All posts filed under: Photojournalism

USA. Teviston, California. 2001. Boy with an old farm truck.

Matt Black’s ‘moral’ photography of America’s sprawling poverty

“It’s a very simple idea: to say no, this is not isolated, it’s literally everywhere and it’s something we all need to address squarely,” says Matt Black.  For newly appointed Magnum nominee Black, photography is as much an exercise in morality as it is one in aesthetics and artistry. That high-minded idea has been put, steadily and consistently into practice, evidenced by the two decades he’s spent exploring the rural United States, meeting communities that have been excluded and neglected. His work caught the attention of Magnum Photos, who named him as a Magnum Nominee this year alongside Carolyn Drake, Lorenzo Meloni, Richard Mosse, Max Pinckers and Newsha Tavakolian (featured in our September 2015 issue.) Black’s current ongoing project, The Geography of Poverty, is perhaps his deepest foray into these strongly-felt concerns. He’s travelling across the United States photographing communities with poverty rates of over 20 per cent, the official level for a ‘poverty area’. There are over 70 towns that meet the ’20 per cent’ standard and this in itself, Black finds appalling: “I …

2015-08-28T14:39:51+00:00

Burma, 2012

The journalist-turned-photographer shining a light on Beijing’s underground workers

Having discovered a passion for photography as a teen, Sim Chi Yin spent nine years as an adult writing for The Straits Times, Singapore’s English daily, before returning to image making. “I’ve had to remind myself that a good text subject might not be a strong picture project,” she says of the change. “And I’ve had to deal with switching from trying to be an objective reporter to being a closely involved fly on the wall.” She seems to be making a smooth transition, though – Rat Tribe, which documents the lives of low-income workers in Beijing, was presented at Rencontres d’Arles in 2012, and her coverage of the Burmese spring was shown at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo the same year. In 2013, she was nominated for the W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography for Dying to Breathe, an ongoing series on a Chinese gold miner and she is also a member of VII Photo Agency, having been part of their mentoring programme. Born in Singapore, Sim is now based in China, where taking photographs – or, …

2015-08-28T13:37:29+00:00

Every year workers in the largest public cemetery in Guatemala exhume the bodies of some 4,000 infants to deposit in a mass grave, which borders the main garbage dump in the capital city. Cemetery rules state that six years after a burial, relatives must pay 180 Quetzales, around US$24 dollars, to renew the burial plot for another four years. If there is no payment, cemetery workers exhume the bodies of the young children and put the skeleton in a mass grave. Almost none of the relatives pay the fees and over 4,000 bodies are exhumed annually.

The cemetery in Guatemala that exhumes babies’ graves

When a child dies, some parents quell their pain with the belief that their child is among the angels. Others find comfort in knowing their child is at rest. They know there is a place where, in moments of quiet despair, they can drop to their knees and grieve the absence of their little body to hold. So when photojournalist Saul Martinez learned that, in his home country of Guatemala, deceased children were being exhumed from their places of rest and being disposed of in a public burial pit, it struck him as inconceivable. “I set out to find this cemetery that I had heard about. It was somewhat difficult to get access to it; the workers didn’t really want to let me see much at first. “I was so shocked when I saw the remains of children being pulled out, not only because of the fact that babies were being exhumed but because a job like this actually exists.” And so began Forgotten Children, Guatemala City, a documentary short and series of images that …

2015-08-28T13:37:00+00:00

The changing landscapes of the modern American cowboy

“This is the last cowboy song, the end of a hundred year waltz. Voices sound sad as they’re singing along another piece of America’s lost.” So goes the chorus of Ed Bruce ballad The Last Cowboy, which was released in May 1980. But although their numbers have been dwindling for years, cowboys so still exist, roaming the plains and valleys of the American West as they have done since the late 19th century. They have had to adapt to 21st century life, though, and where the song has them supplementing their wages “in a market on weekends selling tobacco and beer’, it is now resources, from copper to gold, oil, natural gas and even wind and solar energy, which is competing with their herding and farming activities. Lucas Foglia approaches this knotty issue by surveying the subtleties of an American icon. He travelled throughout rural Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming between 2006 and 2013, visiting some of the least-populated regions in the United States and finding places in which “the landscape felt …

2015-08-11T14:31:27+00:00

A women takes a selfie picture with Royal Thai Army soldiers stationed at the Ratchaprasong intersection, as martial law is imposed, in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday, May 20, 2014.

How modern protests are harnessing the power of photography

“If you’re angry, throw your arms up,” said Reverend Al Sharpton. “If you want justice, throw your arms up. Because that’s the sign Michael was using. He had a surrender sign. That’s the sign you have to deal with. Use the sign he last showed. We want answers why that last sign was not respected.” Sharpton was speaking in August, 2014, year in Ferguson, the poverty-stricken suburb of St Louis, Missouri. Sharpton had travelled to speak in the wake of the death of the black teenager Michael Brown who – it has been claimed – was shot by a policeman while his hands were extended above his head, palms open. The #HandsUpDontShoot campaign went viral. A month later, in Hong Kong, the ‘umbrella movement’ began. Thousands of people, mostly millennials, occupied the intersection outside the Hong Kong government. At the urging of Hong Kong’s local Occupy movement, the protests spread, blocking the city’s main thoroughfares. The protest was specific, opposing a proposed election reform that would extend Beijing’s control over the former colonial province. But …

