Tag Archives: Staff Photographer

From Photography to Film: Stanley Kubrick Enters the Ring

Stanley Kubricks professional career began April 12, 1945, as the high school junior with a prolific track record of absences wandered the streets of the Bronx and snapped a picture of a crestfallen newsstand dealer surrounded by headlines announcing the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As childhood friend Alexander Singer tells the story, Kubrick immediately ran to his home darkroom, which his father had built to encourage the scholastic underachievers budding interest in photography, printed the picture and made a sale that same afternoon to Look Magazine. The following year, when no colleges would accept Kubrick because of his poor academic record, Look hired him as a full-time staff photographer.

Singer and Kubrick had forged a bond over shared scholastic apathy and mutual respect of each others extracurricular achievements Singer as editor of the school literary arts magazine, and Kubrick as the kid with a camera around his neck: almost a caricature of what youd imagine a teenage cameraman would look like, as Singer describes. When plans to photograph a feature-length cinematic adaptation of Homers Iliad written and directed by Singer proved too ambitious, Kubrick struck upon the idea to instead translate one of his own photographic essays to the big screen.

That essay was Prizefighter, published by Look in January 1949, and described by Kubrick biographer Vincent LoBrutto as the moment he came of age as a photojournalist. The seven-page story depicted scenes from the life of Bronx-born middleweight boxer Walter Cartier as he trained and prepared to enter the ring against moments from his romantic and domestic lives. Often working under stark, overhead light with infrared film (also favored by his idol, Weegee), Kubrick captured high-contrast images that emphasized Walters physique and cast brooding, incisive shadows on his face.

Prizefighter would go on to define Kubrick in other ways, though. It might have been his dawning moment as a photojournalist, but the essay would also serve as the basis of the first film Kubrick would direct, called Day at the Fight, released two years later.

The 20-year old Kubrick made the decision to shoot his first film on 35mm rather than the lighter, more economical 16mm format favored by amateursa bold decision by someone who later described the entirety of his motion picture camera training as a hands-on demonstration at an equipment house. Kubrick and Singer used Bell & Howells Eyemo, a lightweight camera introduced 1926 for use in newsreels and military applications and advertised, perhaps over-optimistically, as convenient to carry as the average size still camera. Kubrick photographed most of the project solo, and Singer joined on a second ringside camera to capture the live fight scene. A third camera operator also filmed from high in the auditorium.

Comparing the Prizefighter contact sheets side-by-side with Day of the Fight, one gets the sense that much of the creative legwork had been worked out during the photo essay, which, despite its ostensible documentary subject matter, was chiefly constructed through deliberately-staged scenes. But Day of the Fight is a distinctly cinematic work; particularly remarkable is Kubrick’s ability to control time and add an element of suspense in portraying Walter’s anticipation of the fight, a trait missing in Prizefighter. linkwheel . The first-time director was also aided by the fact that the physical spectacle of boxing lends itself to cinema. After all, the first feature-length film ever released was a 1897 St. Patricks Day fight between James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Many of the same setups from the contact sheets and short film are repeated in Kubricks subsequent work, particularly his second feature, Killers Kiss, a seedy yarn about a down-on-his-luck fighter.

Although Kubrick is regarded as the most critically and commercially successful photographer turned full-time feature filmmaker, this mainstream acclaim might also be the reason his name rarely enters the discussion of the legendary New York-based photographers and their progressive contributions to avant garde and non-narrative filmmaking. This tradition includes Paul Strand (Manhatta, 1921), Rudy Burckhardt (The Pursuit of Happiness, 1940) Helen Levitt (In the Street, 1949), Ruth Orkin & Morris Engel (The Little Fugitive, 1953), William Klein (Broadway by Light, 1958) and Robert Frank (Pull My Daisy, 1959), among whose varying innovations include discrete handheld photography, examples of life caught unawares, and blurring lines between documentary and staged situations. Kubricks perceived youth and inexperience may be another factor in this oversight: though several writers have supported their praise of The Little Fugitive by recalling that the ten-years-senior Engel claimed a 25-year-old Kubrick attempted to rent his uniquely-constructed equipment for his own first feature (Fear and Desire), Kubricks production predates The Little Fugitive by several months. Furthermore, much of Kubrick’s early work has not been widely available to the public per Kubrick’s wishes, Fear and Desire only recently resurfaced after decades of suppression.

