ASV Final Week

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.

Arsène Mpiana Monkwe’s image from ASV week 8
All photos © Arsène Mpiana Monkwe

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.

The leading images from a Google image search for George Floyd Demonstrations

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.

Searching for human elements in unfolding demonstrations. L-R <Nepal - Blenkinsop / VII> - <Switzerland -Schwartz / VII> - <USA — Gilbertson / VII>

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.

All photos © Ko Myo

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

Myanmar born Canada citizen pastor, Saw David Lah, is seen at court for violating social distancing law in Yangon, Myanmar. Saw David Lah hosted a private prayer mass in March which event has infected coronavirus among prayers. He has been accused as super spreader in Myanmar as over 80 related cases has been emerge from the event. © Htoo Tay Zar
Three auxiliary forces members, in the background, return after kicking out a few individuals from the beach. In the foreground, Auxiliary forces chief , head of district (my father) and an “authority agent” supervising the seafront. These front-liners are implementing governmental measures with regards to the fight against Covid-19. As an “authority agent”, to give a literal translation of the job title, my father and other agents he supervises are tasked with reassuring that the lockdown measures are followed by the different parties, and supervise activities like testings, while making sure that infected individuals are in quarantine, after issuing a “confinement order”. Larache, Morocco. 6th June 2020 © Amine Machitouen
A couple wears face masks while hugging their newborn baby at the National Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology on 11th March 2020 in Hanoi. © Thanh-Hue Nguyen

Week # 08 Edit of Panelists’ work. 12th June 2020

1/ A child throws a small stone at a hungry dog as people queue for food at a feeding drive in Coronationville, Johannesburg. Due to the national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many citizens have lost their jobs and are going hungry, which has resulted in many citizen-driven initiatives to feed those in need. Despite the initial appearance of unity across racial and economic boundaries during the beginning of the pandemic, time has revealed that the current circumstances are magnifying the already existing inequalities in post-apartheid South Africa. During the lockdown, there are only those who grow fat, and those who starve. Coronationville, Johannesburg, South Africa, 19 May 2020 2/ A woman runs as a building begins to collapse while others try to save their belongings during a building fire in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, South Africa, 16 April 2020. Despite the country being under national lockdown in response to COVID-19, hundreds of residents gathered together in the street to observe a building fire. Social distancing is not observable in many of the lower income areas of Johannesburg. In this abondoned building, since been occupied by people mostly working in the informal economy, staying at home means not earning a living. Torn between compliance and survival, the loss of their homes in the middle of winter amidst the pandemic can be an insurmountable loss. Hillbrow, Johannesburg, South Africa, 16 April 2020 © Yeshiel Panchia
The government decided to reopen liquor shops to help boost the country’s economy by a little — but this caused the social distancing norms to go for a toss. There were long lines and crowds waiting to buy liquor. © Gautam Doshi
My husband Ron with our daughter Anastasia in our “paradise house”, where we always dreamed to live but never had the chance to stay as long. Do I feel isolated or lonely now? Since I moved to France I am so isolated that now not a lot has changed for me…. Sometimes I even feel more comfortable and protected during the time of lockdown. Bandol, France. 26th March 2020 ©Yulia Grigoryants

Week #7

ASV Week #07

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?

The burial of a COVID 19 victim in the Khilgaoan graveyard. As of now now, about 7103 are effected, 150 have recovered and 163 people have died of COVID 19 in Bangladesh. Khilgaoan, Dhaka. © Paul Suman

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

Detailed guidelines for uploading images can be found at the end of this Week #6 Edit.

