City of Remedios: "La Parranda" one of the most important traditional folk party in Cuba. 24 December 2008. Image © Giancarlo Ceraudo / Noor.
Andrea Bruce joins from VII Network, VII Photo's spin-off, which was dissolved last month, while Giancarlo Ceraudo has been working as an independent photographer since his former agency, Grazia Neri, closed down in September 2009.
"These are exciting times for Noor," says managing director and founding member Claudia Hinterseer. "We sometimes grow, but we don't grow big - that has never been the plan. This year, we added a director of editorial sales, so we felt we could add one or two new members. Usually, we come up with people that we know, people we care about and that we think would fit our group. But, this year, we wanted to look beyond that. We decided to do a general call for submissions as there might have been people out there that we didn't necessarily know about."
Noor received more than 250 applications, including Bruce's and Ceraudo's. "I was torn," says Bruce in an interview with BJP. "I knew VII was making this transition to get rid of the Network - and I think it's actually a really good idea; it will be great for them."
Last week, VII Photo announced that four photographers, who had applied for full membership, were leaving the agency as a result of the Network's dissolution. Bruce had not applied to become a member of VII Photo.
"I love VII Photo and all its photographers," Bruce adds. "It's just that Noor is a small, beautiful close-knit group of people. I was really anxious to participate in such a group, of having the support and creative energy that they have. I think it's a good thing to be part of."
Ceraudo agrees: "I think it is the perfect moment to join," he tells BJP. "After working for Grazia Neri, I decided to remain independent for a while. I didn't want to work with an agency for some time. But, I always thought that if I would, it would need to be a big opportunity for me. When I saw the call for submissions for Noor, I knew I had to try."
When it came to deciding who would join the agency, its members - Nina Berman, Philip Blenkinsop, Pep Bonet, Alixandra Fazzina, Jan Grarup, Stanley Greene, Yuri Kozyrev, Kadir van Lohuizen, Jon Lowenstein and Francesco Zizola - carefully studied the applications. "It was a lot of work to go through all of them," says Hinterseer. "We, as a group, first discussed what we were looking for; what made us excited about new photographers. We also made a list of issues and needs - and visual literacy stood at the top of that list. We also wanted someone who was producing; who was constantly on the ground. And, of course, his or her personality had to fit our group - we see ourselves as a family, so someone who's not a team player wouldn't be a good match."
The members searched for photographers who had "a vision and the motivation to be part of Noor," says Hinterseer. Then, after looking at all the applications, they left it for a day "and came back to it being very motivated about Andrea and Giancarlo." But even then, the members would not commit to a decision. "We wanted to spend some time with them," says Noor's managing director. "Giancarlo offered to come to Perpignan, and we knew Andrea was going to be there. So we met at [Visa Pour l'Image]."
A few days later, both photographers were offered a position at the agency. "I was extremely excited when they called me," says Bruce. "I have a lot of energy and passion that I cannot wait to contribute to the group."
Displaced person at a temporary home on the outskirts of Kabul, fled from the violence in southern Afghanistan, Oct. 19 2010. Image © Andrea Bruce / Noor.
"Andrea is a hard-working photographer based in Kabul," says Hinterseer. "She is producing a lot, and her work stands out." For the past decade, Bruce has been working extensively in the Middle East and near East. "I started covering the region in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq. I never really thought of myself as a war photographer until then, but I felt like there needed to be more in-depth and intimate coverage of what's happening overseas, especially for American audiences, because people were loosing interest or just didn't care. That became extremely frustrating for me. So I dug in and moved there. I quit my job at The Washington Post and decided that, to do these stories, I had to live there. To be able to emphasise with the people that live there."
And that's key to her work, she says. "The basic concept is to get people to care. I feel that you have to do two layers of work. You have to cover the actual news, the bombings that happened. But you also have to cover the real human side; the intimate perspective of the people who live there." Now, Bruce is planning to go back to Iraq for The New York Times. "I feel that Iraq is so uncovered right now," she tells BJP. "I'll have to revisit a lot of different topics and see what the issues are; what's affecting the different neighbourhoods."
As for Ceraudo, Noor's members first paid attention to the Italian photographer when they saw his multimedia piece - Destino Final. "With this work, Giancarlo has been able to bring criminal to trial," says Hinterseer. Destino Final is an account of the crimes committed by the armed forces during the Argentinean dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. Approximately 5000 opponents of the regime were "drugged and loaded on military planes [...] and were thrown, still alive, in the final part of the Rio de la Plata, just before it reaches the Atlantic Ocean," writes Ceraudo.
"With the help of a former pilot, I started looking for the planes," Ceraudo tells BJP. "Nobody else had thought of doing that before. And through painstaking research, we found them - two were in Luxembourg and in the US, another in the UK and two were in Argentina. We were lucky to find them, and they allowed us to uncover a lot of information about the crimes."
Following the release of Destino Final, three of the pilots presumably involved in the death flights were arrested and are now awaiting trial.
Ceraudo's interest for South America came after he travelled, as a tourist, to the continent in the early 1990s. "The culture is the first thing that attracted my interest, but I also discovered that I had family there. I discovered another world that is actually part of my life." So, when the financial crisis hit Argentina, he started documenting the region. "But I didn't want to spend just a month there before moving to another place, I really wanted to develop my work in the region, to study it in depth."
That dedication played an important role in the selection process. "We believe that South American should not be ignored," says Hinterseer. In return, Ceraudo believes that he can bring a different point of view to the Amsterdam-based agency. "I can offer a more Latin perspective," he tells BJP. "I come from another world, with a different approach and different experience."
Now, both photographers are looking forward to contributing to Noor's future. "I have a lot of energy and passion," says Bruce. "Noor is always looking to do group projects, and they do them relatively quickly, without problems. And still, they always brainstorm on how to do them better. It's really impressive." And while Noor's photographers will be working on their individual stories for the months to come, Hinterseer tells BJP that the agency is already planning its next group project on Climate Change. "We determined to continue pushing this issues," she says. "Next year, there's a climate summit in Rio de Janeiro and we want to be there."
But the agency won't limit itself to that theme. "We also have another idea for a group project," says Hinterseer. "There's a lot cooking."
For more information, visit www.noorimages.com.
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