Amplifying Student Voices — Photographing Life In Times Of Pandemic
A Documentary Project Curated and Hosted by Philip Blenkinsop and Daniel Schwartz
A free interactive photography platform offering a live, hour-long weekly discussion and curation of images and exchanges with our former workshop students and scholarship recipients from under-represented communities who are covering the COVID 19 pandemic from their homes and districts.
Welcome to our ninth and final instalment of ASV, Photographing Life in Times of Pandemic.
Daniel and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our attendees in the audience and each of our panelists for playing your parts in this documentary project. Without your enthusiasm it would not have existed.
Thanks also to the behind the scenes efforts of Lejna Celebicic, Amber Maitland and Yonola Viguerie of the VII Academy, and a big thank you to Ashley Gilbertson of VII who joined us for ASV week 8 and generously shared his ongoing coverage, through his ‘digital contact sheets’, of the Black Lives Matter protests in New York. His image of the touching exchange on the front lines of the conflict appears a little later on this page.
We would also like to thank Justin Stailey, FUJIFILM’s Senior Product Manager from North America who joined us for Week 6 and Jim Casper, co-founder and editor in chief of ‘lensculture’ who was with us back in Week 4.
We leave you on an important note today. A student asked us recently, how important it is for a photographer to be able to edit his (her) own work?
Well the answer really depends on your aspirations, but, assuming that you are aiming high, then the answer is simple: it is imperative.
The editing process and narrative building are inextricably linked. In terms of ‘book-building’ the processes are perhaps more important than the photography itself, in as much as it is possible to create a compelling narrative without necessarily having memorable photographs, while, with the most memorable of images, it is possible, with poor editing and poor narrative skills, to completely bury the message of your work. Especially prevalent is the novice drawn to placing likenesses together; pairs that cancel each other out.
So to begin with, it is important to know what you have, which means being able to recognise the strengths of your own work and vision. Once you understand this, then you can move to the next step of linking your images together to form a narrative or sequence.
With building a narrative we are concerned with sequencing images which compliment each other, that create a dialogue; that dance together and amount to more than the sum of their parts.
We selected nine of our panelists and asked them if they would allow us to access their unedited work to illustrate this point.
Arsène Mpiana Monkwe, from Kinshasa DRC was one of three who generously agreed, sending us all of the work he had made during heated demonstrations calling for the reopening of the central market and surrounding businesses in the Gombe district of Kinshasa earlier in June.
He spoke humbly, during our panel discussion two weeks ago, sharing with us that this was in fact the first time he had covered such a situation. His photograph here, which those of you present would remember, captures some of the emotion, but we suspected that if we had the chance to look deeper at his work, that perhaps we might tell a more powerful story.
It’s a matter of actually looking at the images and for the strengths within them, and not for images that fit the mould of those that have come before.
Another focus of ASV week 8’s discussion was looking at the coverage of demonstrations and the preponderance of vacuous, ‘sign-led’ imagery that dominates news feeds.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, if that’s true, then these pictures are worth a dozen at the most.
How people can render such scenes of mass protest completely void of drama and emotion time and time again and still call themselves photographers is unfathomable. Add to that, the collaborator at the other end on the news desk, publishing these images that look more like canvases filled with scrawled post-it notes and you have a visual plague which shows no sign of abating.
Where is the theatre?
Where is the thought?
It’s a sign. Get over it.
Ko Myo from Yangon, Myanmar was another photographer who agreed to share all of his unedited work with us for this final issue. Here, is our take of his coverage of the pandemic in Yangon, full of mystery and double-takes that invoke a palpable sense of being there and experiencing the vulnerability; a rare pleasure.
And Nada Harib, living through the trying times of war in her home of Tripoli, who conquered her fear and produced a series full of telling moments in her own understated way.
We leave you with the work of our panelists from weeks 8 and 9
Again, thank you all for your support.
To quote dear departed friend, Stanley Greene, ‘Stay safe in the life’ and keep on keeping on.