One could hardly argue Day of the Fight is a major work in the context of documentary film or Kubricks entire oeuvre, but it remains a fascinating key to understanding the development of Kubrick as an artist and entrepreneuran under-appreciated example of the maverick cinematic approaches developed by street photographers. Undoubtedly,Day of the Fight is one of the most assured and mature endeavors undertaken by someone approaching a film camera for the first time.

Jon Dieringer is an independent curator and the editor and publisher of Screen Slate, a daily online resource for listings and commentary of New York City repertory film and independent media.

Latin America Week: Adriana Zehbrauskas

This week, Argentinian photographer Eleonora Ronconi is taking over as guest curator, featuring work created by Latin American photographers…

Esta es la cuarta edición de la semana, y me da mucho placer presentarles a Adriana Zehbrauskas, fotógrafa brasileña que reside en el DF hace varios años.

Adriana is a photojournalist with an amazing eye. Her work caught my attention while I was looking for images on Faith, and these images had everything I had in mind: great compositions, grittiness and a lot of heart.  I am sharing her series Faith in Brazil and Mexico. 

Adriana was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She received a degree in Journalism and moved to Paris where she studied Linguistics and Phonetics at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. She worked as a staff photographer for  Folha de Sao Paulo for 11 years and is currently based in Mexico City, where she contributes regularly with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Le Figaro and The Guardian, among others.

The series Faith in Brazil and Mexico was awarded an Art & Worship World Prize by the Niavaran Artistic Creation Foundation and a book is currently under production to be published by Bei Editores in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Image from Faith in Brazil and Mexico
What does your Latin heritage bring to your work?

I
think that in my specific case (not even sure if it is due to my
Latin heritage) it is an obsession with organizing the chaos in my
frame. I was born and raised in São Paulo and have lived the past
eight years in Mexico City, two huge metropolis where the visual
stimulation was always too much, there was always too much going on
at the same time ( São Paulo has now banned all outdoors including
even those hideous gigantic Mac Donald’s Ms). I felt this need to
clean my view, to calculate exactly what I wanted in my frame.

On
another level, Latin America is very religious and that permeates
every level of society in an everyday basis. The reference for the
sacred is constant and really difficult not to notice. I was always
very curious about this subject and I think I always find a way to
portray this angle into my stories.

Do you see a difference between work created in Latin America and
work created in the States?

It
is not a general rule, and I cannot speak for the whole Latin
America, but I see more long-term documentary projects coming out of
the US ( or US photographers) than out of Brazil, for instance.

What is the state of
photography in your country–is it well supported, are galleries
selling, do photographers have an outlet to show their work? 

I
don’t think it’s well supported, either in Brazil or Mexico.
It’s the effort of a handful of people who actually make it
happen. Outlets for showing work are dwindling by the day, newspapers
and magazines have less and less money /space so we have to get
creative now. The internet is a vast space, but we have to still
figure out the best way to use it. It’s just not a matter of
showing the work. Photographers are like any other people in the
world, we have to make money to survive!



Images from Faith in Brazil and Mexico 
 This
project was born from my inquisitiveness and deep curiosity about
religion. Living in Brazil, a country of immense cultural and
socioeconomic diversity and an extreme fertile ground for a plethora
of popular and religious manifestations, it was impossible to grow up
ignoring their intensity and strength.
Have
faith and you will go far”, “faith moves mountains”, and “one
must have faith” are expressions that permeate the day-to-day lives
of people from all social classes and religious beliefs.
With
their millenary experience, the major religions constitute powerful
intellectual structures capable of providing each individual with a
philosophy of life. They attend to the spiritual aspirations of the
human being and to the need to believe in noble values. They provide
answers to the individual’s anxieties when confronted with fear,
suffering and death. They assert that which is true, good and just,
helping each person interpret the world.
The
spiritual search is natural to every human being. It represents the
search for the meaning of life, humanity and coexistence. Religion is
unique to humankind. The cornerstone of any religion is faith. 
This
is a sample of a large photographic essay on  faith in Brazil
and Mexico, focusing on the similarities and differences of that
which is perhaps the only common denominator of all religion.

