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Ed Kashi

Thank you for joining us for the inaugural IMPACT online exhibition, a new project exploring the blog medium as a venue for photographic work. RESOLVE is excited to be hosting this experimental new project.

By clicking on the links below the IMPACT logo, you can move through the exhibition, viewing galleries of images, all related to the idea of “Outside Looking In.” Each “gallery” will include a series of images a photographer has uploaded to their blog along with this same IMPACT logo.

At any time you can click on the IMPACT logo to be taken to back to this post, where all the participating photographers are listed. (The “next” button actually takes you to a random gallery, so keep clicking if you get a repeat.)

By allowing viewers to move between different photographer’s online galleries, we hope to gain exposure for their work while providing a multifaceted visual study of the chosen topic.

We also wanted to remind viewers of the important role photographers play around the world, so we asked participants to share images from a project where they had an impact or were impacted themselves. If inclined, they have also included a link to an organization that they believe is having a positive impact on the world. Please help us increase this project’s IMPACT by sharing it with your community.

The IMPACT Team: Yumi Goto, Miki Johnson, Paul O’Sullivan, Jeremy Wade Shockley

Gazi Nafis Ahmed: Inner Face

Daniel Beltra: Tropical Deforestation

Fabiano Busdraghi: Physics, adventure, poetry and photography in Antarctica

Shiho Fukada: No Retirement Plan

Sean Gallagher: Desertification Unseen

Bill Hatcher: New Zealand Masters of Sport

Ed Kashi: A “Fady” in Madagascar

Michael Kircher: Adventure for Healing

Pete Marovich: A Look Inside the Old Order

Sara Mayti: The Sound of a 4.16

Thomas Peschak: Saving the Most Important Fish In the Sea

Ian Shive: American National Parks

Jeremy Wade Shockley: The Mountain Kingdom

Art Wolfe: The Ganges River

Rachel Wolfe: Jamaica

In Ed Kashi‘s new book, THREE, images from his 30 years as a top documentary photographer are combined into triptychs that consciously abandon the idea of context or traditional narrative. Some of those triptychs will be part of a show opening tomorrow at FiftyCrows gallery in San Francisco (founded by liveBooks CEO Andy Patrick), so I thought this would be a good time to talk to Ed about the project. I love the book (that’s my copy getting flipped through) and find his words inspirational. Hope you do too.

“This book has freed me up to be more open-minded about my own photography and to see new connections within my work.”

When Ed came to Stanford a few months ago for an Aurora Forum on the What Matters book, I was reminded how unsatisfactory the term “documentary photographer” is when applied to someone like him. Years before multimedia became a buzzword, Ed and his wife Julie Winokur were leading the way into “multi-platform” storytelling, including exhibitions, books, websites, videos, multimedia, and educational programs. Ed explains how they are now exploring “feedback loops” between documentarians, their audience, and the subjects, so that the people in the photos and the people looking at them contribute as much to a story as the person behind the camera.
Ikpokiri is a poor community in the oil rich Niger Delta. The only school in this small community lay in ruins due to flooding and lack of care.

Ikpokiri is a poor community in the oil rich Niger Delta. The only school in this small community lay in ruins due to flooding and lack of care. ©Ed Kashi

It’s not enough anymore to create work for one media platform, especially if you intend to raise awareness about issues or are trying to effect change. Now when I create a new project as a photojournalist or with Talking Eyes Media, the non-profit production company I founded with my wife, Julie Winokur, we have our eyes on expanded opportunities for distribution: the web, social media, books, exhibitions, T.V., lectures, workshops, academic applications, and NGO collaborations. There are undoubtedly even more I haven’t thought, of and we’re always looking for new options.

To work in this multi-platform landscape, you must develop skills beyond still photography. You should at least be proficient at gathering and editing audio, and preferably you’d also understand video and be able to handle post production to produce a finished piece.

