 2012, from Egypt and the West Bank to Gaza and Syria, were at-once unflinching and authoritative. The unspeakable anguish in the face of a Palestinian mother holding her lifeless daughter, killed in an Israeli air strike; the passion evinced by thousands of Egyptian Christians praying for their ancient homeland; a Syrian man engaged in the most quotidian of tasks — carrying groceries — and yet hunched against a sniper’s bullet that might, at any second, take his life; the deceptively idyllic scene of a boy tending to his horse in Gaza City: in quiet moments and in terrifying, violent environments, Longari made picture after picture this year that mattered.

The Jerusalem-based chief photographer for AFP in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Longari is a graduate of the Istituto Superiore di Fotografia in Rome. In the late 1990s he covered the unrest in Kosovo before moving to Africa, where he served in Nairobi, coordinating the agency’s East African coverage. He chronicled the seemingly endless crisis in Darfur and shot the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. But it was in the Middle East in 2012 that his work transitioned from powerful to indispensable. There is, simply, no way to envision the upheaval across the region in the past year without his work. It is that central to how the world sees (and will remember) this deeply unsettling year.

The 47-year-old Longari recently told TIME that, from his perspective behind the camera, 2012 was “another year of revolutions, protests, violent acts and sheer madness. [It seems] like humanity has lost its bearings, yet again.”

He spent most of his time in Cairo, arriving early in the year, on the first anniversary of the start of the 2011 revolution. There, he was greeted by street violence and chaos.

“It was a sad scene,” he told TIME. “All the energy and the expectations of the young people with whom I shared long days and nights in Tahrir Square the year before, all was being hijacked and taken away, lost in political games. It has been difficult to find images that made sense … that were not simple repetitions of what was done a year before.”

The Egyptian presidential election in May was again, he says, a time of some optimism, with Egyptians voting in large numbers — some of them for the first time in their lives — in a country finally, tentatively experiencing what a real multiparty election can be.

“The shift in the visual landscape,” he notes, “was important, a chance to tell a positive story, whatever the outcome. Fire is still burning under the ashes,” he adds. “People on the streets are still ready and willing to settle scores.”

The West Bank and Gaza, meanwhile, is a story Longari been covering for almost six years. “Crossing the border” into that part of the world, he says, “is shifting into another gear — a different tension, but still a real tension. It’s a landscape I’ve looked at for quite a long time now. I have tools to understand it.”

Incredibly, from a year of countless telling moments, Longari recalls a specific, revelatory instance of professional camaraderie in Gaza that stays with him.

“I was waiting for casualties to arrive at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City after an air raid,” he told TIME. “Phone lines with Jerusalem [where his wife and two children live] went dead. It took me some time to compose myself and get back to the routine of doing what I do. But in the faces of the colleagues around me, I recognized what my face must look like every time a bomb or a rocket falls near their families. Photography is compassion — and that scene in Gaza was the most humbling lesson in compassion I’ve experienced in my career.”

TIME’s previous wire photographers of the year:

2010: Pete Muller of the Associated Press
2009: Mauricio Lima of Agence-France Press

Root of the Nation: Zhang Kechun Photographs China’s Yellow River

As a boy, he read about the mythic river. As a man, he went to find its source. Chengdu-based photographer Zhang Kechun has spent much of the last two years on the banks the Yellow River, the waterway considered both the cradle of Chinese civilization and, when it breaks its banks, its curse. “I wanted to photograph the river respectfully,” said Zhang. “It represents the root of the nation.”

Zhang’s project has the feel of a pilgrimage. He travels on a fold-up bicycle, following the river’s silted water from the coastal flats of Shandong, west, to the mountains of Qinghai. He journeys for a month at a time, lugging a large format Linhof camera, a tripod and just enough film. Sometimes, he says, he went a week without taking a picture. “I wanted to take my time,” he said,  ”to slow down and experience every second of the moment.”

