Friday, April 30, 2010

POV: Is It "Visual Plagiarism"?

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

It's rare for me to have an ambivalent view on anything, but I've stumbled across a "tweet" on my Twitter page (presumably from one of my 800+ followers addressed to another photographer) which prompts this post.

I don't want to divulge more details than is necessary, so I'll use this hypothetical example:

A travel photographer with somewhat of a distinctive style travels to a remote location and photographs its indigenous people. A year later, another travel photographer with more or less the same style travels to the same location, and photographs the same people. The latter photographer stays at the same accommodations, uses the same guide/fixer, and the subjects are the same. To my knowledge, there's no contact between the two photographers...and there's no exchange of information. However, the photographs closely resemble each other in terms of subjects and photographic style.

So the question is whether this constitutes plagiarism or inspiration. Taking the example of the Rebari shepherd in the above photograph, would it be plagiarism if another photographer traveled to Poshina in Rajasthan, stumbled on my local fixer who then somehow arranged this particular shepherd to be photographed? I don't think so.

Would it be different if the photographer, having seen the above photograph, asked the Rebari shepherd to adopt the exact same pose? Is that plagiarism or just being inspired?

Perhaps it's the degree of the imitation that resolves the question. If the photographer shot the same Rebari, and purposefully arranged the photo shoot so that he'd wear the same exact turban and tunic, against the same background? Yes, I think that's the answer. If the imitation is purposeful and premeditated, then it is plagiarism...otherwise, it's just flattery.

Yes, that's it...I think.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


A wonderful selection of biscuits have been sent to me this week by Fudges Bakery, who are based in Dorset. Fudges are a family bakery, who were founded by Percy Fudge in 1926, and they continue to this day as a family bakery.

Oat & Sultana Biscuits, half dipped in Belgian Milk Chocolate
Lemon Zest Biscuits, half dipped in Belgian White Chocolate
Butter Biscuits, half dipped in Belgian Dark Chocolate
Hazelnut Biscuits, half dipped in Belgian Milk Chocolate

Mr W isn't as enthusiastic as I am, when it comes to eating biscuits, but on this occasion he said these were 'wow biscuits' and just couldn't stop eating them. He said the biscuits had just the right amount of butter and crunch, he even asked where we can buy more. Yes - I ate a lot too.

The biscuits come beautifully presented and look exactly the same as on the front of the box. They are placed individually in a presentation tray, chocolate side up, which prevents the chocolate being marked.

Sadly, the marks on the chocolate biscuits in the photograph were caused by me whilst I was trying to balance a broken biscuit on them!

Thank you to James and all at Fudges Bakery.

Foundry PJ Workshop: Instructors Line Up

What more is there to say?

Thailand: Damnoen Saduak Market

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

The troubling events in the streets of Bangkok reminded me of the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market near the capital, which is a must-stop for foreign and local tourists, as well as food lovers. I've visited it almost every time I stop in Thailand, when I'm en route to Bhutan, Cambodia or Bali.

Yes, it's a tourist trap to a large degree but the food served by the women on their floating dugouts-kitchens is spectacular. I'm told that getting there very early in the morning will ensure a tourist-free experience, but I doubt it.

I'm traveling today, hence this short post.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

POV: The Fact of The Matter...

The Marco Vernsachi & The Pulitzer Center "affair" seems to have somewhat calmed down after the considerable airing of divergent views, opinions and debate between photojournalists, photographers and journalists in the blogosphere.

Some of these views were expressed on Lightstalkers, which is a popular no-holds barred forum for photographers. Going through the posts, I saw one that claimed that the story (and its handling) was not only a blow to the credibility of photojournalism (which I agree), but also a blow to the credibility of some blogs (and their authors).

Huh? The Pulitzer Center was forced to formally admit (twice) its mistake in publishing an image of an exhumed corpse of a young Ugandan girl on its site, because of the bloggers' criticisms that it violated the rights of a child to dignity and privacy. If it hadn't been for the bloggers, these offensive photographs would be still on the Center's website, circulated on social networks and possibly worse.

I view this story and its results as vindication for those bloggers who had the courage of their convictions, and demand that these offensive photographs be pulled from the Pulitzer Center's website. It's hoped that the Pulitzer Centre will stand by its promise of redoubling its "efforts to authenticate every claim and to insure the privacy rights of individual victims".

The appropriate way to look at it is that the bloggers stepped in and redressed a wrong that would not have been committed had the parents of these unfortunate African children have recourse to a sophisticated legal system preventing such liberties with privacy rights.

Ian Lloyd: Asia

Ian Lloyd is an Australian photographer who has undertaken commissions for magazines such as National Geographic, Time, Fortune, Gourmet and Conde Nast Traveler and multinational companies as diverse as ExxonMobil, Pepsi, Motorola and Singapore Airlines have commissioned Ian for commercial photography assignments. He has photographed 36 books on countries and regions around Asia including large format books on Kathmandu, Bali and Singapore and a four volume series on Australian wine regions.

You'll see from the Spirit of Asia video that it's a retrospective look at 20 years of his photography in Asia. Perhaps somewhat different from most of the travel photography I have featured here on The Travel Photographer blog, but certainly of high quality that we expect from photographers who work with the National Geographic.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Diego Vergés: The Mentawai

Photo © Diego Vergés-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Diego Vergés-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Diego Vergés-All Rights Reserved

As I indicated in an earlier post on The Travel Photographer blog, Diego Vergés is back from his 4 months trip to Indonesia (and PNG) and its various islands, and is currently working feverishly on his inventory of images.

He tells me that he has so far edited and readied only one of his expected 8 or more photo essays on the various indigenous groups of Indonesia, and that's the gallery on the Mentawai. The images are spectacular, and I encourage you to view them as they provide a window into a culture which I suspect will soon vanish.

You'll notice Diego's characteristic lighting techniques from the above photographs, and which he told he learned from The Strobist. Photographing the Mentawai, he used off camera lighting, a reflector and a softbox. For cameras, Diego uses a Canon 5d and a 5d Mark II, with prime lenses (24mm f1.4 and 50mm f1.4).

