Inspiration: Robin Bowman

art photo, file under: hope

5 years, 263 photographs, 419 teenagers. I’m not sure why I hadn’t stumbled across Robin Bowman’s work until today, but I’m so glad I did.

itscomp_2Photo from

The work’s been making the rounds in galleries, and is also available in book form, published by Umbrage Editions. Copies of “The Complicated Lives of American Teenagers” go for around $80 on Amazon.

She used a Polaroid 110B Pathfinder camera, and positive/negative Polaroid film so that she could show her subjects the images instantly. There’s an interview with her here on NPR, where she talks about approaching her subjects. There’s also a clip here from the Boston Globe. Photos from the project were also recently acquisitioned for the New York Public Library’s collection.

On butt-gazing and race-baiting



The photo filed yesterday by my colleague Jason Reed at Reuters isn’t really the President ogling a Brazilian’s backside, like the Drudge report implies. As a news organization, Reuters has a  history of being ballsy enough to send less-than-demure imagery to the wire, like their transmission of the controversial Bush-to-Condi bathroom note taken at the United Nations. And remember Jim Bourg’s gagging McCain shot, from this campaign trail ?

Over at PDN, Daryl Lang questions about the racist implications of the image:

This would be a much easier picture if it showed Bill Clinton or Gov. Mark Sanford, to name just two male politicians known for their wandering eyes. So far, Obama has no such reputation. Even his detractors consider him a family man. Which makes things complicated. This photograph is connecting strongly with viewers even though it runs counter to what they already know about Obama.

Or does it? We can’t separate this picture from the ugly history of racists portraying black men as sexually dangerous. Obama’s opponents tried to exploit this stereotype during the 2008 presidential campaign (as noted here and here by Michael Shaw on BAGNewsNotes). This humor in this political photograph is nearly smothered by racial baggage.

Smothered in racial baggage? Sounds a lot like PDN over the last few months, as the magazine found itself at the eye of a vibrant discussion about racism in the photo industry. It stemmed from a post on the blog Reciprocity Failure, bringing attention to the fact that PDN chose a 24-person panel of all-white judges for their Photo Annual competition. The idea was subsequently magnified by a  $1000 challenge by the DuckRabbit guys. Word spread, and the topic was picked up by more prominent photobloggers, like ApE, and sparked a lively and surprisingly civilized thread on Lightstalkers where photogs like Gary Knight and Teru Kuwayama chimed in.

The dialogue culminated, sort of, in a response from PDN, posted on their site.

“Yesterday some blogs circulated a note about the fact that of the 24 judges of the 2009 PDN Photo Annual contest, all of them are white. It’s a valid point ,and one that everyone who works on PDN’s contests has given a lot of thought….Past judges of PDN photo contests have included African-Americans, Latinos and Asians who work as photo editors, art directors, web designers and educators.   We didn’t choose them out of tokenism… and the lack of diversity in the photo community as a whole means that it requires effort to compose a diverse panel year after year. But it is an effort that’s worth making.”

This morning seems to mark a turning point for PDN- they’ve opened a conversation, themselves, about the racial implications of an image.

So what about the representation of race in stock imagery? Here’s what racism, when searched for, looks like to the biggest agencies. The first image that popped up in the results is displayed below, along with the total number of photos.

Corbis: 3731 pictures

42-22747266 CAPTION: Snow in Bludenz

Getty: 7286 images

88086499CAPTION: STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND – MAY 30: James Mayer and Sean Mbaya of Kid British performs at Love Music Hate Racism Festival 2009 at Britannia Stadium on May 30, 2009 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images)

Masterfile: 130 images

700-00091206 CAPTION: Ring of Hands

Alamy: 3032 images

AWXGB4 CAPTION: Sydney Australia immigration racism racist attitude immigrant city economic emigrate colour color creed promised land

Jupiter: 44 images

23124440CAPTION: Phrase “fight racism” written on pavement by car

California: Support Laura Ling & Euna Lee



Today in California, the Northern Cali SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) chapter is having a letter writing event for Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the CurrentTV journalists sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in North Korea. According to SPJ, both Ling and Lee can currently receive mail.


