Честно говоря, сам я в рейтинги не верю, уж простите. Искусство, в том числе искусство фотографии, не есть спорт, и рейтинг свидетельствует лишь о степени раскрученности того или иного персонажа, а как он этого добился, своим ли трудом, или чужими усилиями - тайна сия велика есть. По моему скромному убеждению фотографы должны быть разными, тем они и ценны, своим разнообразием, разным подходом к делу, разной манерой и т.д., а однообразие хорошо в армии и на флоте, да и то не всегда. Но тем не менее рейтинги эти существуют, и фотографы, входящие в них, видимо, неплохо справляются со своим делом, так что нелишне будет познакомиться с ними и нам, людям не обремененным особенными талантами, и оттого беспечным и безответсвеным.
The proliferation of Instagram-ready smartphones has been both a boon and a detriment to the art of street photography. On one hand, it has brought about a renewed interest in the innovators and pioneers of the genre—people like Eugène Atget, who is widely considered the godfather of the genre, or Henri Cartier-Bresson, who had a knack for catching people at the exact moment they did something interesting. On the other hand, it has convinced many wannabe shooters that anyone with a working cell phone and a decent filtering app has the ability to capture something beautiful. And maybe they’re right. But it doesn’t change the fact that there’s an art to this art, and that some folks are just more in tune with the rhythm of street photography than others.
Compiling any sort of “list” is always a challenging task, as the nature of being constrained by a number will inevitably mean that plenty of deserving talents will be left off (at least for this year). And when it comes to the 50 photographers featured here, we aimed to be as all-encompassing as possible; no restrictions were set in terms of geography, age, style, or experience. The only adamant criterion is that the artist is currently contributing to the craft.
In some cases, the photographers profiled here have decades of portfolio work under their belts. For others, street photography is a relatively newfound endeavor. Some artists are intent on introducing little seen parts of the world in their work, while others are putting fresh spins on cities we’ve all seen photographed a million times before. Whereas some of the artists gravitate toward the dark side, others are inspired by glimpses of glee. But in each case, the shooters in question are regularly producing consistently engaging work—be the focus on people, places or things—that tell a story going well beyond the moment captured on film. These are The 50 Greatest Street Photographers Right Now.
In today’s Twitter-fast universe, patience isn’t a virtue that many twenty-somethings make time for. However, 24-year-old Laurisa Galvan has spent the past two years immersing herself in the culture of South Dallas, a downtrodden section of the city, in order to create as faithful a representation of its residents as possible. Her resulting portfolio is striking in its authenticity and depth of character; for Galvan, the project has been about "pushing my own limits, and pushing at other peoples' limits. Others allowed me to push at their limits by allowing me to be a part of their lives. I pushed at my own limits by putting myself in dangerous situations. This is a project that captures visual images depicting the results of a neighborhood being socially marginalized.”
Image via Dimitris Makrygiannakis on Flickr / All rights reserved by ngravity
The art world has Flickr to thank for the work of Dimitris Makrygiannakis, who goes by ngravity on the photo-sharing site. In a May interview with fellow street photographer Eric Kim, Makrygiannakis, who was born in Crete but has been living in Stockholm for almost a decade, explained that it was an image by Lukas Vasilikos on the site that turned his interest in photography from casual to ardent.
While his full-time job as a medical doctor doesn’t allow Makrygiannakis as much free time as he’d like to be completely devoted to the craft, he knows that no amount of planning can guarantee all of the elements one needs to create a striking image. “When I ‘hunt’ for photos on the street, I try not restrict myself,” he told Kim. “I love the feeling of my eyes wandering without a specific aim. However once in a while in those few moments in life, people and things will come together magically for a moment. If I record that, it [is] enough for me.”
Image via Chris Arnade on Flickr / All rights reserved by Chris Arnade
Candid images shot with a Nikon D700 are only half of the story for former Wall Street trader Chris Arnade. The Brooklyn-based photographer, who has a deep interest in documenting the many faces of addiction, posts an accompanying essay with almost all of his human subject photos, all of them printed word for word. “I post people’s stories as they tell them to me,” Arnade says on his Facebook page. “I am not a journalist, I don't try to verify; I just listen.” For the viewer, it’s a chance to engage more than just one’s visual sense.
Though he has made an impressive career for himself as a professional photographer, with two decades’ worth of experience shooting for such esteemed publications as The Herald, Sunday Herald, Evening Times, and The Guardian, Colin Templeton admits that his true passion "is documenting everyday life, especially the urban environment. I am less inclined to shoot the classic images which abound on picture postcards; the darker corners of the city are what I find most compelling.” Whether he’s shooting people, animals, cityscapes, or architecture, Templeton works to showcase the subject in its natural environment, resulting in images that are full of intriguing details.
“Although I was born and raised in Rotterdam, a traditional working-class harbor town, I ended up alienated in my hometown,” Otto Snoek notes on his In-Public profile. “Floods of new, immigrant faces arrived, creating big changes in a town that was already in a process of endless reconstruction.” It’s from this contradictory perspective of a man who is both at home and on the outside that inspires Snoek’s work, much of it candid portraiture of the many faces of Rotterdam.
UK-based photographer Matt Johnson lets his work speak for itself. When he does try to explain it, though, he's a man of few words, preferring to use the white space in his 500px profile to simply explain his process: "People and situation, feeling not thinking." His handle on the site is "Crossing Paths," which seems appropriate, as there's a palpable anonymity to his work that helps to make it feel spontaneous and familiar.
Image via Thom Davies on Flickr / All rights reserved by davies.thom
Location: Birmingham, England
Call him a scholar with a camera. Thom Davies is a doctoral researcher studying the continued social and economic impact of the Chernobyl disaster nearly 30 years after it happened. To do this, he mixes traditional qualitative methods, such as one-on-one interviews, with photography to better illustrate the findings of his investigation. They don’t say “a picture is worth 1,000 words” for nothing.
Shawn Nee has become a bit of a folk hero in the street photography world. In the past few years, he has been detained by the police more than once simply because he was doing what every street photographer does: taking pictures! In 2011, he was one of three photographers filing suit against the LAPD (with the assistance of the ACLU) after he was harassed and detained for taking pictures of the turnstiles on the Los Angeles Metro. But in true maverick style, Lee has not let his tussles with law enforcement affect his output. His candid portraits of LA's residents and tourists (and yes, even a few cops) are a perfect representation of the city at its most energetic.
42. Johanna Neurath
Image via Johanna Neurath on Flickr / All rights reserved by johanna
When she's not busy working as the design director at art book publisher Thames & Hudson (which published the famed Street Photography Now book), Johanna Neurath is indulging in her own photographic passions. Working in color, Neurath is more interested in things than people (though she shoots portraits, too) and uses space and color to turn even the simplest everyday items into worthy works of art.
After many years of traveling the U.S. and Europe as a photojournalist, Narelle Autio returned to her native Australia in 1998 and realized that “home” had become a rather foreign concept. “Arriving back in Australia proved to be an awakening for me,” she says in her In-Public profile. “It is true what they say: you don’t miss what you have until you lose it. I realized there was so much here to photograph. Things I had grown up with, that I knew about and loved: all things that I had taken for granted. The only inspiration I needed was this country and the ability to see it with new eyes.”
Since her return, Autio, whose work gives the very real sense of a world in motion, has seen her work published and exhibited throughout the world. She has twice been named one of “Australia’s 50 Most Collectable Artists” by Australian Art Collector Magazine.
“I relish people or objects that get in the way of the otherwise ‘perfect’ shot,” says Lara Wechsler. If it’s intrusive diversions she wants, she couldn’t have picked a better geographical muse. For more than 20 years, Wechsler has stood as a silent observer on the streets of New York City—always with her camera ready and always paying attention to the people and activities that are happening all around her. Clearly she has a knack for knowing the exact second to click her wide-angle camera lens, which aids her in her endeavor to capture the everyday moments of the Big Apple (the kind you’d never see on a postcard).
Hector Isaac isn't afraid to include himself—or at least the shadow of the man with the camera—in his shots. It seems appropriate for a snapper based in Miami, a city that doesn’t regularly abide wallflowers. Though the 24-year-old FIU student is a relative newcomer to the game (he bought his first camera in March 2012), Isaac has definitely made a definite impact with his work. In less than two years, the talented newcomer has picked up awards and accolades from both Photo District News and the Miami Street Photography Festival. His style is difficult to define other than to call it eclectic, which is a direct result of his location and a key factor in his quick ascent.
With a background in art and photojournalism, Melanie Einzig knows that one only needs to capture a single moment in time to tell a much bigger story. To some, her work might seem to focus on the absurdities of New York; however, those who are familiar with Einzig's terrain know that these juxtapositions are not a source of humor so much as they are photographic reasoning for why nothing seems to surprise a New Yorker.
Image via Kostantine Karaiskos on Flickr / All rights reserved by KKaraiskos (Quassar_x)
Better known by his Flickr handle Quassar_x, Kostantine Karaiskos doesn't share much about himself as a person. Perhaps it's because he wants to let his photographs do the talking for him. They offer the viewer a visceral documentation of the world from Karaiskos' eyes, taken from a variety of places and vantage points, both in black and white and color.
Image via Ola Anotherswede on Flickr / All rights reserved by aboutsweden ON A BREAK
Though he's been interested in photography since his teen years, it wasn't until late 2012 that Ola Billmont (a.k.a. Ola Anotherswede) found his niche as a street photographer. He estimates that about 80 percent of his portraits are flash-in-the-face. "I’ve learned that you can flash someone and just keep walking, and 99 times out of 100 that’s it," Billmont said in a recent interview with Eric Kim. "Sometimes people interact with either a curiosity or anger. My usual comment is to give them a positive compliment; even though it’s not always the case, it works well."
Image via Lesley Ann Ercolano on Flickr / All rights reserved by E.Yelsel
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Living in Edinburgh creates a unique challenge for a street photographer, as Lesley Ann Ercolano has discovered. "People here in Edinburgh are often very reserved/private, and I respect that," she said in a recent interview. This explains why pets and the backs of people's heads are such a fascination for the artist. Ercolano makes it work to her advantage, waiting for just the right moment to snap a photo and framing the world in a uniquely participatory way.
Showing the world as a place that appears to be in frequent conflict between stillness and movement, Yvon Buchmann's enviable portfolio channels the humanism of post-war photography masters as Willy Ronis, Robert Doisneau, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Though he’s been known to shoot in color, Buchmann’s preference is clearly for the power of black and white photography, for which he uses natural light to turn any scenario or landmark into a vast canvas.
A documentary photographer with more than a decade of experience, Jamaica-born Radcliffe "Ruddy" Roye views photography as a means to give a voice to underserved populations. Using both black and white and color photography, Roye's raw style is a perfect complement to his stated desire to "tell the stories of the victories and ills [of grassroots people] by bringing their voices to matte fibre paper."
Image via Jack Simon on Flickr / All rights reserved by Jack Simon
Location: San Francisco
One can’t blame Jack Simon for being a bit analytical in his work. After all, the self-taught photographer who rarely leaves home without his camera has spent the last four decades working as a psychiatrist. “When I look back at the pictures I’ve taken, I notice certain echoes in theme and style that transcend the documentary specifics of the images,” Simon says of his work, which tends toward candid photos shot in public places. “These pictures are like missing pages from the same story, blown across time to different corners of the world. Without telling the full story, I’ve tried to put some of these images back together in portfolios.”
Jesse Marlow is yet another artist who doesn't let his professional gigs (he's shot for a number of top magazines and his work resides in the archives of the Victorian State Library) get in the way of his more personal creative interests. "Street photography is my main passion," he says. "The solitary experience of walking the streets seeking out ‘that’ moment—a rare emotion, a chance sight. And yet, it is often the most everyday things that I keep coming back to, such as people meeting on a summer’s day; a kiss; journeys made on the train."
Frederic Lezmi’s introduction to the world of street photography did not happen on a whim. For most of the 2000s, the Geneva-raised artist was busy learning the craft of documentary photography, first as an assistant to photographer Wolfgang Zurborn, then as a student at Folkwang University of the Arts. His tendency to travel is well-documented in his work, as is his interest in the world in motion. His thesis series, “Beyond Borders: From Vienna to Beirut,” earned him a BFF Promotion Award in 2009.
Image via dirtyharrry on Flickr / All rights reserved by dirtyharrry
Location: Rethymnon, Greece
Though he still remains somewhat under the radar, Charalampos Kydonakis, better known as Dirty Harrry, has been composing some of the street photography world’s most consistently engaging output for several years now, with a portfolio that favors mystery and the occasional dose of creepiness, but presents it all in a dramatically beautiful way. The contradictions are clear to Kydonakis even as he’s shooting. “The more I shoot, the more I realize what I want from photography, and at the same time, the more I get confused about what I want,” he says of his process.