Since Julie and I founded Talking Eyes seven years ago, we have developed a process that fluidly moves from proposal, field work, and post production to outreach and followup. With the Niger Delta work, we’re learning as we go. As usual, we’re applying for grants, but now they are in areas I’ve never ventured into before, attempting to receive funding support for educational outreach programs.

One small example of this can be seen on my blog where we posted papers written by history students at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where my book was required reading. They were asked to pick three images and write about them, and we posted a handful of their papers with the students’ consent.

Unemployed local youths hang out around the Etelebou Flow Station in the Niger Delta. ©Ed Kashi

Unemployed local youths hang out around the Etelebou Flow Station in the Niger Delta. ©Ed Kashi

This is an important aspect of multi-platform storytelling: It can easily be disseminated to a wide variety of audiences. It also provides the means for those audiences to talk back with the photographer/producer about the work. It is exciting to being able to create a groundswell of interest in this way, by building a feedback loop between the documentarian, their subject, and the audience.

I am currently writing grants to fund a broader implementation of this feedback loop idea (really it’s a wiki, but I wanted to avoid that term). My vision is to create a new website, or augment the existing one from liveBooks, so that students in the U.S. and Nigeria (or anywhere for that matter), who are using teaching materials I’ve created around oil and environmental issues, can contribute their own comments, information, pictures, and videos to the site. So a student in Port Harcourt, in the Niger Delta, would study these issues using the texts, stills, and video from my work there (along with expanded teaching materials we plan to include in a teaching DVD) and then do his or her own reporting or just contribute personal materials to the site. In this way, they can correct, augment, and develop my work to broaden, deepen, and personalize it. More »

After publishing Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta in 2008, Ed returned to the Delta in May for nearly seven weeks to shoot a video for the State of Bayelsa. Despite his extensive experience in the area, the trip was a constant trial. For photographers who have worked overseas, this post and his first will sound familiar — for those who view their images, it’s a compelling glimpse into how they are made.
Ogu is a poor community in the oil rich Niger Delta. Made up of ethnic Igaw people, it has been the seen of strife in recent years and continued neglect by the government.    Bathing in open, tin rimmed enclosures like these is the only way to wash in this poor community. While oil operations yield billions of dollars of wealth nearby, the people of Ogu and other communities like this one in the Niger Delta, live in abject poverty with no running water, no sewage and scant electricity. ©Ed Kashi

Bathing in open, tin rimmed enclosures like these is the only way to wash in the poor community of Ogu in the Niger Delta, where oil operations yield billions of dollars of wealth nearby. ©Ed Kashi

June 4, 2009

Today we went to the Bayelsa Palm Oil Farm, which everyone has been talking about in the interviews. Sure enough, the new processing plant is not completed (they are waiting for the Malaysians to come and build it). I shot the exterior of the new factory, which is not impressive, and made arrangements to return tomorrow and shoot the workers cutting palms off the trees.

I was thinking today how I always work from the outside, not just as an observer but also in terms of access and logistics. I am the outsider that most people don’t want around or they don’t want me to see what I want to look at. Yet in this project I should be an insider and in many situations I am treated that way. But mostly I feel like I’m working from the outside, trying to get a glimpse through the window shades at the action.

“You can’t go looking for it…First you must lose yourself. Then it happens.” —Henri Cartier-Bresson

I had a meeting about going to Akassa, a far off community by the Atlantic, to see civil society projects in action. After talking with my contacts about the security situation in the creeks, it became crystal clear I shouldn’t risk it.

Things were bad in 2006, when boats of gun-weilding young men would appear from nowhere, stop you, harass you, and take money. Now the situation has deteriorated to gang warfare for turf and control, but instead of mean streets they are creepy riverways and creeks. Plus, it’s so rare to see a white man in the creeks now, if I were to be seen by one of these boatloads of young men, I would be way too exposed and vulnerable. I can’t deal with this shit or take the risk, especially for this project. I said the only way I would go to Akassa or any of these riverside communities is by chopper or government boat.

