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Posts Tagged ‘History’

Al Jazeera Magazine | War Veterans | August 2014

In Photography News on August 3, 2014 at 5:17 AM

Reflections of a war photographer.

© Words and photos by Jack Picone
jack@jackpicone.com

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I have never felt more intensely alive than I did in the moments before I was certain I was about to die.

This is how war can make you feel.

War. Even the word is ominous.

People sometimes assume that photographers go to war zones because they are adrenaline junkies. This was not the case for me. Obviously, war zones can be adrenaline-charged places, and by helping you to think clearly when faced with danger, that adrenaline can keep you alive. But my motivation for documenting war has been more layered and nuanced than a need to feed some adrenalin craving or an inclination towards voyeurism – another accusation sometimes directed at war photographers.

In my experience, people rarely do extreme things for a singular reason. And willingly entering a war zone is an extreme thing to do. My grandfather had fought in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War and I’d read extensively on the topic; all of which had helped to form the nagging question in my own mind of whether I had the resourcefulness and courage to document such events. At the time I was a staff photographer on a major daily Australian newspaper; a job I found repetitive and unchallenging. So, when the picture editor of that paper asked its 20 staff photographers whether any would be interested in covering the first Iraq War, my response was immediate. I was the only one to say ‘yes’.

But my first war proved anticlimactic as my time in Baghdad was short-lived. I was arrested by Iraqi secret police for transmitting photographs of Iraqi troops crossing the border into Kuwait, put on an empty plane and deported to Jordan.

My first ‘real’ war experience came some after, and it couldn’t have been more different. The Nagorno-Karabakh War had been raging in Armenia since the mid-1980s. I arrived in 1992, aged around 30 and ready to answer the question I’d carried around with me for years: could I keep my head, literally and metaphorically, as I documented an exchange of gunfire between warring soldiers?

I was making my way towards Armenian soldiers positioned in trenches by the side of a mountain when I got my answer. The mountain suddenly reverberated with the sound of gunfire and exploding mortar shells. Ink-blot black clouds snaked their way eerily towards the sky. A shallow hole – a perfect ready-made grave – provided my only cover from the incoming bullets and cluster bombs. I remember thinking as I lay there, that while this was too picturesque a place to be the scene of war, it was certainly a beautiful place to die.

Then I looked up and saw an Armenian soldier signal for me to run to him. His trench was only about 80m away, but that short run seemed to go on forever. I took some shrapnel in the lower back and head but I was alive. My heart pounded, adrenaline surged through my body and I felt that kind of affirming, edifying euphoria that comes with escaping death.

On reflection, I can conservatively estimate that I should have been killed at least five times over by now: once at the hands of a mob in Rwanda, another time in southern Sudan, when a Sudanese government soldier put his pistol to my temple and screamed that he was going to pull the trigger. On both occasions, only a chance intervention helped me cheat death.

I have worked in some of the most dangerous places on the planet: Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Gaza Strip, Israel, Soviet Central Asia and the former Yugoslavia. It could be argued that most of these were unconventional wars, where armed groups and rebel factions took each other on and where it was possible for a photographer to cover both – or indeed multiple – sides of the conflict. Far from being embedded with one side or the other, as you might in Iraq or Afghanistan, a photographer in less structured conflicts can cross enemy lines, evading censorship and propaganda. But these wars also pose their own challenges – leaving you open to accusations of spying and making it much easier to ‘disappear’.

During many of the African conflicts I covered, photographers and journalists were killed at roadblocks by bored soldiers, who were often stoned, drunk or both. It’s no mystery why they were targeted. War photographers can carry more money and equipment than a rebel soldier in an underfunded rag-tag army can hope to earn in years.

Having escaped death several times, I gained a new-found confidence that I could document the ‘bang bang’, as seasoned war photographers sometimes refer to it, and stay alive. But with this came the realisation that documenting war really ought to involve more than simply photographing soldiers. What seemed exponentially more important was telling the stories of the innocent people – the children, women and elderly men – caught in its crossfire. I shifted my focus from the frontlines to the ordinary people on the edges of war.

