Sunday, 28 December 2008

"Wazzup, Jesus"

Publication: Gringo Grande
Date: Summer 2006
(Article published in Swedish)

The teenage choir inspired the church members to stand up and dance, their feet flying over the worn red carpeting. Reverend Stephen Pogue, the broad-shouldered former drug addict transformed into Harlem church leader, held up huge black head phones to his ear, spinning the turntables to transform the word ‘Jesus’ into beguiling repetition as the kids danced and rapped in the cavernous white-painted room. The one-year anniversary of Thursday night’s hip-hop church was only weeks away and as the song concluded, Pogue launched into a sermon with characteristic and unfaltering energy. Minutes later, his face broke into a smile as a choir member’s cellular phone started to ring. As the offender fumbled for the phone in his jeans, Pogue turned around and said, “Tell Jesus I said ‘Wazzup?’”

The chilly winter air on Harlem’s 146th Street was firmly shut out by the simple wooden doors of the Greater Hood African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. In December of 2004, Pogue replaced gospel with hip-hop for Thursday night services to reach out the neighborhood’s youth.

“A lot of times we don’t look at young people as having problems,” Pogue said, “but they do.” Church choir member Donavan Bratton, 16, agreed. The lanky teenager leant back as though catching his breath before listing the woes of Harlem teenagers. “Violence, drugs, depression, stress, home issues, parent issues,” he said. Bratton summed up why he has been coming to hip-hop church since its inception in December 2004. “Hip-hop church is just a place where you can come and be yourself.”

Pogue, 39, knows about being himself and is open about his past drug use. In the early 1990s he was spending $400 per week on crack. The path back to God involved drug debts and a Christian rehabilitation center. Sitting in a large black leather desk chair, he pointed at a painting in his office that portrays a young man kneeling at his father’s feet. “The prodigal son ran out and left home,” he said. “He did everything he wanted to do, it got dirty and nasty and his father still accepted him just the way he was.”

A plastic box containing a crown of thorns stood unopened behind his desk. A portrait of Malcolm X hung over the door; the room’s largest painting depicted the biblical scene of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. He spent a recent Thursday preaching to youngsters about labels. For a long time, he said, his own label was “will never amount to nothing.” And he believed it himself.

Against many odds, Pogue gave up his drug habit, went to college and took over the leadership of Greater Hood in 2001 – at the time a struggling congregation with only 50 members. The church now has around 250 members and a big turning point came when Pogue accepted an offer to incorporate hip-hop music in church services instead of gospel.

“Never in my wildest imagination,” he said, “did I think we’d still be doing hip-hop church a year later and that it would be so vibrant and such a necessary tool in reaching people.” Since December 2004, when the initiative began, Pogue has worn jeans and a T-shirt to Thursday night services. The choir members wear the same informal clothes as the music blares out from speakers dotted across the enormous simply-furnished church.

He turns 40 next month. Although Pogue is not exceptionally tall at 5 feet 9 inches, his enormous shoulders give him the stature of a football player. When he walks through the fluorescent-lit church corridors, Pogue stoops slightly forward as though in a hurry. He adopts the same posture when preaching with a cord-less microphone. With his heavy physique, close-cut hair, and a short, thick neck, he dwarfs some of the younger parishioners who hug him before sauntering into the church.

Hip-hop has not traditionally been associated with spirituality. “It was originally a way for young people in the Bronx to express their emotions at parties,” said choir member Bratton. It was Bronx-based Rev. Darren Ferguson that first introduced hip-hop at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, also in Harlem, but was forced to relocate when conservative members of the church complained about the untraditional music at Friday night services. With hip-hop artist Kurtis Blow, Ferguson scoured Harlem for church leaders interested in adopting his method of reaching out to teenagers. Only two were interested and on meeting Pogue, Ferguson said, “it clicked.”

In the church, where a large illuminated cross hangs from a hefty metal chain over the altar, hip-hop with lyrics such as “the devil is after you” echo through the building. An American flag hangs next to the turntables where Pogue sometimes DJs as Kurtis Blow takes a break.

Pogue occasionally tries to sing along. This may be one of his few failings according to the parishioners. “God bless him, he has the true heart of a singer, he just don’t have the voice,” said colleague Omar Owens, a church trustee.

His enjoyment of the music may inspire many of the teenagers, but a topic that many of them raised was his honesty about his checkered past. Rev. Ferguson, who spent nine years in prison for attempted murder, said, “It gives us both a degree of credibility to these young people.”

Pogue’s mother Joan agreed. “It’s not like the kids can get over on him,” she said of her son, “because he’s been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”

From her home in Roselle, NJ, Joan Pogue spoke about her son, the middle child of six, over the speaker phone in Pogue’s cluttered office. She let out the same spontaneous laughter that her son sprinkles his conversation with as she thought back to Pogue’s childhood. “He found out that he was a little bit more intelligent
than the other kids,” she said. At that point, Pogue entered the office playing with a yo-yo.

“Now I’m standing right here,” he said to the speaker phone. “Don’t you go telling no tales.” The yo-yo reached the end of its cord to bounce back with frenetic speed into his hand. “I said you was a good kid,” his mother replied, her tone gently mocking. She asked him if he remembered the first grade test that revealed he should have been in the third grade. He did. “And ya’ll wouldn’t let me skip grade,” said Pogue, “I was too smart for them kids.” “Uh huh, that’s what you thought,” replied his mother. Then they both erupted into laughter. “Love you mama, gotta go do hip-hop church now.”

Despite his promising early schoolwork, Pogue conceded that drug use and laziness had eroded his performance by high school. At 18, he joined the U.S. Air Force. ”I think I urged him to get out of town,” his mother said, “so he wouldn’t hang around with the wrong people.”

Pogue’s son Stephen, 18, was born when he was stationed in the Philippines. Asked if he was clean at the time, Pogue, who has a habit of answering questions rapidly, momentarily paused for reflection. “Probably not,” he concluded. Raised for the most part in Florida by his mother, Stephen now lives in Nyack, NY, close to Pogue and his wife Iris who have two young daughters, Stephanie, 4, and Diana, 18 months.

“We’re so close now,” Pogue said of his son, “There’s nothing we can’t talk about.” He added that his son never asks about the drugs.

In New Jersey, Pogue’s family didn’t realize what he was going through. Joan Pogue said the first thing she noticed was that her son was always broke despite a full-time job for a plastic manufacturer. “Functioning,” she said, “he was a functioning drug user.”

Pogue described sinking lower and lower. “You buy drugs on credit,” he said, “you then use what you were going to pay them back with to get high again.” He would not go into detail about the people in his life at the time, partly, he said, because he could not remember. “The drugs fried my brain.”

In the end, he turned to his family. “When he had reached the end of his rope,” said his mother, “he came home and said ‘I need help.’”Pogue ended up at Pivot Ministries in Connecticut, a Christian center for men struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. At that point, said Pogue, he didn’t find it hard to quit. “With the power of God,” he said, “it was just like ‘boom.’ He immediately took the desire for drugs away from me.”

He stayed in Connecticut for several months and Joan Pogue said she saw for the first time that he was called to become a reverend. “I suppose it is something a mother knows about her kid when he has a special call,” she said.

He went on to Nyack College, NY, where he graduated with a degree in Bible and Pastoral Studies. A couple of years after graduation, he started working with disabled individuals. This is still his day job, from which he commutes to the church in Harlem in the evenings.

At the hip-hop church, Pogue encourages the children and teenagers to work hard and study. On a recent Thursday he handed out congratulatory certificates to young parishioners who had done well in school that week, high-fiving a young boy for his spelling bee result.

Teenagers such as Bratton said hip-hop church had led him back to God. “I was getting involved in things I wasn’t supposed to be getting involved in,” he said of his time away from the church. Yet Bratton has been a member of Greater Hood since childhood and his absence was temporary. He and his friends are not convinced that the hip-hop church can reach out to those in greatest need. Naia Ferguson, 16, said she speaks constantly about the church to all her friends, but added, “The people off the street, we’re trying to get them in but they don’t want to come here.”

For the teenagers that do attend, however, many feel they can come to Pogue with their problems. Naia Ferguson, who referred to church as “gossip central,” said Pogue is discreet. Zan Walker, 21, said “He not only listens, he looks for a solution.” Bratton commended Pogue’s style. “He’s a young pastor and it’s just energy. His age furthermore benefits his preaching style to the youth.”

Although much of the service is dedicated to the music, Pogue is adamant that the hip-hop should not undermine the traditional sermon. He was initially skeptical when Ferguson and Blow approached him with the idea a year ago. “I never wanted to play church,” he said.

The success appears to have been exhilarating for Pogue. Choir member Zan Walker said, “It’s like him going to the gas station and filling up his car. He’s always giving us all he’s got.”

Pogue’s wife Iris, 36, a financial analyst, agreed, saying hip-hop church leaves her husband energized, although, she said, “Fifty percent of the time I’m asleep when he comes home on Thursdays.” They met at church in Nyack, and after Pogue told her that she was his rib they married. Soon after, Pogue was offered the position at Greater Hood. “The day he was appointed we were newlyweds and I was a couple of months pregnant,” Iris said. “I think we had a vision of our lives and everything changed.” Their wedding photograph stands on top of a book case in Pogue’s office. “The girls and myself wish he was home more,” she reluctantly admitted.

From the yo-yo spinning and his constant movement from altar to turntable to soundboard during services, Pogue occasionally appears hyperactive. Walker said Pogue can be impatient.

Gray hairs in Pogue’s left eyebrow are one of few visible signs of aging. Admitting that he was exhausted after a recent two and a half hour service, Pogue slumped into his desk chair. Working two jobs with two young children at home, Pogue said he didn’t know where the energy comes from.

Turning his own negative experience into something positive may be one motivation. Pogue also said the attention the church has received is flattering. When a visitor to the church asked if she could take photographs during the service he smiled, “We’re used to it.”

HIV among New York's African immigrants

Le Griot – April 2006

(Article published in French in Le Griot “Le Journal de la Diaspora” - a community newspaper for francophone West African immigrants in the Unites States.)

By Ann Tornkvst

A knocked-over One Way sign lies in the litter on 127th street in Harlem. A fleet of yellow cabs lined up outside an auto repair shop break up the monotonous browns and dirty grays of warehouse fronts. Another dash of color hangs from a large building’s bare brick façade: a yellow flag adorned with the green outline of the African continent, announcing 'The African Services Committee."

The name is also spray-painted in simple letters onto the heavy entrance door. Around one of the intercom's four black buttons, the grime on the metal has been worn away by frequent use, a fingerprint of clean steel surrounding buzzer number two. Inside, a polyglot health service targeting a specific population nestles quietly on the second floor.

In an attempt to encourage HIV-testing among New York’s Africans immigrants, the African Services Committee (ASC) guarantees it will not check clients’ immigration status. It also gives out groceries and metro cards. As visitors climb the lipstick-red, industrial stair-case leading to the modern health centre whose simple walls display carved African masks, a painting hangs opposite the entrance. It welcomes visitors with an odd motif. A man wearing a Western suit stands on a desert road. His open arms welcome a family dressed in Sahel robes.

