TED | TEDBlog: Bloggers: Help break James Nachtwey’s story on Oct. 3

27 September 2008
Bloggers: Help break James Nachtwey’s story on Oct. 3

Photographer James Nachtwey will be breaking a big story on October 3 — using his powerful photographs to share a vital story that the world needs to know about. You can be part of the breaking news by adding a badge to your site.

Let your readers know that — starting October 3 — these pictures will be shown on outdoor screens around the world and online. Seeing and sharing these pictures will truly make a difference in solving the crisis that James is photographing.

[From TED | TEDBlog: Bloggers: Help break James Nachtwey’s story on Oct. 3]

James Nachtwey seems to be taking a page from Steve Jobs’ playbook to fulfill the wish he made at the end of his speech at TED:

“I’m working on a story that the world needs to know about.
I wish for you to help me break it, in a way that provides spectacular proof
of the power of news photography in the digital age.”

Easier Login

Here’s a bit of a non-camera news about the site: After my last re-vamp of the backend, I decided to add support for OpenID.

What that means, basically, is that you don’t need to create an account to make comments here, you just type in the address of your home page on a service that supports it. In effect, if you’re a member of almost any social network site, you can use that account to log in, except that I never need to see your password.

The Login page is here. don’t use the username and password fields, type the URL in the third box.

Give it a try and let me know if you have any trouble!

As I probably know most of you from Flickr, you’d probably want to sign in using your Flickr address (not your login and password!) It should look like:


For other accounts that you may have, here’s a list of URLs to try:

Orange (France Telecom)

Advice for young photographers | Lightstalkers

Just read a piece by Michael Kamber of Kamberphoto.com over on LightStalkers that’s well worth a read for all sorts of photographers, not just young ones:

Advice for young photographers:

10 June, 07
I am writing this from the Baghdad bureau of The New York Times where I am on assignment.

I have received dozens of queries from photojournalists starting out in the business. I am writing this in response, partly so I can refer others to it in the future and not spend time on lengthy replies.

Some beginners ask for advice on gear, others on how to get started finding assignments and selling their work. I will describe my own path into photojournalism here and give some general advice that may be useful.

This is not definitive in any way. It is simply my experience and opinion formulated from twenty years experience as a photojournalist. No doubt others can weigh in and improve this with their comments and ideas.

[From Advice for young photographers | Lightstalkers]

Andreas Johnsen Slideshow

Posted new set called Andreas Johnson Slideshow.

Andreas is a filmmaker who was in town this summer to promote his movie “Inside Outside.”

PingMag asked me to do some pictures of him for an article after the interview was conducted. We didn’t have much time and were confined to a small office that was also being used for storage, so I had to get a bit creative to get anything interesting, using a couple of upended tables as a backdrop.

Andreas Johnson Slideshow

Posted new set called Andreas Johnson Slideshow.
Andreas is a filmmaker who was in town this summer to promote his movie “Inside Outside.”

Ping Magazine asked me to do some pictures of him for an article after the interview was conducted. We didn’t have much time and were confined to a small office that was also being used for storage

A Day at the Doujunkai

Uenoshita Doujunkai
Click the photo for a slideshow.

The Dojunkai Apartments : The
Beginning of Apartment Living

The current mainstream steel reinforced
concrete apartments that were built prior to
World War II are called Dojunkai apartments.
The Dojunkai was a foundation established
following the Great Kanto Earthquake to help
victims in need of shelter. It was an external
body of the Interior Ministry and was funded
by contributions from within Japan and
overseas. The Dojunkai supplied 12,000
housing units, including 2,500 apartments,
between 1926 and 1941. All of the
apartments were reinforced concrete structures
that placed a premium on earthquake
resistance and most of the properties were
three stories in height. In addition to having
proper electricity, plumbing and gas, each of
the units was equipped with flush toilets. At
the time they were built, these housing units
were well known and admired for their
leading-edge conveniences and technologies
such as elevators, steam heaters, telephones
and baths. The aforementioned comforts
proved to be very popular despite the
concern that the apartment style of housing
might not be well accepted as a part of
Japanese lifestyle.

