Posts Tagged ‘Photojournalism’

Shifting Gears(sort of)


Sometimes life jumps right in the way of your plans, and that’s a good thing in my books.
A lot is changing for me these days, hence the slowness of blog postings here.
I’ve decided to return to my home town, set up a STUDIO serving Southwestern Ontario, and got engaged in the meantime!
A lot of this stems from coming home this past summer to work on a project on my hometown for Canadian Geographic (see previous posting) I’m really excited to become an integral of the community I grew up in.
My plan is to run the studio here in Canada, combine forces with my fiancée, and to continue to take trips to pursue multimedia and photojournalistic projects throughout the year. Apologies in advance if this blog comes to a bit of a lull for a while!

Best, Brent


My Hometown: Bearing Down and Getting By


This summer I spent two months documenting my hometown, Wallaceburg, Ontario, for Canadian Geographic. This month they are featuring the 9 page photo essay. See it HERE Thanks to all the residents who let me spend time photographing them. This is a lifelong project for me, and I feel it serves as a microcosm for all small towns.
You can also see a link to a photo club interview HERE


Oh yeah, that’s why…

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It’s so easy, especially these days to get caught up in the kind of camera, medium, software, etc, that you use to tell a story.
It’s much harder to remember why we do this in the first place. Every photographer, especially ones who plan to teach should watch THE LESSON, as well as the other chapters in the series. Kudos to Francis Gardler for putting this together. I know it’s the kick in the ass I needed.


Still Hoping – Luceo Images

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Luceo Images presents “Still Hoping,” a wonderfully crafted multimedia project. From the site: “Still Hoping is a multimedia reminder to the Obama administration from his constituents 6 months into the President’s term. These letters from around the country are pleas for equality and better lives.”


Nepal or Bust

I’ll be in Kathmandu, Nepal for the next week or so covering the political situation after President Ram Baran Yadav overruled Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dhal’s direct order to remove General Rookmangud Katawal from his post. The country is the most fragile it has been since its decade long war ended three years ago. I will try to update in between the 16 or so hours a day that there are power outages.


Holy Waters

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My parents are visiting from Canada so it’s time for me to take my first little break and see some of India’s sights, and of course make some pictures along the way. Our first couple nights were spent in Delhi, followed by a trip to “the Holiest City in India,” Varanasi. I had my own little spiritual journey making photos. My days consisted of waking up at 4 am and walking the ghats, a boat ride, and some quality family time. Here are a few images from the trip to the exhaustingly wonderful city. Off to Rajasthan next, then back to work April 16.

Varanasi – Images by Brent Foster


From Delhi to Dharavi

It’s been a busy few days but I am loving my job right now. I’m in Mumbai working on a couple assignments for various clients in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, which is home to more than a million people, mainly due to the Slumdog Millionaire hype. I’m here till Friday producing a multimedia piece, and shooting another still assignment for a national newspaper. In the meantime, I get to make pictures. Dharavi is a bit of a challenge for me considering the people who have been here and photographed this place. Three of my favorite photographers have set foot in Dharavi and done some incredibly inspiring work. I’m trying to look at it as a chance to document an incredibly important story whether or not it’s been done before. I’m trying to make it my own, and to enjoy being in one spot for a decent amount of time to simply document life. Throughout the week when I’m not shooting other assignments, I will be updating this gallery.


Hello Delhi

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Day one. Get bearings. Find cell phone.

Everything I’ve read was true. The congestion, the smog, the traffic, the touts, the beggars, the beautiful women in saris, the men drinking chai, the smell of samosas frying, people yelling, and horns honking. What I didn’t picture was myself fitting somewhere within that scene.

My first 24 hours has been an interesting mix of culture shock, excitement, and relief in that order.

Let’s start with the culture shock.

Today I awoke, and Natalie Alcoba (see her blog here) the writer I am traveling with and I decided to take a walk since we were still on North American time, and the sun was just rising. Late last night we arrived in India, and cabbed it to an area of New Delhi called Karol Bagh, a section of Delhi populated with shops, and a plethora of people.

Natalie and I walked our way through the dusty streets as the sun rose creating streaks of light down long straight alley like roads. Most people went about their business, and we worked hard not to get run over. My close call was a bus, Natalie’s a motorcycle. I like her odds on that one. The real culture shock set in when we were walking back to our temporary hotel and a woman threw a used sanitary napkin at my shoe as part of what I can only assume was a scam set up with the many young shoeshiners on the street. I have heard feces being used in a similar fashion, but that one honestly cough me off guard.

