Lucky day for blog readers. Every month or so I google various photographers I know and like to catch up with their work. While looking for D.C. photographer Hector Emanuel, I came across an entry about him on Verve Photo – a documentary photography blog by Geoffrey Hiller.

Hector joins 23 other NPPA members who have been highlighted by Hiller. To date, over 200 photographers have been profiled. A new post every other day. What makes his blog unique is the combination of a biography and a statement by the photographer about the selected image. From a photo editor perspective, such a combo is ideal. Facts with personality.

As a nod to the Verve Photo blog format, I asked Geoffrey to send me one of his photos with a statement. I also asked him five questions about his motivation to start Verve.

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Geoffrey Hiller is recently home after a nine month stay in Bangladesh teaching and researching for a Fulbright project. To read about his experience go to Bangladesh Blog-Photographs and notes from Dhaka and beyond. For thirty years he has traveled across continents and to many cultures to capture ordinary moments that give life meaning. He has won awards from Apple, CNET, and USA Today and received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council.

In 2008, Hiller started a blog called ‘Verve Photo: A New Breed of Documentary Photographers’ to feature photos and interviews by the finest young image makers today. Verve is a reminder of the power of the still image. Verve will also point you to new photo agencies, publications and inspiring multimedia projects.

Tea Stall, Dhaka Bangladesh, 2008

About the Photograph:
“I arrived Dhaka, Bangladesh shortly after the month of Ramadan when most of the restaurants and food stalls are closed during the day. The majority of Bangladeshi’s don’t even drink water during this time. The few that partake of food do so undercover of the cloth hanging in front of the few tea stalls that remain open for business. As soon as the sun sets there is a mad rush for the evening call to prayer followed by Iftar- the traditional meal that Muslims eat to break their fast.”

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What was your motivation to not just start Verve but to use the tag line “A New Breed of Documentary Photographers.”
I began to notice that there were an increasing number of young photographers, mainly Americans but I’m sure from other countries as well, based outside of the USA. Photographers who have made a commitment to live in other parts of the world closer to where they were working. For example Istanbul is home to a number of American photographers who located there to have better access to stories in the mid-east. Others have re-located to India and China for obvious reasons.  Another advantage are the economic factors. It’s a less expensive to live in Bangkok compared to Brooklyn. I began to think of them as the “new breed.”

The other reason was my belief in the power of the still image. I’m very involved and excited about new forms of multimedia story telling but during 2007-2008 felt that some of the hype (look at where it led us) at the same time distracted us from our work as still photographers. I think this is more of an American phenomenon. European photographers still seem to be more grounded in the tradition of documentary image making.

When did you start Verve and why did you pick the first photographer to profile?
I began Verve in March 2008. The first photographer I profiled was Shiho Fukada. An outstanding photographer who recently relocated from New York and is currently based in Beijing. Her color work resonated for me. It’s full of emotion.

How do you find or select photographers? By submission or research? Since the Region 1 is in New England – I’d be curious how you came across Yoon S. Byun of the Boston Globe.
I look at a lot of work online and often one link leads to another. For example sites like Reportage by Getty feature work by many photographers in the early stage of their careers.

I discovered Yoon from the collective Aevum. I liked his personal style and commitment to his subjects.

Digital cameras have gone global. More people and cultures are familiar with the gear and cognizant of the purpose and power of photographs. Does that democratization of photography help documentary photographers get closer to subjects more quickly? or are subjects more apprehensive? Or perhaps building trust transcends technology.
It really depends on the country. Bangladesh is an interesting example. Many of the people on the street insisted on photographing me with their cell phones. After all that was only fair. Of course cultural issues play a very large part. Often one goes into these situations and the exact opposite is often the case.

On another level, not having to buy film has allowed young photographers in the “developing” world to pursue careers in photography. In the past that was a huge barrier for people who wanted to become photographers. The medium has definitely become more democratic and that is a good thing.

What is your goal for Verve in the future?

My main goal is to share my love of photography. I’m  planning a  re-design of Verve Photo this summer. Besides a place to find inspiring work the site is used as a resource by photo-editors and art directors from major publications- some photographers have sold work and have gotten assignments as a result of being showcased.  Verve photo is labor intensive in the sense that I first contact each photographer and get their permission- edit an image of theirs and request that they write something about it. It’s a time consuming process and I plan to soon recruit an intern to help with it all.

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Yes indeed, a good day to read the blog.

-Sarah Evans



2 Responses to “VERVE PHOTO: A new breed of documentary photographers”

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