We look forward to following your ongoing work and wish you all every success.
Philip Blenkinsop and Daniel Schwartz
Friday 26 June 2020
Week # 09 Edit of Panelists’ work. 25th June 2020
Week # 08 Edit of Panelists’ work. 12th June 2020
Hello again and welcome.
Our apologies for the delay in bringing you week #07.
I put it down to a conspiring planetary alignment far out of the sphere of our mortal control.
It has been a while now that we have received little word from Bangladesh; Remember that stark and unsettling image from Paul Suman that we shared on the 1st May?
I spoke to a dear friend in Dhaka last week who explained that unless photographers were working for news organisations and had specific assignments to undertake, that for the most part, people were staying put at home and that given the inadequate medical facilities in Bangladesh, the chances of receiving the proper care in the event of contracting a crippling case of COVID-19 were poor at best.
Courage, comrades under lockdown wherever you might be. Send word or image when you can.
Following our critique of one of our panelist’s images in week #06, Rajneesh Bhandari in Kathmandu, he followed up with some questions about lens choice. It’s an important issue and one which is rarely answered in the visual terms that you deserve, so we decided to look briefly at the issue during last week’s ASV session.
We invited Justin Stailey , FUJIFILM’s Senior Product Manager from North America, who generously agreed to join us and braved an early morning start for what turned out to be an eye-opening session for many and ended up running an hour over schedule. Justin is, as we speak, generously working on some images which we hope will throw some light onto what happens when prime lenses are used in conjunction with less than full-frame sensor, digital bodies. That will be something to look out for soon.
In the here and now though, Daniel and I bring you what we believe is a well-rounded version of that session here, where we offer some insight in the best way we know how, by relating our own personal experiences.
But before we do that, please enjoy the selection of our Panelists’ work from Week #07
We look forward to having you join us again on Friday 12th June at 13h00 GMT for Week #08 of Amplifying Student Voices where we will share more of your work and take some time to discuss documenting demonstrations.
Stay safe in the life,
Philip and Daniel
The deadline for submissions for Week #08 is 06h00 GMT on the 11th June. Please join us on Friday, the 12th June for our ASV Zoom session at 13h00 GMT.
Click Here to Register & Upload Images for Week #08
Already Registered? Click Here to Upload Images for Week #08
Week # 07 Edit of Panelists’ work. 5th June 2020
Daniel and I shared a visual list of the equipment that we’ve used during our careers to date during week seven of ASV and that list is unsurprisingly short. We spoke about the reasons why. Reasons which we have condensed for you here in a few short texts.
Obviously, our advice is for photographers working in the documentary field, and the advice, naturally, follows our own approaches. Remember there is no one pill to kill everything.
DS: From the 1970s until the mid-1980s the “new “objectivity” tradition of the Zurich art school had me locked onto the Hasselblad medium format camera, its Carl Zeiss 1.4/50mm Distagon wide angle and the unforgivable square — the hardest school to train the eye.
In the late 1980s that practice was supplemented by a 4x5” Sinar F for the Great Wall, the equation being obvious: large subject = large camera (the only problem being that it was a studio camera and not one of those wooden Deardorffs).
Simple equation too for the tactics: instead of the stealth which such a forbidden enterprise would normally require, the trick was to stand out more than ever. My appearance in the Wall’s remote expanses and in the manner of a 19th century explorer (porters en lieu of Kulis) was often more of a spectacle than a threat. A stranger travelling with 6 crates and boxes (gear and film for many months) could simply not be on an espionage mission.
However, the gear, in essence a camouflage in the reverse sense, didn’t spare me from arrest and interrogation, but to get rid of me would always prove too cumbersome for the authorities and so, after writing self-critical letters and amending them according to what I was told, I was let free again albeit punished to take heinously arduous and long detours.