The Mentawai are the native people of the Mentawai Islands, which is a chain of about seventy islands and islets off the western coast of Sumatra. They live a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the coastal and rain forest environments of the islands, and number about 64,000. They are known by their deep spirituality, body art and the tradition of sharpening their teeth for beautifying reasons.

The Mentawai practice traditional animism, and as with other indigenous cultures, are threatened by encroaching modernism.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hans Silvester: Omo Valley Fashion

The May-June issue of American Express' Departures magazine features the work of photographer Hans Silvester, a German photographer, who documents the extraordinary body painting of the Surma and Mursi peoples of the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia.

The Surma and Mursi tribes are body painters. They paint their bodies with natural pigments made from the earth. They paint themselves and each other in a tradition that has remained unchanged for millenia. They use their bodies as canvases, painting their skin with pigments made from powdered volcanic rock and adorning themselves with materials obtained from flowers, leaves, grasses, shells and animal horns.

Hans Silvester was born in Lorrach, Germany, and is now based in southern France. He is recognized for a wide-ranging body of work and a protracted study of his subjects, most frequently nature, animals and the environment.

As the issue of Departures isn't yet on-line, many of the Omo Valley Fashion photographs can be found on The Daily Mail issue of February 2008.

Michael Rubenstein:India

Photograph © Michael Rubenstein-All Rights Reserved

Michael Rubenstein is a photographer based in Mumbai to cover South Asia for Redux Pictures, having lived in New York City and Portland, Oregon. He has a degree in Environmental Policy and has studied at Ohio University's School of Visual Communications.

His clients include: Time Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, The Oregonian, The Chicago Tribune, The Financial Times, Complex Magazine, The Paris Match, Bloomberg News Service and W+K.

Some of his work on Andheri, a Mumbai suburb being transformed into a hip neighborhood appeared in the NY Times. And it's interesting to see the stylistic difference between this photo sideshow and his India gallery on his website.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


A very quick and tasty stir fry, with just a few simple ingredients, and dinner was served in just over 30 minutes.

Serves: 4

2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce, 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, juice of half a lime, 4 salmon fillets, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, 380g pack stir fry vegetables, 300g noodles, ½ teaspoon sesame oil.

1. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas 4.
2. Mix the Encona sweet chilli sauce, lime juice, ginger and teriyaki sauce together, brush over the top and sides of the salmon then put on a lined baking sheet. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds and cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Heat the sunflower oil in a wok, stir fry the veg until tender. Sprinkle the sesame oil over the cooked noodles and add to the stir fry veg.
4. Divide the stir fry veg and noodle mix between four dishes and top with the cooked salmon.

I have been sent a variety of Encona Sauces and I am now really looking forward to trying them. The sauces are suitable for marinading, adding to a variety of cooked dishes or as dips.

Thank you to Encona and Lauren.

POV: So Whose Lapse In Judgment Is It?

Update evening of 4.25.2010: Both Marco Vernaschi and the Pulitzer Center For Crisis Reporting responded to the critics.

I was pleased to read this final paragraph of the response (my emphasis):
We do not suggest that the decisions involved in this reporting project are anything but difficult, as we hope was apparent in our statement accepting responsibility for what we believe was a mistaken decision to exhume the body of Babirye and to publish the image on our site. It is our hope that these issues can be discussed without malice, distortions and groundless attacks on the personal motivations of others.-- Jon Sawyer, Pulitzer Center Executive Director

My morning's post follows:

Along with many others, I wrote a post a few days ago on a story being discussed in photojournalism circles and blogs, involving Marco Vernaschi, an Italian photographer/photojournalist who worked on a project documenting the phenomenon of child witches, human sacrifice and organ trafficking in Africa, and the Pultizer Center For Crisis Reporting. The story as it evolved during the past week hinged on the veracity of Vernaschi as to the circumstances behind the exhumation of a Ugandan girl, and the Pultizer Center's publication of the photograph(s) and its subsequent apologies for doing so.

I am listing the links to these blogs/websites all through this post.

Asim Rafiqui in his always insightful (and frequently provocative) blog The Spinning Head asks:

"Why did Marco Vernaschi do it?"

An important and pertinent question, but mine is different. I don't really care why Vernaschi did it. Perhaps he rationalized that exhuming a child's corpse and photographing it was the right thing to do...that it would bring this issue to the West's "consciousness" (as if we really would and could do something about it)...that it would win him more photojournalism awards...that it would make him the best photojournalist in the world...that it would justify his grant from the Pulitzer Center...that it would put bread on his table or pay his mortgage or pay his children's school fees...whatever. I believe he was wrong, and that's the end of it.

I ask the same question but of The Pulitzer Center For Crisis Reporting's Executive Director and his staff . It was The Pulitzer Center which published Vernaschi's photographs and his essays. So here's the real nub of the matter: why did they do it and why didn't they check the details' veracity before publishing? Had they done what in banking circles is called "due diligence", they may have realized what the incomparable Benjamin Chesterton of A Developing Story did. Had they investigated the story a little more seriously, they may have realized what the courageous Anne Holmes of The Vigilante Journalist did.

As I expressed in my POV: And The Outrage Continues involving the publication of a photo essay on a young girl in Kurdistan being circumcised, photographers and photojournalists operate under intense competition and pressure to submit cutting-edge work, and frequently lose sight of what is right. Exhuming the body of a young girl for a photograph is beyond the pale, but the decision for its publication wasn't Vernaschi''s the Pulitzer Center's. I'm not at all exonerating the photographer for what he did, but I'm more critical of those who agreed to publish these photographs.

Let's get real. If most publishers (especially those of Pulitzer's repute) refused to publish photographic tripe of dubious ethical provenance, photographers would toe the line....but because sensationalism has pervaded our media, they cut corners and lose sight of what is right..especially when it involves poverty-stricken Africans or Arabs, who have no or little legal recourse to protect their privacy rights.

