Monday, May 31, 2021

Tony Vaccaro, who photographed World War II in Europe describes 6 of his photos that reveal the 'insanity of war'

 Via Business Insider

Memorial Day, May 31, 2021

photo of dead solding in WWII
A dead GI in Germany's Hurtgen Forest in 1944. 
Tony Vaccaro/Tony Vaccaro Studio

Michelantonio "Tony" Vaccaro wanted to serve his country with a camera during World War II, so he tried to join the US Army Signal Corps. But under Uncle Sam's rules, the 20-year-old draftee was too young for that branch.

So Vaccaro, the orphaned son of Italian immigrants, became a private first class in the 83rd Infantry Division. By June 1944, days after the first wave of 156,000 Allied troops descended on the beaches of Normandy, Vaccaro landed on Omaha Beach, where he saw row after row of dead soldiers in the sand.

Vaccaro was armed with an M1 rifle. He also brought along his personal camera: A relatively compact Argus C3 he'd purchased secondhand for $47.50 and had become fond of using as a high-school student in New York.

In addition to fighting on the front lines during the Battle of Normandy and the ensuing Allied advance, Vaccaro photographed what he was seeing. At night, he'd develop rolls of film, mixing chemicals in helmets borrowed from fellow soldiers. He'd hang the wet negatives on tree branches to dry and then carry them with him.

When he had enough to fill a package, he'd generally mail them home to his sisters in the US for safekeeping and to ensure the images would survive even if he did not.

Then-GI Tony Vaccaro on the wing of a B-17 Bomber in 1944.

                                Then-GI Tony Vaccaro on the wing of a B-17 Bomber in 1944. 

Tony Vaccaro/Tony Vaccaro Studio

From 1944 to 1945, he moved through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.

Along the way, he took photographs that few others — even the press and Signal Corps photographers — were in a position to take: a fellow soldier's last step before shrapnel tore through him, a jubilant kiss between a GI and a young French girl in a newly liberated town, and many stomach-churning portraits of ransacked corpses that still haunt him.

During 272 days at war, he captured thousands of photos. After the Allied victory, he felt sickened and debilitated by the devastation he saw. He wasn't ready to return to the US. And he never wanted to photograph armed conflict again.

He bought a Jeep and traveled with his camera, eventually photographing brighter moments, like the reconstruction of Europe and the beauty in the lives of famous artists and everyday people.

Vaccaro went on to make a name as a fashion and culture photographer. He traveled the world shooting for magazines like Look and Life and taking portraits of bigwigs including John F. Kennedy, Pablo Picasso, Frank Lloyd Wright, Georgia O'Keeffe, and many more.

A half-century would pass before Vaccaro began publishing the bulk of his surviving wartime photos. The surviving images have been shared widely, including in the 2016 HBO documentary "Underfire: The Untold Story of PFC. Tony Vaccaro," in which Vaccaro revisits the history that he had to break Army rules to chronicle.

photo of Tony Vaccao in his studio

Tony Vaccaro. Manolo Salas/courtesy of Tony Vaccaro Studio

Vaccaro, now 98, survived a bout with COVID-19 last spring that put him in the hospital.

He continues roaming his neighborhood photographing everyday people and selling prints through Monroe Gallery of Photography. From his Queens, New York, studio more than seven decades after World War II, he closes his eyes and thinks of the brutality he documented as an infantryman.

"I see death," Vaccaro told Insider. "Death that should not happen."

Below, he describes six of his photos that he says capture "the insanity of war."

photo of dead soldir in snow

'White Death', Near Ottré, Belgium, January 1945.

Tony Vaccaro/Tony Vaccaro Studio

Vaccaro developed the roll containing this image while on leave in 1945. He remembers calling this photograph "Death In The Snow" at first, later deciding that "White Death" was a more "elegant" and fitting name to honor Pvt. Henry Tannenbaum's service and sacrifice. Tannenbaum was killed in action on January 11, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge.

