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Photographic

Javier Manzano/Agence France-Presse

Jesse Newman & James Estrin, New York Times, “Photographs of Syria Sweep Pulitzer Prizes”

World Press PhotoForeign Policy, Photo Essays & Foreign Policy, Slide Show

Burn MagazineVice, Photo

National Geographic, Photography

The Atlantic, In Focus

Boston.com, The Big Picture

I love photojournalism. As I’ve elucidated in the past, I think it’s one of the most important modern professions, utilizing the beautiful, sometimes brutal efficiency of a photograph to tell a tight, gripping story and connect people across time and distance to events and places around the world. And despite all of the technological advances and the advent of social media, the simplicity of photojournalism – a picture and a few words – is still the dominant means of understanding and accounting for humanity’s complexity.

I don’t have much more to say about the profession beyond what praise I’ve heaped on it before, so I just thought it relevant to note that the 2013 Pulitzer Prizes for photography were awarded yesterday, one of which went to the photograph featured (in cropped form) in my header image, taken by Javier Manzano, a freelance photographer with Agence France-Presse. There were a number of winners, all mentioned in the New York Times article linked above, but Manzano’s image seems to have done exactly what I mentioned earlier – vibrantly captured the tense situation and mood in Syria. The sniper’s intensity, the onlooker’s ambivalence, and the room’s eerie beauty: all of these elements together compose a very compelling photograph that tells a story in and of itself.

For anyone interested in exploring the world of photojournalism, the New York Times blog “Lens” is an excellent place to start. I’ve also included above a series of links to some of my favorite sites that feature excellent photojournalism and story-telling, all worth a look if you have a moment to examine unfamiliar faces, vistas, and experiences.

If I had the opportunity, I would love to one day pursue photojournalism as a career, or at least an enlightening hobby. Anyone willing to teach me how to take a competent photograph?

Foreign Policy, “Once Upon a Time”

This is a Foreign Policy collection of photo essays that essentially takes “a look back to a time before the headlines turned grim” in parts of the world that are especially volatile and violent at the moment. These places include Egypt, Syria, and Afghanistan, among a few others. The true sadness of these photo essays is in seeing how many of the locations photographed indicate the rise of peaceful, hip, interesting places to visit and live, but because of political unrest, social injustice, and prolific violence, have rapidly declined in their stability and appeal.

From an anthropological viewpoint, it’s especially fascinating to see how many of the photos reveal a stark colonial westernization of the countries and cities in the 50’s and 60’s. In recent times, however, these areas’ problems seem to have arisen out of either a backlash against that western influence, or out of a strong desire to once again embrace western-style values, especially democracy and representative government.

It’s not as cut-and-dry as that (I’m sure many – myself included – wish that it were), but above all else, the photos and stories contained in this collection make it easy to identify with the people on the ground. Though we hear a great deal about the balance of power, personal sacrifices, extreme violence, etc. in these places, it’s important to keep in mind that for the most part, everyday, run-of-the-mill people are just trying to live their lives as well as they can. My sympathy for them is the reason why I take the time to explore these issues in the first place.

Reflections aside, although I am of a “western persuasion,” I can’t help wondering whether those places (like many others around the world) would have been better off evolving naturally along their own cultural path, without western intervention. We’ll never know for sure and it’s only speculation. All the same, this line of thought sets me to pondering our country’s most recent and explicit involvement in the region in the form of two wars and various overt political engagements, and, well… I guess you see the point of the photo essays.

Slate, Heather Murphy, “A Young Photographer Who Refused to Give Up”

Rémi Ochlik’s Website

28-year-old, award-winning war photojournalist Rémi Ochlik (along with reporter Marie Colvin) was killed in Homs, Syria, doing the invaluable job he loved: capturing images of conflict to raise awareness among the world’s public.

As the Slate article linked to above explains, Ochlik was recently honored by World Press Photo for his incredible work in Lybia (you can check it out at his website, also posted above), which captured some of the most significant moments of the uprising and conflict in that country. He has traveled from his home in France throughout the Middle East and around the world, from one conflict zone to another, intent on exposing the photographic truth of every situation.

It brings tears to my eyes imagining the kind of drive and love it must take to pursue such a career. I have the deepest respect for Ochlik, Colvin, and all photojournalists’ work. Regardless of who they may have been in life otherwise, to me their sacrifice deserves the utmost respect. They are the necessary counterweight in any conflict: accountability.

A young man only a couple of years older than me, he obviously cared enough about documenting these dangerous events to put himself in harm’s way. Not that I’m ashamed, but what I’m doing here on this blog feels like nothing more than child’s play by comparison.

In today’s rapid-fire media culture where we’re always on to the next thing before the current thing has a chance at meaning, most don’t often give a thought to the people who put their lives on the line to bring forth evidence of human wrong-doing and suffering. Many images are quickly processed, flicker in your memory, and forgotten before long. Images like those captured by Olchik and his peers are not those. Though the U.S. and its citizens are largely isolated from the rest of the world and its problems due to geographic serendipity, humanity at large needs to be engaged with injustices elsewhere, and that was obviously Ochlik’s mission.

I’m feeling emotional, yes, and it sounds like hyperbole, but it is vital that we appreciate such devoted sources of information for their veracity and significance. For proof of what Ochlik and other journalists’ work means to the people they document, watch this video, embedded in the Slate article, in which protesters in Syria honor those journalists’ sacrifices with a pledge to never forget.