Pete Souza’s Portrait of a Presidency

The long view of history tends to be the judge of a presidency. As we approach what President Obama hopes will be the midpoint of his tenure in the Oval Office, it is too early to draw conclusions on his legacy as Commander in Chief. What we do know is that Obama’s first term has been a historic one: the first African American to hold the county’s highest office, Obama and his Administration have battled a recession, passed health care reform and legislation to end the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, formally ended the war in Iraq and brought Osama bin Laden to justice.

Through adversity and triumph, public victories and private setbacks, chief official White House photographer Pete Souza and his team of photographers have relentlessly documented the actions of the President, the First Lady and the Vice President since Obama took office in early 2009.

As the President runs for a second term, LightBox asked Souza to reflect on his time photographing Obama and share an edit of his favorite images that he and his staff made during the President’s first term; the photographs offer a fascinatingly candid insight into the life of the President while painting a portrait of Barack Obama the man, husband and father.

“I tried to, in putting together this edit, not only to show some of the high points or low points of his presidency thus far, but pictures that help people understand what he’s like, not only as a President but as a human being,” Souza tells TIME. “And how he relates to other people, how he relates to his family.”

Souza’s process is aided by his long-standing working relationship with Obama — one that precedes the presidency. They met on Jan. 3, 2005, Obama’s first day in the Senate. For Souza, then a staff photographer at the Chicago Tribune‘s Washington bureau, it was the first day of a yearlong assignment to document the new Senator’s time in office.

As the assignment evolved, Souza — who had worked as a White House staff photographer during President Reagan’s second term — began recognizing something special about the Senator. An inkling of things to come, or potential for the future. He began looking for moments that would prove valuable in the course of history, photographs that would define Obama’s early years to those who only knew his legacy.

“I was looking for things that I knew that if he ever became President you would never see again,” he says. “[Obama was] walking down a sidewalk in Moscow in 2005 and no one recognized him. I realized that if he ever became President, you would never, ever see a photograph like that. The odds of becoming President are obviously pretty slim, but I knew he had the potential. And you can’t say that about too many people.”

Souza continued to photograph Senator Obama, who quickly became presidential-candidate Obama and then Democratic-nominee Obama. With Obama’s 2008 election victory, Souza returned to the White House as chief official White House photographer and director of the White House Photography Office.

The photographs that Souza has taken extend the lineage of White House photography that began in the 1960s, first in a somewhat scattered way during John F. Kennedy’s Administration and then more officially with Yoichi Okamoto, Lyndon B. Johnson’s photographer. Okamoto is considered the first photographer to capture the presidency with an eye for history. Souza is quick to acknowledge and praise his work and that of others who have followed, including David Kennerly (Ford), Bob McNeely (Clinton) and Eric Draper (George W. Bush).

An all-digital workflow is one thing that differentiates Souza’s work from the majority of his predecessors. Although he wasn’t the one to move the process to digital — Draper, Bush’s photographer, made the switch from film to digital — Souza made the first official portrait of an incoming President with a digital camera. The Obama Administration has understood the insatiable appetite for imagery that the digital age has wrought and embraces Flickr as a means of disseminating presidential photography.

The Administration encourages sharing behind-the-scenes photos now, he says. “[It wanted] to establish a way to become more transparent than any other Administration, so every month, we upload a new batch of behind-the-scenes photos. The response has been overwhelming.”

But alongside the ease brought by the digital era came one difficulty: the Presidential Records Act prohibits Souza and his team from deleting any photographs. ”One of our bigger challenges is just the storage of all these images,” he says, noting the immense difficulty the team will experience moving millions of digital files to the National Archives at the end of Obama’s tenure.

