Monthly Archives: August 2009

I like the quiet at the end of the island

It seems that if people are in New York long enough, everyone will come to find their spots. The favorite restaurants, bars, corners of museums, hills in parks, places where they feel both fully alive in the city but can also exhale for a moment and just be themselves.

Often, after working inside for 9 hours straight, I desperately need get out of my corner, to be outdoors. To stretch out to the bounds of the island. And so, this, a boardwalk on the Hudson River, has become one of my spots.

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Lynsey Addario

I am shamed to admit that I have only recently come upon the striking photography of Lynsey Addario. But, better late than never.

I was introduced to her work through the front page photograph and accompanying article in the New York Times Magazine on Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, and was thrilled to see her work again so soon in last week’s magazine article “A School Bus for Shamsia”.

Upon viewing her portrait of President Karzai, my first thoughts were “The Light. The Color. The Access.” Those exclamations persisted as I combed her website, which includes portfolios titled Bhutan, Talibanistan, Darfur, Iraq Medics and Afghanistan Heroin.

She is based in Istanbul, Turkey and has been published in National Geographic, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, Time and Fortune. She has photographed in Argentina, Cuba, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Mexico, Iraq, Sudan, Bhutan, Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Among many other accolades, she received a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 as part of the New York Times team for International Reporting.

Not impressive enough? Oh yea, she’s also a woman. Working successfully in an occupation that’s traditionally dominated by men, photographing many cultures that do not extend equal rights to women. I rest my case.

Portrait of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Lynsey Addario/VII Network, for The New York Times
Portrait of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Lynsey Addario/VII Network, for The New York Times

Studying at the Mirwais Mena School for Girls, Lynsey Addario/VII Network, for The New York Times

Studying at the Mirwais Mena School for Girls, Lynsey Addario/VII Network, for The New York Times

Lynsey Addario, BASRA, IRAQ.  An Iraqi woman walks through a plume of smoke rising from a massive fire at a liquid gas factory as she searches for her husband in the vicinity of the fire in Basra, Iraq, May 26, 2003.

Lynsey Addario, BASRA, IRAQ. An Iraqi woman walks through a plume of smoke rising from a massive fire at a liquid gas factory as she searches for her husband in the vicinity of the fire in Basra, Iraq, May 26, 2003.

Lynsey Addario, KORENGAL VALLEY, AFGHANISTAN.  American soldiers with the 173rd Division, Battle Company, on a battalian-wide mission in the korengal valley to look for caves and weapons caches and known anti-coalition leaders. Front left: Sgt. John Clinard, and right, Jay Liske, and other soldiers from Battle Company, carry the body of Sgt Larry Rougle, of Utah, towards the medevac helicopter along the abascar ridge in the mountains of Kunar.  Rougle was killed less than an hour prior while their unit, a scout team, was standing guard at the furthest tip of a ridge, and was ambushed by the Taliban.   Two other soldiers were shot and wounded: Sgt. Kevin Rice and spc. Carl Vandeberge, and were medevaced out for surgery minutes before.  October 23, 2007.

Lynsey Addario, KORENGAL VALLEY, AFGHANISTAN. American soldiers with the 173rd Division, Battle Company, on a battalian-wide mission in the korengal valley to look for caves and weapons caches and known anti-coalition leaders. Front left: Sgt. John Clinard, and right, Jay Liske, and other soldiers from Battle Company, carry the body of Sgt Larry Rougle, of Utah, towards the medevac helicopter along the abascar ridge in the mountains of Kunar. Rougle was killed less than an hour prior while their unit, a scout team, was standing guard at the furthest tip of a ridge, and was ambushed by the Taliban. Two other soldiers were shot and wounded: Sgt. Kevin Rice and spc. Carl Vandeberge, and were medevaced out for surgery minutes before. October 23, 2007.

Host at Thai Border

In the summer of 2007, I had the opportunity to travel through Southeast Asia with some friends. Part of this adventure included an epic trip from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia and this photograph was taken of the host of a restaurant we stopped at near the border. (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

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Sage advice from Mr. Franklin?

Lest you think that I did not learn enough from the John Adams viewing, I can’t resist sharing this jem from the venerable Ben Franklin:

“Thinking aloud is a habit responsible for most of mankind’s misery.”

Certainly an opinion to consider as I venture into this realm of exposing thoughts to a greater, invisible audience.

