Photojournalists led riveting panel discussion at Lesley as part of exhibit, which runs through April 22
Friday, March 30, 2012
During a packed panel discussion that drew hundreds of people to Washburn Auditorium on Lesley University’s Brattle campus on Thursday, March 29, award-winning photographers Antoine D’Agata, Susan Meiselas, and Peter van Agtmael discussed their craft, including the ways in which their images have been interpreted and used - and the blurry line between good and evil that emerges when one is witnessing human crisis and war.
Their visit to Lesley was part of the 101 Photos for Press Freedom exhibit, presented by The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and the Consulate General of France in Boston. The exhibition’s 101 images convey war, revolution, and other world events that have unfolded since 1947 in honor of the 25th anniversary of Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders), an international organization that advocates freedom of the press.
“101 Photos for Press Freedom” is open through April 22 at The Art Institute of Boston Gallery, 700 Beacon Street, Boston - and is free and open to the public.
During the Strauch-Mosse Visiting Artist Panel Discussion, moderated by New York Times best-selling author Alex Kershaw, the photographers - who are all members of the Magnum photo agency in Paris - spoke unflinchingly about their work and projected their photos on a screen before the packed audience.
Antoine D’Agata, who is French, describes his photos as “graphic” and immerses himself in the gritty “night world,” photographing subjects like prostitutes in Cambodia and a crack house on the Mexican border. He showed a series of disturbing nude photographs that are part of his ongoing work for a book illustrating the stark physical deterioration of crystal meth abuse and revealing the living conditions of drug addicts.
“I don’t have a great love of photography, but I do think it’s a good way to show things people don’t see,” said D’Agata.
Susan Meiselas, whose world-famous images include those taken during the Sandinista insurrection in Nicaragua in the late 1970s, displayed a range of her work in Nicaragua, including a check-point search and an image of a murdered man who was pulled out of his house and dumped on a hillside along with other parts of other bodies.
“In some ways, we become part of the places we go,” reflected Meiselas, a veteran photographer described by Kershaw during his introductions as “a living legend” who is the “embodiment of the Magnum tradition and its conscience.”
Meiselas laments the waning investment in enterprise photojournalism and said freelance photographers struggle to survive today with the advent of copyrighted images being freely shared via the Internet, compounded by the contraction of the print journalism industry, among other factors.
“Everything is upside-down now, the major media not being able to sustain viable means to support this kind of long-form production … where people literally imbed themselves,” said Meiselas, who lobbies to raise private donations for the Magnum Foundation to support this kind of work.
Peter van Agtmael has spent the last six years, since age 24, working in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he explained the process of becoming an imbedded reporter. He illustrated the way war is etched in people’s faces, and showed a series of photos of his soldier friends who have died. He also displayed photos of a wounded veteran, and a teenage boy with a vacant stare and bloodied face who soldiers had smashed in the face with the butt of a rifle. Van Agtmael spoke about the deep divide between “Americans often with good intentions, and Iraq and Afghani cultures,” and said it quickly became clear that the idea of good and bad - victim and perpetrator - weren’t clear at all.
The photographers’ messages underscored the need for free, independent journalism - and the urgency to support the kind of photojournalism that resulted in the photos on display in “101 Photos for Press Freedom.”
Opening remarks were delivered by Stan Trecker, Dean of The Art Institute of Boston, Christophe Guilhou, Consul General of France in Boston, and Danielle Helegand, a representative from Reporters sans Frontieres.
Lesley University President Joseph B. Moore welcomed faculty, staff, students, alumni, board members and neighbors to the panel discussion, which was the culminating event Lesley’s annual Community of Scholars Day.
Opening Community of Scholars Day, President Moore noted the opportunities presented each year as students and faculty have a chance to attend a wide variety of sessions throughout the day, and engage with subject matter outside their current area of study.
He also quoted a former colleague, Ernie Boyer, noting that “scholarship becomes real only when it becomes public,” and that genuine learning takes place not just for session attendees, but especially for the students, staff and faculty presenters who complete the research, and then prepare and present their work.
As President Moore said, “this is what makes Community of Scholars Day so special at Lesley.”
The “101 Photos for Press Freedom” exhibit and related events are co-sponsored by: The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and the Consulate General of France in Boston in collaboration with Magnum Photos, Paris and the Photographic Resource Center. These events are sponsored in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council; Edenred; Veolia Energy; Best of Boston/Boston Coach; and BioMérieux.
Read The Boston Globe’s review of the ‘101 Photos for Press Freedom’ exhibit here.
The Strauch-Mosse Visiting Artist Lecture Series, established through a $1 million gift by Lesley University Trustee Hans D. Strauch, enables Lesley to host locally, nationally, and internationally renowned artists for exhibitions lectures, promoting Lesley’s dedication to cultural and artistic literacy. View past lectures.
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