The ASC tests 50 people for HIV every month, says Martha Kahirimbanyi, the Testing Center Manager. Among West African immigrants, who comprise the majority of African immigrants to the city, Kahirimbanyi estimates that five percent of the population is HIV positive. Citywide the figure is around two percent. One out of three patients from Southern Africa who are tested at the clinic is positive, the highest infection rate seen at the ASC.

The African immigrants in the greater New York area, estimated at 450,000 by the 2000 Census, face not only legal but also linguistic barriers to accessing health care. In April, NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced that New York hospitals did not provide the basic translation services required by law.

Among 35 staff, Kahirimbanyi is a typical example. Originally from Uganda, she is fluent in Luganda and Rokiga. Her colleagues speak Kiswahili, Wolof and a host of other African languages. A young man walks into the waiting room greeting the receptionist with a big smile as he pulls of his gloves. "Ca va?" he queries. The 2000
Census indicated that 50,000 of the city’s African immigrants come from West Africa where French is a post-colonial lingua franca.

Efforts to improve translation services in health care are underway and Harlem Hospital is at the forefront of developments. A month after Spitzer’s damning report, Harlem Hospital collaborated with community-based organization African Hope and visited one of the West African mosques at the center of Harlem’s African community. The area around 116th Street is known as “Le Petit Senegal” and houses the majority of African immigrants to the city.

The ASC has similar initiatives. “We have two outreach workers who go out into the community to let people know about our services and also about HIV prevention,” said Salem Fisseha, Assistant Director of Health Services.


To improve its outreach and services, Harlem Hospital is recruiting volunteer translators and has invested $450,000 from the federal Office of Minority Health to assess employees’ language skills. “They are beginning to understand the needs of this group,” said Clarisse Mefotso Fall, the founder of Harlem-based health advocacy group African Hope, in an article published in Crain’s Business New York in June.

Although the 2003 Community Health Profile of Central Harlem reports that one in five of the neighborhood’s residents are immigrants, the report did not discuss that community’s specific problems and needs. In the HIV/Aids Surveillance Statistics published annually by New York City, figures are broken down by race, thus African immigrants and African-Americans are lumped together under the category “black.”

“The trend of the epidemic in NYC has shifted to communities of color and women in particular,” said Fisseha. In 2003, 806 black males died from AIDS in Manhattan. The equivalent figure for white males was 288. Black female deaths were 422, white female deaths were 64.

The virus was transmitted through homosexual intercourse among 15 percent of black males, compared to 42 percent among white males. The primary risk factor in Harlem is intravenous drug use according to the community health profile. Almost 40 percent of black males in Manhattan who died of AIDS were infected through intravenous drug use. Among white males, the figure is 35 percent.

It is extremely difficult to assess to what extent African immigrants are at risk of infection because of homosexual intercourse and intravenous drug use. Both practices are forbidden by Islam and most West African immigrants are Muslim. Iman Omar Diaby, at the 116th Street mosque, also believes that the family support structure is more solid among Africans immigrants than among Harlem’s majority African-American population, something which he believes prevents certain behaviors.

In terms of diagnosis and treatment, the population most at risk are illegal immigrants who fear, whether justified or not, to be deported. The 2000 Census points out that the real size of the African immigrant population cannot be determined because it is
believed many are here illegally.


"It's a reason why so many people don't access health care," said Kahirimbanyi. "They're scared they'll get into trouble." Thus at the ASC, the greatest incentive is neither linguistic diversity nor free metro cards, but that it does not check immigration status.

The center is independent from the NYC Dept. of Health although it receives grants from various state and federal agencies. Along 116th Street, businesses and non-profit organizations offer aid with applying for green cards that would qualify low-income immigrants for Medicaid. "You DON'T need a Green Card," announce the ASC's advertisements bluntly, a French translation next to the English text.

They are published in newspapers across the city, for example the Caribbean Sun Times, a local immigrant paper. The leaflet displays a photograph of a young woman, wearing a traditional African head piece and large gold hoop earrings, leaning her chin on her fist in an attentive pose.

The ASC also do not require to see a work permit or a social security number needed. At the center, staff doesn’t even ask for an ID, said Kahirimbanyi.

Due to patient confidentiality, Communications Director Catharine Bufalino denied access to the center’s clients, instead forwarding a document with a patient’s story. It highlights that the man was turned away from several city offices because of his immigration status. It also briefly mentions the stigma of HIV and Aids and the patient stated that he was “too ashamed to ask for the assistance of the immigrant Togolese community.” The ASC now supplies the patient’s anti-retroviral drugs.

The center also regularly offers wider health services, including tests for diabetes, blood pressure and tuberculosis. These screenings, says Kahirimbanyi, usually brings in even more clients. She reiterates that for many of the Africans, not having their immigration status questioned is far more important than the free metro cards and the groceries. Instead, the incentives have “brought in a whole new clientele,” older African-Americans
resident in Harlem.

Harlem is one of Manhattan's poorest neighborhoods despite rapid gentrification. According to the 2000 Census, 36 percent of the community lived in poverty. Providing health care in impoverished neighborhoods is challenging: Harlem Hospital has a HIV testing center, and there are community-based organizations working with HIV prevention, such as Harlem United that offers treatment and services to Harlemites struggling with the dual burden of HIV and drug addiction.

In the rest rooms of the ACS, magenta slips of paper are taped to the cubicle doors to inform clients that substance abuse on the premises will be prosecuted. In the staff kitchen, the October sun floods through the narrow windows that crown the building. “Someone is using something illegal in our bathroom,” says a white female staff member in her 40s as she holds up a tiny transparent plastic pocket, the traces of white powder inside it picking up the rays of afternoon sun.

Sweden Steps Up DNA Collection for Rape Cases

Publication: Women's eNews
Date: December 12, 2008

Sweden is responding to its low rate of prosecuting and convicting rapists by helping victims and clinicians collect DNA evidence. It's also adding street lighting, to the frowns of critics who point out that most rapes are committed indoors.

Image by Majken Domicelj

(WOMENSENEWS)--A simple cardboard box is one way Sweden, with its high rate of reported rape, is trying to address its low rate of convicting rapists.

Inside there are cotton swabs; tape to capture foreign fibers and hairs; and paper, rather than plastic, envelopes to prevent samples of saliva, blood and semen going moldy before the rape case goes to court.

With only 1 in 8 reported rapes going to trial in the last few years, Sweden in 2007 drew a reprimand from Yakin Erturk, the United Nations' special rapporteur on violence against women, for its low prosecution rates.

In 2007, crime statistics revealed that 216 rapists were convicted out of about 4,800 reported rapes, said Olga Persson, coordinator of the team for raped women at Sweden's biggest help line and shelter, All Women's House. She also notes a study that showed police do not question the suspects in about one-third of reported cases.

Of the relatively few cases that make it to the court room, about 80 percent result in conviction, according to lawyer and academic researcher Eva Diesen at Stockholm University. She estimates that only 1 in 10 reported cases go to trial.

Sweden had a conviction rate of 8 percent from 1993 to 1997, according to data collected by the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University. That compares to Finland's 17 percent conviction rate, Norway's 15 percent, Germany's 17 percent and Czech Republic's 22 percent in the same years.

Re-Tooled Rape Kits

In response, the National Center for Knowledge on Men's Violence Against Women, a governmental research and advisory institution created in 1994 at Uppsala University, launched the new rape kit box on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The contents of the box were developed with input from the State Criminal Laboratory.

The refined rape kit developed by the center also contains tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. "The judiciary needs to understand that there can be long-lasting illnesses and consequences of rape," said center co-ordinator Asa Witkowski. She emphasized that medical staff must take tests even when the victim is undecided about reporting the crime.

Next year 2,000 boxes will be given to medical staff in five cities across Sweden along with a guide book explaining all tests needed to gather criminal evidence.

The National Center for Knowledge on Men's Violence Against Women recommends that medical facilities store the box for two years, allowing police enough time to request it if the rape is formally reported to them.

In 2005, Stockholm's largest hospital, Sodersjukhuset, established a special emergency room for raped women. Head doctor Lotti Hellstrom recently told reporters that police request only 63 percent of the tests and evidence collected at the center.

The Swedish National Police Board is set to improve its officers' training on assisting rape victims when it releases a new guidebook on Dec. 15 about violence in relationships, where most rapes are committed.

Collecting Evidence

DNA has been analyzed and used in Swedish investigations and trials since the late 1980s. In the majority of cases in which a rapist was found guilty, DNA evidence helped secure the verdict, said forensic officer Ricky Ansell at the State Criminal Laboratory, which analyzes biological evidence.

After Iceland, Sweden has the highest rate of reported rape among European Union countries, according to the 2003 European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics. Last year, the number of reported rapes almost doubled in Sweden to 52 per 100,000 people in 2007 from 29 per 100,000 in 2004.

The Swedish National Council of Crime Prevention says the spike may be linked to the 2005 expansion of the legal definition of rape to include victims incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. Previously such situations had been classified as "sexual exploitation."

Differences in how countries record rape make international comparisons difficult.

Some answers may be provided in April 2009, when a large comparative study on rape in Europe is published.

Diesen, who is working on a Stockholm University study of Stockholm County for that report, says comparative analysis will be hampered by difficulties accessing case files. In one participating country, for instance, police have produced only cases where the rapist was convicted, making it impossible to determine how high the conviction rate actually is.

In southern Europe, she says, rapes in intimate relationships are rarely reported. "Awareness that sexual offenses in a relationship constitute crime may be higher in Sweden," says Diesen.


Turning on the Lights


In another anti-rape initiative by Sweden--this one aimed at prevention rather than prosecution--Equality and Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni last month announced $5.7 million to improve public safety in towns and suburbs through such means as redesigning the layout of public areas and improving lighting in underpasses and parks.

Stockholm City Council has already joined forces with energy company Fortum to invite residents to vote via the Internet and text messaging on locations that need better lighting. Five areas have already had more lamps installed.

Carina Listerborn, who focuses on urban questions of gender, planning and theory at the University of Lund, joins other critics in saying better public lighting misses the point that the most dangerous place for women is in the home.

In 2007, 48 percent of reported rapes took place in the victim's or aggressor's home, usually with previous acquaintance or intimacy between them, according to Swedish police statistics. "Attack rapes" between strangers accounted for 17 percent. Statistics indicate, however, that men may be more likely to be attacked outdoors than women.

Despite the relative safety for women outside their homes, research by academics, insurance companies, government institutions and landlords indicate women are more likely to stay at home because of fear.

"It has long been known that women's and men's experiences of fear in public spaces are different," Sabuni wrote in response to questions in an e-mail. "It limits freedom of movement and quality of life."


Original article available here.

In Sarajevo, Head Scarves Uncover Generation Gap

Publication: Women's eNews
Date: September 20, 2008

In Sarajevo many young women are choosing to wear the headscarves that their mothers spurned. It's a provocative decision in the moderate Muslim country, where one young visiting Muslim says she feels more accepted back home in Des Moines, Iowa.

