Posts Tagged ‘Palestine’

FOTOFORUM: Lucky Accidents

February 1, 2010

Photography –– or at least straight, unmanipulated photography –– seems unique amongst art forms in the level to which chance or accident plays a role in the creative process. Photographers are at the mercy of the world and the world only gives them so much. To paraphrase the classic example, mentioned by CHARLES HARBUTT in his afterword to his book, Travelog:  A photographer working in a white seamless room has only a few creative options: a white photograph, a gray photograph, a black photograph, and perhaps a variety of self portraits. A painter, on the other hand, working in that same white room, is only limited in his paintings by his imagination: He can paint the sea, the mountains, cityscapes, portraits, and more.  Photography involves a different process than most of the other arts.

What this means is that often another kind of collaboration with the world emerges with photography, one that may involve accident, serendipity, or chance.  Technical mistakes –– or what the photographer initially thinks of as mistakes –– can become revelatory. These may include the surprise of a blur, of underexposure or overexposure, of the lopped-off head.

So, for February’s FOTOFORUM, we asked a variety photographers –– including JEFF JACOBSON, whose photograph of his father and son graces the cover of his first book, My Fellow Americans –– to talk about one of their photographs that they perceived as a FORTUNATE MISTAKE or LUCKY ACCIDENT.––Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Jeff Jacobson, Harold & Henry, Naples, Florida, 1981

My father and my then two-year-old son were playing in the warm Gulf of Mexico waters at sunset.  The sky was ablaze.  I charged into the surf, holding my strobe high over my head to avoid unpleasant electrical repercussions, squeezed off two frames, and returned to the beach.  When I looked at my strobe, I noticed it was on the wrong setting, too strong.  I decided right then and there, long before I had seen the picture, that it would be overexposed, and therefore, no good.

A couple weeks later I was editing on my light table and showed the picture to my friend Richard Sandler.  I told him that it was too bad that it was overexposed because it could have been a good picture.  “Schmuck!”, Richard delicately said, “that’s what makes the picture.  Look how the baby glows.”  It was an early lesson in non-attachment to the experience of exposure, the moment is not the picture.  It helped me learn to take as long as possible between exposing a photograph and editing it.  In the digital world, this is a problem.  But that’s another rant.––Jeff Jacobson

Jeff’s new website

Dimitri Mellos, Central Park, 2009

I shot this picture last year in Central Park. I love snow and I ventured out in the midst of a blizzard, not even waiting for the snowfall to stop, the sooner to enjoy the first snow of the year. I think I had been photographing the previous evening, and I’d forgotton to change the shutter setting on my camera. I ended up taking several pictures at a very slow shutter speed before realizing and correcting my “mistake.”  Nevertheless, when I got home and edited my photos, it dawned on me that the pictures taken at a slow shutter speed, counterintuitive as that was in the blinding whiteness of the snowstorm, were in fact more interesting than the others, because they managed to capture something of the chaotic movement of the wind and the falling snow, and the subjective sense of being caught in the midst of all this. I realized that sometimes the “moment: can be better captured through an exposure that is not so instantaneous and momentary.––Dimitri Mellos

Dimitri’s website

Torkil Faero, Telma, Paros, Greece, 2008

This is an image of Tonje’s and my daughter Telma, taken on Paros, Greece in 2008. When I later developed the pictures, I saw that the whole roll had this strange effect. I had to think back to our Greek holiday with our catamaran S/Y Kairos to solve the mystery. We had been on a day trip and returned late to our boat and the quay was totally dark. Eager to get to bed, our son Torbjørn ran and slipped off the boarding plank and into the pitch black sea. I had to wait until he resurfaced before jumping in to get him. I was terrified. My son was screaming. Amid all the turmoil, I’d forgotten I’d left this roll of film in my pocket, and the salty water created this special effect. It ruined most of the pictures, but, on this one of Telma, it seemed somehow to enhance the moment.

