Sunday, May 31, 2009

The NY Times: Sebastião Salgado

© Sebastião Salgado -All Rights Reserved

The New York Times seems to have caught a photojournalism bug these days. Its photographic offerings are getting better by the day. The recent launching of its LENS blog as well as the ever improving One in a Million multimedia series, have made it a must-go-to destination for photo journalistic fix.

It just published an interesting article entitled Back to Nature, in Pictures and Action on the famed photographer Sebastião Salgado written by Jori Finkel, as well as a gallery Nature, Nurtured of his photographs.

Mr Salgado is working on his epic environmental 8-year project named Genesis, and for which he travels to remote jungle and desert locations. He's photographing the most unspoiled parts of the planet, and visited the semi nomadic Zo’e tribe in the heart of the Brazilian rain forest, trekked desolate stretches of the Sahara, and spent two months in Ethiopia, hiking from Lalibela into Simien National Park to shoot the mountains, indigenous tribes and rare species of animals.

His goal for “Genesis” is to produce a total of 32 visual essays, which he hopes to display in major public parks as well as at various museums starting in 2012.

In my view, one of the best photographers of his generation, if not more. Quite a number of posts on this blog were on Mr Salgado and his photographs, such as Ethiopia's Nomad Warriors, and Amazon Tribes.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Guardian: Yemen

Here's a Soundslides presentation titled The Secret Life of Yemen, as featured by The Guardian newspaper in the UK, and narrated by Kevin Rushby. It doesn't credit the photographs, but they could be by Bruno Morandi, whose photograph appears on the accompanying article by Rushby.

The producer of the slideshow attempted to use the "flip-book" technique for a sequence of stills to convey dynamic movement, and the sound editing includes both Rushby's narration and a catchy Yemeni folk song...but no ambient sound.

I've always wanted to travel to Yemen, however its bad publicity is a deterrent. Will this slideshow change my mind and others?


VJ Multimedia Workshop

I'm not in the habit of advertising workshops that I'm not directly involved in, or knowledgeable about, but the VJ Workshop announces that it will provide a tuition-free multimedia shooting and production workshop for visual storytellers based in the traditions of journalism.

Their goal is to give back to the visual journalism community by educating a new generation of visual journalists in current practices and strategies. This year, university students and Visual Journalists who were laid off in the past two years will receive a tuition-free workshop.

The workshop is July 30- August 2, 2009 in Ventura, CA. The work will be displayed on and launched on August 2, 2009.

The individuals involved are Tom Kennedy (ex WaPo and NGS), Dave Labelle and others.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Two External Backup Hard Drives

Having had the misfortune of frying two of my external hard drives a few weeks ago, I decided to take the example of TheLightroomLab, and get two OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro 'Quad Interface' FireWire 800/400 + USB2 2.0 + eSATA of 1TB each, and restructure my backup storage system.

Yes, I'm eschewing all advice for a RAID system, DOBRO, and Time Capsule by buying these two behemoths, and doing my backups manually, and mirroring one with the other giving me two identical RAW vaults. The hard drives come with software called Data Backup 3 which is a utility to backup, restore and synchronize data with minimal effort. We'll see how it performs. These two OWC drives will be used for RAW only. The TIFFS, multimedia and all the rest of the stuff will remain spread between 3 Lacie drives.

Call me a dinosaur if you like, but that's my favored system. Copying almost 25% of my library of RAW images from DVDs onto a OWC hard drive is enough to drive one crazy, but I'm lucky that I religiously archived my images on DVDs.

Jodi Hilton: Pakistan's Kalash People

With all the news of Pakistan these days, I thought I'd feature the work of a talented freelance photographer which documents the life of the Kalash people.

Jodi Hilton is a freelance photojournalist based in Cambridge, MA. She works for newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, People, TIME, The Guardian and others. In 2002, her Master's project Return To Eboli was published in the National Geographic Italy.

Jodi has a number of galleries on her website, but the one that attracted my attention is the one of the Kalash culture. The Kalash are an ethnic group of the Hindu Kush mountain range, residing in the Chitral district of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. They speak the Kalash language, a member of the Dardic family of Indo-Aryan. Non-Muslims, the Kalash adhere to their own religion, whose mythology and ritual strongly resemble those of the Vedic (Hindu) Indo-Aryans and the pre-Zoroastrian Iranians.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shiho Fukada: The End of Kashgar?

© Shiho Fukada/NYTimes-All Rights Reserved

One of my favorite photographers/photojournalists is Shiho Fukada, and she returns to the pages of The New York Times with photographs of Kashgar made into an audio slideshow titled A City and People At a Crossroads with the narration of Michael Wines (also author of the accompanying article To Protect an Ancient City).

Kashgar is a important hub on the Old Silk Road, a vibrant Islamic centre within Chinese territory, where over a thousand years ago, traders from all over Asia, sold and bought their goods on its streets. It is the largest oasis city in Chinese Central Asia and 90% of its population of over 3,000,,000 are Uygur. Kashgar’s Old City, is “the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in central Asia,” as wrote the architect and historian George Michell.