Jasenka Muminovic-Kuric visits the Bey Mosque

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (WOMENSENEWS)--Being disowned at 21 was as frightening as it was heartbreaking for Jasenka Muminovic-Kuric.

Her mother had sent her on holiday to stop brooding, but she spent most of it by herself, deep in thought.

Eventually, she returned home to Sarajevo with her head covered by a scarf even though she knew that her family, and in particular her ex-Communist father, would detest her decision.

There may be fewer headscarves in Sarajevo than in the immigrant neighborhoods of London or Berlin, but many young women walk through the tiny capital city of Bosnia-Herzegovina wearing the headscarf most of their mothers spurned at their age.

They contribute to the harmonious diversity of the street scene here, where different expressions of Islam mingle with men in shorts and women in short skirts in this country of 4 million. Muslims, 40 percent of the population, live alongside Serbian Orthodox and Croat Catholic citizens.

People mingle after Friday prayers at the King Fahd Mosque

The Ottoman Empire introduced its religion into the heart of Europe 600 years ago but as a member state of Communist Yugoslavia, secularism was promoted in Bosnia-Herzegovina. During the brutal 1992-95 war, Muslim Bosnians in Sarajevo turned to the mosques as a lifeline in a valley plagued by snipers. Religion's restored status remains more than 13 years after the Dayton Peace Accord.

The country has signed an agreement with the European Union that will eventually lead to formal negotiations for membership, and EU peacekeepers are still present despite tangible progress after the war. On July 11, 307 newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys were reburied at a memorial site. The scars from the war are still raw and identification along ethnic, rather than national, lines prevails.

A man walks past a 'Srebrenica Pravda' (Srebrenica Truth) poster next to a construction site in central Sarajevo

Quest for Calm Led to Scarf

For Muminovic-Kuric, becoming more religious came as part of a quest for inner calm. As a young psychology student she used to party and drink but the lifestyle wound up leaving an empty, unsettled feeling.

"Generally young people are looking for some kind of spirituality," says Sadika Aydic, editor in chief of Zehra, a magazine for Muslim women with a readership of around 20,000. "Young people are tired of materialism."

Muminovic-Kuric says her family's hostility to her embrace of religion stems from the days of secular communism.

While Jasenka, who works as a teacher, sees no conflict with modernity or equality in her choice, she knows there is a belief that religious Muslim women are fettered in their roles as wives and mothers. In the former Yugoslav countries, that jars with the egalitarian work ethic promoted under communism.

Six years ago when she covered her hair, her father, a retired civil servant, refused to speak to her and withdrew all financial help while she was still studying. "The most important people in my life wouldn't support me," she says sadly.

The stress and uncertainty propelled her to ask her boyfriend to marry her. Now, her 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter have helped heal the family rift. Her father and younger sister, who does not wear the headscarf, to this day refuse to speak to her about Islam.

Vibrant Tradition

Muminovic-Kuric discussed her decision to cover her head in Sarajevo's old town one sunny afternoon, speaking in flawless English in the cafe of the Ottoman hostel Mohica Han. In accordance with Bosnian tradition, Muminovic-Kuric's striped, purple headscarf is vibrant compared to the black ones being sold in a Muslim-fashion shop a few streets away.

Although she says she doesn't aspire to wear a lengthier, cloak-like hijab, which can be worn with an accompanying niqab to cover everything except the eyes, she expresses sartorial appreciation of a chocolate brown version a friend picked up abroad. Some link such foreign fashions to the foreign soldiers who came to fight in the war and defend Bosnian Muslims, then settled here and became citizens.

A year ago the government revoked the citizenships of about 400 Bosnian men believed to have been promoting Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative form of Islam predominant in Saudi Arabia.

Some Sarajevans call young, trendy women with headscarves "wahhababes," an amalgamation of "babe" and "wahhabi." Women who wear the hijab with the niqab are derogatorily called "ninjas."

A niqab-wearing friend of Muminovic-Kuric was once confronted by an angry woman who tugged at her black clothing and exclaimed, "I'm a Muslim too! What do you think you're doing?" She says this shows a concern among more moderate believers that they are looked down upon, but says that opinion is never expressed by her more religious friends. For her, being religious is a personal choice in a democratic society rather than a prescription of how others should live.

Some women who practice Islam abide by the stricture against working alongside men, which limits their professional options.

Employment Hard to Find

Only one of Muminovic-Kuric's niqab-wearing friends works.

Finding employment was also difficult for her. With experience as a radio DJ, she applied unsuccessfully to several media jobs. She attributes part of her bad luck to discrimination on account of her headscarf, but unemployment is high in general in Europe and in particular for people under 25. Youth unemployment in Bosnia-Herzegovina is double the national average, according to the World Bank.

"I don't think you'd get a job if you showed up to a job interview with a scarf," says Nedim Cetovic, 32, of his own employer, the United Nations. His mother wears a scarf, his wife does not.

Economically, Bosnia-Herzegovina struggles, and a third of young people expressed a wish to emigrate in a recent study by Oxford Research International. A 2006 report from the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, an EU agency in Vienna, Austria, found that Muslims across Europe perceive an "Islamophobia" that results in discrimination. In that climate, the headscarf has become a potent symbol.

Aida Ramic, 24, whose family fled to the United States when the war started, sprinkles her conversation with observations from the Quran and the hadith--sayings of the prophet--as she chats while visiting family in Sarajevo.

She says she encounters more prejudice for her beliefs in Bosnia-Herzegovina than at home in Des Moines, Iowa, where she works as a laboratory technician.

As she talks, her Bosnian American husband is nearby, playing with their 3-year-old daughter in the courtyard of the imposing King Fahd mosque, which was built by the Saudis after the war.

People arrive for Friday prayers at the King Fahd Mosque

While Aida wears a black scarf and modest clothing, he sports the traditional long beard along with combat shorts and a T-shirt that says "Don't panic, I'm a Muslim!"

Original article available here.

Suffering for sale

Guernica Magazine - August 2006
Suffering for Sale

By Ann Tornkvist

A trio of refugee girls walks through the Sudanese desert. The rusty red headscarf of the girl in center breaks up the monotonous bluish gray of a cloudless sky that stretches behind her for untold miles as she sets out to look for firewood. Her clothing is immaculate: a broad piece of gauzy off-white fabric tied like an impromptu obi around a pale ochre dress. She is one of over 70,000 refugees in the camp Abu Shouk, where she has taken shelter from a brutal civil war.

In 2003, African farmers in the Sudanese region of Darfur rose in defiance against the Arab-dominated government. They were repressed by government troops and by the Arab militia known as the Janjaweed (literally “men on horses”), who attacked their villages. The conflict has displaced over two million people, who live in political limbo as the international community takes tentative steps to appease the conflict.

The photograph of the three girls was taken at 7:03 a.m. in northern Darfur. Photojournalist Ron Haviv was carrying his digital camera, a heavy, black Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, and had, in the past four weeks of traveling between refugee camps, already taken over 10,000 photographs. As the sun rose over the desert, he encountered the three girls. They were shy, as Haviv approached with his interpreter. But soon they told their stories and spoke of their lives in the nearby camp: they were provided with shelter and food, but no means to cook. They were too poor to buy the little firewood available in the severely deforested area. To help their families, the girls often walked up to ten hours a day to find firewood, and sometimes spent the night in the desert—where there is ever-present danger.

Haviv was in Darfur for UNICEF to document the lives of children in the refugee camps. These three girls were only 12, but Haviv had heard of girls as young as eight being raped by the marauding Janjaweed, government troops, or gangs. At Abu Shouk, young women usually collect the firewood. “They hope that if it is the young girls they won’t be raped because of their age,” said Haviv. “Unfortunately it does happen.”

The early morning light infused the sand with an orange glow as Haviv photographed the group headed by the girl with the rust-red headscarf. With an aperture of 2.8, the shallow depth of field made her determined expression become the focal point, as her friends and the landscape blurred behind her.

The following day Haviv left Darfur, and the photograph began its peculiar journey.

Almost three months later, as the trees in New York’s Washington Square Park began their autumnal color-change, photographers from the collectively owned agency VII (pronounced Seven) were displaying and discussing their work over a two-day conference at New School University.

Haviv and a colleague sat at a desk on an auditorium stage, their laptops open, as a video flickered on the screen behind them. The girl with the rusty red headscarf stood in the middle of the frame. Her movements were tranquil, her back held straight. The still photograph of her and her two friends was also included in a new photography show that opened the night before. At the minimalist art gallery in Chelsea, the natural starkness and muted tones of the desert environment in the photo were contrasted against the constructed white wall. The photograph cost $3,000.

The gallery’s co-owner, Bill Hunt, was one of many guest speakers at the VII conference that weekend. A former actor who claims to have entered the art world “to get better discounts,” Hunt is tall with messily swept back salt-and-pepper hair and a considerable talent for public speaking. Alongside his gallery, he actively supports many AIDS charities and teaches part-time. He spoke about his collaboration with VII, whose photographs opened his new gallery, Hasted Hunt.

The nine photographers in the VII exhibition define themselves as “conflict photographers”—encapsulating Haviv’s image from Darfur, but also his colleague Lauren Greenfield’s photograph of an anorexic American teenager. With images from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia, but also from Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C., the show had less of a specific theme than most gallery shows. And without the captions that accompany photographs in the news media, the VII show decontextualized the images.

There is the assumption that when an image is published in the news media, it is there to raise awareness, to educate media consumers about the world. In the art world, these photographs become objects for individual consumption. It raises the question: is it ethical to sell pictures portraying other people’s suffering? Is it ethical to buy them? The images at the Hasted Hunt show were often difficult to look at; they depicted as much blood and despair as they did beauty and hope. And in contrast to older prints, many of the subjects were still alive, and if dead, killed in conflicts that still rage.

An interest in current affairs may inspire collectors, but the photography market itself is rapidly changing. This past Valentine’s Day, Sotheby’s publicized the success of an auction of 20th Century photographs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bringing in over $14 million in total, the estimates given by Sotheby’s were, either naively or intentionally, miscalculated. The photograph “The Pond-Moonlight” by Edward Steichen was estimated to sell at between $700,000 and $1 million. It sold for $2,928,000. No photograph has ever sold at a higher price. The sale enticed spontaneous applause around the room, and the resulting price surge throughout the market has created a demand for new, relatively affordable, work.

The market has become more receptive to contemporary photojournalism, partly because of rising prices of older work and because of the current political climate after three years of war in Iraq. Financial gain was, however, not the sole motivation behind Hasted Hunt’s VII show. For the gallery’s co-owner Sarah Hasted, a blonde, statuesque 39-year-old from New Mexico, the show highlighted the conflicts around the world that media has covered inadequately, such as the genocide in Rwanda. “I think a lot of people just got up and had their cereal in the morning and knew nothing about it,” she said.

On Dec. 1, Hasted and Hunt held an informal soiree at the gallery to discuss the distinction between fine art photography and photojournalism. Alison Nordstrom, the curator of photography at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, which holds the world’s largest collection of photographs and negatives, soon referred to the 1979 book “On Photography” by Susan Sontag, which presents reflections and critiques of the medium. “You also have to bear in mind Susan Sontag’s quote about capitalism’s insatiable appetite for images,” said Nordstrom. “If you can’t sell a photo to a magazine anymore, because there are no picture magazines, why not sell it to a gallery?” She added, “I am interested in the way you can do photojournalism with an 8 x 10 camera with soft focus. Those black-and-white images… are no longer the only vocabulary that’s an option for making informational photographs about the world.”

