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ashgilbertson

Prison Photography (PP): You use Twitter.

Ashley Gilbertson (AG): I initially got on Twitter because I found Facebook pretty boring. It was turning into people’s family photo albums, which is fine, but …

Twitter was a place that I was getting breaking news from. Not always correct but sources on the ground. That for me was very effective in terms of looking at primary sources and things as they developed. I still go to a few news sites, but I am getting my breaking news from Twitter. It sounds ridiculous, but I do.

I use Twitter for conversations and ideas too. I come across stories. Somebody can tweet something that sets the wheels turning in my head that can turn into a story idea. If I don’t want to cover it then I’ll retweet it and say this is potentially a good story idea. I try to share in this creative process.

PP: You use Instagram.

AG: I joined Instagram because VII started an account and I thought I’d be a team player. I keep trying but it’s not really my thing. My digital photographs suck and so therefore my iPhone photographs are freaking terrible.

I took a picture of a dead rat I came across on the street, posted it and suggested I might do a series on roadkill and make a book. I’m trying to take the piss a little bit but no-one really gets it. Someone contacted me and said, “I hate to tell you Ash, but someone has already done that.”

I present certain photographs to the world that are very carefully edited and all of a sudden I’m making photographs on the fly and they’re bad! That’s got to hurt my reputation!

I love taking pictures of my wife and son but they are for me.

PP: I don’t want to know about your heroes, I want to know about how you think is making good work right now.

AG: I think Seamus Murphy is doing some really great stuff with multimedia – he takes unusual approaches that I thoroughly enjoy.

I love Peter van Agtmael. Peter’s a thinker. His work is very emotional, really textural, really beautiful and I think Peter is turning into one of the best photographs that we have out there working today. I have a lot of respect for his approach.

Todd Heisler. Reading the New York Times, his pictures just stand on their own. I like being able to look at a paper and know who the photographer is – “It’s Todd. He nailed it again.”

I like Mishka Henner‘s approach to the medium, I like his execution of ideas, and I like his defense of the work. That to me is the complete package. I’ve argued about Henner’s work without him in the room. One person was calling him a photographer, I was calling him a curator, and we realized it didn’t matter. Call him what you fucking want. Henner’s just interesting. Period.

I like people who are pushing the medium. While I have a hell of a lot of respect for traditional photography, I don’t see the need for ten photographers to all shoot the same scene in this reportage manner. I’d rather see three photographers, say  from the New York Times, LA Times and Wall Street Journal [do straight shooting] and see the other seven trying to connect with an audience in a different manner.

PP: Cell phones?

The iPhone debate has legs. Cell phone photography is not that boring. It’s the first time photojournalists have ever let themselves go, stylistically. We’re not confined to having to reproduce colours in exactly the way that we see them or not add certain elements of light, sun-flares or whatever it is.

The problem with the conversation [about style and filters] is that it is so often talked about in a defensive manner.

PP: People start by defending the ethics of cell phone photography?

AG: Yes. And, of course it’s totally ethical. Rather they should start with, “Obviously, it is very different to how I shoot on a Canon 5D; it’s a totally different approach with a totally different understanding.”

It doesn’t bother me that photojournalism is loosening up.

PP: For the longest time, a mythos has surrounded anointed photojournalists. They’ve been treated as gods, if you like. But, with the rise Instagram – which is, paradoxically, considered a platform for navel gazing narcissism – famous photojournalists have become more familiar, less godlike.

AG: We’re from a new generation. The photographers I knew growing up were either dead or very mysterious. I remember picking through magazines and trying to find little scraps of information about Ron Haviv or James Nachtwey and these giants in the industry. They were so mysterious it was almost part of the allure. They’re not the story; they’re behind the camera and they are not there to talk about themselves, they were there to talk about their subjects and that to me was very effective.

But now, I realize that to reach the widest possible audience you often have to engage yourself in the production of the story. I need to explain how it was meeting hundreds of families who had lost a son or a daughter to the war. I think that adds to the story and to people’s compassion for the subject. But, it doesn’t sit well with me. It might look like it does because I am so open to it, but still I wonder if I should shut my mouth, close down all my social media, and just get on with photography.

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Image by Ash Gilbertson, from his Instagram feed, a rat I think, sometime in late Summer, somewhere, accompanied by the caption, ‘Tyre Tracks!’

There’s not a lot of humour to be drawn from America’s Prison Industrial Complex but, still, I made an attempt with an hours worth of April foolery and sarcasm:

Clearly, Alec Soth does know what he is talking about … and he talks a lot of sense … and he talks often.