Week # 07 Edit of Panelists’ work. 5th June 2020

As an engineer and an extreme extrovert, my husband Hazem isn’t used to working from home. As we now share space and daily routines, he has become part of my creative process which I would normally experience while he is at work. Cairo, Egypt. © Rehab Eldalil
A believer during prayer in a mosque. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began during the lockdown and prayers in the mosque were banned. In the second half of Ramadan, a small number of people with a high level of caution are allowed to pray in the mosque. From the series “How has COVID-19 changed this year’s Ramadan”. City Mosque, Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, © Bahrudin Bandic
a/ During the COVID-19 pandemic, A passenger man lying on a circular train seat in Yangon, Myanmar. June.3.2020 .The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on circular train transport in Myanmar. Most of the local people are avoiding to ride the circular train during COVID-19 period. b/ During the COVID-19 pandemic, Buddhist nuns (Bhikkhunī) wear the protective face masks while riding the circular train in Yangon. During this period, the nuns are more vulnerable than most people as they have to go out every day to collect alms. Yangon, Myanmar. June.1.2020. © Kaung Swan Thar
What I remember the most about my childhood is going for a hair cut in my dad’s scooter to a nearby city, it also meant I would get perk chocolate too after the hair cut. Now I see my dad had called a Chandra uncle (barber) to the house for a hair cut. It has been over two months of lockdown where all shops were remained closed except the essentials. Chandra uncle is the same man who used to cut my hair in my childhood. Now I gaze my father and photograph him before he used to scold me when I used to move a lot during a haircut in the salon, sitting on the wooden flank, resting on the arms of the chair to elevate for a hair cut. New Farakka, India. 29th May 2020. © Masood Sarwer.
Tabriz, Iran © Sima Choubdarzadeh

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.

1/ Schwartz’ equipment since 1977. Contax RTS (2 bodies) and RTS III with Carl Zeiss lenses 25 mm f 2.8, 50 mm f 1,4 and 85 mm f 1,4 lenses, Contax T2 with Carl Zeiss lens 38 mm f 2.8; Hasselblad 500 /M (fitted with Prism Finder) and Carl Zeiss lenses 50 mm f 1.4 and 80 mm f 2.8. In addition a Sinar F with Rodenstock lenses 150 mm f 5.6 and 210 mm f 5.6, and Schneider lens 75 mm f 5.6 2/ Blenkinsop’s equipment since 1989. Polaroid SE 600 with Mamiya 127 mm f 4.7 lens, Polaroid 180 Land Camera with fixed 114mm f/4.5 Tominon lens, Mamiya 6 with Mamiya 75mm f3.5 lens, Fujifilm GFX 50 R with FUJINON GF63mm F2.8 R WR lens, Pentax Spotmeter, Leica MP with 35mm Summicron f2 and 35mm Summilux f1.4 lens
DS on a ruby miner’s expedition in the mountains of Badakshan, ca. 5000 M.A.S.L. Tajikistan, 21 September 1996. © Schwartz / VII. (Contax T2, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 38mm f 2,8)

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.

1/ Porters with 4x5 Camera Crates and Guide. Simatai Section, The Great Wall of China. China. 3 November 1987. © Schwartz / VII. (Contax RTS, Carl Zeiss Planar 25 mm f 2.8) — 2/ DS with Sinar F on Manfrotto tripod. Great Wall Badaling Section. China. 27 May 1987. © Schwartz / VII. (Hasselblad 500 C/M, Carl Zeiss Distagon C 50 mm f 1.4)

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.

Crossing Sandwip Channel, Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh. 7 July 1994. © Schwartz / VII. (Contax RTS, Carl Zeiss Planar 85 mm f 1.4) [Courtesy Kunstraum Medici, Solothurn]

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.

1/ Bandaged monk, Myaung Mya. Burma. 8 October 2019. © Schwartz / VII. (Contax RTS, Carl Zeiss Planar 50 mm f 1.4) — 2/ Forestry Accident. Sundarbans. Bangladesh, 2 July 1994. © Schwartz / VII (Contax RTS, Carl Zeiss Planar 2,8/25 mm.)
Transit camp at the site of Timurid era medressa, for people from Badghis Province displaced by drought. Herat. Afghanistan. 28 March 2001. © Schwartz / VII. (Hasselblad 500 C/M, Carl Zeiss Planar C 80 mm f 2.8)

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.

On the Road between the Iranian border crossing of Islamqaleh and Herat. Afghanistan, 2 April 2001. © Schwartz / VII. (Hasselblad 500 C/M, Carl Zeiss Planar C 80 mm f 2.8 [left and center] and Sonnar 150 mm f 1.4 [right])

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.

Fetching water from a dying lake. Akshi. Kazakhstan. 11 May 2001. © Schwartz / VII. (Hasselblad 500 C/M, Carl Zeiss Planar C 80 mm f 2.8)

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.

Wall Street. New York. 10 August 1998. © Schwartz / VII. (Hasselblad 500 C/M, Carl Zeiss Planar C 80 mm f 2.8)

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.

