Dear <<First Name>>

“Not everybody can read a newspaper, magazine or book.  But everybody can read a photograph.  The most powerful weapon in the world has been and can be a photograph.  Military weapons can only destroy.” – Eddie Adams

Eddie Adams' photo of Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting a Viet Cong prisoner, Nguyen Van Lem, is considered one of the most influential images of the Vietnam War. Adams won a Pulitzer Prize for it.  It came to symbolize the brutality and anarchy of the war.  It galvanized growing sentiment in America about the futility of the fight - that the war was unwinnable.
While the image is horrific, the circumstances around that single frame are not told.  The story is more complex than the single image.  The South Vietnamese military had caught a suspected Viet Cong squad leader, Nguyen Van Lem, at the site of a mass grave of more than 30 civilians. Lem was believed to have murdered the wife and six children of one of Loan's colleagues. As Lem was frog marched through the streets to Loan's jeep, Adams began taking photos. Loan stood beside Lem before pointing his pistol at the prisoner's head. “If you hesitate, if you didn't do your duty, the men won't follow you," the general said about the suddenness of his actions. Loan played a crucial role during the first 72 hours of the Tet Offensive, galvanizing troops to prevent the fall of Saigon.  "He is a product of modern Vietnam and his time," Adams said in a dispatch from Vietnam. Loan would eventually immigrate to the United States but the power of that photo always hung over him, including causing immigration issues and harassment.

Adams would later say, “Two people died in that photograph. The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera."
He also said, "I would have rather been known more for the series of photographs I shot of 48 Vietnamese refugees who managed to sail to Thailand in a 30-foot boat, only to be towed back to the open seas by Thai marines." The photographs, and accompanying reports, helped persuade then President Jimmy Carter to grant asylum to the nearly 200,000 Vietnamese boat people. Adams turned those images into a photo-essay of which he said, "The Boat of No Smiles” photo essay did some good and nobody got hurt." His photography also included subjects such as homelessness, refugees, riots, celebrities, and politicians. 
Still photographs are powerful weapons that impact our perspectives and emotions.  However, photography by its nature is selective. It isolates a single moment, divorcing that moment from the moments before and after – and those moments outside the frame can lead to adjusting our understanding of what we see in the frame. In addition to what may have come before and after that photograph, photographers choose what to include and exclude in that rectangle we see as an image.  What is in and out of the singular frame is one of the distinguishing characteristics of photography.  That rectangular frame is what people believe is true; but photographs lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths of an isolated moment in the past.
And, that is something both the viewer and the responsible photographer have to keep in mind, when looking or taking pictures.

Cameras in the hands of photographers with hearts can capture Love-Hope-Passion- change lives and make the world a better place….and it only takes 1/500th of a second. Life goes on – we photograph it.  But, it’s much better with love” -- Eddie Adams

Behind the Scenes: Scarred Places and Single Image Challenges 
hat concept of a single frame -- what's in, what's out, what came before or after -- is an especially interesting “problem” when I am out shooting images for the Scarred Places project (a selection of images from that series is above). One of the challenges is how to use that simple single image of today to tell a historical story from decades or even centuries ago.  I am currently researching the era of Reconstruction and the KKK.  As you might imagine, I’m still stumped on what will make for the images in a single frame that reflect the tumult of those times. 

“Scarred Places” uses an image taken today, to reflect on history. Like Eddie Adam’s noting that the context surrounding a single image is important, the Scarred Places images, without context, are simply a familiar image of a place that may have everyday recognition – a quiet river view; a landscape; an urban street; an architectural image; a field; or a parking lot. In this case, the question is can they be that powerful weapon to provoke knowledge, emotion and attachment to the place and its historical stories.  Can these images illuminate scars in our history and, confront the histories we often choose to forget or ignore?  Can these images be tools to explore American history, complimenting the way historical documentary images are often used?  You can always see more on Instagram. An example follows.

Today and yesterday

What is: Corn fields at Bermuda Hundred, VA

What was: Bermuda Hundred is at the confluence of the James and Appomattox Rivers near Hopewell, VA.  Virginia Indians occupied the area for at least 10,000 years.  The Appamattuck tribe had a town here that numbered approximately 380 when the English began to settle the area in 1613.

Corn was a key food crop of the Native Americans in Virginia. The English colonists planned to trade with Native Americans for food.  From the beginning, the colonists were planning to eat corn grown by the Native Americans in Virginia.  Prior to Bermuda Hundred being a place of English settlement, it was a source of corn, a critical part of the diet, for the early Jamestown settlement, just down the river. So vital was this local grain that when there wasn’t enough the result was not merely hunger but also starvation, as in the brutal winter of 1609-10, known as “the starving time.”

In the three Anglo-Powhatan wars, the English defeated Powhatan’s "paramount confederacy" in large part because the English captured the stored corn in the Native American towns and cut down the growing crops in the fields. Native Americans taught early European settlers in North America how to grow corn. It quickly became a staple food crop for the colonists and soon the colonists were growing enough corn to trade it with Native Americans for furs. 

Today, the US is the largest corn producer in the world.

Binhammer Photographs Website

Some Notes
Photography Around Us

The always interesting work of Alec Soth: Alec Soth’s new body of work, A Pound of Pictures, opens at Sean Kelly in NYC and Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.  It brings together images Soth completed between 2018 and 2021. As is often his custom, Soth began A Pound of Pictures by taking a series of road trips, in this case on a quest to further explore a deeper connection between the ephemerality and physicality of photography as a medium. Depicting a vast array of subjects — from Buddhist statues and birdwatchers to sun-seekers and a bust of Abraham Lincoln — this series reflects on the photographic desire to pin down and crystallize experience, especially as it is represented and recollected by printed images. Here's a video

C. C. Chapman, a friend and fellow photographer, just made his first self published book over on Blurb.  Its called Doors and Windows.  Check it out.

Also on PhotoBooks, "The current popularity of the photobook is no mere fad. It has lasted now for more than twenty years and has had important impacts on the ecosystem of photography." A great read over on Aperture

Steve Schapiro, a photojournalist and social documentarian who bore witness to some of the most significant political and cultural moments and movements in modern American history, starting in the 1960s with the struggle for racial equality across the Jim Crow South, died on Jan. 15 at his home in Chicago. He was 87. For your visual pleasure, check out the images. “His images moved minds during a crucial time.”

And we are off to a new year...hoping 2022 is filled with happiness, success and is full of richness, in every way. Have a great one.
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5807 Harbour Hill Place, Midlothian VA, 23112
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