Last week, however, Magnum Photos attributed this quote to Soth and twatted it into the webiverse:

“It’s not about making good pictures anymore. Anybody can do that today – it’s about good edits…”

Thus a medium-sized discussion ensued on the Fraction Mag Facebook page covering the need for outside perspective, audience expectations, technologies beyond those of cameras but of distribution also, etc, etc …

I wanted to know why and when Soth said this and in what context he made the statement. I emailed him. Here’s his response:

Dear Pete,

I don’t when or in what context this comment was made or if it was made at all. Nor do I know who posted it. But this itself is quite telling, isn’t it? Are people interested having serious discussions about miscellaneous, fragmentary tweets? I would much rather talk about a fully realized interview or essay. In a similar way, I’m much more interested in edited projects than I am in isolated images.

Best,

Alec

I don’t know if we should now discuss this fragmentary correspondence or just leave it alone?

Just a quickie. All of these names can be found on my list The Talent, but I figured they can get lost in there and I’d push them up to the surface for you all.

Scan the names and see if you’re missing out on the important/irrelevant bleatings of these notable camera-lords and camera-ladies.

StephenVoss
Steven Voss, Washington, DC
andrewcutraro
Andrew Cutraro, Washington, DC
edkashi
Ed Kashi
heislerphoto
Todd Heisler
rspencerreed
Ryan Spencer Reed
JasonEskenazi
Jason Eskenazi
AlanSChin
Alan Chin, Brooklyn, NY
davidb383
David Burnett, Washington DC
stevebloomphoto
Steve Bloom, England
dpeveto
Daryl Peveto
evanvucci
Evan Vucci
jmott78
Justin Mott, Hanoi, Vietnam
StrazzPOY
Scott Strazzante, Yorkville, IL
jonkgoering
Jon Goering, Lawrence, KS
sinclair_photo
Mike Sinclair, Kansas City
PhotoPhilan
PhotoPhilanthropy, California
radical_images
Radical Images, East Midlands UK
Kastenskov
Henrik Kastenskov, Vejle
maisiecrow
Maisie Crow, New York
jturnley
James Turnley
juansierraphoto
Juan Sierra, Germany
OLOLtoo
Kendrick Brinson, Atlanta, GA
AaronJoelSantos
Aaron Joel Santos, Hanoi, Vietnam
jeffcurto
Jeff Curto, Chicago, IL
martincregg
Martin Cregg, Dublin
consumptive
James Luckett, Ohio
jesshurdphoto
Jess Hurd, London
VizJournalist
John Waskey, Portland, OR
tomtveitan
Tom Tveitan, Norway
fotofugitive
Tim Humble, Noosa, Sunshine Coast
photomorel
Daniel Morel, Haiti
davidalanharvey
David Alan Harvey, NYC, Outer Banks
FredoDupoux
Frederic Dupoux
wemarijnissen
Wendy Marijnissen, Islamabad, Pakistan
dascruggs
Daniella Scruggs, D.C. Metro Area
themexican
Raul Gutierrez
sheimages
Sheila Pree Bright
Moishevitz
Juliana Beasley, Jersey City, NJ
tajforer
Taj Forer, Connecticut
jeffantebi
Jeff Antebi
mattshonfeld
Matt Shonfeld, Bath, UK
jonsnyder
Jon Snyder, San Francisco
americanyouth
American youth book, NYC
douglaslowell
Douglas Lowell, Portland, OR
imaclellan
Ian MacLellan, Lincoln, MA
EmilyShur
Emily Shur
JaneFultonAlt
Jane Fulton Alt, Chicago
brazil_photos
Ricardo Funari, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
toddhido
Todd Hido, San Francisco Bay Area
billvaccaro
Bill Vaccaro
adamvlau
Adam Lau, San Francisco
PipAndrews
Philip Scott Andrews
DannyGhitis
Danny Ghitis, Brooklyn, NY
pangeaphoto
Pangea Photo
prospektphoto
Prospekt, Milan, Italy
terakopian
Edmond Terakopian, UK
NoBarriersPhoto
No Barriers Photogrphy, Vancouver, BC
CollegePhotog
CPOY, Columbia, MO
dsheaphoto
Daniel Shea, Chicago
dominicnahr
Dominic Nahr, Kenya
mrubee
Michael Rubenstein
greglutze
Greg Lutze, Pacific Northwest
reduxpictures
Redux Pictures
