“Courtesy of the IU School of Journalism”
“Courtesy of the IU School of Journalism”
This story was posted on Jan. 2, 2013.
Six new members of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame will be inducted into the organization at a ceremony April 27 at Indiana University in Bloomington.
The new members, honored for their distinguished careers in newspaper or broadcast journalism or journalism education, include:
Melissa Farlow, a native of Paoli, Ind., an award-winning photojournalist for National Geographic and several newspapers. She graduated from Indiana University in 1974, after which she became a photographer for the (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal. Her work chronicling riots over court-ordered school desegregation helped the Courier-Journal win the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. She later worked for the Pittsburgh Press before joining National Geographic, for which she has gone on assignments around the globe. She has also been an instructor with the Missouri Photo Workshop for more than 25 years. [Read more...]
The black stallion reared up to face the helicopter. Dust and brush pelted me as I braced, pointing my camera upward as it hovered, bearing down on me. Sun streaked into my lens. It looked near perfect…
Of course it looked near perfect. It was a MOVIE—not an authentic life encounter with real wild horses and helicopters like I experienced when I was working on a story for National Geographic magazine on mustangs.
(And… no, that’s not me. She’s an actress (Mireille Enos) who plays Brad Pitt’s wife in an upcoming zombie movie, and she is the heroine in this film.)
Although there were long hours waiting to shoot pictures, there wasn’t the uncertainty I feel in real life wondering “if” it will happen but in this case “when” it would happen. There were a few parallels to my life, but I still am a bit mystified how I ended up on a Hollywood movie set. The manufactured scenes looked as realistic as the real-life Western roundups I witnessed with horses, helicopters and wranglers.
I can always tell it is the end of a semester when students are on deadline and write me with a list of questions for a class paper. They want to know where is the most exciting place I’ve ever been, what is my favorite picture and how they can become a “National Geographic photographer.” The Internet makes me accessible. Randy and I also get numerous requests to donate photographs to fundraise for worthy causes. Some get answered. Others don’t. When I am on the road for weeks at a time, emails like this can get lost in the shuffle.
I kept one such email request in the IN box, however, and read it months later. A woman making a film wanted to use some of my photographs—her subject was near and dear to my heart—wild horses.
We corresponded and spoke on the phone. I heard her passion and engaged. One thing led to another and all of a sudden I found myself on a plane to LA to photograph on a movie set with some of the most impressive, talented people in Hollywood film. I have to admit that part of what captured my attention is that Stephanie Martin co-wrote a script with her Wellesley classmate Jessica Walsh to point out the issues surrounding mustangs in the American West. She happened onto my web site and found some inspiration and formed a story where a magazine photographer has an encounter with a mustang named Phantom and ends up photographing a BLM round up of wild horses. No, it isn’t about me specifically–I wasn’t arrested (that would be EARLIER in my career) and I didn’t grow up in Nevada (Indiana), but I was intrigued that my life and my photographs of wild horses triggered a reaction from her, and something told me this would be an interesting experience.
Stephanie (on far left in above photo, next to me) who has made a career as a Cinematographer in features, shorts, documentaries and commercials, was accepted into an American Film Institute directing workshop for women. She is a sincere, strong-willed, persuasive and focused woman who was following her dream to direct—but little did I know that she is also married to one of THE MOST talented and admired cinematographers in the world (Robert Richardson—google him) who won Academy Awards for Hugo (last year), also for The Aviator and for JFK. He’s worked with directors Martin Scorsese, John Sayles, Rob Reiner, Oliver Stone, Barry Levinson, Robert De Niro, Errol Morris, Robert Redford, and Quintin Tarantino and has an amazing eye for drama and light. Bob was going to shoot Stephie’s film.
So this short 12-15 minute film with a budget raised partly on Kickstarter was in reality a pretty big production of some of the most gifted assistant directors, editors, camera operators, producers, actors that anyone could assemble. They were all DONATING their time and talents to make a great little movie that might turn into a big-time full-length feature film. At any one time there were dozens of people on the set—but there were so many friends and co-workers behind the scenes—I am guessing there were 60-70 people involved in the one-week shoot.
