Archive for September, 2008

The Dark Side

By Beverly Spicer Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

There were rumors in Perpignan that festival goers were being attacked on the streets.  We don’t have any figures on how many people this happened to, but here is one verified victim. Meet photographer Jason Howe, who was attacked while walking at night on a sidewalk just northwest of the area where the festival was held.  He was accosted, pushed to the ground, kicked and robbed.  I’m not sure how he incurred the nasty looking blow to his forehead, whether it was by hitting the ground or by direct assault, but you can see he had a rough encounter.  

Molly Roberts photographed him at lunch the next day and reports he was in pretty good shape in spite of his injuries. We guessed he might feel a lot worse in a day or two. Sorry to say, I don’t know exactly what possessions he lost in the attack, but this incident brought to mind the very sophisticated equipment one sees hanging around people’s necks as they casually stroll around town.  It’s a wonder it doesn’t happen more often.  

As you might have seen from a previous post, there were many security officers stationed around town, but apparently they couldn’t cover everything.  It’s all still a bit of a mystery, though I heard the suggestion “immigrant gangs” were responsible.  If anyone knows more about Jason’s or other incidents, leave a comment.  We’d be interested to hear more.  

More images from Perpignan; retrospective to follow

By Beverly Spicer Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Even though the actual flight time is about 14 hours, it takes about twice that much or more to get from awakening in Perpignan to going to bed again in Austin, TX. I kept thinking I would have the opportunity to post some pix at least in one of the airports, but just as I would get settled in and find a wi-fi connection, it was time to get on the next plane.

By the time I hit my front door, the only thing on my agenda was going to bed. But on the way home I had many thoughts about the preceding week, which I intend to write about in the coming days.

It’s true that the final moments of the festival took a real beating and cancellations were disappointing, but aside from the fact that the Soiree presentation and a large gathering were both nixed, people had a great time nonetheless. Droves of disillusioned people radiated from the Campo Santo area, but almost all decided to make alternative plans. I was with Molly Roberts, and we ended up eating a wonderful dinner at Le Sud on a tip from Seamus Murphy who also broke the news that the show was a no-go. At Le Sud, where I’d not been in 10 years, several groups gathered at large tables and there was a lot of socializing going on. We sat out on the patio under a large, densely leaved tree that served as an umbrella during sporadic drizzling. It was calm and pleasant, and in ways, maybe the best alternative of all.

The enthusiasm of this community is irrepressible, and there is a camaradarie that cannot be matched. Some people left Perpignan the next morning, but others hung on for a final visit with each other as they partied way into the night at the beach in Canet. I heard festivities went on till 4am. In spite of dragging on their last legs, many showed up at the airport the next morning at 9am to begin their long journeys home. I ran into Sacramento Bee photojournalist Renee Byer in the airport and she told me she left the beach “early” at 2am. By the look on her face and the reserve of energy she still had, you would never have known her appearance was based on about 4 hours of sleep. It shows how much enthusiasm is generated among colleagues who cover the world and occasionally get a chance to see each other in the same place. Maybe this community is like a flock of egrets who disperse in the day and then return at sunset to the rookery. Or the bats that live under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin, who fly out at sunset and return before morning, and make a great squawking cacaphony when they are together.

I’m going to digest a little more about the week in Perpignan, but in the meantime, here are a few images from the last few days. I will also post some more, as there were so many things to experience visually in addition to the photos of the festival itself.

Park outside Palais des Congres

Memorial to the French lost to war

Steps behind the Park Hotel leading to Campo Santo

Best dreadlocks ever

One of many weddings on Saturday

First floor of the Palais des Congres

Poster advertising a CD from the retrospective
on the Rolling Stones shown at the Soiree

From my hotel room at the beach in Canet

This monsieur in Canet was having at least
as much fun as the rest of us in Perpignan

The sad anti-climax to an orgy of a photo festival

By Beverly Spicer Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Perhaps you have been wondering what has been happening since the last post. A lot, and at the same time, nothing at all, and the title is something I’ll explain in a moment.