Let's all remember how aghast we were when photographer Adnan Hajj was accused to have digitally manipulated photographs (ie cloning thicker plumes of smoke from IDF missiles already raining on Beirut), and we kept tut-tutting about it until Reuters fired Hajj and a photo editor, and subsequently issued new policy guidelines for its photographers. Adding some smoke plumes or exhuming a body for a photograph...which is worse?

Yes, the Pulitzer Center apologized, and promised to "redouble (its) efforts to authenticate every claim and to insure the privacy rights of individual victims."

Is that enough? I don't believe so.

Other links:

To stage or not to stage? by Jørn Stjerneklar.

Conscientious by Jörg M. Colberg.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kevin Bubriski: Nepal

Photograph © Kevin Bubriski-All Rights Reserved

Kevin Burbriski arrived in Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1975, and spent about 4 years working in remote villages. He returned in 1984 as a photographer, and with a 4” x 5” view camera, a Nepalese photographic assistant, and two porters, he traveled the length and breadth of the country for the better part of three years.

I mentioned Kevin Bubriski's work on this blog in connection with his exhibition at the Rubin Musuem in NYC, but I read (via PDN) that he was named the 2010-2011 Robert Gardner Visiting Artist Fellow at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology. The fellowship carries a $50,000 stipend and will allow the photographer-documentarian to continue his work in the northwest of Nepal.

His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the International Center of Photography, all in New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; and the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

Kevin's website showcases his work from Venice, Pakistan, India, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Egypt and Nepal among other countries...but it's his work of Nepal that resonates the most with me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Foundry Photo~Journalism Workshop: Istanbul

The Foundry Photo~Journalism Workshop 2010 is in Istanbul, and if your dream is to be coached by some of the best photographers and photojournalists available, do it now!

The roster of instructors reads like a Who's Who in the world of photojournalism: Tyler Hicks, Lynsey Addario, Jared Moosy, David Bathgate, Jon Vidar, Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Rena Effendi, Ron Haviv, Andrea Bruce, Ami Vitale, Kael Alford, Adriana Zehbrauskas, Henrik Kastenskov, Stephanie Sinclair, Guy Calaf and Tewfic El-Sawy.

The courses currently offered are FROM VISION TO LIFE: Documenting social issues outside the mediaʼs agenda setting; Transitioning to the new world of Photojournalism; Formulating a Photo Essay; Photographing stories; Intimacy and Empathy in Storytelling; Capturing Cultures – Communicating Without Boundaries; The Essential Guide to Backpack Journalism; Introduction to Multimedia Storytelling, and many more.

Here's another thing...photographers like Dhiraj Singh who attended a class at the 2009 Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in India was awarded Honorable Mention (Feature Audio Slideshow) in the National Press Photographers Association's Best of Photojournalism 2010 for an audio slideshow made during that workshop.

Yes, dreams come true when you attend the get on it! There are still a handful of places available.

Ralph Childs: Bali

Photo © Ralph Childs-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Ralph Childs-All Rights Reserved

Although Ralph Childs participated in my photo~expedition to Bali in summer 2007, he's once again joining Bali: Island of Odalan Photo-Expedition™ which I'm organizing and leading this coming August.

Ralph is an active member of the Arlington Camera Club, and his photographs of a Balinese dancer and of a Pemangku (Balinese priest) have both won awards at this month's competition.

He has indulged in a passion for photography since the late 1960s when he took a Minolta ALs camera to France, and he has continued his passion since. Ralph has already been on four of my photo~expeditions, and this coming August will earn the fifth notch on his belt.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Frontline: Dancing Boys of Afghanistan

On Tuesday night, I watched the harrowing Frontline: The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan which exposed an ancient practice know as as "bacha bazi" which, literally translated, means 'boys' play'.

This illegal practice exploits orphans and street boys, and has been revived by powerful warlords, businessmen and military commanders in Afghanistan. These men dress the boys in women's clothes, who are trained to sing and dance for their enjoyment. The dancing boys are also used sexually by these men.

This is outstanding journalism by Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi, and my hat's off to PBS and to the Frontline producers for doing such an admirable job. I was particularly impressed by Quraishi and his producers' attempts to arrange the rescue of one of the dancing boys profiled in the film, an 11-year-old boy bought from an impoverished rural family.

In contrast with other productions (see my post of yesterday, for instance) the 11-year boy's face was blurred throughout the film to preserve his anonymity and self-respect.

Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam, and yet pederasty and boy concubinage has had a long history in the Persian cultural world which includes much of Afghanistan.

WP: India In Motion

The Travel section of the Washington Post has featured a collection of short videos titled India In Motion. The videos are somewhat eclectic, and start with fast paced clips of Mumbai, then Udaipur, Jaislamer, Agra, Haridwar and Rishikesh.

The videos are by Whitney Shefte, while the design is by Kat Downs. It's unfortunate that some of the music choices chosen to accompany the videos are incongruous. For instance, I'm still scratching my head over the logic of having music which sounds it's played by a Central European zither group with a video clip featuring camels in Jaisalmer!

I realize that the Washington Post is not the National Geographic, but India In Motion is superficially researched, and seems to meander with no clear objective and purpose. It puzzles me when a project such as India In Motion, with the considerable backing and funding of one of the premier newspapers in the world, ends up being an incoherent mess like it is.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

POV: Marco Vernaschi & Child Sacrifice

Update: 4.25.2010: See my follow-up post So Whose Judgment Lapse Is it?
Update 4.22.2010: Jon Sawyer of the Pulitzer Center responds, and within the response is this:

"Yet we also believe, and Vernaschi agrees, that it was wrong to ask that the body be exhumed. It showed disrespect for the dead, and forced a grieving family to suffer anew. It also had the effect of focusing attention on the actions of one journalist, as opposed to a horrific crime that needs to be exposed.

