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Friday, February 13, 2004



Persistence and resolve are absolutely necessary, if you are independently pursuing photo projects. There are local, national and international grants that one can chase down to complete your work. If you happen to be working for a publication, you are definitely better off in some respects, though even there you will have to make the time to do your personal projects on your own dime. If you are making images and working on personal projects, I urge you to enter your single or multiple images into the top-level contests. Should you win, you as a photographer will most certainly get a boost in recognition and you will be sought after. Capitalizing on that momentary, often euphoric opportunity is crucial.


I guess it never has been easy to create work which means a lot personally but not necessarily to a mainstream audience/publications. The only word which comes to my mind is "persistence". Most of the photographers we admire spend lot of their energy convincing either the magazines or grant donors to atleast partially fund their projects. That includes James Nachtwey, Sebastiao Salgado or Eugene Richards. Last summer I met a documentary photographer Victor Sira in New York. Victor has been working on his personal projects on immigrants for some years now. The interesting thing I got to know about Victor is about his frugal lifestyle. He lives on a shoestring budget and keeps his personal expenses to a minimum and spends all his money on his projects. He does manage to get by with occasional grants and some freelance work. Currently he is working on book formats and hopes to find a publisher. Victor is man with passionate persistence, and you can feel it when you talk to him. I do believe good work does get eventually "discovered," hopefully not too late.

Sheila Krishnan

Wow!! I don't realize how much I miss when I don't check tiffinbox for a couple days. I hadn't expected my comment on Baghdad Blues to start such a discussion but I have to say I'm grateful for all the knowledge and viewpoints that are being posted. I've been trying to think of something clever to say, but I guess I'm so new to this that I don't even know what I don't know!! Does that make sense?

I've heard discussions about war photography similar to this before. The only feeling I can understand personally as a photographer is the sense of always taking from people, the pornographic aspect, instead of giving back. I agree about the importance of longer essays that dig through the surface and open peoples' eyes. From what I've gathered, there seems to be endless obstacles to creating these types of works. I mean, isn't that really sad? Perhaps I'm being pessimistic, but what can be done to change this??


Good points Hari. More work, but the work lives longer in the minds and hearts of people - the people you are documenting and the people who will view it after it is done.

There are several wonderful workshops that help prepare photojournalists into doing things like audio and video production. If you know of any, please do tell us. I can think of one right off the bat - Dirk Halstead's Platypus Workshop. Will drop that link under PHOTO WORKSHOPS soon.


Yes, I think an essay can take the form of multimedia presentation. National Geographic website has some interesting multimedia presentations. Also, the line between traditional photojournalist and a multimedia journalist is blurring, and it is interesting to see some work by Travis Fox at the WashingtonPost online. Fox has been shooting video and he presents his stuff like a small story. If the editors do not give space to work on photo essays, I think this is a neat way to reincarnate and do the things you like. It is of course more hard work(audio, video, interviewing skills, editing skills etc) but ulimately very satisfying. At any given point, I think limitations can be overcome if we understand and use technology appropriately.


Doesn't war photography in some respects idolize violence and war? I'll have to get Strauss' book. Thanks for the recommendation.

I like your rationale for the photo essay, but if you are at a newspaper or a magazine, you are pretty much SOL when it comes to getting an essay published. No space and no money and certainly no time to work on a long term project. If that's changing, great. But from my experience, it's getting near impossible to do what the like s of Eugene Smith, in the past or Eugene Richards, in the present have done.

I am going to go one step farther and suggest that photo essays alone in this digital age aren't enough. I agree with the likes of Brian Storm, who used to be the director of the multimedia department at MSNBC.com - images (in essay form as you suggest) plus audio would be a greater asset for our viewers.

New media remains largely unchartered (yes, there are lots of examples of great work online, but I think much more can be done). In the end, it will allow one to "go deeper into the issues."


I must clarify about my comments on the pornography part. I meant that WAR is pornographic, not necessarily war photography. Like I said before, I do believe that war photography is important, but how we present it to the readers is equally important. Thats what David Levi Strauss writes in his essays, particularly in his recent book "Between the Eyes-Essays on Photography and politics"(Aperture, 2003).

One issue which I have been thinking about is our obsession with Iconic images-single decisive moment pictures-a la Cartier Bresson. I think photographic reporting has to move beyond single images. Thats where essays come to take an important role in making us understand the situation. I am acutely aware that photographs cannot really replace the experience or suffering shown in the frame. But an essay can atleast an illuminate the situation. Perhaps make us reflect and critically think and possibly empathize. Eugene Smith comes to my mind. Too many photographers try to emulate a heroic war photographer-like Robert Capa. But I feel Smith tries to go deeper into the issues.

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