Makers and Takers: Matthew Craig on Photojournalism in North Africa

April 28, 2011

Matthew Craig is a photographer, editor and one of the founding members of the MJR photo collective. With Julien Jourdes, he co-curated REVOLUCION(ES), an exhibition of work about the recent political revolutions across North Africa. The show will exhibit work from FADER contributor Guy Martin along with Samuel Aranda, Michael Christopher Brown, David Degner, Bryan Denton, Mathias Depardon, Gabriele Micalizzi, Katie Orlinsky, Andy Rocchelli, Luca Santese, Gabriele Stabile, Nicole Tung and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova. We talked with Craig about how new technology is enabling storytelling in photojournalism and the dedication of young photographers working in conflict zones. REVOLUCION(ES) opens tonight at Instituto Cervantes on 49th street in Manhattan. The show will be up until May 5th.
When did your conversation with Julien start and how did this show eventually come together? What kinds of images did you see and what are you seeing image wise coming out of these revolutions as they continue to spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa? Julien and I have worked together for years and each news event brings in a flood of images, no matter where the news is breaking. We have been blessed to work with so many talented young shooters. The revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya were widely covered by many photographers we admire. Julien was approached by Instituto Cervantes to put on a spring show. Exhibiting work from the revolutions in North Africa was a perfect fit—we wanted to curate a show that was topical and fresh in the minds of our audience.

How has technology affected the image making process in the work you've chosen for the show? How is the ability to transmit images via satellite and the availability of new devices to shoot with compelling, not just formally, but as a marker of what photography is now? Technology is making it possible to tell more stories than ever before. The proliferation of satellite communication, the web, digital cameras—it all plays a part in enabling more journalists to get on the scene and start transmitting news to the public.  A large portion of the work in our show was transmitted from the field, which presented an obvious set of problems, but in the end allowed us to represent the story as it is now - not as it was months ago. I think it is important for photojournalism to reach an audience while they are thinking about a topic as opposed to presenting a collection of images well after the sell-by date in hopes of stimulating interest. Michael Brown's installation of iPhone work is a stunner. We have a grid of 25 of his images that towers fifteen feet up a wall. I cannot imagine working in that format, but certainly commend him on delivering an incredibly sophisticated set of images with such a limited tool. Photographers have been targeted by angry mobs, police and military throughout the revolutions so I can understand why he would choose to shoot with the phone. The level of access it allows and breaking down the barrier between photographer and subject is a definite bonus to working with a small camera.
What do you hope this show will communicate to the people who see it, particularly the viewer who is possibly less aware of the revolution and its implications globally? I want people to come to the show and take their time looking into the faces of people who are fighting for a better future. We produced a limited edition poster featuring four images from the show on one side and a map of the region, a timeline of events, and testimonials from photographers in the field on the other side. I hope this will further strengthen your understanding of what happened, how the revolutions were linked together, and where the region is headed. I also would like people to acknowledge the efforts of young photographers working in conflict zones and recognize their dedication to telling these stories. There are many challenges to producing great photojournalism but photographers continue to cover these stories and I hope this show reflects our dedication to the craft.

Posted: April 28, 2011
Makers and Takers: Matthew Craig on Photojournalism in North Africa