johnkeatley
John Keatley, Seattle, WA
hillerphoto
Geoffrey Hiller, Dhaka, Bangladesh
ChrisHondros
Chris Hondros, New York, NY
tammydavid
Tammy David, Manila, Philippines
vigbalasingam
Vignes Balasingam, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
timmatsuiphoto
Tim Matsui, Seattle, WA
coreyfishes
Corey Arnold, Portland, OR
jimbourg
Jim Bourg, Washington, DC
stupilkington
Stuart Pilkington, High Wycombe, UK
Donaldverger
Donald Verger, Portland, Maine
NickTurpin
Nick Turpin, France
noahkalina
Noah Kalina, Brooklyn, NY
terukuwayama
Teru Kuwayama
benrobertsphoto
Ben Roberts, Bournemouth, UK
alvarezphoto
Stephen Alvarez, Charlotte, NC
davidsolomons
David Solomons, London
erikborst
Erik Borst, Amsterdam, Holland
squarerootof9
Trey Hill, Dallas, TX
quesofrito
Emiliano Granado, NYC
50statesproject
50 States Project, USA
RachelPapo
Rachel Papo, Brooklyn, New York
alphabetproject
Alphabet Project
danielemattioli
Daniele Mattioli, Shanghai
shawnrocco
Shawn Rocco, Raleigh, North Carolina
jaredsoares
Jared Soares, Roanoke, Virginia
yingang
Ying Ang, Melbourne, Australia
jennyjimenez
Jenny Jimenez, Seattle, WA
hinius
Hin Chua, London
photogjack
Jack Kurtz, Phoenix, AZ
renaudphilippe
Renaud Philippe, Québec
thetravelphotog
Tewfic El- Sawy, NYC/London
A_Jax
Andrew Jackson, Birmingham, UK
alvarezmontero
Carlos Alvarez Montero
Peter_Marshall
London
mellyvanilla
Melanie McWhorter
ptrbkr
Peter Baker
dellicson
Davin Ellicson, Bucharest, Romania
OlivierLaude
Olivier Laude, San Francisco
matgrandjean
Mathieu Grandjean, Los Angeles
noahbeil
Noah Beil, Oakland, California
demotix
Global
claytoncubitt
Clayton Cubitt, New York
benblood
Ben Blood, Seattle, WA
ianvancoller
Ian van Coller, Bozeman, MT
natelarson
Nate Larson, Baltimore, MD
mrthibs18
Brandon Thibodeaux
gracegelder
Grace Gelder
andrewquerner
Andrew Querner, Alberta
jonfeinstein
Jon Feinstein, NYC
hellenvanmeene
Hellen van Meene, Heiloo, Holland
bendrum
Benjamin Drummond, Seattle, WA
tonystamolis
Tony Stamolis
liankevich
Andrei Liankevich
davewyatt
Dave Wyatt, Somerset, UK
coombskj
Kevin Coombs
miketsangphoto
Mike Tsang, London
lgreen66
Lauren Greenfield
KatharinaHesse
Katharina Hesse, Beijing
aphotostudent
James Pomerantz, New York
NadavKander
Nadav Kander, London
visualjourn
Brent Foster, Delhi, India
balazsgardi
Balazs Gardi
rogercremers
Roger Cremers, Amsterdam
shahidul
Shahidul Alam, Dhaka. Bangladesh
chrisdebode
Chris Debode, Amsterdam
abbiets
Abbie Trayler-Smith
foreilly
Finbar O’Reilly, Dakar, Senegal
rasermus
Espen Rasmussen
stevesimon
Steve Simon, NYC
borutpeterlin
Borut Peterlin, Slovenia
moooose
Mustafah Abdulaziz, Philadelphia
oeilpublic
Oeil Public, Paris, France (Now out of business)
gallagher_photo
Sean Gallagher, Beijing, China
jennackerman
Jenn Ackerman, New York
Amivee
Ami Vitale, Miami
ninaberman
Nina Berman
luceo
Luceo Images, US, Southeast Asia, Mexico
mattlutton
Matt Lutton, Belgrade, Serbia
Nathan_Armes
Nathan Armes, Denver, CO
timgruber
Tim Gruber, New York
timhussin
Tim Hussin, Washington D.C.
alan_w_george
Alan W George, San Francisco
MrToledano
Phillip Toledano, New York
mattslaby
Matt Slaby, Denver
wearemjr
MJR, Brooklyn, New York
caryconover
Cary Conover, Lower East Side, NYC
robot_operator
Dalton Rooney, Brooklyn, NY
loujones2008
Lou Jones, Boston, MA
gerik
Gerik Parmele, Columbia, MO
benlowy
Benjamin Lowy, Brooklyn, NY
tom_leininger
Tom Leininger, Texas
tomasvh
Tomas van Houtryve
timobarber
Tim Barber
newmediatim
Tim Lytvinenko

If you search “Prison Photography” on Twitter you’ll get nowt back. That’s because I use an inverted version of my pseudo-faux-baptismal avatar, brookpete.

