Sunday, April 29, 2007

South Africa: "In Transition"

So the thesis tutorial is over, I'm done. 43 pages on Pan-Africanism aint bad. Of course since I turned it in, I have thought of a couple more things that would have made the essay richer in material, but with such a broad subject, you can't write everything. I can now go back to feeling at ease and discovering many interesting photographic resources to share. To transition back into the swing of things here is slideshow about Post-1994 South Africa by a Swede named Per Anders Petterson. This is a collestion of about 10 years of work and its pretty good. Enjoy "In Transition."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Heart-Breaking News Photography

I know, its been awhile since the last post, but I must share that I've been working diligently on my political science tutorial (the equivalent of a senior thesis). It's coming along and I hope to finish in the next of couple of days, but it has drastically limited my freetime. I do however, now, have a minute to spare. With this brief interlude between essay paragraphs about Pan-Africanism, I would like to show the Pulitzer Prize winner this year for the best photograph concerning breaking news. It certainly is quite exemplary. The photo, taken by Oded Balilty, depicts a lone Jewish woman battling Israeli security forces who are attempting to remove her from her settlement in the west bank. Everything about the photography is exceptional. It is well composed, almost cinematically so and it is quite emotionally charged. Please take the time to truly experience the power of this photo.

For a full list of winners including the Feature Photography award for the best series of images go to

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Visual Media in Action

Here are a couple of really interesting and informative videos that can help educate people on parts issues in Africa and other issues surrounding other indigenous peoples.

The first video is a discussion and reading done by Ishmael Beah, a 26 year old former child soldier from Sierra Leone, whose book A LONG WAY GONE has been quite successful. I have had the chance to read it and it truly is unique persprective in a conflict far from many of our homes that we wouldn't otherwise pay attention to. So I do recommend the book for people to learn about issues in Africa and so that everyone can pick up on the humanity of the people involved. This particular video was made by BORDERS BOOKSTORE and it actually has quite a significant amount of footage of Mr. Beah giving background information, reading from the book and taking questions. Definately watch and learn.

Ishmael Beah Presented by Borders

The second two videos are produced by or featuring Phil Borges, the photographer whose images I discussed below. The first is a speech by Phil for TED (Technology Entertainment Design) about cultures that are disappearing or oppressed. It includes some of his intense portraits and some storytelling about the importance of preserving culture worldwide. See for yourself.

Phil Borges giveing a TEDtalk

The last of the powerful videos is from one of Phil's books called WOMEN EMPOWERED. The video is an inspiring documentary of a little girl in Ethiopia who didn't want to receieve femaile genital cutting, which much of her Afar tribe practice. She returned years later to help her village abolish the traditional practice associated with many female health problems and was ultimately successful. This is her stroy.

Abay's Fight to Empower Women

In the media lately there has been some news on the same subject that Abay, the girl from the video above, is dealing with. Please read this BBC article about how Eritrea, a country bordering Ethiopia has banned female geniatl cutting.

Eritrea Bans Female Circumcision

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Pop goes the picture

I was browsing some photo websites as I tend to do, when I came upon an interesting body of work by the photographer Phil Borges. He specializes in the "people of indigenous cultures" and has photos from Kenya to Thailand to North America. What makes his photos so interesting, besides that stunning clarity he gets by using a Hassleblad, is that the foreground really pops out at the viewer with a slight bit of color. It is quite a sight to behold, so I emailed the site and inquired about the technique. Here was the response from one of Phil's assistants:

"The process that makes the foreground subject pop with color is done through a process called selective toning. I have included the instructions for the process below.

Selective Toning
These black and white silver gelatin prints are selectively toned in sepia toner. They are not hand colored with oils or dyes. I print on Ilford Multigrade IV paper and tone the prints with Kodak sepia toner. The sepia toner changes each silver halide crystal in the print from black to sepia color. I prefer this method to hand coloring because, unlike oils or dyes sepia toning is very archival. Also. this method allows the white areas, where there are no silver crystals, to remain white. I protect the areas of the print that I don't want to sepia tone with a sheet of frisket. (Low Tac Frisket can be found at any art supply store) and a liquid product call Maskoid (used by airbrush artists). After making the black and white print, I cover the part of the print I don't want to tone with the frisket and Maskoid leaving the areas I want to tone exposed. I then immerse the print in the toner and the chemical transformation that produces the sepia color takes place--just in the areas of the print not covered by the frisket."

It turns out the selective toning technique is not some computer trick, but an actual photographic toning process. I think it makes the foreground look incredible, but in contrast with the background the image looks a little fake, almost like the subject was pasted in. This process seems like it could be used to do some amazing things and Phil's photos really do catch one's attention, but I'm still undecided as to whether I really enjoy the images as whole pieces, foreground and background. I guess I'll have to really wait until I see one of his pieces in real life. Check out the website and decide for yourself if Phil Borges' images are solid candidates for appreciation.

Phil Borges' Website

Monday, April 2, 2007

Holy Goats

A few days ago I went to a lecture given by an NGO worker that operates in Zimbabwe. Supposedly their program has been successful, so I really wanted to check it out, given the current state of Zimbabwe of the Mugabe administration, which I have written about below. The NGO is called Holistic Management International and their goal is to restore life to land that has lost much of its productivity over time. They teach communities to put most or all of the local livestock on the same plot of land to graze so that other areas have time to grow or regrow by time the herd needs to graze move to another plot. It has had drastic effects on the land. The website shows some photos of a plot over a period of time and this process really seems to be working. One problem that Holistic Management encountered however, was that many people in rural Zimbabwe are living in extreme poverty and are unable to purchase goats. Any monetary microfinance attempted by the NGO was doomed to fail as well because inflation is so bad (still 1700%).

The solution they decided was to purchase the goats themselves and let the goats be the currancy. Knowing that their land management techniques would be successful, they gave families ten goats each with the expectation to get them back with interest over time, not too difficult when the currency has the ability to reproduce.

The people have been empowered by the goats, and have been relieved from extreme poverty. In addition they have knowledge about how to give rebirth to their land. Hopefully, if the technique that Holistic Management teaches is so successful, the people will continue to use it and spread its usage, with their own teachers, throughout the region before other communties get jealous and sabotage the land.
Holistic Management International