Image via Mark Alor Powell on Flickr / All rights reserved by locaburg
Location: Mexico City
Though he is now based in Mexico City, Illinois-born Mark Alor Powell is well known for the images he has shot stateside, including a vibrant, full-color series on life in Detroit (where he grew up). In an interview with La Pura Vida magazine, Powell described himself as “a provocative intruder." He added, "I rarely make appointments and most of my work is made from my own experiences out in the world, sometimes confrontational and involving and sometimes not. I like to get access into places or unique situations and usually because of my direct involvement in these scenes, a new plane of action is created in front of me and I am hopefully able to react to make something from it.”
Christos Kapatos’ connection to Piraeus, Greece—where he was born, still lives, and photographs—is evident in his work, which typically showcases the sort of anonymous faces you’d see on the street of any city. He lights and frames them in new and intriguing ways, proving that there’s always something new to discover in the details of a place and its people, even if you’ve lived there your entire life.
Benoit Rousseau’s Twitter bio says it all: Happy to shoot strangers. There’s a gleefulness to the strangers he captures—at least those who are looking at the camera—that makes it seem as if his subjects are having just as much fun. Whereas many street photographers use their anonymity behind the camera to observe the world’s underserved populations, Rousseau’s candid snaps serve as a reminder for all of the small joys in life.
“Martin Parr is a chronicler of our age,” according to his bio. “In the face of the constantly growing flood of images released by the media, his photographs offer us the opportunity to see the world from his unique perspective.” Deeming the types of images you’d typically see published in the media as “propaganda,” Parr aims to counter this manipulative photographic tendency with three key weapons: criticism, seduction, and humor. Clearly he has a successful formula, as he’s been at the forefront of the genre for several decades now.
Polish-born photographer Maciej Dakowicz is based in Mumbai but is a man of the world, having also lived in Hong Kong and Wales and traveled extensively with his trusty camera by his side. There’s a sense of giddiness to his work—which has been exhibited around the world and included among other top street photographers in the book Street Photography Now—that transports the viewer to the time and place of its taking.
On his 27th birthday—back on February 23, 2005—Fábio Costa made a decision: he would shoot at least one photo a day, every day, for the rest of his life. So far, the Paris-based photographer has made good on that promise (which is impressive, as we roll up on the ninth anniversary of that commitment). With a dedicated interest in candid street photography and graphics, Costa’s portfolio is impressive not just in its prolificacy, but also because it stands as a personal diary for the life of an individual.
“Photography is a very important part of my space,” says Lisbon-based shooter Rui Palha. "It is to discover, it is to capture giving flow to what the heart feels and sees in a certain moment, it is being in the street, trying, knowing, learning, and, essentially, practicing the freedom of being, of living, of thinking.” In other words, it’s tantamount to breathing, which would explain why stolen moments from the lives of everyday people are what seem to inspire Palha most.
If there seems to be a certain formalism to the work of up-and-coming street photographer Umberto Verdoliva, it can be explained by the fact that he holds a degree in regional planning and urban design and spends his days working for an international construction company. It's hard for Verdoliva to let go of the need for perfect geometry when it comes to his photos, which is part of what makes his work so interesting. The symmetry is understated, but it’s there, and it gives a unique sense of order to the unpredictability of the images he captures.
There are some photographers who have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Simon Becker is the type of artist who plans to be in the right place at the right time. While there are plenty of spur-of-the-moment shots in his portfolio, Becker’s most impressive work seems to happen when he places himself squarely in the face of a particular moment in time, as he did during the Turkish protests that broke out in May of 2013 in Taksim Square. While there were plenty of global media outlets on the scene, Becker’s personal investment in the outcome is evident in his focus on the individual protesters and the entire event's aftermath.
There’s a maturity to the work of Severin Koller that belies the 27-year-old photographer’s youth. A graduate of Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts, Koller is rarely without a camera (he has shot all over the world) and is clear this his creativity knows no bounds. His goal? “As an artist, I never want to be understood,” he says.
There are few street photographers whose images are as iconic as Alex Webb’s. Getting his start while still in high school, Webb began working as a photojournalist in 1974 and became an associate member of Magnum Photos two years later. In the early days of his career, including a mid-1970s series documenting the American south, he focused mainly on black and white imaging.
However, as his interests spread to the Caribbean and Mexico, so did his appetite for color photography. In the decades since, Webb has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, his work has been exhibited around the world, and he has helped to define the face of America in both the 20th and 21st centuries.
Originally from Bourdeaux, Elaine Vallet's appreciation for the visual side of life is part of her genetic disposition. Now based in Paris, her work—in which the City of Light is featured prominently—puts an elegant spin on the images and landmarks that make the city so famous (such as the Eiffel Tower). When seen through Vallet's lens, the focus is not quite where you expect it to be, creating an extraordinary new view on one of the world's most photographed cities.
16. Shane Gray
Image via ShaneGrayPhotography.com
Location: New York
London-born photographer Shane Gray may prefer to shoot in the streets of New York, but that's only because he sees them as a microcosm for the world, describing the city as “an intoxicating discovery of the conventional and eccentric alike.” Whipping his camera out at every possible location—from the subway station to an anonymous street corner—Gray’s tendency to shoot wide angles in full color only adds to the authenticity of his images, making it so that you can almost hear the beautiful cacophony of sound that surrounds each picture.
It takes a brave individual to embark on a full-time career as an artist. Particularly when the artist in question—in this case Ming Thein—is actually a physicist. And a physicist who graduated from Oxford at the age of 16, no less. In 2012, Thein decided to take a leap of faith and abandon a career in the corporate world to indulge his creative passion and states that, so far, he’s “been lucky enough not to regret it.” Thein employs the same exacting eye that led him to a career in science to his street photography, creating flawlessly composed and balanced portraits of people and objects that might not otherwise get a second look.
Constantine Manos realized at a very young age—13, to be exact—that photography was in his future. Within just a few years, the teenager was booking professional gigs, like landing the coveted role of official photographer of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood at the tender age of 19. For the past six decades, he’s been at the forefront of the documentary photography genre, with his work hanging among the permanent collections at MoMA, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Daring to venture where few other photographers would go, Manos’ sometimes shocking, often heartbreaking, and always striking images have become a part of America’s history.
13. 13th Witness
Image via 13thWitness.com
Location: New York
Street art runs in the family for photographer Tim McGurr, better known as 13th Witness. As the son of legendary street artist Futura, McGurr has understood from an early age that there's no better canvas for a forward-thinking artist than the streets that surround him. The rise of Instagram that helped 13th Witness find a wider audience, where he has amassed more than 280,000 followers.
Pioneering street photographer Jeff Mermelstein exists with one foot firmly planted in the more traditional world of professional photography, where he has shot for the likes of adidas, Topshop, Red Stripe, and The New Yorker. He’s never lost the lust for creating more personal work, letting his camera stand still and observing the world zoom by around him.
The rhythm of the street is second-nature to Bruce Gilden, who grew up in Brooklyn, so it’s no surprise that he has gravitated toward the streets in his photographic work, as well. A member of the famed cooperative Magnum Photos since 1998, Gilden is one of the best known photographers on this list, having seen his work exhibited at some of the world’s top art institutions. Even if he just recently celebrated his 67th birthday, Gilden shows no signs of slowing down. On his website, he notes that, “I'm known for taking pictures very close, and the older I get, the closer I get.” Whatever he’s doing, it seems to be working. In 2013, he was named a Guggenheim fellow.
10. Anna Delany
Image via AnnaDelany.com
Location: New Zealand and New York
As she divides her time between two continents, Anna Delany's camera is her constant companion, helping her to capture what she describes as "fleeting moments in time and the gradual dilapidation of urban decay." With her black and white images, she creates a unique intimacy with the people, pets, and places that inhabit the darker corners of the world's urban areas.
Image via 9shots on Facebook
It would be easy to classify the faces of the people who occupy the bulk of 9shots’ work as emotionally exhausted. And that’s the entire point. He’s not attempting to make a connection with a stranger in order to create a pretty picture. He’s doing his best to capture his subjects at the very second they've realized that they’re being observed—in all their nonplussed, annoyed, or totally oblivious glory. His tendency toward a slightly filtered black and white further distinguishes the subject from the viewer, giving each piece a voyeuristic feel.
An eye for composition runs in the family for Estevan Oriol, son of well-known photographer Eriberto Oriol. In fact, it was with one of his father’s old cameras that the younger Oriol began taking pictures, documenting his travels as a tour manager for Cypress Hill and House of Pain. Though he has gone on to shoot a ton of celebrities over the past 20 years (Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin, among them), Oriol has maintained his connection to the streets of Los Angeles, bringing it to life in a uniquely glamorous-meets-gritty style.
There’s a science to Jesse Wright’s artwork—literally. The self-described “lapsed scientist” took a turn to the creative side after earning a B.A. in Biology and a PhD in Bacterial Genetics, when he opted to translate the concept of variables to a career behind the camera. His portfolio is wide-ranging in both its composition and content; the one constant is what his bio describes as “the interplay between the conceptual and the mundane with a focus on the subtle interactions of people with their environment.”
When he isn't shooting for clients like Nike, Vice, and Rolling Stone, Sha Ribeiro uses his camera to explore what he categorizes as "State of Mind." From people to places to rodents attempting to eat an entire discarded cake, any subject that is within its natural environment can pique the artistic interest of Ribeiro.
Filter your cell phone snaps all you want—they’ll never look anything like the work that trashhand creates as he explores the Windy City with nothing more than an iPhone and an eye for a great angle. As one of Instagram’s earliest adopters, the self-taught photographer has amassed more than 260,000 followers (and counting). We did a portfolio review with him recently, in case these three photos aren't enough.
“Simple, bold, classic, and true” is how professional photographer—and father of four—Zack Arias describes his photography style. And even just a quick glance at a sampling of his work will prove that to be true. By paying equally detailed attention to both person and place, Arias’ images offer visual cues that allow a viewer to easily fill in his subjects' back stories.
Rebellion is the theme at the heart of Boogie's portfolio. Born in Belgrade, Serbia, it was the civil war within his own country that first inspired him to pick up a camera in the 1990s. But even since relocating to New York City in 1998, Boogie has continued to be fascinated by those who contribute to the unrest of a country, with entire portfolios dedicated to gangs, guns, and drugs—all of it in black and white,= and created in a shockingly personal and close-up manner.
Considering that JR uses the streets as his creative inspiration, then exhibits his images on the very same structures he’s out there capturing, “street gallerist” might be a better descriptor for what he does. And he’s not afraid to stir up a little controversy. In 2007, he co-created "Face 2 Face," an illegal exhibition where he posted enormous portraits of Israeli and Palestinian citizens face to face in eight cities and along both sides of the countries’ separation wall. In 2011, he was honored with the TED Prize, which allowed him to create the international participatory art project, "Inside Out." For his part, JR describes his work as “pervasive art,” explaining that, “In that art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators.”
Humans of New York might be best described as a photographic experiment in social media. Founded in 2010 by then-26-year-old Brandon Stanton, the idea for the blog—or what Stanton calls a “photographic census of New York City”—was to tell the story of New York City’s residents with a collection of 10,000 photos, all of them plotted out on a map of the city. “Somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character,” says Stanton. “I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and began including these snippets alongside the photographs. Taken together, these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog, which over the past two years has gained a large daily following.”
“Large” might be an understatement; HONY’s Twitter feed has more than 45,000 followers and its Facebook page has been liked by more than 50 times as many people. Stanton’s followers come from all over the world to match faces to the essays he includes with many of the photos, some of them confessional (“I don't know why I'm not able to throw myself 100% into things”), others political (“Overthrow the government”), and some just plain fun (“I better not show up with boobs on Facebook”).
A young boy welcomes Chinese soldiers as they approach Tiananmen Square, just a few hours before the massacre begun.
--- In May 1989, I travelled to Beijing to document the peaceful demonstration of students who were demanding democratic reforms.
Unaware of the significance of the army presence, the little boy symbolizes the innocence of the students who only a few hours later would be crashed in one of the most brutal army repressions in modern history.
Tiananmen Square – 2/3
A wounded soldier, rescued by students after his tank was destroyed by protesters.
--- When the soldiers moved in, I was having dinner with other photographers at the Beijing Hotel. We all rushed into the Tiananmen Square and that was the last time we saw each other that night.
At that point the army was entering the square from all directions and the shooting intensified.
This was the first of many violent episodes I witnessed that night.