My role was to photograph images that the heroine photographer shoots in the film (Mireille Enos, TV show “The Killing” who also stars with Brad Pitt in “World War Z” is shown above)…to coach her to be a believable photographer (she was a natural)…and to photograph behind the scenes (much fun but a delicate dance). Bob let me set up a camera anywhere around him—under him—over his shoulder, beside him—of course just not in front of him. He was aware of everything going on around him all the time. Not a particularly willing subject, he tolerated me making photographs of him. I think he understood this was Stephanie’s moment and he wanted it to work.
Craig photographs Melissa getting ready at the Lumix Photofestival. If he wins a third Pulitzer, we will print this out, make him sign it and sell it for a lot of money
For a variety of reasons, we live in Pennsylvania and Oregon depending on work and our schedules and what our families are doing.
I’ve written before about the shock of going from culture to culture and how that can affect your notion of how group think can affect everything in culture whether you are a Pygmy or a Svan. I am pretty comfortable bouncing back and forth between these cultural groups and I’m not sure what prepared me to fit in so easily. I am from the midwest and did not travel outside the United States until in my 20s. Yet, when I fly into a foreign land where cultural differences are great and creature comforts are few, with a camera in hand, the difficulties don’t matter.
Strangely enough, I find it more difficult sometimes to go from rural/suburban Pennsylvania (where our little town is provincial and we are surrounded by 13 churches, some of whose bells resonate constantly inside our living space) to Portland Oregon that on the very first night I land here, there are thousands of people going thru the streets naked on their bicycles.
I have to admit I really love the freedom of Portland
This is from bikeportland.org: I saw so many beautiful and happy people. My face is still sore from smiling. I love how this ride attracts such a wide swath. I met one woman who I know from bike advocacy work. She said she just happened to be out biking and saw everyone riding by. “Everyone was just so nice and welcoming,” she said, “so I just decided to join in.”
I live in a normal neighborhood but I do not lead a normal life.
One of the unsettling effects of bouncing from culture to culture is the disconnect from my own culture, and even my own neighborhood, when I come home. Spend a while in a third-world country and you’ll return with some funny stories about local customs, but you’ll invariably carry an unsettlingly clearer understanding of the stark contrast between the haves and have nots on our planet, as well as an unfortunate grasp of the good and the bad, not just among those in positions of power, but also individuals and groups “doing good.”
In writing this, I am hoping to explain to my neighbors and in a broader sense for the group that comes to this site, how being a contributing photographer for National Geographic can skew how you think about the world and how it gives you a worldview that can be hard for people in your bedroom community to understand, and why I know how it is that sincere people with good intentions often cause collateral damage they could never imagine.
Last week I was in Suriname, a small country in northeastern South America wedged between the Guyanas. I was with Amerindians (mostly Wayana) who were carrying thousand-pound boats through the jungle around rapids. There were eight of the thousand-pound boats to be exact, and it took 20 men to carry each boat, sometimes dragging them for 3 kilometers. They spent weeks doing this so they could cut a hole in one of the most remote jungles in the world, so that 20 of us could drop in by helicopter.
One of the men that cut the hole in the jungle was this guy:
We were lucky to drop in by helicopter, but we came back out by boat and all those boats had to be dragged back out of the jungle on multiple portages. And, yes it was a mess of equipment, food, chain saws, boat engines, 50 gallon drums of aviation fuel.
This is the hole we dropped into:
The famous photographer, Robert Capa, was a guest on my grandfather’s radio show in New York in the 1940s. The book he is holding is on my shelf at home just below a shelf of the books that my grandfather wrote.
