Tag Archives: photojournalism

Another witness of UN security violence to photographer during Durban Climate Convention

Note:  This official statement below, from Kevin Buckland, was sent to the UN today regarding Orin Langelle’s Formal Complaint Against UN Security and the response Langelle received from the UN’s John Hay, UN Media Relations Officer.  [See the response from the UN that Climate Connections posted last Friday: UN denies security used undue force when smashing camera into photographer’s face]  Langelle was on assignment for Z Magazine and he is also the board chair for Global Justice Ecology Project. We will continue to keep you posted as things develop.-The GJEP Team

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing to submit an official statement regarding an act of violence that occurred inside the ICC on December 8th, 2011 in Durban, South Africa by a member of the UNFCCC  Security. As mentioned in the official complaint filed by Orin Langelle, I was being escorted by security after giving an interview wearing a traditional clown costume (at this moment, I will not raise question as to the legitimacy of this expulsion). Upon descending a staircase, a reporter, Orin Langelle, began to loudly question the security officer asking (I do not recall the exact wording): “Is this man being expelled from the conference? What rules have been broken? Are you arresting him?” At which point the security officer very quickly approached Mr. Langelle and grabbed the front of the lens of his camera covering it so he could not photograph. The officer did not attempt to remove the camera from Mr. Langelle, but instead decided to very aggressively physically pushed the camera into his face. Mr. Langelle was notably distraught after such an unwarranted act of violence. In the next 30 meters, from the bottom of the stairs to the security office, the same officer aggressively but nonviolently confiscated two more cameras of two other conference attendants who began to photograph the incident. The officer did give a warning to one of the photographers who was photographing immediately before taking his camera, but no warning was given to Mr. Langelle or the other photographer. The officer arrived to the security office with no less than 3 cameras he had confiscated (these were shortly returned).

As I was being informed of my expulsion from the conference. I commented to UNFCCC official Warren Waetford on the surprisingly aggressive attitude of the officer – considering there was absolutely no aggression besides his own. (I had been walking calmly behind him as I am sure he will acknowledge.) I recommended to Mr. Waetford that this unprovoked act of aggression be addressed, and would like to reiterate that recommendation now to the UNFCCC secretariat, and formally.

I also asked why any security officer had the right to confiscate cameras at will, and was informed that UNFCCC Security Officers have the right not to be photographed, but are required to ask photographers to stop photographing, and only if the photographer refused could the officer confiscate their cameras. In the case of Mr. Langelle and another unnamed photographer, no warning was given.

Finally, I would like to comment on the official response issued by the UN regarding this incident. It stated: “Our investigations indicate that it was necessary to clear a passage within the conference center that was being obstructed, in the interest of the safety of all participants and in the interest of the smooth operation of the conference.  At no time was undue force applied in the exercise.” I would like to attest, as a witness to the incident, that this official statement is not true. If this statement derives from testaments by the arresting officer, then he has then both committed an act of violence and lied. No passage was blocked. It was the Security Guard who first approached Mr. Langelle because of his loud questioning, straying from the most direct path to the security office, and without any verbal warnings violently and aggressively took his camera. Undue force was very clearly applied.

I believe this incident should call into question the UNFCCC’s prohibition on documentation of its own security forces. As this case demonstrates – a clear violation both of the policy of giving warnings before confiscation of cameras, as well as an unwarranted act of violence, occurred. If we are denied even the freedom of press to protect ourselves against violence by armed officials inside a space under the jurisdiction of the United Nations, then the UN itself is complicit in the tyranny it was founded to confront.


Kevin Buckland

Barcelona, Spain

Comments Off on Another witness of UN security violence to photographer during Durban Climate Convention

Filed under Climate Change, Independent Media, Political Repression, UNFCCC

Artists Equipped With a Social Conscience: The Radical Camera

Note:  Photojournalism was born to tell the truth through images and flourished for years documenting the human condition and, to some degree, the environment (e.g. the Dust Bowl disaster of the 1930s).  Today, with few progressive magazines and newspapers, radical (getting to the root) photojournalism has taken a back seat to propaganda television stations, tabloids and snake oil salesmen on the radio.