Kathy Ryan, the photo editor at the New York Times Magazine, has the freedom to work with both fine art photographers and photojournalists, and spoke of letting them “cross over.”

Of photographer Simon Norfolk, she said, “he lives very much in both worlds,” before she walked across her office to pick up a Norfolk image of a man holding balloons on a road in Afghanistan. Comparing his sweeping landscapes to Turner paintings, she once commissioned him to photograph refugee camps in Chad, Chechnya, and Pakistan in the same style. “The work is extremely comfortable on a gallery wall…” she said, “but it is also a great way to get at a subject in a new way.”

The framed Norfolk photograph that Ryan held in her hands was still and serene, in stark contrast to many of the bloodier images for sale at Hasted Hunt Gallery. Before opening their own gallery, Hasted and Hunt had worked on a show of photographs by French photographer Luc Delahaye. One of the images portrayed a dead Taliban soldier lying, as though in repose, in a ditch. It was bought by a private collector, said Hasted. “He hung it in his living room, and his wife left him,” she recalled.

One of the more gruesome images at Hasted Hunt, taken by Antonin Kratochvil, depicted a grown man, hands tied together behind his back, lying in a street in Haiti. The abattoir reds of exposed flesh and the silvery white of tendons glistened from his skinned skull, contrasting against the dust-covered black skin of his bare back and buttocks. The soft outline of two children looking down at the body took up a third of the photograph’s foreground.

“The reason that it's in the show is the theatre of the whole show,” commented Hunt. “When you are putting the whole show together, you’re selling a couple of things, you’re selling pictures, but you’re also selling yourself,” continued Hunt as he leaned back into the red leather of a steel-frame chair in the gallery’s reception room. “Some woman was in here the other day and kept saying, ‘The show is so haunting. It’s so haunting.’ You just wanna go like, ‘Well great, that’s good, maybe you’ll come back once the demons go away and see some stuff that won’t haunt you at all.’ We want to be fresh for people.” Hasted Hunt sold the photograph, but denied requests for the name of the private collector. “He’s someone who is very risky, who has a house full of risky pictures,” Hunt said.

A handful of visitors perused the gallery on a Saturday afternoon in December as two of Hunt’s acquaintances entered the reception room to say hello. Hunt rose to greet them. “This is where we get the clients drunk, so they’ll give us money,” he said, motioning around the welcoming room. “The Darfurs are astoundingly beautiful,” said one, as Hunt whisked the two men into the gallery. A few minutes later, as the entrance opened, Hunt interrupted the murmur of chatting visitors by theatrically exclaiming, “Ah… Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ron Haviv, the world famous war photographer.”

A scruffy, once-black baseball cap covered Haviv’s soft black curls streaked with grey. At 40, the native New Yorker retains the light enthusiasm of a Brooklyn kid. With a boyish face frequently illuminated by smiles, the photographer went from NYU’s journalism undergraduate program to photographing the war in the Balkans in just a few years. “Most artists have this sociopathic self-consumption that is just exhausting. It’s just draining,” commented Hunt. “Ron’s not like that, not so faaar….”

On the wall opposite the entrance, Haviv’s photograph from Darfur hung next to a 1994 image by fellow VII photographer, James Nachtwey. A young man, portrayed in profile, cradled his throat with his hand. The pinhead scars of healed stitches traced a deep cut sweeping from the edge of his mouth towards the base of his jaw. A second scar lined his cheekbone. A third lay above his hairline, a slice taken off the upper part of his ear to accompany it. A fourth dug into his skull. As though mauled by a grizzly bear, he was marked for life from a machete attack in Rwanda. The photograph cost $6,000.

Management consultant and photography collector Alan Paris was one of many visitors to the show. An erudite, mild-mannered man who carries copies of his favorite photographs on his iPod, Paris organizes the New York City Collectors’ Club for George Eastman House in his spare time. He later commented, “I will put images, some of which are violent, war-like images upstairs [in my house],” he said, “but I don’t want a picture of a machete-hacked Rwandan over my fireplace.” He did not buy anything at the Hasted Hunt show, yet his private collection of photographs in his yellow, suburban home, a half-hour by train from New York City, shows he does not veer away from political art. The famous image of a Spanish Civil War soldier, in mid-fall as his body is propelled backward from the force of a bullet, hangs on one wall of the welcoming home that Paris shares with his wife and son.

Paris’s father was a photographer with the U.S. Signal Corps in Italy and Africa during the Second World War. His son’s house is filled with his images, but the collection also contains several photographs by French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson who co-founded the agency Magnum in 1947. A few are signed—Cartier-Bresson’s handwriting deteriorating from tidy italic script into a shaky sprawl on the photographs he signed later in life.

Paris linked photojournalism’s entry into the art world with political consciousness after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “I think it is absolutely the case that when the United States is at war, these things become more interesting,” said Paris.

Shortly after the VII show opened in October, Sandy and Ellen Luger, both in their sixties, visited the gallery determined to buy work from the photographers they had long admired. Ellen, a petite, attractive woman with short hair and discrete square glasses, took a pen and paper and walked around the gallery. Her husband, whose equally silver hair is cropped even shorter than hers, did the same thing. Ellen, a retired family-planning consultant, and Sandy, a retired pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, were about to add one or two images to their private collection. Pen and paper in hand, they walked past an image from Iraq of a dead marine, then past an image of lanterns floating down the Tigris. They then walked past the photograph of an emaciated teenage girl, and then the photograph of a grieving man.

As with so many other visitors, the Lugers did not find it an easy exhibit. “Are you the kind of person that goes to see the movie Hotel Rwanda?” Ellen would later ask, “Or are you the kind of person that says, ‘Oh, that’s so depressing I can’t go to that?’” Sandy’s parents were working-class refugees from Europe. The Nazis murdered several members of his extended family. It is a period of history from which he would like to buy photographs. “It is not artful, but it’s meaningful to me,” Sandy later commented.

Eventually, Sandy and Ellen came together to compare their lists of photographs to buy from Hasted Hunt. “We then had a conference and eliminated those that we didn’t mutually pick,” explained Sandy. They had both chosen Haviv’s image of the three young girls in Darfur.

Sandy had initially been attracted to the photograph from Rwanda portraying the young man with machete scars. “But it’s not something that I could show easily in my apartment with the grandchildren.”

“It’s a tough one, no matter who’s there,” interjected Ellen.

This overtly political art is emerging partly because of people’s frustration after four years of war, but there is also a purely market-driven explanation for the increased interest in photojournalism. Hunt believes there is a perception of rarity in the photography market pushing collectors to reinvent themselves. “I myself, as a collector,” he said, “I have seen as prices have gotten steeper and steeper, but the intensity of wanting to get photographs hasn’t lessened.” He added that the myth and perception of war photographers helped in the marketing. “These people are charismatic… It’s part of the baggage. It’s how they’re successful, because they have to go into, very often, a hostile place and be charming and get things that people don’t want to give them. One way of doing that is by being charismatic. It doesn’t necessarily mean good looking, but it means charming and quick.”

His appreciation of the serene, attractive photographer James Nachtwey, whose aura is quietly confident, propelled Hunt into storyteller mode. “He’s got this fucking white Oxford cloth shirt on the West Bank, and you go like, ‘What is that?’ Everyone else has got flack jackets and helmets on, and he looks like Gandhi in the middle of this…” said Hunt, spreading his arms out wide as though embracing an imaginary crowd of stone-throwing protesters, before concluding, “He has a luminescence that comes out of him, he walks into the place and does that Abe Lincoln thing, and you go like, ‘Hey, I’d fuck that.’”

“Much of modern art is devoted to lowering the threshold of what is terrible…” wrote Susan Sontag. “Photographs shock insofar as they show something novel. Unfortunately, the ante keeps getting raised – partly through the very proliferation of such images of horror.” Hasted and Hunt worked with VII’s images in enormous format for over two months, yet never felt desensitized. “We were reminded every time someone came in and cried,” said Hasted.

Photography also concerns a search for innovation and rediscovery. Aesthetics evolve. “I do think that what is consistent about all these things,” commented Hunt, “is that people are hungry for stimulation.” His take on selling and buying art is refreshingly unproblematic. “It’s just stuff,” he said. “It really is just stuff. You take it home, and you hang it up. You say, ‘This is my stuff.’” Among his own 200 pieces of art, Hunt identified the most disturbing object as a Joel-Peter Witkin photograph of a decapitated man, only wearing socks, sitting in a chair in a morgue. “I adore this print. I don’t like the socks in it; it’s all about the head for me. When I saw that picture, I was like, ‘Oh Man’ that like breaks every rule ever, can’t do that, bad….” Hunt looked euphoric. “Ultimately transgressive.”

The photograph hung in his home opposite the kitchen for a time until his partner vetoed it.

This succinctly personal connection to owning art is shared by the Lugers. The couple claim not to view the purchase of Haviv’s photograph of the three young girls in Darfur as an investment. Sandy bought his first photograph a few years ago. On a trip to New Mexico, he telephoned Ellen at home in New Jersey to say he wanted to buy a Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph. “Good, we’ll have to get an apartment in New York,” she replied. Sandy bought the photograph three days later. The couple moved to New York City soon after. “We bought the apartment to surround the picture,” said Sandy, “so I say it’s the most expensive Cartier-Bresson ever.” The prices of Cartier-Bresson images have increased 500 percent in the last 10 years according to the Paris-based Web site ArtPrice, which monitors the international art market.

Haviv contends that any exposure, even when provided by an up-market Chelsea art gallery, is positive. “It’s just another way of communicating. My work has appeared in schools, in outdoor exhibits free to the public. It’s just another way.”

Hasted Hunt sold eight or nine prints of his photograph, said Haviv. Neither he nor the gallery owners want to speak in any detail of the financial aspect of the venture. "This is not, and never has been, a profession one enters for the money," said Haviv who concedes that 50 percent of the profits went to him, which means he will have received just under $13,000 for the Darfur image alone. This does not include the profits from the four other images he exhibited at the gallery. On the other hand, Haviv has helpED raise almost $30,000 for Unicef Darfur with events and some proceeds from print sales, and if it were feasible he would have liked to share the proceeds with the girl who dominates the image.

Original version here.
Swedish version here.

Ninety hours in darkness

The Magnum Blog - December 14, 2006

Ninety hours in darkness

By Ann Tornkvist

A three inch tall James Dean rests on the black work top. And another one, and yet another. After some hands-on dodge and burn adjustments with a Dennis Stock image, three small cut outs of the trench coat-clad film icon - hands in pockets, cigarette in mouth - litter the work surfaces of the darkroom at Magnum Photos' New York office. The man with the scissors, the Ilford 500H multi grade enlargers and access to innumerable priceless negatives, is Pablo Inirio. He has claimed the small cubic space as his own since 1992, often working up to 90 hours a week.