The principle to adapt my gear and approach to terrain and subject was kept in the 1990s in the cyclone-, flood- and erosion-prone deltas of South and Southeast Asia. On the Hasselblad the Carl Zeiss 2.8/80mm Planar had replaced the wide angle. This kit and two Contax RTS armed with Carl Zeiss 2.8/25mm and 1.4/85mm lenses stood the test of monsoon downpour, humidity and saltwater (not the Contax 137, dying miserably due to corrosion and replaced with the robust RTS III); all could be stashed into a wax covered rafting bag or a Posso box when challenging the rolling masses of silt-carrying waves of the Bay of Bengal, the flooded rice paddies and Mangrove belts of the Mekong and Irrawaddy Deltas.
In the mid-1990s, shifting my attention to the wars and crises in Central Asia and adjacent regions, the Contax largely stayed at home, but one of two Hasselblad magazines now held colour film. My book publisher had asked to find out what colour would do to my mind and eye, and the magazines felt better knowing that I would bring chromes back from my wanderings in the forbidding mountain ranges, across deserts, steppes and ambush corridors.
By then I had perfected the hand-held use of the Hasselblad, like my colleagues had, their eroticised Leicas. The prism finder and, more importantly, the quick-focussing-handle (probably invented for indoor fashion photographers) attached to the lens gave total control over composition and depth of field in every situation, even in obscurity at f2.8 at ½ second. When shooting from a driving car, I could literally throw the camera at the subject.
The ‘clack’ of the slamming mirror became the acoustic approval of what eye and thought had pre-composed as diptych or triptych. The sturdiness of the apparatus, used like a prospector’s instrument, evoked respect from local companions who got me into desolate, dust-filled or frozen zones and out again.
Despite its visibility, the Hasselblad didn’t obstruct my agility whether I worked in the frenzy of a Dhaka street or stood on the boardroom table of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Even Taliban fighters succumbed to the allure of Swedish steel and wanted their portraits taken.
In 2009 the Contax was reanimated but now fitted with a beautiful lens that had been dormant for 30 years: the Carl Zeiss 1.4/50mm Planar! It has stayed on the RTS every since.
At the same time I took into the air to document the dying Swiss and Equatorial glaciers, and thus the Hasselblad with the 80mm Planar found yet another almost natural application.
The geometrically true ‘aviatic’ perspective became the signature of my “glaciology in pictures”, my most recent project on global glacier collapse. My ‟Cobra” method, a term coined by Philip Blenkinsop when seeing me in the field and tested and adopted during three decades on the road, now allowed from the helicopter those ‟explanatory” and yet vertigo-inducing photographs which I hoped would be of relevance in the future and set my work apart from the aerials commonly seen when photographers look down on the planets surface.
PB: The Leica M has been my constant and steadfast companion since 1989; about the only times it came off my shoulder were to shower or sleep and the only times the 35mm lens came off it, aside from to shoot two or three frames on a 50 Summilux in the early years, was if it was broken or damaged and needed to be replaced; with another 35mm lens. It’s a way of seeing, the Leica M; the perfect tool for interpreting the street; there will never be one of the same format more suited; everything about it makes sense. Eroticised? People who haven’t taken Leicas as lovers will never know such ecstatic heights!
It became fast obvious to me though, at 23, that certain subjects deserved a grander format; subjects that were simply too ‘easy’ or ‘two-dimensional’ for the Leica; this was something I was not prepared to ignore. The images I made had to live and breathe; have souls of their own, otherwise I considered them a failure. I still judge my work in that same harsh light.
A larger format camera, able to bring to the surface the solemnity of a scene or a subject and render the image timeless was indispensable. You only have to look at the work of Roger Fenton or Matthew Brady, or the truly sublime work of Edward S.Curtis (below) to understand.
Unlike those pioneers though, with their heavy cameras and wet plates, the Polaroid cameras that I would enlist up until 2003 allowed me the freedom of movement that I needed to travel on foot and the manoeuvrability that allowed for a degree of spontaneity in my work.