Hearing that the Beijing Hotel had been raided and that other photographers were being searched, I hid my films in my underpants and socks and found safety at another hotel.
Tiananmen Square – 3/3
Bodies of protesters piled up in a room of Capital Hospital after the army occupation of Tiananmen Square.
--- The full horror of the massacre struck me most forcibly when I visited Capital Hospital. By then, on the morning of the 4th of June, the army had re-taken the square. Tanks were patrolling the streets, still firing.
I set out with one camera hidden beneath my jacket. At the hospital, there were hundreds lying in the corridors and people searching for relatives.
A young doctor appoached me and said: “Come and see what they have done”. I used a slow shutter speed to take the photograph.
I remember saying to myself: “Stop shaking, otherwise you are going to have a blurred picture”.
--- Hello. I am Dario Mitidieri @dariomitidieri, and Italian photojournalist based in London. I am honored to be one of the winners in the People Category at this year WPP. I am taking over the #worldpressphoto Instagram for a week. Each day I will be posting three photographs selected from recent and past projects. Thank you. --- #wpph16#wpphoto#photojournalism#photography
Looking back with Robert Frank, the most influential photographer alive.
By NICHOLAS DAWIDOFF
Last May, Robert Frank, the world’s pre-eminent living photographer, returned to Zurich, the orderly Swiss banking city, cosseted by lake and mountain, where he grew up. When an artist who made his reputation by leaving returns home, mixed feelings are inevitable, and that was especially true for Frank, whose iconic American pictures are notable for their deep understanding of human complication. ‘‘I know this town, but I certainly feel like a stranger here,’’ he said.
As he walked through the immaculate Zurich city center, with its many statues, gilded shop signs and fountains, Frank was ‘‘just amazed how well organized everything is, how perfect everything is.’’ The Swiss, he explained, do not throw coins into fountains, because ‘‘they have everything they need. They don’t believe in wishing wells. Only the poor have to hope.’’ Deciding he wanted to ride a streetcar, Frank surveyed the different lines. ‘‘I usually don’t get a ticket on the tram,’’ he explained. ‘‘This town is rich enough.’’ He said he never worried about being caught by inspectors, and he didn’t seem worried. He seemed the way he typically did — fully present and yet filled with personal mystery. ‘‘I don’t know where that one goes, so we’ll take it,’’ he said, and was soon bound for a working-class district of the city.
Frank has always been a picture-maker unconcerned with his own appearance, and sitting quietly beside the streetcar window, he wore the usual faded work shirt, frayed pants and one too many mornings of stubble. A sturdy man who never uses socks, a winter hat or gloves, Frank is now 90, and in the cool Swiss air, he had on a new blue down coat. His melancholy eyes rarely betray anything, but as he gazed out at the city of his youth, there was the sense of a man wary, defended, skeptical, yet willing to be engaged. In his pocket he carried an Olympus camera.
Robert FrankCredit Katy Grannan for The New York Times
Frank had come to Switzerland to receive the Roswitha Haftmann Prize for lifetime achievement, Europe’s most lucrative fine-arts award, though he doesn’t need the money. His photographs command steep prices, and nothing about his current way of living is much different from his days as a young man, when, he says, ‘‘I decided if I swore off socks, I had more money for books.’’ Several years ago, Frank sold the paintings given to him in the 1940s by an impoverished friend, Sanyu, who became a renowned modern Chinese painter. Frank received millions of dollars, but wealth so discomfited him he used it to create a foundation and gave it away.
Acclaim was likewise anathema. By the 1960s, just as his work was gaining a following, Frank abruptly moved on from still photography to become an underground filmmaker. Ten years later, with all the glories of the art world calling to him, Frank fled New York, moving to a barren hillside far in the Canadian north. Over the years, when museums asked to exhibit his work, when universities like Yale sought to award him honorary degrees, he would think, Let someone else have it, and decline. ‘‘He never crossed over into celebrity,’’ says the photographer Nan Goldin. ‘‘He’s famous because he made a mark. He collected the world.’’
The tram entered a scruffy immigrant neighborhood not far from where Frank’s father, Hermann, had his business importing radios and record players, for which Hermann himself designed cabinets that Frank describes as ‘‘horrible.’’ Frank carried two rolls of film, but all the way out he only gazed out the window. He could have been anybody. Back in the 1950s, when Frank was making what amounted to private photographic studies in public places, one of his skills was remaining inconspicuous in casinos, restrooms and elevators. Here, near the end of the tram line, suddenly the camera appeared. There was a single click. Nothing beyond the window looked unusual. Then Frank pointed to a construction crane, its boom passing below a church steeple clock. ‘‘This is Zurich,’’ he explained. ‘‘The crane. The clock. The church. Functional.’’ It was the one picture of the day.
Sixty years ago, at the height of his powers, Frank left New York in a secondhand Ford and began the epic yearlong road trip that would become ‘‘The Americans,’’ a photographic survey of the inner life of the country that Peter Schjeldahl, art critic at The New Yorker, considers ‘‘one of the basic American masterpieces of any medium.’’ Frank hoped to express the emotional rhythms of the United States, to portray underlying realities and misgivings — how it felt to be wealthy, to be poor, to be in love, to be alone, to be young or old, to be black or white, to live along a country road or to walk a crowded sidewalk, to be overworked or sleeping in parks, to be a swaggering Southern couple or to be young and gay in Nerk, to be politicking or at prayer.
Robert Frank and June Leaf in Mabou.Credit Katy Grannan for The New York Times
The book begins with a white woman at her window hidden behind a flag. That announcement — here are the American unseen — the Harvard photography historian Robin Kelsey likens to the splash of snare drum at the beginning of Bob Dylan’s ‘‘Like a Rolling Stone’’: ‘‘It flaps you right away.’’ The images that follow — a smoking industrial landscape in Butte, Mont.; a black nurse holding a porcelain-white baby or an unwatched black infant rolling off its blanket on the floor of a bar in South Carolina — were all different jolts of the same current. That is the miracle of great socially committed art: It addresses our sources of deepest unease, helps us to confront what we cannot organize or explain by making all of it unforgettable. ‘‘I think people like the book because it shows what people think about but don’t discuss,’’ Frank says. ‘‘It shows what’s on the edge of their mind.’’
On a trip upstate, Frank visited a Fourth of July celebration in rural Jay, N.Y., and photographed two girls in white dresses skipping beneath a huge, diaphanous American flag. ‘‘Something I really like is a big flag,’’ Frank says. ‘‘Here, people are so proud of it. In other countries you don’t feel they’re so proud of their flag.’’ Like most things with Frank, that cuts two ways. Foreign, uncompromisingly independent, Frank loathed the provincial prevarications of nostalgia. At closer inspection, the flag is torn, while along the photograph’s edge is the only visible face: a sneering boy. That the flag is transparent means that in ‘‘The Americans,’’ a reader looks, in effect, through the cloth to the image on the next page — to segregated New Orleans, where Frank made his best-known picture.
Frank passed through the city in 1955 and took a photograph of a row of passengers on a Canal Street trolley — whites in front, blacks in back. In the moment, life stilled into such clarity that Frank’s shutter needed to move only once. What he says attracted him then was something filmic: ‘‘Five people sitting, each occupying a frame.’’ But it’s a black man, his forehead creased, whose complex expression makes the picture. ‘‘He’s looked at that street many times,’’ Frank says. Plenty of photographs were taken during Jim Crow. Frank’s gift was to transcend reportage and tell you something about the condition — how oppression felt.
When Frank began his expedition upriver into the heart of American ambivalence, photography remained, as Walker Evans said, ‘‘a disdained medium.’’ Only a few American art museums collected photographs. Most of the published images portrayed figures of status. One notable exception was the work of Dorothea Lange. Frank respected her compassion but considered her Dust Bowl pictures maudlin — triumphalist takes on adversity. ‘‘I photographed people who were held back, who never could step over a certain line,’’ he says. ‘‘My mother asked me, ‘Why do you always take pictures of poor people?’ It wasn’t true, but my sympathies were with people who struggled. There was also my mistrust of people who made the rules.’’ That impulse seems particularly potent today, during our charged national moment — our time of belated reckoning with how violent, enraged, unbalanced and unjust the United States often still is. To look again at the photographs Frank made before Selma, Vietnam and Stonewall, before income inequality, iPhones and ‘‘I can’t breathe,’’ is to realize he recognized us before we recognized ourselves.
“Fourth of July — Jay, New York,’’ 1954Credit Robert Frank via Pace/MacGill Gallery
Frank grew up in ‘‘a sad household.’’ In the 1930s, Zurich radio was full of Hitler. ‘‘That voice cursing the Jews,’’ he says. ‘‘You couldn’t turn off the voice.’’ Hermann Frank had been an excellent Sunday photographer, but securing the material comforts of Persian carpets and fine goose liver was his priority. ‘‘My father married my mother because of money. It became the most important thing in order for them to feel good. If my father had a good day, dinner would end and my father would take out his wallet and give my mother 100 Swiss francs.’’ Frank was repelled: ‘‘I was driven by negative influence. I wanted to get away.’’
In 1947, family friends who lived in Queens met the boat that carried Frank to the United States. The next day, they showed him Times Square: ‘‘The crowd! The crowd! I never was used to such a big crowd, and they were so enthusiastic about being there. It was America! Those big signs!’’ At a coffee shop, Frank encountered a waitress who flung everyone’s silverware onto the table. In that moment of democratic informality, Frank knew New York was where he wanted to be. ‘‘In Paris you’d see African people on the subway, and they were African. Here in America they are Americans. There is no other place like this.’’
The sheer diversity and scale of the United States thrilled Frank. ‘‘It’s a big country,’’ he says. ‘‘Coming from Switzerland, it’s vast.’’ Because there was such freedom of mobility, he could go many places, and in all of them he saw heightened experience — including, to his surprise, the masses of people who ‘‘looked desperate.’’ Some, like him, were getting by, but for many others the American promise never took. Early on in New York he met a former soldier who ‘‘would wear his uniform from the Marines every day. Even though he was not in the Marines anymore. He asked me to rent a place with him. I did for a few months. He didn’t have a job. Nice man. Lost. They get lost.’’
Frank got commercial photography assignments from magazines like Harper’s Bazaar while also roaming around New York, following ‘‘my own feelings.’’ His way of living resisted convention —‘‘I never worried about insurance’’— as did his work. For American photographers at the time, the professional apotheosis was Life magazine. Henry Luce, the publisher, favored linear, neatly partisan narratives, and Life’s editors repeatedly rejected Frank. Frank’s photographs suggested life was more fraught: ‘‘I leave it up to you,’’ he says. ‘‘They don’t have an end or a beginning. They’re a piece of the middle.’’
Over the years, ‘The Americans’ would follow the trajectory of experimental American classics like ‘Moby-Dick’ and ‘Citizen Kane’ — works that grew slowly in stature until it was as if they had always been there.
Frank was also passed over by Magnum, the elite consortium of photographers led by Robert Capa: ‘‘Capa said my pictures were too horizontal, and magazines were vertical.’’ The photographer Elliott Erwitt knew Frank then and says, ‘‘It was the beginning of that kind of photography that Robert did, seemingly sloppy, but not — and very emotional. The acceptable pictures then were sharp and technically excellent. But the pictures of Robert Frank were very different.’’ To Frank, the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s idea of a ‘‘decisive moment’’ in photography seemed reductive. Frank was in search of ‘‘some moment I couldn’t explain,’’ and periodically went off on his own to make pictures of Peruvian farmers, Welsh miners and French street children. His unwillingness to compromise led to breaks with friends like Erwitt. ‘‘I became a professional doing what people expected from me,’’ Erwitt says. ‘‘We all respected Robert’s talent and ability and knew he was difficult and fought with everyone — could be quite vindictive with some. We just dissolved the friendship. I felt he felt I’d gone the wrong way, the nonartist way.’
In the late 1940s, Frank met a teenage dance and art student named Mary Lockspeiser, whose pale eyes and luminous complexion were perhaps especially compelling to a man who saw the world in black and white. ‘‘She was young, but I thought, Why not?’’ says Frank, who was nine years older. ‘‘She was alive for everything.’’ They married, and had two children: Pablo, named, he says, after the cellist Pablo Casals, and Andrea — ‘‘She was named for a boat that sank.’’ His sense of humor is just black enough that you wonder when he’s joking.
The family lived, as Mary put it in an interview with the Smithsonian Institution, ‘‘very chaotically in every way.’’ They scavenged the sidewalks for furnishings and inhabited desolate, formerly industrial downtown neighborhoods. The Franks were young artists, and struggled as parents; Pablo and Andrea were often left to themselves. ‘‘I felt we weren’t made for it,” Frank says. Mary was ‘‘a young woman who wanted to work, and I was running after my career,” he says, adding that ‘‘it was very, very hard, almost impossible to live with me.’’
