Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Human Cost of Agrotoxins

This tome documents the catastrophic consequences of inconsiderate use of agrotoxins by Monsanto in the Northeast of Argentina over twenty years, mainly congenital malformations. But there are also other kinds of sufferings that are not readily visible: miscarriages and cancer, as photojournalist Pablo E. Piovano, born 1981, states.

Unsurprisingly, most media rarely write about it. "Silence was what made most noise. So I decided to go out and document on my own to know what was happening to the health of the people living in the fumigated villages", writes Pablo E. Piovano.

In other words: "The Human Cost of Agrotoxins" is classic documentary and this means: to go out into the world, confront yourself with what is out there   and then tell us about it. 

For the full review, please see

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Foreign Correspondents: The Art of Guessing

When they arrived in Phnom Penh they discovered that there had been a revolution in Thailand. As Times correspondent, Robert was desperate. He read the French newspapers in Phnom Penh, translated the article on the revolution, rewrote it and cabled it to London. As the story was going out he remebered that the French correspondent in Bangkok was a friend of ours and totally unreliable –given to wild exaggeration and catastrophic conclusions.
"Did you cancel the cable?" I asked fearfully.
"No," said Robert, "but I added a shaky postscript: PLEASE CHECK."

Thus do the headlines in Southeast Asia originate. Formerly I had a touching faith in the veracity of our better newspapers, now I read everything from that dim area with tongue in cheek. The respectable format of the London and New York Times impresses me no longer. Behind the authoritative columns I have my memories of the wild and bewildered correspondents in the mad countires in which no Westerner knows or understands what is really happening. Robert spoke fluent Thai and knows more abot Thailand than anyone I ever met out there, but in times of stress the Thai were not given to conversation and most of Robert's stories were educated guesses.

Carol Hollinger
Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Edward Weston 1886-1958


This beautifully done book of photography by Edward Weston was edited by Manfred Heiting and comes with an essay by Terence Pitts and with a (very brief, comprising merely half a page) portrait by Ansel Adams who wrote among other things: "Edward suffers no sense of personal insecurity in his work; he required no support through 'explanations,' justifications or interpretations ... I would prefer to join Edward in avoiding verbal or written definitions of creative work. Who can talk or write about the Bach Partitas? You just play them or listen to them." And this is exactly what I did after having read that.
Edward Weston with Seneca View Camera 
Copyright: Collection Center of Creative Photography 
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of RegentsPhoto: Tina Modotti, 1924

Edward Weston was the son of a doctor, his mother died when he was five, his formal education ended before high school. "I cannot believe I learned anything of value in school, unless it be the will to rebel," he later wrote according to Terence Pitts who writes about the life and art of the photographer in an interesting text entitled "Uncompromising Passion".

Before spending time with this book, I was only familiar with Weston's Nudes and his relationship with Tina Modotti, an Italian immigrant to the United States who had acted in several silent movies in Hollywood and who would eventually become a photographer herself. Their time in Mexico had quite an impact on Weston. "In his daybooks he described street life in Mexico as 'sharp clashes of contrasting extremes ... vital, intense, black and white, never gray'. By contrast, Glendale, California, now seemed 'drab, spiritless, a uniform gray – peopled by exploiters who have raped a fair land."

Eggs and Slicer, 1930
Copyright: Collection Center of Creative Photography 
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

Edward Weston believed that photography must take a different avenue than the other arts. "The camera should be used for recording a life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh." And so he also photographed shells and sliced vegetables. "Weston made many of the photographs that are now recognized as among the most important: photographs of a gleaming white chambered nautilus shell set in a dark, ambiguous space; pairs of shells tucked into each other; and sensous bell peppers."

Many of his photographs are razor-sharp, and quite some taken from up close. His credo from later years can be felt or so it seems. "I am no longer trying to 'express myself,' to impose my own personality on nature, but without prejudice, without falsification, to become identified with nature, to see or know things as they are, their very essence, so that what I record is not an interpretation   my idea of what nature should be   but a revelation, a piercing of the smoke screen ..."