Quoted from http://xrl.us/oq6bk

A Couple of New Sets

(For the impatient, you can jump straight to the new sets: Angel and Rebel. Do come back afterwards though.)Eri

If you’ve been following my Flickr account, you will have noticed a preponderance of new photos, mostly titled “Eri.”

Eri, my new model and as some have suggested, perhaps my new Muse. Eri is a girl I met a few weeks ago, when she came along when I was shooting her friend, Mari. At first I was a bit thrown off that she came along—when I set out to shoot someone new, I put a lot of thought into how I’m going to try shoot that person, pose them, bring out things about them.

In Mari’s case, I’d met her and asked to do her photo. She’s quite busy with her work, so it took several adjustments of schedules to find a couple hours to shoot. Mari’s a beautiful girl, with distinctive features and wonderful, kinky-curly hair.

To shoot Mari, I wanted to concentrate on just shooting her, not have to amuse some tagalong friend who might get bored and suddenly decide that the two of them could be having a much better time somewhere else, so I told Eri to jump in for a few pictures.
With Mari, I had thought about how I would put her into the frame, how I’d position her and pose her and how to get her to relax and show the camera the spark that I saw when I first noticed her. It’s a lot of work finding that moment, finding the right light and angle, making sure your lens is focusing and you haven’t filled up your camera’s memory card. You need to do that much to get a good shot and it’s the kind of preparation you need to have out of the way in case The Gods decide to bless you with something better than good, the elusive Great Shot.
I had Eri take off her hat, I had her and Mari move to where the light was good and started shooting a few fun pictures, not thinking they’d be anything but snapshots.

How wrong I was.
Of course I could see that Eri was a good looking girl, but there are a million beautiful girls in Tokyo, both Japanese and foreign. A beautiful girl in person can be quite unremarkable when photographed, after all—being photogenic has little to do with how you look. Finding a photogenic face is a remarkable, rare occurrence, like seeing a shooting star on a cold November night.There’s a simple way to tell how photogenic a person is: Take their picture. Sometimes you see it in the photo when you have gone looking for it, but other times, it surprises you. This time, I looked at the snapshots of Eri on the back of my camera and felt my insides do a flip. She looked like an actress whose name I couldn’t quite place.
That day, my camera fell in love with Eri.

I quickly arranged to start shooting more of her. We’ve gotten together twice now, meeting at my little studio space for a few hours at a time. Eri’s a girl, a sweet, down-to-earth girl, who effortlessly produces looks that ranged from sultry and dangerous to virginal and innocent. One moment she’s a leather-clad biker chick swigging bourbon from the bottle, another moment she’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever spent a Sunday morning whispering across your pillow with.With a change of the lights, she’s a prewar movie star, perhaps young Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake with peek-a-boo bangs, or even Ocassia, the allegorical personification of opportunity, known by her unruly forelock.

As I shoot her, I can barely keep up—It’s a constant game of focus and frame, check the exposure, check the lights, reframe, recompose and wait for those wonderful moments where something electric happens. “Hold that, don’t move,” I’ll say, as I struggle to keep up, “no, wait, forget it—that’s better!” as she unleashes yet another killer smile, or her eyes burn intensively into the camera. She does this all without pretense or forethought—when she catches herself at it, I invariably wind up with four or five frames of her easy laughter. Shooting her is a delight, an exhausting, wonderful escape from reality.
I hope you’ll pardon all of this fawning, but it’s to let you all know why I’m spending all my time shooting her, rather than roaming the nighttime streets stealing shots of gangsters. Frankly, I’d gotten bored of my photos, uninspired by re-hashing old themes, the same ideas. I would send hours going over frame after frame of the same old photos, trying to wring some tiny bit of the old feeling from them, but it just wasn’t happening.