We regret any damage that may have been caused. We intend to continue this project, documenting the phenomenon of child sacrifice, but in so doing we we will redouble our efforts to authenticate every claim and to insure the privacy rights of individual victims.

Here's my original post 0f 4.21.2010:

Here's another story that is guaranteed to make your stomachs churn. It involves Marco Vernaschi an Italian photographer/photojournalist who worked on a project documenting the phenomenon of child witches, human sacrifice and organ trafficking in Africa, and the Pultizer Center For Crisis Reporting.

I have linked to various photographs, but be aware that these are highly disturbing.

It appears that the Pulitzer Center funded Vernaschi to do a story on child sacrifice in Uganda, and it published some of his hard-hitting photographs in an article titled Uganda: Babirye, The Girl from Katugwe, in which the photographer convinces a Ugandan mother to allow the exhumation of her mutilated daughter's body in order to photograph it as "visual evidence". The photograph of the corpse is then shown on both Vernaschi's website and on the Pulitzer Center's. Payment (described as "a contribution for a lawyer") was made by the photographer to the mother.

Another photograph on Vernaschi's website shows an abused boy with a catheter protruding from where his penis has been cut off. His face is clearly shown.

Vernaschi's website explains that
"Child sacrifice in Uganda is a phenomenon that has embedded itself within traditional customs but that bears no genuine relationship to local culture. The appeal to "cultural beliefs" is actually an excuse used by witchdoctors to justify their crimes, and by the Ugandan government to avoid taking action. The government tries to minimize the magnitude of the problem because politicians fear losing votes and this is a a country where witchdoctors wield surprising influence at the polls."
I'm all for documentary coverage to expose and stop this barbaric practice...there's no argument there. However, for a photojournalist to ask (and then pay) for the exhumation of a body beggars belief. Had the child died in a ritualistic murder in Italy, could Vernaschi been able to ask its family to exhume the body for a few pictures? Had he been able to photograph an Italian baby boy with a catheter sticking out of his groin? Why can't these photojournalists and publishers understand that they cannot continue to show pictures of mutilated children??

It's immoral. It's as simple and as complex as that.

As I wrote in an older post: To Vernaschi and to the Pulitzer Center's Board of Directors, Advisory Council and Staff: what if Babirye and the baby boy were your children, your niece and nephew or even just a relative...or an acquaintance? Would you still have photographed and published the photographs...or is it because they're "just" Africans?

Vernaschi is an award winning photographer....and well-experienced dealing with gruesome topics. Surely he could have photographed the story differently? Or is it about winning awards and applause from the rest of the lemmings?

Update: For a more detailed and comprehensive opinion, along with some responses from the Pulitzer Center, check A Developing Story.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Canon's Digital Photo Professional

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Although I have a couple of international trips in the interim, my mind is increasingly getting focused on my forthcoming Bali: Island of Odalan Photo-Expedition™ in August, and to refresh my memory, I've been revisiting my RAW images files of my 2007 photo-expedition, and even processing some of them.

As is usual when I revisit images files after a while, I uncovered some images that I missed during my initial edits on my return from the 2007 trip, and some that are worth a second look. I viewed these with my Canon's Digital Photo Professional software (version 3.7.3) which, while admittedly somewhat clunky, still does a reasonable job as a viewer and RAW converter.

I also used DPP's built-in image processor, and edited the images you see in this post entirely with it. I didn't use CS or LR at all. I'm not suggesting that DPP replaces any of those, but I was surprised that it did such a reasonable job in adjusting the exposure, de-saturating the colors and sharpening the images of the Legong dancers.

Ashok Sinha: Kashgar

Photo © Ashok Sinha-All Rights Reserved

Here's another photo gallery of Kashgar and the Uyghurs by photographer Ashok Sinha, who traveled in China and was touched by their plight, which prompted him to document their disappearing ways of life. The photo essay is part of a larger project that is titled Life in Balance: The Human Condition in Xinjiang.

Kashgar is a city of 3.4 million surrounded by mountains and desert, and is located at Xinjiang's westernmost tip. It is closer to Baghdad than to Beijing. As a minority, the Uyghurs see their 2000 year-old culture and heritage being erased by the Chinese authorities, with much of Kashgar's old town being demolished. This was justified by the Chinese for safeguarding the population from the collapse of the old buildings in the event of an earthquake, and that the demolition is necessary to the “modernization” of the Uyghur people.

The old city is considered to be one of Central Asia's best preserved sites of Islamic architecture.

The New York Times has featured an audio slideshow on Kahsgar just under a year ago titled A City, and People, at Crossroads that explains the situation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Terri Gold: Still Points in a Turning World

Photo © Terri Gold-All Rights Reserved

Terri Gold's artistic creativity and energy were patently obvious during my Tribes of South Rajasthan & Kutch Photo~Expedition™ , as she moved from one photo shoot in a village to the next photographing with her two cameras; one "normal" like those used by the rest of us, and the second professionally modified to shoot infrared.

She is an award-winning photographer and artist based in New York City, and built an impressive reputation for her rituals, rites of passage, festivals, celebrations and portraits from all over the world.

Her infrared photographs of Rajasthan and Gujarat as an audio slideshow have now been added to her ongoing personal project “Still Points in a Turning World” which focuses on Asia’s vanishing tribal heritage.

With her acknowledged expertise in infrared photography and its intricate post-processing, Terri provides personalized hands-on tutorship to photographers who are interested in the craft. So visit her website, and email her to learn this exciting photographic technique that is growing in popularity.

A previous post on Terri's photography is here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stephen JB Kelly: Qi Lihe

Photo © Stephen JB Kelly-All Rights Reserved

Stephen JB Kelly is an English photographer, currently based in Hong Kong. He obtained a diploma in Photography from the London College of Communication, which was followed by a degree in Documentary Photography from the University of Wales, Newport.

Aside from winning a number of awards for his photography, Stephen has been published in various magazines including The Independent Magazine, The Observer Magazine, D La Repubblica delle Donne, IL Magazine and The FADER Magazine.