Onto excitement. The great cell phone hunt.
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Natalie and I spent the rest of the morning, into the late afternoon on a search for a cellular. After a long rickshaw ride, we went from shop to shop trying to haggle our way into the best deal. By lunch we felt defeated and took a break over some mutton, and chicken, then back at it. Eventually we both walked away phone in hands ready to attempt tomorrows venture, find a place to call home for a while and set up shop.
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Lastly relief.

Back in Karol Bagh we went on a hunt for food and a beer. No dice on the beer, but some great samosas and aloo tikki.
Day one complete, and onto the next adventure. My goal is to up and running for freelance assignments in a weeks time.
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Photos of the Year

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The annual MSNBC photos of the year.


The Places We Live

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From a release at: http://www.aperture.org/tpwl/
In 2008 more people live in cities than in rural areas. One third of city dwellers, more than a billion people, live in slums. In The Places We Live, Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen presents sixteen homes in four different slum areas: Caracas, Venezuela; Mumbai, India; Nairobi, Kenya; and Jakarta, Indonesia.


Dai Sugano

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The multimedia work of San Jose Mercury News visual journalist Dai Sugano


Where Children Find Hope -The Detroit Free Press

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From Kathy Kieliszewski:
There are more than 18,000 children living in foster care in the state of Michigan and of those, 6,000 are wards of the state; legal orphans. Over three years ago, Detroit Free Press photographers Kathleen Galligan and Regina Boone began photographing the foster children at Christ Child House, a sort of modern-day orphanage and therapeutic home on Detroit’s west side. Over the years, it has been home to countless dozens of Michigan’s legal orphans. Regina’s focus was on a boy that had been adopted from the house and was transitioning into his new family while Kathleen concentrated on the boys at the house. 
As many photojournalist know, photographing juveniles in foster care usually results in backs of heads and silhouettes. The Michigan Department of Human Services, which rarely grants permission to openly photograph children in its custody, gave the Free Press this unusual access to highlight the plight of Michigan’s foster children. “It’s an effort to educate the public on the challenges we face,” said Bill Johnson, head of the Michigan Children’s Institute, the DHS division with legal custody of the kids.
Many kids spend three years or more in the system–if not whole childhoods. Those three years allowed us to follow the progression of children through the system; the birthdays, holidays, sports trophies, lost teeth, failed adoptions, new foster homes and new families. 
Kathleen and to a smaller extent Regina, had been photographing off and on for nearly two years before videographer Brian Kaufman joined the project. We had given this problem a face, but now the kids had a voice. There was no expert in the system as qualified to talk about life in the system as the kids themselves. Over that final year, the focus shifted to complimenting the already existing photography with great interviews and key moments told best with video. 
With the reporter assigned and web on board, advocacy for the boys of Christ Child House drove how we shaped the plan for print and online. The Free Press has a longstanding children first mission and this project was a natural extension of that. The goal was to tell the story of life at Christ Child House as well as highlighting boys still up for adoption and giving people resources on how they can help through donations, mentoring, foster parenting and even adoption.


Remember Me -Preston Gannaway- Concord Monitor

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From Preston Gannaway:
Reporter Chelsea Conaboy and I started following Carolynne and Rich St. Pierre and their family in March 2006 after a family friend called the Concord Monitor. They wanted a way to document Carolynne’s story for her children and share it with others who might be experiencing something similar. We saw it as an opportunity to tell a story that was both universal and unique, about a family facing death from a rare and aggressive illness while struggling to maintain the family unit.
What originally was intended to be a six-month story on a family dealing with illness evolved into five printed stories spanning nearly two years. We grew incredibly close to the family in that time. 
When I first met them, I made a conscious decision to open up more to them emotionally than I had with other subjects. For a long time I had held the notion that a photojournalist should be like a “fly on a wall,” and I think that idea was keeping me from growing and telling more intimate stories. 
 