Souza’s work with the President follows in the golden age of photojournalism’s best traditions, when photographers working for magazines like LIFE established relationships and spent inordinate amounts of time shooting beautifully crafted images of public figures.

“I spend a lot of time with [the President], around him, on vacations, sometimes on weekends, depending on what’s going on. He’s used to me being around,” Souza says. As his friend P.F. Bentley described it, “When the President is on, I’m on. And when the President’s off, I’m still on.”

Souza recalls one meeting that he missed because it had been rescheduled unbeknownst to him. “I was a little upset with the President’s secretary for not telling me that they had moved the meeting up, and [the President] heard us talking and he said, ‘What are you talking about? You were in that meeting.’ He’s so used to me being there that he thought that I had been in the meeting that I wasn’t even in. So I took that as a compliment.”

His access to Obama’s inner circle and day-to-day routine stems from the trust he built during their relationship prior to the presidency. “I’m there to seriously document his presidency. I’m not looking for cheap shots, and I think that’s the kind of relationship any White House photographer should have with the President they’re covering,” he says. “That they have a level of access and trust that will lead to important photographs for history.”

Souza is aware of the significance of the photographs he and his team are taking, but he’s also focused on capturing the small and incidental moments that make the Obama Administration unique. “There are days that you certainly think about the importance of what’s taking place — you’re serving an important role in visually documenting this period of time for history,” he says. “But at the same time, a lot of the pictures that tell you a lot about a President are not [made] during those times. They’re when he’s having a private moment with one of his daughters, or when something unexpected happens that may not be, you know, important in terms of history’s sake.”

“I think that’s what keeps you on your toes. You never know when those moments are gonna occur, because they don’t always occur when big things are happening,” he says. The image of Obama playing in the snow with Sasha and Malia is a testament to Souza’s approach. The photograph is not simply of the President but of a moment shared between a father and his daughters.

These personal images round out Souza’s portrait of the President and give it greater depth. While preparing this edit for LightBox, he acknowledged that it was hard to present what a presidency is about in just a handful of pictures. “I don’t gravitate toward any singular image right now,” he says. “I try to look at a body of work, and so I’m proud of this edit that I submitted. To me, it’s all these photographs together which tell you something about this man, this President, and I guess to a certain extent, about me and what I think is important.”

Although Souza’s edit comprises more than 100 images, it is by no means a comprehensive record of Obama’s time in office. “I’m sure that I left out some important moments,” he says. “I don’t think I included anything from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, and that’s historic in itself — he won the Nobel Peace Prize. But it just didn’t fit in with the series of pictures that I wanted to present.”

Says Souza of the President: “He has certainly created history just by being the first African-American President. Hopefully in future generations, we’ll soon have a woman President or a Hispanic President, and it won’t matter that much. But I think that if you’d ask him, he wants to be remembered for the things that he’s done.”

For Souza, it’s difficult at this point to reflect on the last four years and the photographs he and his team have made. “One of the difficult things, doing this every day, is having a chance to really sit back and take it all in. Putting these photos together helped that a little bit,” he says. “You’re a little bit overwhelmed about everything that happened in four years, because a lot of stuff has happened. I hope there will come a time where, when I’m not doing this job any longer, I’ll be able to sit back and reflect on everything that he’s been through and everything that I’ve been through.”

An exhibition of Souza’s work, The Obama White House — Photographs by Pete Souza, is on view at the Leica Gallery in New York City from Oct. 5 to Nov. 10, 2012.

