The damage in the haevily bombed Shejaiya neighborhood. Gaza City, Aug. 13.
Gaza. The damage in the heavily bombed Shejaiya neighborhood. Gaza City, August 13th 2014.Paolo Pellegrin—Magnum
The damage in the haevily bombed Shejaiya neighborhood. Gaza City, Aug. 13.
ISRAEL. Jerusalem. August 7, 2014. Khaled Mraheel, 6 years old.
Gaza. The funeral of Ahmed al-Masri, 14, who was on his way to a health clinic when he was killed in a drone strike. Four others were injured in the attack. Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, August 9th 2014.
ISRAEL. Jerusalem. August 5, 2014. The funeral of Avraham Walz, 29, killed in an attack earlier that day by a Palestinian in a stolen digger.  Six Israelis were injured and the assailant, identified as Muhammed Naif el-Jaíabis.  Walz was a member of Toldos Aharon, a strongly Anti-Zionist Hasidic movement.
Gaza. Rescuers looking for survivors and bodies at the Qassam Mosque. The bodies of four men were extracted from the site after hours of searching. Neuseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, August 9th 2014.
ISRAEL. Netivot. August 4, 2014. Children in a bomb shelter during Operation Protective Edge.  Since 1991, houses have been mandated to be built with bomb shelters, but in the older neighborhoods communal bomb shelters are still in use.  During the war against Gaza, the elderly and the young often spent their days in the shelters while their parents went to their jobs.
In 2011, I visited a family I had met a few years earlier in a village on the southern edge of the desert. I took pictures as we gathered around the table for lunch. When I returned with the print later that year, we again sat down in front of plates of fruit, this time to draw. 2011
I sat down with two young women Ð an art teacher and a recent college graduate Ð in a busy restaurant in Urumqi, the capitol of Xinjiang, near the end of my last trip there. The college grad flipped through my stack of photos and picked out a picture of a line of men praying in a cemetery. "It reminds me to appreciate life and thank Allah for giving me a beautiful life and my family,Ó she told me. ÒNo matter whether we are rich or poor, when we die we are all same." She cut out the men and arranged them in a new scene depicting wedding traditions. 2013
At a secretly arranged meeting, one man described in a hushed voice how he had been tortured by police. They were trying to track down his son, who had fled to the mountains after the Urumqi riots in 2009. When the interview finished, I took out my box of prints and asked the group of men if they knew the story Wild Pigeon. Yes. One of them selected this image from my stack, and they took turns drawing on it. 2011
Caption forthcoming.
Eric Gweah, 25, grieves as he watches members of a Red Cross burial team carry the body his father, Ofori Gweah, 62, a suspected Ebola victim, in a riverside area called Rock Spring Valley in central Monrovia, Liberia.
A Liberian Red Cross burial team remove the body of a suspected Ebola victim from a home in Monrovia, Liberia.
Health workers enter the high-risk zone as they make the morning rounds at the Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit, in Sgt. Kollie Town near Gbarnga.
A burial team in protective clothing removes the body an Ebola victim from an isolation ward in Monrovia, Liberia.
Isatu Sesay, 16, an Ebola victim, on a foam mattress writhing in pain in Kissi Town, Sierra Leone.
Gaza. The damage in the heavily bombed Shejaiya neighborhood. Gaza City, August 13th 2014.
Paolo Pellegrin—Magnum
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Ways of Seeing: The Contemporary Photo Essay

Jan 01, 2015

Whether through digital channels, print or on exhibit, the impact, influence and reach of the still image has never been greater. But with so many images fighting for our attention, how do photographers make work that most effectively stands out and connects with an audience. In this seven-part series, TIME looks back over the past 12 months to identify some of the ways of seeing—whether conceptually, aesthetically or through dissemination—that have grabbed our attention and been influential in maintaining photography's relevance in an ever shifting environment, media landscape, and culture now ruled by images.