Frank absorbed artistic influences all over New York. Edward Hopper’s moody office-scapes, restaurant interiors and gas pumps were not in fashion when Frank discovered the painter: ‘‘So clear and so decisive. The human form in it. You look twice — what’s this guy waiting for? What’s he looking at? The simplicity of two facing each other. A man in a chair.’’ Frank’s creative day to day was informed by the Abstract Expressionist painters he lived among. Through his window, Frank studied Willem de Kooning pacing his studio in his underwear, pausing at his easel and then walking the floor some more. ‘‘I was a very silent unobserved watcher of this man at work. It meant a lot to me. It encouraged me to pace up and down and struggle.’’ He also saw the downside of an artist’s life: ‘‘I used to watch de Kooning work, and then I’d walk down the street and see him drinking and lying in the gutter. Somebody’s bringing him upstairs. You drink because you have doubts. Things seem to crumble around you.’’
Since there ‘‘weren’t so many artists in photography to meet,’’ Frank says, he became interested in the work of only one photographer: Walker Evans. Evans’s images of battered roadside prewar America were, as the photographer Tod Papageorge writes, Frank’s ‘‘sourcebook’’ for his own rendition of the American scene. Frank sought Evans out, and soon the older man was inviting Frank to his Upper East Side apartment to help him photograph objects like tools arranged on a table. ‘‘If I put a piece of cheese on the table and said, ‘Photograph it,’ ’’ Frank says, ‘‘his would be different from my piece of cheese. His pictures were more careful. I was fast. Hurry! Hurry! Life goes fast.’’
Evans wore English shoes and patrician airs. Frank had become close to raffish Beats like the poet Allen Ginsberg, and when Evans was hospitalized, he asked Frank not to bring ‘‘any of those friends of yours up here.’’ Frank believed that despite the humanity in his pictures, Evans ‘‘felt he was better than other people. That was something I couldn’t stand.’’
Evans admired talent, and he became Frank’s champion, encouraging him to complete a Guggenheim application to support the photographic journey that would become ‘‘The Americans.’’ Evans wrote him a recommendation, calling him ‘‘a born artist,’’ and helped plan his itinerary.
Frank left his family behind in 1955 and went off to see Miami, Los Angeles and 10,000 miles in between through the windshield of a black Ford Business Coupe. He packed two cameras, many boxes of film (kept in a bag to protect them from the sun), trunks, French brandy (‘‘Sometimes you need a little drink; it changes your attitude’’), AAA road atlases and one book, which was really a map of another kind, Evans’s ‘‘American Photographs.’’ Evans and others had suggested destinations like the Gullah communities of the south Atlantic coast, but Frank was often spontaneous.
The first destination was Michigan. ‘‘I went to Detroit to photograph the Ford factories, and then it was clear to me I wanted to do this. It was summer and so loud. So much noise. So much heat. It was hell. So much screaming.’’
As Frank searched for pictures, he stayed in cheap motels: ‘‘You’d always find them down by the river.’’ The first stop in a new town was usually a Woolworth’s department store. His favored shooting settings were public — sidewalks, political rallies, drive-ins, churches, parks. He wanted to find the men and women others would consider unremarkable, as well as the symbols and objects that defined them. Falling into a place-to-place rhythm, he took pictures of bystanders, vagrants, newlyweds, Christian crosses, jukeboxes, mailboxes, coffins, televisions, many cars, and those many flags.
It was an investigation, and in every frame there is pent-up atmosphere, pressure in the air, a sense of somebody’s impending exposure — maybe Frank’s. ‘‘Photography can reveal so much. It’s the invasion of the privacy of the people.’’ Accordingly, there was an element of tradecraft. ‘‘I felt like a detective or a spy. Yes! Often I had uncomfortable moments. Nobody gave me a hard time, because I had a talent for not being noticed.’’
He was neither tall nor short, did not appear to maintain regular relations with razors, scissors or blankets and dressed in a way that brought to mind the bottom of a suitcase — ‘‘I didn’t change clothes too much.’’ The Ford fit the man. ‘‘I loved that car. It was like any car, inconspicuous,’’ he says. ‘‘I called it Luce — the only connection I ever had with Mr. Henry Luce.’’
Years later, the photographer and curator Philip Brookman learned just how committed Frank was to making pictures. The two men were visiting Frank’s troubled son Pablo on Thanksgiving at a psychiatric hospital. Many families were there. At one point a patient sang a very clear and beautiful song she called ‘‘Sad Movie.’’ Brookman, moved, crept his hand toward his camera, but he worried that taking a photo would be inappropriate. As the moment passed, he heard a familiar, gruff voice: ‘‘You should have taken it.’’
When Frank raised his camera and shot, the process was blurry quick, meaning he could capture what he saw as he perceived it. People, Frank says, ‘‘don’t like to be caught in private moments. I think private moments make the interesting picture.’’ It says something about Frank that his favorite ‘‘Americans’’ photograph shows the only people who caught him in the act. A black couple resting on the grass in a San Francisco park looks toward the lens in outrage. Beyond them are white city buildings. What is conveyed is how it feels to be violated wherever you go.
Frank says he was most drawn to blacks: the bare-chested boy in the back of a convertible; the woman relaxing beside a field in sunny Carolina cotton country; the dignified men outside the funeral of a South Carolina undertaker, who uncannily bring to mind the day President Obama eulogized Clementa Pinckney. At first, the South was to him ‘‘very exotic — a life I knew nothing about.’’ Then, in November 1955, Frank was traversing the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River, ‘‘just whistling my song and driving on,’’ as he says, when a patrol car pulled him over outside McGehee. The policemen’s report noted that Frank needed a bath and that ‘‘subject talked with a foreign accent.’’ Also suspicious were the contents of the car: cameras, foreign liquor. Frank was on his way to photograph oil refineries in Louisiana. ‘‘Are you a Commie?’’ he was asked.
Ten weeks earlier, Emmett Till was murdered a hundred miles away. ‘‘In Arkansas,’’ Frank recalls, ‘‘the cops pulled me in. They locked me in a cell. I thought, Jesus Christ, nobody knows I’m here. They can do anything. They were primitive.’’ Across the room, Frank could see ‘‘a young black girl sitting there watching. Very wonderful face. You see in her eyes she’s thinking, What are they gonna do?’’ Because his camera had been confiscated, Frank considers the girl his missing ‘‘Americans’’ photograph. Around midnight a policeman told Frank he had 10 minutes to get across the river. ‘‘That trip I got to like black people so much more than white people.’’
Coming to America after growing up listening to tyranny on the radio, Frank had been foremost a grateful émigré, and early pictures suggested it. Now, through a lens, the country darkened, and Frank became, the photographer Eugene Richards says, ‘‘a loaded gun.’’ Four days later, in New Orleans, Frank photographed the line of faces looking through the trolley windows. Once he saw that girl in McGehee, he says, he knew what to look for.
As he drove, Frank was in the grip-flow of his imagination, finding pictures everywhere, so many pictures that he now says of the period: ‘‘You don’t have it that good all the time. I was on the case.’’ Occasional hitchhikers advised Frank where to go next and spelled him behind the wheel while he slept in the back seat or quietly raised up and snapped their pictures, as he did on U.S. 91 outside Blackfoot, Idaho. Sometimes he gave people rides — workers, prostitutes — but Frank did not seek personal connections. ‘‘The people in ‘The Americans,’ I watched,” he said, adding, ‘‘I wanted to take the picture and walk away.’’
One ‘‘Americans’’ photograph came from a dimly lit New Mexico gutbucket: ‘‘It was a tough bar. You had to shoot from your hip.’’ In Elko, Nev., Frank photographed the play at a gaming table: ‘‘It’s very seldom you get a picture of people gambling. The management and the gamblers don’t want you to take pictures because they have wives. Or mothers! Or grandmothers! Or daughters!’’ At political gatherings, where credentials were required for admission, Frank was not above filching some from a stranger’s jacket.
You could operate that way if you were on your own, but Frank was married, and those years were hard on the family. In photographs from the 1950s, the children are inevitably bright-eyed, Mary is distantly aglow and Frank grim. From the road Frank wrote to Mary, ‘‘Your letters are often sad.’’ When they all met up in Texas and drove west for a few weeks, Frank found it ‘‘stressful. You go out, you’re gone. You come back, you’re tired. You’ve hunted for pictures. You want peace.’’ His family became the subject of his book’s wistful last photograph. Taken from in front of the car through the windshield, weary, overwhelmed faces and half the Ford are visible. ‘‘It’s personal, it’s melancholy, it’s sentimentality — all the things you try to stay away from. Also, I’m the person who’s not there. This is what it takes, the picture says.’’
Frank took more than 27,000 photographs. Returning to New York, he sequenced the best 83 into what he thought of as a film on paper. Walker Evans wrote him an introduction to help place it. But who would publish images of groping teenagers, drifters, cross-dressers, poor blacks, a harassed mother? At first, only Robert Delpire in Paris would. Frank’s inability to find an American publisher frustrated him. He came to feel he needed a more like-minded advocate. So, Frank says, ‘‘I turned to Kerouac.’’
It was early September 1957 when Frank heard about ‘‘On the Road,’’ a novel that had just been praised in The New York Times as ‘‘the most important utterance yet made by the generation.’’ Frank ‘‘liked the speed of it, taking you back and forth across the country, his descriptions of the landscape in the morning, the little towns, which he describes with such exquisite beauty — the love for America.’’
He found Kerouac ‘‘at a New York party where poets and Beatniks were. Some painters. Everything happened downtown.’’ When Frank showed the writer his pictures, Frank says he was empathetic. ‘‘Kerouac personified what I hoped I’d find here in America. He was interested in outsiders. He wasn’t interested in walking the middle of the road.’’ Seizing the moment, Frank asked if Kerouac would introduce ‘‘The Americans.’’ ‘‘Sure,’’ Kerouac said. ‘‘I’ll write something.’’
One reason many other artists believe, as Nan Goldin says, that Frank ‘‘has never taken a false step’’ is that Frank always puts art above sentiment. ‘‘I try to get out of sentiment’s way when it comes near me. A few steps backward and to the left and don’t look back.’’ Frank says there was no hesitation about jilting Evans for Kerouac, but informing his mentor that he was forsaking him for Kerouac ‘‘was a difficult moment.’’ He says Evans’s essay was ‘‘too flowery and made no sense,’’ adding, ‘‘The friendship survived, but that was it. Never mentioned again.’’ Their relationship became ‘‘colder and more distant.’’
Frank admired Kerouac’s propulsive methods: ‘‘He lay on the floor all evening long. He’d write 20 pages about it the next morning.’’ Introducing ‘‘The Americans,’’ Kerouac told a reader nothing about Frank’s biography. Instead, he supplied an ecstasy of overture: ‘‘With one hand he sucked a sad poem of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.’’
Yet ‘‘The Americans’’ was initially unappreciated in the United States. The editors of Popular Photography derided Frank’s ‘‘warped,’’ ‘‘wart-covered’’ ‘‘images of hate.’’ That the photographs were blurry, asymmetrical, shot at oblique angles and deliberately informal attracted more screeds. The problem was, as the critic Janet Malcolm would later explain, ‘‘no one had ever made pictures like that before.’’
At first, it was other American artists who were enthralled. Out in Los Angeles, Ed Ruscha was sitting in an art-student cafe when a classmate brought in a brand-new copy of the book. Suddenly ‘‘there weren’t enough chairs for everyone; we were craning our necks, looking at it page by page. It’s like — You know where you were when John F. Kennedy was shot? I know where I was when I saw ‘The Americans.’ ’’ For Ruscha, in Frank’s hands the camera became a new kind of machine. ‘‘I was aware of Walker Evans’s work. But I felt like those were still lives. Robert’s work was life in motion.’’
Frank was not yet well known, but he and Mary were a glamorous couple at the crossroads of the New York arts scene. He personally was a camera, a tough, sensual receptor with an enticing remove that made others draw near. The people Frank admired were judgmental, unpredictable artists who satisfied his need for heightened experience. The jazz musician Ornette Coleman ‘‘didn’t like many things — a very hard critic,’’ while the filmmaker and musicologist Harry Smith lived to insult people, lit fires, yelled ‘‘Heil Hitler’’ in Jewish restaurants and yet was ‘‘the only genius I ever met. He was open to how people could reveal something for other people,’’ Frank says. ‘‘He lived uptown like a hermit, all alone with all his windows closed.’’