Apart from the inbuilt danger of working in a war zone, photographing war is a philosophical, emotional, ethical and moral minefield (pun intended). On many occasions, I have found myself questioning what I was documenting. But the decision about whether or not to press the shutter has to be made in a micro-second and is fraught with responsibility.

I haven’t always made the right choice. During the famine in Somalia in 1992, I photographed an infant cradled in the arms of an aid worker. “You can stop taking pictures now Jack,” the nurse told me in her thick Irish accent. “The baby just died.” The thought that the last thing that child saw was me photographing it, has haunted me ever since. The fact that the aid agency had asked me to photograph them at work in order to help publicise the desperate plight of the Somali people offered no consolation. I was inconsolable.

A photographer has a role to play in a war zone: to bear witness, to make the invisible visible, the unheard heard and to create a visual history. For me, these tenets have acted as a filter for all but the most horrific situations I have encountered in the theatre of war. But the emotional torment often followed me home. In denial, I told myself, my friends and my family that I was unaffected by what I saw. But then the nightmares began. The emotional hangover from witnessing and documenting violence too dark to describe exacted its toll. I self-medicated with alcohol and drugs, which only worsened my problems. I still haven’t come to terms with what I’ve witnessed, but I have stopped trying to use substances to control my emotions and am instead simply trying to co-exist with the discord.

War is many things, most of them barbaric. But what disturbs me most about it is its repetitiveness: the same play, just with a new cast. That being said, nothing seems more important to me than documenting the plight of those caught up in it. Right at this very moment, human beings are frenetically killing each other in countries across the world. All we can really do is bear witness; to hold up a mirror to man’s inhumanity to man in the scant hope that future generations will succeed where we have so conclusively failed and break the cycle.

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Note: You can download the Al Jazeera App — for free — to view and read Part 1, in its entirety. I really recommend downloading the App for a dynamic experience including still image galleries, moving 3D images and brilliant layout.
Click here to download the latest issue via iTunes: aje.me/magazine and on Android devices: aje.me/ajemagazine 
Compatible with iPhone (5, 5S and 5C), Android tablets and phones.

BIO:

Jack Picone is an Australian, Bangkok-based photojournalist and documentary photographer who has been covering war zones since the early 1990s. He has travelled from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and multiple countries on the African continent documenting the fall-out from war.

Documentary Photographer Jack Picone Interviewed In Vice Magazine

In Photography News on August 18, 2013 at 8:02 AM

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 Photograph: Jack Picone at work in Bangkok during Thailand’s political discord in 2010.

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                                  Angolan civil war © Photograph by Jack Picone

Documentary photographer Jack Picone interviewed by Vice Magazine Jack  about working in the short term in conflict zones and working in the long term as a documentary photographer on social issue based subjects. Read the full Q & A here.

Panorama | Work in Progress | 71 – Degrees

In Street Photography on December 10, 2012 at 8:22 AM

71 – Degrees | by Jack Picone

The images in this gallery have all been made on the Hasselblad X-Pan 1 and the Fuji TX-1 essentially, they are exactly the same camera just branded differently.

Both these cameras are relatively small 35mm film cameras that can produce striking unbroken images across a full 71- degree field of view (the normal field of vision of the human eye, by contrast, is only about 45 degrees). The resulting photographs make concrete the concept of the panorama — quite literally, to “see all.”

I take these cameras with me everywhere I go. They are my, “I am taking my cameras for a walk” cameras. Pictures in this slide gallery are from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Bali, South Africa, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Kathmandu, Laos, Cambodia China and Australia.

The trick with using these cameras is not to rely too heavily on the actual panorama format in an effort to make your images  more aesthetically interesting. This would be clichéd. It is really about using the panorama format in conjunction with compelling composition. If there is a confluence of  both these variables it is possible to elevate your images to a higher aesthetic plane. The latter sadly, I have yet to achieve with the work here.