June 5

We started the day at a local market to get B-roll of fish and periwinkles in buckets. It was a relaxed and lovely way to start the day, although I did get splattered by blood when I got too close to a saleswoman chopping a fish for her customer. We then went to the Bayelsa Palm Oil Farm, which is still a work in progress. The plantation itself is visually lovely, but the processor is not working yet, as I pointed out a couple of days ago, waiting for the Malaysians.

I was quite testy with Sokari and the subjects today. I realized that I am now in a mode where everything I’m seeing is through critical eyes and negative assumptions. Unfortunately it’s accurate, but not healthy or fair or positive…but then, who cares? I can be this way if I want and if it gives me the resolve to carry on. It was sunny this morning, which means dripping wet working from the heat and humidity.

June 6

Upon emerging to greet the afternoon, I met a calm, overcast day with nice winds that cooled the heat down. We went to cover a traditional wedding, which required a very short boat ride across the river from Yenagoa. It was another undeveloped and poor village, like all the rest of them here. The bride had to wait for the stylist to appear and make her up. Once she arrived things proceeded swiftly.

My back was burning with pain at this point and the sun came out, so it was also burning hot again. I was losing my ability to tune into the sequence of events and Sokari was keen for me to see the part where the groom has to choose between three covered women, not knowing which one is his bride. It was loud, colorful and hectic. I probably got some great stuff, but all I could think about was my discomfort, the hectic, screeching sounds and the chaos of the situation.

An oil spill from an abandoned Shell Petroleum Development Company well in Oloibiri, Niger Delta.  Wellhead 14 was closed in 1977 but has been leaking for years, and in June of 2004 it finally released an oil spill of over 20,000 barrels of crude. Workers subcontracted by Shell Oil Company clean it up. ©Ed Kashi

Workers subcontracted by Shell Oil Company to clean up an oil spill from an abandoned Shell Petroleum Development Company well in Oloibiri, Niger Delta. ©Ed Kashi

June 8

I woke on this last Monday in the Delta bleary eyed and tired from another restless night of sleep. Some brisk Nescafe and exercise brought me back to life with a positive attitude to finish this thing strong. We first went back to the Palm Oil farm to finally film the harvesters cutting the palms down, but once again the workers were arguing with the contractors about getting paid. No go on that front, but did get the pruners whacking at the palm trees.

We then drove out of Yenagoa (yay!) to look at a couple of projects. On the way we stopped to shoot road work on the New Airport Road, a huge swath of light colored orange sand covering a wide area of flattened jungle. I got out of the car and started to shoot the one bulldozer working in the distance — not knowing that a JTF post was on the other side of the road.

Immediately they started yelling, “Oyibo, who gave you permission to snap!” I snapped back without hesitation, “THE GOVERNOR!!!” Sometimes my frustration builds up so much I forget to consider my responses. The soldiers were taken aback and before they could say anything else I pulled out the well-worn letter that Von’s office gave us at the beginning of the trip. I’ve used about 15 times so far and it usually works. They took the letter and said, “We’ll keep this…it’s for us!” I said, “No you won’t, that’s my only copy!” Thinking ahead, I then said, “We are going to Kayama next, so we’ll get you a copy and drop it off on the way back to Yenagoa.” He said, “No, you will take this engineer with you!” I said “Fine!”

So off we went to Kayama, about 15 miles ahead on this main road that connects Port Harcout to Warri. Along the way, the engineer suggested we go to another place where they are dredging sand for the road and we finally got some dredging footage. We then went to Kayama to show a huge land reclamation and erosion protection project. We got the copy and dropped it and the engineer off on the way back to Yenagoa.

I asked Sokari if I had come on too strong to the soldier and he laughed and said, “No!” He told me that after I said, “THE GOVERNOR!” another soldier said to the big soldier who confronted me, “Wow, he’s confident.“ So my bravado worked in this case. Not that I was aware of what I was doing. I’m in a trance-like state at this point, trying to accomplish the work, keep positive, and get back to my room to chill out, waiting to get out of here.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Have you ever gotten so frustrated on assignment that you said things that you wished you could take back? How did you deal with it?


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