Among photographers, Frank considered Diane Arbus ‘‘a special woman! I went to her house. She was eating something. She said, ‘Do you want some?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ I took a bite. Almost impossible to eat. She said, ‘Yeah, I put too much salt in.’ She wanted to see my reaction. Why not? I liked her work. You could say, This is Diane Arbus.’’
Frank was closest to Ginsberg, Kerouac and their circle, and says he was inspired by Ginsberg’s relationship with the poet Peter Orlovsky: ‘‘Of course they were lovers, but he learned a lot about freedom from Orlovsky. They could live on the edge of society, the edge of American behavior. They made me want to be freer.’’ Frank would sit clothed in a room full of naked, stoned men as Ginsberg read from poems like ‘‘Kaddish.’’ ‘‘It’s wonderful to fall in with a group like that. You watch them live, and it’s so different from what you’d seen. Their art, their sexual lives, what truth they believed and preached and wrote. Ginsberg was a real prophet. He saw a different, more accepting America.’’
Frank once chauffeured Kerouac and his mother from Florida to Long Island; the author of ‘‘On The Road’’ didn’t drive. ‘‘It’s a better way to find out about the world if you don’t. He was true talent. He had a sad end. He couldn’t handle his fame. It drove him into a corner, made him drink, want to forget.’’ Frank found closer personal understanding with James Agee than he did with Evans, Agee’s collaborator on ‘‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,’’ and yet, Agee, too, was ‘‘always sweating and drinking, always a bottle close by. He was one of the saddest people I met, one of the suffering men.’’
When he wasn’t interested in someone, Frank could be pitiless. ‘‘I’m friendlier now. I had no patience.’’ He roiled with brutal standards: ‘‘In Provincetown, a guy showed me his pictures and asked me what I thought. I tore them up. Now I hate myself for that. Then I had to.’’
One day the painter Mark Rothko invited Frank to his studio for a talk. It was a dark space with only a row of windows on the ceiling because, Frank says, Rothko ‘‘liked the light to come in different colors. He had a daughter he worried about. He asked for advice on young people. I said I couldn’t help him.’’
Being an artist, husband and father continued to be arduous for Frank. During the ’60s, he seemed tired, angry and beaten-down to friends like the filmmaker Jonas Mekas, who recalls Mary once stopping him on the street to ask if she could borrow a dollar for groceries. The marriage struggled. But at the same time, Frank’s achievement was slowly becoming understood, a momentum that continues. The best photographers today, like Paul Graham, consider it still revelatory that someone could shape the endless onrush of American experience into a full portrait of the country. Frank’s book, Graham says, ‘‘expresses a yearning in us all to find meaning and a pattern, a form to life.’’
Among the many qualities that enabled Frank to achieve something so ambitious was his profound ambivalence. He was always that way personally, and it was how he could locate the full spectrum of any given feeling in the inscrutable faces of strangers. Critics like W.S. Di Piero believe his genius for expressing emotional complication came from an artistic innocence, the ability to look at the world as a child does — without the intrusions of experience. When June Leaf, Frank’s wife of 40 years, discussed with me this way of her husband’s seeing, she described being shown by his aunt a picture of Frank as little boy. ‘‘I looked at it, and I thought to myself, That’s exactly the same expression he has now: ‘What is going on here?’ That’s the secret of his perception of the world. And that’s ‘The Americans.’ That marvelous perception comes into the room. It’s ‘What is going on here?’ None of us know until he takes a photograph. Other than the photograph, he doesn’t know what is going on.’’
Over the years, ‘‘The Americans’’ would follow the trajectory of experimental American classics like ‘‘Moby-Dick’’ and ‘‘Citizen Kane’’ — works that grew slowly in stature until it was as if they had always been there. To Bruce Springsteen, who keeps copies of ‘‘The Americans’’ around his home for songwriting motivation, ‘‘the photographs are still shocking. It created an entire American identity, that single book. To me, it’s Dylan’s ‘Highway 61,’ the visual equivalent of that record. It’s an 83-picture book that has 27,000 pictures in it. That’s why ‘Highway 61’ is powerful. It’s nine songs with 12,000 songs in them. We’re all in the business of catching things. Sometimes we catch something. He just caught all of it.’’
As ‘‘The Americans’’ thrived, Frank’s success weighed on him. In the early 1970s, his friend the photographer Edward Grazda received a piece of mail from Frank written on a scrap of ledger paper. The postmark was the remote mining village in Nova Scotia where Frank and his new companion, Leaf, had escaped the admirers clamoring outside his New York door. ‘‘Ed, I’m famous,’’ it read. ‘‘Now what?’’
Rare is the great figure — Marcel Duchamp, Jim Brown — who departs at the top of his game. That the man who made ‘‘The Americans’’ would leave photography was such a shocking decision that people in the arts still speculate about it. ‘‘He was painfully compassionate,’’ Peter Schjeldahl says. ‘‘Maybe he didn’t want the pain anymore.’’
Frank put it this way in 1969: ‘‘Once respectability and success become a part of it, then it was time to look for a new mistress.’’ He says now that the issue was creative fulfillment: ‘‘I didn’t want to repeat myself. It’s too easy. It’s a struggle, such a struggle to make something good, to satisfy yourself. That was relatively easy for me in photography. It’s immediate recompense. You’ve achieved what you set out to achieve.’’ The composer David Amram, a friend of Frank’s, says, ‘‘The last thing he wanted to be was what Miles Davis called a human jukebox — always be what made him popular.’’
In 1959, even as Barney Rosset, the American publisher of literary renegades like Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence, released ‘‘The Americans,’’ Frank decided to ‘‘put my Leica in the cupboard’’ and began filming a silent movie with his downtown neighbor, the painter Alfred Leslie. ‘‘Pull My Daisy’’ adapts a scene from Kerouac’s never-finished play, ‘‘The Beat Generation,’’ into a proto-‘‘Seinfeld’’ shaggy-dog story. A railway brakeman and his artist wife host a church bishop for dinner, which is disrupted by a visit from a group of fizzed-up hipster impresarios who settle in to riff the night away.
Leslie’s loft was used as a set; their friends were the actors: Ginsberg, painters like Larry Rivers and Alice Neel and a cameo for the adorable Pablo Frank. Amram, who composed the music, recalls the shoots as ‘‘an insane party; everybody being juvenile and nuts. Leslie was a hostage negotiator — ‘Allen, if you’d please put your pants back on!’ ’’ Frank remembers Kerouac filling up on applejack and carrying on until he fell asleep. Later he ad-libbed the narration in three increasingly inebriated takes.
‘‘Pull My Daisy’’ was indie cinema before indie existed, the pure underground. There was scarcely any budget; the paychecks are still in the mail; only college students and avant-garde cineastes knew the film existed. But it endures as a cultural document — here were the Beats — and because nobody had ever seen anything like it. ‘‘If that came out of ‘The Americans,’ that’s a giant step,’’ Ed Ruscha says. ‘‘It’s almost totally different. I felt like it was guys on a hijinx. Films were usually professional enterprises done in Hollywood. This was choppy and crude and gutsy.’’ When Frank invited friends to a screening, he says, ‘‘they were happy somebody looked at the world in a different way.’’ Viewers still feel similarly, which pleases Frank, ‘‘especially because people didn’t really like my later films.’’
Across the next 40 years, Frank would release 31 mostly short, genre-eluding, quasi-documentary movies that met with even less success than ‘‘Pull My Daisy.’’ He says that working outside the studio system, operating ‘‘completely against the rules of how you made a film,’’ was challenging. And yet he filmed work that was, Jonas Mekas says, ‘‘very important. Same as Andy Warhol, he comes with his own world, his own sensibility, his own style.’’ The projects attracted a range of actors (Christopher Walken, Joseph Chaikin, Joe Strummer) and co-writers (Sam Shepard, Rudy Wurlitzer). Frank’s subjects were recondite: a book signing for a writer who never turns up; a day in the life of a country letter carrier. Another, about indigenous American music, strayed and became a film about Frank. As Laura Israel, Frank’s longtime film editor, says, ‘‘He’s all about the detour.’’
Frank also made a series of jagged, strangely absorbing personal films about friends and family that were so unlike anything preceding them that collectively they constituted a small documentary wave of their own. Three were about Pablo, a fragile, tortured adult whose life was increasingly derailed by schizophrenia. Another film, ‘‘Me and My Brother,’’ began as an adaptation of Ginsberg’s poem ‘‘Kaddish’’ and then, following the familiar digressive pattern, became an account of Peter Orlovsky’s relationship with his schizophrenic brother, Julius. Frank explains that he was always drawn to extremes: ‘‘There can be good extremes, but I had more connection with the other half.’’ And Julius, Frank felt, ‘‘was on the edge of something. I felt he would calm down and tell what it was like to be in this place.’’ Frank considered his filmmaking career ‘‘a failure,’’ because ‘‘often I don’t want to reveal. But because it wasn’t going well it kept me going.’’ Defeat perversely encouraged Frank; he liked what he couldn’t do. Except that he could.
Frank’s most celebrated turn as a filmmaker came in 1972 when the Rolling Stones, in Los Angeles completing their album ‘‘Exile on Main Street,’’ invited him to photograph them for the cover. The musician who most influenced Frank’s work was Bob Dylan, who so frequently reinvented himself: ‘‘Dylan has the talents to move on.’’ But Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and the rest of the Stones were the world’s most celebrated outsiders, unregenerate avatars for collecting transgressive impulses into hits. At a fleabag Los Angeles inn, Frank recalls, they were instantly themselves. ‘‘Jagger said, ‘Let’s rent a room.’ I sat them down in chairs and made them use hotel furniture. That’s their life. Hotel rooms. Hotel rooms and polish.’’
The band was soon to go on tour, and they invited Frank and his Super-8 along. In the resulting film, ‘‘[expletive] Blues,’’ the band and its entourage are becalmed travelers ordering room service, gargling, masturbating, getting it on with drugs and groupies, moving through places they have no connection to, looking for ways to overcome lethargy and longueur. Frank now says of the experience: ‘‘I didn’t care about the music. I cared about them. It was great to watch them — the excitement. But my job was after the show. What I was photographing was a kind of boredom. It’s so difficult being famous. It’s a horrendous life. Everyone wants to get something from you.’’
Frank showed Jagger a rough cut. ‘‘He looked at it and then he said, ‘Richards came out better than me.’ Probably was right.’’ Richards agrees, of course: ‘‘One of Mick’s hangups is himself. Robert made the better man win! It’s a very true documentation of what went down.’’
The Stones’ lawyers worried that the explicitness would create problems and forbade screening it unless Frank was in attendance. As a result, the all-but-unavailable ‘‘Blues’’ is a celluloid apparition. The novelist Don DeLillo watched a cheap bootleg reproduction. He’d admired Frank’s photographs for the way they ‘‘imply a story or a sociology,’’ but the film, DeLillo thought, was different. ‘‘There’s nothing behind it. There’s something pure.’’ In DeLillo’s ‘‘Underworld,’’ as characters view the film, DeLillo describes at length its crepuscular, edge-of-time feeling.
Since the 1970s, Frank’s subversive approach has made him a godfather to young filmmakers. ‘‘The strength of his films is in what he says is problematic,’’ Jim Jarmusch says. ‘‘The beauty is they don’t satisfy certain narrative conventions.’’ Out in Texas in 1995, Richard Linklater was just beginning his film career when he staged a Frank retrospective at a theater in Austin. ‘‘If Robert Frank weren’t so acclaimed as one of the most influential photographers of all time, he’d have a much larger profile as an American indie filmmaking icon,’’ Linklater says. ‘‘It seems our culture struggles with the idea that someone could be that groundbreaking in more than one area. If it were just the films, I think he’d be credited as a founding father of the personal film.’’ He adds: ‘‘Beyond that, there’s this tremendous range of a restless, searching artist pushing the boundaries of the documentary, experimental and more traditional narrative forms.’’
During his 1969 short documentary, ‘‘Conversations in Vermont,’’ Frank portrays Pablo and Andrea confronting their youth spent growing up with a mother and father who put their art first. ‘‘You always said you wanted normal parents,’’ Frank challenges his children. That same year, Frank and Mary separated and Frank immediately began life with Mary’s friend June Leaf.
Overwhelmed in New York, craving ‘‘peace,’’ Frank asked Leaf to go to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to find them a home. It was winter. She bought a pair of thick boots and flew north: ‘‘He knew I’d do anything for him,’’ she says now.
They moved to Mabou, where the March wind was so strong you had to walk backward. They knew nobody, and the house they’d purchased overlooking the sea was, in the local expression, ‘‘after falling down.’’ As a young woman, Leaf was given a prestigious Paris studio to work in, and now in Mabou, she found she had sufficient inner creative stamina to make art in what her husband calls ‘‘a sad landscape’’ where ‘‘the sheep ate all the trees.’’