2015-07-27T10:35:02+00:00

10-year-old Eliola. Her father was killed in front of the door of their home. Since then she has dreamt of taking revenge. From 2/7 Shkodra © Guillaume Herbaut

The Albanian children imprisoned in their homes because of a 15th century death law

“Emine was a peacemaker,” says Guillaume Herbaut. “His job was to pacify families at war.” But the families Emine sought to help were not in a warren, but living quiet lives in the north of Albania. Yet certain family members, the French photojournalist discovered, were shut away in their homes, never seeing the light of day for fear of reprisal by fellow Albanians – neighbours, former friends, even other family members – seeking revenge for being slighted, insulted, besmirched – or, in the extreme, the murder of one of their kin. “I was able to get in touch with some of the families affected by this tragedy through Emine,” Herbaut says. “But he was murdered a few months after I shot 2/7 Shkodra, the series of photographs I took in 2004.” Herbaut didn’t learn his craft in the traditional sense, at art college, putting theory into practice. Instead, it was more visceral. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, in a block of flats perched on the edge of a highway opposite an industrial …

2015-07-22T13:07:55+00:00

Holding room. From Corrections, 2015 © Zora Murff

Kid criminals: tagged, tracked and cast off by society

“My dad left us when I was four or five, and I’ve been estranged from him ever since. Things were rough for my mum trying to raise two boys on her own,” says 28-year-old Zora Murff, whose series Corrections is informed in no small part by his experiences growing up disenfranchised, with a family diminished by low income, lack of opportunity and alcohol abuse. Born and raised in Des Moines, where one in three children live below the poverty line, Zora could easily have become a write-off. His mother was forced to take jobs out of town at weekends to provide for her two boys, often leaving them unsupervised for many hours. “My brother and I were very close when we were young, and I spent a lot of time following him around, until he got to the age where it wasn’t cool to have your little brother tagging along any more. When that happened, I had to learn to be alone – I started to read a lot and draw.” As Zora got older – with …

2015-07-06T15:26:20+00:00

From the series Patrulleros © Daniele Volpe

Photographing the Patrulleros – the violent vigilantes of Guatemala

“Photojournalism allows me to get close to events on the ground, so that I may better understand them as they unfold,” says award-winning photojournalist Daniele Volpe, who left his birthplace of Priverno, a small town in Latina, south of Rome, and made his home in Guatemala. “This kind of intimacy allows me to share my reportage and maybe draw the viewers in, making them feel closer to the subjects.” Volpe, now 34, started his career as a news photographer but soon felt unfulfilled. “There’s often little continuity in covering news, because news itself doesn’t always allow for follow-ups,” he explains. “As a natural consequence, I felt drawn to reportage, which allows for a more thoughtful approach to image-making, enabling me to tell a story, to create a narrative.” Guatemala is one of three countries in the Northern Triangle buckling from the strain of the gang-related activity that permeates every aspect of society. It has long been besieged by criminality, much of it attributed to two prominent gangs – Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and Barrio 18 …

2015-07-07T17:02:05+00:00

David Bailey © Chris Gravett

Hometown America: Chris Gravett’s undiscovered Arkansas

“I Googled myself, as you do, and accidently added an ‘e’ to the end of my name,” says 64-year-old recent graduate Chris Gravett. “The city of Gravette in northwest Arkansas came up. Wikipedia says it has a population of 2300 – 90% white, with 23 churches, in an area of four square miles. I thought it was such a bizarre demographic I wanted to know more.” And so began the making of Gravette The Heart of Hometown America, which is currently on exhibit at the Free Range Graduate Art and Design Show at The Old Truman Brewery in east London – a summer season of shows celebrating up-and-coming graduate talent in the fields of art, design, fashion, photography and architecture. Chris researched further and discovered that the city of Gravette was founded by a man named Ellis Tillman Gravett – without the ‘e’ – in 1893. A further ancestral search uncovered that Ellis Tillman was British, a settler originally from Steyling in Sussex, and that their ancestral lines cross in the early 16th century. Inspired …

2015-06-25T16:27:33+00:00

From Ultra-Orthodox Jews Celebrate Purim in Mea Shearim 2014 © Gili Yaari

Gili Yaari photographs the Purim celebration in Ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem

When Gili Yaari was a child having a kickabout with friends, and his father walked past after a long day’s work and patted the top of his head with those giant hands, coarse from the hours spent mending leather goods in a workshop, the sadness that engulfed him wasn’t always apparent because, as a young boy, what Yaari saw was his Dad’s sweet face, his tender gaze. The fact that his father was a Holocaust survivor wasn’t immediately apparent because he was, after all, a survivor – a provider, a worker, a lover, a Dad. “I grew up in what seemed like a ‘normal’ house. My parents emigrated to Israel from Hungary, and they integrated into society, worked for their living and managed to raise a family. It was only when I grew up that I understood I was actually raised in a house where there was no happiness, where joy was illegitimate, where fear and survival were a driving force,” says the Israeli photojournalist of his upbringing in Beit-Shmesh, a suburb of Jerusalem. That …

2015-05-22T15:24:32+00:00

BJP Staff