1/ Transaction. Lashio, Shan State. Burma. 31 February 1998. © Schwartz / VII. (Hasselblad 500 C/M, Carl Zeiss Planar C 80 mm f 2.8) — 2/ Schwartz’s ‘Cobra Method’. Irrawaddy Delta Region, Burma 2019. © Blenkinsop / VII. Fujifilm GFX 50 R Fujinon 63mm F2.8 R WR — 3/ Cyclone Aftermath. Kutubdia Island. Bangladesh. 21 May 1991© Schwartz / VII. (Hasselblad 500 C/M, Carl Zeiss Planar C 80 mm f 2.8)

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.

Alpine Glacier Collapse. Monte Rosa. Switzerland. 2 November 2014. © Schwartz / VII. (Hasselblad 500 C/M, Carl Zeiss Planar C 80 mm f 2.8)

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 with Karen guerrillas in Kawmura, Kawthoolei State, Burma 1991. (shot on my Polaroid SE600 by another Karen fighter)

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!

1/ Bangkok, Thailand Circa 1992 © Blenkinsop / VII (Leica M 35mm lens) — 2/ Outdoor, roadside VIP welcoming committee. Moung. (PB with Leica M slung over shoulder) Cambodia 1989. Shot on my Polaroid SE 600 by security. © Blenkinsop / VII - 3/ Raindance. Banteay Chmar, Cambodia. 1990 © Blenkinsop / VII (Leica M 35mm lens)

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.

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam 1989 © Blenkinsop / VII (shot on the Polaroid SE 600 with Mamiya 127mm f4.7 lens)

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.

a/ On the road to Pouthisat. Vietnamese troop withdrawal. Cambodia 1989 b/ PAVN Troops relaxing in the street, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam 1989 © Blenkinsop / VII (Polaroid SE 600 )c/ Blenkinsop shooting with the SE 600 in Cambodia’s ‘Liberated’ Zone (dark slide between teeth) 1990. © Robert Birsel

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.

1/ Mexxie Mekawa, OPM Guerrilla. Papua New Guinea 1999 © Blenkinsop (Polaroid 180 Land Camera) - 2/ PB washing Polaroid negatives in the mountains of East Timor after dusk. Shot on my Leica by Muki (aka Sophie Barry) 1998 — 3/ Falintil Deerhunter. Mountains of East Timor 1998 © Blenkinsop / VII (Polaroid 180 Land Camera)

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.

The Secret War In Laos Continues. Xaysomboune Killing Zone. Laos. January 2003 © Blenkinsop / VII (Mamiya 6 & 75mm lens)

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.

Ground Zero. Banda Aceh. Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami. Aceh. January 2005. © Blenkinsop / VII (Octaptych Panorama. Mamiya 6 & 75mm lens)
Burma Road, Burma 2012. © Blenkinsop / VII (From my car window. Mamiya 6 & 75mm lens)

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.”

Dhaka 2009. © Blenkinsop / VII (Leica M & 35mm lens)

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.


Week #6

ASV Week #06

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.)

a/ In the stairwell from the ground floor of Tripoli Central Hospital on Al-Zawiya Street in downtown Tripoli, Libya. On May 14, 2020, the hospital and neighbouring areas were hit by indiscriminate bombing at dawn, wounding some civilians. My cousins’ place was nearby, too, and they were in isolation because of the pandemic. b/ “She asked me to take photos of her legs to show the world what happened to her without mentioning her name.” Civilian victim of shelling in the Tripoli Central Hospital. Tripoli, Libya. 22nd May 2020. © Nada Harib
Nada Harib shares her experiences with panelists Ko Myo, Rajneesh Bhandari and Robic Upadhayay during last Friday’s ASV session

There’s no shortage of players in Libya’s conflict. But few champions for peace. <The Conversation 25 May 2020>

And from Kathmandu…..

“Spraying or fumigation of outdoor spaces, such as streets or marketplaces, is not recommended to kill the COVID-19 virus or other pathogens because disinfectant is inactivated by dirt and debris”, explains the WHO official and doesn’t recommend the action under any circumstances as it could be physically and psychologically harmful instead. However, scenes like this are common these days on the streets of Kathmandu and elsewhere in Nepal. Kathmandu, Nepal. 18th May 2020. © Robic Upadhayay
Municipal workers and locals attempt to sterilise the neighbourhood I live in, spraying disinfectants on whatever and whoever they find on the streets to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading. The sad part is they are spraying disinfectants even on people outside, specially targeting immigrants and daily wage workers. Paranoia and spread of half-truths are making people take desperate and sometimes outright stupid measures. The government had to take out a circular to stop its citizens from spraying chemicals on others. Kathmandu, Nepal. 18th May 2020. © Robic Upadhayay

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.