Two weeks before Christmas, one of the monthly photographers' meetings has just wrapped up, meaning frequent visits to the darkroom. "Just a minute," comes the reply as Hiroji Kubota taps gently on the light gray door. Later, once it is open, Chien-Chi Chang silently runs back and forth over the threshold asking questions. Many of the photographers place large orders at this time of year, the reason for which Inirio hasn't pondered, probably hasn't had the time to ponder as he deals with the work flow calmly, not a word of complaint, not a single stress-induced, cross word.

Buccaneers baseball cap on head, discretely framed glasses on nose, Inirio locks the door, shutting out not only the corridor light but a barrage of music samples washing over the office from the Magnum In Motion desk. A flick of the light switch later, he is patiently going through a Thomas Hoepker order, initially using Ilford RC paper to determine correct exposure times. A small fleet of handmade dodge-and-burn tools lies close by, intermingling with the James Dean paper dwarves. Pictures of Inirio's two-year-old daughter Isabella are pinned to the walls next to assorted memorabilia from assistants and interns - a photo of former Magnum photographer James Nachtwey in action is positioned precariously close to one of a melancholy Marilyn.

Inirio's introduction to photography involved a trash can. As a child, growing up in the Bronx, where his family had moved from the Dominican Republic when he was still a baby, he found a first edition copy of "Family of Man," edited by Edward Steichen, by his building among the trash. He quickly salvaged it. He kept the book for years, turning its pages for the images edited by Steichen in the 1950s.

He consumed a lot of photography exhibits, and recalls one at the Met which left an impression, long before he started thinking of his future career, before the word "Magnum" meant anything to the young man. "It was all photography and it just so happened, that there were a lot of Magnum photographers represented," he says with a jovial joker's look-at-where-I-ended-up tone, "although I didn't know that at the time." With a soft laughter he adds, "Didn't care at the time."

He's particularly come to appreciate the work of Magnum photographer Larry Towell, whose work he calls poetic. Of Towell's Mennonite project, Inirio says, "It's one of the best essays in photography, as far as I'm concerned." He also references Susan Meiselas' Kurdish work.

Inirio became seriously interested in photography in high school. "Like any young man at that point I liked mechanical things and how they were made," he says, "I really was interested in how cameras worked." Inirio's photography teacher, who was working on an MFA at the time, tutored him in the dark room.

He went on to the School of Visual Arts but did not quite finish his studies. "I needed to work, coz I was a poor boy, so I stopped." Inirio credits many of his teachers for their input and inspiration, especially Sid Kaplan who had done work with Weegee.

He assisted photographers across the industry's spectrum as he studied. "The whole range," says Inirio, "food photographers, people who shot cars, people who did fashion, people who did portraits." He freelanced full-time as an assistant for several years before finding employment with fashion photographer Hal Oringer, who had Saks Fifth Avenue as an important client. "He was a great teacher and had a great eye for faces and beauty and lighting."

He credits Oringer for being experimental when the occasion called for it, but also being good at scaling back creatively, producing very classic, safe advertising photographs for companies such as Avon.

After six years with Oringer, Inirio decided it was time for something new and spotted an ad for a darkroom printer in The New York Times. He dialed the number, reaching a receptionist who said "Welcome to Magnum," sparking his interest further.

About 25 people applied. Because he lacked experience duplicating slides, Inirio originally didn't get the job. The successful candidate left, however, to pursue a documentary film project and Magnum phoned Inirio back. Fourteen years later, he is still at Magnum printing black and white images.

He works mostly with older photographers, as the younger generation shoots digital. Although Inirio is enthusiastic about the advances in digital technology and the ease with which one can enhance the image, he says "I hope film doesn't disappear, because just aesthetically I like how it looks. I like the random grain in film."

Fittingly, he prefers black and white photography to color. "There's something about the black and white image that goes straight to the story's core," he says. This respect for story telling is valued by the photographers. "Essentially, the print is the final version of the story, it's like the author's final draft," says Paul Fusco. He feels no need to hang over Inirio's shoulder during the printing process because he trusts him. "He knows how we look at our photographs. Because he knows us, he works towards our vision of the photograph. He makes me look like me."

Original article available here.



Havoc in its wake

December 10, 2006

Havoc in its wake

By Ann Tornkvist

The Aftermath Project, which recently awarded Magnum photographer Jim Goldberg a grant for his project ‘The New Europeans,’ is a young organization whose two co-founders are as dedicated to story telling as to the artistry of photojournalism. They spoke to Ann Tornkvist about why war is only half the story.

Treaties are signed, armies retreat and borders are redrawn. Weapons, if not abandoned, are indefinitely put aside. For many spectators of war, an end is reached. Yet the ramifications of conflict are not easy to erase. Limbs do not regrow, nor do buildings spontaneously rebuild themselves. Traces of distrust and fear linger. For curator Kirsten Rian and photographer Sara Terry, dissatisfaction with the short attention span of mainstream media inspired their organization The Aftermath Project which awards grants to support post-conflict photography.

When the initial high-tension phase of conflict peters out, the media often move on silently. Front-page images portray new wars - or wars closer to home. But what of the identification of exhumed remains? Of the rebuilding of houses and bridges as steps in rebuilding lives? Of bitterness or forgiveness? Inspired by such questions, and by the untold stories from Bosnia after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, Terry, one of ten journalists featured in the 1991 book "Women on Deadline," spent years in the Balkan country. "No matter what kind of conflict or evil or destruction occurs in the world," Terry wrote in an email, "I want to be part of witnessing the humanity that always reasserts itself in the face of evil."

In 2003, she witnessed widows returning to the town of Visegrad. Their husbands lost their lives when Serbs turned on Muslims. At least 2,000 died. So many corpses were carried away by the waters of the river Drina, a centuries-old geopolitical fault line between Islam and Christianity, that the manager of a hydroelectric plant down stream complained that the bodies were clogging the culverts of his dam, as reported by the Guardian. The survivors fled the city. The Muslims, formerly a majority, abandoned their homes to the Serbs that remain there to this day.

In one of Terry’s photographs, a floral headscarf drapes the silhouette of a Visegrad widow as she searches the distant, corrugated horizon of the Bosnian hills. The photo was taken in 2003, eight years after the conflict in Bosnia was nominally finished, but this woman could not conjure her husband from the dead.

A 20 by 16 inch print of the photograph was sold at an auction in the summer of 2006 to benefit The Aftermath Project, which Terry founded with Kirsten Rian, a published poet working with refugees and at-risk populations using poetry as a tool for literacy and healing, and former executive director of the Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon. The project's slogan is "War is only half the story," and it began supporting post-conflict photographers in 2005 with a contribution of $14,500 to Belgian photographer Gael Turine for his work in Eritrea, which featured in the documentary D’un monde a l’autre. In Turine’s many trips to the capital Asmara, a sleepy, former Italian colonial town, he explored the surrounding areas and photographed, among other subjects, mutilated war veterans from the 1961-1993 war of independence, as they slept in a former military compound, ten in one room. Determined to return, Turine suffered difficulty in finding funds. "When you ask for a grant for such a long term project in an area like Eritrea where there is no oil or diamonds," he said, "there is no chance."

Finding money has also been a challenge for The Aftermath Project, with its co-founders working full-time jobs to pour "sweat equity," as Rian described it, into the organization. "We believe intrinsically and essentially," she said, "in its potential to honestly shift the conversation about war."

The desire to refocus attention to the many ways in which conflict leaves havoc in its wake has struck a chord with supporters. The project's advisory board includes Jan Eliasson, the former chairman of the United Nations General Assembly; Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas; and Alison Nordstrom, the curator of photographs at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y.

To raise the project's profile and generate revenue, Rian and Terry organized photography auctions in Los Angeles and New York in June 2006. A startling number of respected photographers donated prints. "With just one email," Rian said, "we were flooded with images for the auction pouring in from around the world." John Stanmeyer, Alex Webb and Paolo Pellegrin were among the participants, to name only a few. Richard Misrach donated a photograph from his Oakland Fire series which was presented at auction with a reserve of $15,000. Rian referred to the contributors as “the best of the best, all integral threads in the building of an organization that we are hoping will in some way affect what the world sees of the world, give voice to the photographers, as well as to the countless stories needing to be told.”

Rian drew upon years of experience as a curator to select prints for the auctions, but acknowledges that not all photojournalism is marketable in that context. "My path has crossed with many of the world's best war and reportage photographers trying to cross over into the fine art realm," said Rian, adding that that transition is not necessarily straightforward. Of some of the successful attempts she says, “Simon Norfolk, Wolf Böwig, Jonathan Moller, Bruce Haley immediately come to mind… they are individuals who have established themselves with a global presence as reporters/photojournalists, whose images are simply so very good that they transcend the traditional lines of either genre.”

Rian worked in tandem with Terry in producing the final selection. Terry herself contributed several prints to the auction. In addition to the Bosnian widow, there was a photo of Afghan kite flyers; of Los Angeles palm trees sticking up like distorted poppy skeletons ready to pierce the sky; and of Marc Riboud’s hand poised over his 1952 image of a man painting the Eiffel Tower. Terry took the photograph as Riboud prepared to sign his book for her. Although Riboud is not involved with the project, Terry considered it a natural image to include in an auction benefiting photojournalists' work.

The auctions, both hosted by local galleries supporting the project, were crowded, informal affairs. The general mood was "one of sincere and heartfelt interest and a desire to be involved," said Rian. The revenue went directly to the grants awarded in 2007. It was the first time the organizations held an open competition for entries. Jim Goldberg received $20,000 for the project ‘The New Europeans,” which The Aftermath Project described as “part of an ongoing body of work reflecting the seemingly insurmountable difficulties faced by refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and trafficked people, as well as their dreams for freedom and their indomitable will to survive post-conflict situations.”

Wolf Böwig received $15,000 for his work from Sierra Leone.

Original text available here.


All Grown Up

KoreAm Magazine
August, 2006

All Grown Up
First-time author Jenny Han deals with the sometimes painful, often confusing journey from childhood to adulthood

By Ann Tornkvist

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Jenny Han mentions the word "scared" many times. Yet her eyes sparkle when she talks about Shug, the heroine in her first book, who, in so many ways, is based on Han's preadolescent self. The well-received debut novel, also with the name Shug, deals with the sometimes painful, often confusing journey from childhood to adulthood. Your body changes. Your friends change. Boys are no longer "gross," but become desirable, hard-to-understand creatures. In the book, Shug shrewdly observes that the prettiest girl and the most handsome boy should just get it over with and start dating. "They owe it to us," Shug says, before comparing them to Ken and Barbie.

Han, 25, lived vividly through this period herself, filling more than 20 diaries with notes about the strange phenomenon of growing up. The first among her friends to get her period, Han remembers thinking, "Oh no, I'm so not ready for this."

But now, more than 10 years later, Han is very ready for author-hood. On a chilly day a couple of months before the book's May release, Han is happy and at ease. A New York transplant from her childhood home in Virginia, Han carries a copy of the novel into a café in Brooklyn's CarrollGardens. As she chats on the phone to her mentor, Sarah Weeks (her former teacher at the New School University where she earned her master's of fine arts degree), she pushes a copy of the book across the table.


