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Monday, 05 September 2016

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My favorite photo from Mr. Riboud is the one with "Chinese windows"

Link from Tumblr:
http://65.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mb4cnm55cT1rxh0a1o1_1280.jpg

Marc Riboud sprung from the same stem as Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith, Josef Koudelka and Don McCullin. His pictures are unique and brilliant. They are, like those of his predecessors, reportage photographs that raise the bar to almost unimaginable levels of quality. After all, if it is feasible to combine story telling and an aesthetic language of an artistic nature, I can't think of a single reason for photojournalists not to do it.
People like Marc Riboud saw things in a different way and had the ability to convey it so that viewers would still feel informed. In fact it is not necessary to show corpses and mutilated bodies in their rawness for people to understand war: everyone knows that wars involve deaths and injuries. Showing the absurdity of war, its irrational and inhumane side, and do it using artistic standards, however, is something only attainable to the very best. This is the case of all those mentioned above, but also of João Silva and his Bang Bang Club companion, Kevin Carter, and photojournalists of perhaps less renown, but of enormous value, such as Anja Niedringhaus. In all of them there is the desire to send a message that is subtle and wrapped in aesthetic beauty, but which at the same time communicates effectively. At least for those who are willing to understand it.
Sometimes, however, it looks to me this ability to produce symbols in the form of photographs is a dying art. Today there are photojournalists who can't be bothered with the communicational side that a photograph has to have. They are more concerned with transplanting Pietà and Madonna pastiches to war scenarios, making pictures that exploit war and its horrors. I'm not one of those people who keep screaming and shouting their anger when WPP announces their prize recipients, but photojournalism is actually becoming frivolous. You can find beauty in the midst of death and destruction scenarios - Smith, Capa, McCullin and Riboud did it -, but make photographs in which only the aesthetics stand out is nothing. That's just a show-off for the photojournalists' vanity and does not say anything, does not communicate. Such photos are no story to tell; they have no content.
And they have no power either. Koudelka's photographs of the invasion of Prague and Riboud's pictures of Vietnam do have it, because they convey strong ideas. (The most important of which being that violence is always absurd and gratuitous.) I do not see this power in today's reportage photographs. Either they are based solely on aesthetics or are mere illustrations.
I can't help feeling that every news of the death of photographers such as Marc Riboud brings photojournalism closer to its end. It is as if photography is losing their heroes and there is practically no one else to give it continuity. There is room for hope, though – as long as Alec Soth and a few others carry the torch.

"The eye is for seeing, not for thinking."

Damn I like that.

"His signature image distills the 'flower power' of the 1960s: a young woman holding a flower in front of a line of National Guard soldiers with bayonets at the ready." Not really. As I recall the Guardsmens' bayonets are sheathed. Still an iconic image.

[You can't specify everything in a blog post. Basic rule of what I do. --Mike]

You can view his work here.

Haunting pictures of Hauptsturmführer Klaus Barbie, during his trial (oddly listed under "Politicians"). Taking these must have meant a lot to the former resistance fighter Marc Riboud.

No book recommendations? I would welcome your thoughts...

Best,
Adam

One of the segments of "Contacts" has him talking through various of his photos in the context of the contact sheets they are part of. He discusses some well known images as well as some not so well known. Should be available on youtube.
BTW, in relation to your August 18 post about someone getting a detail about photography completely wrong, with the windows image linked to by Joe Holmes, the writer claims it was framed through train windows, a detail he or she must have invented. Riboud has said this was taken from inside a shop in Beijing.

Not born there, but he is Paris. Yes, I'm still entranced.

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