Rebuilding the house became their creative collaboration. ‘‘You learned a completely different rhythm of life,’’ Frank says. ‘‘It has to do with keeping warm and getting your food. That occupies most of your time. It’s severe. With time we found two friends.’’
Soon came devastation. Frank’s daughter, Andrea, aspired to become a teacher and a midwife. She was radiant, with flashing, dark eyes that infatuated Frank’s young photographer friends. Leaf likens her to Frank himself: ‘‘marvelous, like him. She intimidated people because she made everybody want her to love them. She was so similar to him — stern, critical, sexy, tough. Very tough. She was interested in life!’’ In 1974, Andrea died in a plane crash. She was 20.
Frank went immediately to the United States, leaving Leaf alone and wretched on a Nova Scotia island in winter, frightened that Frank would no longer love her because she could not fully share his grief.
Within a year of Andrea’s death, Pablo had cancer as well as schizophrenia. ‘‘Pablo,’’ Leaf says, ‘‘was a bird, a butterfly. The drugs he later took and the death of his sister pushed him over the edge into illness. That changed Robert incredibly, slowly, agonizingly. He became a sweet father to Pablo, where before he’d been explosive. Very critical, dictatorial, authoritarian, like many European fathers. Pablo was so ethereal, funny, charming, sweet. The illness made Robert a better father. He had to be.’’
For many years after leaving New York, Frank remained relentlessly productive; he made films and resumed taking photographs, personal images of a very different style from street photography. In 1972, a Japanese first-time publisher named Kazuhiko Motomura collaborated with Frank on ‘‘The Lines of My Hand.’’ An expanded American edition was published in 1989, and became a book crucial to American photographers. Jim Goldberg describes it as ‘‘a road map for the rest of us.’’ Many of the most powerful pictures are of Pablo, his face ravaged by illness. Photographs are distressed, dripping with tears of paint, rived with scratched-out messages. Of his son, Frank writes: ‘‘What a hard life we have together. I can’t take it.’’
In and out of institutions, Pablo committed suicide in 1994. ‘‘Robert was always attracted to mad people like Julius Orlovsky,’’ Leaf says, ‘‘because he had nothing of that in him. So it’s fate, isn’t it, Pablo.’’ Eventually, Frank gave in to grief. ‘‘It takes concentration for me to work and the wish to succeed,’’ Frank says. ‘‘I didn’t have it anymore.’’ With such loss, he said, ‘‘you have to cope every day, and it doesn’t go away. You try hard to find some peace and acceptance.’’
Frank dislikes talking about any of it: ‘‘It’s not good to look back too much. It’s often sad. Better to look forward.’’ I felt I should ask him about Leaf’s descriptions of his children. He didn’t disagree with anything she’d said. Then he sighed: ‘‘I could’ve helped him. He would’ve needed another family. A real mother, a real father to take care of him. I think about that too often, because it’s too late.’’
Frank and Leaf now live most of the year in a building off the Bowery that has open hearths and rough surfaces and feels like a vertical farmhouse, a Manhattan version of Mabou. In a neighborhood now awash in tony boîtes and boutiques, Frank and Leaf are remnants of vanished bohemian New York. In Frank’s musty basement studio, amid a jumble of contact sheets, Camus novels, toy crocodiles and checkerboards, ‘‘EAT’’ is scrawled on the wall in yellow. ‘‘Patti Smith wrote that,’’ he says.
Visitors are always stopping by. Leaf receives them bright-eyed — ‘‘I’m a bouncy!’’ Frank watches warily, but with an eyebrow raised. ‘‘He’s always waiting for something extraordinary,’’ Leaf says. Frank and Leaf married in 1975, while passing through Reno, Nev., an echo to the eloping couple in ‘‘The Americans.’’ Over the years Leaf has developed what she calls ‘‘a bad habit of studying Robert.’’ Once she asked me, ‘‘Do you think Robert’s elusive?’’ Instead, Frank answered: ‘‘I used to be. I didn’t like to explain anything.’’
‘‘You still don’t,’’ she said, ‘‘and you don’t like things to be explained, and I’m a great explainer. It’s a miracle we lasted this long!’’ At 85, Leaf has a grave, mystical face that resembles Georgia O’Keeffe’s. She sees her husband clearly — ‘‘You have no idea how mean Robert can be’’ — and with delight. In Philip Brookman’s 1986 documentary on Frank, ‘‘Fire in the East,’’ Leaf says: ‘‘He goes through life in this wonderful secret way, in the water, under the water. And things just come to him. So he’s like a fish, a beautiful fish in the dark, lighting up the water.’’
Although Frank still retains a certain Swiss civility, he enjoys provocation in others. He refers to the French celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier, notorious for insinuating himself into the affections of wealthy older women, as ‘‘the bad-man friend of mine.’’ Onstage at Lincoln Center, when his chosen interviewer, Charlie LeDuff, asked about the state of Frank’s rectum, Frank was amused at the general mortification.
Some days Frank is a steel door; others he is impish, a trickster. Not long after he renounced his Leica, word circulated among other photographers that he was entering photo contests under assumed names and winning. Ask him how he is, and Frank may reply, ‘‘Fifty percent!’’ What does that mean? ‘‘If it goes below 50 percent, my red light goes on!’’ One day, he loves crowds. Another day, crowds are ‘‘impossible.’’ A third pass, and the dark eyes gleam, and there’s nothing like ‘‘a medium-size crowd.’’ His terse style of speaking sometimes produces epigrams: ‘‘It’s the misinformation that’s important.’’
‘‘Take that seriously,’’ warns Brookman, who has known Frank since the 1970s. ‘‘He loves misleading people.’’ When Frank is feeling affectionate, his puckish banter is seductive to younger artists — especially photographers. Many men have felt for a time like a second son to Frank, only to abruptly find that some sort of personal fission has occurred, the focus of Frank’s guarded eyes has moved on and they’ve been purged. His longtime gallerist Peter MacGill has grown accustomed to offering consolation: ‘‘Robert hurts the people he’s closest to.’’ One photographer, in an anticipatory gambit, stopped talking with Frank for more than two years. When I met MacGill, he warned me, ‘‘Everybody who knows him gets periodically fired.’’
‘‘It’s that you’re not a contestant anymore for something extraordinary,’’ Leaf says. ‘‘We all fall short. It’s the way a man desires a woman. This is the one! He’s always hoping somebody will change the view of the world.’’ The personal quality Frank perhaps values most is autonomy, and when others want too much from him, he gets prickly and feels exploited; it’s time to leave. ‘‘It was always important to him to remain independent of Switzerland, his family, Life magazine, Cartier-Bresson, Evans and go forward, keep pushing,’’ Brookman says.
There have been unbroken bonds. Sarah Greenough, senior curator of photographs at the National Gallery, says Frank and Motomura always ‘‘were devoted, even though Robert didn’t speak Japanese and Motomura didn’t speak English.’’ Another person on whom the door has never closed is Peter Kasovitz, the gregarious owner of K&M Camera in New York. Many in Frank’s community wonder why Kasovitz should be spared. Frank, whose father sold electronics, says Kasovitz is the consummate independent operator: ‘‘He doesn’t go by others’ rules. He just runs things in a way he believes.’’
For decades, Frank refused honors and exhibitions. He once skipped a private celebration for the Museum of Modern Art’s new photography curator because he wanted to test the set of tires he’d just acquired for his Subaru. But lately, he attends his openings; this summer he accepted an honorary degree from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
Frank retains the spontaneous enthusiasm of a much younger man. In his tenth decade, he is still a free-form outsider seeking untried situations, fresh leaps — and nothing pleases him more than picking up on the scent of something exceptional. Last year, after receiving intriguing letters postmarked North Carolina from an itinerant laborer named Gustavo, Frank set off to find him. He discovered Gustavo in Winston-Salem painting a house, he says, but ‘‘I was disappointed in him. He was ordinary. He seemed not to be possessed by anything. He just drifts.’’
A more satisfactory result came after an unannounced knock on the door from a California family. The father, Leaf says, ‘‘was a junk collector looking for a masterpiece.’’ Recently he’d purchased three pictures. ‘‘One looked like it was from Woolworth’s, and he thought it was a Boucher. The second was the worst thing you ever saw. He thought it was a de Kooning. The third, somebody tells him it’s a Sanyu. He looks it up and sees Robert knows him.’’ So the family crossed the country by car to show Frank the painting possibly by Sanyu. ‘‘You don’t have to open your eyes to see it’s not a Sanyu painting,’’ Leaf says. ‘‘He doesn’t mind. He’s a speculator! He’s happy!’’ Eventually, Leaf and Frank had to go out. ‘‘What do you want to do?’’ Leaf asked their visitors.
‘‘Nothing,’’ came the answer. ‘‘We came to see you.’’ The family made their hosts tortillas from scratch and drove off for Louisiana to surprise an aunt.
Frank found all of this immensely satisfying. ‘‘I liked his directness. Completely direct. I could tell them about Sanyu. They had no interest in June or in my photographs.’’ And so Frank decided that the father should have his masterpiece after all. ‘‘I sent them two of my photographs. I wonder if they found out what people pay for a print like that.’’
Nicholas Dawidoff is the author of five books, most recently ‘‘Collision Low Crossers,’’ an investigation of the inner life of the New York Jets that was a finalist for the 2014 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing.
На наших глазах рождается новая область науки — гравитационно-волновая астрономия. Обновленная обсерватория LIGO в ходе первого сеанса наблюдений зарегистрировала уже три всплеска гравитационных волн — два достоверных и один возможный. Все они пришли от слияний черных дыр звездных масс. В каждом случае удалось, в пределах погрешностей, восстановить параметры черных дыр и положение источников излучения, а также провести первый совокупный анализ популяции таких черных дыр. Ожидается, что в ближайшие пару лет статистика возрастет на порядок, и ученые приступят к экспериментальному изучению раздела астрофизики, который в течение десятилетий оставался уделом одних лишь теоретиков.
Новогодние праздники — время приятной суеты для всех нас, в том числе и для ученых. Однако в ночь на 26 декабря 2015 года на фоне обычной праздничной переписки члены коллабораций LIGO и Virgo зарегистрировали в своих почтовых ящиках аномальный всплеск email-активности. Это означало только одно: гравитационно-волновая обсерватория LIGO зафиксировала еще один сигнал!
И действительно, в 03:38:53 UTC (полседьмого утра по московскому времени) два детектора LIGO почти одновременно, с разницей всего в одну миллисекунду, зарегистрировали достаточно мощный гравитационно-волновой всплеск, получивший предварительное обозначение G211117. Всплеск длился почти секунду и был опознан автоматической системой слежения в течение минуты. В тот же день всем телескопам-партнерам по наблюдательной сети GCN был выслан сигнал об этом событии (циркуляр 18728), и в ходе последующих дней несколько гамма- и оптических телескопов отчитались о наблюдениях (см. архив циркуляров GCN). По горячим следам был проведен офлайн-анализ события, и примерно через пару дней участники коллаборации уже знали, что они действительно поймали второй гравитационно-волновой всплеск от слияния черных дыр. За ним было закреплено постоянное обозначение GW151226.
Полгода спустя, 15 июня, во время ежегодной встречи Американского астрономического общества, состоялся специальный пресс-брифинг, на котором, по сложившейся уже традиции, без предисловий, с места в карьер, представители коллабораций объявили об открытии. Кроме того, оказалось, что в данных LIGO за октябрь было и третье интересное событие, но оно, к сожалению, не дотянуло до порога достоверности, поэтому коллаборации называют его кандидатом, но не полноценным гравитационно-волновым всплеском. В Москве, в МГУ, в то же самое время прошло аналогичное мероприятие, на котором после трансляции американского пресс-брифинга выступили и российские участники коллаборации.
Одновременно с этими выступлениями появились две научные статьи с результатами. Первая целиком посвящена гравитационно-волновому событию GW151226, и она уже опубликована в журнале Physical Review Letters (GW151226: Observation of Gravitational Waves from a 22-Solar-Mass Binary Black Hole Coalescence). Вторая рассказывает о поиске таких сигналов от слияния черных дыр во всем первом сеансе работы aLIGO и описывает совокупный анализ трех зарегистрированных событий. Эта статья пока только выложена в архив е-принтов (Binary Black Hole Mergers in the first Advanced LIGO Observing Run). Обе статьи вышли за авторством сразу двух коллабораций: LIGO Scientific Collaboration и Virgo Collaboration. Хотя инструменты у них разные, а итальянский детектор Virgo еще даже не вступил в строй после модернизации — все они направлены на единую цель, и потому анализ их данных ведется совместно. Кроме того, на сайте LIGO доступна подробная техническая информация по каждому зарегистрированному событию.
