Obituary: Photojournalist Alexandra Boulat, 45

Lately there’s a quiet a few well known photographer or people who had significant role played in the history of photography passed away. But on the symbolic level it represents an end of the era, whether you like it or not. However this one hits me particularly hard since she passed away at prime.

An statement passed out on Oct. 05 to the public about photojournalist Alexandra Boulat from VII passed away in the hospital in France. She had suffered from brain aneurysm back in June while photographing in Gaza and never recovered after surgery.

My condolences goes to Alexandra, her the family and her friends at VII Photos.

The Routy Genereation

Like many people who chose photography as their career once in a while he/she take a detour just to make the ends meet or just out of curiosity. I for one took this job for both reason – photographing high school students who are about to graduate in months time. It’s a seasonal job that pays OK but at the same time very demanding since in six hours time you have to shoot about 80-120 students…..meaning 5 minutes per student.

Stressful job aside, observing these young customers coming for their photographs that representing a crucial part of their lives are entirely different matter. As expected when these teens coming for being photographed for their grduation purpose they would dress formally. But then some of the dress these teens wearing are just down right irritating(specially girls – big pink dress and tiara – princess wanna be). Then there’s a whole phenomenon of just being teenagers – loud, routy, never take direction well, trashy talks, always left the mess behind and endless complaining – All signs of hermon still running high. These all take customer service as far as photographer’s end to another level which is more or less between service and prenting.

The most interesting with all thesse teenagers, however, is that they are reflecting a generation who grew up with the kind of pop culture in favour of glamour and self-destructive-like self expression(e.g. Hilton and Spears) which make all the ugly side of growing up as teenager much more visible. Adding to the problem most of the kids grew up here are from fairly well off family so in certain extend they are a bit spoiled.

Watching these kids running around the studio chaotically I wonder: what’s teens gonna be like generation to come?

Madeline McCann’s Case

Days before I returned back from France I was flipping channels in the hotel room in Paris. While most French channels were almost all focus on Rugby World Cup held in France this year the English Channels were almost focus on the news of a missing girl of the UK nationals disappeared in Portugal months back. The day when I was doing the channel flipping both CNN and BBC was doing live breaking news of the missing girl’s parents flying back to UK from Portugal after being named as ‘suspects’ by the Portuguese police(though because they’re not formally charged they can still travel freely).

Later on at night BBC ran a talk show program which several editors were invited to talk about issues happened in the news. The missing girl’s case, Madeline McCann, was one of the topic on the agenda. One of the editor thought the case has been sensationalized because of her background – a middle class white girl. She went on to say that there’s stack of missing black girls’ cases in or around London but rarely anyone talked about it.

On that note I am in full agreement with that editor’s comment. Major Medias(Primarily English speaking ones) is obsessing on Madeline’s case while ignoring the fact that there are many more cases out there which are far worse than this but always buried in the news because they didn’t grasp enough attention. In addition having devote so much air time just reporting on one missing girl’s case major medias in the way pushed aside other more important reports which should be aired.

By the way, Madeline’s case only mentioned briefly in the French news.

Perpignan

“Hey, you’re back, how was France?”

“Drink too much, smoke too much, and looking at way too many pictures of death and poverty.”

This is how I told friends and colleagues here in Vancouver when I got back from France attending Visa pour L’image in Perpignan. Though when I arrived the city I wasn’t in the mood of having a good time, specially having my luggage(with portfolio inside) lost at airport in Paris. Not to mention it was Sunday when I arrived Perpignan and didn’t realized most shops and buses don’t work in France. So after 2 hours of wandering with inadequate map I gave up and called the taxi to the hotel.

For the first few days when the festival kicked off I was mostly agonizing on how I get my work tobe seen without a portfolio and dying laptop which only contains low-res files. In the end I did showed someone and received a very constructive criticism out of it…..and by far the most constructive I ever received. The only regret is that my computer died before the Magnum photographers held a separate portfolio review during the festival.

As happened every year the organizers present a slide show at Campo Santo every night for a week and after the show most professionals gathered at a bar called La Poste for a drink. This is where I met most of my Italian friends and man…..aren’t they crazy…..but I really admire and respect their warm personality and their strong visual works. Of course La Poste is also the place to spot some of the established photogs and able to have few drink with them if 1. they ever show up in Perpignan and 2. if you don’t live near where they live.