You know the ones. Their purpose is to sell products and numb the collective mind; camouflaging and obfuscating reality in an attempt to keep people from having the information they need to make decisions based on fact.

An example is the lack of hard-hitting coverage by corporate media on the climate crisis.  Unfortunately the escalation of climate catastrophe is increasing even faster than was thought a year or two ago.  False solutions to climate change are touted by industry run media without real in-depth investigations.  But what the heck, the Super Bowl and the newest, slickest commercials are fast approaching, so why should corporate media worry the public with the truths of who gains in climate chaos?

The real beginnings and purpose of journalism was based on educating people with truth.  Truth is dangerous to the ruling class.

The following article is about photographers with a social conscience. It’s refreshing to see that the Jewish Museum in Manhattan is featuring this exhibit. -Orin Langelle for GJEP.

The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951


By KAREN ROSENBERG                 December 22, 2011

Cross-posted from The New York Times, Art & Design

One of many artistic casualties of the McCarthy-era blacklists was the Photo League, a New York school and salon for amateur and professional photographers.

"Shout Freedom" (1948) by Rosalie Gwathmey

Progressive in its politics and uncompromising in its aesthetics, the league was the place to be if you had a hand-held 35-millimeter camera and a left-leaning social conscience — and particularly if you believed, to borrow a bit of contemporary parlance, that photography was fine art for the 99 percent.

Marvin E. Newman's "Halloween, South Side," from 1951

Its members — among them Berenice Abbott, Aaron Siskind and Weegee — are now reunited in “The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League 1936-1951” at the Jewish Museum. This stirring show traces the group’s history through some 145 vintage photographs.

A collaboration between the Jewish Museum and the Columbus Museum of Art, which both have extensive holdings of Photo League work, “Radical Camera” was organized by the team of Mason Klein (from the Jewish Museum) and Catherine Evans (from the Columbus Museum).

Jerome Liebling's photograph "May Day," from 1948

The exhibition is, in some ways, as unwieldy as its subject. The curators have a lot to say about documentary photography in general, which went through a kind of growth spurt between the Depression and the Cold War, nurtured by an explosion of photojournalism in magazines like Life and Look.

They deserve a lot of credit, though, for capturing the breadth and spirit of the league. There are some big names in “Radical Camera,” but the show’s best moments involve lesser-known talents like Lucy Ashjian, Jerome Liebling and Sid Grossman.

Morris Engel's "Harlem Merchant" (1937)

The Photo League had roots in the workers’ movement, though by the 1950s it was hardly the political center the blacklist made it out to be. The league evolved from an organization called Workers International Relief, founded in 1930, which produced an illustrated journal that was modeled on European Communist weeklies like The Worker’s Illustrated Newspaper.

By 1933 this coterie had started to focus on moviemaking and rechristened itself the Workers Film and Photo League, turning out Depression-era newsreels like the one excerpted at the beginning of “Radical Camera.”

Titled “Workers Newsreel Unemployment Special,” the film shows protesters gathering in Union Square to demand government assistance for the jobless. These timely visuals are accompanied by even timelier text: “In the richest country in the world, two billion dollars of relief for the bankers and industrialists … but no help for the unemployed.”

"Shoemaker's Lunch" (1944) by Bernard Cole

In 1936, the group’s photographers split off from its filmmakers, and the Photo League was born. But the social-documentary impulse of the group’s earlier incarnations remained; many early Photo League members modeled themselves on Lewis Hine and Paul Strand, represented in the show by Strand’s famous “Wall Street” (1915) and Hine’s heartstring-tugging shot of a Washington newsboy (1912).

Some, like Arthur Rothstein and Sid Grossman, traveled to the Dust Bowl to photograph its ravaged farming communities. But many others found plentiful subject matter close to home: in Lower East Side tenements, along the Third Avenue El and on Coney Island.

They brought empathy, but also humor, to their urban vignettes. In a shot by Eliot Elisofon, children scamper around an empty lot behind a sign that reads “WPA Cleaned This Area … Keep it Clean.” And in Morris Engel’s “Women on the Beach, Coney Island,” an ill-fitting bathing suit is front and center.