The article questions whether the Chinese government's policy to demolish the Old City and replace it with modern buildings is really because of its fear of earthquakes, or motivated by the desire to dilute the Uygur's identity by moving them elsewhere.

Some lovely photographs by Fukada of the Old City, especially the first one in the slideshow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Zekr or Soccer?

© Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Over at , I wrote of my experiences in covering one of the Sufi ceremonies in a neighborhood of Old Cairo that is, shall we say...dodgy.

A few moments spent with its quirky denizens however, and I quickly realized that Cairenes never lost their warmth, humor and kindness.

I also concluded that soccer trumps religion, even among Sufis.

Read Part 1 of the Cairo Report here.

Bhanuwat Jittivuthikarn: Tibetan Smiles

Photo © Bhanuwat Jittivuthikarn-All Rights Reserved

Bhanuwat Jittivuthikarn is an emerging visual artist who works in all cross-disciplines, including photography. He graduated from the School of Creative Art (University of Melbourne) with a combined degree in International Politics. Returning to Thailand in 2006, he joined SNF Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation, a grassroots empowerment organization in Asia. He worked on community development projects such as the Post-Tsunami Art Project in Thailand, a visual art training in Sri Lanka, documenting life of Tibetan refugee in India, and fund raising for an art project for young novices in Burma.

Between 5-18 January 2009, Bhanuwat traveled to Saranarth in India, to photograph 45 elderly Tibetan refugees, who were meeting the Dalai Lama for the first time in their life. His photographs of smiling and laughing Tibetans are a tribute to the fortitude of the Tibetan people; many of whom have lived in exile for so long.

NYCPhotoWorks: Portfolio Review Event

On October 22nd-24th, NYCPhotoWorks will be hosting a Portfolio Review event at the newly renovated Sandbox Studios in lower Manhattan that will bring together more than sixty photo editors.

Participating publications include Time, People, Stern, Vanity Fair, Conde Nast, Details, Forbes, ESPN, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic Adventurer, Redbook, and many more. Photographers must apply to be accepted into the event in order to ensure quality of work. If accepted, the photographer will be given the chance to meet with 14 photo editors 1-on-1 over two days, plus a third day of workshops taught by the Directors of Photography for Conde Nast Traveler, People and Redbook.

Further details available at NYCPhotoWorks

Canon 5D Mark II's Movie Exposure

I haven't posted much on what I call Soft Gear, so Eric Beecroft's heads-up this morning was a welcome one.

According to DPReview, Canon just announced it will release a firmware update for the EOS 5D Mark II allowing users to manually control exposure when shooting video. The new firmware will be available for download from 2 June 2009 on Canon Europe’s support web site.

(via Planet 5D Blog)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Alia Refaat: Theyyam & Kathakali Exhibit

As I hinted earlier, another participant in my Theyyam of Malabar photo~expedition is about to step into the limelight. Alia "Coucla" Refaat is putting the final touches to an exhibit of her photographs of Theyyam ceremonies and Kathakali performances, and has issued the following press release:

The Art of Kathakali & The Rituals of Theyyam,” an exhibition by Alia (Coucla) Refaat, an award winning and internationally recognized and exhibited commercial and travel/documentary photographer will be open to the public Thursday 18th June 2009 through Sunday 28th June 2009 at The Cairo Opera House, Music Library. The exhibition along with a reception will be held Thursday 18th June 2009 at 7:00pm inaugurated by his Excellency the Indian Ambassador Mr. R. Swaminathan, along with Indian Embassy staff.

The exhibit highlights two religious rituals and performances from the Kerala area of South India: Kathakali and Theyyam.

An extremely talented photographer from Egypt, Alia studied commercial, studio and portrait photography at the Speos photographic institute in Paris.

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Work: Al Ziqr Multimedia

The ziqr is a form of ritual performed by Sufis, a sect of Islam frequently considered as too liberal and too progressive by the more orthodox theological authorities in Egypt and the Islamic world. Nonetheless, it is practiced in Egypt, particularly in the slums of Cairo and in the country's rural areas. There has been a recent revival of interest in Sufism, and many of Egypt's contemporary Sufis are young, well educated people in professional careers.

The devotions of many Sufis center on the ziqr, a ceremony at which music, body movements, and chants induce a state of ecstatic trance in the disciples.

I photographed two of these rituals; one in the Old Cairo area of Darb Al Ahmar, and the other in a small village called Manawat. (Click the small arrow to start the slideshow).

A large version of this multimedia photo essay is here.


Delicious Magazine is a great source of reliable recipes, they devote a section to 'veggie matters', which is where this quiche recipe came from.

If you are off on a picnic anytime soon, this is the perfect quiche to take with you!

The recipe title should be 'with parsley pastry', but I feared I would possibly end up with green pastry! Maybe, I just wasn't feeling very lucky the day I made the quiche and so decided to play it safe using the usual shortcrust pastry.

I always use Delia's foolproof method for baking the pastry 'blind' and to date it has never let me down, also it gives a wonderful crisp pastry without all the messing about with parchment paper and baking beans.

Quiche can take forever to make, but I now make mine in stages, it seems to be less painful this way.

