Bending The Frame – Fred Ritchin.

The following are my notes from the book “Bending the Frame”  They are just to follow my own research, notes and thoughts.  It is not a review consider it my personal notes while reading this book.

Societal Scribe V’s violence Tourism.  The role of the photojournalist.  Responsibility to photograph or to do.  How can a photo journalist stand back and watch a young woman be raped, bombing with children left behind and not help.  There are often difficult decisions to be made.  The hope is that by bearing witness and feeding information to the public you can avoid more casualties injuries etc.  It is not an easy task as our conscience will want to help.  To be witness to such atrocities is already difficult to not act on them is not in our nature.  Sometimes it is too risky to help other times it can lead to stopping future bombs etc.  However these days a photojournalist in the world of over saturated imagery and compassion fatigue what effect do photojournalists have.

Often photojournalists are also limited to what they photograph by deadlines and editorial boundaries.  Sometimes the witnesses to events and the shots on they r mobile phones can be more effective and closer to the people that viewers can relate more.  Other times self assigned long term projects which many photographers assign themselves can have more value when they finally get published.  However after spending years on a assignment do you just want to put in on a blog with limited viewers what effect will it have on society. How with so many images available and amateur photojournalists can we expect people to value professional journalists.  Originally it was argued that there information was more reliable but between journalists exaggerating statistics, staging shots as do governments etc is it really more reliable than an accidental witness who lives in the area affected reporting what they see and putting many witness accounts together it is easier to get a real feel for what has happened and accounts told through the eyes of the local and affected people.

Lewis Hines in work in 1910 regarding child labour paved the way for legislation to prevent young children from being put to work.  These days do photo journalists have this effect.  Ritchin gives the example of a young Libyan woman thanking all those who made photographs of her country revolution and then referred to only one photo an image of her grand father taken on a cell phone.  The professional photographer standing beside her who had taken great risks to take his photographs was left with the realisation that for her the cellphone image was worth more.  Using the title of Eugene Richards recent book “War is personal” brings it home the realisation that these cellphone images often have more meaning.

Value of photographic print as information is worth very little currently art is a higher commodity.

Should photojournalism be objective.  Aileen Smith’s book minamata she states “the first word I would remove from the folklore of journalism is the world objective”  She states her book is not objective.  Where she has covered the mercury poisoning caused by industrial pollution in Minimata Japan.

“new journalism” coined by Tom Wolfe in 1972 combining journalism with the skills of a novelist.  Using facts but telling it in a story version.  Using the role of conjecture and intuition to achieve imagery that could at times seem deceptive or bland.

Look at work examples given of “new journalism.

Robert Adams

Robert Adams has much work which is concerned with the american landscape.  Looking also at his work “around the house” where he focuses on his immediate surroundings. His work over several decades has also documented the changing landscape of the west.

Bill Owens

Sophie Ristelhueber – her work “fait” taken in the aftermath of the Kuwait war.  Images of the destruction of war are shown but deliberately out of focus to give the impression we cannot quite see what is in the picture. She is making a statement about how little we see or appreciate of the damage war creates.

Sophie Ristelhueber – Sophie Ristelhueber short film.


Celia Shapiro – Photographic works about human violence.  The series “their secret ingredients” came about from a cook book that started in order to raise money for families left behind after their loved ones have been violently murdered.  The images are of the ingredients in their favourite foods.  The broken glass is intriguing in fact when I saw the images of course I did not immediately know what the series was about but I knew it was more than food and broken glass and had to investigate.  It is a cover way of making us think about those left behind.

Information taken from Shapiro’s own website Celia Shapiro

“the perceived slight”


Stephen Shore

Alec Soth

Citizen Journalist.  Cartier Bresson believed that photojournalism was “keeping a journal with a camera” a diary like personal activity.  Szarkowski commented in 1971 “it is difficult to know with certainty whether Evans recorded the America of his youth or invented it”

We look at Philip Jones Griffiths 1971 Volume “Vietnam Inc”.  was accomplished after two and a half years of photographing in the field with only several day of actual assignments.  Included in the book were the first domestically published images of American soldiers in the act of consorting with prostitutes while fighting war.

