when the dust clears

Words about and images of matters political, social, and military

Archive for the ‘Personality’ Category

His hammer had five strings… Pete Seeger dies at 94

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Pete Seeger before rehearsal for Barack Obama’s inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, January 2009
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Expected news that’s still devastating … Nelson Mandela dies.

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A man, not a saint, who made war against apartheid; endured the inevitable, brutal reaction; and then emerged from prison to teach South Africa and the world about peace and compassion.

From the BXP photo archive: Mandela, July 1993

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Nelson Mandela during visit to the United States, Washington, DC, July 2, 1993

Nelson Mandela during visit to the United States, Washington, DC, July 2, 1993

Nelson Mandela, then head of the African National Congress, came to Washington in July 1993. His visit coincided with that of then-South African president F.W. de Klerk. Later that year, they shared the Nobel Peace Prize, even as they were competing and contending in the runup to the first free election in the nation. This was a photo opp that my editors dispatched me to, a bit of Washington political theater. Mandela was not—could not—be defined by the cramped nature of the event. In fact, I can’t recall what the event was. There were prominent African American folks, mostly men in suits, on the dais with him, as I recall… but we were there for him.

From the BXP photo archive: David Duke, white supremacist/GOP office holder, July 4, 1991

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Man holding Nazi-era sign at rally for David Duke. Translation is "The Jew: War Agitator. War Perpetuater." New Orleans, LA, July 4, 1991

Man holding Nazi-era sign at rally for David Duke. Translation is “The Jew: War Agitator. War Perpetuater.” New Orleans, LA, July 4, 1991

I’d already been thinking a lot about the Ku Klux Klan when the publication of Anthony Karen’s new photo book, White Pride, was announced. When slavery and the Civil War ended, the Klan swept in to preserve the South’s social, political, and economic order by terrorizing the newly freed, who might have been tempted to exercise their new rights. Karen’s gentle comments to an interviewer about the “pro-America” folks who flock to the group and its white supremacist brother/sister organizations struck—actually hammered—a nerve.

I remember photographing “Dukefest” in 1991, on the Fourth of July no less, in New Orleans. Louisiana state legislator David Duke—also founder of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the National Association for White People—was firing up a campaign for governor. The shape-shifting Duke was as slick as goose excrement, playing up his equal-rights-for-downtrodden-whites rhetoric and downplaying his Nazi uniform-wearing and Klan-klothed days. Some of Duke’s adherents, however, didn’t get the play-nice-for-the-camera memo. They did what they could to jostle the out-of-town reporters, spill beer on us. Thankfully, the cops knew the drill and prevented anything untoward from happening. They made it safe enough for Danny Schecter, me, and other non-Aryans to document the scene: a crowd of white folks barbecuing and gamboling at the center of City Park in one of the blackest (as in African Americanest) cities in the U.S.

David Duke at a campaign event during his run for Louisiana governor. New Orleans, LA, July 4, 1991

David Duke at a campaign event during his run for Louisiana governor. New Orleans, LA, July 4, 1991

Duke was a manipulator, if not the most masterful one. He wasn’t urbane (or smart) enough to sanitize himself so he could slide into the mainstream of the Republican party. (There’s only so much scrubbing you can do to get rid of the stink of fascism.)

Duke appealed to a swath of disaffected, poor white folks who believed that affirmative action and other programs designed (sometimes poorly) to mitigate discriminatory practices and policies were the stake in the heart of their dreams.

But it would be condescending, one might say racist, to assume that Duke’s stalwart supporters didn’t know of his fascist roots. There were (and still are) plenty of conservative groups that don’t wave the flag of racism and anti-semitism. So one might assume that a fair portion of Duke’s followers were attracted to these very things in his barely concealed past.

I’m looking forward to seeing Karen’s book. I want to know if the photographer sees and works both compassionately and critically. I have no doubt that his subjects’ individuality and the circumstances of their lives may be interesting, even compelling. But a book focused on members of America’s oldest terrorist organization must also explore its subjects’ relationship to the Klan’s legacy of hate, brutality, and murder—a legacy they have chosen to embrace. Otherwise, it’s simply environmental portraiture—or propaganda.

Facing Race 2012 Photos, 2

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Facing Race 2012, Baltimore MD

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Facing Race, the Applied Research Center‘s biannual conference on racial justice, culture, politics, and so many other things, wrapped Saturday night.

I struggled to keep my ears peeled as I photographed—so much knowledge, heart and soul filled the venue, the lovely Baltimore Hilton.

Folks talked honestly and intelligently about race and its intersections with gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, immigration status. Attendees discussed the massive obstacles to dragging these issues into the mainstream but mostly explored how to make progress toward social and racial justice both on that level and among ourselves.

Check out: #facingrace. ARC will be posting some of the sessions online.

Now: photos…

Keynote speaker Junot Diaz, November 16, 2012

Amirah Sackett, Khadijah Sifterlah-Griffin and her sister Iman perform “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic,” November 17, 2012

Preconference session, November 15, 2012

Hosts comedian W. Kamau Bell and media technologist Deanna Zandt, November 16, 2012

Closing performance by kids in the conference’s childcare program, November 17, 2012

Portrait of Libyan National Congress President Mohamed Magariaf

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During the United Nations General Assembly last month, I got an assignment to photograph Mohamed Magariaf, the president of Libya’s National Congress.

After I shot the less-than-interesting “official” portrait, I made this frame of him sitting on the couch.

BBC has what seems to be a good bio of Magariaf, interim head of state.

Mohamed Magariaf, New York, NY, September 28, 2012