VII Photo Agency Seminar in Dumbo
This is really a long time coming. Had I been smart, I would have written a nice blog about this when I first came back from New York. But, you know, life gets busy and we all put things off.
This May, Dave (Milestones Photography) sent me to New York City to attend the VII Photo Agency Seminar in Dumbo, Brooklyn. For those of you unfamiliar with the VII, it is an agency that represents some of the top photojournalist/documentary photographers in the world. Members include John Nachtwey, Lauren Greenfield, Eugene Richards and Ron Haviv.
The seminar, as expected, was both inspiring and humbling. With three days of presentations by some of the top photographers in the world, I was given just a sense of the dedication it takes to work and live as a photojournalist. Moreover, I was reminded why I love journalism and why it is so important. No, journalist cannot save the world, but they can try to influence other people to make a dent. It's their job to inform and it's our job to listen.
I think one of the biggest things I was captivated by was how these photographers, amidst conflict and despair, can create beautifully composed pictures that put in a group of images can tell such a compelling story. Also, how they can come back after seeing and photographing the worst of human acts (death, rape, torture, war, starvation) and want to go back to document it again. It's truly amazing.
Here are my thoughts on my favorite photographers at the seminar:
Lauren Greenfield is probably one of the most known female documentary photographers today. American women and popular culture are her biggest focus. A year or so ago, I watched her first documentary "Thin" which follows four girls at an eating disorder clinic in Florida. It's a great movie, but really heart breaking. During the seminar, we saw a clip of her new movie on HBO called Kids + Money which I'm quite excited to see.
I really enjoy Greenfield's style and, of course, her subject matter.
Ron Haviv has this amazing ability to make interesting complex layers in his images... I could spend all day studying his pictures. He's probably the prime example of how great photojournalists can make wonderfully composed images while being shot at during war. He also has great energy and, not unlike most of the VII photographers, is extremely focused and articulate.
Christopher Morris' abstract approach to photojournalism really speaks to me. He is currently on the campaign trail with John McCain, and though I'm sure not as exciting for him as shooting war, I find the simplicity of his images very interesting. I also found Morris quite funny and dry.
My favorite photographer of the seminar was Joachim Ladefoged. His images in his book "Albanians" was probably some the best photography I've ever seen. He's very particular about his composition, keeping things clean yet complex and interesting at the same time and his use of layers is phenomenal. Moreover, the diversity in his body of work is awesome... ranging from German Gypsies to portraits of body builders. Here is Ladefoged answering questions:
I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I've taken back with me from the seminar. I definitely feel inspired to work on my own documentary projects... and it was great seeing so many different styles and approaches to photography. Mostly, I was reminded of the purpose of photojournalism and photography. In a world of "everyone is a photographer", it was great to see work of people who really are making a difference with their craft. To be an okay photographer is easy, but, to be a great photographer takes a lot of work. There is nothing more inspiring than that.