Thursday, March 17

Special Essay Leibovitz and Nachtwey

After watching a documentary on both James Nachtwey and Annie Leibovitz I have really been enlightened not only by their amazing photography but also by the messages and stories that thier photographs tell.

   James Nachtweys work has shown to the world the devastation and hurt war and poverty creates and has retold many stories of those who suffer and have suffered from such tragedy. 
The images he photographs are sometimes unbelievable and hard to think are reality but that is what makes his work so powerful and moving.  I truly admire what he has captured as it does not leave room for lies or misunderstanding, and shows the raw truth of a world I and a large majority of the world have never seen before. His work also shows that photography is not always about what pleases the eye and what we find beautiful or pleasant. This career Nachtwey has chosen must be so satisfying in a way as he is able to retell peoples stories and experiences through his images and inform so many people of the worlds reality, but it must be so difficult as its not only his camera that is capturing the images but also his eye and mind. "I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated".  The way Nachtwey connects with the people he photographs is not by written contract or formal discussion but by his body language or by little or no words at all. People can sense he is genuine and do realise that if 'they' as victims let him into their life it allows them to pass on their own story. When Natchwey photographs he is very unintrusive but at the same time is not afraid to be completely participative despite the danger involved. "Asking if I feel fear is the same as  asking a marathon runner if he feels pain...its just how you manage it"

Many may argue that James Nachtweys photography should be taken more seriously than Annies Leibovitz as it covers the topic that is war, but although Leibovitz's work differs from Nachtweys vastly her work too speaks very powerful words.

   Annie leibovitz's work is very portrait orientated and we see this in the magazine covers and photo shoots she has done. Her photographs focus more so on people and not the environment that they are in. Of course the environment plays a major part in her photography but it is the people and the way she has them portray messages that make her work so powerful . In contrast, Nachtwey uses the environment of poverty and war to create his photographs and without it his work would obviously not be what it is. Annie's work also contrasts to Nachtweys in a sense that what she photographs is on most occasions very pleasing to the eye and very beautiful. She captures the best of people when she photographs them and usually shoots in a formal, pre organised setting. She is a very famous celebrity photographer which means that a lot of her work is commercial. She does advertising campaigns for high fashion brands, such as Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, and worked for the Rolling Stones magazine for many years along with having her work feature in many other magazines. This means that a lot of what she captures must look attractive and be able sell to the public. Natchwey on the other hand does not photograph for beauty or for commercial advertisement as war is not a beautiful thing, he does it not only for self fulfillment but to capture truth and share peoples experiences with the world no matter how horrible they may be.

   Leibovits work is similar to Nachtweys in the sense that through her photography she too can send a message. The photograph of Woopie Goldberg is a great example of this, as although she is just in a bath of milk, if you look at it deeper you can see that there is a great meaning behind it. At the time this was taken Goldberg was a black woman who was breaking through into the white celebrity scene and Leibovitz wanted to capture this by having her emerging from a bath of white milk. Leibovitz puts a lot of research into her work and there is a lot of planning involved with her shots to make sure she portrays the right message.  

 I think that through both of these amazing photographers Annie Leibovitz and James Nachtwey we can learn a lot as visual anthropology students. Through Natchwey it can be learnt that being participative when out researching and taking photographs is very important in order to capture truth and very real moments but in doing so you must have respect and not be intrusive. Gaining the trust of your subject is of huge importance and can allow you make better use of the situation at hand . Leibovitz is also a great example of someone who gains trust with the people she photographs."When I say I want to photograph someone it means I want to get to know them". Annie believes that you must be able to connect with the person you are photographing as it makes both companies feel more comfortable which will help create pleasing results. 

   Another idea we can learn from Leibovitz is that being creative is a very important and useful skill to have. Leibovitz is a very creative person and has captured some amazing results due to her abstract but amazing way of thinking and ability to manipulate normal situations to her advantage. This is very inspiring and encourages, me as a visual anthropology student, to want to think outside of the square and try and capture more unique photographs.

   Also, we can learn through these two people is the importance of research. Both photographers put a lot of time into researching what they want or plan to photograph whether it be learning about the person or place they are going to photograph or about the message they want to portray through their work. They do not just arrive at their destination and start cold and begin to take photos. There is a lot of planning that goes into what they photograph and how it is done.

Lastly, one of the most important pieces of advice we can take away from James Natchwey and Annie Leibovitz is to always carry your camera. From  a young age these photographers always carried cameras where ever they went and I feel that this is very important as you do not always know when you are going to get the perfect opportunity to capture a great moment. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Photograph reference links:

Thursday, March 10

Japanese People- Portrait

I am not too sure whether a portrait picture can actually be a portrait if it only became a portrait after seeing the results and deciding that it was…but anyway here goes! These photographs are two of my favorites of people I’ve taken while living in Japan not only this year but also in in the past.