At the onset, I agreed to give copies of all my photographs to Rich after the story published. The desire to create a document for the children to have later in life was a huge motivation for Rich. Carolynne was pleased with how the first story turned out and they both invited us to continue following them. 
We followed them through changes in treatment, hospital stays, family outings, holidays and the emotional challenges of coping with the disease as Carolynne’s condition worsened. Chelsea and I worked constantly with our editors to get time away from our daily assignments. Because the Monitor is such a small paper, we were very fortunate to have been given the support and time that we had.  As a journalist, one of the many lessons I learned from the St. Pierres was how much it means just to spend time. The more we were around, the more the family came to understand how much we cared and were invested in their story. 
After Carolynne died we struggled with our own grief. I felt very strongly that we shouldn’t end the story with her death, because in many ways the story was just beginning. I thought it was important to document the grieving process as well because that’s a story that’s rarely told. Chelsea and I worked hard to depict the family’s changing relationships honestly and objectively. We had many discussions about ethical boundaries. And many discussions just trying to figure out what was going on below the surface and how best to illustrate that. 
I wanted to create one entire story from our work — either in a newspaper reprint or online. I was lucky to be able to drag our photo intern, Kari Collins, along with me as I attempted to create a multimedia version of the work. She acted as my editor and spent many late nights at the Monitor with me as we tried to finish the project in time to launch with the final newspaper story.
Regrettably, I was only able to do one audio interview with Carolynne. The narrative used in the 6-chapter multimedia piece was compiled mostly from interviews that Chelsea and I did with Rich and the kids. One of first times I ever edited audio was of that first interview with Rich and Carolynne. 
I feel proud of the completeness that we were able to create with the multimedia project. And the many emails of support from people around the world who have seen their story have provided a lot of comfort to the family. It goes to further honor the headline that accompanied the first story we published. The headline that Carolynne found so fitting — when she asked that people remember her.


Hungry -Maisie Crow- Howard County Times

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From Maisie Crow:
I first met Max when I was out on a daily assignment at Chimes School, a private institution for disabled students in Baltimore. After visiting a classroom where Max was working one on one with an instructor, I was intrigued by his behavior and curious as to why he was a student at the school. I connected with him immediately and my intuition told me to learn more about his situation. I asked the principal why he was at the school, but she could not give me too much information without his father’s consent so I left my business card with her in hopes she would keep her promise and pass my contact information along. In early December, I heard from Lon, Max’s father, who said he would be willing to talk with me further about Max and Prader-Willi Syndrome. He told me all about it the disorder and Max’s behavior issues. At the time, it was beyond my comprehension. How could someone always be hungry?
Prader-Willi Syndrome, PWS, is a rare-genetic disorder caused by variations in the fifteenth chromosome. Not only does PWS cause Max to have an insatiable appetite, it creates behavior disorders that can be hard to control. Lon understood from the beginning that I would have to document the behavior and the incessant eating.
 One day, Max came home from school very upset that they had changed his school aide. Lon called me and suggested I come over, as he knew I needed the content to solidify the story. Filming video that day was difficult because I wanted to comfort Max. After spending so much time with Max and his father, I viewed them as friends as much as I did subjects. I felt helpless and wanted to do more than film what was happening but I also realized that my purpose as a journalist was to document their lives in order to share their story with others. I wanted the content to allow the viewer to feel the helplessness that I did at that moment.
I did not start any of the interviews until I was fairly close to being done shooting because I wanted to wait until Lon and Max were completely comfortable with me. Once they were able to trust me, they were more candid and open to sharing their emotions and feelings. Interviewing Lon was difficult at times because I wanted to put down the mic and just talk with him about what he was going through. At one point, I asked Lon if he had anything he wanted to add to the interview and he talked for nearly thirty minutes. He said, “In the past, it was always kids with Prader-Willi Syndrome are short, fat and retarded, and they’re not short and fat…and retarded.” It took Lon almost 10 seconds to say the last word of that sentence. His eyes started to water, and he almost couldn’t finish his thought. Those seconds of silence nearly broke my heart but they also created a pivotal point in the story. I used the silence in the multimedia piece with hopes that the viewer would pause, reflect and empathize with what Lon was trying to say. The audio allowed my subjects to have voices and narrate their own story. What they had to say was much more than my photos could ever give.
After observing Max and his father, I knew that the story wasn’t only about the disorder. It was about a relationship, and in order to show that I would have to spend a lot of time getting to know the two of them and letting them know me. Through watching Lon raise Max, I witnessed the lengths that a father’s love would go to care for his son.
I built a relationship with Max and his father. That is why I could enter their home, tell their story, share it with the community and hope that it provided an understanding of two special lives and a little known disorder.


