Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Early in life, I studied painting, printmaking, and film. After I moved to New York in 1984, I started learning computer graphics and became proficient at Adobe Photoshop. I had always taken photographs as reference for my paintings and prints, but in the mid-1990s, I decided to concentrate on photography. With Photoshop, I manipulated photographic images that gave them a more printmaking quality, but over time I decided I just wanted to make simple straightforward photographs. On 911, I took a photograph near Ground Zero, soon after the Twin Towers had collapsed. Eventually, it was published in the book Here Is New York that documented the tragic event and its aftermath. After this, I became interested, even obsessed with photojournalism. I looked at many books and websites and became familiar with the major photographers. I started to see it in a different light. The images documented war and its consequences and historical events, but I also started to see these images as art. An art of beautiful, disturbing, and powerful images that are executed with incredible technique, and make powerful statements about  the world in which we live. During this time I discovered MAGNUM PHOTOS.

MAGNUM PHOTOS is an international photographic cooperative that was founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, David Seymour, Henry Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, and William Vandivert. It is owned and administered entirely by its members. It includes photojournalists from all over the world. They have offices located in New York, Paris, London, and Tokyo. The photographers have a curiosity and respect for what is going on in the world and a desire to transcribe it visually. Magnum's archive includes photographs that cover war, poverty, famine, crime, drugs, religion, government, celebriities, and family life. I would encourage anyone to check out their website and books. Here are some of my favorite photographers and their images.

HENRY CARTIER-BRESSON is considered the father of modern photojournalism. He shot with a 35mm Leica and developed the street or real life reportage style that influenced many photographers to come. He came up with the term "the decisive moment." The photographer is creative when he notices that perfect moment that will only last a split second and must have the intuition to click the camera before the moment slips away.

ROBERT CAPA photographed 5 different wars,  including The Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the First Indochina War, where he was killed by a land mine in 1954. He died with a camera in his hand. Here are two of his most famous images, The Falling Soldier from the Spanish Civil War and the D-Day Landing during the invasion of Normandy during WWII. 

BRUCE DAVIDSON created bodies of work that documented different aspects of America and New York. He created a book called Brooklyn Gang and covered the Civil Rights Movement. My favorite book by him is East 100th Street, where he photographed a block in East Harlem and the people that lived on it over a period of two years. He also produced a photographic essay in color of the New York Subway and a black and white book on Central Park.

BRUNO BARBEY was born in Morocco and has produced an amazing body of color work from there. Early on he produced a book called The Italians. Over four decades he journeyed across five continents and covered conflicts in Nigeria, Vietnam, the Middle East, Cambodia, Ireland, and Iraq.

GILLES PERESS photographed Iran during the Revolution in 1979. From these images he produced the book Telex Iran: In The Name of Revolution which had a huge impact on me when I first came across it many years ago. He also produced a book called The Silence which is about the genocide in Rwanda. He sees his work more as document and preserving history, than about "good photography." Still, it is great photography.

STEVE MCCURRY produces amazing color work mostly in Asia. His books South Southeast and The Unguarded Moment are beautiful works of art. He also took the famous "Afghan Girl" photo and is a great portrait photographer.

SUSAN MEISELAS is best known for her coverage of human rights issues in Central America. Her book Nicaragua is a masterpiece of coverage of the insurrection and revolution in that country in 1978-1979. The cover image of the revolutionaries is one of my favorite photos ever. When I first saw it many years ago I was astounded by the color and the irony of one of the men sporting a Philadelphia Phillies baseball cap.

ALEX WEBB also produces incredible color photo essays. He has an amazing compositional sense that captures images at that perfect moment. He has produced work and books about Haiti, the Amazon, the US-Mexican Border, and Istanbul.

Peress, McCurry, Meiselas, and Webb were all present in New York on 911, and their images from that day can be seen in the Magnum Photos book Septermber 11.

No comments:

Post a Comment