One of his portfolios is of Qi Lihe, on the outskirts of Lanzhou which is the most destitute area of this heavily polluted industrial city in northwest China. During the recent years, there has been an influx of migrant Hui and Dongxiang Muslim minorities into these urban centers. The main cause of the influx is the desertification of their land, forcing these farmers and families to seek a better existence in Lanzhou.

The Hui’s ancestors were Silk Road traders, largely of Arab and Persian descent, who first came to China in the 7th Century. The Dongxiang are closely related to the Mongolians and as an independent ethnic group they arose through contact with Central Asians who converted them to Sunni Islam in the 13th century.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bali: Island of Odalan Photo~Expedition™

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Setting up of the Bali: Island of Odalan Photo-Expedition™ has been completed for a while, and the participants will shortly have to advise me their flight schedules. Time flies!!

The photo~expedition is especially structured for established photographers interested in documentary photography, ethno-photography and multimedia, and for those ready to create visual projects from their inventory of photographs, and learn how to control story length, intent, pace, use of music and ambient sound, narration, field recordings and interviews.

As in 2007, the base for this year's photo-expedition is a small Balinese-owned boutique hotel amidst a working rice-paddy in the art center town of Ubud.

Matjaž Krivic: Mali (& Baaba Maal!)

Here's another post on Matjaž Krivic's work. This time, it's Mali that he shares with us in this lovely audio-slideshow-movie (he calls it multivision...not a bad name.).

Matjaž just returned from an overland road trip from Slovenia to Nepal via Senegal (Dakar to Katmandu), which took him 13 months of living and photographing out of a 4x4 Nissan Patrol.

For 20 years, he globe-trotted the world capturing the personality and grandeur of indigenous people and places, and found the time to be awarded many prizes, and recognized in various venues and exhibitions. He traveled in Yemen, Mali, Tibet, North and West Africa, Iran, Mongolia, China, Nepal and India.

The spectacular music accompanying the slideshow is Dunya Salam ("world of peace") by the legendary Senegalese singer Baaba Maal. An excellent choice!

So choose full screen, turn up the volume of your speakers and enjoy the show!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Turkish Yogurt War: Image Rights

Photo Courtesy The BBC

The BBC reported that an elderly Greek discovered that his image was being used to sell Turkish yogurt in Sweden, and considered not only a personal affront, but a breach of his right to keep his image and likeness from being commercially exploited without permission or contractual compensation.

Minas Karatzoglou claims that his likeness was used without his permission by Lindahl's Dairy of Jonkoping in southern Sweden, and has commenced legal action against the company for compensation for the amount of $9 million.

On a prima facie basis, this appears to be a simple matter of some photographer not having the requisite model release...however there's more to that than meets the eye, because Karatzoglou is an ardent Greek nationalist who harbors deep-seated rancor against Turkey for its occupation of Greece. His grandfather and great grandfather took part in the War of Independence, which began in 1821, which ended centuries of Ottoman rule, and led to the formation of the modern Hellenic state.

In fact, Karatzoglou wears a panoply of 19th Century flintlock pistols and a curved dagger, which he claims have killed Turks.

The Swedish company claims that it bought the photograph of the mustachioed Karatzoglou from a Spanish photo agency, and that it has all the appropriate rights it needs to use this picture commercially.

I wouldn't like to be in the photographer's (or the head of the yogurt manufacturer's) shoes if he had to travel to Greece. These flintlock pistols seem to be in good working order.

I've posted my thoughts and recommendations on model releases in a 2008 post titled POV: Model Releases.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


The only thing I could rustle up for the blog this week is a chicken, bacon, avocado and lettuce number, but nonetheless, it is totally delicious. I almost forgot, I made the cheeseburger too.

If you have any teenagers at home this holiday, point them in the direction of the kitchen, and ask them to have fun making these instead of heading for the burger bar!

Absolutely no skill required for this and it's extremely filling too. Simply take a Taste The Difference Ciabiatta from Sainsbury's (if possible) and bake. Cook some streaky bacon on a griddle pan until crispy. Bash out a skinless chicken fillet and cook on a griddle pan - after it's cooked squeeze over some lemon juice and a few grindings of black pepper, cover with foil.

Take the cooked ciabiatta, split open and spread both sides with mayonnaise, place your chicken on top, layer with the bacon, sliced tomatoes, slices of avocado and top with crispy cos lettuce - then a dollop of mango chutney and a grinding of black pepper.

In the photograph there is no evidence of the bacon, mayonnaise or the mango chutney, I think they were all camera shy!


My recipe came from the BBC GoodFood website and is a real favourite of mine. I use a beefburger press gadget I bought years ago and it makes perfect burgers every time.

Spread mayonnaise on both the cut sides of the burger buns, put a piece of crispy lettuce on the base, top with the burger, slices of tomato and red onion and just because I love it, a dollop of mango chutney. Mmmm delicious.

VII Magazine

Photo © Ashley Gilbertson-All Rights Reserved

The announcement that the VII Photo Agency launched VII The Magazine has already been reported and blogged about for a few days already. The magazine is a syndicated online publication with photo stories and interviews with VII photographers.

The beta version of VII The Magazine is presented in the Herald Scotland newspaper, and in Lens Culture.

The first issue of the magazine features multimedia slideshows of projects by several VII photographers, as well as interviews with Jessica Dimmock and Ashley Gilbertson about their projects featured on the site.

I was particularly interested in Ashley Gilbertson's interview, and struck by one of his statements:
"If you show me one more picture of a soldier kicking in a door, I'm going to blow my head off."
I sense Ashley speaks for, not only war photographers, but for many of the sentient public who's been subjected to repetitive and unimaginative visual (and intellectual) presentations of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who's had (if they're anything like me) enough of the same stereotypical coverage which passes for cutting edge reporting in our media. I call it the stagnation of war photography...the same scenes over and over, perhaps from different angles...and with no back story. In fact, if I didn't read the captions beneath these images, I wouldn't be able to tell if it was in Iraq or in Afghanistan...or whether they'd been made yesterday or a year ago. Stagnation.