. Make the pastry and rest in the fridge.
. Later remove pastry from the fridge, roll out, line the tin and prick the pastry with a fork.
. Pop lined tin in the freezer overnight.
. Remove pastry case and prepare to Delia's instructions.
. Whilst the pastry case is cooking, deal with the filling ingredients.

Well, it works for me anyway!!

Equipment: 35cm x 10cm x 3cm deep fluted tart tin with loose base.

You will need: 30g unsalted butter, 1 finely chopped red onion, 200g sliced button mushrooms, 1 tsp lemon juice, 4 tbs chopped fresh flatleaf parsley, 3tbs snipped fresh chives, 2 large free-range eggs lightly beaten, 170ml whipping cream.

For the pastry: 155g plain flour, 3tbs very finely chopped fresh flatleaf parsley (if you are making the parsley pastry), 90g cold unsalted butter chopped, 1 large free-range egg yolk and you may need a couple of teaspoons of iced water.

1. To make the pastry, sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Mix the parsley through. Lightly rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre. Add the egg yolk to the well and mix, using a knife, until a rough dough forms, adding a little iced water if needed. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
2.Roll out the pastry on a sheet of baking paper until large enough to fit the base and sides of the tin. Line the tin and trim the edges. Chill for 20 minutes.
3.Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/Gas5. Bake the pastry shell using Delia's method. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/fan160°C/Gas4.
4. Make the mushroom filling. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the onion and saute over a medium heat for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes until soft. Stir in the lemon juice and herbs. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and cream together and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
5. Spread the mushroom mixture into the pastry shell and pour the egg mixture over the top. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the filling has set.
6. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Books: The Photographer

From what I've seen online, The Photographer is an innovative book combining the photographs of the late Didier Lefèvre, and the drawings of Emmanuel Guibert, and tells the story of a small group of mostly French doctors and nurses who traveled into northern Afghanistan by horse and donkey in 1986, at the height of the Soviet occupation.

The fact that a woman, Dr. Juliette Fournot, led the medical mission whilst dressed as a man and managed to command the respect of the French and Afghans (including the war-hardened warlords and local chiefs, is not only a testament to her character, but shatters our stereotyping of Afghan culture and its Islamic orthodoxy.

Chris Hedges reviews the book in The New York Times, and he writes this insightful paragraph at its end:

The power of “The Photographer” is that it bridges this silence. There is no fighting in this book. No great warriors are exalted. The story is about those who live on the fringes of war and care for its human detritus. By the end of the book the image or picture of a weapon is distasteful. And if you can achieve this, you have gone a long way to imparting the truth about warfare.

For more info on Juliette Fournot, MSF has this page, and on Didier Lefèvre here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thiago Bahia: Amazonia

Move over Ian Wright (Lonely Planet/Globe Trekker) and Michael have a talented competitor who'll run circles around you.

Thiago Bahia is one of the hosts of Amazonia; a travel documentary soon to be aired on PBS that features the natural beauty of Belém, a city on the banks of the Amazon estuary, in the northern part of Brazil and capital of the state of Pará. Wach the 10 minutes documentary to appreciate Thiago's innate abilities to relate to the natural wonder of his birthplace.

Although his employment in a major financial institution is here in New York City, Thiago's heart (and possibly his mind as well) belong in Belém, and he is most comfortable as far away from concrete jungles as possible. Counting this talented young man as a personal friend, I have no doubt that he'll astound us even more.

Boa Sorte Thiago!

PDN Photo Annual 2009 Winners

PDN presented the winning images of the 2009 PDN Photo Annual, which were submitted by an international group of photographers.

Apart from the obvious talent so amply displayed by all the photographers, I was gratified to see that most of the winners in the Web Sites category have used large images...and some like David Maitland and Dani Brubaker have used enormous images on their websites' landing pages.

I've been advocating that larger is better for a long time. My previous posts can be found here, and on Photocrati as well.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Joyce Birkenstock: Theyyam Painting

© Joyce Birkenstock-All Rights Reserved

I am continuously astounded, and I daresay you will as well, by the incredible talent exhibited by the participants in my Theyyam of Malabar Photo~Expedition. And more is yet to come!

Once again, here's a painting by the gifted Joyce Birkenstock of a Theyyam in Kasaragode, Kerala. As I wrote earlier on TTP, Joyce is a remarkable artist and photographer, and a peripatetic international traveler who visited most countries of the world. She received her training at the University of Dallas, the University of Iowa, the Norton Art School, the Art Students League, and the Vermont Studio Center, and her awards, achievements and professional affiliations are too many to list here.

Joyce traveled on most of my photo expeditions, and it's always a pleasure to see the eventual paintings that are inspired by, and based on, her own photographs made during these expeditions.

Earlier posts on Joyce's work on TTP are here.

Bas Uterwijk: Nepali New Year

Bas Uterwijk lives in Amsterdam, is an alum of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Mexico City (and plans on attending the next one in Manali in July), and has now sent me a link to a multimedia production of his colorful photographs made during his travels to Nepal.

Bas has been telling stories with images for most of his career as a computer graphics artist for a video game company, and has recently made the jump to being a full-time working photographer. We wish him all the luck in the world.