You can go to the New York Times and read about the incredibly high incidence of breast lifts in Columbia. You can read about Hugo Chavez ire about the “monstrous thing” that poor women are seeking breast lifts when they are having a hard time paying for food. But if you want to see what it’s like for a woman in Columbia to go through this process (warning… this could be hard for some to view), head over to Nuestra Mirada, the Facebook for Spanish world photographers created by Pablo Corral Vega when he was working at the University of Miami. Pablo is a contributor to National Geographic, a member of The Photo Society and the most connected guy I know in the world of Spanish speaking photographers. Pablo and Loup Langton put on the first Latin American POYi in Quito last year – Melissa was one of the judges along with Ruth Eichorn from GEO magazine, Walter Astrada – World Press winner from Argentina, Claudi Carreras, and Francisco Mata Rosas.
It’s rare to go to a single site and learn so much about other cultures. I don’t speak Spanish, so I keep a few Google translate windows open to get some idea of what the Nuestra Mirada members are talking about. Of you can use this direct Google translate link for the site.
The photograph above is by Guillermo Ossa. To see the photographers pages for the other photographs click on the links.
Steven Colbert brings his satirical comedy to bear on the notion of “free reporters” who get paid nothing, like CNN’s iReport, in the wake of the layoffs of 50 CNN photojournalists and other staff.
Colbert notes CNN also launched an “Assignment Desk” where you an actually go out and report on things that CNN wants, and then goes further, saying “iReporters do not get paid, they get something even better, badges, which, I assume, are redeemable for food and rent.”
I guess I had no idea that Amoebic Dysentery could be so interesting…
The Photo Society (TPS) lists hazards (like dysentery) that NGM photographers experience in the field. TPS began as an idea in the summer of 2011 for an electronic campfire to bring together National Geographic contributing photographers. The only qualification for membership is completion of one full feature story for National Geographic Magazine.
I was tasked with this site by the PAB (Photographer’s Advisory Board), which negotiates contracts with National Geographic Magazine.
Deb Pang Davis volunteered to design the site—the look and feel is her work—and she managed it during a period of relocating and handling a cross-country move to take a teaching position at Syracuse University.
The developer of the site was absolutely critical and so talented that I am not giving his name out until he finishes our site. George Steinmetz asked me to do it and championed it all the way through. Ami Vitale was very gracious when we told her we liked her site and wanted to do a cloud with names similar to her content cloud. The name Photo Society came from kicking around options with Amy Toensing, George, and Katie Joseph just after we finished a negotiating session in Washington DC. My wife, Melissa Farlow, and I figured we would just pay for it if we had to and not worry so much if PAB membership dues actually paid us back or not.
Mike Hettwer and I had a conversation about how we weren’t really sure that everyone knew what we actually do in the field and he suggested a survey and then he put it together. That survey asked photographers what hazards—physical, financial, whatever—they were up against. After the survey was done, it languished for a few months. When I was trying to figure out what a crew of one could actually accomplish, I picked that survey apart and it became the Reality Check section on the site. Ed Kashi came up with the name for the section.
When the site soft-launched with a few Facebook posts and blog posts by members it was picked up by a number of highly visible blogs like PDN, APhotoEditor, PopPhoto and they primarily referenced the Reality Check section. So the analytics were interesting . . . people were going to the Reality Check section instead of the home page. The hook for the site was the list of hazards faced by National Geographic photographers. There was so much traffic they had to switch TPS to a bigger server—it broke the one it was on.
And I have to admit, after the launch it got a little weird. I had picked apart this massive ugly Excel spreadsheet from the hazards survey to glean the bits that made up the Reality Check section and that dissembled information got enough traffic that one person decided to REASSEMBLE and put all of that information BACK into her own Excel spreadsheet for some reason I still can’t quite figure out.
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You can see how this happens… the media here is really slap dash and has an anti American/west bias… then this news gets passed thru the countryside as if they were using tin cans with string. But we have the same slant to our news—Saddam Hussein always looks like Hitler in our papers. But in Sudan and Pakistan there he is in the papers beaming as he opens new schools and hospitals.
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