The SE 600 (3¼" x 4 ¼") was a wonderful beast, robust and reliable, but it was cumbersome even with the lens unmounted and I needed to be able to walk, carrying everything, including a bucket of sloshing sodium sulfite to fix the negatives, and still be able to shoot with the Leica. It often meant that I slept on cold forest floors, freezing at night because my skinny shoulders could simply not bear the added burden of a sleeping bag on top of my cameras, film and essential accoutrements.
My approach was, and will always remain, to choose the path that allows me to attempt the most profound interpretation of the life I am sharing, hence my choice of equipment; not the route of the masses, whose approach was built around the concern for the speed with which they can guarantee delivery of the work to news outlets to reap financial gain.
I rue my decision to stop using it (the SE600) in favour of the folding Polaroid 180 Land Camera; while the latter’s ability to fold and its more compact dimensions made it easier to move with and faster to put into operation, it was also very fragile.
On two occasions I lost almost everything that I shot on it after the lens was knocked out of alignment during jungle/mountain treks. The first time this happened was in Papua New Guinea with OPM guerrillas in 1999, the second time, was during a trip into the highlands of Laos in search of Hmong veterans of the CIA’s secret war in January of 2003.
On this second occasion, and fortuitously so, I had predetermined to back up all of my Polaroid portraits with the Mamiya 6 (120mm), just in case; had I not done this, I would have come home with no portraits at all.
Enough was enough. Laos was the last time I carried the Land Camera. I just couldn’t depend on it to survive the treatment it inevitably received every time I went bush.
My Mamiya replaced it and became a workhorse alongside the Leica. It was a perfect balance. I still mourn the loss of the 665 negative like a lost love. (anyone who has used this film knows what I mean). The decision I made was a cold, difficult and calculated one, but in turning my back on the Polaroid, I gained the greater mobility, reliability and the all-rounder aspects of the Mamiya with its collapsible lens mount and incredibly fast and bright rangefinder focussing system.
It allowed me to achieve so many things that would not have been possible otherwise.
Recently I have begun using the Fujifilm GFX 50 R. That’s new ground for me, but the most important thing that I am driving at here hasn’t changed, which is, with each format, I only ever use one lens, that lens being one that is close to the human eye’s field of view and which allows me to shoot without the kind of distortion that comes with wider angle lenses.
I need to know exactly what my frame is before I bring the camera to my eye; once the camera is there, there is no time for adjustments. I either have it or it is gone; and I need to guarantee the coherency of my vision, even more so as I am constantly switching from one format to another. Keeping the same prime lens that approximates the human view allows me to achieve this and it is the best advice I could give to any aspiring photographer.
The art of photographing life unfolding on the street, an especially demanding theatre and the ‘final frontier’ for many young photographers, is concerned with observation and interpretation. The more lenses you have in your bag, the more diluted you can expect your vision to be and the more images you can expect to let slip through your grasp. If you have a zoom lens in your bag then the word vision is not in your vocabulary.
What is important is not only your eye and how you process the visual information but how you react to what is happening in your viewfinder. If you are on the street shooting and you notice, for instance, that you are standing still every time you release the shutter, then you are doing things wrong. The street is for dancing.
If you need a lesson here, put down Cartier Bresson and pick up Robert Frank.
Potential elements of an image are not in orbit around the photographer, as many ‘would-be’ street photographers would have you believe in their you-tube tutorials; the chances of everything coming together for you as you stand on your heels, finger on your motor-drive with your background ossified like a week-in-week-out theatre drop, are zero.”