Nepalese New Year's celebrations in Thimi by Bas Uterwijk

Friday, May 22, 2009

Daylight Magazine: Jehad Nga

I just received Daylight Magazine's May newsletter, which features Jehad Nga's wonderful photo essay titled "My Shadow My Opponent" which deals with boxers and boxing clubs in Kenya. It explores the scarcely-known boxing subculture of Nairobi's largest slum.

I'm sure many of you will agree with me that the title of the photo essay fits Jehad's trademark chiaroscuro photographs like a glove. It's excellent work by an extremely talented photojournalist/photographer, however it's a shame that there's very little ambient audio of the grunts, exertions, sound of glove on flesh, and other sounds normally associated with boxing (think Rocky Balboa!), nor do we hear the voices of the boxers.

Bob Krist on The Digital Trekker

© Bob Krist-All Rights Reserved

Bob Krist is of course an acclaimed photographer, author, educator and writer, who works regularly on assignment for magazines such as National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, and Islands. He won the title of "Travel Photographer of the Year" from the Society of American Travel Writers in 1994, 2007, and again this year at the 2008 convention.

Not only does he have an interesting (and highly educational) blog, but Matt Brandon of The Digital Trekker interviewed Bob over the phone, and has this engaging conversation for download on his Depth Of Field post. Two professionals speaking with each other is always a treat...this one in particular.

Bob Krist's Photo Traveler Blog
Matt Brandon's The Digital Trekker Blog

Alixandra Fazzina: TIME's Pakistan Essay

Photograph © Alixandra Fazzina-All Rights Reserved

A paragraph in the TIME magazine article titled How Pakistan Failed Itself starts off with this:
Pakistan is a complicated country, one of religious and political diversity, fractured by class and ethnicity. Pakistanis like to quip that they have a population of 170 million — and as many different opinions.
It is accompanied by Pakistan Under The Surface, a slideshow of photographs by Alixandra Fazzina. The thrust of the article and photographs deals with the notion that in reality there are two Pakistans; one that is secular and "Westernized" while the other is under the growing influence of the Taliban or local Islamic orthodoxy.

Alixandra Fazzina's photograph of an Afghan woman nursing her child, not only won The Travel Photographer's Photo of the Year, but won innumerable other (and more important) awards. However, this photo essay gave me the impression that the photographs were chosen haphazardly with no logical sequencing, and thus trivialized the issue. All I really saw was images of young women clubbing in Karachi and others of chador-clad women living in squalid conditions (as the one above)...the work of a photo editor whose knowledge of Pakistan and its issues is superficial at best.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Victoria Olson: Men Becoming Gods

Victoria (Torie) Olson, a contributing editor at Wild Fibers Magazine, and author based in Vermont, announces the forthcoming exhibition of her photographs she made whilst participating in my Theyyam of Malabar Photo~Expedition.

The exhibition of Torie's photographs is titled "Men Becoming Gods in the villages of India's Malabar Coast", and is scheduled for June 5, 2009 during Gallery Walk at 181 Main Street, Brattleboro, Vermont.

A previous TTP post with Torie's photographs of Mangalore's fishing communities appeared here.

Hallelujah! BBC Goes Big

© Micah Albert-All Rights Reserved

I always thought that the BBC website was created and administered by a tea-lady who's a dead ringer for Terry Thomas.

However, having been alerted by Benjamin Chesterton's post over at the excellent duckrabbit, I now realize there are stirrings of modernity, and someone may have finally found the nerve to tell the omnipotent tea-lady that size does matter after all. Some of the photographs on the BBC site are now displayed in a larger format and at a higher quality.

Micah Albert's photographs of Somali refugees arriving in Yemen is one of the first BBC photo essays to appear in the larger size. Not as large and not as many as those appearing on The Big Picture blog or the WSJ's Photo Journal, but a step in the right direction.

The BBC's picture editor Phil Coomes has just started a blog called Viewfinder, which deals with the world of photojournalism, photos in the news and BBC News' use of photographs. Perhaps he'll introduce some more large sized eye candy imagery to the BBC's website.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

POV: NYT & Its Posed Photo

©Zackary Canepari/The New York Times-All Rights Reserved

The New York Times's editors published an unusual apology on Friday. The apology relates to a picture appearing in a May 5 front-page article about the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which showed a silhouetted Taliban logistics tactician, holding a rifle (above). The Times subsequently learned from the photographer that the rifle the Taliban tactician held was not his, and claims that had it known this information at the time of publication, it would not have used the photograph to illustrate the article.

PDN Pulse asks if its readers think this is over the line?

I don't think this is a major issue at all, especially since Canepari seems to have clarified the situation. Frankly, had the editors of The New York Times been half (nay, just one-hundredth) as meticulous with the blatant lies and obfuscations propagated by the Bush Administration which led to the Iraq fisaco as they are now with Canepari's photograph, as a nation we would have been the better for it, and we wouldn't be where we are now.

We all recall The New York Times published lies about the Iraqi's non-existent WMD program as fed to it by members of the previous Administration and their newspaper cronies, and subsequently "apologized" for it.