His patient labor paid off. The work is intimate and expansive, capturing quiet moments under vast, gray skies. People swim. Buildings rise. Life plays out against a dateless haze. “I choose cloudy, gloomy days to photograph and I overexpose my photos,” Zhang explained. This, he said, “adds a soft and gentle touch,” giving each frame an otherworldly feel. This ethereal stillness quiets the quotidian realities of the river: movement, pollution, noise.

Zhang says he did not set out to document environmental destruction — others have done that. But China’s headlong rush to develop has scarred the country’s land, air and water, and the mighty Yellow River is no exception. ”I started off wanting to photograph my ideal of the river, but I kept running into pollution,” he said. “I realized that I couldn’t run away from it, and that I didn’t need to run away from it.”

Though the lunar tones and low horizons feel foreboding, Zhang insists the project carries a message of hope. There is a reason all the people in his pictures look tiny: ”The power of humans is nothing compared to the power of nature, even when we try to change it.” Century upon century, the river runs.

Zhang Kechun is a Chengdu-based photographer with the MoST agency. 

Emily Rauhala is an Associate Editor at TIMEAdditional reporting and translation from Regina Wang.

Sandi Haber Fifield

I had the great pleasure of meeting Sandi Haber Fifield when she was visiting Los Angeles a few months ago. She shared with me her new book, Between Planting and Picking, published by Charta this year, and another lovely monograph, Walking through the World, also published by Charta in 2009. Sandi looks at the world in an organic and gestural way. Her new series, Between Planting and Picking, reveals the essence of farm life that is contemporary, yet timeless. Through her images of various farms, we can hear the whine of summer insects, smell the grasses and the harvest, hear the snap of the clothes left to dry on the line, and witness the details of a life grounded in the earth.

Planting trays and vines, 2009

Sandi lives in New York and has been making photographs since she received her MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology. Her photographs have been widely exhibited and included in exhibitions at The Art Institute of Chicago, The DeCordova Museum, The Museum of American Art, Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, The Oakland Museum, The Southeast Museum of Photography, and The St. Louis Art Museum.

Sandi also recently opened an exhibition at KMR Arts in Washington, CT, titled Earth /Clay, with photographs from Between Planting and Picking coupled with terra cotta sculpture by Frances Palmer. Rick Wester Fine Art in NYC will be taking her work to Pulse LA (September 30-October 3rd) and Pulse Miami, (December 1-4th).

Blue Sky and Jackets will be shown at the Rick Wester Fine Art booth at Pulse LA

Between Planting and Picking explores the quiet moments and unexpected beauty that reveal the simple life of a small farm. Inspired by the rapid ascendency of the local food movement and the knowledge that the industrial food pipeline is not necessarily the best way to feed ourselves, I spent two seasons photographing small farms, many of which have been owned and cared for by families, some for generations. Although I was not on a search to document farming per se, the farms allowed me to balance the geographic with the geometric and they gave me a place for exploration within the unending cycle of growth and harvest.

All images courtesy Rick Wester Fine Art

Beginning in Northern California at Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center, where farming is part of the Zen practice, to Beetlebung Farm in Chilmark, MA; from the orchards along the Mississippi River in Brussels, IL, to the grapes grown on Guy Beardsley’s eco-garden in Shelton, CT, I chronicled many places that, although far-flung, share a tangible spirit that is communicated in the most ordinary of details. There is a lot of sublime “waiting” in this project. I’ve purposefully looked at the seemingly mundane things we take for granted—all the better to convey the hard work that goes into nature’s bounty. I’m drawn to the authenticity of small farm life that congregates along the margins in myriad cast-off moments: sunlight on muslin seed bags, wooden crates, plastic mesh, buckets, pots, hoses, a lunar planting calendar, quirky signage. As I made more and more pictures, the candid beauty and improvised quality I discovered in the unkempt edges of these small farm environments became a focus. I hope it is within the banal details, unsuspecting and unnoticed, that a narrative unfolds, showing the beauty in the randomness and the re-purposing. To me, there is a metaphor in the unending cycle of growth and harvest for my own image making.

These photographs also began a visual retreat from my previous (and ongoing) bodies of work which explore relationships between multiple image configurations. Compressing images into one frame at a time was a departure.