Anyone who is even remotely interested in photojournalism knows that it's sadly an endangered profession. The people who brought us some of the most striking images of war, social upheaval, ecology disasters or remote civilizations can often no longer make a living doing it.
The Arab Spring and the conflict in Lybia was a turning point: stories abound of freelance photojournalist who covered these events and risked their lives to bring back striking visual representation of what was happening on the ground only to discover that... they couldn't sell them. Newspapers preferred paying a few bucks for shoddy mobile phone pictures than for quality photographies of the events.
To me this is a real concern. The work of photojournalists cannot be reduced to being at the right place at the right time and pressing the button. There's a lot of preparation that goes into a project, it involves understanding the dynamics of the events covered, the forces in presence, the key people and factions. If you don't understand what I mean, you could do worse than read The Photographer
, a gripping graphic novel that tells the story of a photojournalist in Afghanistan in the 80s. But that'll be the topic for another review.
A while ago, my wife bought me the first issue of 6 Mois
, a French photojournalism magazine. Calling it magazine doesn't actually do it justice, it's a 352 page square bound book, glossy and in full color, and it's chock full of the most down to earth and wonderful photos I've seen in a long time. The editors describe it as a magazine because they will publish it every six months (hence 6 mois) but for all intents and purposes it's a book with an editorial line.
Let's be clear, this is no artsy photography. Everything is raw, as close to reality as photography lets you. There's no smoothing of images, garish colors or HDR. This is a window into reality and although I know and have never thought that photography (or any medium for that matter) could accurately represent reality, the type of photos that you see in there at least suggest a glimpse of the real life of its subjects.
This first issue has an underlying theme around China. It features series on the migrants from rural china manufacturing jeans in large industrial cities, on the reemergence of concubines in the Chinese middle class, and a fascinating outlook on the Chinese neo-colonisation of Africa (the term is mine, by the way, there's no political undertone in the magazine). It also features a gripping 25 year project in which photographer Darcy Padilla followed the life of a woman with AIDS from the first shoot when she was 19 with her first child to the last, a few days before she breathed her last 25 years later.
I can't list everything in there of course, it's huge and chock-full of interesting stuff. I will however mention one unexpected pleasure, the reproductions of Prokudin-Gorskii's color photographs of Tsarist Russia. I had seen and marveled at these photos online, but seeing them in print was all the more powerful.
As the more perceptive of you will have noticed, 6 Mois is a French publication, in French. How much would you miss by purchasing it if you don't speak French ? You'd miss some. There are interviews, context and legends below the photographs, and all are interesting and add to the overall quality. However, I do believe the book can be fulfilling on the basis of the pictures alone (otherwise I would not have reviewed it here).
is likely the best photography book I own. I revisit it on a regular basis, and strongly recommend it. I also have issue 2 which I will review separately and will subscribe to get all future issues.