Perpignan, Visa pour l’image festival, September 8, 2001. For a few years, a certain gloom reigns over the world of photojournalism, in seemingly continuous decline. Then, however, a group of seven photojournalists– Alexandra Boulat, Ron Haviv, Gary Knight, Antonin Kratochvil, Christopher Morris, James Nachtwey, and John Stanmeyer– announced the formation of VII, a traditional photo agency based on the global Web.
Focusing on the theme of “Main Street: a Crossroad of Cultures,” the exhibition, curated by Jerome De Perlinghi and co-curated by Catherine Coulter Lloyd and Régina Monfort, features the work of 100 photographers from 31 countries with an equal number of men and women. Among the artists included in this years’ edition are: the late Marc Riboud, Olivia Arthur, Linda Bournane-Engelberth, Omar Havana, James Nachtwey, Martin Parr, Eugene Richards, Gaia Squarci and Jo Ann Walters.
I spent the entire day right in the middle of the chaos and barely managed to survive. That night I made my way to the TIME office, dropped off the film and after the initial edit for a special issue of the magazine, I never looked at it again. My heart had been broken. I had lived through numerous situations that had been equally, if not more dangerous. I had witnessed many tragic events, which had also broken my heart. But what happened in my own city, so suddenly, was a catastrophe of such aggressive force, monumental scale and devastating consequence it was difficult to comprehend what I had just seen with my own eyes, and I understood the world I had known was changed forever.
The first bit of advice I would give to someone who aspires to cover wars is not to do it. Are you really sure you know what you’re getting into? Have you thought deeply about the potential consequences for yourself and for your family? Why don’t you find something else to do that would make a difference but not subject yourself to danger and hardship.
In the five years Baghdad was my home, I got to work (or just hang out) with some of the finest news photographers in the world: Yuri Kozyrev, Franco Pagetti, Kate Brooks, James Nachtwey, Robert Nicklesberg, Lynsey Addario, the late Chris Hondros… the list is as long as it is distinguished. Their immense talent and incredible bravery combined to make the Iraq war arguably the most exhaustively photographed conflict in human history. This selection doesn’t begin to capture the immensity of their collective achievement, but it is evocative of the horrors — and just occasionally, hope — they were able to chronicle.
Maybe what we are seeing here is not just some digital post-processing completely out of control, but also the result of seeing almost each and every event on the big screen, re-imagined in some Hollywood form: Our thought of “It almost did not look real” is turned into a reality: It literally does not look real any longer.
In her article — “How I Was Duped by Mrs. Assad” — Ms. Buck explains how she ended up reluctantly writing the flattering Vogue profile that brought the magazine scrutiny amid the Assad government’s reign of violence in Syria. But some of her explanations as to why she felt “Syria gave off a toxic aura” have set off fresh criticism.
A few years later, positive articles began to appear. Paris Match called Mrs. Assad an “element of light in a country full of shadow zones” and the “eastern Diana.” French Elle counted her among the best-dressed women in world politics, and in 2009, The Huffington Post published an article and fashion slide show titled “Asma al-Assad: Syria’s First Lady and All-Natural Beauty.”
“She responded beautifully, because she speaks well and is beautiful,” said the Italian writer Gaia Servadio, who worked for Mrs. Assad in Damascus. She added that Mrs. Assad hoped the coverage would deflect some of the negative attention her country had received.
None of the articles about Mrs. Assad struck a nerve quite like the 3,200-word March 2011 profile in Vogue titled “A Rose in the Desert.” In it, the writer, Joan Juliet Buck, called Mrs. Assad “the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.”
In a phone interview, Ms. Buck said that shortly after the profile was published, she began “steadily speaking out against the Assad regime,” including in an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN and elsewhere. In April, on National Public Radio, Ms. Buck said she regretted the headline that Vogue put on the article. But she said Mrs. Assad was “extremely thin and very well-dressed, and therefore qualified to be in Vogue.”