A New Dawn -David Stephenson- Lexington Herald-Leader

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From David Stephenson:
A New Dawn” was by far the longest amount of time I have spent working on a story. Assignments come and go, the pictures are often forgotten by the next day. But this time was different.
I knew that following Dawn Nicole Smith through the Fayette County Drug Court program could take more than a year to complete – that’s how long it takes most drug court participants to finish, if they finish at all. Reporter Mary Meehan and I got to know Dawn for over three-and-a-half years.
Her story was far more complicated than I ever imagined.  It tested me in ways I never predicted. There were occasional access issues. There were ethical dilemmas. There were scheduling problems (how do I do my job on a regular basis and still find the time to spend with Dawn? How many times do I have to apologize to my wife and family for being with Dawn on our anniversary or a birthday?) 
And I’ll admit I had issues with motivation. I found it very difficult to make myself go back to see Dawn again and again and again, particularly when most of the time she was surrounded in chaos or crisis. 
Finally, three and-a-half years after we met Dawn in the spring of 2004, we published her story on 23 pages in the newspaper and with a six-part multimedia presentation online.
When we began Dawn’s story, we weren’t doing a whole lot of multimedia. But using a minidisc recorder I had purchased in 2000, I recorded what I could knowing that by the time we finished we might know what to do with it. 
I never listened to any of the audio until it came time to edit. As it turns out, the audio pretty much dictated the structure of the online piece. And fortunately, that five-chapter structure also closely followed the stories as they rolled out in print.
I chose to use Soundslides for the presentation for a number of reasons: It provided a large degree of user functionality – for such a heavy piece, I wanted viewers to have flexibility and options which you don’t really get with a video player. Soundslides also allowed me to have captions which I felt might be important to some viewers. Soundslides, being a Flash-based program, was light-weight and wouldn’t bog down a system like a 3 or 4 minute video could.
I did have to teach myself some Flash so I could build the chaptered interface, but I knew that would be a valuable skill to have for the future.
Almost a year later, I don’t think I would do anything differently with the online presentation. Of course, I do wish Dawn’s story would have turned out better. But sadly her story is a common one.


The Road to Stability -Krista Schinagl- Western Kentucky University

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From Krista Schinagl:
The project was a semester long project that was supposed to combine all the skills we’ve learned while at Western. We had to write a proposal for it and it would be a combination of stills, ambient audio, graphics (if applicable) and video and it had to be presented in a web format.

After several weeks of not finding a project I decided I would do it on my sister. I knew she had a good story, I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but I knew there was a good story there to tell.
           
I didn’t realize going into the project what kind of impact it would have on me. At this point I barely knew my sister. We barely ever talked and I only saw her once or twice a year. I had never really talked to her husband or met his family. In my mind she was going to be just like any other project. I would commit just as much time and work just as hard as any other project I had ever worked on. The only difference was that I knew I wouldn’t have to work to gain access. I would already have access because I was family and she already knew me.
           
One of the hardest things was to not get involved. Watching my sister break down because she was so over whelmed with bills was the hardest situation to stay an outsider or just an observer looking in. I honestly was standing behind that camera crying for her and feeling helpless and trying not to get involved. I felt kind of guilty or like I was doing something wrong filming her crying and I kept having to tell myself that this was very important for people to see and that she’s going to work through these problems on her own. I felt like it was my responsibility to remain a viewer and show the world what happens when you don’t manage your money and that someone would learn from watching my project.
It actually stressed me out a lot. I would be at school and she would call me up crying and I just didn’t know what to say to her.

Our relationship grew so close during this project that we began talking on the phone several times a day. I knew everything going on in her life and she told me more than she would have if wasn’t her sister.
 It was also hard to edit the project because I grew close to my sister and became emotionally attached to her and her situation. It was hard to edit some things out even if I knew it made the project a lot stronger. I spent so much time editing that I became numb and couldn’t see the mistakes anymore or couldn’t see the spots that repeated themselves.
 
Other small struggles were that she lived two hours away. I would miss things like having to go to the doctor with no health insurance or when they went shopping for a new camper. And living in the camper with them was not always easy because it was so small and I slept on the table.
 
The best thing that came from the project is that I got to know my sister and her family. Now that a couple months have passed we still talk on the phone at least once a day. And if I hadn’t done the project on her I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know her in-laws.
 
