A few days back I exchanged emails with the photographer Stephen Alvarez, who for the last fifteen years has shot for National Geographic. He suggested we take the conversation onto our blogs.
If you’re not aware of his work than I would say it is characterized by being both hard won and sublime:
He also writes a proper blog that I recommend you add to your readers list.
Its his pictures on the Sudan/Uganda border that have really caught my eye.
If you’ve hung out on duckrabbit for long enough you’ll know that I have an issue with a lot of black and white photography taken in Africa. The truth is in the dark continent you are much more likely to be blinded by the light then suffocated by the darkness.
Stephen’s answer to my question as to why he shot this work in black and white is both a technical and aesthetic one:
‘On my first trips working on this body of work I photographed in both color and black and white. I found the color to be too garish, too distracting for this particular story.’
Stephen’s vision of the border is compelling. I can see glimpses of the parts of Africa I love, just without the color. That’s very much his vision. But then I spotted another of his videos. Also shot in this part of the world. And here we turn to the Voice. Bang. Bang. It shoots you down.
Photographers celebrate the vision but I’m often most often moved by voice.
Fred Taban tells me more than half a dozen photo books focused on African poverty. His voice has soul.
People are a bit like music. You can look at stunning pictures of Hendrix burning his guitar. The pictures tell a great story but you’ve got to hear the sound to really understand.
Actually the real power is in the two brought together. Vision and Voice.
The power is because Fred is staring you out.
It’s a one on one experience and no-one is getting off the hook.
Amen to that.