As the world around me is constantly on the move, so must I be. Every element within my field of view is moving in its own unique orbit, the bicycles coming into my frame, the woman slicing gracefully at right angles through the madness of the traffic using her hand as both scalpel and a warning, two men with their heads buried in the back of a cart full of heavy fat sacks and the CNGs that I want in between with their smashed windscreens, dented panels and black silhouetted figures sat like negative space between rust spotted chrome poles (not the homegeneous, enclosed, white, give-nothing-away-tinted-windowed, pressed-metal space-eaters on wheels that also punctuate the traffic). I take them all in from afar, assessing their speed and trajectories, constantly readjusting my own orbit, processing the information and reacting to it as quickly as I am able, running into place if need be and fine-tuning my position like a manic humming-bird around a flower in a gale as I drift, striving to put myself in the zone where for an instant all those other orbits come together for me to freeze them in a two-dimensional plane; as I trip the shutter they each become cogs in an elaborate Da Vinciesque blueprint, each element integral to the balance of the whole; a split second later as each element continues on its own unique trajectory, the choreographed scene explodes and my image is the only surviving evidence of their fleeting collaboration.
Hello again to you all and welcome.
Last Friday we were fortunate to have with us once more as a panelist, from Tripoli, Nada Harib, for whom COVID-19 is just another layer of concern atop the war in the Libyan capital.
We highlight her work here and draw attention to the courage that she and many others in her situation have to find inside themselves in order to live through and document these trying times.
Thank you, those of you who sent in your wishes of support for her.
We also shared the day with Rajneesh Bhandari and Robic Upadhayay, both from Nepal and both prior panelists, whose surreal and dystopian offerings from the streets of Kathmandu, echoes of past ages, encourage us to consider the dehumanising effects of fear and ignorance, and finally, Ko Myo, from Burma (Myanmar) who makes his third appearance here with another memorable COVID-19 moment from the streets of Rangoon (Yangon).
Thank you all for submitting your work once more. Please do not be discouraged if you have not had work selected yet. We review all of the work without exception and look forward to new offerings from you all in the coming days.
Courage and stay safe.
Philip and Daniel.
Week # 06 Edit of Panelists’ work. 29th May 2020
We begin this week’s edit with an extract from Nada Harib’s recent whatsapp message to Daniel Schwartz regarding her possible participation in a workshop programme.
(Lines of text have been enlarged for the purpose of sharing her message here on this ASV platform. Her original message was in plain, single point font.)
There’s no shortage of players in Libya’s conflict. But few champions for peace. <The Conversation 25 May 2020>
And from Kathmandu…..
With the world under lockdown, in India, Narendra Modi’s government has put in place the colonial British Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897. The Act was originally put in place due to the mass spread of the bubonic plague outbreak in Bombay.
“The juxtaposition of these two images, Bhandari’s photograph and Luyken’s engraving, made over three hundred years prior, are interesting, not merely from an historical point of view, but also from an artistic point of view.“
“The compositions are very similar, but Luyken has employed a longer ‘focal length’ to interpret the scene. Our colleague, Rajneesh Bhandari, while we can agree that his image definitely has merits and will most certainly be one which will have historical importance when we look back at this time, has been limited in his ability to interpret the scene by the use of a 24mm — 70mm zoom lens.
An important aside here: Zoom lenses are the Devil. Resist the temptation to acquire one, even if offered freely. If a paperweight is what you need, then there are far more beautiful and better designed instruments for that purpose such as the handmade axe heads that my partner in crime Daniel Schwartz chose to carry all through the Irrawaddy Delta recently; an acquisition triggered by a primal longing and appreciation for things born of no mould that we would all do well to aspire to in this ever-increasingly homogeneous world.
Sell your soul to the diabolical zoom you will continue to compromise the development of your visual language.
By working very close to the main subject with a wide lens, the distance between foreground and mid-ground becomes exaggerated to the point of disallowing any meaningful relationship between the two additional (and very important) figures in white whose actions and postures mimic the main character.
By contrast, Luyken has managed to create a perfectly balanced tableau where the viewer can move past the main protagonists and explore the devastation.
You might argue that Luyken had a lot more time to execute his vision, true; however, with a well-trained eye and the parameters of your prime lens viewfinder permanently etched in your eyeballs as you move through a scene, you are able to choreograph and interpret actions unfolding before you quickly and intuitively.
All that said however, Rajneesh Bhandari has captured a scene of an undeniably disturbing nature here at a time when many are perhaps content merely to stay off the streets.
Its value should not be underestimated.
