AFGHANISTAN BETWEEN HOPE AND FEAR
University of Texas Press, 2016
Once in a while a book comes along that is so beautiful to look at and so painful to contemplate that the mind gets entangled somewhere between the art of seeing and the subject matter being seen. In Paula Bronstein’s devastating Afghanistan Between Hope and Fear, what is seen is not all about beauty. It is often as shameful, criminal, and repellent as it is mesmerizing.
Afghanistan, with its open deserts and looming mountains, is stunning. The population, comprising approximately 14 ethnic groups, would offer a dream casting call for any Hollywood movie. Afghanistan’s recent history, beginning with the Russian invasion of 1978 and continuing through the Taliban regime, the US invasion in 2001, and into an unclear future, presents an endless unraveling of despicable events. Both Kim Barker’s Foreword to the book and the Introduction, “Afghan Women,” by Christina Lamb provide some much needed context for Bronstein’s heart-piercing photographs.
Kim Barker describes the pictures as “arresting,” “inspiring,” “contradictory,” “compelling,” and “complicated.” Barker also says that photographs “are almost the only way to prove the reality of life” in Afghanistan. Rather than “reality,” Bronstein’s pictures seem more like a fine art re-enactment of the aftermath of World War III. That is not a criticism. Bronstein’s visual effort is the most successful illumination of Afghanistan’s ongoing circumstances yet published. To quote her question from the book’s Afterword, “If conflict is all you ever experience, can happiness ever be defined without it?” Under such circumstances, one could also ask, can beauty ever be defined without it?
OUT OF TIBET
Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2016
Is it possible that Tibetan culture is China’s accidental gift to the world? Would Tibetans have willingly left their high mountain sanctuary had they not suffered the atrocities inflicted by their Chinese colonizers? The world has benefitted from the presence of the Dalai Lama, and most of us who have spent time with any of the more than one hundred thousand Tibetan refugees will attest to their inspiring qualities. Perhaps we, as a global community, owe it to the Tibetans in exile to learn from their stories.
Albertina d’Urso has spent the last 10 years documenting the stories of Tibetans in exile. To gain maximum benefit from her pictures, the reader should bring the same attention to detail that the author brought to the original moment. D’Urso fills her frames with telling elements that give texture to these lives lived with integrity.
In contrast to her overall photojournalistic approach, Out of Tibet opens with five contemplative landscapes of the Himalayas and the high plateau. The images celebrate Tibet’s vast spaciousness of mountains and sky. D’Urso closes this series with a graphically jagged hilltop view of mani stones. These sacred, carved texts are an apt invocation for the pictures that follow. Out of Tibet has a big story to tell. D’Urso switches between quiet landscapes and energetic camera work to illuminate the refugee’s plight in eleven very different countries.
Quotes from exiles about China’s ruthlessness and their current circumstances are interspersed throughout the book. At times d’Urso’s camera focuses on the refugee’s pain as her pictures tell the larger story of Tibetan tenacity. The strongest pictures show refugees practicing their Buddhism, such as the sand mandala at Kalachakra, and enjoying the culture of their host countries, as in playing basketball or simply participating in life on the streets of their adopted cities.
The last picture in the main body of the book is of a Tibetan reflected in his motorbike’s rearview mirror driving down a busy city street. He is not looking back. Tibetan exiles have always dreamt of returning to a free Tibet. However, there are now three generations of Tibetans born in exile. Out of Tibet closes with two more Himalayan landscapes. This time they appear darker, more distant and fuzzy. The implication is of a fading dream.
By Fabio Bucciarelli
Fabio Bucciarelli’s The Dream delivers its readers disoriented into the middle of the nightmarish reality faced by refugees fleeing persecution and violence around the world. Marked by both the darkness of the unknown and the light of hope, Bucciarelli’s black and white photographs illuminate the full spectrum of the refugee experience. He successfully documents, and thus compels his readers to feel, what it is to be a human being in limbo – the terror, agony, desire, anxiety, exhaustion, uncertainty, and above all, the hope that remains when nothing else does.