Source: University of Cambridge.
Disinfecting Trans-Lyari plague sufferers in wooden tubs, Karachi, India. 1897. Karachi is a port in the province of Sind (now [1996] Pakistan). It was placed in quarantine in 1882, during the outbreak of bubonic plague which spread from Bombay. The Plague Committee consisted mostly of volunteers, who were organised into parties and were responsible for the segregation and inoculation of various districts. Contained in an album of photographs which show the work of the Karachi Plague Committee in 1897. Photograph probably by Jalbhoy, R. ©Wellcome Collection.
Hospital staff disinfecting patients during the outbreak of bubonic plague in Karachi, India. 1897. ©Wellcome Collection.
Contributors Criouleansky & Marshall, Artists and Photographers (Mandalay, Burma). Lettering: The Plague in Mandalay, disinfecting a house. Publication/Creation: Mandalay : Criouleansky & Marshall, 1906. ©Wellcome Library no. 34806i
Nepal Police is using a special device to enforce physical distancing during the COVID-19 lockdown. Police in Kathmandu detain people who defy the restriction using the device, which is two meters long and looks like forceps. Detainees are held with the device, moved to a van, and given awareness lessons on physical distancing. Police are enforcing the lockdown imposed by the government since March 24th. Kathmandu, Nepal. April 3, 2020. © Rajneesh Bhandari
A volunteer at Lagankhel Samaj, a volunteer-driven community organization, distributes food in Lalitpur because Nepal has been in COVID-19 lockdown since the last week of March. It costs Lanankhel Samaj around US$ 250 per day to prepare the food for around 300 people. To meet that cost, members fundraise within the community. Many people have come forward to support vulnerable populations in these difficult times. Lalitpur, Nepal. May 12th, 2020. © Rajneesh Bhandari
Plague, 1695–1705. Jan Luyken (April 16, 1649 — April 5, 1712) was a Dutch poet, illustrator and engraver. He illustrated the 1685 edition of the Martyrs Mirror with 104 copper etchings. Thirty of these plates survive and are part of The Mirror of the Martyrs exhibit.

“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.

Pest te Napels, 1656. Caspar Luyken, the only child of five born to Jan Luyken and Maria de Ouden to survive to adulthood, and who learned his trade from his father, made this etching at the age of 16, forty two years after the plague in Naples.
Buddhist monks wearing face masks walk to collect food in the outskirts of Yangon amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19, Myanmar, May 23, 2020. © Ko Myo
Life goes on in Banshighat, popularly known as Squatter Settlement or ‘Sukumbasi Basti’ in Kathmandu. The COVID-19 lockdown has a different meaning to different people. It requires people to stay indoors in their homes to maintain physical distancing, but the idea of ‘home’ might not be as universal as we would imagine. (Kathmandu, Nepal) © Robic Upadhayay

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Week #5

ASV Week #05

“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,”


Week # 05 Edit of Panelists’ work. 22ndMay 2020

Ojodu Berger Bus Stop as lockdown is gradually eased and public transportation is allowed to work again. Lagos, Nigeria. 16th May 2020. © Damilola Onafuwa

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.

Passengers in the subway following social distancing during COVID-19 pandemic. Sofia, Bulgaria. March 28 2020. © Anastas Tarpanov
Stuck in a traffic jam, this soldier descends to bring order; during this pandemic period not only is movement difficult, but we also see traffic jams too, Kinshasa, DRC, 14th May 2020. © Arsène Mpiana Monkwe
Residential neighbourhoods of Yangon under lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. 13th April 2020 © Htoo Tay Zar

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 Belfast News-Letter. (extract) 1887

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.