As we will continue to sail our boat, I might try this again someday, hopefully without Torbjørn underwater.––Torkil Faero

Torkil’s website

Olga Kravets, from the project, "Primorsk: The Sunken Soviet City"

This December, I finally finished the work on my project “Primorsk: The Sunken Soviet City.”  Most of it was shot with a Holga, a camera that too often lets light leak onto one’s film, ruining many a promising photograph. This was initially extremely frustrating to me, until I realized that some light leak–– like with the above photograph of the torn world map in an abandoned school –– emphasizes the “underexposed” and mysterious atmosphere of the place. ––Olga Kravets

Olga’s website

Animesh Ray, "The Widow," Varanasi, 2009

Animesh Ray, "The Widow," Varanasi, India, 2009

I took this last month while on a 24-hour trip to Varanasi, a city that I had last visited as an eight-year-old in 1963.  I mostly shoot with black and white film, but this time I wished to tame my new d300—a monstrosity compared to the trusted M6.  I also had in mind Alex and Rebecca’s vivid color from their Seattle workshop, and I thought this was a good occasion to seriously attempt color.

It was quite dark early in the morning in dingy Varanasi lanes.  I was shooting with my M6 but getting nowhere because most of the time I was keen on avoiding the excreta left by dogs and cows, when I emerged on to the riverside into extraordinary lights.  Nearly instantaneously I saw this widow against the river, thought of Styx and all that, and reached for the d300.  I only had one lens, a manual 28mm f/2 Nikkor, the body set at 1600ASA at ~1/15 sec, the longest exposure I can handhold this lens.  I usually keep the lens at hyperfocal distance by feel.  But having been shooting with M6, I had momentarily forgotten that Nikkors turn the other way relative to Summicrons, and so managed to set the focal plane a lot closer.  I took a few frames, with the scene being way too dark to discern through the viewfinder the problem with focus, and only later when I peered into the back I realized my mistake.  Dang, I thought, and nearly deleted the soft frames!

A fortunate mistake…––Animesh Ray

Click here see more of Animesh’s photographs, including others taken in Varanasi.

Rajiv Kapoor, West Bank, Palestine, 2009

Everywhere I wandered in the West Bank, I noticed passion, passion for politics, for statehood, for soccer, for food, for religion, and the list goes on. I decided to photograph a soccer match in a stadium. Originally I intended to capture the facial expressions of the audience when everyone was standing, a moment that I thought would add to the intensity of the scene.  At the moment I clicked the shutter, however, most people sat down and I thought I’d missed the shot. Later, when I looked at the image, I realized the intensity was there in a way I hadn’t imagined, and made for a stronger image.––Rajiv Kapoor

Rajiv’s website

John Masters, Italy, 1992

I was traveling in Italy in 1992.  I had just begun using a second hand Canon AE-1. The film was Kodak Tri-X 400.  I cannot recall the f-stop or shutter speed but I do remember walking through an arch into the plaza and seeing the boy running after the pigeons, causing them to rise up.  I took to picture as fast as I could.  For a long time I bemoaned its graininess, blur and off-centered framing but I loved the look on his face and the movement of his feet.  This is one of my favorite images and reminds me I should always retain my “beginners eye.“––John Masters

John’s website

FOUR CONTINENTS: 15 Photographers

December 28, 2009

We invited photographers we’ve met in workshops around the world and through this blog to help us celebrate the new year by posting a photograph and giving us an update about their work. So here are 15 photographs taken on 4 continents by photographers from 10 countries around the world.  “Happy New Year” to all of you. –– Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

David Belay, Hessen Germany, 2009

I started shooting a circus two years ago as I was looking for something to photograph in my otherwise gray city that would be suitable for color photography. I liked it and it evolved into a long-term project about circuses, and more specifically about the backstage of circuses, a territory I see as a border between the world of the show and the “real world.” ––David Belay

Dimitri Mellos, Athens, Greece, Christmas 2009

Dimitri Mellos is working on a long-term project in his native country of Greece, as well as continuing to photograph the streets of New York where he now lives.  Dimitri’s website:

Chantal Heijnen, Bronx, New York, 2009

The Dutch photographer Chantal Heijnen is working on a long-term project in the Bronx. To learn more about Chantal and her work visit

Andreas Kalmes, Seattle, 2007

I recently launched a new website:

I also had an exhibition at an “Art Walk” event in September in the Seattle International District. In addition, I’ve been back to Japan to continue my project on the Tsukji fish market, expanding it somewhat to include smaller fishing towns and markets that are part of Tsukiji’s supply chain.––Andreas Kalmes

