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Humanitarian issues, Journalism, Links - Writing, Photojournalism

The Week’s Worthwhile Reads

The United States of Haiti?                                                                    Newly back from Haiti, Pooja Bhatia draws parallels between the beloved “dysfunctional little country” she left behind and the direction her homeland appears to be heading.

“…ensconced back home in the U.S., the Land of Plenty, I see reminders of Haiti everywhere,” Bhatia writes in an article for the Daily Beast. “Our infrastructure is crumbling. The able-bodied and quick-brained can’t find work. The chasm between the super-rich and everyone else has so widened that our elites seem to inhabit a different country.”

Overstated? Perhaps. But she raises some good questions. And I’m always pleased to see pieces that spotlight Haiti–a rarity since the earthquake-induced reporting frenzy died down and the majority of journalists moved on to other crises du jour.

The Amanda Knox Case and Journalistic Neutrality                                Speaking of media frenzies, the wrap-up of the Amanda Knox appeal and subsequent acquittal of the accused had more than 400 reporters descending on poor Perugia, which just wants to go back to being known for its chocolate. More interesting, is the polarization within both the public and the media over Knox’s perceived guilt or innocence. Shades of gray are all but nonexistent in the sensationalized murder case: the Seattle student is either a duplicitous, sexually-charged killer or the the victim of a sexist, arcane legal system.

Oddly, such polarization has crept into some of the media coverage, specifically within the reporting of two high-profile journalists. Rome-based Barbie Nadeau who has covered Italy for Newsweek for a number of years sides with the “guilty” camp, while Nina Burleigh, who moved to Perugia to write a book on the case, believes that Knox was a victim of misogyny at its worst.  

But where is the line between reporter and advocate? asks the New York Times. And to what extent should a journalist allow her opinions to bleed through her reporting?

Snuff, Barf & Amusement Parks: Scenes from the Real Afghanistan 

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Friday photo, Photography

Friday Photo: Shanghai Sylphs











I recently stumbled upon Lina Scheynius’ flickr stream and was struck by both her use of light and her bold rendering of raw, everyday moments.

Many of her images suggest a wistful sensuality, albeit one with slightly dark undercurrents: loss, longing, and those desires that can overwhelm us, smother us, or drive us mad.

Oyster Magazine has described her photographs as a combination of “brazen sexuality and fragile intimacy,” and reports that Lina is inspired by work that leaves her “feeling slightly uncomfortable.” Indeed, some of her images are intimate to the point of being nearly claustrophobic, while others hint at a prelude to obsession and violence.

Born in Sweden, Lina left home at 16 and divides her time between London and Paris.  Self-taught, she has shot for Elle and British Vogue and her work has been featured in numerous galleries in Europe and the U.S.

In May, Lina released a third book of photographs that is available for purchase on her website. You can also check out her polaroid scrapbook here.

Journalism, Photography, Photojournalism, travel

Friday Photo: Street, Naples

Naples in the Rain, BLN. March, 2006

One of my favorite guilty pleasures, La Strada is a pictorial rendering of Italian daydreams. Run by a couple of well-known journalists, most pictures are taken on the fly with point-and-shoot cameras or phones. The resulting snapshots depict Italy at its most appetizingly authentic.

Photography, Randomness

Pictures that Tell a Story: The Girl at the Creperie

Photo by Robert Redfield –

A balmy afternoon during the last year of college. I had settled in at my favorite table by the window at my beloved crêperie in downtown Santa Barbara when I caught sight of one of the most striking young women I had ever seen.

She passed my table with a stack of menus and headed towards the kitchen only to reappear by the register. Trying not to stare, I instead risked a few furtive glances over the top of my menu.

Santa Barbara is known for pretty women; the genetically blessed are hardly a rarity there. Still, the girl possessed such a striking ethereal beauty that she would have stood out anywhere.

“Did you see her?” I asked my then boyfriend during our next lunchtime outing to the crêperie after she had glided past our table. “She is gorgeous.”

“You should go make friends with her,” he said, flashing a slightly lecherous smirk.