The Dream begins by plunging us into pitch-blackness. A series of blurry, layered images reluctantly transition from night to day; our eyes adjust and we recognize the familiar backdrops which frame many images of the so-called refugee crisis: the ocean, UNHCR tent villages, health inspectors in hazmat suits, and endless queues of weary bodies facing indefinite wait times. However, The Dream’s triumph is that it rejects traditional, essentialist representations of refugees and vividly illuminates the humanity of its subjects. Bucciarelli depicts the individuals he met over the course of his five-year long project in ways which honor their humanity and strength, as well as their dream “to be free of war, to recover their dignity and to build meaningful lives again.”
The Dream is a human story. It is concerned not with the aesthetics of arresting or sensational imagery, but rather with the beauty and value of each individual human life and dream. Bucciarelli befriended many of the people in his photographs, and the intimacy between the photographer and his subjects manifests throughout the book. The most important moments in The Dream are perhaps the most easily overlooked — they are the precious moments, the unguarded moments, the unapologetically human moments that can only be found and photographed by those who care to look for and truly see them.
Fabio Bucciarelli’s book, The Dream, is a collection of distilled snapshots of human interaction, characterized by the subtlety and intimacy that only genuine empathy can fully extract. Ultimately, Bucciarelli does not shy away from the sobering reality of the refugees’ harrowing situation, nor does he overlook the universal force driving their perilous journey: the dream of a better life.
A WHOLE WORLD BLIND
By Nish Nalbandian
Daylight Books, 2016
The best photojournalism also serves to remind audiences that events occurring in distant lands are not happening to some strange and unknowable species. They are happening to people who could be our own sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters.
—Greg Campbell from Epilogue
In the introduction to A Whole World Blind, photographer Nish Nalbandian states, “My vision was to make portraits of the people affected by and living with [the Syrian] conflict on a daily basis.” During the two months Nish spent photographing in northwestern Syria in early 2014, he succeeded in doing just that. Nish is not a conflict reporter in a classic sense. While he does photograph some fighting, he chooses to focus his camera on the life of Syrians going on around the war. It is this space of normalcy surrounded by chaos and violence that makes A Whole World Blind so interesting. A quick reading would lead one to think that Nish stood back and didn’t photograph the daily brutality of war. But a closer reading is that Nish wants us to know that in war, “these are just people who wanted more freedom, freedom to have political discourse or dissent, and ended up having to fight for it.” And fight for it they did, which brought the full wrath of Assad’s forces, ISIS, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and others against them.
The other issue about which Nish, like so many other humanist photographers, feels so deeply and is driven to document in his work is that the fighters and civilian victims in war are just like us. Before we saw these individuals in TIME magazine wounded and bloodied and desperate, they went to work, to school, they drank coffee, played sports, and watched TV. The fighters just wanted a prosperous and safe life for their families.
In one of the many poignant photos, a street vendor in Idlib Province is grilling meat at an outdoor stand, while two women (one holding a child) walk by as if the war was the furthest thing from their thoughts. The smoke from the outdoor grill ominously echoes the smoke of shelling seen elsewhere in the book, but in this case it is to nourish with the scent and taste of something else. There is also the photograph of a school teacher with a class of eager students, now back in their classroom following earlier shelling, and returning to the task of learning English. Yes, there is war, but it will not stop people from doing what people do.
Is A Whole World Blind an anti-war statement? In the book’s epilogue, Greg Campbell states, “when we see ourselves reflected in the eyes of those who have suffered unimaginably throughout the years of warfare, it becomes immeasurably harder to close our own eyes, and our hearts, to their plight.” That this book can inspire us to demand that our elected leaders forge a meaningful end to this war, then yes, it is clearly a powerful anti-war statement.
ZEKE is published by Social Documentary Network (SDN), an organization promoting visual storytelling about global themes. Started as a website in 2008, today SDN works with more than 1,500 photographers from around around the world to tell important stories through the visual medium of photography and multimedia. Since 2008, SDN has featured more than 2,000 exhibits on its website and has had gallery exhibitions in major cities around the world. All the work featured in ZEKE first appeared on the SDN website, www.socialdocumentary.net.