Nude, 1936 Copyright: Collection Center of Creative Photography
 © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents
My favourite pics in this tome show dunes, landscapes and the ones that present views of the Armco Steel mill in Ohio. Weston felt that the artist had to respond to "the architecture of the age, good or bad  showing it in new and fascinating ways", as he had written in his daybooks. Stieglitz, whom he showed his portfolio of prints, was not enchanted. "Instead of destroying or disillusioning me he has given me more confidence and sureness    and finer aesthetic understanding of my medium", Weston wrote to his friend Johan Hagemeyer." In other words, his ego seemed to match the one of Stieglitz.

Edward Weston
Essay by Terence Pitts
With a Portrait by Ansel Adams
Edited by Manfred Heiting
Taschen, Cologne 2017

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Best of LensCulture

“How to discover the best practitioners worldwide amidst our image-filled cultures of the 21st century?”, Jim Casper, the Editor-in-Chief of LensCulture, asks in his introduction. “Our editorial team scours the globe – attending festivals, portfolio reviews, exhibitions and graduation shows – in search of new and developing talents. And each year, we organize four annual photography awards to extend our reach even further.” In addition, LensCulture sends out its calls for entries in 15 languages, uses social media and taps into photography newtworks all over the world. In other words, the LensCulture team is undoubtedly very active.

But what are the criteria for great talent? “LensCulture draws on the expertise of an international panel of jury members for each award. These jurors are active and influential in the world of photography. Thanks to their experience, they are adept at identifying photographers who are doing something special in their work. You can be assured that the 161 photographers you will discover in these pages are among the best of the best.” In other words, there are no criteria given and explained respectively.
It might of course very well be that this not exactly illuminating self-promotion – trust us, we are the experts, Jim Casper is basically saying – is well deserved. Although to claim expertise without elaborating on the criteria employed is pretty common, I do find it not exactly convincing.
On the other hand: It is indeed difficult to define relevant criteria for judging pictures. The protagonist of Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” ... 
For the full review, see

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Was Pressefotografien meist nicht zeigen

Pressefotografien zeigen die Welt nicht wie sie ist, Pressefotografien zeigen die Welt, wie ein Fotograf (Frau oder Mann) sich diese Welt beziehungsweise einen Ausschnitt davon für einen Moment zu sehen (und dem Publikum zu zeigen) entschieden hat.

Die Sichtweise des Pressefotografen ist von ganz unterschiedlichen Faktoren (Alter, Geschlecht, Ausbildung etc.) und nicht zuletzt von seinen persönlichen und kulturellen Voreingenommenheiten geprägt. Die so speziell nun allerdings auch nicht sein können, denn wie wäre sonst die Uniformität vieler Pressebilder zu erklären: Wieso, ums Himmels Willen, zeigt man uns eigentlich ständig Aufnahmen von sogenannten „world leaders“, die sich die Hände schütteln oder den Zeigefinger aufs Publikum richten (soll das etwa andeuten, man wisse in welche Richtung es gehen solle?).

Betrachtet man etwa Bilder von winkenden Politikern vor der geöffneten Flugzeugtür, ist man gut beraten, die eigene Vorstellungskraft zu bemühen und sich gelegentlich zu fragen, was solche Aufnahmen alles nicht zeigen (etwa, dass solche Flieger in aller Regel in ziemlicher Distanz vom Flughafengebäude und nicht in Sichtweite begeistert zurück winkender Menschenmassen stehen).

Fotografieren bedeutet einrahmen. Der frühere Leiter der Fotografie-Abteilung des New Yorker MoMA, John Szarkowski, bezeichnete das Einrahmen einmal als die Essenz des fotografischen Handwerks, bei dem die zentrale Frage für den Fotografen laute: Was soll ich ins Bild nehmen? Was soll ich ausschliessen? Der Bildrahmen definiert den Inhalt.

Die Fortsetzung findet sich hier:

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Arzt der Armen

"Seit geraumer Zeit bildet die wachsende soziale Ungleichheit das Kardinalproblem der Menschheit", leitet Christoph Butterwegge sein Vorwort zu diesem Band ein. Unter denen, die unter die Räder kommen oder bei dem allgegenwärtigen "rat race" ganz einfach nicht mehr mitmachen mögen, wächst weltweit die Zahl der Obdachlosen. "Nach wie vor werden die Obdachlosen in vielen Städten aus dem öffentlichen Raum verdrängt, stören sie doch das lokale Wohlstandsidyll. Auf der Strasse lebende Menschen sind einem rigiden und repressiven Armutsregime ausgesetzt, für das Polizeirazzien, Platzverweise, Aufenthaltsverbote und Schikanen privater Sicherheitsdienste stehen."