Jury announced: 4th Annual International Exposure Awards for Photography & Multimedia

international-exposure-awards-2012-blue.jpg

An amazing, influential jury of photography experts from 3 continents has been announced for the Lens Culture International Exposure Awards 2012 for Photography & Multimedia:

Alison Nordström
Senior Curator of Photographs and Director of Exhibitions
George Eastman House
New York, NY, USA
eastmanhouse.org

Felix Hoffmann
Head Curator, C/O Berlin
Berlin, Germany
co-berlin.info

James Estrin
Co-Editor of Lens, The New York Times’ photography blog
Senior Staff Photographer, The New York Times
New York, NY, USA
lens.blogs.nytimes.com

Jean-Jacques Viau
Worldwide Internet Manager, Leica Camera AG
Solms, Germany
blog.leica-camera.com
facebook.com/LeicaCamera
leica-camera.com

Jim Casper
Founder and Director, Lens Culture
Co-Founder and Director, Lens Culture FotoFest Paris
Paris, France
lensculture.com
fotofest-paris.com

Joanne Junga Yang
Director, Y&G Art; Curator, Seoul Photo Festival
Seoul, South Korea
yngart.org

Lars Boering
Owner, Lux Photo Gallery
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
luxphotogallery.com

The Awards include 9 cash prizes, 25 honorable mention awards, and worldwide exposure for all 34 winners.

Submissions are open to ALL genres and categories, including, but not limited to: documentary / photojournalism / fine art / conceptual / fashion / cinematic / fiction / storytelling / nature / portraits / alternative processes / iPhone / other.

Entry deadline is September 16, 2012. Winners will be announced in a special issue of Lens Culture in November 2012, and a high-resolution projection of all winners will be projected at art festivals, conferences and major cultural institutions around the world during 2013.

Enter your best work today — Award recognition and exposure has the potential to significantly boost your career.

Full details — including biographies of all jurors — can be found at the awards website: lensculture.com/awards.

Tearsheet of The Day | 25 June 2012

Platon’s portraits of one of my all time favourite  filmmakers, Woody Allen, in the latest edition of Newsweek International, to coincide with the release of Allen’s latest film To Rome With Love.

Newsweek (Int’l ed.) 25 June 2012 issue. Photos © Platon.

Platon(b.1968, London) is a British portrait photographer based in New York. He is a staff photographer at The New Yorker and his work appears regularly in the Time magazine.

He is perhaps most known in the photojournalism community for his 2007  photo of Russian president Vladimir Putin, which was awarded the 2008 World Press Photo Portrait prize. You can see Platon talk about the shoot here.

Platon’s most recent book is Power: Portraits of World Leaders, which is also available for the iPad.

Andrea Bruce Receives the Chris Hondros Fund Award

Nearly 14 months after photographer Chris Hondros died while covering the conflict in Libya, a foundation created to honor his legacy has awarded its first major grant to photographer Andrea Bruce, who, like Hondros, has covered conflict through much of her career. The $20,000 Getty Images and the Chris Hondros Fund Award was created to help photographers further their pursuits; a $5,000 runner-up award will be given to emerging photographer Dominic Bracco, based in Mexico City.

“Chris was always working with students and was very involved in mentoring within the photo world,” says Christina Piaia, board member of the Chris Hondros Fund and the late photographer’s fiancé. “We kept coming back to this idea that he was so impressed and humbled by his colleagues that it would be most fitting that some of these brave photographers and journalists be recognized with this award.”

Dominic Bracco II—Prime Collective

The scene of a murdered couple. The woman was far into her pregnancy. The couple’s heads touched in a last embrace, a single bullet entering the man’s skull and taking all three lives.

Unlike other awards that ask candidates to submit work, Piaia and three other judges (Pancho Bernasconi, Vice President for Getty Images US News and Sports Division, Jeff Swensen, freelance photographer and Todd Heisler, staff photographer for The New York Times) sought nominations from photo directors and other leaders within the industry. One of the main criteria was that the work bring attention to the human experience—a hallmark of Hondros’ career.

Piaia said she saw a direct parallel between Hondros and Bruce, who has documented last year’s Arab Spring, the Iraq war and female circumcision, among other topics. “She has tirelessly gone back to conflict zones with great risk to herself and great sacrifice to her personal life—and her drive has no end,” she said. “Her pictures are so powerful, yet she brings sensitivity to a picture in a way that even novice viewers can feel moved. Andrea is quite literally shaping the visual history of our world.”