Fall 2016 Vol. 2/No. 2
Executive Editor: Glenn Ruga
Editor: Barbara Ayotte
Copy Editor: John Rak
Intern: Kelly Kollias
Social Documentary Network Advisory Committee
Barbara Ayotte, Medford, MA
Senior Director of Strategic Communications
Management Sciences for Health
Kristen Bernard, Salem, MA
Marketing Web Director
EBSCO Information Services
Lori Grinker, New York, NY
Independent Photographer and Educator
Steve Horn, Lopez Island, WA
Ed Kashi, Montclair, NJ
Member of VII photo agency
Photographer, Filmmaker, Educator
Reza, Paris, France
Photographer and Humanist
Jeffrey D. Smith, New York NY
Contact Press Images
Steve Walker, New York, NY
Consultant and educator
Frank Ward, Williamsburg, MA
Photographer and Educator
Jamie Wellford, Brooklyn, NY
Photo Editor, Curator
ZEKE is published twice a year by Social Documentary Network
Copyright © 2016
Social Documentary Network
Print ISSN 2381-1390
Digital ISSN: Forthcoming
ZEKE does not accept unsolicited submissions. To be considered for publication in ZEKE, submit your work to the SDN website either as a standard exhibit or a submission to a Call for Entries. Contributing photographers can choose to pay a fee for their work to be exhibited on SDN for a year or they can choose a free trial. Free trials have the same opportunity to be published in ZEKE as paid exhibits.
Cover photo by David Verberckt. From The Stateless Rohingya. Children playing in makeshift refugee camp for Rohingya from Myanmar. Shamplapur, Bangladesh, June 2015.
Photographers and writers featured in this issue of ZEKE Magazine.
Susan S. Bank
Susan S. Bank lives in Philadelphia, PA and Portsmouth, NH. Largely a self-taught photographer, she studied through Maine Media Workshops with masters Mary Ellen Mark and Graciela Iturbide in Oaxaca, 1997-98, David Alan Harvey, Havana, 1999 and with Constantine Manos, Havana 2000.
Bank’s self-published first monograph Cuba: Campo Adentro, an intimate portrait of daily life of Cuban tobacco farmers and their families, was selected as “One of the Best Photography Books of the Year” 2009 PHotoEspaña and named “Best Books 2009”, photo-eye Books.
Her award winning documentary photography has been exhibited in the United States, Mexico, and Cuba, including The Fototeca, Havana. Bank’s work is collected by museums in the United States, Cuba, Spain, and Mexico, most recently The Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson.
Piercing the Darkness, a personal reflection of that maddening mythical port city of Havana, is her second monograph, published by Brilliant Press. A selection from Piercing the Darkness was exhibited in “100 Years of The History of Photography of the City of Havana” at the 9th Habana Bienal 2006. Throckmorton Fine Art in NYC recently selected work from the Havana series in a group exhibition, “Under the Cuban Sun”. Piercing the Darkness was selected for the 2016 Lucie Awards as First Place, Non-Professional Monograph. Images from the series are included in a traveling exhibition, “Los Dios” as Latin Fotografia V winners in NYC, LA, Brazil, and Brooklyn Photoville 201
Bank continues to work with her Leica M6 on projects close to home, including the Salisbury Beach series. Website: susansbank.com
Fulvio Bugani is an Italian freelance photographer based in Bologna, with more than 20 years of experience. He actively collaborates with Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International. His work has been published on international magazines and websites such as TIME LightBox, LFI–Leica Fotografie International, and Cubadebate.
Among other recognition, in 2015 he was awarded at the World Press Photo, and has received two honorable mentions at MIFA-Moscow International Foto Award, for his work about Indonesian Transgender. In 2016 his reportage about Cuba was selected as one of the 12 finalist at the Leica Oskar Barnack Award.
He has several ongoing photographic projects in Cuba, Kenya, Indonesia, Turkey and Georgia. He teaches photography in his private photographic school in Bologna, as well as in seminars an workshops around the world. More info at www.fulviobugani.com
Caterina Clerici is an independent multimedia journalist based in New York. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, she’s currently a freelance photo editor at TIME and the Special Issue Editor at SDN. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, La Stampa, Libération, Die Zeit, among others. You can follow her at @caterinaclerici.
Susi Eggenberger is a freelance documentary photographer based in Arundel, Maine.