Now, it’s happening. Where I would before let roll after roll go unprocessed or processed and ignored, now I savor every batch. Before, for every five hundred photos I would shoot, I’d get one or two that I liked, which isn’t bad, as the photographers reading this know. Now, I easily get twenty or thirty from those five hundred. I wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 each morning after the shoot and start importing and processing the photos, sorting, adjusting, cropping them, arranging them into themes and exporting them to galleries. It’s a great feeling to have such great material to work with for a change.
Of course you may be reading this and thinking “Jim’s in love again” and in a way, you’d be right, but I’m not in love with a girl, I’m in love with the image of a girl. Erica’s become a friend and I enjoy the time we spend together immensely, but the girl I might talk to over a couple of beers is not the same as this wonderful fictional creature we create with a camera, when a white muslin backdrop transforms a night in my shabby little studio into lazy day in a Manhattan penthouse.
So I hope you’ll indulge me in this little diversion and perhaps enjoy this bit of fantasy with me. I haven’t gotten the photos I want to get yet, so I’ll keep shooting as long as Eri is having fun.
In the mean time, I hope you’ll like seeing a couple of galleries I threw together. The first is called “Angel” and shows some of the sweeter, softer images. The second, I’ve nicknamed “Rebel“, a fun set done while playing with props like my old leather jacket, aviator sunglasses and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, done while blasting David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel.”


On Friday, a group of us went down to Yasukuni shrine for the anniversary of the end of WWII to shoot some pictures.

I’ve been down there a lot, as I used to live nearby in Kagurazaka and once or twice before on the August 15th anniversary.

This time, I wanted to shoot with more purpose than I had before, taking better pictures.
I got there early, around 8:30, which, as it turns out, was a bit too late to see former prime minister Koizumi paying his respects. I ran into a few photographers I knew or that I’d seen around. Bruce Meyer was there, Gon-chan (a tabloid photog I know from Kabukicho,) and a few others who looked familiar.
Since Yasukuni is such a controversial place, you get all sorts of people there, ranging from families honoring fallen relatives, old soldiers, right-wingers and then a strange sub-group I call the CosPlayers. CosPlay is what Japanese call Costume Play and most often manifests itself when fans will dress up as their favorite characters from comic books or animated cartoons. The Yasukuni CosPlayers, however, dress up as soldiers, mostly from the second world war, but there’s one old duffer who wears a white beard and a getup from the late 1800’s. They get a lot of attention, of course, as they strut around saluting for the cameras, before making a grand entrance up the walkway to the temple. You’ll see their photos along with any international news story on Yasukuni, which I think is a bit of a shame. Often you’ll hear them described as old soldiers donning their uniforms, but that’s not the case, as most of them are under sixty, some in their 30’s and 40’s.

Other times, you’ll hear them described as Right-Wingers, but though their personal beliefs might be on the right, they’re not a part of the established right-wing groups. (I could be wrong on that point, but though they sat in the same area with the right-wingers, they didn’t seem to be connected in any formal way.)
Uyoku dantai-3188
The true right-wing groups are known as the Uyoku Dantai. They do dress in uniforms, but para-military at best, not WWII surplus. Typically they wear blue worker’s outfits with the name of their organization on the left breast of their shirt or jumpsuit. Other adornments include embroidered patches such as the Japanese flag. Headbands are sometimes worn, as well, typically with the Japanese flag.

There are many Uyoku Dantai groups, some with close ties to the Yakuza. The largest, the Dai Nippon Seinen Sha, (大日本青年社, or “Japan Youth Party”) was founded by a branch of the noted crime syndicate, Sumiyoshi-ikka. (Sumiyoshi family.)
Wikipedia has a good article on the different groups.

These were the groups I was most interested in shooting.

Adrian had gotten some good pictures of them last year, so I decided to see what it was all about. What happened was a revelation to me. It seems that the whole protest is carefully-choreographed, with well-understood boundaries. Police wear riot gear and protestors make as much noise as possible. There’s some shoving, but no fists thrown. The police have their riot shields, but there are no batons out. Likewise, the Uyoku don’t try very hard to cross the barriers, content to put on a nice display of Aggressive Non-Violence.

Take a look at the slideshow.