This first photograph is one of my host Okaasan who I lived with in Shiga, Japan two years ago. This was taken in mid summer on a deathly hot day at a theme park called Nagashima Spaland. I really love this photo as firstly, it is one of the only ones I have of my Okaasan by herself. I think she looks really beautiful and quite elegant and when I look at this it brings back a lot of very fond memories that I had while living with her. 
  I also really like this picture because it has a very cultural aspect to it. As I said, this day was extremely hot…38 degrees hot..and as you can see she is still wearing a cardigan. This is one thing I learnt from living with a Japanese family…to show skin, even on one of the hottest days of the year, is still kind of frowned upon by the older Japanese generation. I figured this when I left the house on the very same day in a sun dress and was stopped in my tracks by my host grandmother who demanded I put cardigan on. I don’t point this out in a bad way at all, it is just merely an observation and maybe a comparison to NZ where it is more than okay for people to wear less clothing in such hot weather. 
 Another cultural aspect of Japan this photo brings to mind is the sun umbrella. A lot of Japanese women love the idea of having pale skin. There are products upon products to help maintain or create pale white skin in the Japanese beauty industry, as well as sun umbrellas in abundance! My first meeting with a sun umbrella was in rainy season when I thought I had purchused a normal rain umbrella, at the local station, on the way home on a very wet day. Unfortuantly for me by the time I had arrived home, due to my purchase being a non water proof sun umbrella, I was soaked through. Yes I was the butt of all jokes for quite a while but how was I supposed to know?…it looked pretty and appeared to be what I was after! We get out into the sun and try to tan our skin whenever we get the chance in New Zealand so the idea of it being a sun umbrella never crossed my mind.

This second photograph is of a Japanese girl I have meet at Kansai Gaidai. Her name is Naomi and she is a second year student majoring in English. This was taken after the Kyoto tour, organised by CIE at Kansai Gaidai, at a restaurant called Bikkuri Donkey,, (specialists in Hambaagaa). I really love this photo as, although she has a big chocolate parfait covering her beautiful smile, I really think her eyes are what stands out and what make this photograph a portrait. Some younger dancing students that I taught in New Zealand, just before I left for Japan, swore that on the “Most Important things when Performing on Stage” list, #1 was “Smysing”…or smiling with your eyes. The reason for this was because when you smile with your eyes its deeper than just a facial expression, its also showing a feeling. Happiness. This idea has really stuck with me and when I look at this photo in particular I really think it was a very valid idea that those six and seven year old children had. Of course you could just say Naomi looks extremely happy because she has a huge chocolate desert she has in front of her, but I like to think of it as being a bit more than that…maybe because of the day that had been or the company she was with. Who knows.

My Neighborhood Hirakata-Shi

From the 28th of January until the 3rd of June Hirakata is my home… it is no longer just a place in Osaka, Japan where my exchange university is located but the place where I live. I’m realising this is quite a special thing. Live. By live I mean adapting to a new place, discovering its shops, its language dialect, its unique sights, culture and locals and most importantly discovering the feeling of no longer being a tourist.
 Hirakata is the home to an international university. Hundreds of international students walk its streets rubbing their experiences of living in a completely foreign place off onto it’s sidewalk everyday and in amazing way this gives the city so much character. I think its not only the students having to adapt to Hirakata but also Hirakata having to adapt to the students. How could it not, being the home base to people from all over the world experiencing Japan. It’s kind of like culture shock from both ends. Hirakata is so typically Japanese…apartments cramped next each other, power lines filling up space in the sky and little family owned shops and restaurants hidden away in the most unexpected places but nearly everywhere there is something that accommodates a foreigner.

Vebarage Time. The “Okonomiyaki place across the park”

Kansai Gaidai

Japanese Garden…and a french cafe down the path

A tipical Izakaya under a friendly invasion

My First Impressions of Japan

Hi. Wow so here goes my first ever blog post. My First Impressions of Japan. After being here twice before I have become accustomed to the initial shocks Japan gives any foreigner after arriving in its depths for the first time. After trying to remember what my original thoughts of Japan were five years ago, I realised that although they would be great and obviously the perfect ‘first impressions’, I have decided I’m not going to look back and try remember those thoughts. I know that now they would differ dramatically due to becoming able to understand Japans’ culture more so than before, so I am going to use the first snapshots I have taken this time around in Hirakata, Japan and let them show my ‘new’ first impressions of this wonder world.
   So far the thing that has hit me hard about Japan that hasn’t before is the massive contrast between the old and the new. Traditional Japan is so rich in culture and is still living so strong and this is evident nearly everywhere you go yet ever so equally is the modern and fast paced Japan.
   At a street crossing you can see a women wearing the latest high end fashion lines standing alongside women wrapped in kimono. Restaurants range from the most westernised fine dining to having tables two feet high from the ground and chopsticks at your ready, while temples and high rises share the same street.

Geisha dress up at Kiyomizu Tera

Armani advertisment

The end at Douma Douma

A simple Desaato

Kinkakuji Tera

Visual Anthropology Kansai Gaidai

This blog is a class project for my ’ Visual Anthropology’ class; as such it is for education purposes only. All photos posted here are taken by the blog author unless otherwise noted. If any problem with the posting of a particular is brought to my attention, I will honestly review the problem and remove the photo if necessary.

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