Ashley's powerful and poignant photo essay The Shrine Down The Hall, which shows some of the empty bedrooms of the over 5000 U.S. military personnel killed in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, rammed home the horrors of war much more effectively than seeing (and hearing) yet another photo essay by a gung-ho war photographer following US soldiers in an Afghani village, rounding up "Taliban" members (or whatever the caption writer decides they are), covering their heads with potato sacks while pointing guns at terrified women.

We need to see more work like Ashley Gilbertson's and much less of the kicking of Afghan or Iraqi doors....please.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Travel Photographer's Motion

I set up The Travel Photographer's Motion as a parallel portal (using the F8 Graph Paper Press theme) for my audio slideshows, which are originally produced in the SoundSlides format, and subsequently converted to mp4s, then uploaded to Vimeo. I have no real preference between Vimeo or YouTube, and I'll eventually have these mp4s uploaded on both.

The current line-up consists of Baneshwar: Pind Daan (the annual rite of remembrance for Rajasthan tribals), White Shadows (my favorite! The sad life of the widows of Vrindavan), Debates at the Sangha (Buddhist debates in a Bhutanese monastery...much more animated than those in our Senate), Gnawa (the rhythmic Sufis of Morocco), The Street Chinese Opera (intense musical cacophony in NYC's Chinatown) and Cham! (the tsechus of Bhutan).

More of my audio-slideshows converted to mp4s are in the works.

Both Vimeo and YouTube’s have adopted the HTML5 video element (although the former is restricted and the latter is in beta), which permits most browsers (not Firefox, I think) to bypass the Flash plug-in and use video native to the browser’s player. That will prove useful for such movies to be seen on the iPad.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

George Steinmetz: Aerial Views

The New Yorker magazine's online edition is featuring a video in which George Steinmetz discusses his career and techniques with Lauren Collins, who had traveled with him to Algeria.

George Steinmetz is a photographer known for his explorations of remote deserts, obscure cultures, and mysteries of science and technology. He is regular contributor to National Geographic and GEO Magazines, and explored subjects ranging from the remotest stretches of Arabia’s Empty Quarter to the unknown tree people of Irian Jaya. He has won numerous awards for photography during his 25-year career,including two first prizes in science and technology from World Press Photo. He has also won awards and citations from Pictures of the Year, Overseas Press Club and Life Magazine's Alfred Eisenstadt Awards.

Once you're done with watching the interview in the video above, take a look at Steinmetz's website. You'll be rewarded with large gorgeous photographs of the remote areas he explored, both from the air and on land.

I think his aerial photographs are more accessible and intimate than those by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, because he photographs from a motorized paraglider at heights of 100-500 feet above ground, rather than a small airplane.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Work: Ocotlán Matron

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

During my Oaxaca Mini Photo-Expedition™ a few weeks ago, we drove to Ocotlán de Morelos which is located 30-40 kilometers from Oaxaca, and photographed at its weekly market. I found it much more photogenic than those in Oaxaca proper such as the Abastos and Benito Juarez markets; perhaps more authentic is a better description.

Notwithstanding, the Zapotecs are not fond of being photographed, and I had to be somewhat circumspect when photographing in such an environment. One of the photographs that almost works is the one of the Ocotlán matron above. The wall colors are great, the blue basket matches her frock, and her expression is phenomenal...but her posture is not quite as I would have liked it.

As I slowly moved to the right to adjust my framing after this photograph was made, she saw me and ran inside the store.

Ah well...perhaps another time I'll be luckier.

Francesco Lastrucci: Kashgar

Photo © Francesco Lastrucci-All Rights Reserved

Here's the work of Francesco Lastrucci, an Italian freelance photographer who specializes in editorial stories. He's currently based between Italy, New York and Hong Kong from where he works on projects involving Europe, Latin America and East Asia.

From Francesco's diverse editorial stories, including a story of the ubiquitous areca nut and betel leaf chewing in Taiwan (as indeed it is in many other Asian countries), and its marketing by beautiful young women, I chose his excellent work on Kashgar, the capital city of the Uyghur.

The Uyghur live in modern Xinjiang, the westernmost province of China, but the name Xinjiang is considered offensive by many Uyghur who prefer to use Uyghurstan or Eastern Turkestan. Kashgar is an oasis city with approximately 350,000 inhabitants, and its old city has been deemed overcrowded and unsafe for its residents, and will have at least 85% of its structures demolished. Demolitions have already begun, with many of its former denizens forced to move.

Kashgar’s old city has been called “the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in Central Asia, but it is now being razed by the Chinese government which plans to replace the old buildings with new.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Canon 7D

I thought I'd post this advert for the National Geographic camera bags because it was entirely shot with a Canon 7D. Johnnie Behiri is the photographer who produced it.

By the way, I just read that the producers of the Dr. House television series have shot a soon to be aired episode with the Canon 5D Mark II. Incredible!

Another gem I found on Gizmodo is a $6 do-it-yourself thingamajig that allows rack focus (aka follow focus). I'll drop by Home Depot and see if I can make one for my 5D Mark II. A video of a similar project is also here.

With a ATR6250 microphone affixed on my camera's hot shoe, and this home-made follow focus ring, I'll be schelpping quite a contraption.

The Canon's EOS 7D can be considered as an entry-level "professional" DSLR, positioned between the EOS 50D and EOS 5D Mark II, and I'm tempted by it because of its many still photography interesting features; one of which is its speed reaching 8 fps (for the first 16 frames) and an average 7.1 fps for 144 frames. This almost compares with the speed of the Canon 1D series dSLRs. More to follow on this topic.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

MoMA: Henri Cartier-Bresson

Photo © Henri Cartier-Bresson-All Rights Reserved

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is showing Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century" this coming Sunday April 11, 2010, and the exhibition's website is truly a delight.

