Photo of the Week 10 September 2013
Congratulations to Michael Iannacci from Lunenburg, Massachusetts for his image “A Gift from El Limón.” Michael captured this beautiful flower, La Flor del Copey, while traveling on a photo journalism project to El Limón, Dominican Republic. Find out what gear Michael used to capture this shot, what his expereience and insights are into the socioeconomic culture of the Dominican Republic and what other photo journalists inspire him.
What type of camera, gear, and equipment did you use to capture the shot? Do you have a title for the image?
The image is called, “A gift from El Limón.” It was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105mm lens. Settings: f/4.5, 1/125 sec. @105mm, ISO 160. I chose a longer focal length at almost wide open for a thin focal plane.
Where was the image taken? What type of fruit or flower is this, and where does it grow?
The image was taken in El Limón, a district of Samaná, on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. It is rapidly becoming the country’s next premiere tourist destination. In El Limón there are a series of three waterfalls, and you must travel two miles into the woods on horseback to reach them. This photo was taken at the base of the third waterfall. The flower is called La Flor del Copey and it grows on trees close to rivers. People burn the heart of the flower to make an industrial strength glue used for repairs and sealants. This flower will be dried, painted and displayed as a Christmas decoration.
What is your favorite part about travel photography? What was your experience like traveling to and photographing in the Dominican Republic?
I enjoy travel photography as an extension of documentary photography. There is a narrative but it is less linear and the images can stand alone if need be. As a photographer, it is your responsibility to report honestly on your surroundings because the camera will lie. The socioeconomic complexity and tension involved, especially in a place like the Dominican Republic, is what drove me to remain objective. It was fast paced, and I learned on the fly about the situation and then tried render my images as closely as possible to what I saw.
I traveled to the Dominican Republic to meet the families of my close friends who immigrated to the United States when the economy suffered in the 1980′s. There was an intensity about being there for the first time without any references or bearings. I had to strip away everything I thought I knew about the country. The reality of being so far from home can be overwhelming when it sets in. I was riding through town in the back of a pickup truck and saw everyone going about their own business, living their own lives, and I understood myself as a stranger in their country. That coupled with being a photographer can be paralyzing. But I think it is part of the challenge and used it as motivation to document what I saw.
Dominicans are resilient people with enormous pride for their country and their culture. It is a unique place with a balance of exotic scenery and economic hardship. My photos are meant to reflect that balance.
What type of photography do you enjoy most for personal and professional projects?
I enjoy photojournalist style essays with elements of landscape and portraiture. Longer sequences are challenging and painstaking work for the viewer and photographer but can be very powerful.
After returning from my trip I began working on Calle #29 a report on the small neighborhood I stayed in called Villa Satalite. I spent ten days there compiling a collection of profiles and interviews from the street and its residents. I partnered with Laura de La Cruz who immigrated to the United States 19 years ago and returns yearly to visit her mother, brother and sisters. The project is meant to illustrate the present day in the Dominican Republic and the tensions and realities of the people there. You can read more about this project on my website.
Who are some photographers that inspire you?
Tim Hetherington’s book, Long Story Bit by Bit, covering Liberia’s civil war in the 1990′s taught me that the most powerful images are not always directly about the events at hand. He entered a very complex political climate as an outsider and took photographs that transcended the basic themes of war. To present yourself as an obvious foreigner into a closed cultural situation and still be effective is very difficult.
Nicholas Muellner’s book, The Photograph Commands Indifference and Ron Jude’s Other Nature are two of my favorites. Both photographers take on the overly descriptive qualities of the photograph and its refusal to be understood. Joe Casciano is a colleague of mine and his work is excellent.
To see more of Michael Iannacci’s work you can visit his website www.michaeliannacci.com, his Instagram or stop by his Tumblr, where you can find more of his photo journalism work on workers in the commercial apple industry.
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