Update: For another take on the story of the staged picture, read Daniel Sheehan's post on his Photo Blog. He quotes Washington DC photographer John Harrington's view that Canepari "is likely to be persona non-grata at the New York Times, and his journalistic ethics will also likely give other editorial publications pause to hire him."

Of course, the editors of The New York Times who sold us sordid lies about the reasons for our occupation of Iraq are (with the exception of Judith Miller) not personae non gratae. Go figure.

Another Update: I knew my friend Asim Rafiqui would write of the New York Times' silliness in his The Spinning Head blog. He writes this:

"We are supposed to forget that this is also one of a number of American newspapers whose journalists failed to ask even the most basic of questions and failed to examine even the most public of facts during the build up to the invasion of Iraq. Their ethical reporters were on the front lines of journalistic jingoism, helping sell the war to the American public."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Maynard Switzer: Rann of Kutch

©Maynard Switzer-All Rights Reserved

This is the second time that Maynard Switzer's work is featured on The Travel Photographer blog, and there are good reasons for that; his color aesthetic and his recent gallery of lovely photographs made in the Rann of Kutch and Gujarat. I find Rajastani women to be some of the most attractive in the world, always an incentive to post their images.

Maynard received his early training at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and apprenticed for Richard Avedon in New York City. He then went on to open his own studio specializing in beauty and fashion photography, working for a very diverse group of advertising, design and editorial clients. He then broadened his creative horizons to pursue travel, portrait and landscape photography.

Maynard's travel portfolio includes galleries of Bolivia, Burma, Cambodia, China, Cuba, India, North America, Vietnam and Ladakh. The previous post on his work is here.

Note: The Rann of Kutch tribal area is possibly one of the destinations for an early 2010 Spring The Travel Photographer photo~expedition. I'd like to include an interesting festival in Rajasthan as well, so I'm working out the logistics in order to link both destinations.

WSJ's Photo Journal: Islam in Cairo

©Dominic Nahr-All Rights Reserved

The WSJ's Photo Journal has featured some 21 photographs by Dominic Nahr in an interesting photo essay titled In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood Plays Defence and starts it off with this:
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is on the defensive, its struggles reverberating throughout Islamist movements that the secretive organization has spawned world-wide.
I'm somewhat puzzled by this statement, because as far as I know the Muslim Botherhood is a recognized political party in the country and from what I sensed during my just ended short visit to Cairo, it seems to be well entrenched in Egypt's social fabric. The Islamic movement fills voids left by a government overwhelmed by the explosive growth of its population, and by state organizations paralyzed by inefficiency and rotten by corruption. Truth be said, the Egyptian people deserve a better quality of life, and religion plays an important role in making their lives a little more bearable.

Irrespective of politics, I was amazed to see that all women employees in government entities wore the Islamic veil. Some of them even wore the "niqab" which covers the whole face. I had to spend some time at a couple of these government offices, and seeing this relatively recent change in women dress habits was shocking. I haven't been to Cairo for 8 years, and this was the most jarring change.

I'm told that many of the women dress so conservatively do so to avoid criticism and sexual harassment at their workplace. I'm also told by a local wit that some are "Saudi Arabian from the outside and French from the inside", meaning that it's all a show rather than based on conviction. It may well be true, since I noticed that the veiled young woman vendor selling me a SIM card for my cell phone was heavily made-up, with traces of glitter on her eye-lids.

Having said that, I can only reiterate what I wrote in an earlier post. There are no kinder people than Egyptians, and their courtesy and genuine warmth towards foreigners and visitors are wonderful attributes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New York Times' New Blog: Lens

The New York Times just launched a large-format photo blog called LENS to showcase photojournalism projects. It joins the handful of newspaper blogs that feature photo projects that might not be able to find a home in print, following the model established by the very popular The Big Picture (Boston Globe) and WSJ's Photo Journal.

PDN reports that LENS has no dedicated staff and no budget for photography, and will showcase work shot for the Times’ print edition, personal projects by Times photographers, wire service photographs, and work provided for publication at no cost. I'm not thrilled to read the latter option, but it's a sign of the times (pun intended). The blog will also feature multimedia features...and I'm always happy about that. It will provide inspiration, but may occasionally also provide fodder for my rants, aka opinionated criticism such as overuse of panning, bland narrative, mis-matched audio soundtrack, itty-bitty photographs, etc.

I've quickly visited LENS, and it's interface is quite neat. It'll be bookmarked and referred to often on this blog. The Washington Post will probably follow soon, as its Camera Works needs a major facelift.

My thanks to Ralph Childs who alerted me that LENS was launched as I landed in London!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I'm flying to London today where I'll spend a few days before returning home to New York City. I wasn't planning to post today (my robotic assistant is on vacation) but I saw that The Travel Photographer blog now has 100 I thought I'd thank them with this post. Thank you! I think that's quite a milestone on this blog's trajectory.

I'm still bemused that this blog attracts thousands of loyal readers on a daily basis, who arrived from disparate sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other search engines etc. At some point, I'll have to improve my grammar and soften my opinions!

This is my last post from Cairo.