"When I first took this photo of a GI dead in the snow, I was not aware of who he was. What I did was to chip the snow away and look for his right arm, because in those days, [on] the right arm we carried our dog tags. He was Pvt. Henry Irving Tannenbaum. He was one of the soldiers who fought there, just like me. We fought in the snow. He died in the snow. He was my friend. I knew he had a son. … Many years later I got a call from his son."

dead burned soldier in WWII

'Gott Mit Uns', Hürtgen Forest, Germany, 1944

The burned body of a German tank driver, as seen through Vaccaro's lens.

Tony Vaccaro/Tony Vaccaro Studio


"He's burning. This was frontline. You can smell him. We knocked out his German tank. We knocked it out, and he jumped out of there and fell dead in front of us. He was the pilot of this tank. Similar age [to me]. Here he's gone. … But [before the photograph] I heard him scream, 'Muter, muter.' He was calling for his mother."

"I took cover [by lying down next to him] and read his belt buckle: 'Gott mit uns.' … It means 'God is with us.' [Before the war] I had seen people that die and go to the church, and from church they go to the cemetery, like my father when I was four. This was a different death."

soldier hit by shrapnel in WWII

'Final Steps of Jack Rose', Ottré, Belgium, January 11, 1945.

Tony Vaccaro/Tony Vaccaro Studio

Vaccaro captured this image of a soldier he identifies as US Army Pvt. 1st Class Jack Rose of the 83rd Infantry Division, still upright, just after shrapnel from a mortar explosion severed his spine. The explosion, visible between Rose and the fence, threw Vaccaro back many feet. Rose, 23, was killed in action.

"That was Jack Rose. The last step. I was photographing him when this shell comes and explodes. He got killed there, in the village. … The shell could have come to me, too. I was lucky."

battlefield scene in Rhineland in WWII

'Rhineland Battle', Near Walternienburg, Germany, April 1945.

Tony Vaccaro/Tony Vaccaro Studio

Vaccaro says the streaking on some of his war photos comes from the grueling conditions he was in — he didn't have time to properly process and store his work in combat — and possibly from water damage due to a flood in the office where the images were stored after the war.

"We were going forward when a shell comes in, in the back, and explodes. This was Rhineland Battle. I was in a hole as the mortar exploded. I raised my arm up with the camera in my hand above the hole to catch this picture. If that shell had come 20 yards over, I was with these two [soldiers seen in the picture], and my hole was here, and if the shell came [where the two soldiers were or where Vaccaro was], I wouldn't be here talking today."

dead soldier in WWII

The Family Back Home', Hürtgen Forest, Germany, January 1945.

Tony Vaccaro/Tony Vaccaro Studio

When Vaccaro encountered this dead German soldier, it appeared that other American soldiers had already looted his valuables.

"This is a man who we killed in frontline [fighting]. … That was it. The family back home. A dead German soldier with the pictures he was carrying of his family. … Of course I had photos of my family too. … It reminds me of the tragedy of mankind. He's not a German. He's a human being."

"We just must stop using 'I'm Italian. I'm French. I'm Spanish. I'm German.' That's what makes us enemies of each other. We're all humans. In Spain. In Germany. It's a terrible mistake that man has made. We are humans. And nothing else."

Defeated German soldier returns home after WW!

'Defeated Soldier', Frankfurt, Germany, March 1947.

Tony Vaccaro/Tony Vaccaro Studio

Vaccaro captured this image after the war, while photographing the reconstruction of Europe for Stars.

"This man came back [from being a prisoner of war in the US]. He's crying. … He gave up. You see where his family had been. The war is over. He came back, and his house had been destroyed. That's why I call this the defeated soldier. He was German. … Later I was told that he lived here."

"The point is, you see, on this Earth there is only one species, one church. Unfortunately we take this one species and create hundreds and thousands of churches, and each one is different from the next. And that's why man is not attaining peace yet."