Click Here to Register & Upload Images for Week #07
Already Registered? Click Here to Upload Images for Week #07
Please follow the following guide when submitting images for week #07
“Hello again and thank you all, panelists and those of you who joined us in the audience, for participating in ASV week five.
We have been able to share some beautiful observations made during this time of pandemic, however, it is important (and not a little disturbing) to note that we still receive a great many images with poorly written or incomplete caption fields.
To follow up on some of our conversations from last Friday we have reiterated some thoughts and additions here in writing for your consideration.
Please bear in mind, that each and every image you submit, here or anywhere else, must have a dedicated caption. The importance of this should not be underestimated.
Without this, your images may be incorrectly attributed to other authors or not used at all.
The lack of a proper caption also suggests a lack of interest in the subject material or the issue being investigated on the part of the author, which is the last impression one wants to give to a commissioning editor or a prospective audience.
A few things that are sacrosanct in the caption are the Place, the Date, and the Photographer’s Name, ie: Calcutta, India. 20th March 2020. © Wajid Shah
Please, don’t forget when you are sending us work for week six!
And of course, please DO send us in your edits. We realise that it is not easy for many of you to work, especially our colleagues and comrades in those areas recently ravaged by Cyclone Amphan, but we wish you the courage you all need to prevail during these trying times.
Please be sure though, to calculate the risks to your well-being carefully before heading out to document.
Daniel and I look forward to discovering more of your unique visions as you continue to shine a light on your lockdown plights this coming Friday during ASV week six.
Courage for you all,”
PB & DS
Week # 05 Edit of Panelists’ work. 22ndMay 2020
For those who have never experienced Lagos, some indication within the caption as to how one might find the Ojodu Bus Terminus outside of lockdown, such as the following kind of colourful description, found in Teju Cole’s novel, ‘Every Day Is For The Thief’, might help viewers to put the image into context.
In many cultures, Crows or rather, Ravens, have long since been associated with death, ill omen or loss.
However, as Htoo Tay Zar points out, in Burma this same superstition is not shared, so the idea of waiting for several hours (as Daniel suggested) to capture the definitive image of the crow alighting from the discarded COVID-19 mask does not take on the same importance as it would for a photographer with Western roots, familiar with both the folklore attached to the bird, and to its inextricable link to plague and pestilence.
The following triptych utilises each of Htoo Tay Zar’s images submitted for week 5. Note the difference in the size of the images. This is to give a balance to the scene created by the use of the three together. If they were left the same size, the image of the Doctor at left would dominate the triptych and the ensemble would lack the balance necessary for the images to compliment each other as they do here.
It cannot be assumed that all audiences have a prior knowledge of the practice of Kite-fighting in Calcutta.
Partha Sengupta’s beautiful ‘kinetic’ image of Kartick flying his kite during lockdown would have benefitted greatly from the inclusion of some historical background, such as this extract from an article by Sudipto Sandal, published in the Hindu in 2019.
Armed with this knowledge and understanding, the viewer’s appreciation and enjoyment of the image is heightened.
It’s not always necessary to state the obvious in a caption. Unless the woman’s identity here is important, there is perhaps no need to describe what is already evident in the image. Given the personal nature of the image, taken during lockdown, Roshan Abbas might have written something along the lines of:
‘I had lost track of the number of days we had been under lockdown. Escaping the confines of my home to go on a dawn errand, everything takes on a new and magical light. 19th May 2020 © Roshan Abbas’
Thank you all for joining us for week four and a special thanks to Jim Casper, co-founder and editor in chief of ‘lensculture’, for dropping in to say hello and to those of you who have written with feedback and contributed work.
It is perhaps worthwhile to reiterate a point we have broached a few times now, the danger of something like COVID-19, (for photographers of course), is the trap of the mask. The naive belief of many is that a masked person will carry the image; of course, the opposite is true. There will always be exceptions of course, the occasional, exquisitely rendered and deeply disturbing portrait, but for the most part, what is happening within the frame is far more important. To comment on times during pandemic we need to see how people are living and the labours that occupy them while masked.