Ethically I think it’s important people realize Carly is my sister. I have it written on the about page but I don’t know how many people actually read the about before watching the project. I have plans to include a video interview of myself talking about the effect this project has had on me which will make the project more ethical, but it’s hard now that I’m out of school and don’t have access to cameras and programs. 


Common Ground -Scott Strazzante- Mediastorm

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From Scott Strazzante:
Common Ground“, my collaboration with MediaStorm, is the latest and, I believe, the best incarnation of my personal project on cattle farmers Harlow and Jean Cagwin. The project had always been a still photography only endeavor and it wasn’t until I started working with MediaStorm did I incorporate interviews and video. The first years of shooting from 1994 to 1998 were for my personal photographic sanity. A place to go to make real photos when I got discouraged by the quality of assignments that I was being given at the Daily Southtown, a suburban Chicago daily that I worked at between 1987 and 1998. In 1999, after moving to the Herald News in Joliet, Illinois, I pitched the Cagwin story to my editors for publication in the newspaper.
Images were eventually published on two separate occasions during my stay at the Herald News. A version of the story was also part of my 2000 National Newspaper Photographer of the Year portfolio. By the time I had left Joliet in October 2001, the Cagwin story had gone from a feature on two senior citizen cattle farmers to one of deteriorating health, the family farm as a disappearing way of life and suburban sprawl. While working on the Cagwin story in Joliet, I had received permission to retain the copyright on the farm images. Upon arriving at the Chicago Tribune in 2001, I made the same request and it was honored. On July 2, 2002, I photographed the Cagwins as they watched their farmhouse being razed to make room for the Willow Walk subdivision. That day would mark the end of the story. Well, at least that is what I thought at the time. In the subsequent years, I thought from time to time about going back to the land to find a suburban family to document as a bookend to the Cagwin story.
Twice I made half-hearted attempts at finding a new family but the story never seemed to get off the ground. In March 2007, I gave a presentation of my farm story to a group of photo essay students at the College of DuPage. After showing my images, a student raised her hand and said, “I live in that subdivision.” By the next week I was at Amanda Grabenhofer’s home in the Willow Walk subdivision photographing her, her husband Ed and their 4 children. At that point, my only plan was to someday publish a book with chapter one being the Cagwins and chapter two being the Grabenhofers. On my third visit, I photographed Amanda’s son Ben wrestling with his cousin CJ with a jump rope tied around them. The photograph reminded me of a photo that I had made of Harlow Cagwin wrestling with a two-day old calf with a lasso tied around it.
The two photos got me thinking of life and the similarities between the farm and the subdivision that I had noticed in my few visits to the Grabenhofer home. After constructing the two “rope” photos into a diptych, I immediately was able to make three others. On my subsequent visits, I kept my mind open to similarities and differences as I documented life on Cinnamon Court, the cul de sac in the Willow Walk subdivision where the Grabenhofer home was located. In October 2007, I publicly presented my diptych essay for the first time while coaching at the Mountain Workshops in Kentucky. One of the people in the audience that day was Chad A. Stevens, a multimedia producer at MediaStorm. Stevens saw the multimedia possibilities in the project and he encouraged me to talk to his boss, Brian Storm, about a possible collaboration.
After a very short discussion, Storm and I agreed to give it a go. In the meantime, the Chicago Tribune published my diptych project in their Sunday Magazine and online under the title, “Another Country”. A month later, National Geographic featured the essay in the Photo Journal section of their February 2002 issue. In March 2008, I flew to New York City where Stevens, who Storm assigned to produce the project, and I went through every frame I had taken on the project.
I returned to Chicago and recruited Wes Pope, who at the time was my co-worker at the Chicago Tribune, to help me interview the Cagwins and the Grabenhofers and to shoot b-roll on life in the subdivision, In June 2008, after months of work, MediaStorm debuted a 6-minute piece at Look 3- The Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia. In July 2008, MediaStorm released a 7-minute version of “Common Ground on their website.
The entire multimedia piece was conceived and constructed by Stevens. He even located a musician named Andy Webster who provided a beautiful piece of original music as the score. I am very happy that the multimedia piece became reality. I always felt that I had missed a huge piece of the story by failing to interview the Cagwins as they were living thire final years on the farm. Most of all, I consider “Common Ground” an unbiased historical document on the issue of suburban sprawl overtaking the family farm in the shadow of America’s major metropolitan areas. The next and final step will be finding a publisher for the book.