Network Noises

In truth, you’d all be better spending time with Brian Solis’ latest tussle divining Twitter’s worth than following my twits, twats and tweets.

US Soldiers in a Mosul Internet Cafe. Photo Credit: Andy HoboTraveler.com World Travels. http://www.hobotraveler.com/120mosul03.shtml

US Soldiers in a Mosul Internet Cafe. Photo Credit: Andy HoboTraveler.com World Travels. http://www.hobotraveler.com/120mosul03.shtml

Last week, BLDGBLOG published How The Other Half Writes: In Defence of Twitter. It slammed Margaret Dowd’s “brain-dead editorial” in which she pouted like an adolescent instead of actually interviewing Twitter founders, Stone and Williams.

In Defense of Twitter was vitriolic and robust in its argument. Geoff usually sticks to urban-tectonics, mobile architecture and Los Angeles, so it was unusual to see him drop down to the base debate over whether Twitter is good or not. Alas, he dropped in and closed the debate.

Geoff’s argument was that Twitter is essentially a note taking application, and we shouldn’t crap ourselves just because the post-its are seen by the world.

Paul Carr’s article in the Guardian today suggested Twitter can take care of itself anyway. Twitter and other webomediasphere-folk have been brought in to consult on the loose ends and cable ends of a frayed Iraq. Carr exhorts

“I am not making this up. The department has just airlifted Twitter’s Jack Dorsey along with representatives from WordPress, Meetup.com, YouTube and Google into Baghdad to discuss how social media can help build Iraq 2.0″

Carr’s article runs at the same time the New York Times picks up on the story.

Internet Cafe in Baghdad. Phot Credit: BlogIraq (died April 2008). http://www.blogiraq.info/2007/02/22/at-last-google-opens-and-office-in-baghdad/

Internet Cafe in Baghdad. Photo Credit: BlogIraq (died April 2008). http://www.blogiraq.info/2007/02/22/at-last-google-opens-and-office-in-baghdad/

The US military’s partnership with non-military groups/corporations takes me back to a presentation made in 2005 (the pre-Obama era). Thomas Barnett bleated about the failings of the Iraq (mainly the “six months of dicking around” after Saddam was toppled). He relates all of this to the US military’s ongoing deficiencies since the end of the cold war. The American army can annihilate any chosen subject but it has not paid much attention to post-major-operations rebuilding. Iraq is a sorry testament to that fact. Barnett suggested a flood of 250,000 “administrators” into Iraq in April 2003 would have stabilised the country a lot quicker.

It seems the US military is now calling upon Twitter and others as “post-war administrators” infrastructure builders, vacuum fillers – whatever you want to call them – as described by Barnett. What should one make of this? Why shouldn’t Twitter et al. be working to improve the long term prospects of Iraq? The US military is great at shock, awe, power and might, but not building community. Barnett prefers his soldiers “young, male, unmarried and slightly pissed off”. But he insists the military personnel be followed up by a flood of partners who facilitate the the rebuilding of infrastructure. A 19 year old marine cannot carry out both distinct functions/philosophies of war.

I don’t like Barnett’s tone. I like his honesty about the realities of military combat, but not his pompous humour. Barnett takes on many groups; multiple government agencies, the UN, TSA, and not least liberals who squirm uncomfortably to pussy jokes. But just because he takes on the military – just because we share opposition to the Iraq war – does not makes us allies in thought. Barnett wants to make military better and ultimately a more efficient killing machine.

militaryicons

Military Icons for PC

It is perhaps this quote by Barnett describing the relationship of military and non-military responsibilities through hypothetical steps of entering, winning and closing warfare, that positions Twitter best. Twitter is part of the second group.

“The first group takes down networks, the second group puts them up. You’ve got to wage war here, in such a way to facilitate that [second group reconstruction activities]. “

Again, what should one make of this? Everyone knows about Halliburton, because of Cheney’s associations. Are Twitter and its do-no-evil web 2.0 pioneers any different to the tens of thousands of other corporate interests in Iraq?

twitter

Screenshot of "Iraq" Search on Twitter. April 28th 2009

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