The Chris Hondros Fund was created to support and advance the work of photojournalists and raises awareness of the issues facing those reporting from conflict areas. Follow their efforts on Twitter @hondrosfund

Nick Turpin, Lunchtime

Nick Turpin, Lunchtime

Nick Turpin

Lunchtime,
New York, 2008
Website – NickTurpin.com

At the age of twenty British born Nick Turpin left his degree course at the University of Westminster to work as a staff photographer at The Independent Newspaper in London. In 1997 he left to pursue his passion for Street Photography financed by work as a design and advertising photographer. Nick describes himself as a 'Street Photography Evangelist"; in 2000 he founded the international Street Photographers group iN-PUBLiC and went on to found Nick Turpin Publishing in order to get Street Photography into print. In 2011 he produced In-Sight, a Street Photography documentary short which premiered at the Format International Photography Festival in Derby, UK. Nick has taught and lectured about Street Photography on the Discovery Channel, BBC Radio, at Tate Modern and Yale School of Art and writes the Street Photography blog SevenSevenNine.com. He lives between homes in London and the French Alps.

David Guttenfelder: A New Look at North Korea

Since the 1948 creation of separate governments for North and South Korea after World War II, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North has remained behind an iron curtain, an isolated and secluded state. Our image of the country has been pieced together from pictures taken across the border at the DMZ, photographs provided by government news agencies or unauthorized surreptitious photographs taken by western photographers inside the country—until now.

In January, the Associated Press opened a bureau in Pyongyang for full news coverage within North Korea. AP’s Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder—who first traveled to North Korea as a pool photographer in January 2000 to cover the visit of Madeline Albright—has made a dozen trips to the country over the past 18 months as part of the negotiating team and on reporting trips with Jean H. Lee, AP bureau chief for the Koreas, taking photos each time. Guttenfelder’s approach to showing North Korea to the world has been shaped by his long and prestigious career with the AP.

Guttenfelder has just received two honors from the Overseas Press Club, which announced their annual awards this morning. The Olivier Rebbot Award for best photographic reporting from abroad, in magazines or books, and the Feature Photography Award for best feature photography, published in any medium on an international theme, recognize his recent work from last year’s Tsunami aftermath in Japan and his work inside North Korea.

In 1994, Guttenfelder traveled to the former Zaire to cover the Rwandan refugee crisis as a freelance photographer. “I thought if I ever wanted to do something more serious, this was it,” he says. Guttenfelder stayed in Africa for five years, stringing for the AP, among other outlets, and eventually became an AP staff photographer. He hasn’t lived in the States since. In the ensuing years, he has worked all over the world, from Kosovo to Israel and Iraq to Afghanistan. In 1999 he became AP’s Chief Asia photographer and moved to Japan.

Guttenfelder says when he first worked in Asia he wondered if he had made the right decision. “In the beginning it was really hard, I’d only ever covered conflict and had not done anything else,” he says. One of his first assignments was covering family reunions between North and South Koreans in Seoul. “I wasn’t used to taking photographs in an organized event surrounded by other photographers in such a modern context,” he says. “Now I look back and it was really important work. I only really spoke one language at that point—fighting, refugees and hard news—so it was an important transition for me.”

Fittingly then, when Guttenfelder was in Iraq during the U.S. invasion, he focused on trying to cover the Iraqi side of the war rather than embedding with U.S. troops. “I always thought of myself as the guy on the other side of things,” he says. Then, a year later, when Baghdad fell, Guttenfelder found himself confined to the Palestine Hotel and his role and means of covering the conflict changed again.

“We needed local photographers to cover the streets, someone who could bring back regular pictures of normal people’s lives,” he says. He solicited photographers, but found that they needed extensive training. Although the people Guttenfelder worked with barely knew the fundamentals of photography and worked with primitive equipment—including a camera that used floppy disks—they produced important work. Several of the regional photographers that Guttenfelder and his AP colleagues trained, Khalid Mohammed, Samir Mizban and Karim Kadim, became Pulitzer-Prize winning photographers when AP received the award for breaking news photography in 2005.