Самая краткая выжимка результатов первого сеанса работы aLIGO показана на рис. 2. Эта скромная картинка отображает, по сути, текущее состояние гравитационно-волновой астрономии — науки, которая рождается на наших глазах. Гравитационно-волновая обсерватория LIGO, безуспешно искавшая гравитационные волны в первых сеансах работы, была кардинально модернизирована в 2008–2014 годах и в сентябре прошлого года заработала вновь, теперь уже под названием aLIGO (Advanced LIGO). Первый наблюдательный сеанс продлился четыре месяца: с 12 сентября 2015 года по 19 января 2016 года. Чистого наблюдательного времени при этом набежало примерно на полтора месяца; остальное время — это технические работы, калибровка или сеансы наблюдений, подпорченные слишком большими шумами.
За полтора месяца чистых данных LIGO зарегистрировала три события. Два из них — это гарантированные гравитационно-волновые всплески, порожденные слиянием черных дыр; они получили обозначения GW150914 (событие 14 сентября 2015 года, про которое и шла речь в феврале, см. новость Гравитационные волны — открыты!, «Элементы», 11.02.2016) и GW151226 («рождественский подарок», событие в ночь на 26 декабря). Третье событие, LVT151012, показало достаточно скромное превышение над фоном и вместо GW (Gravitational Wave event) получило пометку LVT (LIGO-Virgo Trigger event). И хотя полной уверенности в этом нет, физики всё же склоняются к тому, что это тоже был гравитационно-волновой всплеск и поэтому его тоже следует учитывать в той или иной степени при совокупном анализе событий.
На рис. 2 показано также, какие черные дыры породили эти всплески. Событие-открытие GW150914 было самым сильным во всей статистике первого сеанса наблюдений; оно отвечало суммарной массе черных дыр примерно 60 масс Солнца (M☉). Два других события были послабее, там оценка суммарной массы была вдвое-втрое меньше. Эта разница по массе очень существенная; из-за нее два новых всплеска проступали в данных иначе, чем событие GW150914.
Надо отметить, что сейчас коллаборации отчитались еще не обо всех результатах, а только о поиске слияний черных дыр звездных масс, то есть с массами от 3M☉ до 99M☉. Нижний предел нужен для того, чтобы отсечь нейтронные звезды: по современным представлениям, компактный объект тяжелее трех масс Солнца может быть только черной дырой. Коллаборации также сообщают, что никаких других событий такого типа в данных первого сеанса aLIGO нет. Но они собираются вскоре рассказать еще про два поиска: слияния более тяжелых черных дыр и слияния нейтронных звезд (либо друг с другом, либо с черной дырой). Обнаружилось ли там что-то интересное, авторы пока умалчивают.
Как ищут всплески
Рассказ о том, что такое гравитационные волны и как устроены детекторы, способные их обнаружить, можно найти и в нашей новости Гравитационные волны — открыты!, и в других материалах (см., например, популярную статью С. Попова Эйнштейн был прав: гравитационно-волновая астрономия). Здесь мы расскажем о другом техническом аспекте эксперимента — о том, как всплески гравитационных волн извлекаются из сырых данных, тем более что само событие GW151226 дает для этого отличный повод.
Первый, самый громкий гравитационно-волновой всплеск GW150914 был коротким и довольно сильным. Взгляните рис. 7 из нашей прошлой новости: он легко заметен глазом прямо в данных в виде характерного усиливающегося и убыстряющегося колебания на фоне остаточных шумов. Те несколько периодов колебаний, которые детектор надежно отловил, умещались тогда в 0,2 секунды. В противоположность ему, декабрьский всплеск GW151226 был куда слабее, и невооруженным глазом его не заметишь (рис. 3, вверху). Однако он наблюдался намного дольше, целую секунду, на протяжении 55 периодов колебания, и именно это позволило его выделить из шумов.
Методику выделения легко понять по такой аналогии. Представьте, что вы находитесь на большой и шумной вечеринке, и разговоры участников в толпе сливаются для вас в общий шум, которые вы не можете разбить на слова. Но вдруг из всего шума ваш слух выхватывает ваше собственное имя. Оно было произнесено кем-то на такой же громкости, что весь разговор. Но оно вам очень хорошо знакомо, ваш мозг настроен на его распознание даже среди шумов — и поэтому вы на него среагировали.
Нечто подобное происходит и при поиске гравитационных волн. Физики ищут в данных не «хоть что-то», а колебательные сигналы очень специфического профиля, как на рис. 4, характерные для гравитационно-волнового всплеска от слияния двух компактных объектов. Методика анализа данных заточена на распознавание именно таких сигналов, причем практически в реальном времени. (Справедливости ради надо сказать, что поиск сильных всплесков произвольной формы, «транзиентов» неизвестного происхождения, тоже ведется, но это уже второстепенная задача.)
Работает это так. Детектор снимает показания с датчика тысячи раз в секунду, выделяет из них известные инструментальные шумы и выдает график остаточного колебания (он и показан на рис. 3, вверху). Практически всё время эти колебания — это всё те же остаточные шумы. Но физики надеются, что поверх них может попасться и гравитационно-волновой сигнал, то есть колебание известного профиля. Поэтому они берут ожидаемый сигнал (рис. 4) и, словно маску, «прикладывают» его к данным, сопоставив самый сильный пик маски с каким-то конкретным моментом времени. Вычисляют величину перекрытия, то есть насколько хорошо эта конкретная маска с этой привязкой по времени совпадает с реальными данными. Затем сдвигают ту же маску по времени совсем на чуть-чуть, намного меньше периода колебания и снова пересчитывают величину перекрытия. Затем снова сдвигают, и так далее.
Каждый раз получаются разные числа, но в среднем они колеблются около некоторого типичного для чистых шумов значения. Эти числа, поделенные на среднее по шумам значение, называются «отношение сигнала к шуму» (SNR, signal-to-noise ratio). Именно они показаны на рис. 3, внизу. Видно, что SNR обычно прыгает в районе 1–2, иногда достигает даже 3–4, но выше обычно не поднимается. И самое главное, эти шумы ведут себя в двух детекторах совершенно независимым, никак не скоррелированным образом.
Такой процесс сравнения идет непрерывно, в реальном времени, причем используется для сравнения не одна, а тысячи готовых, слегка различающихся масок. Эти маски вычисляются заранее на основе громоздких численных расчетов того, как сливаются друг с другом черные дыры разных масс и с разным вращением.
Борьба сигнала с фоном
И теперь — момент истины. Когда при очередном сравнении одна из масок дает удивительно хорошее совпадение, отношение сигнала к шуму SNR оказывается необычно большим. На графике SNR от времени появляется резкий пик, как на рис. 3, внизу. Если такая удача выпадает в обоих детекторах LIGO, причем с одной и той же маской и с разницей по времени не более 15 миллисекунд, это вызывает автоматическое срабатывание программы поиска: обсерватория фиксирует событие-кандидат.
Здесь, кстати, наиболее четко проступает роль длительности сигнала. Пусть сигнал слабенький, по амплитуде слабее шума, но если он повторяется на протяжении десятков циклов, без сбоев, то за это время набежит достаточно большое перекрытие с подходящей маской. Сигнал такой величины, как на рис. 3, остался бы незамеченным, если бы он длился всего несколько периодов. Но он проступал в данных в течение целой секунды, и благодаря своей длительности сумел вылезти из шума и привести к срабатыванию триггера.
Конечно, это срабатывание само по себе еще не означает регистрацию гравитационных волн. Ведь изредка шумы всё же могут сложиться так, чтобы SNR в обоих детекторах случайно оказался большим. Вопрос лишь в том, насколько часты или редки такие ложно-положительные срабатывания, то есть ситуации, когда инструментальные и прочие шумы случайно складываются так, что напоминают гравитационно-волновой всплеск.
Чтобы их оценить, требуется, во-первых, тщательный анализ, который сложно сделать на лету, а во-вторых, информация о том, как ведут себя шумы в показаниях детекторов. Для этого программа берет статистику событий-кандидатов и по определенным критериям присваивает им «индикаторную характеристику»: чем выше индикатор, тем более непохожим на шум будет это событие. Затем строится распределение событий по этой индикаторной величине (оранжевые квадратики на рис. 5). И, наконец, зная характеристики шума, программа может построить такое же распределение для чистых шумов (гистограмма на рис. 5). Для пущей надежности, коллаборации LIGO и Virgo решили провести этот анализ двумя разными методами; на рис. 5 показан только один из них.
На рис. 5 видно, что два события выбиваются из «шумовой» гистограммы. Декабрьское событие GW151226 лежит настолько далеко, что вероятность случайного сочетания факторов оценить по этому методу не получается. Исходя из данных по шуму можно лишь сказать, что ложно-положительные события такой силы происходят реже, чем раз в 160 тысяч лет, поэтому вероятность встретить его в 45-дневной серии данных — меньше одной десятимиллионной. Таким образом, статистическая достоверность того, что это событие — реальный всплеск, а не шумы, превышает 5σ. Второй метод анализа показал сравнимую статистическую значимость — 4,5σ.
Списать это событие на какой-то неопознанный внешний источник вибрационного или электромагнитного происхождения тоже нереально. Внешняя обстановка постоянно отслеживается множеством датчиков, и в момент этого события они не показали никакого превышения нормы. Единственный вывод: перед нами второй достоверный гравитационно-волновой всплеск.
А вот с октябрьским событием LVT151012 не всё так ясно. Оценка ложно-положительного срабатывания для сигнала такой интенсивности намного скромнее — один раз в несколько лет. Это дает статистическую значимость на уровне 2σ или даже чуть ниже. Скорее всего, это был реальный гравитационно-волновой всплеск, но полной гарантии тут дать нельзя. Однако в совокупном статистическом анализе гравитационно-волновых событий такие события-кандидаты использовать, при аккуратном подходе, не возбраняется.
Снимаем мерки с черных дыр
Если в февральском сообщении упор был сделан на открытие гравитационных волн, то сейчас коллаборации LIGO и Virgo подчеркивают другую ключевую мысль. То первое событие не осталось единственным; мы увидели второй и, скорее всего, третий всплеск гравитационных волн. А значит, перед нами распахнулось гравитационно-волновое окно во Вселенную! Мы не только слышим гравитационно-волновой «грохот» космоса, но и можем узнать параметры источников и, при случае, сопоставить их с другими методами наблюдения. И когда таких событий наберется достаточно, мы сможем делать выводы относительно эволюции звезд, скоплений, прочих объектов. В общем, мы начнем изучать Вселенную так, как до этого не умели!
И вся эта обширная программа исследований опирается на простой по сути, но совершенно поразительный факт. Достаточно аккуратно измерить профиль пришедшего всплеска гравитационных волн — и мы узнаем про породившее их слияние черных дыр всё. Абсолютно всё, без преувеличений. Поясним, как это получается и какие выходят результаты.
Вы будете смеяться, но черные дыры — это самая простая форма существования материи во Вселенной. У кирпича, к примеру, есть форма, пористость со сложной геометрией, химический состав и т. п. У газового облака формы нет, но тоже есть химический состав. Даже у нейтронных звезд есть много разных интересных свойств. И только у черных дыр ничего этого нет — вообще. Черная дыра характеризуется только массой и вращением. Поэтому если две черные дыры объединяются в пару, падают по спирали друг на друга и сливаются, то мы, в принципе, можем точно сосчитать этот процесс с помощью общей теории относительности. Поэтому достаточно задать массы черных дыр, а также величины и направления их вращения вокруг своей оси — и вуаля, мы можем точно предсказать профиль гравитационно-волнового всплеска, который придет от такого слияния.
Эту зависимость можно обратить. Мы можем сосчитать множество разных профилей для разных масс и вращений (это те самые маски, про которые шла речь выше), а затем сравнить их с пойманным сигналом. Выяснив, какая из них лучше всего его описывает, мы таким образом восстановим параметры сливающихся черных дыр. В реальности, конечно, существуют как погрешности самих данных, так и сложности с численным решением сложных конфигураций. Но это не мешает измерять основные параметры с некоторой погрешностью уже сейчас.
Подробные сводки параметров черных дыр всех трех событий приведены во второй, более детальной статье коллабораций. Суммарная масса пары составляла примерно 65M☉, 22M☉ и 37M☉ для GW150914, GW151226 и LVT151012 соответственно. В самом громком событии GW150914 две черные дыры были примерно одинаковой массы; в двух других — массы различались примерно вдвое. Энергия, унесенная гравитационными волнами, составила примерно 3M☉, 1M☉ и 1,5M☉ соответственно. Эта энергия превратилась из энергии покоя (то есть из массы) в гравитационно-волновое излучение за доли секунды; человеческое воображение перед такими масштабами мощности просто пасует.