I am on a creative cusp! I am close I can feel it, Exciting!

Jack Picone

Documentary Photography Masterclass Sydney November 10th 2012

In Photography News on September 7, 2012 at 5:21 AM

Join us, for what promises to be an engaging and stimulating learning experience in Documentary Photography.

 

                                                                                                                                         © Photograph by Jack Picone

Two the world’s most recognised photographers, Stephen Dupont and Jack Picone, will unite on Saturday 10th November for a unique masterclass.  This one day workshop is a rare opportunity for photographers to learn from and have their work critiqued by two of Australia’s biggest names in the photographic arena. For further details please read here:

10X100 ’10 Australian Photographers’ At The QCP

In Photography News on August 23, 2012 at 4:57 AM

A Tibetan monk prays at Nepal’s largest and holiest Buddhist temple, Boudhanath, in Kathmandu.   © Photograph in Kathmandu by Jack Picone                                                                                                                                                                                          

“The 10 were chosen for their prominence as world-class photographers, their award-winning careers and their status as some of Australia’s finest working visual artists. They were also chosen for the diversity of their portfolios, their unique approach to the medium and their differing technique, providing the perfect test for Fujifilm’s innovative, state-of-the-art digital camera”.

If you are in Brisbane go see it at the  QCP

Picone in Prayer….

In Random Moments on August 22, 2012 at 9:20 AM

…seeking God’s forgiveness………….. but sadly, she won’t help him!        © Photograph in Luang Prabang, Laos by Meg Hewitt

Funfair Comes To Town – Luang Prabang, Laos

In Ethics, Workshop News on July 16, 2012 at 8:09 AM

 © Photograph by Gary Jones. In pursuit of a prize. Novice monks with air rifles at Luang Prabang Funfair.

The Jack Picone and Stephen Dupont Documentary Photography workshops participant Gary Jones documents a small funfair that arrives to town. Luang Prabang, Laos. View here:

The Crush – Covering Egypt’s Elections by Ed Giles

In Photography News on June 21, 2012 at 2:57 AM
Supporters of secular presidential candidate Amr Moussa gather at a political rally during a tour by Moussa’s campaign of the Nile Delta, Egypt, May 18, 2012. Photo: ED GILES.
Photographs and Story by Ed Giles
 15 months after dictator Hosni Mubarak was pushed out of Egypt’s presidency by countrywide street protests, Egyptians prepared to choose their next leader. A Thirteen candidates presented themselves to Egyptians as country’s best new leader, one who could show the way to a country in chaos after years of dictatorship and over a year of post-revolutionary uncertainty.
Around a week before the vote, I traveled to the Nile river delta, east of the coastal city of Alexandria, to cover the campaign one of the front-running candidates, Amr Moussa. A former head of the Arab League and foreign minister to Mubarak, Moussa appeared to be one of four or five candidates likely to be Egypt’s next leader. As Moussa’s campaign bus traveled across the long, flat delta roads to the working-class town of Edko, we passed factory after factory, through small towns and past small shopfronts often lit up by a single electric bulb. Far from the urban metropolis of Cairo, we traveled through areas much better representing the ‘real’ Egypt – a country struggling to bring most of its population out of poverty and under-employment into modernity.
Moussa’s  campaign bus arrived in the town centre of Edko, weaving through thick traffic to arrive at a large field set up with a stage and festival lights. Thousands of men filled the field, packing toward the stage and upon seeing the bus arrive, forming a dense crush around the candidate as he moved toward the stage. Moussa, nearly being carried by his security and the crowd packing around him, waved and saluted to the crowd that were barely containing their excitement.
A horse bucks during a rally for supporters of presidential candidate Amr Moussa in the Nile Delta, Egypt, May 18, 2012. Photo: Ed Giles.
As Amr Moussa took to the stage, a handful of men on white horses moved toward the stage amongst the crowd, who were now acting like the fans of a platinum-selling rock musician. The combination of noise, light and densely packed men proved too much for one of the horses, who bucked and threw its rider into the crush. Men and young boys surrounding the horse dived away from the wild animal while two others tried to get it under control. Soon enough, the Amr Moussa show went on as the bucking horse was removed from the scene.
Moussa spoke, and the crowd continued to get more and more wound up. Men clamoured to get to the front and within reaching distance of the candidate, and others simply stared at the candidate with tears rolling down their cheeks and hands cupping their open mouths.
As Moussa wrapped up the show, I found myself a quiet spot near the rear of the stage so I could take a minute to change lenses, knowing that the low light off stage meant I would need to lose the zoom lens and be back on my fast wide-angle prime. Suddenly the show began to move quicker than expected, and Moussa’s security phalanx moved to contain him in a ring of heavies, quickly pushing toward the edge of the stage and stairs. Of course, I was still changing lenses, one in each hand, as the wall of Egyptian security men closed the gap between me and them, forcing me to the edge of the stage.
In one very fast move (I’m still not sure how I pulled this off), I spun the small prime lens onto my camera, dropped the zoom into my camera bag, and took the jump off the stage into the crowd below, nearly landing on top of a colleague who had already dropped down the stairs. Hitting the ground, I barely had time to make sure my kit was all with me as the men around me crushed in, trying to touch Moussa as he descended from the stage.
Secular presidential candidate Amr Moussa salutes supporters as he leaves the stage during a campaign event at Benha in the Nile Delta, Egypt, May 18, 2012. Photo: ED GILES.
As I turned around, Moussa was already coming down the stairs, helped by his security heavies, waving to the crowd in what I have to admit is a slightly odd gesture that brings up some historical connotations for me and maybe for others. Some in the crowd saluted back, but most just crushed further forward to try and touch Moussa himself. Barely making it onto the bus after Moussa’s men rushed him through the crowd, we snaked through the traffic that formed a convoy in front of and behind our bus, off to the next town on our whistlestop tour of the northern Nile delta.
As Egypt’s political transition grinds onward, it’s events like this that have given me a real window into what is happening here. THis country of over 80 million people have been experiencing ‘open’ democratic elections for the first time in their history, and the process is wild and raw. This is a place that has experienced dictatorial military government for the best part of two generations, with monarchy supported by the British empire and occupation by the Ottoman empire before that. Politics here is not the same as it is for us in Australia or other western countries, where we have become cynical and used to the scripted performance of candidates. Despite the many flaws in the process, the Egyptian presidential elections have given many Egyptians the distinct impression they have a voice, that they can indeed reach out and touch the powerful for the first time in their lives.
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The New York Times Is Worth Less Than Instagram At $950 Million

In Photography News on May 2, 2012 at 12:32 PM

 

It has dozens of competitors, but Instagram stands out for its fast ascension and almost cultlike following.

I find below scary and almost unfathomable:

JENNA WORTHAM says in her piece in the The New York’s Times blog – BITS, “It has 30 million users who upload more than five million photos a day, even though it was available for only Apple devices until last week, when the company released an Android app”.

30 million users 5 million photographs a day.  Extraordinary.                                                                                                           

Instagram has only been in existence for two years and Facebook have just bought it for 1 Billion.

The democratisation of photography. More people are making more pictures now then any other point in the history of photography. But the question beckons, is it a sea of mediocrity?

Read Jenna Wortham’s full story here in The New York’s Times blog – BITS

PHOTOJOURNALISM NOW by Alison Stieven -Taylor

In Photography News on April 25, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Friend and colleague Alison Stieven-Taylor has a new blog – PHOTOJOURNALISM NOW
Engaging reads in symphony with astute analysis and commentary on photography.
For a insiders view on the future of photography: read here