Frustration of choosing a few images to publish in a magazine brought about numerous gallery and museum shows along with photo books..\

He discusses how the celebrity photographer out there to risk his life to get the right images on important issues sometimes feels he gets published because of who he is but not because of the importance of the subject matter.

Increased interest in celebrities, diets and political scandals often over important news and global issues.

There is also a feeling that most photojournalism churns out similar images of similar locations.  Leaving much of the world unexplored.

Persistent images of starving children in Africa and men with guns much of it created by aid agencies have created a single narrative of Africa.  Martin Parr once said “no one is going to obliterate war, famine AIDS” He said he photographs everyday things and disguises it as entertainment as that is what people want to see.

Ch 2.

We look at how despite the amount of photographs and information given to us  people look at what interests them when it comes to voting.  Despite Massacres and shootings in the US and schools the chances of banning guns is still remote.

And politicians not listening to what the public do want.

In 2003 despite protests in February regarding the invasion of Iraq by at least 100,000 Americans and in dozens of other countries worldwide by millions.  Iraq was  invaded one month later.  Ritchin Asks the question: why bother to be informed? If our potential impact on society can seem so negligible.

Discussion of images expected and influence of mood of photographer.

Also Harlem images by Raymond Depardon of girls skipping in the street. The police had organised street games for the children.  These happy image were in stark contrast to the usual images seen of murders and crime in Harlem.

Gille Peress’s photographs of Iran published in the New York Times in 1980 titled “a vision of Iran” almost an admittance that none really knew what was going on using the work vision.  They won the overseas press Club aware and yet the Magazines Editor confided he did not like the images it was evidence of the distress these unconventional images had caused. When these images were published in a book. Press put a caution stating the period the images were taken and that they do not represent a complete picture of Iran or a final record of that time.

Avedons description of taking portraits.  How he allows his subjects to present the show they choose.  the portraits are not objective they are the result of strategy inquiry.  The photographs have a reality for me that people don’t.  It is through the photograph that I know them.

‘new journalism’ ‘new photojournalists’ work to be reliable information but to read like fiction.   It did not have to adhere to a rigid organised style such as reading an inventory.  New Journalists were embracing if at times ironically the photographs eternal subjectivity as well as their own presence to excite the reader, to put them in the location.
This is what needs still to be done to gain interest from people in photojournalism only how.  To combine fact with a fiction style and suppositions.

“Anyone can write amateurs and professionals alike.  But very few can take us to visit worlds external and internal, tie them together melding facts and suppositions. similarly nearly anyone can point a camera at people or events f importance.  But few could emulate the sustained, confrontational gaze of Avedons portraits, taking in as if with an oversized microscope, those firmly ensconced within the shielding aura of Power, or Presess’s restless frames in search of details intimating the forces at work within a dizzying revolution. ”

If we take what is happening told ay with the contemporary citizen journalism and add it toe ht seasons observer and a sense that subject matter both intimate and public should be in their purview.

Other styles at work Peress later addressed a matter of fact style when photographing in Rwanda.  Taking shots less aiming for good photography but just more factual.

“Baghdad calling” an exhibition of a collection of cellphone images and testimonies from Iraqi Refugees that show the long lasting impact of the war on their personal lives.

Susan Meiselas’s AKA Kurdistan.  A collaboration which allows the kurdish people to collect photographs, writings and to gather their own history where they have no land to call their own.

Slow Journalism similar to slow food the opposite of TV news and journalists churning out imagery every day that we barely have time to digest its meaning before moving on to the next story.

Carles Guerra and Thomas Keenans 2010 exhibition Antiphotojournalism interrogated what they see as the cliches of classical photo journalism, arguing for an image unleashed from the demands of this tradition freed to ask other questions and tell other stories.

Gilles Sausiere A writing by Sausiere explaining how many newspapers and magazines ignore the real story in favour of publishing an interesting photo with a text to match it.

Paul Fusco RFK Funeral Train Paul Fusco

Documenting the train that passed through the US with Bobby Kennedy after his assassination.  Showing how Americans paid their respect to the man who had advocated the same rights for all people black, white, rich or poor.  The americans came out to mourn what they had lost not just the man but along with him the hope they had invested in him.

