A photographer scours Russia for historical memory of the Gulag

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The site of mass executions outside of Moscow. © Misha Friedman

“The death certificates could contain perhaps two truths and a lie, sometimes one truth and two lies. “Place of death” was always a lie. “Cause of death” was usually a lie — “heart failure,” “pneumonia,” nothing at all — but sometimes the truth: “Cause of death: execution.” The one line that was most likely to be true was the one that indicated the date of death. There was no telling, though — often the paperwork claimed that a Gulag victim had lived long past the actual execution date. That was when there was any paperwork at all. […] The early Memorial Societies looked for the bodies, the execution sites, the documents identifying the bodies — the truth. …

Laia Abril, Rena Effendi, Zackary Canepari and Adam Ferguson reflect on the power of subjective narrative

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Left: Nymphalis antiopa. Extinct in Azerbaijan. Right: Boy with a lollipop. Refugee settlment in a construction factory. Baku, Azerbaijan, 2010 © Rena Effendi, from ‘Liquid Land’

Documentary narrative is best experienced when it’s shaped by a guide. Image-makers who are confident in leading the way are the best guides. And the journeys they lead best are subjective takes, told personally.

In an increasingly competitive media landscape, it is the documentarians and image-makers who adopt a strong and wholly personal voice that are best positioned to succeed. Stories crafted in ways faithful to an image-maker’s experience are unique. Savvy audiences demand a story well told, but they also flock to a story that reveals a maker’s relationship to it.

When wielded carefully, there is real value to a strong authorial hand in storytelling. Subjectivity can elevate the power of narrative. Here, four multi-talented photographers — Laia Abril, Rena Effendi, Zackary Canepari and Adam Ferguson — talk about their daring, personal and self-initiated projects, and how they must not only nurture the story but new audiences too. …

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Louis Quail’s portrait of his big brother is loving and personal. It also speaks broadly to UK politics and funding cuts to social care.

You don’t expect — or frankly always want — to cry in public, but the first time I met Louis Quail we sat in a London coffee shop and welled up together. It was 2015, and I was scouting for projects to develop in Screen Lab*. Louis was in the advanced stages of a personal photo project about his older brother and thought my colleagues and I could help. We talked and pored over his book dummy.

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Still from Libyan Sugar, a film by Michael Christopher Brown

Making the Case for Storytelling Across Diverse Platforms

“I’m so tired of explaining what I do, that from now on I’m just going to call myself a transjournalist.” — Tim Hetherington, 2010.

Just to be clear, Tim was half-joking. He was a visionary storyteller, and he didn’t see much value in labels.*

But five years and multiple projects later I still can’t think of a better word to describe the direction I have taken along with many talented and courageous storytellers, fellow editors and producers.

Most of us come from backgrounds in traditional photojournalism and broadcasting media but as we evolved together and embraced film, installation, bookmaking and interactivity, among other things, we refused to accept the ‘Death Of Photojournalism’ narrative. Nor would we be discouraged by the decline of the editorial market. Instead, we saw changes in the industry as opportunities for experiment. …


Liza Faktor

transmedia producer and curator http://www.lizafaktor.com @faktorl

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