1/ Frontline rescue volunteer workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to carry a COVID-19 suspected person in Yangon, Myanmar on 16 April 2020. 2/ People wearing surgical masks buying fruits in wet market in Yangon, Myanmar on 13 April 2020. 3/ A discarded surgical mask is seen hanging on the fence of a residential building in Yangon, Myanmar on 13 April 2020. © Htoo Tay Zar
To protect themselves from the bubonic plague, doctors in 17th century Europe wore protective hoods during outbreaks like these plague masks from the German Museum of Medical History (left and right). The face was completely covered by a cotton velvet mask and the wearer breathed through two small holes in the ‘beak’, which held herbs or sponges soaked in vinegar. These were believed to filter the air and repel disease. Glass lenses covered the eyes to ward off the patient’s gaze, in case the illness spread by eye-contact. The plague mask was coated with a layer of wax on the inside and came with a cloak-like leather costume to cover the entire body, forming a protective suit. Centre image: Paul Fürst, engraving, c. 1721, of a plague doctor of Marseilles (introduced as ‘Dr Beaky of Rome’). His nose-case is filled with herbal material to keep off the plague. The costume terrified people because it was a sign of imminent death.
3/ A portrait of my mother, a nurse, on returning home from work. © Tommie Ominde
The three images submitted by Tommie Ominde for week 5 work naturally as a triptych, the hands working together to unify the subjects almost in the act of defiance against the situation in which they find themselves. It is a perfect example of images, each of them well-crafted in their own right, working together to create, arguably, a more powerful whole. 1/ Social distancing has been one of the hardest things to do. 2/ Manu, 12, poses for a photograph with his days catch. 3/ A portrait of my mother, a nurse, on returning home from work. © Tommie Ominde
Kartick is a day labourer, out of work since the lockdown in India began on March 22nd. He loves to fly his kite but due to his long working hours, he no longer had time to pursue his passion. Now though, with ample time to do this because of the lockdown, it has given him immense pleasure. Kolkata. India. 9th May 2020. © Partha Sengupta

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.

1/ On a late afternoon I had noticed hawks were hovering on south-western part near to my locality. There is a canal circling around the city, a COVID-19 hospital and a funeral ground. Deaths are happening all around the city which scares the people and acts as a warning to stay indoors. Kolkata. 18 May 2020. ©Partha Sengupta
A woman walks out of morning mist just after dawn, I’ve lost track of the number of days we’ve been under the lockdown. 19th May 2020. © Roshan Abbas

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’

Week #4

ASV Week #04

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

I am living in a COVID-19 hotspot zone. One fine morning I saw some new activities in my area, people dressed in protective gear arriving to sanitise my area including my home. The situation is really worse here, living in Calcutta, so I can’t prevent myself from documenting these things. One day, these scenes will become history for sure. Calcutta, West Bengal, India. 23rd of March, 2020. © Anaranya Basu
A boy hawking onions on a wheelbarrow. 24th April 2020 © Adetona Omokanye
A boy covers his face while waiting for his parents on the street of Yangon downtown area. This township is locked down as a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19. Yangon, Myanmar. 7th May 2020. ©Min Myo Nyan Win (aka Ko Myo)
A voyage of the eye (pink) and structures laid bare. (lime/gold)
Volunteers disinfect the luggage of people returning from abroad in the quarantine centre on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar. 8th May 2020 © Thet Htoo
Volunteers bring a Buddhist monk, returning from abroad, to the quarantine centre on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar on 8th May 2020. © Thet Htoo
A police officer falls down while trying to take a picture of the other, on the day of Buddha Jayanti. The Swayambhunath temple, usually crowded on this day, was empty this year due to the lockdown imposed by the government. 14th April 2020 © Robic Upadhayay
After the government release about stay at home in response to COVID-19, my seven family members have been stuck together in our narrow apartment for almost two months now. These photographs are taken, in Tamwe Township of Yangon, within this COVID-19 period to reflect emotion and lifestyle of a family which generally represent other families too. 16th April 2020 © That Paing Dawe
An empty and quiet street in Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria. 31st March 2020 © Ebun Akinbo

