I wonder if I need to tell them about how I once woke up in my hotel room and found the bellboy standing over my bed. I wonder if I need to recount that while crouching on the ground during a festival, I didn’t realise I had been surrounded by a group of drunken boys and had to crawl through their legs before the leering, lewd gesticulating and touching turned into something uglier. I wonder if I need to talk about the things I never talk about, like fear, because I have been lucky enough to come out safely.
I think it is time not to be ashamed to talk about fear. Fear is what ensures I look back as I walk, it’s what makes me look for exits when I enter potentially difficult spaces, it is what keeps me alert and often, alive. I call it other things like discomfort or commonsense, because it’s weak to be afraid — it might expose me for what I am, a woman.
Ashima Narain, Fear in the Frame, Indian Express.
Narain is a photo editor at National Geographic Traveller India and her piece is an honest, heartfelt call to action to create measures of protection and support for photographers and journalists, particularly women.
For context, see this recent NY Times piece—Why Female Journalists in India Still Can’t Have It All—in which her story is highlighted along with accounts from other female journalists in India, many of whom do not report harassment they experience on the job because if they do, they risk losing the opportunity and freedom to report. It’s a disheartening catch-22 and definitely something to be aware of.
As press, we are expected to take calculated risks. That is the job, but what do our employers do to protect us? When we join, do they give us any safety guidelines while travelling around the city or the country on an assignment? Do interns receive consistent mentorship on safety in the field? Do the people controlling the purse strings know what it means to be on the ground, or what it means to be gender sensitive?
These questions are in no way about this particular, heinous incident, but ones that I feel need to be addressed based on experiences that I, and many of my peers, have had. They are questions that have been highlighted by this tragedy, and are for media organisations across the board. But we don’t have to stop at the media. Why don’t we make it an institutional obligation for all employers to ensure that, every few months, all their staff has to attend safety seminars?
I couldn’t sleep the night I heard about this incident. For 13 years I have psychologically converted my camera into my protective shield — one that I felt would keep me from harm as it showed that I have the means to retaliate. My shield has been shattered. I do feel scared. I think we all should. But this fear should not paralyse us, nor stop us from doing our work — but channel it so we can do our work better.
Over the past few days, several journalists and photographers have been talking about creating a voluntary mentoring programme for interns, or young people who work in the media and want guidance. Until then, if there are photographers who feel they need to talk, you can look me up. I am easy to find.
Among the core concepts of Buddhism is the idea of understanding your individual experience of living and the way that you are connected to other people. As a photographer, you observe your subject, try to become connected and then capture that in a single moment.
David Butow, as quoted in Photographing the Part of Buddhism that Can’t Be Seen. New York Times Lens Blog.
When David Butow decided to spend 2012 traveling the world to photograph Buddhism, he knew there would be a rich abundance of visual material: colorful clothing, vibrant decorations and precisely choreographed rituals.
But the challenge of capturing the essence of spiritual experience became apparent to him quickly. While sacred rites are visually lush, and obvious, spiritual experience is interior and hidden — and it is difficult to photograph something that is not visible.
Mr. Butow used a variety of strategies — and camera formats — to try to capture the heart of Buddhism. He layered reflections, employed camera motion and made metaphoric images that suggested stillness. He included double exposures, used diptychs and even physically altered negatives with a small blade.
His journey last year, as he worked on “Seeing Buddha: A Photographic Journey,” spanned 10 countries including Bhutan, Cambodia, Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala, India. Along the way, he discovered that Buddhism and photography have much in common, including observation, empathy and being fully in the moment.
FJP: It’s an awesome set of photos and an awesome project. Check it out.
For Syria’s war is characterised most strongly by absence and collective abandonment. Other than the protagonists and victims the arena is almost empty. There is no foreign military intervention. There are no NGOs or aid workers distributing food and blankets. The media is similarly self-exiled: very few broadcasters or newspapers commit journalists regularly, if at all. A handful of freelance photographers work inside the country, but none of the big names. The middle-aged bravehearts of Bosnia and Afghanistan have grown old and too soft for the hardships of Syria, while the economics of journalism have not allowed their replacement generation to prosper. That McCullin, still a prizefighter despite his years, had hauled himself out to that lonely war zone was inspiring in itself, legitimising the work of the few freelancers already there and challenging the absentees.
Anthony Loyd, The Australian. Parting shots.
That’s right: a 77 year old photographer named Don McCullin recently went to Aleppo to take his last set of photos, 15 years after his last war assignment. See the above article for an account of his trip as told by the much younger journalist in charge of his safety.
There’s no telling which photos from Syria’s revolutionary war will become famous and come to represent the conflict, if any do at all. For a great collection of pictures by other photojournalists in the country, see these. For more of McCullin, who is something of a legend in his line of work, see this bio and a portion of his photography from Vietnam and Lebanon.