It is the first National Family Week 25th to the 31st May 2009 here in the UK and by visiting the website you will find lots of family activities taking place across the country.

Children will love this flowerpot bread I've made to celebrate this week. Making bread with little ones, is a great rainy day activity, (obviously, you will need to use the traditional method). It has to be said, using a bread machine couldn't be classed as 'fun'.

The bread is a mixture of white and malted brown bread flower, sweetened with honey and decorated with sunflower seeds (I wouldn't use the sunflower seeds as decoration for very small children but use something like oat flakes).

I made Feta, Tomato and Rosemary Flowerpot bread last time and you can see the recipe here.

There is a problem using flowerpots for bread making, and that is, the cooked bread can stick to them, making removal of the bread difficult. Last time I lined the pots with parchment which made the bread easy to remove. Unfortunately, the parchment paper stops the bread from crisping.

This time round, I decided to put discs of parchment paper in the base of the pots and greased the inside really well with butter. When cooked, if you tip the pots upside down, the bread is well and truly stuck - so, a palette knife carefully put between the bread and pot, just about manages to remove the bread in one piece!

I've now decided to do some research on the net about using flower pots, and it seems that you need to season them first to stop the bread sticking. If you click here you can see how it's done.

I halved the quantities stated in the recipe, which came from Delicious Magazine, and made enough dough to fill six flowerpots. The dough was made in the bread maker, less liquid is needed if you use this method.

There is nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread and these little flowerpots had a wonderful crisp top, soft within and scented with honey.

Cairo Report: Minimus Gear

Just a short blog post to confirm that my minimalistic gear setup consisting of the Acer Aspire One netbook, the G-Tech Mini 250 gb hard drive, the Domke F3-X plus my Canon 5D Mark II with a 28-70mm 2.8 and 17-40mm 4.0 mm, has worked marvelously well here in Cairo.

The small Domke bag holds all the above gear, plus the Marantz PMD 620 and assorted paraphernalia including travel documents. This has literally liberated me from carrying a much heavier load, spares my back and shoulders and is easy to carry in the field.

It has proven to be an ideal gear combination for a short term trip/assignment. I'm still uncomfortable with Aspire's Windows OS, but it's a small price to pay for the convenience. I don't know what Apple is thinking, but I really believe it's making a mistake in not producing a netbook.

For netbook candy, have a look at the Asus Eee 1008HA, aka the Seashell on The New York Times' Gadgetwise.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

POV: Cairo Report

©Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

I'm frequently asked to organize and lead photo~expeditions to Egypt (or more specifically to Cairo), and I've always resisted the temptation. People view this as strange and have difficulty understanding the reasons. After all, I was born in Cairo, I speak the language (almost a colloquially as its residents) and perfectly understand the culture.

My reasons for my resistance are many, but here's a few I can share on this blog.

1. I'm a travel-documentary photographer, and my primary interests for my photo expeditions revolve around photographing esoteric but authentic cultural and religious rituals and ceremonies. My trips are "event-specific" such as my recent photo~expedition to Kerala for the Theyyam rituals or my forthcoming trip to Morocco to photograph the Gnawa festival. These are highly colorful events, with powerful visual aesthetics. The visual aesthetics of authentic festivals in Egypt are not as colorful nor as "eye-candy" appealing. I don't mean to imply that these are not interesting; quite the opposite is true but they're usually monochromatic and much less flamboyant than in Asia as an example. Somewhat facetiously (and perhaps a bit unfairly) I described Cairo as being beige on beige on beige with hints of beige.

The ceremonies or rituals aimed at the touristic market in Egypt are contrived, and while these are designed to be colorful and attractive, I find their lack of authenticity to be unappealing. Yes, there are a few authentic and visually interesting religious festivals in Egypt but here's where my second point kicks in.

2. Egyptian bureaucracy (which is stifling and pervasive here) is an enormous turn-off for me. I'll be charitable and just say that fixers need fixers in Egypt to be able to fix anything. Nothing gets done in a timely fashion or efficiently unless one lubricates the system. Tipping is no longer an act of appreciation for good service, but is now an entitlement. Bait and switch in the tourist industry is frequently the norm, whether in terms of guides, transport or itineraries.

The success of my photo~expeditions is because I'm confident of the supporting infrastructure I've chosen to use...whether guides, fixers, agents, vehicular transport, hotels and so forth. In Egypt, unless I were able to use the people who are close to me (but they're not in the tourism industry) to set up my trips, I have no confidence that they would go as well as I would want and expect them to be. It's difficult to find kinder people than the Egyptians, but that characteristic is not sufficient to overlook the host of downsides.

I wish I could say otherwise, but Egypt will not appear as a destination for my photo expeditions.

Friday, May 15, 2009

James Nachtwey: Red Cross in Afghanistan

James Nachtwey photographed Alberto Cairo who heads the orthopedic rehabilitation program of the International Committee of the Red Cross, a job dedicated to helping disabled Afghans live normally again by equipping them with artificial legs and arms.
Cairo, once a debonair lawyer in his native Turin, Italy, is almost certainly the most celebrated Western relief official in Afghanistan, at least among Afghans.