It’s Sunday and many people are leaving for home, some are at the beach for a last party, and I’m in a hotel on a keyboard connected to the internet. It’s not my own computer, but it’s something. Wi-fi has again eluded me for over 24 hours, and as much as I would like to include some visuals, this post will be text-only.

Most of yesterday before the rain came was spent looking at books, getting the backstory from the photographers who produced them, and viewing various exhibitions at the Eglise des Dominicains, La Poudriere, Caserne Gallieni and Couvent Des Minimes. Almost all of the exhibition spaces are stand-alone architectural masterpieces, and there is something magnificent about seeing photos hung in a medieval space. I don’t mean to sound like a travelog, but the juxtaposition the old and new, of silent stone and powerful image, makes the experience at Perpignan even more moving. I urge you to go to the Visa Pour L’Image site to explore the exhibition links within.

So, the rain had its way with the grand finale to the festival, and a misfortunate series of circumstances forced the cancellation of the last evening’s Soiree as well as an elaborate after-party scheduled to follow the show. When I think of the work that was scheduled to be shown on this night of all nights, it makes me sad all the way around. I’m sad for the consistently enthusiastic viewers, for the Visa staff that worked so hard for the special 20th anniversary of Visa Pour L’Image, and most especially for the photographers whose work was to be shown in the last in a series of some of the best presentations that can be seen anywhere.

I hope Director Jean-Francois Leroy et. al will post the multimedia presentations online, so that all of us can see them. I would love to see what we missed last night, and would surely watch again and again what was shown earlier in the week.

Will post some more images as soon as possible. Till then, the good news is that Getty will be a major sponsor of Visa Pour L’Image for at least the next four years, guaranteeing there will be a major venue for international photojournalism in the future. With the state of news and journalism the way it is going, this is more than heartwarming. There is much more about that topic to explore. Later.

Sights de Perpignan on Friday

By Beverly Spicer Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Palais des Congres, with seminars, technical exhibits

Palais des Congres

Afghani photographer Abdullah Zaheeruddin and Getty photographer John Moore

Photographers Abdullah Zaheeruddin and John Moore

WaPo Sarah Voison and photographer Karen Ballard

Brian Storm

Brian Storm

Fountains of the Palais des Congres

Security is high and so is everybody else

Security is high and so is everybody else

Un cafe before the Soiree

Dining in the streets

Crowd waiting to enter Campo Santo

Crowd gathers for Soiree at Campo Santo

Soiree Presentation/The Legacy of Chernobyl

Soiree Presentation

Earthquake in China

The Poor in Belgium/Stefan Vanfleteren

Soiree Presentation/The Poor in Belgium

Soiree Presentation

Peoples of the Orno Valley

Children of Kabul/Laurent Van der Stockt

Soiree Presentation/Children of Kabul

Soiree Presentation

Gun Nation

Les Soirees de Projections

By Beverly Spicer Friday, September 5th, 2008

This is the third time I’ve been to Perpignan in the last 10 years.  I met a person last night who has been here for each of the 20 years the festival has been in existence.  Even 10 years ago, Visa Pour L’Image was an enormously impressive event, but today, it is even moreso.  Exhibits are hung all over town in every space available, and the international work is comprehensive from the past year and there is also a good bit of retrospective work shown.  

Each evening of the first week there is a program such as the one I mentioned in the first post of Perpignan 2008.  Les Soirees de Projections are exquisite multimedia presentations held in a large space called Campo Santo, where temporary bleachers are erected to hold the hundreds of journalists, editors, publishers, agents, others involved in the photo industry, photophiles and interested festival goers.  

At the beginning of the presentations, awards are given to various journalists for their work from various organizations.  Last night, the CARE International Award for Humanitarian Reportage was presented to  Stephanie Sinclair of VII.  The VISA D’OR Daily Press Award for 2008 was won by Mona Reeder of the Dallas Morning News over 31 other nominations.  This is the second time a photojournalist from the Morning News as won the award.  In 2003, the award was presented to Cheryl Diaz Meyer.