Being published is a feat in itself. The division for young adult readers at Han's publishing company, Simon & Schuster, receives more than a thousand manuscripts annually; only about 100 are published per year. But with Weeks putting Han in touch with Pippin Properties, a literary agency that specializes in children's titles, Han has had an uncharacteristically smooth ride thus far for a first-time author, with 30,000 copies of Shug, an unusually large number for an unknown writer, in bookstores.

Inside the café, there is constant noise as children select cakes and the espresso machine dutifully spits out coffee for their mothers. A miniature toy train, circling a track that skirts the ceiling's faux-fresco of cherubs, lets out a mournful rhythmic puffing. Han hangs up the phone. Her grass-green Juicy Couture sweater and large bag drenched in printed flowers make the cafe's beige and cappuccino walls pale.

Han's animated speech speeds up as she describes the book's plot. "When you reach junior high, the rules start to change," she says. "You don't have to invite everyone to your parties." Her protagonist, 12-year-old Annemarie — a.k.a. Shug — is a girl who doesn't want to grow up, and is coping with the loss of familiar rules as her friends embrace the baby steps they're making into their teens. When writing the book, Han pored over her own diaries and transplanted some specific phrases into Shug.

"We, as adults, don't take young people's issues seriously. 'Oh, it's just puppy love.' But it's important to recognize that, at that time, it is the most real thing," says Han. Add hormones, rejection by female friends, a burgeoning crush on a male friend and, in Shug's case, an alcoholic mother and an absent workaholic father, and "ordinary life" is transformed into one with potentially insurmountable hurdles.

For Han, growing up with her younger sister, Susan, in Chesterfield, Va., was "a pretty normal suburban existence." That included crushes on boys, like the one that inspired Shug's crush. "Certain boys that I knew at that age," says Han with a smile that manages to be both nervous and bemused at the same time.

Other characters in Shug resonate with the people of Han's past. "Some of my friends will read something and say, 'That's me!' And I'll say, 'No, it's not you.' In reality, I feel like every character I write about is me," says Han.

Shug rejects growing up because she already feels like an adult at home, where she takes care of her alcoholic mother. In Han's case, she put being a child to one side whenever her parents, working-class immigrants from South Korea, needed a translator during PTA meetings or help filling out forms in English. And being a child of immigrants, Han says she felt uncertainty and trepidation about pursuing a career as a writer. Working in the world of writing was something she always knew she wanted, and on a whim, she took a children's writing course during her undergraduate days at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"It just never occurred to me to become a writer. It always seemed to me like one of those dream jobs, like 'I want to be a model,' or 'I want to be an astronaut,'" she says, cocking her head comically to one side.

Now Han joins many of her NewSchool peers in having books published this year. And like how it was when she got her period, Han is the first. Former classmate Emmy Widener feels Han's writing stands out because its structure is not strictly narrative. "Her writing is more character-driven," says Widener. "I guess you could describe it as reflective. A lot of people write in an A-B-C, 'this-happened-that-happened' way. Jenny comes to it from the back."

"Shug is only the beginning of Jenny's writing career," Weeks writes in an e-mail. "She has much to say."

Before choosing a publisher, Han trekked around midtown Manhattan to meet with editors at various publishing houses. And despite the chilly weather around Christmas last year, Han did it wearing a skirt and knee-high stockings. Sure, she felt cold, but she did not feel a need to power-dress — Han was, after all, there to discuss a book for teenagers.

The editor at Simon & Schuster, Emily Meehan, was impressed by Han's ability to effect an appropriate tone for the story. "I'd describe her voice as charmingly innocent and sweet, and very evocative of the age she is trying to portray," says Meehan. "Jenny fills that gap between literary and commercial." The company has high hopes for the debuting author.

With her new book comes a Web site, where colorful hot-air balloons (www.jennyhanwrites.com) invite visitors to enter the different sections. A click on the blue "Bio" balloon leads to a portrait of Han with her long black hair swept up in a ponytail. She wears a canary-yellow top as her fingers punch the keys of a metal typewriter. From the red nail polish to the black-framed glasses, Han slips easily into the role of youthful librarian as she promotes Shug.

As a child, the school bus would drop Han off outside the library each day, where she would spend hours sitting in large burgundy couches reading. Now a list of book recommendations are posted on her Web site. One is I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. "Please, please read it," writes Han. "It will make you cry it's so good, and then you will want to be my best friend because I told you about it."


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Krigsfoto på konstmarknaden

En ung flykting vandrar i Sudans öken. Flickans roströda huvudduk bryter upp bakgrundens enfärgade blågråa himmel som sträcker sig många mil mot horisonten. Inte ett enda moln vakar över 12-åringen när hon ger sig ut i gryningen för att leta efter ved. I det karga landskapet bär hon en fläckfri ockrafärgad klänning med en skir vit sjal knuten runt midjan likt en improviserad obi.

Lägret Abu Shouk, med sjuttio tusen människor, är hennes hem sedan flykten från det brutala inbördeskrig som började 2003. När svarta afrikanska bönder i Sudans Darfurregion trotsade den arabdominerade regeringen i Khartoum följde våldsamma represalier av landets arme och den fruktade arabiska nomadmilisen Janjaweed. Drygt två miljoner människor har tvingats överge sina hem. Provisoriska tältstäder i Sudan och på andra sidan gränsen mot Tchad har långsamt förvandlats till undermåliga, permanenta bosättningar.

Efter många månaders politiskt stillestånd, med Afrikanska Unionens underbemannade trupper på marken, har FN i New York till slut börjat diskutera ett internationellt engagemang för att förbättra flyktingarnas liv och för att nå ett slut på kriget.

Flickans graciösa hållning är like imponerande som hennes levnadsvillkor är utmanande. Hon skjuter fram hakan en aning som för att visa sitt mod och sin uthållighet. Flickans två väninnor följer henne in i öknen. Den ena ser på henne frågande som om hon förväntar sig vägledning. Den andra ser ner på marken med ett plågat uttryck av förtvivlan. Öknens sand omger dem och sträcker sig oavbrutet mot den kala horisonten. Här finns varken träd, buskar eller hopp om att snart hitta ved.

Fotografiet togs tre minuter över sju i norra Darfur. Fotografen Ron Haviv vaknade tidigt den 25 juli förra sommaren för att fotografera de människor som varje dag gav sig iväg för att leta ved i det torra landskap vars vegetation försämrats drastiskt av flyktingströmmen. Haviv var på uppdrag av UNICEF att fotografera barns tillstånd i flyktinglägren och hade redan tagit över tio tusen bilder med sin tunga Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II.

Flickorna var till att börja med blyga men berättade för Haviv och hans tolk om sina liv. Ibland vandrade flickorna i över tio timmar för att samla ihop den ved deras familjer behövde för att laga mat. Fastän de ständigt var rädda att stöta på soldater eller Janjaweed tyckte de tre vännerna om att vara tillsammans. Haviv, en välrespekterad amerikansk fotojournalist, visste att till och med 8-åringar hade våldtagits. Det var nästan alltid de yngsta flickorna som hämtade ved.

-De hoppas att flickornas unga ålder skall avskräcka våldtäktsmän, men tyvärr attackeras de ändå, förklarade Haviv.

Omgiven av det varma ljuset visste Haviv att flickornas avundsvärda lugn och deras kläders mättade färger gav honom tillfälle att skapa en enastående bild. Med bländaren på 2.8 valde han att fokusera på flickan med den röda sjalen och hennes blick av trofast beslutsamhet. Hennes väninnor och gryningslandskapet omslöts diffust av morgonsolen som skänkte sanden en blodapelsinorange nyans. Dagen efter lämnade Haviv Darfur och fotografiets besynnerliga resa inleddes.

* * * * *

Tre månader senare, när New Yorks parker förberedde sig för höstens praktföreställning av röda och gula trädkronor, framträdde fotografiet igen. Vinden smekte kinderna på de fotografer och studenter som sakta trädde in i en av New School Universitys byggnader i Greenwich Village och sedan tog plats i aulan. Haviv, med sina kolleger från fotokollektivet VII (Seven), höll en konferens för att diskutera sitt arbete och sin industri. Uppe på scenen satt Haviv framför en enorm videoprojektion som glimtade med Darfurs färgpalett. Han hade även filmat i Darfur och nu rörde sig flickan med den röda sjalen långsamt på duken i den mörklagda aulan. Det var hennes andra framträdande den helgen. Kvällen innan hade ett nytt galleri i New Yorks konstdistrikt Chelsea öppnats där bilden på henne och de två vänninorna hängde mittemot entren till det minimalistiska galleriet. Fotografiet kostade tre tusen dollar.

Galleriets delägare var en av många gäster som höll föredrag på VII-konferensen. Bill Hunt är en före-detta skådespelare som säger sig ha börjat sin karriär inom konstvärlden för att få rabatt på sina egna konstinköp. Den talangfulle och karismatiske föreläsaren, med gråvitt hår svept bakåt som en åldrande dandy, talade om sitt samarbete med VII-fotograferna och sitt beslut att öppna sitt nya galleri med förhållandevist nya fotojournalistiska bilder varav många var våldsamma.

Hunts galleriutställning var anmärkningsvärd på flera sätt. Nio fotografer delade samma utrymme utan ett specifikt enhetligt tema. Där fanns bilder från Irak, Afghanistan och det forna Jugoslavien, men även från Minnesota, Pennsylvania och Washington D.C. Utan bildtexterna som gör fotografier sällskap i tidningar var bilderna presenterade utan sammanhang. Kollektivets fotografer kaller sig “konflikt fotografer” vilket inbegriper både Havivs bild på de sudanesiska flickorna och kollegan Lauren Greenfields bild på en anorektisk amerikansk tonåring.

Utställningen var även i tiden därför att många fotojournalister nu medvetet utvecklar konstnärligt individuella förhållningssätt till sitt arbete och gränsen mellan fotojournalistik och konstfotografi håller på att luckras upp. I februari, på det internetbaserade fotografnätverket Lightstalkers, ställde en kanadensisk fotograf den enkla frågan om ett dokuments estetik är oumbärligt för den berättande och informerande funktion som fotojournalistiken hävdas ha. Inom ett par månader hade de fotografer som gav sig in i debatten skrivit mer än trettio tusen ord i ämnet. Många tog också tillfället att diskutera de fotojournalister som säljer sitt arbete inom konstvärlden och fenomenets etiska problematik.

Bilden på de tre sudanesiska flickorna har givetvis ett ekonomisk värde även inom nyhetsmedia. Fotografens resa och utrustning kostar pengar. Publiceringsrättigheter är en handelsvara. Men när ett fotografi säljs som konstföremål hävdar många kritiker att man förirrat sig från fotojournalistikens ändamål att utbilda omvärlden om betydelsebärande händelser och konflikter. Är det moralisk försvarsbart att omvandla en människas lidande till en produkt vars pris representerar en summa pengar som i viss mån skulle kunna underlätta det arbete som t.ex. Läkare utan gränser utför i Sudan?

