Wednesday, August 31, 2011

James Nachtwey leaves VII

I read fleetingly on twitter yesterday that James Nachtwey has left VII Photo Agency of which he was one of the founding members. Therefore, I went to the VII Photo website and found Nachtwey's name missing from the list of photographers. A report in the British Journal of Photography confirmed that the photojournalist has indeed quit the agency. There was, however, no announcement on the VII website. 

I have been trying to keep pace with VII team's work over the years. What I find interesting is that they are constantly at the edge of conflict, bringing viewers face-to-face with the socio-economic and political realities across the globe. I have no idea how much role Nachtwey really played in the creative part of VII. I always believed that it was he who started the agency, but Wikipedia says that Gary Knight and John Stanmeyer first thought of setting up the agency and others like Alexandra Boulat, Ron Haviv, Nachtwey joined in. 

Four days after VII was formally set up and announced, Nachtwey shot those stunning photographs of the 9/11 collapse which were first published by Time magazine. VII never looked back after this success, and I observed with awe how they developed the agency over last 10 years not just into a creative unit doing important work in visual story telling, but the way they developed and added new sections to the entity.

One day in 2004, when I was working with the Indian Express, I found a white man chatting with our photo chief Neeraj Priyadarshi in the photo dept. My friend A Srinivas who was outside the cabin whispered J-a-m-e-s-N-a-c-h-t-w-e-y, and I really thought he was joking. What would Nachtwey be doing  in the Express photo dept? Seconds later, I was speechless as Nachtwey turned and came out. I was tongue tied as I shook hands with him. He was dressed in a cool spotless white shirt and blue denims, and was so simple and  modest. It was Srinivas' idea to present him an Indian Express annual photo book that the group brought out in 2000 or so, and take his autograph on another copy of the book. Nachtwey signed it, but also insisted that all of us sign his copy of the book. Though I don't think he enjoyed the "celebrity" status being bestowed upon him, he happily posed for a photograph with all of us. I chased him the next whole day for an interview, but he persistently refused. He was here to shoot photos for a magazine assignment on great Indian railway, and wanted to shoot the Mumbai trains.

Nachtwey is apparently setting up his own studio, according to the newsreport. Whatever he will do next, I am sure he will bring in an element of the extraordinary. Much like his pictures.    


Friday, August 26, 2011


Henri Cartier-Bresson and his work has always amazed me. One man with a tiny Leica camera shooting  with a 50 mm lens and always in black and white has captured so much before he moved back to his first love of painting. His portraits amaze me even more because he has got so many wonderful people on film for posterity.
In the above pictures, the wonderful painting like portrait of Kashmiri women at the crack of dawn was the first ever picture of HCB that I saw at an exhibition Leica Cameras brought to Mumbai's Piramal Gallery way back in 1993-94. Then on thanks to my photojournalist friends Soumitra Ghosh and Vikas Khot, I got a chance to see more of Bresson's work through a series of HCB's books.
That HCB is also seen as a street photographer is interesting. 10 Things Henri Cartier Bresson Can Teach You About Street Photography gives a glimpse of this perspective.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Iconic London Riots Image

                                            Picture copyright: Amy Weston/WENN

This image shot by Amy Weston has become the iconic image of the London riots. Read an interview with Amy Weston done by The Guardian describing how she shot the photograph.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Text of CAG report on Adarsh Scam

The report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on the Adarsh Housing Society scam was tabled in Parliament today. The 52-page report details how the politician-bureaucrat nexus perpetrated the scam, and makes some strong observations. Do read.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Some interesting links

Some interesting links from my twitter reading.

                                                Georgia O'Keeffe and her hands by Alfred Stieglitz

From 1915 until 1946, some 25,000 pieces of paper were exchanged between two major 20th-century artists. Painter Georgia O'Keeffe and photographer Alfred Stieglitz wrote each other letters. From

Matt Black's photographs from the mountains of rural Mexico. From Guernica Magazine

A film by Drea Cooper & Zackary Canepari. From Panos Pictures

A city's hard edges, softened by Joy. From NYT's blog, Lens

Photographer Daniel Berehulak revisits Pak a year after floods displaced 4 million people. From Getty Images

Happy Reading and Viewing!