“Yeah, I’m sure you’d love that,” I responded in mock annoyance gently elbowing him.

Little did either of us realize that these initial sightings of the then-anonymous girl at the crêperie would develop into a decade-long friendship.

Her name was France (“like the country,” she always told smitten male admirers in her thick accent). She grew up in the small town of Vichy, and had come to Santa Barbara on a study-abroad program to learn English. Soon she had fallen in love with the sunshine, the beach and an American college student with whom she shared an apartment not far from the waterfront.

In the months that followed, we bonded over the typical post-college conundrums that befall any young woman trying to make her way: relationships gone awry, unsettled career plans, the reality that university was over and that bona fide adult life was fast encroaching.

We took evening walks to the Santa Barbara Mission, gorged ourselves on chocolate biscuits and tea, and stayed out too late drinking champagne. For her beach birthday party I came dressed as a Tiki God, much to the bewilderment of many French guests—“A what? A Gigi God? C’est quoi ça?”—and she braved long hours and multiple takes as an extra in one of my director boyfriend’s short films.

The summer after graduation I traveled to Europe with my sister, and met up with her in her home town, where she laid out croissants and jam for us each morning and encouraged us to “stay in the shadow” during sweltering afternoons.

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Friday photo, Literature, Photography

Friday Photo: Paris Ambiance

+ by Alex Grazioli
+ a photo by Alex Grazioli on Flickr.

Another jaw-dropping example of the exquisite use of natural light.

Alex Grazioli’s “C’etait un Rendez-Vous” evokes a scene from a Jean Rhys novel- Good Morning Midnight, perhaps?

There is also an undeniably cinematic quality to this shot that makes my inner ex-cinema student turn to mush. Not suprisingly, Alex has a film background.

In his flickr profile Alex says photography has “become the vehicle of his need to do something more personal and direct, the way to remember, narrate and fully experience the past and the present, and at the same time his link with the fascinating world of cinema.”

I am impressed, inspired and looking forward to seeing more of Alex’s work in the future.

Friday photo, Photography

Friday Photo: Child of Kalash Valley

PAKISTAN KALASH by oliviermatthys
PAKISTAN KALASH a photo by oliviermatthys on Flickr.

I have had Pakistan on the brain today, and was taken by this striking photo by Olivier Matthys.

The eyes, the timid expression, the composition and the contrast between the vivid clothing and the gray stove make for an extraordinary image of what is otherwise an ordinary moment for this young member of Pakistan’s Kalash tribe.

Olivier has more than 60 images of Pakistan on his flickr stream–some beautiful, some disturbing, some shocking and all worth a look.

Friday photo, Photography

Friday Photo: Suddenly, that Summer

 by nirrimi

Just 18 years old,  Australian photographer Nirrimi Hakanson is already capturing attention both in her home country and overseas. In 2009 she won the SOYA-Qantas Spirit of Youth Award, and last summer she shot Diesel’s Fall/Winter campaign in New York.

Hakanson’s work recalls dreams, daydreams and free-spirited summers at the sea shore. Her use of natural light, sylphlike models and stunning landscapes infuses her images with a gauzy sensuality that evokes those delicate, somewhat-idealized moments of the teen years that tend to haunt old photo albums or crop up during bar-stool reminiscences.

Looking through Hakanson’s ebullient depictions of adolescence makes me want to take my inner 16 year old for a midday skinny dip off the southern coast of Hvar. Perhaps they will have a similar effect on you?

You can learn more about Nirrimi’s work on her blog.

Friday photo, Photography

Friday Photo: Traveling Light

Zurich BH 2

“Zurich BH 2” from Izakigur in Switzerland. The light, the tones and the contrast infuse an otherwise ordinary moment at a Zurich train station with both energy and a sense of solitude. Goethe may have called architecture “frozen music,” but this image comes pretty close.

“I love to say that I am ‘denying time,’  and I am ‘following the light,'” the photographer notes in his flickr profile. “Light is the big seducer.”

For more of Izakigur’s impressive work with light and landscapes, visit his flickr stream.

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