Iraq was not the only place Guttenfelder worked training and developing regional photographers; he also did so in Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine. His work in Afghanistan, which he considers the most important of his career, included the recruitment of Farzana Wahidy, the first Afghan woman to work as a news photographer after the fall of the Taliban. Between 2001 to 2010 Guttenfelder made at least 20 trips to Afghanistan, staying for as long as six months to a year at a time. Early on he covered the first election, and projects on the Afghan civilian side of things. But from 2007-2010 Guttenfelder focused on embeds and did multiple military trips including a stint in the Korengal Valley and was part of all of the major U.S. Marine operations into Helmand.

Guttenfelder eventually moved back to Japan in 2006, and he still lives there today. His first news photography in Japan came in March 2011, in the aftermath of the tsunami. Although his work there is highly regarded, he says he feels that his photographs could not capture the magnitude of what he saw.

Still, his experience with being dropped into a new place and quickly capturing the sense of its culture proved invaluable. “There is a known language to disaster pictures; you see the same things, people reaching through chaos, people reaching for food, a lot of emotion. Photographers were trying to find those pictures that existed in other places. It’s just not like that here. That’s just not how it is in Japan,” he says, noting that the emotionally moving picture embedded here, of a woman, on her knees, caressing and singing to her mother’s body, would seem subtle in another place but is a very “loud” picture for Japan.

David Guttenfelder—AP

March 19, 2011. Tayo Kitamura, 40, kneels in the street to caress and talk to the wrapped body of her mother Kuniko Kitamura, 69, after Japanese firemen discovered the dead woman inside the ruins of her home in Onagawa, Japan.

Although he continues to be based in Japan, Guttenfelder has spent much of the past year in North Korea in preparation for the new AP bureau, which opened in January. Guttenfelder has been part of the negotiating team at meetings that have taken place in Pyongyang and New York over the last eighteen months. “At the first meeting, we left with an agreement that we would hold a photo exhibition and workshop and work towards an AP office in the country,” he says. The joint exhibition, Window on North Korea, on view earlier this month at the 8th Floor Gallery in New York, featured images from both AP and the KCNA archives and a workshop held in North Korea offered an opportunity for KCNA photographers get technical training, for the AP to recruit staff and for the two parties get to know one another.

“We are starting from zero in a system that is so different from anything we’ve done before,” he says. The photo exhibition and workshop were an overture to build trust and collaborate on something, and Guttenfelder has already begun working with a regional photographer, Kim Kwang Hyon. But the most interesting result of the collaboration is the opportunity it has afforded for Guttenfelder to photograph inside North Korea.

Although he is accompanied by a guide wherever he goes and has to request in advance where he wants to go, the daily life photographs that he has taken—often one-off shots made on the way to or from an event—provide a stark contrast to the highly orchestrated government news-agency photos that are more commonly seen out of North Korea.

Despite the normalcy portrayed in these photographs, Guttenfelder says they are actually the most important images because they paint a picture of a place that has been hitherto a mystery. And that can open the window for understanding in both directions. “At the beginning I would take a picture in the street of people standing waiting for the bus. I could tell they didn’t really understand and thought it looked bad, looked poor,” he says. “I would spend a lot of time explaining that people wait for the bus and commute to work everywhere in the world and that someone beyond North Korea could make a connection—that picture breaks down barriers.”

Recently, a select group of photojournalists from western agencies have been allowed into North Korea to cover the celebrations of the birth of the country’s Eternal President Kim II-sung and a missile launch. How long they will be able to stay is in question, but Guttenfelder and AP are committed for the long term. “It’s a really good time to have an office here and to see how things evolve,” he says. “I feel a huge responsibility because this is the first time the country has allowed this much access to one of us.”

David Guttenfelder is AP’s Chief Asia Photographer he is currently based in Japan to see more of his work click here.

To see more of AP’s coverage of North Korea click here.