View the Tiny Vaccaro collection here

Watch the video "Tony Vaccaro at 98" here 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

A Year of Unprecedented Violence Against Journalists


Via Freedom of The Press Foundation

photo of press and police with text

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a project of Freedom of the Press Foundation and Committee to Protect Journalists, has published an overview of a truly remarkable year’s worth of press freedom violations during nationwide protests since the police killing of George Floyd. Building on individually reported accounts of every journalist assault, arrest, damaged equipment, or other press freedom violations, the Tracker aims to provide the definitive telling of the crackdown on journalists that emerged alongside the protests.

As reporters covered the movement, they were subjected to more than 150 arrests or detainments, 580 physical attacks, and 112 incidents of damaged equipment. The phenomenon peaked last summer and has continued into 2021, which has seen two dozen arrests or detainments, nearly three dozen physical attacks, and 9 incidents of damaged equipment.

“To say the past year was a historic chapter in the story of press freedom in the United States would be an understatement. I had to stop using the word ‘unprecedented’ even as we reported out case numbers that were unlike any we’d ever seen,” said U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s managing editor Kirstin McCudden. “But even after following each case as it developed, pulling together a full year of data paints a picture of American press freedom that is shocking and alarming.”

Follow the Tracker on Twitter at @uspresstracker

View Present Tense: A significant exhibition documenting recent extraordinary political, social, and economic events, including the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Photographers in the age of catastrophe

  Via Riga Photomonth

Online with Facebook Live

Monday, May 31, 2021 at 11 AM MDT

Riga Photomonth invites to a discussion with Tanvi Mishra (Caravan Magazine, India), Nina Berman (Noor Images, USA), Shiraz Grinbaum (Activestills collective, Israel), moderated by Karolina Gembara (Archive of Public Protests, Poland). The event will be held in English and broadcasted live on Facebook and Riga Photomonth web page.

“This is a war we don’t know,” said Anne Applebaum, a political writer, when describing Russian paramilitary activities in Eastern Ukraine in 2014. This war was slow, masked, intrusive, without spectacular actions and rapid victories, almost invisible, almost silent but persistent and insidious. It was something we have to learn and recognise, she added.

In 2021, this description could be used in reference to many problems the world is facing. Some catastrophes happen abruptly, but others drag and lurk: the rise of the far right, the dismantling of democracies, fake news, climate change. There are catastrophes so old, forgotten, and normalised that no one wants to hear about them any longer. 

Photographers, since the invention of the medium, have been present as witnesses. But their role is changing just like the nature of catastrophes has evolved. Even though capturing events will always be crucial, photographers also have to adapt by recognising tactics and premises, using images, animating, ‘being there’ with the communities instead of just photographing them. Today visual artists document protests and ‘post-photojournalistic’ photographers make art books; some run photography workshops for children in conflict-torn neighbourhoods. But can we say that photographers have embraced the social and ethical turn?

During the discussion we will look at the nature of different visual practises in the context of everyday catastrophes. Remembering Jo Spence’s words about photographers being always immersed in politics, we’ll reflect on their changing role in today’s world.

Monday, May 17, 2021



Black and white photo of 2 girts, the Brown sisters,  walking along railroad tracks

Linda Brown (L), the 10 years old, who was refused admission to white elementary school, and her 6-yr-old sister Terry Lynn walking along railroad tracks to bus which will take them to segregated Monroe Elementary School.

Carl Iwasaki's assignment for LIFE magazine was to photograph the Brown Sisters starting school during the time of the Brown vs. Board of Education trial. This essay ultimately was one of Iwasaki's most poignant and significant. The remarkable photograph of Linda Brown and her younger sister walking to school is one of the more iconic photographs representing the early civil rights struggles of the 1950s. Recently, Iwasaki, now 87, remarked about this photo, "I distinctly remember tagging along with Linda and her sister on their 20-minute walk to school. I spent two days on the assignment and recall that it seemed curious that there was virtually no other photo coverage of the Brown family. I had a hunch as I worked that I was covering a history-making story."