Week #3

ASV Week #03

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

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a secular country of which nearly 70% of the population is affiliated to a religion either Catholic, Protestant. During this period of confinement, I went into town to see the state of the churches at that time. How are these churches because they can not accommodate more than 20 people, some are almost empty. Some pastors have decided to move to their church. a/ A Revival Democratic Church of Congo Commune of Limete City Kinshasa, shooting 1/5/2020. b/ Catholic Church of Our Lady of Africa Democratic Republic of the Congo Municipality of the city of Lemba Kinshasa 1/5/2020 © Kasangati Godelive
BACKYARD TRIVIA. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the backyard behind our apartment building became unusually lively. People started playing with their kids, doing exercises or just hanging out; Nothing spectacular from my point of view. As a response to what a regular viewer these photographs would describe as ‘nothing special’, I equip them with captions of little value. Each photo has a caption of trivial news that happened around the world on the day the photo was taken (source: Slovenian Press Agency). The way we perceive the photographs and captions depends on our point of view. But what we all have in common is the time we live in. Zagreb, April 6; A priest in the village of Belica in Međimurje County, Croatia, blessed olive twigs right out of his car on a flower Sunday, Croatian media reported. They have posted videos of the parish priest, Stjepan Šoštarić, who, when accompanied by a fire truck, drives through the parish of Belica on the open rear of the semi-truck. April 6th 2020, Ljubljana, Slovenia. © Matjaž Rušt
Mr. Gonzaga Yiga, 49, the chairperson of Kansanga Kiwafu Zone B in Kampala walks with in his village sensitizing people about COVID-19 every morning and evening reminding people to wash their hands, social distance, and staying at home to prevent COVID-19. Gonzaga started this after the government announced the outbreak of COVID-19 in Uganda on Saturday March 21, 2020. He goes door to door and ends up on the tallest building in the area where he communicates with his speaker to make sure that everyone gets the reminder. Uganda has so far registered 9 COVID-19 Cases following eight new cases confirmed by the ministry of Health on March 24, 2020. © Katumba Badru
Arman (name changed) is a 12-year-old boy who I saw toiling in the neighbourhood garden; I came to know how he lives upon inquiring about his studies. He informed me that he had to drop out of school for reasons unknown; since India is in a lockdown, I have persuaded him to rejoin the school once the schools reopen for the new session. Bijnor, India. © Roshan Abbas

As promised, some ‘deconstructions’ and ‘decipherings’ of the image.

Police officers and others rushing to rescue motorcycle riders who were hit by a car during the lockdown in Kathmandu, Nepal. © Rajneesh Bhandari
Residents set up makeshift checkpoints with burning tyres in communities to keep vigil against attacks from hoodlums ravaging neighborhoods during the lockdown, Ibeju Lekki Local Government Area, Lagos, Nigeria. April 27, 2020. © Fawaz Oyedeji
The person on the photo is my best friend, the Bosnian male archetype who lives for a chance to go up in the mountains and set up a 2-day barbecue spree with friends and family. In the Balkans, Labour Day is more important than New Years Eve, but on this occasion the whole country went under lockdown on that particular day. This photo represents a whole Balkan population on the Labour Day in the times of COVID-19, lethargic, languishing away in empathetic self-captivity, losing heart and what’s left of our social ties. The shopping cart which used to be ‘a vehicle’ for midnight shenanigans is nothing but a laundry box. ©Amina Hadziomerovic

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.

During lockdown days in evening, I spend my time on the rooftop to get fresh air. one day while I was on the rooftop I saw these termites flying on the sky. it’s surreal to watch numerous termites suddenly appearing all over the sky. © Mahendra Khadka
My dad watering the dead grass. Tripoli, Libya April 20, 2020. © Nada Harib

Week # 2

ASV Week #02

“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

The burial of a COVID-19 victim in the Khilgaoan graveyard. As of now, about 7103 are affected, 150 have recovered and 163 people have died of COVID-19 in Bangladesh. Khilgaoan, Dhaka. © Paul Suman
Zenica’s Fire Department, together with other civil protection groups, have been disinfecting the city since the first case of COVID-19 occurred in the city in mid March. The city issued a lockdown, closing everything except banks and grocery stores, and anyone older than 65 years of age or younger than 18 was restricted from going out. Currently, there are only 22 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Zenica, and there are over 800 active cases in Bosnia-Herzegovina. © Dijana Muminovic
Eric Bajramovic of Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, waits to bury his mother, Olgica Bajramovic, who passed away during the second week of lockdown due to COVID-19. The Bosnian government issued a law that citizens could not attend funeral services, religious holidays, weddings, or anything that involves a gathering of more than two people. “It’s very strange to have a funeral this way,” says Bajramovic. Family members had to practice social distancing during the funeral, but at Bosnian funerals, it is common for many friends and relatives to attend the service and comfort the family members. “So many people who loved my Mom wanted to attend the funeral, but could not,” says Bajramovic. March 30, 2020 © Dijana Muminovic
This picture is taken on my first days of self-isolation. I decided to self-isolate in my Airbnb apartment weeks before the emergency situation was announced. The first cases of COVID-19 were identified by the end of February. Masks were already nowhere to be found. By the beginning of March it was impossible to find any sanitisers or antibacterial wipes. People were in a state of panic. Tbilisi, Georgia, March 13, 2020. ©Mayya Kelova
Government started semi-lockdown since April 10th. Due to the highly contagious nature of the COVID-19, most barber shops shut down themselves. Some people still go to Yangon’s open-air barber shops, though. Sanchaung Township, Yangon, Myanmar on 25th April 2020. © YuYu Than
Customers come to place their orders; some observe and comply with the measures enforced by the Congolese state, and others seem to live their lives normally without even worrying about wearing a mask, something that is compulsory during this period of containment following the declaration of a six-week state of emergency in DR Congo. Ngaliema, Kinshasa, DRCongo © Justin Makangara
Autoportrait during COVID-19 lockdown. Bangkok, Thailand, April 20th, 2020. © Tawatchai Pattanapon Patani Studio