Henri Cartier-Bresson began traveling in 1930, at the age of twenty-two. For nearly half a century he was on the road most of the time, and the geographical range of his work is notoriously wide. Photographs of Asia (many of which are of China), North America, Japan, Africa, Europe, USSR, Middle East are shown arranged in themes, or chronology.

The New York Times has a review of the exhibition by Holland Cotter who, in the article titled A Photographer Whose Beat Was the World, writes this rather flowery sentence:
"The third and crucial constant in his career was, of course, a camera: in Cartier-Bresson’s case, a hand-held Leica, as neat and sleek as a pistol. Whether he was traveling as a journalistic eye for hire or sauntering through Paris of an afternoon, the camera went too."
I find it impossible to decide which is my favorite Henri Cartier-Bresson's photograph, but the one above of these Indian women in Srinagar (Kashmir) photographed in 1948 has always impressed me. Is it because none of their faces are visible, or is it because one of them appears as if she's holding a couple of clouds in her outstretched hands? It's described as Muslim women on the slopes of Hari Parbat hill as they pray while the sun rises behind the Himalayas, and was taken during a period of terrible violence in Srinagar. Magnificent.

Update: The New Yorker Magazine has an article/review on the retrospective at the MoMA.

From the article/review, I learned that the French title of HCB's best-known book, “The Decisive Moment, was “Images à la Sauvette”, which means “images on the fly". The French title implies something done somewhat furtively, and has much less gravitas than the English title.

Friday, April 9, 2010

POV: iPad, Toy or Tool?

Okay, I've now seen it, touched it and toyed with it for a while at the Apple store. Yes, it's beautifully designed, sleek and really cool...and I'd love to win it in a free contest (or something like that).

However, I don't see its necessity for photographers as yet. Photoshelter's blog recently posed the question as to whether the Apple iPad will revolutionize the way photos are presented and consumed? Various "pundits" responded, and I tend to agree with the views expounded by Stella Kramer, such as this one:
"From discussions I have had and demos I have seen, there is very little that excites me about translating the telling of stories onto the iPad."
I've seen that the iPad shows off photographs incredibly well, and the scrolling of web pages is intuitive and it's light and well designed, and it's...well, cool.

But being cool doesn't translate into it being a necessity nor a tool. Yes, there are some commercial photographers who will use their iPad instead of high end leather-bound portfolio books to show clients, and wedding photographer will certainly upload their work on iPads to give to their high-end clients (and build its cost in their invoice), but the rest of us into the story-telling business? Not much. Perhaps if we had $500-800 to spare and wanted a sleek platform (although the Mac Book Pro 13" display is phenomenal) to show off our photographs...

Redesigning many photography websites from being both Flash-based and iPad-ready may be a boon to web designers and website providers, but photographers can ill afford this additional expense at this time.

The iPad comes in three "flavors": 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB flash drive, so it may be useful to commercial and wedding photographers to have by their side on photo shoots, but other than that, I'm still scratching my head at its usefulness. Perhaps in the very near future, there will be really "must-have" applications ("apps") that will convert it from being a toy to being a tool, and while I completely agree that it's a harbinger of the future of internet browsing and more, it's not yet on my list.

It's been reported by a think-tank that 50% of all computers sold for children by 2015 will have touchscreens...perhaps touch is indeed the future, but until the iPad grows up from being a toy to a tool for photographers, I'll be happy to drop by the Apple store and just play with it whenever I feel like it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Luciano Rodriguez Pena: Holi & Kumbh

India Khumbamela from SENSES on Vimeo.

Here's a movie by Spanish photographer Luciano Rodriguez Pena, made during a recent trip to India. It features two main events during the first three months of this year: Haridwar Kumbh Mela and Holi. I liked the colors (as befits a country such as India) and the tremendous energy which the movie imparts. I wish there was a different soundtrack to it, but the stills and the movie make up for that.

Luciano is a Nature & Travel photographer, and teaches digital photography in various photography schools in Madrid.

Holi is a festival of color and was recently celebrated all over India. It's an exuberant festival which aims at infusing fresh hope to people as it marks the end of the winter days and the start of summer. The Kumbh Mela in Haridwar is a three month-long bathing festival along the Ganges river which occurs every 12 years, and about 50 million Hindu devotees performing their prayers and washing away their sins in river's waters are expected in this holy city.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jamie Williams: Tibet

Photo © Jamie Williams-All Rights Reserved

Here's some really terrific imagery of Tibet by photographer Jamie Williams, who's based in Sydney, Australia.

His biography is unfortunately sparse, and apart from dividing his time between photographing editorial and commercial imagery, and pursuing his own personal projects, we know that he won quite a impressive awards to include Honorable Mentions in Prix De La Photographie (Paris), and that he worked with many publications to include Australian Airlines Magazine, In Style, World Expeditions, etc.

There are quite a few of photographs in Jamie's Tibet gallery that I ought to mention; the juxtaposition of the prayer scrolls and the Mani stones images, the Tibetan woman with the prayer wheel in silhouette (above), the woman cradling a baby near a pile of Mani stones, and the woman walking underneath prayer flags in a village...just to mention a few. The gallery consists of 47 images, so you'll need a few minutes to enjoy them. And the photographs are big...really big! The size that photo editors want and like.

His travel galleries also include imagery from Nepal, India, Kashgar, Kyrgyzstan, his native Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Hijras (Eunuchs) of Becharaji

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Eunuchs, transsexuals, or transgender men are known as hijras in South Asia. They adopt feminine gender identity, women's clothing and other feminine gender roles. Etymologically, the word hijra is an Urdu word, seemingly derived from the Arabic root hijr or emigration in the sense of "leaving one's family, tribe or country," and it has been borrowed into Hindi.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Many hijra live in all-male communities, and have sustained themselves over generations by "adopting" young boys who are rejected by, or flee their family. Many work as male sex workers for survival. According to estimates by health organizations, only 10% of hijras are actually castrated.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

During my Tribes of South Rajasthan & Kutch Photo~Expedition™ , we stayed at the immaculate and well-run Rann Riders resort in Dasada, and its knowledgeable owner Muzahid Malik, suggested we visited Becharaji where hijras frequented its temple.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

As I walked in to the temple ahead of my group, I chanced upon hijras who, upon seeing me, started to clap their hands and laughing. Not really catching on that this was their trademark way of announcing their presence and sexual persuasion, I imitated them and clapped in exactly the same hand on the top of the other, rather than sideways. This drove them to raucous laughter, and eventually to self-consciously pose for our cameras.