In this landmark court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous ruling that State-sanctioned segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the unanimous (9–0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

This historic decision marked the end of the "separate but equal" precedent set by the Supreme Court nearly 60 years earlier and served as a catalyst for expanding the civil rights movement during the decade of the 1950s and paved the way for significant opportunities for African Americans in our society—especially for equal justice, fairness and education.

Japanese-American Carl Iwasaki took up photography as a middle school student and began receiving assignments for the student newspaper and yearbook as he entered high school. His development, though, was interrupted when he and his family were forced into a prison camp in Wyoming by the War Relocation Authority. This arm of the government was designed to protect American soil during WWII from potentially dangerous Japanese infiltrators and locked thousands of people up for no other reason than their race.

While the experience was not a pleasant one, it did put Iwasaki in line for his first commission. Upon his release, in 1943, he was hired to take photographs for the WRA, chronicling life inside the camps and the relief experienced upon release. Working from Denver, he took over 1300 photographs for the project and gained enough on-the-job training to pursue a full-time photography career after the war. Iwasaki worked for Life, Time and Sports Illustrated, often drawn to stories about the marginalized and disenfranchised; his photos of the civil rights movement are some of the most affecting

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Reporters Committee’s 2020 Press Freedom Report

 Via Reporters Committee For Freedom of The Press

May 12, 2021

The fourth annual report reveals the startling extent of police violence against journalists during a year of protest.

Press Freedom Tracker 2020

In 2020, journalists and news organizations across the United States faced record numbers of physical attacks, arrests and cases of equipment damage, as well as many other press freedom violations, according to the Reporters Committee’s fourth annual report analyzing data from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

More than two dozen press freedom organizations, including the Reporters Committee, launched the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in 2017 to document threats against press freedom nationwide. The Reporters Committee analyzes the Tracker data each year to assess what it means for our pro bono work as the only national legal services organization focused on protecting the newsgathering rights of journalists.

The full 2020 report can be found at this link, but here are five key takeaways:

1. Police were responsible for the vast majority of attacks on journalists — and appeared to frequently target them at Black Lives Matter protests

Journalists faced a record 438 physical attacks last year, 91% of which occurred as they reported on the nationwide racial justice protests that erupted in response to the police murder of George Floyd. Law enforcement officers were responsible for 80% of the assaults at protests, affecting 324 journalists. At least 195 of these journalists appeared to be deliberately targeted by police.

Law enforcement officers assaulted reporters with tear gas, batons, pepper balls and rubber-coated bullets, among other weapons. In Oregon, the attacks continued even after a federal judge barred law enforcement from targeting journalists engaged in lawful newsgathering.

2. Journalists faced 15 times as many arrests as the previous year

Journalists were arrested or charged with a crime at least 139 times in 2020. All but 10 of these arrests occurred at Black Lives Matter protests. In many of these cases, the report found, journalists were engaged in lawful newsgathering and clearly identified themselves as members of the news media. A TV journalist for CNN was even handcuffed as he reported live, on-air. No journalists were convicted of a crime, but a reporter in Iowa was forced to stand trial to defend herself against criminal charges. A jury acquitted her in March 2021.

3. Subpoenas reported to the Tracker increased for the third consecutive year

In 2020, journalists again reported a record number of subpoenas (31) to the Tracker. State and local prosecutors subpoenaed journalists for their footage and photos or testimony related to their coverage of Black Lives Matter protests in at least four cases across the country.

Multiple journalists and news outlets also reported receiving subpoenas in relation to government leak investigations. The New York City Police Department subpoenaed two journalists’ records as part of its leak investigations in 2020, and the Department of Homeland Security unsuccessfully tried to subpoena BuzzFeed for information about a journalist’s source. These subpoenas echoed similar efforts by DHS, the Justice Department and San Francisco police in previous years.

4. Journalists were denied access to a wide range of traditionally open government events, often in apparent retaliation for their questions or coverage

The coronavirus pandemic forced large parts of the government’s work to go online. But much of this came at a cost to press access. The Tracker highlighted 11 of the most egregious times when members of the news media were denied access to “government events” that were traditionally open to or attended by the press.