CNN brings us a SoundSlides photo-essay on Alberto Cairo and the ICRC in Afghanistan.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cairo Report: Zekr at Manawat

©Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

It happened. Driven by Abdel Fattah ("Kojak") and accompanied by Badawi, then meeting with Haj Zakaria and Badawi's father at 11:00 pm, I was welcomed to an authentic zikr ceremony held at the village of Manawat. This is certainly not a venue for the faint-hearted or for foreigners (assuming they would even find the village). The ceremony starts after the night prayer and goes well into the dawn hours. I would go beyond describing the performance as totally authentic. It's a rural ceremony performed by villagers for villagers who follow a certain tariqah or Sufi way. The performance was held in a small alley, lit by a combination of fluorescent and dangling bulbs. The attendees, men and women, sat on straw carpets, and lined the walls of the alley smoking sheeshas or cigarettes.

As I wrote earlier, zikr is a devotional performance which includes the repetition of the names of Allah, supplications and sections of the Qur'an.

The music and chanting were mind-blowing. Very similar to the traditional rural songs called mawwal, the rhythm starts slow and progressively gets quicker while the attendees sway to its tempo, until they reach a state of trance. Not the easiest of photo shoots because of the confined space, mixed light sources and blaring loudspeakers, but I was transfixed by the authenticity of the event. Unfortunately, the monochrome of Egyptian traditional dress (browns, white and black) is not visually magnetic...but that's how it is.

Once I'm back in New York, I'll edit my photographs and review the quality of the audio recordings and determine whether a multimedia slideshow can be produced. In the meantime, here's one that caught my eye from last night.

Antonio Mari: The Rajasthan Diaries

Antonio Mari is a Brazilian journalist and photographer based in New York City, specializing in ethnographic subject matter--documenting peoples and cultures outside the mainstream of western civilization. He emailed me attaching the above slideshow of Rajasthani portraits and scenes for inclusion on the blog.

This is an opportune post as I'm currently preparing details for my first photo~expedition of 2010, and Antonio's slideshow is a hint as to where I hope to be heading. There are a number of annual events in the area that beg to be photographed, and no, it's not the over-hyped over-covered Pushkar Fair.

Antonio's work is on the Geo Zoom Website . I've prviously posted Antonio's work on the Yanomami on this blog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cairo Report: Madh in Old Cairo

©Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Here's another of my photographs of the band at Monday's Sufi madh at the shrine of Sayyidah Fatimah Al Nabawiyya. The fellow on the left in his white galabeya is called the muallem or the leader of the band, while the other is called el-madah.

I'm hoping to attend a real zikr ceremony late tonight in one of the villages surrounding Cairo. Naturally, I'll be accompanied by the indispensable Badawi and Kojak, the driver. And even more naturally, it's incha allah.

Note: I don't have Photoshop installed on my Acer netbook (one of the disadvantages of going minimalist) so I'm using Gimp, the free and lightweight image editing program which I'm not familiar with...perhaps a reason for the images being either too soft or oversharpened.

Stuart Freedman: Kathakali

©Stuart Freedman-All Rights Reserved

Stuart Freedman is an English photographer, whose work was published in, amongst others, Life, Geo, Time, Der Spiegel, Newsweek and Paris Match covering stories from Albania to Afghanistan and from former Yugoslavia to Haiti. He was recognized in many awards such as Amnesty International (twice), Pictures of the Year, The World Sports Photo Award, The Royal Photographic Society and UNICEF, and was selected for the 1998 World Press Masterclass and for the Agfa Young Photojournalist of the Year.

Having returned from Kerala myself, I thought I'd feature his Kathakali work photographed at the Kerala Kalamandalam (the state academy of classical arts). The Kalamandalam was founded in the 1930’s to preserve the ancient forms of Keralan arts and dance of which Kathakali, a mute mixture of ballet and drama is the most well known.

I've already posted some of Stuart's work on Delhi's Shahidur Depot here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Zikr At Fatimah Al-Nabawiyah Shrine

©Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Well, it did happen. Driven in the rickety taxi expertly navigated by Abdel-Fattah (aka Kojak) in the grimy labyrinthine alleys of Old Cairo, and accompanied by Badawi and Haj Zakaria (an Imam by choice and a government employee by necessity), I arrived in reasonable good form at the shrine (and mosque) of Sayyidah Fatimah Al Nabawiyya just before the afternoon Muslim prayers. It is here, just outside the mosque, that a small Sufi zikr was scheduled to take place.

Sayyidah Fatima was one of the daughters of Imam Hussein, the martyred son of Ali (nephew of the Prophet Mohammad and revered by Shi'a Muslims), who is said to be the first to know of her father's martyrdom when a black crow soaked in the Imam's blood landed next to her. She is considered to be a saint by many in the local Sufi community.

The definition of zikr is that it's an Islamic practice and a devotional act which includes the repetition of the names of Allah, supplications and aphorisms and sections of the Qur'an. What I witnessed was a small manifestation of this practice, where a band of devotional musicians sang (rather than recited) homage to various saints such as Al Badawi, founder of the Badawiyyah Sufi order, among others.