There are many stories told about the hijras, and how they extort money by embarrassing shopkeepers and guests at wedding parties, but those we met at the Becharaji temple were friendly and obviously delighted that we took such nonjudgmental interest in them. Naturally, there was some posturing for the cameras, and much competition for the most suggestive poses.

Muzahid invited me to spend a couple of weeks in Dasada. Perhaps I will...After all, there's a hijra festival at Becharaji in late summer. Another potential destination for a photo~expedition?

For a book on hijras, read Zia Jaffrey's The Invisibles.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Matjaž Krivic: Earth Temples

Photo © Matjaž Krivic-All Rights Reserved

Matjaž Krivic describes his whereabouts as traveling with his camera somewhere between the Sahara and the Himalayas...and having seen his portfolio of photographs, I believe him. He just returned from an overland road trip from Slovenia to Nepal via Senegal (Dakar to Katmandu), which took him 13 months of living and photographing out of a 4x4 Nissan Patrol.

For 20 years, he globe-trotted the world capturing the personality and grandeur of indigenous people and places, and found the time to be awarded many prizes, and recognized in various venues and exhibitions. He traveled in Yemen, Mali, Tibet, North and West Africa, Iran, Mongolia, China, Nepal and India.

I particularly liked his lovely Earth Temples portfolio, which consists of over 60 photographs of various temples, places of worship and still (or silent) places in India, Tibet, Morocco, Bolivia, Nepal and name but a few. These are so beautiful that I wish they were twice the size to appreciate them even better.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Big Picture's Holy Week

Photo © REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi-All Rights Reserved

The Boston Globe's The Big Picture features photographs of the Holy Week, which starts on Good Friday, when Christians observe Jesus' crucifixion. Holy Week commemorates the last week of Jesus' life.

Many of the photographs show what Christian penitents do to commemorate the crucifixion, either by reenacting it or be causing bodily harm to themselves. It reminds me of the Muslim Shi'as self flagellation during the day of Ashura, in mourning of Hussein ibn Ali's death, which is equally gruesome.

In the above photograph, the caption reads:

"The blood-covered leg of a penitent, resting on a bloodied step during a procession through the streets in the town of Verbicaro, southern Italy on April 2, 2010. The penitents, called "battenti", or beaters, hit their legs with a "cardillo" (a cork with attached pieces of glass) and walk, bleeding, in groups of three through the streets, stopping in front of all the churches and chapels in the town. The tradition began in the thirteenth century and serves as penitence for Christ's death."

Penitence for Christ's death? The mind boggles.

Julie Jacobson: Afghans' Opium Addiction

Photo © Julie Jacobson/AP-All Rights Reserved

It is estimated that Afghanistan supplies nearly all the world's opium, the raw ingredient used to make heroin, and while most of the deadly crop is exported, enough remains in it to feed a cycle of addiction among its population. It's also estimated there are at least 200,000 opium and heroin addicts in Afghanistan.

It's a fact of life that many rural areas in Afghanistan have no access to basic medicine such as aspirin, so whenever a villager needs a painkiller for a minor ailment, they are given opium instead.

Julie Jacobson is an Associated Press Writer and Photojournalist, who produced a video on opium addiction amongst a family in Afghanistan. In many of Afghanistan's remote mountain villages, opium addiction has infected toddlers to old men.

Julie has also written an interesting article published by Nieman Reports titled Crossing The Line: From Still To Video, which includes these four main guidelines:
"Some moments should be captured in photographs only. With those, be true to your photography and don’t worry about video."

"Remain as true to your photography while capturing video imagery. Make good “pictures” in your video".

"Some moments and events clearly call for video. But it isn’t possible to be everywhere and to get everything, so don’t try".

"When shooting stills and video, anticipate moments carefully. If they’re not there or time doesn’t permit, then make sure to be complete in shooting only one or both will suffer."

A worthwhile read to photographers and photojournalists facing this transition.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Michael Nye: About Hunger

Photo © Michael Nye-All Rights Reserved

I've briefly touched upon the issue of hunger in a POV a few days ago, and coincidentally found Michael Nye's compassionate work at the same time.

Michael Nye’s exhibition About Hunger & Resilience, consists of fifty portraits and accompanying audio stories of individuals who experienced hunger in the United States.

Michael Nye has been listening, photographing and recording hunger for the past 4.5 years. He lives in downtown San Antonio, and practiced law for 10 years before pursuing photography full time. He's the recipient of a Mid-America National Endowment for the Arts grant in photography, and a Kronkosky Foundation grant. He also participated in two Arts America tours in the Middle East and Asia, and has exhibited and lectured widely in museums and universities, including Morocco, India and Mexico.

"About Hunger & Resilience" opened at the Witte Museum,San Antonio, Texas in January of 2010 and is currently traveling around the United States.

Friday, April 2, 2010


A Slice of Cherry Pie is hosting her annual Easter Cake Bake Challenge and this is my entry.

The cake is flavoured with lemon zest and lemon juice and then topped with lemon flavoured and tinted icing. The inspiration for the all lemon cake came from the pretty miniature spring flowers in my garden.

I decided not to crystallize the flowers but to just brush and wash them under a running tap. Shake off any excess water and leave to dry on kitchen towel. Cut the stems to the required length and wire the stems of the flowers.

Here are my cakes from the previous Easter Cake Bake challenges.

Happy Easter.