She originally worked as an RN for twenty years before making a career change into photography. As in her nursing career, her focus in photography is with children and her emphasis is working with non-profit organizations who address children’s issues including Seeds of Peace, Ronald McDonald House, Map International, and Camp Sunshine. She has won numerous national and international awards for her imagery and her self-generated film project on a transsexual woman living in Southern Maine was nominated for “Best Documentary Film” in the Maine Short Film Festival.
For seven years she has been documenting the journey of a young Iraqi girl who she has been bringing to Maine for surgeries after she was shot in the head by a U.S. sniper.
Isadora Kosofsky is a Los Angeles-based documentary photographer and filmmaker. She received the 2012 Inge Morath Award from the Magnum Foundation for her multi-series documentary about the lives and relationships of the elderly. She was a participant in the 2014 Joop Swart Masterclass of World Press Photo. She is the recipient of a 2015 Flash Forward Magenta Foundation Award and a 2015 Commended Award from the Ian Parry Foundation. Her projects have received distinctions from Women in Photography International, Prix de la Photographie Paris and The New York Photo Festival. Isadora’s work has been featured in The London Sunday Times, Slate, The Washington Post, TIME, Le Monde, American Photo, VICE, NationSwell, Mashable, PDN, The British Journal of Photography, The Huffington Post and The New Yorker Photo Booth, among others. “Vinny and David: Life and Incarceration of a Family” is featured in the Thames and Hudsons’ anthology Family Photography Now and Public Private Portraiture by Mossless.
Margaret Quackenbush is a freelance reporter based in Boston. She graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University in January 2016. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Business Journal, The Dorchester Reporter, Eater Boston and other publications in the Boston area.
She was the 2016 coordinator for Boston University’s annual Power of Narrative conference, and was previously the managing editor of the Boston University News Service and a teaching assistant at BU. Margaret received a BA in English and history from St. Lawrence University in 2010 and previously worked at WGBH, Boston’s PBS station.
Carolina Sandretto is an Italian photographer based in New York City. With a background in both non-profit management and documentary photography, Sandretto uses the photographic medium to foster social change. Working primarily with disadvantaged groups in Mexico and Cuba, her work seeks to increase awareness and inspire activism.
Sandretto graduated from the Catholic University of Milan in Political Sciences in 2006. In 2011, she obtained an MA in Management of the No Profit at Bocconi University, and in 2013 she completed the program in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at ICP- International Center for Photography in New York City. She was selected for the XVIII Eddie Adams Workshop in 2015.
Her past exhibitions include:
“The View from here” Group show ICP- International Center of Photography, 2013. New York City NY, USA.
ICP representative at Photoville exhibition, 2013, New York City NY, USA.
“Fiesta Mexicana” Solo show at Galleria Fotografica – Tulum, Mexico. 2014.
“Anthropological landscapes” Group show at Gallery Antonio Ricci - Carrara, Italy. 2014.
“Anthropological landscapes” Group show at Whitebox Gallery–NYC New York. 2014
Soho Photo Gallery New York, Exhibition of the winners of the National Photography Competition. Juror, Elisabeth Avedon
“Vivir Con…” Personal Show at Galleria Bianconi – Milano. 2015
Anne Sahler is an internationally published writer, photographer and graphic designer who divides her time between Japan and her homeland of Germany. She holds a master’s degree in Cultural Studies, History of Art and Religious Studies which fuels her interests in Japan, art and social activism. Her curious nature and never ending need for travel helps lend a clarity of prospective to an evermore complicated world.
David Verberckt, originally from Belgium, is an independent reportage photographer currently living in Budapest, Hungary. He has studied photography at “le 75” in Brussels, and afterwards pursued studies in International Development at Bioforce in France. After exhibiting his first documentary reportages in the early nineties, David has turned to aid agencies and has spent 20 years working worldwide in humanitarian emergency and development with Médecins Sans Frontières and later the EU.
David’s reportages portray peculiarities of an often deprived civil society affected by latent or bygone conflicts. David has been working on several projects. Frozen Conflicts in the Caucasus depicts ordinary people whose lives are in limbo following the conflicts of the nineties. Palestinian Chronicles is a continuation of a series started in the early nineties, focusing on the daily realities of the numerous refugee camps’ population.
Recently, he is working on subjects depicting hard labor and seasonal migration flows in the overpopulated Bengal Bay and documenting statelessness of Bihari and Rohingya. More information at www.davidverberckt.com