The Contemporary Photo Essay

We live in an age where the volume of photographic output has never been greater. Yet the propensity is for images to be conceived, received digested and regurgitated in an isolated, singular form—and without further context. Against this backdrop, a generation of committed photographers are working passionately to iterate on, and further develop the traditions for long form story telling, and in so doing, draw attention to their subject matter through new powerful, innovative and resourceful ways.

On Aug. 31 this year, the New York Times Magazine published a photo essay that interweaved the images of two Magnum photographers working on each side of the Israeli, Palestinian conflict—Paolo Pellegrin (in Gaza) and Peter van Agtmael (in Israel). The essay was not only a creative and effective way of balancing a delicate and sensitive story, it was also, as Editor-in-Chief Jake Silverstein explained in a note about the project, conceived in part as a reaction to “the prevalence of cellphone cameras and social media [that had] led to many more images of Gaza than in previous iterations of this long-running conflict."

"As powerful as these photos were," he wrote, “the speed and fervor of their dissemination tended to bring them to us isolated from context.” The Times Magazine story was a considered attempt to have Pellegrin and van Agtmael slow things down and in Silversteins words “try to capture a deeper and more narrative sense of the texture of life on the ground." The resultant essay, that intentionally combines two aesthetically different bodies of work emphasizes “that the fates of average Israelis and Palestinians are intertwined.”

Photographer Matt Black has subverted the prevalent philosophy of Instagram for his project The Geography of Poverty. Although using Instagram as one of the primary platforms for the work, Black has maintained a thematic and aesthetic cohesion to produce a dedicated feed—devoid of distraction or interference—that builds image by image, to deliver an investigation on poverty that is essayistic and closer to that of a traditional photo essay. On the website—exclusively dedicated to the project—Black explores the potential of geo-tagging to extend the project and map the images (for this project, Black was selected as TIME's Instagram Photographer of the Year in 2014)

Photographers such as Diana Markosian with her work made in Beslan, Russia and Carolyn Drake in Turkistan have embraced different types of media and photographic approaches--including still life, documentary, portraiture as well as writing and drawing. They have also actively encouraged their subjects to contribute to the artistic process and tell their own stories through notated recollections narratives and artwork, which is at times directly applied to the photographic print. As Drake says of her project Wild Pigeon that documents the lives of the Uyghur people: “I started looking for meaning at the intersection of our views, and find ways to bring the people I was meeting into the creative process. Traveling with a box of prints, a pair of scissors, a container of glue, colored pencils, and a sketchbook, I asked willing collaborators to draw on, re-assemble, and use their own tools on my photographs. I hoped that the new images would bring Uyghur perspectives into the work and facilitate a new kind of dialogue with the people I met, one that was face-to-face and tactile, if mostly without words.”

In Ukraine a generation of young, predominantly European, freelance photographers including Maria Turchenkova, Ross McDonnell and Capucine Granier-Deferre committed themselves to documenting the searing violence and the disquieting consequences of the year-long conflict—building long-term photo essays that contextualize news events through more in-depth and nuanced perspectives.

One of the most important and powerful bodies of work was produced by Daniel Berehulak, who spent more than 14 weeks covering the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. His work, made on assignment for The New York Times, shows that long-term commitment to a story can reap astounding returns. And a powerful continuum of work, can raise awareness and deeply affect its audience.

In an age when we're saturated with an omnivorous barrage of distracting and singular imagery, there is still a role for subtleties embodied within the traditions of long form storytelling. Through innovative, full screen photo-centric web designs and effective digital dissemination, these photo essays are drawing our attention—in different and often more meaningful ways—to important issues that we otherwise would ignore or at best feel we had seen too many times before.

Read Part 1 - Direct to Audience.

Read Part 2 - Documentary Still Life.

Read Part 3 - The Portrait Series.

Read Part 5 - From Stills to Motion.

Phil Bicker is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME

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