Looking at artists who have used a form of New Journalism fascinating plenty of inspiration.

James Balogs beautiful images of melting glaciers.  Recording every hour all year round.  To record the effects of Global Warming.

French artist JR has printed oversized portraits out of photo boots.  Those who get their portraits taken must sign not to use it for any commercial use including NGO’s but to put it to good use.  For Example in Sierra Leone he used the large portraits as roofs on peoples homes as they were water proof.

His portraits have been posted on walls, the pantheon, all over to recognise, ethnicity, to promote love, to bring attention to violence against women.  It shows the human side and makes us look who would not notice the large portraits again a good way of getting attention and then causing us to think without bombarding us with violent images.

JR ‘inside out.’ JR inside out project.

Sebastiao Salgado “Genesis”

Focusing on the planets primal past it encourages awareness of environmental issues bringing attention to beauty and traditions that are disappearing. One of my favourite artists much of his work has been on the dislocation of people due to war or economic migration.  This work focused on tribes and fast disappearing landscape, forests, glaciers.  Portions of the proceeds go towards the Mata Atlantica forest.  Since reforestation began in 1999 162 bird species and 25 mammal species have returned to the area.

Salgado states how he felt instead of photographing the destruction and pollution people would be more inspired by the beauty of the world.

Laurie Jo Reynolds.  Project to close down the Tamms Supermaximum Security prison in illinois.  Successful in doing so in 2013.  She set up a system for prisoners who were in complete solitude coming out of their cells to shower and exercise alone.  she set up a pen pal system and an exchange of magazine images of places that prisoners would like to see or images real or imagined were created.  Or create an image of what they would most like to see outside of the prison .  The prison was originally set up where prisoners were not supposed to spend more than one year.  It had been proven to cause permanent mental damage.

Kent Klich.  Images of Beth a former prostitute and drug addict living in Copenhagen.  The series is created over decades.

Jennifer Karady has collaborated with soldiers and veterans form the wards in Afghanistan and Iraq re-staging aspects of traumatic ware vents within their civilian lives.


Celia A. Shapiro and James Reynolds.  Pictures of inmates on death rows last suppers.  Arkansas execution of Rickey Ray Rector who was mentally impaired left aside half of his pecan pie for after the execution.  Bill Clinton was governor at the time.

Susan Meiselas “reframing history” Nicaragua

Jim Goldbergs “Rich and Poor”

This series is one of those that just touched me I wanted to see each image to hold it and read it.  It reminded me of the excitement I used to get when you received a letter or a postcard with handwriting on the back.  Something that rarely happens now.  I feel I need to dedicate an entire post and further research for now here is one image that hit on a conversation I had with friends today…….

Jim Goldbergs “Rich and Poor” Post.


Azadeh Akhlaghi, staged images that show scenes of the violent past of Iran.

The images do seem to me cinematographic. I am undecided if that works for me or not.  In one way if it caught my attention it has brought attention to the history of Iran on the other hand it does not feel real it feels as if I am watching a movie.  However these days real images can feel like watching a movie it is hard to know where fiction ends and reality begins.

Ariella Azoulay.

Recent tracings in pencil of photographs that were not allowed to be published  due to her describing them in a civil way that suspends the paradigm of two sides, namely Israeli and Palestinian.

Ariella Azoulay Unshowable Photographs- An Introduction to Different Ways Not To Say Deportation_Page_08

Ch 3 Making Pictures Matter.

Comparison of concern of photographers and fear of the digital as putting an end to their art is the same fear painters had when photography became popular.  In the end it caused a revolution as painters were freed of the necessity to depict the exact and were able to be more creative cubism etc.  Photographer need to rethink what they are doing.

Ritchins opinion in that there is a widely held assumption that photographs should be easy to read in order to be appreciated by the masses is not helping its development.  Photography has and should have its own language and be able to speak.  Also the lack of visual or media literacy in schools is not helping.

When looking at online journalism where information is put together by a variety of sources and participants how can it be organised, filtered, should it be filtered, who should filter and can it be effective.  Is it more engaging than one person telling the story who has well researched.  Can a journalist ever match the information of a person living the experience, can they express it better?