Процесс слияния черных дыр усложняется за счет собственного вращения каждой из них, и это тоже накладывает свой отпечаток на форму гравитационно-волнового всплеска. Если, скажем, обе черные дыры быстро вращаются вокруг своей оси в том же направлении, что и общее орбитальное движение друг вокруг друга, то они проделают больше оборотов до слияния, чем невращающиеся черные дыры. Если собственное вращение, наоборот, направлено против общего орбитального движения, то слияние займет меньше циклов. Если вращение вообще направлено как-то произвольно, то динамика слияния дополнительно усложняется.
Поскольку влияние вращения на форму всплеска слабое, то нынешние измерения не позволяют однозначно измерить вращение исходных черных дыр. Тем не менее, в случае GW151226 удалось достоверно определить, что по крайней мере одна черная дыра до слияния вращалась достаточно быстро: ее момент импульса составлял как минимум 20% от максимально возможного значения. До сих пор никаких наблюдательных данных по вращению черных дыр не было вообще. В будущем, более аккуратные измерения профиля всплеска, и в особенности, наблюдение эффектов прецессии позволят получать более четкие значения (см. видеоролики, поясняющие влияние прецессии на гравитационно-волновой всплеск).
Что касается конечных черных дыр, то во всех трех случаях они, разумеется, сильно вращались — просто потому, что они возникли от слияния обращающихся друг вокруг друга объектов. Их вращение оценивается в 60–70% от максимально возможного.
Расстояние до источника гравитационно-волнового излучения тоже вычисляется по пойманному всплеску. Если мы измерили волновой профиль, мы знаем массы, а значит, можем совершенно однозначно вычислить излученную мощность. Одно жестко связано с другим, никакой свободы интерпретации тут нет. А значит, измерив амплитуду пришедшей волны, мы сможем сосчитать, с какого расстояния прилетел всплеск — ведь его амплитуда ослабляется пропорционально расстоянию (см. простые расчеты в прошлой новости). Поэтому астрофизики называют слияния черных дыр стандартными сиренами — по аналогии со «стандартными свечами», которые используются для определения расстояний до галактик.
Тут, правда, есть тонкость: амплитуда дошедшего до нас сигнала зависит не только от расстояния до источника, но и от ориентации плоскости орбиты относительно направления за Землю. Эти две зависимости можно разделить, если измерить поляризацию волны, либо если слияние будет сопровождаться сильной орбитальной прецессией и ее удастся увидеть в профиле сигнала. С нынешней парой детекторов это пока сделать не удается, поэтому и дистанция измеряется не очень точно. Расстояние до всплесков GW150914 и GW151226 было оценено в 420 и 440 мегапарсек с погрешностью почти 50%, что отвечает красному смещениюz ≈ 0,1. Событие-кандидат LVT151012 пришло с расстояния примерно 1000 Мпк, с красного смещения z ≈ 0,2; неудивительно, что оно оказалось таким слабым.
Тут полезно, кстати, добавить, что, раз источники расположены на таком значительном удалении, то пришедшие от них гравитационные волны испытывают красное смещение. Поэтому видимый нами период осцилляций в (1 + z) раз больше исходного, и на это надо делать поправку при вычислении масс черных дыр.
Астрофизикам, безусловно, хочется знать не только сам факт, что во вселенной что-то «бабахнуло», но и где именно это произошло. Тогда они направят туда телескопы и постараются отследить то же событие в оптическом, гамма и других диапазонах электромагнитного излучения, а может быть даже и поймают прилетевшие оттуда нейтрино. Такая всесигнальная диагностика космических событий — заветная мечта современной астрофизики.
Направление на источник гравитационных волн можно определить, во-первых, по разнице времени прихода сигнала на несколько детекторов, а во-вторых, по их относительному отклику. Сейчас, когда работают только два детектора, удается эффективно использовать только первый метод. В результате направление на источник восстанавливается пока очень плохо; вместо четкого направления получаются длинные дуги, охватывающие чуть ли не полнеба (рис. 7). В будущем году, когда заработает третий детектор гравитационно-волновой сети Virgo, локализация источников на небе будет намного конкретнее.
О чем говорят результаты
Два подтвержденных слияния и одно вероятное — статистика, мягко говоря, скромная. Но даже сейчас она позволяет делать выводы о физических законах и свойствах Вселенной, которые до этого были недоступны непосредственному измерению.
Во-первых, профиль гравитационно-волнового всплеска очень хорошо согласуется с ожиданиями общей теории относительности. ОТО была протестирована в пределах солнечной системы, но только в приближении гравитационного слабого поля и при невысоких скоростях. Сейчас мы получили первые данные о том, как ведет себя гравитация в сильных полях и при релятивистском движении объектов (скорости черных дыр в момент слияния достигали половины скорости света), — а значит, можем проверить ОТО в недоступной ранее области.
Во второй, подробной статье, посвященной совокупному анализу трех событий, приводятся полученные из данных ограничения на коэффициенты в рамках так называемого постньютоновского формализма. Ни в одном из них не было обнаружено существенного отклонения от ожиданий ОТО. Любопытно, что некоторые величины лучше всего ограничиваются самым сильным всплеском GW150914, а другие — самым долгим всплеском GW151226.
Во-вторых, три слияния — это шесть исходных черных дыр. При такой пусть небольшой, но статистике можно попытаться построить распределение по массам черных дыр и сравнить с теоретическими предсказаниями относительно того, как вообще могут образоваться пары черных дыр звездных масс. Здесь есть два основных сценария: изолированная эволюция (две тяжелые звезды с самого начала были вместе, а потом одна за другой превратились в черные дыры) и динамическое образование (черные дыры образовались независимо, а потом, за счет динамики в тесном скоплении, образовали связанное состояние).
Казалось бы, откуда вообще мы можем узнать, как образовалась пара черных дыр, если мы видим только последнюю секунду их совместной жизни? Оказывается, по расчетам, изолированная эволюция обычно дает пары черных дыр близкой массы, а различие масс вдвое и больше в таком сценарии очень маловероятно. Динамический сценарий тоже отдает предпочтение близким массам, но и сильно различающиеся пары тут тоже возможны. Кроме того, эти два механизма дают разные предсказания насчет ориентаций вращения двух черных дыр.
Пока что полученные данные не позволяют отдать четкое предпочтение конкретному механизму. Но в будущем, когда статистика станет больше, а измерения — точнее, результаты станут более конкретными. Кто знает, может быть, через десяток лет мы уже будем говорить про две разных популяции «чернодырных пар», разделенных по механизму их рождения, и будем считать всплески GW150914 и GW151226 первыми ласточками обеих популяций. Так или иначе, но то, что десятилетиями оставалось лишь уделом теоретической астрофизики, становится на наших глазах доступно экспериментальной проверке. Подробнее об этих измерениях и планах на будущее читайте в материале М. Мусина За волной волна.
Еще одна величина, о которой астрофизики до сих пор могли судить только косвенно, это темп слияния черных дыр, то есть как часто происходят такие слияния в расчете на один кубический гигапарсек. До сих пор оценки, опирающиеся на разные аргументы, различались на порядки — собственно, поэтому, когда строили LIGO и другие детекторы, не было уверенности, когда обсерватория поймает первый гравитационно-волновой сигнал. Сейчас, когда мы имеем за душой 2 или 3 слияния за полтора месяца чистых наблюдений, у нас уже есть экспериментальное значение: общий темп слияний черных дыр звездных масс лежит в пределах 9–240 слияний в год в объеме один кубический гигапарсек. Не слишком точно, конечно, но это уже реальное число, подкрепленное наблюдениями.
Вообще, конечно, темп слияния для черных дыр разных масс тоже будет разный: тяжелых черных дыр меньше, чем легких, но с другой стороны, их «слышно» издалека. Если опираться только на данные, то можно лишь сказать, что в кубическом гигапарсеке в год ожидается несколько штук мощных событий типа GW150914 и несколько десятков (или даже до сотен) более слабых событий типа GW151226. Можно также оценить темп теоретически, на основе того распределения по массам, которое было получено из этих данных. Там погрешности побольше. Приведенное выше число, от 9 до 240 слияний/(год·Гпк3), охватывает диапазоны, полученные всеми этими методами.
Зная темп, накопив опыт в оценке шумов, а также опираясь на планы LIGO, мы можем оценить, на что LIGO может рассчитывать в ближайшем будущем. Это несколько событий во втором сеансе, который стартует осенью, и несколько десятков подобных слияний — в третьем. Пожалуй, вот эти оценки, вполне зрячие и обоснованные, — это сейчас самый главный повод для воодушевления. Они четко говорят, что ближайшие несколько лет станут периодом бурного развития гравитационно-волновой астрономии.
И в завершение — цитата Кристофера Берри, одного из участников коллаборации LIGO и автора очень информативного блога по гравитационно-волновой астрономии: «Мы живем в будущем, прямо сейчас. У нас, может быть, нет летающих скейтбордов, но эра гравитационно-волновой астрономии уже наступила. Не через 20 лет, не в следующем десятилетии, не через пять лет — а прямо сейчас. LIGO не просто открыла новое окно. Она вышибла его ко всем чертям и выпрыгнула наружу до того, как ударная волна вынесет всю стенку здания. Это всё настолько воодушевляет, что я даже не могу подобрать нормальную метафору. Вступительные слова во всех статьях по гравитационно-волновой астрономии будут отныне и навсегда совсем другими».
An explosion in Sinjar, Iraq, May 13, 2016, near Mount Sinjar, Nineveh Province, Iraq. Kurdish forces retook the town from ISIS in Nov. 2015. Its population in 2013 was estimated at 88,023.
Photojournalist Yuri Kozyrev has lived through the full arc of the war in Iraq. Based in Baghdad from 2002 to 2009, he documented the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of the country, from the initial “shock and awe” phase of bombardment through the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. He was on the scene in Tikrit when U.S. forces pulled the deposed dictator Saddam Hussein from his underground hideout.
Kozyrev worked on the front lines as more and more Iraqis grew to reject the U.S. presence in their country and some came to support an armed insurrection against the American forces. He photographed the war day by day as the insurgency metastasized into a brutal sectarian civil war, sowing the seeds of extremism that continue to devastate the country to this day. Working alongside Iraqis and a series of TIME correspondents, he has been an eyewitness to the shattering of Iraq.
Kozyrev recalls one moment in December 2003 when he sensed a shift in the dynamics of the war. He had been with a group of U.S. soldiers near the Baghdad airport when they came under mortar fire from insurgents. “It was crazy, dangerous,” he recalls. “There were casualties.” A day or two later, as he was going to photograph a group of insurgents, he realized they had taken him and a correspondent to a position where they were shelling the same airport. It was a shocking juxtaposition. “It was crazy, because suddenly you could be with the enemy and see them hitting the airport,” he says. “It was weird. There was nothing you could do.”
One of the resulting images from that assignment was an Iraqi insurgent, holding a missile launcher, his face covered with a scarf. Kozyrev met the same fighter and his group multiple times, but eventually, the man cut off his access. It was a shift in the tone of the insurgency. “Enough, we’re finished,” he told Kozyrev through an interpreter. “We don’t need your coverage.”
Kozyrev also remembers the moment when the U.S. coalition authorities decided to disband the Iraqi army in May 2003, fueling the insurgency. “All the men lost their jobs,” he says. “They didn’t have any future. They were actually patient, and then some of them joined the insurgency, and them some of them joined al-Qaeda, and then ISIS.”
Another startling moment came in 2009 when he visited Camp Bucca, the vast U.S.-run military prison, which at its peak held 26,000 prisoners. The prison camp, located in the desert 340 miles southwest of Baghdad, was a miserable scene, with detainees in yellow jumpsuits praying, reading the Quran, or talking among themselves inside their barbed-wire confines.
Camp Bucca is now infamous as the place where the organization that would become ISIS was born. Many of the prisoners were Iraqi men seized during raids by the American forces. ISIS’ top commander, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, spent time in the camp. “That was really a huge mistake, just to keep Iraqi men in one place for nothing,” says Kozyrev.
Kozyrev calls his years in Iraq an “amazing experience with horrible consequences.” In May, he returned to the country. I travelled with him throughout northern Iraq to document the new battle against ISIS, which now controls a huge section of the country. The campaign against the jihadists is making slow progress. “Unfortunately,” says Kozyrev, “there’s no sign that the problems will be fixed soon.”