 Last night the lengthy and spellbinding program included works almost too numerous to mention. Columbia, the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, Amidenijad in Iran, the war in Iraq, a revelatory and horrifying look at the earthquake in China, drugs and prison in Burma (Myanmar), Mexico, Ernesto Bazan’s work in Cuba, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Camaroon, the Congo, Russia, Kashmir and a retrospective compilation on Pakistan since the partitioning from India in 1947 to the present. Following the Pakastan retrospective was a separate presentation on the work done in there by Getty Images’ John Moore, including the gripping images surrounding the events of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in late December 2007.

 There were also retrospective images celebrating the lives of Charleton Heston and Billy Graham, a tribute to the work of the late Cornell Capa, and a very strange piece on the Pope accompanied by the country western music, “I’m Just a County Boy.”  I don’t speak French, so I don’t know the context, but I found it confusing even if it did evoke humor.  There was a magnificent retrospective of national and international news by Figaro Magazine marking their 30th anniversary.  We also saw a tribute to the life’s work of Claude Dityvon, and a piece about the making of the feature film “Johnny Mad Dog,” shot in Liberia and in ways disturbingly indistinguishable from real life.

There were pieces that stood out evoking compassion, humor, emotion, or a sense of wonder.  One was “Grandpa Boxers,” by Arie Kievit, images of aging boxers back in the ring.  I could not help but think of Yosuf Karsh’s stunning black and white portraits when we were shown “Pescados,” portraits of fishermen of the North Sea by Stephan Van Fleteren of Panos Pictures.  The deeply lined, weathered faces and haunting eyes of men who have spent a lifetime at sea made me think of a community where I lived for about a year and a half that was composed largely of Portuguese fishermen.  It’s a life that previously as an inland dweller I could barely fathom but that I found fascinating beyond description.  These portraits told stories I could not.  The tales told just by Van Fleteren’s images of faces were enough to send me into flights of imagination and realms that only hint at what the lives of these fishermen have been like. 

Two profound stories from Thursday’s Soiree stood out about the Homeless.  Stefan Falke’s “Homeless Americans,” is about victims of the subprime crisis who among thousands were rendered suddenly homeless.  A heartbreaking look at “Outcasts in France,” by father and son team Alain and Frederic Sancho offers a respectful and dignified look at the homeless in Paris.  I was struck by the universal physical similarities of these persons, whom the hand of fate has placed in this situation. With heads hung downward, backs curved and bent, and whose body language bespeaks the hopelessness of the disadvantaged, the downtrodden, and the disenfranchised, they looked the same.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I have never felt a separation between the lives of these people and myself, and but for the grace of God or I-don’t-know-what, go not only I but every single one of the rest of us.  

Overall, the increase in numbers of refugees worldwide is profound, and in just this one evening’s complex but relatively brief portrait of worldwide suffering, it is evident that the trend to destruction and oblivion is increasing at an exponential rate, whether it be by natural disaster, war, economic crisis, disease, famine or whatever other way life can suddenly be defeated.  

The last projection was a literally uplifting piece about the work of George Steinmetz, who presents stunning aerial photos of the African continent from a paraglider.  I met George briefly yesterday afternoon before the evening’s presentation, and was embarrassed to realize I later that I knew his work and his name but had not linked them in my mind.  You’ve all seen these photos, I’m sure, as I had.  Meeting him, I could never have guessed that this mild-mannered person would have produced these images we were shown, the logistics for which are simply intriguing.  

I hope you will explore the Visa Pour L’Image site to see images and descriptions that I cannot include here.  It will be worth the time, and I regret that all reading this who were not able to attend could not join us in the moving and thought-provoking times here in Perpignan.

Perpignan 2008 Thursday September 4

By Beverly Spicer Friday, September 5th, 2008

It is Friday morning now and I’ve awakened to a cool breeze here at the beach in Canet, just a few kilometres outside of Perpignan. Many festival goers stay here along a strip by the beach, so we have the double pleasure of enjoying the ocean as well as exploring the festival. I’m not quite sure why, but this year I am more aware of the sheer magnitude of this event, and find myself wanting to know more about how it all got started in the first place. This year is the 20th anniversary of Visa Pour L’Image, so there is much celebration going on.