To summed up…..a week in Perpignan for the Visa pour L’image is an very intense and overwhelming experience. But at the same time it’s an experience that’ll help you grow as a photojournalist because of the amount of information you obtain and amount of good photographs exhibited. On top of that, here is also a great place to extend your network of photo friends which you might need an assistance from or the other way around someday. Oh, and don’t forget editors and agencies from around the world where you talked to too.

By the way, I already decide I’m coming back next year(and making sure my portfolio is with me) and because next year is the 20th anniversary I expect things going to be quite interesting.

Airport Fiasco: YVR -> DUS -> CDG

“Honey, have a safe trip, and be sure to call back home when you get there, ok?”

“Sure thing”

This is the last verbal contact when I left Vancouver on August 31st with my wife. What happened in the next 10 days was an epic journey that are so dramatic it almost felt like I’m a new person when I returned home.

I left Vancouver to Europe on August 31st to attend Visa pour L’image, photojournalism festival held in southern French town of Perpignan. This is not only the first time I attend the festival but first time to set a foot on Europe ever. But the journey has a rough start. Once I said farewell to my wife I noticed my flight schedule has been changed because of the delay. Of course it doesn’t affect me since I have to wait for about 8 hours in Dusseldorf, Germany for the transfer flights to Paris. So on to the check-in counter for baggage check in…..and little does I know this would be the last time I seen my luggage….

The agonizing 7 hours wandering and waiting at Dusseldorf airport is a both pleasant and overwhelming experience. Pleasant because this particular airport offers a variety of shops and special interest facilities for people to enjoy – from luxury goods to electronics to open air observation deck if you want to view the entire airport. I even happen to stumble upon a model shop specialize in model planes. In addition if you’re a smoker and happen to transfer flights in Dusseldorf then you’re in heaven because you can smoke almost anywhere you want inside the building. But as much as this is a pleasant place to wait for the flight 7 hours is just too much. Not to mention Europeans are not as well mannered on the public places as many people would imagine.

So, after 7 long painful hours I finally got on a flights to Paris. First impression after arriving at the airport was that it feels like a dungeon. Then the lost luggage drama. Then dealing with the lady at service counter for the lost luggage, which is by far the most ‘straight forward’ attitude I ever encounter…..well, I guess I could say very ‘French’.

I still haven’t found my luggage yet which contains my portfolio, clothes, shoes and other accessories. But thank god I carried my cameras, computer and cash with me at the time which kept me moved on with my journey. Otherwise I would probably still stuck in Paris freaking out……

The Grey Summer

Vancouver along with northwest region is known for its beautiful sceneries and depressing rains(that is if you live here). But between June and early September sun usually shines high above with relatively few or no clouds most of the time. This summer, however, things are a bit different.

When the summer officially kicked in I was sort of expecting warm summer with high UV rating like any other summer. What I encountered for last three months are frequent overcasts and few drops of rains occasionally. In some cases thunder storm took place. Of course above normal wet weathers wasn’t all that bad – Forest fire dropped down significantly this year compare to the data shown 2 years back.

Else where in the world seems to be experiencing the same wet weather phenomenon this summer – extensive rain caused severe flooding in many parts of US as well as Asia. New York’s subway was even disrupted due to the thunder storm.

Sign of global warming? Certainly looks like it. But as far as this region goes I won’t jump into the conclusion about this year’s abnormal summer until scientific result come out.

That Fallen Green

Woke up early than usual after having trouble sleeping last night – Something happen once in a while when the weather changes. So, drag my exhausted but restless body to the coffee maker and then turned on the TV. What came to me next is bunch of red and green numbers. As I read through all my sleepiness turned into amusement – TSX down over 600 points (Of course by the closing time was went back up so it ended down 200 points).

The current stock frenzy has relate to the collapsing of sublime loan in the US, which directly caused the confidence of many people globally. It was something my family foresaw while we were still live in the US. The cause is simple – financial institutions lent out too many loans to home buyers, including ones whose financial background is not so healthy and when borrowers couldn’t pay the interest they defaulted. Institutions then sensed the alarm and tighten the restriction and next thing we know domino effect started to occur.

Well, thank god my family sold the house in the US and thank god my investment in the US liquidated right before all these happened. But what I really feel lucky is the fact that I don’t have any investment in stock just yet, or else I would really get heart attack….he.