State and local officials denied journalists access to daily court proceedings and a historic impeachment trial. They also deprived journalists of access to COVID-19 briefings and excluded them from media advisory lists in apparent retaliation for their coverage and questions, depriving the public of important information about the pandemic and other important issues.

5. Former President Donald Trump accelerated his attacks on journalists in his last year in office

Former President Trump tweeted a record 632 attacks on the press during his last year in office — the highest count of his term, according to the Tracker — up until Twitter permanently suspended his account due to the “risk of further incitement of violence” after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The former president’s chilling statements, some of which were repeated by state lawmakers, included mocking a reporter for being hit with a less-lethal munition, calling it a “beautiful sight.”

Monday, May 3, 2021

Anna Boyiazis "Finding Freedom in the Water on NPR Goats and Soda


Via NPR Goats and Soda

May 2, 2021

Color photograph of women floating in water

Kijini Primary School students learn to float, swim and perform rescues on Oct. 25, 2016, in the Indian Ocean at Muyuni, Zanzibar. "It was phenomenal to watch their facial expressions and body language shift from total fear and utter trepidation to peaceful, and then to what ultimately revealed itself as confidence and joy," says photographer Anna Boyiazis, who won one of this year's awards.

Anna Boyiazis

Girls learning how to swim in the Indian Ocean on Zanzibar's coast — a beautiful and calm image. It's also striking if you know the backstory: For these girls — who for years were prohibited from going in the water by their conservative Muslim culture — learning to swim is a revolutionary act. They are not only acquiring a potentially life-saving skill but also gaining access to a new space.

"It was phenomenal to watch their facial expressions and body language shift from total fear and utter trepidation to peaceful, and then to what ultimately revealed itself as confidence and joy," says photographer Anna Boyiazis, who was chosen as one of the Leica Women Foto Project winners for her work documenting the swimming lessons.

Woman in water with arms raised snapping fingers

Swim instructor Chema snaps her fingers as she disappears underwater on Dec. 28, 2016, in Nungwi, Zanzibar. "It was fulfilling to photograph alongside a group of women swim instructors who are supporting positive change for women and girls in the archipelago," says photographer Anna Boyiazis.

Anna Boyiazis

Finding Freedom in the Water

When Boyiazis first visited Zanzibar many years before she started this project, the local people told her, "Girls don't swim" — to which she replied, pointing to herself, "This one does!"

Years later, Boyiazis learned from a fellow journalist that a nonprofit organization called The Panje Project was teaching children in Zanzibar to swim in an effort to stop the high number of drownings. The organization helped break the "girls don't swim" taboo by providing burkinis — a swimsuit that covers the entire body except face, hands and feet — so the girls could be in the water while following their culture's dress code.

"It was fulfilling to photograph alongside a group of women swim instructors who are supporting positive change for women and girls in the archipelago," says Boyiazis.

A swim instructor helps a woman float in the water

A swim instructor named Siti, 24, helps a girl learn to float on Nov. 17, 2016. "By encouraging long-term cultural change — the acceptance of women learning to swim in an Islamic community — Anna Boyiazis's project Finding Freedom in the Water could literally save lives, said Leica photo contest judge and former National Geographic photo editor Elizabeth Krist.
Anna Boyiazis

"By encouraging long-term cultural change — the acceptance of women learning to swim in an Islamic community — Anna Boyiazis's project Finding Freedom in the Water could literally save lives, says Krist.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

World Press Freedom Day 2021


World Press Freedom Day 2021 graphic

3 May acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.


The Committee to Protect Journalists promotes press freedom worldwide

US Press Freedom Tracker

Police in Minnesota round up journalists covering protest, force them on the ground and take pictures of their faces

Journalists blinded, injured, arrested covering George Floyd protests nationwide

2020: The Year In Press Freedom: 10 Urgent Cases Of Journalism Under Attack