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Posts Tagged ‘documentary photography

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”*…

Staying yesterday’s agribusiness theme: George Monbiot on the extraordinary challenges facing the world’s food system…

For the past few years, scientists have been frantically sounding an alarm that governments refuse to hear: the global food system is beginning to look like the global financial system in the run-up to 2008.

While financial collapse would have been devastating to human welfare, food system collapse doesn’t bear thinking about. Yet the evidence that something is going badly wrong has been escalating rapidly. The current surge in food prices looks like the latest sign of systemic instability.

Many people assume that the food crisis was caused by a combination of the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine. While these are important factors, they aggravate an underlying problem. For years, it looked as if hunger was heading for extinction. The number of undernourished people fell from 811 million in 2005 to 607 million in 2014. But in 2015, the trend began to turn. Hunger has been rising ever since: to 650 million in 2019, and back to 811 million in 2020. This year is likely to be much worse.

Now brace yourself for the really bad news: this has happened at a time of great abundance. Global food production has been rising steadily for more than half a century, comfortably beating population growth. Last year, the global wheat harvest was bigger than ever. Astoundingly, the number of undernourished people began to rise just as world food prices began to fall. In 2014, when fewer people were hungry than at any time since, the global food price index stood at 115 points. In 2015, it fell to 93, and remained below 100 until 2021.

Only in the past two years has it surged. The rise in food prices is now a major driver of inflation, which reached 9% in the UK last month. [Current estimates are that it will be 9% in the U.S. as well.] Food is becoming unaffordable even to many people in rich nations. The impact in poorer countries is much worse.

So what has been going on?…

Spoiler alert: massive food producers hold too much power – and regulators scarcely understand what is happening. Sound familiar? “The banks collapsed in 2008 – and our food system is about to do the same,” from @GeorgeMonbiot in @guardian. Eminently worth reading in full.

Then iris out and consider how agricultural land is used: “Half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture.”

… and consider the balance between agriculture aimed at producing food directly and agriculture aimed at producing feed and fuel: “Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare.”

Hélder Câmara

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As we secure sustenance, we might send carefully-observed birthday greetings to Dorothea Lange; she was born on this date in 1885. A photographer and photojournalist, she is best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange’s photographs influenced the development of documentary photography and humanized the consequences of the Great Depression.

Lange’s iconic 1936 photograph of Florence Owens Thompson, Migrant Mother [source]
Lange in 1936 [source]

“Altering life by holding it still”*…

 

The first of a series of multimedia essays on photography and photojournalism; quoth Leica…

Building on their shared history, Magnum and Leica agreed to collaborate on a series of projects that continue their longstanding dedication to independent documentary photography. Beginning in the spring of 2011, Leica will sponsor the creation of a series of independently-produced multimedia essays that will highlight the personal journeys and insatiable curiosity of Magnum photographers. The stories will be published at the homepages of Magnum Photos, LFI Magazine, and Leica.

And for readers who are inspired, some riveting advice from the extraordinary Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, the photo-documentarian of the underside of New York life in the 30s, 40s, and 50s…

* “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still”- Dorothea Lange

 

As we adjust our f-stops, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that player-manager Mel Ott of the (then New York) Giants hit his 511th and final career home run.  Ott, the first National League player to hit 500 home runs, managed the Giants from 1942-48, during which stretch the Giant’s best finish was 3rd place.  It was in refeence to Ott’s easy-going stewardship of the Giants that then-Dodgers manager Leo Durocher made his oft-quoted (albeit somewhat out-of-context) remark, “Nice guys finish last!”

Baseball card on which Ott struck an uncharacteristically-fierce pose (source)

 

 

Desk Jobs…

Bihar, India. Sushma Prasad (b. 1962) is an assistant clerk at the Cabinet Secretary of the State of Bihar (population 83 million) in The Old Secretariat in the state capital, Patna. She was hired “on compassionate grounds” because of the death of her husband, who until 1997 worked in the same department. Monthly salary: 5,000 rupees ($110, euro 100).

Bureaucratics is a project consisting of a book (ISBN 978-1-59005-232-7) and exhibition containing 50 photographs, the product of an anarchist’s heart, a historian’s mind and an artist’s eye. It is a comparative photographic study of the culture, rituals and symbols of state civil administrations and its servants in eight countries on five continents, selected on the basis of political, historical and cultural considerations: Bolivia, China, France, India, Liberia, Russia, the United States, and Yemen. In each country, I visited up to hundreds of offices of members of the executive in different services and at different levels. The visits were unannounced and the accompanying writer, Will Tinnemans, by interviewing kept the employees from tidying up or clearing the office. That way, the photos show what a local citizen would be confronted with when entering.

– Dutch documentary photographer Jan Banning

China. Qu Shao Feng (b. 1964) is chief general of Jining Public Security Bureau Division of Aliens and Exit-Entry Administration in Jining City, Shandong province. Monthly salary: 3,100 renminbi ($384, 286 euro).

USA, Texas. Jessie Wolf (b. 1952), a former professional football player for the Miami Dolphins, is now sheriff of Tyler County (some 20,000 inhabitants), Texas, based in Woodville, the county seat. Monthly salary: $ 3,417 (2,542 euro).

Yemen. Alham Abdulwaze Nuzeli (b. 1982) works at the regional office of the Ministry of Tithing and Alms in the city of Al-Mahwit, Al-Mahwit governorate. Monthly salary: 12,000 rial ($67, euro 46). Behind her a portrait of president Saleh of Yemen.

Continue the tour through dozens more photos at Jan Banning’s “Bureaucractics.”

[TotH to Flavorwire]

 

As we feel the need of a coffee break, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduced America’s first astronauts to the press: Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., and Donald Slayton. The seven men, all military test pilots, were selected from a group of 32 candidates to take part in Project Mercury, America’s first manned space program.

After they were announced, the “Mercury Seven” became overnight celebrities. But the Mercury Project suffered some early setbacks; and on April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in the world’s first manned space flight. Less than one month later, on May 5, astronaut Alan Shepard was successfully launched into space on a suborbital flight. Then on February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.  NASA continued to trail the Soviets in the space race until the late 1960s, when NASA’s Apollo program put the first men on the moon and safely returned them to Earth.

The gentlemen with The Right Stuff (source: NASA)

 

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