Sometimes they fell prey to stereotypes, as in the four-year group project “Harlem Document” (1936-40), spearheaded by Mr. Siskind and published in Look.” It provided ample, but often superficial, evidence of poverty and dangerous living conditions — for example in Jack Manning’s shot of fire escapes teeming with residents during an Elks Parade. Mr. Siskind later acknowledged: “Our study was definitely distorted. We didn’t give a complete picture of Harlem.”

Other Photo League efforts, though, reveal a deep connection to a neighborhood. In Walter Rosenblum’s look at life along Pitt Street on the Lower East Side (his own childhood haunt), you can tell that he identifies with the youngsters in his frame: the girl on a swing set under the Williamsburg Bridge, or the boys making chalk drawings in the shadows of tenements.

Rosenblum later went to work as a combat photographer, and the show includes one of his shots from Omaha Beach on D-Day. Back in New York, many of the League’s women found new opportunities — albeit temporary ones — during the war. A 1945 image by Ida Wyman, who became the first female photo printer at Acme Newspictures, shows the front of an Italian restaurant near her office; a sign reads “Ladies Invited.”

Elizabeth Timberman's "Easter Sunday" (1944)

By this point the league was a fully functioning school and exhibition space. It was also a social organization, a place where young men and women (many of them first-generation Jewish-Americans) could mingle at lectures and parties. It held popular “photo hunts,” sending members all over the city on wacky assignments, and fund-raisers called “Crazy Camera Balls.” (A cheerful flier for one of these reads, “Come dressed as your favorite photograph!”)

Just a few years later, though — on Dec. 5, 1947, to be precise — the league appeared on a list of organizations considered “totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive” by the United States Attorney General. It responded with an open letter and a 1948 retrospective exhibition, “This is the Photo League.” But it was dealt a fatal blow during a 1949 trial of alleged Communist Party officials, when a league member turned F.B.I. informant called the Photo League a Communist front and singled out its leading teacher, Sid Grossman, as a party recruiter.

Membership became too dangerous. Newspapers and magazines snubbed league-affiliated photographers; photojournalists couldn’t get passports. In 1951, the Photo League closed its doors.

Mr. Grossman fled to Provincetown, Mass. The photographs he made there, nearly abstract overhead shots of birds on water, make a rather depressing coda to “Radical Camera.” But the show’s overall message is an uplifting one, epitomized by Mr. Grossman’s earlier photograph “Coney Island” (1947): a boisterous, gang’s-all-here group portrait.

Related:  Lens Blog: 15 Years That Changed Photography (November 4, 2011)

“The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951” continues through March 25 at the Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, at 92nd Street, Manhattan; (212) 423-3200, thejewishmuseum.org.

A version of this review appeared in print on December 23, 2011, on page C29 of the New York edition with the headline: Artists Equipped With a Social Conscience.

Comments Off on Artists Equipped With a Social Conscience: The Radical Camera

Filed under Independent Media, Media, Political Repression

UN First Response: Formal Complaint Filed Against UN Security Actions in Durban

Last Friday I sent Elke Hoekstra (and posted on Climate Connections) a Formal Complaint Filed Against UN Security Actions in Durban. When I tried to file the complaint in person at the Media Centre while in Durban she asked me to send it via email to her and gave me her business card, which in part described her as: Elke Hoekstra-Team Assistant-Information Services.  Yesterday, when I received the following email, I noticed that her title has changed to: Communications & Knowledge Management.  Knowledge Management?  Ok then. -Orin Langelle.

from:  Elke Hoekstra ehoekstra@unfccc.int
to:  Langelle Photo <langelle.photo@gmail.com>
date:  Tue, Dec 20, 2011 at 4:36 AM
subject:  Re: Official Complaint to the UN Climate Change Secretariat by UN Accredited Journalist
mailed-by:  unfccc.int

Dear Mr. Langelle,

I would like to confirm receipt of your complaint.

We will look into this matter and come back to you in due course.

Kind regards,

Elke Hoekstra
Staff Assistant
Communications & Knowledge Management

Comments Off on UN First Response: Formal Complaint Filed Against UN Security Actions in Durban

Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, UNFCCC