Life in a Rectangle

I saw a hardback copy of Deborah Copaken Kogan’s Shutterbabe in one of my favorite secondhand bookstores and could not pass it up.  Shutterbabe is her memoir about life as a war photographer:

Call it the curse of the photographer. Unlike the memories of my childhood–fuzzy around the edges, suffued more with movement and smell and sound than with the rigidity of graphic lines and shapes–most of the memories I have since becoming a photographer are four-sided and flat. When you learn to properly frame an image in the viewfinder of a camera, you start to frame and catalog everything you see, whether you photograph it or not. And suddenly, memory has the shape of a rectangle. The vastness of a forest becomes twelve trees with a a rock balancing out the foreground. A person becomes a close-up of the crow’s feet around his eyes. A war becomes red blood in white snow. Sometimes I feel like my brain has become nothing more than an overstuffed spiral notebook full of negatives, printed at will in a disorganized flurry by the tiniest provocation.

Flak Magazine calls her life "swashbuckling." Fazal Majid calls it engaging, but sometimes too candid. Anna Moorhead profiled Kogan for Digital Journalist in an interview that later became controversial, when photographer James Nachtwey disputed Kogan’s account of the genesis of his Romanian orphanage images. (Nachtwey, a former photographer for Magnum, is a founder of VII Photo Agency.) Kogan in turn later wrote a rebuttal. The book gives great insight, however, into what kind of people are attracted to the lifestyle of a war photographer.

Technorati Tag(s): photography.

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