A number of tiny street cafes offered tea to the spectators, while a few veiled women occasionally swayed to the tempo of the music. An elderly woman had to helped after she "swooned" from the exertion. I have no idea if it was caused by the exertion of having sucked on a water pipe for the better part of an hour, or by her entering a state of trance.

More a block party than a serious religious event, there was a sense of neighborhood fraternity amongst the attendees. I was viewed with amused curiosity, and treated with the Egyptian customary kindness. I realized that the event wasn't packed because it coincided with an important soccer match being televised and shown in various tea-houses. Religion is important, but it's often trumped by soccer.

I considered this as a precursor to other more important events, which I'm working on. Hopefully, there'll be more to come. However as I expected, it was monochromatic...and hence the black & white photograph of this post. The highlight of the performance was to hear my name being sung when I made a modest contribution to the band's "pension fund". I had my audio recorder on for a while, and the little I listened to so far is quite interesting.

Note: Technically-speaking, I was advised that what I saw is called Madh rather than Zikr. Madh is the giving of praise to various saints, which is exactly what this ceremony was about.

Albertina d'Urso: Bodies For Sale

Albertina D'Urso is an Italian documentary photographer. She published two books, "Bombay Slum" and "Lifezoom", and two collections "Respiro del Mondo 5, Afghanistan" and "Km 5072, Milano-Kabul No Stop," which received the Canon Young Photographers Award in 2007.

She traveled to over 70 countries and has a special interest in Tibetan culture. She has been photographing Tibetan refugees around the world since 2004. One of her newer photo essays is on Mumbai's prostitutes which are estimated to be 150,000. These women are brought in from various areas of India and Nepal.

posted by TTP's robotic assistant

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cairo Report

©Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

I'm planning to attend a genuine zikr ceremony this afternoon in a traditional (aka gritty) Old Cairo neighborhood called Darb Al Ahmar. A rickety taxi driven by a ricketier cab driver nicknamed Kojak (yes of course, he's totally bald) will take me to the place, where I am assured that I will have access to the ceremony.

This is not a performance for tourists but an authentic ceremony, where homage to God (or Allah) is given by men (occasionally women) by repeating certain chants, frequently accompanied by drumbeats. In terms of visuals, it may not be highly colorful nor exotic since the performers are just regular people who follow certain religious traditions. Nonetheless, trances are involved in the zikr ceremonies, and armed with both camera and audio recorder, it ought to be captivating.

A post-event report (if indeed it happens) will be posted on TTP. As they say around here: "Incha Allah".

A Piece of Cake by Leila Lindholm

I have been sent a wonderful baking book to review by New Holland Publishers(UK)Ltd.

Leila Lindholm is a popular TV Chef in Sweden and she also has her own food magazine, 'Leila's Country Living' (which is only in Sweden). In the UK she has been featured in Delicious and Easy Living magazines.

There are over 200 easy-to-follow baking recipes in this beautifully illustrated book. Chapters in the book are: In the Cookie Jar - On the Cake Plate - Tarts, flans and pies - Cupcakes and muffins - Party cakes - Berry squash and buns - Savoury bread - Hearty wholemeal and crisp bread - Baking without an oven - Sauces, creams and marmalade - also an SOS chapter.

To whet the appetite there are recipes for - lovely toffee slices, pecan banana bread, high-hat cupcakes, the apple lady's crumble, Spanish meringue, strawberry squash, blueberry and lemon scones, sweet rye and raisin rolls, fruit and hazelnut sourdough, lion bars and elderflower custard.

Leila gives a basic recipe for muffins, and then to this, other ingredients can be added. From the basic muffin mixture, we are given nine different muffin recipes. Maltezer muffins, Snickers muffins, and blueberry muffins with crumble, just to name a few. The principle of taking a basic recipe, to which other ingredients are added, is a theme used throughout the book.

Everyone who loves baking, as much as I do, will find this is a wonderful addition to the bookshelf. I haven't put the book down since receiving it, this really is the sign of a good book!

Here is an example of one of the beautiful cupcake recipes in the book.


ISBN 9781847734457 - Page 86

Makes: 12-16 cupcakes

For the Classic cupcake recipe you will need: 3 organic eggs, 225g caster sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar, 100g unsalted butter, 100ml milk, 210g plain flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 pinch of salt, zest and juice of 1 lemon.
For the Raspberry Cupcakes you will need 150g raspberries.

1. Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas 4.
2. Place muffin paper cases in a 12 hole muffin tin.
3. Beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla sugar until pale and fluffy.
4. Melt the butter, pour in the milk and blend with the egg mixture.
5. Add the lemon zest and juice to the mixture.
6. Carefully blend in the raspberries.
7. Pour the mixture into the cases until they are two-thirds full.
8. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 15 minutes. Leave to cool.

Raspberry Frosting

180g icing sugar, 150g cream cheese, 75g raspberries plus extra for decoration.

1. Make the frosting by mixing together the icing sugar and cream cheese until creamy.
2. Carefully blend in the raspberries and spread the frosting over the cupcakes.
3. Decorate with fresh raspberries.