Äldre fotografier, som Robert Capas bilder från det spanska inbördeskriget eller Henri Cartier-Bressons ikoniska foton från efterkrigstidens Paris, har länge eftersökts av privata konstsamlare. Kontrasten med Havivs fotografi är att de människor som porträtteras i äldre bilder inte längre lever. För dagens yngre generationer utgör de konflikterna nu endast ett par intressanta kapitel i en historiebok. Men Haviv och hans kolleger sålde bilder av människor vars lidande fortsätter eller vars familjer fortfarande sörjer dem. Vernissaget 15 oktober hyllade de fotografer som vigt sitt liv åt att illustrera lidande för att provocera en reaktion från omvärlden, men som samtidigt vet när de jobbar att de alltid kan återvända hem till New York eller Paris eller Köpenhamn. Konflikten i Darfur fortsatte när utställningen i New York invigdes med vin och vimmel.

De två senaste åren har fotograferna James Nachtwey, Larry Burrows, Luc Delahaye, Larry Towell, Alex Webb och Simon Norfolk haft individuella utställningar i Nordamerika. Det finns en rent marknadsbaserad förklaring till denna trend. Priserna på äldra fotografier har ökat markant. På alla hjärtans dag sålde auktionshuset Sotheby i New York ett fotografi för nästan tre miljoner amerikanska dollar till en privat konstsamlare. Aldrig förr har ett fotografi sålts för så mycket. I och med att priserna skjutit i höjden har konstvärlden kontrat med att utöka sitt utbud. Därmed expanderar definitionen av vad som är konst. Att föra in fotojournalismen i denna värld är således ett sätt att rikta in sig på den del av marknaden som intresserar sig för förhållandevist billiga fotografier.

Å andra sidan har denna trend även en sociopolitisk begynnelse. Bildernas inträde i konstvärlden var enligt många symptomatiskt av en större skeptisism, framförallt i Amerika, gentemot nyhetsmedia och dess förmåga att påverka den politiska dialogen. När information är tillgänglig oavbrutet via tv, radio och internet, kan ett galleris beslut att förstora och rama in enstaka fotografier ses som en skarpt riktad kritik av människors hetsiga och oanalytiska konsumtion av bilder.

Dessa utställningar lyckas även offentliggöra fotojournalistiken på ett nytt sätt i och med att trendens nyhetsvärde skapar ett intresse i media. The New York Times, bland andra, skrev om VIIs show på Hasted Huntgalleriet. Bill Hunts arbetspartner Sarah Hasted, galleriets delägare, en reslig blondin från New Mexico, kände att detta var del av showens syfte. Hon valde t.ex. att hänga en djupt sorglig James Nachtwey bild från Rwanda bredvid Havivs bild av de sudanesiska flickorna. Många amerikaner, sa hon, var fruktansvärt oinformerade om Rwanda massakrerna när våldet slet sönder det afrikanska landet.

-Jag tror att många människor vaknade på morgonen, åt sina flingor till frukost och hade ingen aning om vad som pågick, sa hon.

Hon hade detta i åtanke när hon valde bilderna till utställningen. När Haviv återvände från Darfur förra sommaren styrde han sina steg mot det ej ännu färdigrenoverade galleriet där Hasted satt och jobbade under ett plastskynke i ena hörnet för att komma bort från byggdammet. När Haviv klivit igenom röran gav han henne en CD med ett urval av bilder från Darfur. Hasted valde nästan ommedelbart bilden av de tre sudanesiska flickorna.

-Det var den som var mest anmärkningsvärd, sa hon. När bilden återvände från tryckeriet, förstorad till 79 gånger 102 centimeter, valde Hasted och kollegan Bill Hunt att hänga fotografiet mittemot entren. Galleriet är inhyst i en steril, industriell byggnad med nakna väggar vilket innebar att fotografiets gula och röda nyanser var etraordinära i sin omgivning. Endast 12 kopior var till salu för tre tusen dollar vardera.

* * * * *

I december, när utställningen varit öppen i två veckor, bjöd Hasted och Hunt in ett tjugotal konstsamlare till galleriet för att diskutera fotografierna. Vinterljuset drog sig långsamt undan i skymningen och den kyliga vinden städade undan skräpet på West 20th Streets trottoar. Uppe i galleriet på första våningen förberedde sig intendenten Alison Devine Nordström att tala om fotojournalismens inträde i konstvärlden. Hon köper in fotografier för George Eastman House, ett museum som ligger i Rochester, N.Y. och har världens största samling av fotografier och negativ.

Nordström kom snabbt att beröra Susan Sontags oumbärliga kritik av fotografi som publicerades 1979 i boken “On Photography.”

-Det är oundvikligt att nämna Susan Sontags citat om kapitalismens omättliga törst för bilder, sa Nordström som sedan förklarade varför, i hennes mening, kategorierna “fotojournalistik” och “konstfotografi” nu är överflödiga.

-I viss mån kan man säga att dessa kategorier definieras av marknaden. Om man inte kan sälja en bild till en tidning, varför ska man då inte kunna kontakta ett galleri för att sälja bilden som konst?

En av åhörarna frågade Nordström om bilderna i utställningen hade fel stil för en tidning. Enligt Nordström var flera av bilderna vackra och informativa samtidigt. Att fotojournalister utvecklat egna stilar är något hon uppmuntrar.

-Jag är intresserad av möjligheten att ta fotojournalistiska bilder med en medium-format kamera, eller med vissa detaljer ur fokus.... De där klassiska svartvita bilderna är inte längre det ända sättet att informera om vad som händer i världen.

Kathy Ryan, fotoredaktören för New York Times Magazine är också övertygad om att man kan och borde berätta en historia från olika estetiska synvinklar. Hon arbetar gärna med både fotojournalister och konstfotografer och ber dem ibland “byta sida.” Havivs kolleger från VII-agenturen Antonin Kratochvil och Joachim Ladefoged, som båda arbetat i konfliktdrabbade områden i flera år, har fotograferat Carnegie Hall respektive amerikanska cheerleaders för tidskriften. I Ryans vitmålade kontor, där Manhattans tak glittrar i solskenet utanför fönstret, har hon en bild av Simon Norfolk som föreställer en man med tuggummifärgade ballonger utanför ett raserat hus i Afghanistan.

-Norfolk tillhör båda världarna, sa Ryan som jämför fotografens landskapsbilder med Turner-målningar. När Ryan ville illustrera en artikel om flyktingläger i Tchad, Tjetjenien och Pakistan som blivit permanenta bostäder, vände hon sig till Norfolk. Hon hoppades att nyskapande bilder skulle provocera tidskriftens läsare till att ifrågasätta vad som händer när flyktingar inte kan återvända hem.

-Hans fotografier fungerar väldigt bra på en gallerivägg, men det är också ett bra sätt att komma åt ett ämne på ett nytt sätt, sa Ryan

Hon anser att VII-utställningen på Hasted Huntgalleriet var revolutionär men var inte förvånad att det var Bill Hunt och Sarah Hasted som vågade sälja dessa dokumentära fotografier. Innan de startade eget, arbetade de för Rico Maresca-galleriet som 2003 visade bilder tagna av den forne fotojournalisten Luc Delahaye.

En bild på en död talibansoldat var till salu för 18.000 dollar och köptes bl.a. av flera museer. Bilden togs ungefär femtio kilometer från Kabul när Taliban försökte försvara huvudstaden mot Norra Alliansen. Delahaye försörjer sig numera uteslutande genom att sälja sina fotografier som konst. Han vet ingenting om den döda mannen i fotografiet. Där finns en tydlig olikhet med fotojournalister som är sagoberättare per definition. Enligt Hasted köptes en kopia av Delahayes fotografi av en privat samlare.

-Han hängde den i vardagsrummet och hans fru lämnade honom.

Hasted och Hunts erfarenhet från Delahaye-showen betydde att de kände till marknaden för fotografier som kan anses stötande, t.o.m. frånstötande. Havivs bild på de sudanesiska flickorna må vara sorglig men är mindre chockerande än t.ex. Antonin Kratochvils bild från Haiti på en död, skalperad man. Huvudets slakthusröda muskler och de silvriga senorna glänser bredvid den mörka, dammtäckta huden på mannens rygg. Två barn, ur fokus, ser ner på kadavret som ligger i mitten av gatan. Hasted och Hunt medgav att de sålt fotografiet till en privat konstsamlare men vägrade artigt att ta kontakt med honom för denna artikel.

-Det är nån som är väldigt risque, någon som har ett hus fullt med kontroversiella bilder, sa Hunt kort innan han förklarade varför de valt att ta med bilden i utställningen.

-Att ha en utställning är som att ha en show. Man säljer inte bara bilder men man marknadsför också sig själv som galleriägare, sa Hunt där han satt tillbakalutad i en modern stol inne på galleriets mottagningsrum. Detta var en av Hunts många nästan oanständigt rättframma kommentarer som han lyckades presentera med en uppfriskande ärlighet som kan tyckas ovanlig för konstvärlden där facktermer och filosofiska funderingar ofta nämns innan pengar och PR. Hunt, en lång man sobert klädd i svart med en plastklocka runt vristen, har arbetat i konstvärlden länge, samlar själv på bilder, undervisar på halvtid och stödjer många HIV- och aidsvälgörenheter. Han pendlar mellan allvar och ett busigt skratt. Vissa meningar pryds med svärord men accentueras med lustiga, narrliknande miner.


Ett halvt dussin besökare strosade omkring i galleriet den lördagseftermiddagen. Två män kom in i mottagningsrummet för att hälsa på Hunt.

-Det är här vi super kunderna fulla så att de ger oss pengar, skämtade Hunt glatt innan han tog med sig vännerna ut i galleriet.

-Darfurbilden är häpnandsväckande vacker, kommenterade en av dem. På väggen bredvid Havivs bild från Darfur hängde ett fotografi från 1994 taget av den amerikanska fotografen James Nachtwey. Det föreställde en ung man i profil som håller handen runt halsen som om han inte kan prata. Ett långt ärr sveper från mungipan till käkbenet. Ännu ett ärr följer kindbenets kontur. Ett tredje ärr ligger parallelt med hårfästet och slutar vid örat vars övre del är borthugget. Ett fjärde ärr smyckar skallen. Mannen attackerades med en machete och kommer ha ärren för alltid. Fotografiet kostade sex tusen dollar.

Männen fortsatte sin guidade visning runt galleriet. De såg kollaget av bilder tagna från luften efter tsunamin i sydost Asien 2004. De såg bilden från en thailändsk bordell. Bilden av burqor som hänger på tork utanför ett hem i Afghanistan. Bilden på en död amerikansk marinsoldat i Irak och bilden av en vit häst som flyr Saddams palats. Några minuter senare öppnade galleriets entre och en man i fyrtioårsåldern klev in över tröskeln. En välanvänd keps som en gång förmodligen varit svart höll mannens lockiga, gråsprängda hår i styr.

-Näh men, utbrast Hunt entusiastiskt. Damer och herrar, detta är den världsberömda krigsfotografen Ron Haviv.