Prantik Mazumder, Calcutta, 2008

This photograph (above) was taken in Calcutta. I was sitting in the back of a taxi, and we were stuck for about an hour behind a tram in one of those miserble traffic jams of Calcutta. Boredom inspired a decent shot.–– Prantik Mazumder

For more about Indian photographer Prantik Mazumder:

Matthew Goddard-Jones, Chicago, 2009

The Australian photographer Matthew Goddard-Jones took this photograph on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  He is currently working on a long-term project in Perth, Australia.  To see more of his work:

Francois Dagenais, Smokey Mountain, Philippines, 2008

François has worked as a cinematographer on both feature and documentary films. The films he has photographed have been shown at festivals such as Sundance, Havana, and Toronto. They have also been showcased at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London,  the Boston Museum of Arts, and the Brooklyn Museum.

After moving to Toronto in 2005, François re-discovered his passion for still photography.  He participated in various group shows in Ontario, and was awarded a development Chalmers Professional Development grant from the Ontario Arts Council for a mentorship with Magnum photographer Alex Webb. The grant included a workshop in Cusco, Peru with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. He subsequently won first place at the Insight Juried Art Show presented at the Wellington County Museum  in Fergus Ontario. Dagenais is currently working on a series entitled Smokey Mountain, which documents one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

To see more work from Francois’s Smokey Mountain series:

There will be a screening in New York at the Center for Architecture on February 26  and 27, 2010, of the documentary, “Malls R Us.”

German Romero Martinez, Mexico

German Romero Martinez, Piedra Labrada, Mexico, 2004

Here’s a link to Mexican photographer’s German Romero Martinez’s blog:

Rajiv Kapoor, Bethlehem checkpoint

I have a show opening on the sixth of January at the Vera Art Gallery in Seattle (Warren Ave N and Republican St.). The show is titled “Landscapes of My Land” with images from Palestine and Old City of Jerusalem. I have included one of my favorite images (above), which is from a checkpoint in Palestine for people to get into Israel. The images from the show are on . –– Rajiv Kapoor

Uwe Schober

I have started a project about homeless people who have been put up in caravans by a charity in Frankfurt/Germany… The aim is to give these people some personal space to enable them to get back on their feet. What strikes me most is the slippery path from a well-established, secure life to that of a roaming, aimless, homeless person… Listening to their biographies, you realize that sometimes simply one wrong turn at a critical time of their lives set in motion a chain of events that led to homelessness… One of them lost a daughter to cancer and was thrown off balance, which led to the loss of his job and ultimately of his home… one other had a costly divorce… one other suffered a stroke and ended up on the streets… I am exploring this through the use of diptychs, juxtaposing portraits of the people living in the caravans and how they have personalized their (temporary) space.–– Uwe Schober


Cathy Scholl, rodeo, New Mexico

After twelve years of annual visits to India (1995-2006), I took three years off to buy and remodel an old adobe in New Mexico, where I took the above photograph. In January, I am very excited to be returning to India for five weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing with new eyes!––Cathy Scholl

Cathy’s work and bio:

Cathy’s website (under construction):

David Bacher, Paris, 2009

The above photo was taken just outside of the Carrousel du Louvre in the Tuileries Garden in Paris. The woman pictured was extremely fond of pigeons. They seemed like her pets as she spoke to them, pet them, and fed them copious amounts of dried corn.

Most recently one of my photos was published on the Verve documentary photography blog, thanks to one of my pictures having been shown on an early post on the Webb’s blog.  I also recently showed one print at The Art of Photography Show in San Diego, California.––David Bacher

David’s website:

Muema, Southport, UK, 2009

The photo was taken at the Southport Weekender music festival in November.

The festival organizers decided to use it for their current press photo:

I have also just launched a new website (link below). –– Muema

Thomas Lindahl Robinson, Cuba

I have a new website,, where you can view the latest work from Cuba, titled “New Work,” which was photographed this past summer, and the current project titled, “Dreaming In Cuban.”  Attached, is an image of Cosette, who I have been photographing  for the past two years. This particular image of her was taken six months after her surgery to correct a curvature of her spine. According to the doctors her surgery is considered a success despite pain that she feels on a daily basis. I wil be visiting her on my next trip and photograph her once again.––Thomas Lindahl Robinson

Alejandro Briones, Mexico City

Mexican photogapher Alejandro Briones has launched a new website: