Archive for January, 2010

Overexposed (?)

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

As I sit packing in Delhi waiting to go to the South on a story, a good friend, Martin Beddall emails me about a programme (‘Overexposed’) he was interviewed for on BBC Radio a while ago. Martin was a postgraduate student on the photojournalism course at the (then) London College of Printing nearly twenty years ago. Another former student, Miles Warde has retraced the fate of some former classmates. As the BBC has it:

“Miles Warde presents the story of a group of photojournalists who set out to witness world events. They went to Yugoslavia, Angola, Chechnya, Gaza and Iraq. Two of them were shot dead. A compelling portrait of youthful ambition and the power of photography to change the world”.

The programme, originally broadcast on Monday 25 Jan 2010 is available on BBC iPlayer for another week.

Listen here:

Although I wasn’t a student on the course, I was around the same time finding my feet and as I’ve written previously, was friends with and worked alongside two photographers, Paul Jenks and James Miller who were both subsequently killed.

An odd feeling listening: my friend Gary Calton is featured as well and his and Martin’s comments ring very true. As a generation we seemed to have wanted to change the world. Was it because we had come through the politics-stained 1970’s that were in turn coloured by the 1960’s? I don’t know but I sense something now has changed. The myth of the great days of the magazine photographer has been exposed. There are no great magazines left to run work: TV, video and now the internet has won. We live in a more cynical age and we are all a little older, if not a little wiser.Many of us are struggling to find a way to say the things that still need saying. Perhaps it will not be through photography.

And the world needs changing more than ever…

Perfect Pathshala

Monday, January 18th, 2010

It’s rare these days that a jaded old photographer like me finds something positive about the industry but that is exactly what has happened in the last week in Chittagong in Bangladesh.
As you may remember, I was asked to lead a workshop for aspiring photojournalism students from Norway and Bangladesh on behalf of the Pathshala Institute
headed by the prolific Shahidul Alam. It was a rather daunting challenge. The only workshop that I’d ever attended was as a young photographer myself at the World Press Masterclass in 1998. I’ve had no formal photographic education and, despite giving a dozen or so lectures and talks over the years, I wasn’t confident that I could add much to these students education. I need not have worried. Ably assisted by the extraordinary Abir Abdullah, an exceptional educator in his own right, I think – I hope – that I managed to pass on something of the little I know to the students.

I must say that the Norwegians were for their age, exceptional visual journalists and it was a lesson for me to see them produce their assignments with an energy and proficiency that would put many established UK professionals to shame. I think to a person their level of visual literacy was far higher than I was expecting. The Bangladeshi’s, some a product of the Pathshala Institute and some having just completed a basic photography course struggled a little with the idea of storytelling – the theme of the workshop. That said, their determination and enthusiasm was a pleasure to witness. I felt by the end that the concept of a photo-essay was firmly entrenched. As a matter of fact, despite some rather cliched ideas of what a documentary project could look like, it was a two Bangladeshi students – both women I should add – that produced ideas for their course projects that impressed me most. Both decided to work on the personal sphere. In an industry dominated by men and seemingly endless stories of poverty and darkness it was a welcome change.

It was also my first visit to Bangladesh – a pleasant journey from the cold English winter and Chittagong and it’s people in particular I have to thank for being so welcoming and open. I’m now due to come back in the summer to shoot a story. I’m looking forward to it already.

Delhi waits for me now – a flight from Dhaka and then almost a month in India. I have a corporate assignment there and then two stories that I need to work on.

As usual I shall be on:

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It just remains for me to say thank you in particular to Abir, Shoeb and his wife (what a lovely meal), Joseph Rozario (a marvel), Ashraf (for all his patience with me), Shadab (for his kindness) and to the students – firstly for their beautiful and unexpected gifts (you know who you are…) and secondly for their patience and unwavering attention even when I’m sure I was talking rubbish… you all touched me deeply. I hope we stay in touch. Thank you.

For now I leave you with some images from the workshop and one of a couple of frames that I had time to make myself in Chittagong.

Bangladesh - Chittagong - Abir Abdullah talking to students (and myself) during the workshop

Bangladesh - Chittagong - Abir Abdullah talking to students (and myself) during the workshop

Bangladesh - Chittagong - Stuart Freedman works with Maria on her project ©Adnan Wahid

Bangladesh - Chittagong - Stuart Freedman works with Maria on her project ©Adnan Wahid

Bangladesh - Chittagong - Abir, Stuart and Shoeb address the class ©Adnam Wahid

Bangladesh - Chittagong - Abir, Stuart and Shoeb address the class ©Adnam Wahid

Bangladesh - Chittagong - Stuart Freedman addresses the class ©Marius Knutsen

Bangladesh - Chittagong - Stuart Freedman addresses the class ©Marius Knutsen

Bangladesh - Chittagong - A man dismantles a boat with a blow torch and hammer on the banks of the Karnaphuli River beneath the Kalurghat Bridge, Chittagong, Bangladesh

Bangladesh - Chittagong - A man dismantles a boat with a blow torch and hammer on the banks of the Karnaphuli River beneath the Kalurghat Bridge, Chittagong, Bangladesh

Protest and Survive

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

I urge everyone to attend a mass photo gathering in defence of street photography on January 23rd at Midday in Trafalgar Square organised by the pressure group I’m a Photographer not a Terrorist.

As their website eloquently states:

Photography is under attack. Across the country it that seems anyone with a camera is being targeted as a potential terrorist, whether amateur or professional, whether landscape, architectural or street photographer.

Not only is it corrosive of press freedom but creation of the collective visual history of our country is extinguished by anti-terrorist legislation designed to protect the heritage it prevents us recording.

This campaign is for everyone who values visual imagery, not just photographers.

We must work together now to stop this before photography becomes a part of history rather than a way of recording it.

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Images are funny things though and far be it from me to suggest that our rights are being eroded on a day to day basis by those that seek to make our lives more secure… but here are just a few recent developments to may be of interest:

The Children’s Secretary sets out £400m plan to put 20000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV supervision in their own homes

CCTV Cameras fitted in homes to spy on neighbours

Pubs ordered to close because of lack on CCTV

Talking TV cameras in London

But it’s OK because soon, the State will be able to ‘spy’ on every ‘phone call or web search anyway

And let’s not forget that private security operators can join in the fun too

It’s all for your own good. Welcome to the future…