Haviv log som svar. Fotografen, som ursprungligen kommer från Brooklyn och studerade journalistik vid New York University, har ett ungdomligt ansikte med stora bruna ögon och ser aningen för pojkaktig ut för en man som överlevt krig i Bosnien, Afghanistan, Kongo och Irak.

Utställningen hade pågått i snart två månader och åtta exemplar av Havivs Darfur-bild hade redan sålts.

-Hon är vacker, eller hur? kommenterade Haviv nöjt om fotografiet innan han försvann in på Hasteds kontor.

-Många konstnärer är så sjukligt självcentrerade att man blir helt utmattade, sa Hunt med ett busigt leende. Ron är inte sån alls.... inte än så länge

* * * * *

Strax efter det att showen öppnade besökte Sandy och Ellen Luger galleriet. Paret hade länge beundrat fotograferna och var fast beslutna att köpa ett par bilder. Ellen, en nätt kvinna med kort, vitt hår och diskreta svarta glasögon, tog penna och papper för att notera de bilder hon skulle kunna tänka sig ha hemma. Hennes make Sandy, även han med kort hår men med trendiga, röda glasögon, gjorde likadant. Ellen, som arbetade med familjerådgivning och drev en abortklinik innan hon gick i pension, passerade bilden av papperslyktor som flyter på Tigrisfloden i Baghdad.

Sandy, som tidigare arbetade för ett läkemedelsföretag, gick förbi bilden av amerikanska trupper i en snöstorm i Bosnien. Som bidragsgivare till International Center for Photography, en fotografiskola med ett stort galleriutrymme i New York, ansåg Sandy och Ellen att denna utställning var viktig.

- Det finns folk som ser Hotel Rwanda på bio för att de tycker att det är viktigt, sa Ellen vid ett senare tillfälle, och det finns folk som undviker den filmen för att den är upprörande.

Sandys föräldrar kom till USA från Europa efter förintelsen. Han skulle vilja köpa historiska fotografier från den tid då hans familj misste många medlemmar.

- Det är kanske inte konstnärliga fotografier men de är betydelsefulla för mig, kommenterade han.

När de sett hela utställningen på Hasted Hunt-galleriet satte de sig ner för att jämföra sina listor. Sandy och Ellen hade individuellt valt bilden på flickorna i Sudan. De beslöt sig omedelbart för att köpa den. Sandy var också intresserad av bilden från Rwanda på mannen med de parallella macheteärren.

-Men det är inte en bild som man kan ha lägenheten när barnbarnen hälsar på, sa han.

-Det är en svår bild att se på för vem som helst, la Ellen till bestämt.

Istället valde de ytterligare en bild från Darfur av James Nacthwey, som besökt området året före Haviv. En ung man ligger på marken i ett Läkare utan gränser-sjukhus. Hans mor sitter bredvid honom med handen vilande på sonens vita tunika. Hennes underarms ådror är lika tunna som den plasttub som ligger längs marken i fotografiets nedre kant och sedan försvinner in under sonens hud. Ett myggnät ramar in bildens övre kant. Det klassiska, svartvita fotografiet kostade fem tusen dollar.

Det är inte endast fotografiernas skönhet som fängslat Sandy och Ellen, de var även övertygade om fotojournalistikens betydelse.

-De försöker förbättra världen, sa Sandy förra december om fotojournalister, Ron Havivs arbete från Jugoslavien kommer att användas för att åtala Milosevic i Haag.

Sandy anser att de bilder som han köpt har ett historiskt värde, att fotojournalister bevarar enskilda tillfällen ur världshistorien. Varken Sandy eller Ellen säger sig ha köpt bilderna från Sudan som en investering.

-Jag vill helt enkelt omge mig med vackra saker, sa Ellen. Paret ägde redan ett signerat fotografi av Magnumfotografen Henri Cartier-Bresson. När Sandy reste till New Mexico för ett par år sedan såg han fotografiet i ett galleri och ringde hem till Ellen i New Jersey.

-Bra, svarade Ellen innan hon sa att om han fick köpa det dyra fotografiet så skulle hon få sin vilja igenom om en flytt in till New York. Sandy köpte fotografiet tre dar senare.

-Vi köpte lägenheten för att rama in fotografiet, skämtade Sandy, så vi säger att det är alla tiders dyraste Cartier-Bresson.

En gallerist i Los Angeles sa vid en senare tidpunkt till Sandy att bildens värde utan tvekan fyrdubblats efter Cartier-Bressons död 2004. Fotografens bilder säljs nu i vissa fall för upp mot tjugo tusen dollar.

Hunt och Hasteds beslut att representera dessa fotografer har därmed även en rent ekonomisk förklaring. Genom att klassifiera samtida fotojournalistik som konst har de skapat en potentiellt luckrativ niche i konstmarknaden. Den stereotypiska uppfattningen av krigsfotografer som modiga och godhjärtade underlättar marknadsföringen

-Dom här fotograferna är otroligt karismatiska, kommenterade Hunt, det måste dom vara i och med att dom reser till farliga ställen och måste använda charm för att ta bilder av människor som inte vill fotograferas. Det betyder inte nödvändigtvis att alla krigsfotografer är attraktiva, men att dom är snabbtänkta och charmiga.

Hunt styrde diskussionen till fotojournalister han ansåg vara både karismatiska och attraktiva. Däribland James Nachtwey, vars bild av en grupp kvinnor i svarta burqor där en hand sticker ut ur tyghavet sålde nästan lika mycket som Havivs Darfurbild.

-Nachtwey har liksom en vit skjorta på sig när han jobbar på Västbanken, utbrast Hunt upphetsat, och man bara frågar sig, “James vad håller du på med?” Alla andra har på sig hjälm och skottsäker väst medan han springer omkring och ser ut som Ghandi i mitten av allt det där..... fortsatte Hunt och spred sina armar vitt som för att illustrera en fiktiv hop av stenkastande demonstranter.

-James har en viss utstrålning och kommer till en plats och gör sin Abraham Lincoln-grej och det enda jag kan tänka på är att jag hemskt gärna skulle vilja förföra honom.

Det är inte bara fotojournalisternas rykte som attraherar konstamlare. Deras bilder är också relativt billiga jämfört med äldre fotografier. Enligt Hunt har prisökningarna helt enkelt uppmuntrat konstsamlare att leta efter ny konst som kan visa sig vara en god investering. Enligt Art Price, en fransk webbsajt som granskar den internationella konstmarknaden, har Cartier-Bresson fotografier ökat ungefär 500 procent sen mitten på nittiotalet.

-Jag samlar själv konst, sa Hunt, och jag har sett hur priserna bara ökat och ökat men lusten att äga fotografier har inte minskat.

För att tillmötesgå efterfrågan har föreställningen om vad som är konstnärligt expanderat. Hunt är övertygad om att mycket som inte tidigare ansetts vara konst kan säljas och han njöt av att arbetade på det innovativa galleriet Rico Maresca innan han startade eget. Där sålde de under en period bilder av atombombexplosioner. Den showen, medgav han till slut, kanske var aningen okänslig vilket han insåg när hans kollega visade en kund utställningen och kallade bilderna “vackra,” “spektakulära” och “unika.” Kunden kom från Japan. Hunt tog en paus när han berättade detta för att långsamt skaka på huvudet som om han inte kunde tro sin ögon.

-Jag ville typ skrika “Är du hjärndöd?” Man kan lika gärna visa bantningsbilder till människor som överlevt förintelsen!

Fotografi som konstform utvecklas även när kameralinsen vänds mot föremål som tidigare ansetts för vardagliga eller ointressanta. Eller för hemska.

-Det är viktigt att komma ihåg att människor söker stimulans. Ett konstobjekt är bara en pryl. Man tar med sig det hem, man hänger det på väggen och man säger “Den här prylen tillhör mig,” sa Hunt.

Hunt har själv fler än 200 konstföremål som turnerade i Europa i höstas. Den bild han anser mest chockerande är ett Joel-Peter Witkin-fotografi av en halshuggen man som sitter i en stol i ett bårhus. Liket har endast strumpor på sig

-Jag avgudar den bilden. Jag tycker inte om strumporna, det handlar bara om huvudet för mig. Jag kommer ihåg när jag såg den första gången och tänkte “Herre gud, det här bryter verkligen mot varenda regel som finns,” sa Hunt som såg smått ekstatisk ut. Fotografiet hängde mittemot köket i hans lägenhet tills han sambo till slut la in veto mot det.

-Fotografier kan shocka endast om de visar något nytt, skrev Susan Sontag i “On Photography.” I och med att konsumenten vänjer sig vid vissa teman måste fotografen ständigt tänja på gränserna. Nakenhet är inte längre tabu. Våld och blod upprör mindre än förr. Hasted och Hunt säger sig däremot ha undvikit att bli känslomässigt avtrubbade när de i två månader var omgivna av VII-fotografernas bilder i galleriet.

-Varje gång en besökare grät påmindes vi om bildernas intryck, sa Hasted.

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När Haviv tog fotografiet av den sudanesiska flickan och hennes två vänner, betvivlade han inte att hans arbete kunde hjälpa situationen på något sätt. Bilderna såldes på auktion vid UNICEFs New York-kontor för att samla in pengar till Darfur. Haviv har även ställt ut dom i Los Angeles för att dra uppmärksamhet till konflikten. Han är fullständigt övertygad om att all exponering av hans bilder är positiv även när de hänger i ett trendigt galleri med en begränsad elitkundkrets såsom Hasted Hunt.

-Det är helt enkelt ett annat sätt att kommunicera på, sa Haviv. Mitt arbete har ställts ut i skolor och utomhus där allmänheten kan se bilderna gratis.

Havivs kontor ligger i Hell’s Kitchen, ett förhållandevist nergånget område av New York nära den bruna Hudsonfloden och nordväst om Times Squares färgsprakande neonskyltar och kulturchockade turister. Överallt i studion stod bokhyllar i metall, fullproppade med pärmar, svarta nylonryggsäckar, kameror, linser och lådor med negativ. Haviv började arbeta digitalt ungefär fyra år sen.

Stående framför en enorm Macintosh, klickade Haviv sig långsamt genom datorns hårddisk för att hitta videon han spelat in i Darfur.

-I Darfur växer barn up väldigt fort, kommenterade Havivs röst i högtalarna när dokumentären satt igång på den breda skärmen.

Hasted Hunt galleriet sålde åtta eller nio exemplar av hans bild från Darfur. Haviv ville inte diskutera sin vinst från galleriet.

-Ingen ger sig in i den här branschen för att bli rik, kommenterade han, så extra inkomst skadar inte.

Han medgav att han mottog femtio procent av intäkterna. Det betyder att han tjänat ungefär 13.000 dollar före skatt för Darfur-bilden som endast var en av fem Haviv-fotografier i utställningen. Han säger sig vilja dela med sig av pengarna till flickan i bilden.

-Jag försöker hitta henne, sa han många månader efter resan till Darfur och tusentals kilometer från flyktinglägret Abu Shouk. Men han verkade nertyngd av vetskapen att denna önskan var praktiskt ogenomförbar i en sådan stor, komplicerad konfliktsituation.

-För att försöka hjälpa henne, la han trött till