From the press release:

“Because mail has been getting through to the imprisoned journalists, organizers invite all concerned residents to stand for a group picture in front of San Francisco City Hall to be sent to the two women. Organizers are providing postcards for everyone to write a personal message, and those missives will be mailed to a P.O. box that family members can send on to them.


Ling’s husband Iain Clayton has said that such notes from a previous vigil in San Francisco have bolstered the women’s morale during the 113 days of their detention.

Both journalists, on assignment for San Francisco-based Current TV, were  convicted of illegally entering into and committing “grave crimes” against North Korea on June 8, 2009. The two had been working on a human trafficking story along the Tumen River border area between China and North Korea.

Laura Ling is an area native and 1994 graduate of Del Campo High School near Sacramento. Lisa Ling, Laura’s sister, a 1991 Del Campo graduate and special correspondent to CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show and National Geographic Explorer, will be attending a Sacramento vigil, along with members of the Ling family.”

San Francisco Write in event for Laura Ling & Euna Lee:

July 9th  @ 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

San Francisco City Hall (1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco)


Here’s some photos from past vigils and actions, and here’s the Facebook support group. Words from Ling’s sister, Lisa, here.

SLPS XII- Deadline July 13, party August 6!


slideluckpotshow-290x271SLIDELUCK POTSHOW XIII
Thursday, August 6th, 2009 * 7pm Potluck * 9pm Slideshow
Canoe Studios * 601 West 26th St., Suite 1462 * NY, NY 10001

Yup, Casey and Alys are at it again. The slideshows are always pretty interesting- and I have to say, the food’s amazing. I’ve  had work in two previous shows, in June 2006 and November 2006 here in New York. The theme for the next show is “Now,” and I’m thinking about submitting this story, shot for the Sunday New York Times, on a vogue-off competition, if I have time to put a little package together this week.

More info on SLPS  here.

Dead fish, Palin take on “Sympathetic Democratic Media”



screenshot from the website of Palin’s lawyer’s firm


Who are these men, you might be wondering, and what are they doing with those big dead fish?

I don’t really know what they’re doing with the fish, but the men are members of the firm representing Sarah Palin. The image is a screenshot from site of the Clapp, Peterson, Van Flein, Tiemessen & Thorsness, LLC, the self-described “pre-eminent law firm” hired by everyone’s favorite ex-Alaskan governor to help her squash that pesky ol’ 1st amendment. Thanks, Cajun Boy, for re-posting the link this morning. Palin originally tweeted the threatening letter- not once, but twice.

palin tweet

With all this fuss regarding “baseless allegations” about the Wasilla Sports Complex, embezzlement, and sneaky deals, it’s good that Mr. Van Flein, Palin’s lawyer, has personal experience with zoning. He’s “presently the Vice-Chair of the Anchorage Zoning Board of Examiners and Appeals, appointed by Mayor Mark Begich in 2004,” according to the bio on his firm’s website.

Palin’s letter says that New York pitbull-without-lipstick investigative journalist Wayne Barrett is one among many “sympathetic Democratic writers” and bloggers that constitute a state of “modern journalism” that “apparently abhors any type of due diligence and fact checking.” The four-page diatribe goes on to wax defensively, and closes by informing irresponsible media outlets like HuffPo, MSNBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post that they have to shut the hell up. The letter also takes specific aim at Shannyn Moore, who writes the blog Just a Girl from Homer.  The ex-Gov is also apparently upset by a Twitter alterego going by the handle @exgovsarahpalin.

My favorite part is the footnote on the first page, talking directly about Barrett:

Wayne Barrett, a writer for the left wing Village Voice, published these insinuations, on October 7, 2008 in a story entitled “The Book of Sarah” available at This was written in the style of one pretending to be amazed that so many people in a small town like Wasilla appear to know one another, support one another, and take on big projects together. Apparently that is uncommon in New York. Rather than recognize that leaders of a community often mobilize to accomplish projects, the writer offered this up as an unusual and questionable association of special interests.”