“To brave the storm in a skiff made of paper”

This evening I watched the first two parts of the HBO Series John Adams, based on the book by David McCullough, and for a long time after the credits have finished, I continue to feel overtaken by wonder at the task shouldered by these few men, and then an entire union of people.

I grew up well versed in the talking points of the Revolutionary War. The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere, the Declaration of Independence, the crossing of the Delaware, and so on. I dutifully created dioramas and replicated the first flag. I wrote letters and dunked them in tea to make them look authentic.

But I did not know that John Adams defended the British troops involved in the Boston Massacre because of his utmost belief in the necessity of law, the importance of facts and the right to a defense. I did not know that George Washington was so tall, nor how strong was the sense of duty that led him to accept the position of general of a fledgling army. I did not know how truly horrific the American practice of tar and feathering was, and how its cruelty smears even the most noble of intentions. I did not know what it would be like for Abigail Adams to be left alone with four children, to make the risky decision to vaccinate her family against smallpox and to know she couldn’t rely on her partner, who was in Congress, arguing with all of his power to liberate the colonies from tyranny.

They were a group of people who were by no means perfect. The Boston masses that began the cries for representation did not look like a crowd I’d ever want to be caught in, and many of the Congressmen were egoists who liked to hear themselves talk, not unlike that annoying kid in your English class. Nor did they create a perfect system of government, much less grant universal freedoms. But to consider the courage that it took to stand up to the greatest power in the world, to persevere as a congress after being branded traitors, and to ultimately vote for independence, is staggering.

Whether or not you already knew all of this, or agree with the direction the country has taken since, I think that these are very important things to be reminded of. That ideas can turn to actions that change the course of history. That there are some truths that are the rights of everyone. That the seemingly impossible can happen. As the film’s character of John Dickensen, a delegate from Pennsylvania, so aptly phrased it, to fight for independence from Britain was “to brave the storm in a skiff made of paper.” And yet, they succeeded.

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Frei Otto

At my university, all art majors were required to take an “Art in 3D” course, to ensure, I suppose, that we emerged with a well-rounded art education. I stumbled my way into photography and have never claimed to have much artistic skill without a mechanical aide, so this was quite a challenge for me. Yet, somewhere amidst the insanity of building an extainer and carving a plaster suitcase, my professor introduced me to the work of the German architect and structural engineer Frei Otto and for that I will be forever grateful.

Stage umbrellas for a concert tour of the group Pink Floyd, 1978 (together with B. Rasch and Office Happold)

Stage umbrellas for a concert tour of the group Pink Floyd, 1978 (together with B. Rasch and Office Happold)

The cable net of the German Pavilion during installation, Expo '67, Montreal, Canada

The cable net of the German Pavilion during installation, Expo '67, Montreal, Canada

Four-Point Tent as a Music Pavilion of the Bundesgartenschau, Kassel, Germany 1955

Four-Point Tent as a Music Pavilion of the Bundesgartenschau, Kassel, Germany 1955

Interior view of the Japanese Pavilion, Expo 2000 Hanover, Germany (Shigeru Ban with Frei Otto)

Interior view of the Japanese Pavilion, Expo 2000 Hanover, Germany (Shigeru Ban with Frei Otto)

Pavilion ”Tanzbrunnen“ over a dance floor at the Bundesgartenschau , Cologne, Germany 1957 (in cooperation with E. Bubner, S. Lohs and D.R. Frank)

Pavilion ”Tanzbrunnen“ over a dance floor at the Bundesgartenschau , Cologne, Germany 1957 (in cooperation with E. Bubner, S. Lohs and D.R. Frank)

All images from Mr. Otto’s website.

Things as they are

“The contemplation of things as they are, without substitution or imposture, without error or confusion, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.” – Francis Bacon

Lake Inspiration

During a weekend getaway to a friend’s lovely home in South Wellfleet, MA, he took us to a nearby “pond” which was, quite clearly, a lake. But, questionable terminology aside, it was a beautiful place and we were lucky enough to be there during the magic hour.

Lirra, my muse

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Sean- after he managed to fit a mini-triathalon into his vacation day

Thomas takes a break from standing guard

Brittany finally got used to posing for me

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Molly the Chef

In June, I had the opportunity to shoot Molly Shuster, a fellow Wes ’07 grad, as she roamed around the Union Square farmer’s market shopping for food to prepare and show on her fantastic cooking blog.

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Food for thought:

“The most extraordinary thing about photography is how it elevates the ordinary.” – Bill Jay, via Exposure Compensation and Lenswork