Week # 1

ASV Week #01

“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

Myanmar Fire Service Department’s fire fighters, wearing protective clothing, spray disinfectant along a street as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in in front of Lutheran Bethlehem Church, Thein Phyu Road, Mingalartaungnyunt Township, Yangon, Myanmar. April 23rd 2020. ©Nyanwin Minmyo (aka Ko Myo)
A monk buying meal for his lunch at one of the market in Bago region, amidst COVID-19 outbreak Myanmar, on April 10th, 2020. ©Nyanwin Minmyo (aka Ko Myo)
On the balcony of my apartment my plant is prepared to relocate. March 25th 2020, Budapest, Hungary. ©Eszter Asszonyi
I’m crying in an empty room after my flatmates moved from our apartment. March 19th 2020, Budapest, Hungary. ©Eszter Asszonyi
Police officers put road blocks on Kira Road as a way of enforcing the Presidents’ directive of no movement of unauthorised private or public means of transport. This is done to reduce congestion and maintain social distancing, which curbs the spread of COVID-19. Kampala, Uganda. April 17th 2020. ©Isaac Henry Muwanguzi
Hearing a loud vacuuming noise outside my hotel, I peek my head out the door. Housekeeping sees me and pushes me back and alerts the sanitation team to enter my room. The floor and all all my possessions are sprayed down as I hide in the bathroom. The previous night, a dozen Tibetan nomads arrived with a police escort around midnight and had heard rumours that possible infected people were being kept in the same hotel as foreigners. February 9th 2020. ©Eleanor Moseman
My father’s shirt, hanging on the bougainvillea tree to be sanitized under the sun. We are in quarantine for the 24h curfew for ten days, to curb the spread of COVID-19. No car is allowed to be used; daily essential shopping is permitted on foot individually from morning till 2:00 pm. My dad went out to a nearby shop and saw that many cars are out and have broken the curfew. Tripoli, Libya. April 20, 2020. ©Nada Harib
20th day of lockdown. At night I saw this isolated white horse near my home. Standing alone, this horse reminds me of our current situation, how this lockdown is keeping us isolated from our society. Kathmandu, Nepal. ©Mahendra Khadka
The world became smaller and more grim. What started as a trip with my mum for two weeks ended up being a forced quarantine in a city I am not familiar with and in a room that I don’t belong in. Things escalated too fast, from my mum going through to the Emergency Room three times, to the news of the Coronavirus spreading and eradicating Italy’s population off the streets, to the thousands of deaths every day. It took two weeks for mom to overcome the flu and two weeks for the entire world to shut because of COVID-19. As the past days had flown, feelings of depression and anxiety flowed through each part of my body. Feelings of helplessness and turbulence grew; I couldn’t land on the ground because each day meant that I was getting closer to home but I couldn’t…I couldn’t reach where I was going and I couldn’t see anymore… Will I be able to land? Will we be able to reach home before that virus hits me or any of my family members? Cleveland, Ohio, March 17th, 2020. ©Amina Kadous

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.

Akos Stiller and Nada Harib in their working environments. (Courtesy of the Artists)

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.

Click on this link to register and upload your images.

Already Registered? Click Here to Upload Images for our next session.

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



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