Did Palin, not her lawyer, pen this letter? Would a lawyer actually incorporate snarky commentary into a cease-and-desist letter?  

Now that might not be uncommon in New York.

Patriotic Americans…


…eat hot dogs on July 4th. And if they’re champions, like Joey Chestnut, they eat 68 dogs in ten minutes.



I’m not quite sure why, but I swear there’s something erotic about the image below, of three competitive eating fanboys. Is the passion? The intensity? The smoldering come-hither gaze of the guy on the left?  You tell me.


Coney Island, Brooklyn. More of pictures at NY Magazine and Gawker/ Deadspin.

Fellowship Appointment


Picture 1

I’ve been appointed to the position of Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. The non-profit investigative center is headed by Florence George Graves, and co-directed by E.J. Graff. The appointment stemmed from the investigative work I’ve been doing over the past year, regarding international adoption corruption in Guatemala. 

It’s such an incredible honor to be able to work with these two journalists- they’re both straight-up inspirational. Check out their bios:

FLORENCE GEORGE GRAVES is founding director of The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University (, the first independent reporting center based at a university. Her work focuses on revealing abuses of government and corporate power and inequities between the powerful and the powerless. Founded in 2004, The Institute has collaborated with a number of major news organizations, including The Washington Post, Foreign Policy magazine, PBS NOW, The Boston Globe, Columbia Journalism Review, and SLATE. Graves was the lead reporter in a six-month collaboration between the Institute and The Washington Post, for a 2006 investigation which revealed that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had failed to probe allegations—as federal regulations required—that thousands of unapproved parts manufactured from 1994 to 2002 were installed on Boeing jets. In a1992 collaboration with the The Washington Post, she and a colleague broke the Senator Bob Packwood sexual misconduct story, leading to an historic three-year Senate investigation, a Supreme Court battle, a threat to the senator and finally his forced resignation. Graves has received fellowships and awards from the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Harvard’s Radcliffe Public Policy Institute, the Alicia Patterson Foundation, the Pope Foundation, the Fund for Investigative Journalism, and Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. She founded the Washington D.C. based award-winning and nationally circulated muckraking journal, Common Cause Magazine. Her has work led to congressional hearings and to reforms in public policies, and has received major awards including the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award and the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, the highest award given in magazine journalism.

E.J. GRAFF is Associate Director, Senior Researcher, and head of the Gender and Justice Project, where she is investigating and exposing some of the serious inequities, injustices, and human rights issues that confront many women. Since 2001, she has been a Resident Scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. As an author and journalist, Graff has written widely about issues of marriage and family, women’s lives, and the lives of lesbians, gay men, bisexual, and transgendered people. Her widely praised work is often cited in legal journals, reprinted for use in academic courses and textbooks, entered as courtroom exhibits, and quoted by government policymaking bodies. In addition to having written two books, Graff is a contributor to Slate’s XX Factor and to Her work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Columbia Journalism Review, Los Angeles Times, Ms., The Nation, The New Republic,, Village Voice, Women’s Review of Books, and in more than a dozen anthologies. As an expert in social policy, she has appeared in several documentaries; is regularly interviewed by public and commercial media outlets such as NPR, ABC, CBC, BBC, PBS, MTV, satellite radio, and cable news; and gives talks and engages in debates at universities, conventions, churches, synagogues, and other public forums, in the U.S. and abroad. During the 2000-2001 academic year, she was a Liberal Arts Fellow in Law and Journalism at Harvard Law School, where she examined the intersection of law and social values. In 2001, she received The Nation Institute Investigative Fund Research Award to expose injustices based on gender identity and presentation. From 1997 to 1999, she was a Visiting Scholar at the Radcliffe Schlesinger Library, where she wrote her first book.