Take for instance the gorgeous offerings from Anaranya Basu and Min Myo Nyan Win this week. Take away the masks and the images are just as powerful, layered and intriguing.
The oft vacuous depiction of people wearing masks, let‘s’ call it, ‘the fashion of the mask’, does not amount to the intelligent interpretation of the life that surrounds us; I am sure that Bernd and Hilla Becher or Karl Blossfeldt, were they out there ‘collecting’, would give us something meaningful that would set our collective sights higher.
Keep your eyes peeled, courage for you all and see you again this coming Friday.
Philip and Daniel.
Week # 04 Edit of Panelists’ work. 15th May 2020
Week three and it feels like we are beginning to get into our stride.
Thank you all once more for joining us again and for engaging in Chitter Chatter, as our friend Roshan might say; (a sweetly onomatopoeic coinage indeed).
It is interesting and worth mentioning, how, when Daniel and I were offering insights into the DNA of his image of the young boy, Arman, toiling in the garden, how telling it was that the compositional elements spoke to us in such different ways.
Suffice to say that there are so many latent forces at work in a picture; In the remarkable ones, regardless of whether those forces may be simple or intricate, they compliment each other perfectly, as if preconceived by architect or arachnid, silken threads connecting in such a way as to support unimaginable loads.
In the work of a truly accomplished artist, you will find these perfectly balanced forces time and time again.
For anyone who might have felt a tad lost, hearing us harp on about imaginary crosses and circles, we’ve added some drawings to demystify things, or, perhaps, to complicate things even further.
So, enjoy once more the work offered here by our panelists and thank you all for submitting.
We look forward to receiving your latest works, any questions you might have for discussion, and to engaging with you all with our new panelists this coming Friday 15th May.
Stay safe and don’t breathe in unless you have to.
Philip and Daniel
Week # 03 Edit of Panelists’ work. 8th May 2020
As promised, some ‘deconstructions’ and ‘decipherings’ of the image.
On a closing note, Daniel and I would like to share additional images from two of our repeat offenders from week one, Mahendra Khadka and Nada Harib; lyrical additions which hint at coherent and seductive narratives in the making.
Please keep those images coming. Until next week, stay safe. PB and DS.
Week # 2
“A warm welcome to all of you, panelists and attendees who joined us yesterday for our second live ASV session and to those of you arriving here for the first time.
We open this week’s edit with Paul Suman’s other-worldly and highly unsettling image of the burial of a COVID-19 victim from the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.
Thank you for all of you who contributed images.
We look forward to being able to share more of your visions and experiences when we meet for next Friday’s session. If you haven’t already registered to join, you can follow the link just below. Please don’t leave it until the last minute to upload your images!
Following up on one of your questions from yesterday, and perhaps something to keep in mind. Memorable images offer themselves when we are in tune with our surroundings, observing life as it unfolds and thinking. Courage for your days and stay safe.”
Philip and Daniel.
Week # 02 Edit of Panelists’ work. 1st May 2020
Week # 1
“A big thank you to each of our panelists and to all those of you who uploaded your images and joined us as attendees yesterday for making our first online session in this continuing Documentary Project, ASV, such a success.
It was sobering and enlightening indeed to hear of your experiences and the challenges that you continue to face on a day to day basis.
We look forward to being able to share more of your work, and to hearing from other panelists in the weeks to come.
Please take care and remember, sometimes it is the image that comes to you. Be patient and remain open to the world around you. Feel its rhythm and those moments when it skips a beat. Courage for you all,”
Philip and Daniel
Week # 01 Edit of Panelists’ work. 24th April 2020
Week # 00
A guide to submitting your work and registering for the free online weekly discussions.
Submit your work.
These challenging times call for lateral thinking and different forms of engagement and cooperation. The aims of this program are:
To create an online forum where we engage in a conversation about effective visual strategies to comment on the continuing pandemic.