National Geographic held its annual party starting about 6:30pm and along with a sardine-like press of people socializing in the courtyard of Saint Jean Cathedral, there were also icons of the industry in attendance. David Douglas Duncan and his beautiful wife were here again, and sitting along the side being visited by many was John G. Morris, who says at 91 he is 6 months younger than Duncan. It feels great to have these kind of masters coming out to attend such an event, and I marveled at how much stamina they exhibited. Here are a few photos from that very lively event, with faces you’ll recognize as National Geographic celebrated 20 years of Visa Pour L’Image.

I’m using Safari and for some reason, my media-add function is acting up. I have no idea what thispost will look like on other browsers, but hopefully, you’ll get the idea.

20th Anniversary Cake

20th Anniversary cake

Jean Francois LeRoy, Director of Visa Pour L’Image

John G. Morris with David Douglas Duncan

The icons converse

Dennis Dimick, the “Al Gore of National Geographic”

National Geo’s Gina Martin, foreground/Dir. of Photography David Griffin, center

 Stefani Sinclair of VII, left, winner of CARE International Humanitarian Award

  Maggie Steber

Smithsonian’s Molly Roberts and Maggie Steber

David Alan Harvey and Michael Rand

More later about Le Soiree. -30-


Perpignan Arrival

By Beverly Spicer Thursday, September 4th, 2008

The Digital Journalist has finally arrived in Perpignan.  Checking in was a breeze and it was great to see the familiar faces of the Visa Pour L’Image staff.  

There was a little bit of confusion about hotel accommodations, and I found myself at the Park Hotel, who, against all odds, had a room for the night.  While there, I ran into Horst Faas in the lobby.

After delivering messages to him from Dirck and the rest of our staff, we chatted about his new book, published just last week.  I’m looking forward to seeing this retrospective piece, which he says was comprehensively pieced together from a couple of hundred old photos, clippings, and retrieved items for which the originals had long since been misplaced or discarded by one or another publication that had received them. We spoke of how difficult it is for a photojournalist to be his own archivist, as so many photos, even negatives, are sent to various recipients but never returned.  

Horst came by train to Perpignan and then while here does all of his on-the-ground mobile travel independently.  He was in the process of changing to a hotel that could handle his special needs.  Most elevators in town, including the one at the Park, are very small, holding a maximum of 4 people.  However, a wheelchair is too wide even for one to fit there.  With much kind assistance from the staff, he was soon he was situated elsewhere.  The way that Horst lets nothing hold him back is truly inspirational, and the logistics of his life are to me mind-boggling.  

Upon finding a room and getting squared away, first up was dinner just outside of Campo Santo with Smithsonian’s Molly Roberts.  We both had some of the finest Mozarella cheese either of us has ever tasted, prepared with fine olive oil and Italian spices.  

After dinner, it was time for the evening presentation, Le Soiree de Projection, which was nothing short of breathtaking, and par for the course for Visa’s evenings.  The jet-lagged haze was the perfect mental preparation for accepting such powerful images, and I settled into a mood that I realized matched the reason I was ever interested in photojournalism to begin with, over 30 years ago. The events worldwide are more and more staggering than ever, or is it just that we have had time now not only to accrue an historical comprehension in images, but also now to produce a profound amount of work.

The work of Alexandra Boulet was featured and a Boulet award given to Jean Chung.  Next proceeded images predominantly concentrating in Africa but also all over the world ranging from China, South America, Cuba, Europe, to retrospective pieces from the United States.  The multimedia presentation was accompanied by evocative music that in my mind was perfectly selected for what we experienced in imagery.


The collaborators were international photo agencies, and the presentation was obviously prepared especially for Visa Pour L’Image by editors whose names I failed to record. However, upon leaving the theater area, I could only exclaim, “Thank heaven for the French.”  Thank heaven for the deep emotionality, the exquisite sensibility, and the artistry in every single phase of life.  That’s the feeling for now, until next post.

Viva la France!!