Zu den Menschen, die sich dieser Obdachlosen annehmen, gehört der Arzt Gerhard Trabert. Ihm und den Obachlosen ist das fotografische Dokument Arzt der Armen, das Andreas Rees geschaffen hat, gewidmet.
Arztmobilsprechstunde in Bingen

"Andreas Reeg hat uns über zwei Jahre bei unserer sozialarbeiterischen und ärztlichen Beziehungsarbeit mit von Armut betroffenen Menschen, speziell wohnungslosen Menschen, begleitet. Er hat selbst Beziehung im Sinne der Gleichwürdigkeit zu den betroffenen Menschen gelebt", schreibt Gerhard Trabert. 'Gleichwürdigkeit' ist für mich ein neues Wort, jedenfalls habe ich es noch nie bewusst wahrgenommen (zumindest kann ich mich nicht erinnern). Ein Wort, das mich nachdenklich und aufmerksam macht, ein Wort, das mich berührt, mir womöglich hilft, Obdachlose anders und neu zu sehen.

Einige von Andreas Rees' Fotos sind mit Aussagen der Porträtierten ergänzt. Auf die Frage, was sie sich wünsche im Leben, antwortete die 59jährige Ma-Ah-Tee, die seit 21 Jahren wohnungslos ist und der wichtig ist, anderen Wohnungslosen zu helfen. "Haben, was man braucht. Muss nicht der grösste Luxus sein. Was man halt braucht. Sorglos darüber verfügen zu können, was man braucht. Nicht, was man möchte, was man braucht. Und das ist es schon. Und Gesundheit, ganz wichtig."
Prof. Trabert im Gespräch mit Anneliese Schneider

Die Lebensgeschichte von Wolfgang Fahr, 84, der die Hälfte seines Lebens auf der Strasse verbrachte  und heute in einem Altersheim lebt, hat Robin Trabert aufgezeichnet. "Ich habe es nie bereut, auf mich selbst zu achten und von der Strasse weggeangen zu sein. Auf einen Schlag, von einem Tag auf den anderen habe ich gesagt, ich höre auf zu trinken, ich lasse es. Als ich dann 2008 in meine Wohnung gezogen bin, hatte ich noch zwei Flaschen Wein. Zwei Wochen später waren sie im Mülleimer, ich wollte nicht mehr trinken, es hatte keinen Sinn. Es liegt an jedem selbst, jeder ist seines Glückes Schmied."

So sehr das stimmt, so sehr stimmt eben auch, worauf Gerhard Trabert aufmerksam macht. "Die Politik fördert privaten Reichtum und nimmt öffentliche Armut (finanzielle Armut der Kommunen) in Kauf. Wieder versteckt man (zum Beispiel die Sozialbürokratie) sich in Deutschland zunehmend hinter Gesetzen und Bestimmungen, legt damit soziale Verantwortung ab und bedenkt nicht, zu was dieses Verhalten bei davon betroffenen Menschen führt."

Diesen Menschen ist Gerhard Trabert verbunden. "Je dichter ich Armut ausgeliefert war, um so näher war ich den Menschen und somit auch meinem eigenen Selbst." Das glaubt man beim Betrachten dieser Bilder zu spüren.

Andreas Reeg
Art der Armen
Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg 2017

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Destino Final

Skyvan PA-51, one of the five planes of the Argentine Naval Prefecture used for death flights during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. The aircraft operated the flight on 14 December 1977. Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States, 2013.

Destino Final is an impressive, and deeply moving, document and that has mainly to do with the ingenuity of photographer Giancarlo Ceraudo. Let me elaborate: Photographs, generally speaking, capture the moment and, as the saying goes, bring time to a standstill. In other words, photography is about recording the present. So how do you go about a photographic project that aims at recording occurrences that happened before your time? 

My review you will find on