To provide a platform for former students, who seek to share their photographic approach and interpretations of life from their homes and communities during the COVID 19 pandemic. This will facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experience and offer selected contributing photographers the chance to discuss the issues, hardships, and dilemmas facing them and their communities with an international audience through both the online sessions, and subsequently via the VII Academy website.
To amplify the voices of our student photographers along with their communities, and further build a network of engaged young people that spans artificial political boundaries.
Our weekly, hour-long sessions will take place each Friday at 13h00 GMT.
Please register and upload your images before 06h00 GMT on 7th May and join us on Friday, 8th May at 13h00 GMT, for our third round-table talk.
How Do I Access The Online Discussion?
Access to attend the online sessions, held on ZOOM, is automatic for anyone who has registered and uploaded an image(s) for consideration, however, due to the time constraints and restrictions of online seminars, only the photographers whose work is selected for discussion each week will be invited to take part in the conversation.
What to upload? A brief guideline.
You may upload a maximum of three images plus a self-portrait in your COVID-19 environment each week. We are looking for views beyond the obvious: the alternative gaze; unique visions; images that speak of the current status quo; mystery; the unknown. Edit wisely and avoid repetition within your selection.
IPTC info — captioning your work
Your images MUST have caption info embedded in the IPTC field to be eligible for consideration. Please rename your images as shown below, and include a description of the image, including the location, country, and date.
How will work be chosen?
We will take into account the various merits of the work: each photographer’s vision and execution, the strength and intelligence of the interpretation of the scene, the news value, rarity and relevance of the coverage; and not least of all, the photographer’s ability to empathize and treat her/his subjects respectfully.
Daniel and Philip will discuss their selection, the reasons for the choices they make, and the various strengths of the images chosen; what might have been and perhaps what other avenues might have been explored, unlocking doors that might otherwise seem immovable.
The work chosen will be continuously updated on the VII Academy’s Instagram feed, with full captions and bylines.
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Your Hosts: Daniel Schwartz and Philip Blenkinsop of the VII Photo Agency, are fastidious book fetishists. Friends since their first serendipitous meeting on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in 1993, they are the embodiment of Yin and Yang.
Numerous are the times their paths have overlapped since, as the two have crisscrossed their adopted frontiers; Schwartz with his meticulously planned ‘expeditions’ and Blenkinsop, as Schwartz is fond of pointing out, in the manner of a flâneur.
Indeed there are 180 degrees of separation between their approaches and the images that result, and yet, as if by some small miracle, the visual language they share is of the same tongue and sentiments, their motivation, born of the same spore.
Image Captions for opening Stiller/Harib diptych.
1/ Lockdown in the 10th district of Budapest, Hungary. March 19th 2020. © Akos Stiller
2/ Some Libyans don’t recognise the danger of the pandemic even after the discovery of the first confirmed case of COVID- 19 in the country. Some don't take it seriously and treat it as a joke; some are too busy with other challenges like water and electricity cuts, and gas and bank queues. Some are busy because they’ve been displaced from their homes because of the war’s escalation. And some are in mourning because of the loss of their loved ones caused by indiscriminate shelling. There are some who are informed and rightly concerned because of the virus and are doing their best to raise awareness in this ever-changing situation.
My mom and I went to the supermarket and wore our masks and gloves for the first time. Such a strange feeling to one of just a few wearing them— many eyes staring at us. There weren’t too many people in the supermarket. The shelves of food haven’t emptied yet. We bought extra food to store before the crowds begin. Now, after a couple of weeks of quarantine, there are 9 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The government has announced a 24-hour curfew for 10 days that is going to start on the 17 of April to reduce the spread of the virus.
The streets are crowded and packed with cars and the supermarkets have long queues too. The holy month of Ramadan is getting closer and more people are realising the danger of the pandemic.
Here is a photo of a young man waiting for people to sanitise their hands before entering the supermarket. March 22nd, 2020. Tripoli, Libya. © Nada Harib