Ritchin ” the approaches in the projects described (This is Our War, A soldiers portfolio, Servicemen’s Photographs of Life in Iraq, Bad Voodoo War and others) may not yet constitute an effective resistance to war, but they are on their way to creating enough alternative perspectives to delegitimise much of wars seductive excitement”

Ch 4. Other Alliances

September 11 to photograph or not.  Too overwhelming or necessary to record? Here is New York: a Democracy of Photographs. A selection of images of September 11th both by professionals and amateur photographers.  One purchased a photograph and did not know who took it until after they had purchased it.  Them most popular chosen image was by Katie Day Weisberger taken in April 2001 before the attacks of the twin towers while flying overhead.  A nostalgic image of how things once were. Reaction of American citizens.  Voyeurism was not an option when looking at September 11 2001 they were looking at friends,colleagues …

Post 9/11 two images put side by side one of a solitary figure in front of the ruins of the world trade centre and a solitary figure in front of the Kabul buildings destroyed by war taken by Sebastiao Salgado.  To show how ineffective it would be to declare war on a country already destroyed by war.  Although several major news outlets linked into the image no one made the same comparison. Why were news outlets so reluctant to show picture comparisons of what happened in New York to other parts of the world are they too politically charged are news outlets so afraid of making such a statement.

Criticism of Salgados work for being too romantic beautiful, despite NGO’s promoting leaving dignity of those suffering at the time.  Salgados’s work however proved very useful to Doctors without Borders published in 1986 it rose awareness and all money raised went to Doctors without Borders.

When Salads work Sahel: The End of the Road appeared at New Yorks International Centre of Photography.  Those who were inspired to help were denied the availability of finding the contact number of Doctors without Borders as it was deemed  inappropriate to put a phone number on the walls of a gallery.

James Nachtwey Somalia photographs

Even in todays world where we are saturated with images photography seems to still hold an effect in getting peoples attention and bringing them to action.

Eric Grottesman Sudden Flowers, Grottesman, Burn Magazine

When we look at the work of Eric Grottesman and his collaboration with children in Ethiopia who are HIV positive and have lost parents to HIV/ Aids.  He talks of not just giving them cameras but allowing the children full control over their work, selecting images, staging images and how sometimes he had to educate himself as to why they selected certain images that he would not have.  Why did one image mean more to them than others.  By allowing them full control the work had much more meaning to them and had  a greater impact for their intended purpose.  It is not just a matter of giving out cameras and then selecting the same old stereotypical images that the western world seeks to constantly reproduce in Africa.

The article from the link above for Burn Magazine talks of how by using images to explore their lives, dreams and past experiences they were able to use it as a tool to deal with what was happening to them, to try and make sense of it and to reshape their world.

Zana Briski and Ross Kauffmans 2004 “Born into Brothels”  and other projects mentioned in the book avoid a western approach to portraying peoples lives.  The children photographed their own lives.

Chapter 5

Is there a photography of peace.  Instead of photographing destruction or war why not photography what inspires us to peace, to avoid violence and not just by portraying how horrific it can be. (to my mind comes Salgado’s Genesis)

“Bosnia: Uncertain paths to peace” Gilles Peress and Fred Ritchin, 1996. Each click on the cursor would land the reader on a different unknown path.  Unlike a magazine they could not just read a story from start to finish. There is no start and finish in such situations and so why should the journalistic approach not reflect this. Racist and vile comments that were left on the site showed how hostile and often irrational the situation was between serbs, croats and muslims. Jonathan Harris. A website by invitation only that encourages storytelling and the use of photography .  Interesting stories about anything with a thoughtful perspective.

Argentine photographer Marcelo Brodsky presenting his own 1967 eight-grade class photograph.  Each with a brief description of what happened to each of his classmates including those who were “disappeared” and killed by the government during Argentinas long dictatorship.  At a commemorative ceremony in 1996 the artist photographed  the moment when visitors looked at photographs of fellow students and victims and included the reflection on their faces. is an ambitious tracking system for much of what is being published, sorted by London based photographer Mikko Takkunen, while kickstarter and is a system for crowd-funding visual journalism.


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