Being There

by Jackson Couse

Why the International Center of Photography?

Statue of Liberty, on Liberty Island in New York, as seen from Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Statue of Liberty, on Liberty Island in New York, as seen from Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Last night, I took a call from a woman in California who had been accepted to the International Center of Photography. She was trying to decide whether she should go for it. She asked me, “is it worth it?”

I was in her position exactly one year ago to the day. It was April 12th, 2010, my birthday. At 8am I went to my government job and gave my two-weeks notice. That afternoon, I returned home to the letter from the ICP accepting my application for the 2010-2011 school year. In the evening we had a birthday BBQ in the backyard.

Until that day, the prospect of moving had been mostly theoretical. It was suddenly real. The tuition alone was a lot of money. Moving cities is hard. And I’d have to stop working for a year, too. It was a big choice. Some people said I should take my money and travel the world. Others questioned why I would want to move from Ottawa at all (although they were very few, and only halfheartedly asked). Most people, though, told me to go, if this was what I really wanted. The decision was complicated by having already been to photography school, not that long ago. I graduated from Algonquin College in 2007 with a diploma in commercial photography. It was a good school, highly technical, and demanding. But I always wanted more. I wanted more from life, more from my city. Most of all, I wanted more from myself.

Midtown Manhattan as seen from the Pulaski Bridge

Midtown Manhattan as seen from the Pulaski Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens, New York

I said yes. I accepted because I wanted to grow, to move up a level, to be truly tested. I wanted to train with the best, to learn how to tell stories from the leaders in photojournalism and documentary photography. In some ways, it was an easy choice. ICP was the only place I had applied and the only place really wanted to go. I said yes to myself.

School is definitely not easy. There is a lot I miss about my life back home. I miss my family. But, for all the homesickness and frustration of living in New York, it has been worth it so far.

This year is a gift. It is a dream. It is an incredible privilege to spend a year completely focused on my craft. It is amazing to be surrounded by smart and engaged students. The teachers at ICP who I’ve connected with have made an impact on me that will resonate for the rest of my life. ICP was the push I needed, and the push I didn’t know I needed. I’ve grown as an artist and a human. I’ve really jumped off the deep end.

There are ten weeks left in the school year. I want this freedom to go on forever.

Pas de deux

Happy birthday to me, lets dance!


Intermedia is artwork that is the a product of the interaction of multiple forms of creation. It is an interplay. It might be more one thing than another, but the different aspects are integral to the whole. Intermedia is something new.

Multimedia is the melding of the forms, habits, and dicta of disciplines. Multimedia is the ingestion of one media into another. In multimedia, there is always a dominant media. It is the mash-up of media ideas, the transference of one idea of creation to the ways of another.

Mortal Engine, an incredible dance/music/light performance from Chunky Move, is intermedia:

Can you guess what I prefer?

Bang Bang

Heartbreaker, that’s you:

Les Amours Imaginaire” trailer on YouTube: and at

This body is a cage

a fragile, beautiful cage:

the most beautiful from barbara saric on Vimeo.

Barbara Šarić’s project, “the most beautiful” juxtaposes sculptures – archetypes of human beauty – with living, breathing people.

Barbara Šarić is a Croatian photographer based in New York. More on her website, too.

Girl Walk

I love New York:

Girl Walk // All Day from jacob krupnick on Vimeo.

Support the project on Kickstarter, here:

(via @bluteau)

How to take pictures

How do you see in images? Here’s the process I use to get myself into the headspace of seeing like a photographer. How to take pictures, in a dozen easy steps:

  1. Set an intention, have a purpose,
  2. Leave the house,
  3. Turn off your cell phone,
  4. Look ahead,
  5. Look side to side,
  6. Look behind,
  7. Use a camera you love,
  8. Give yourself time,
  9. Go places you want to be,
  10. Go to people you want to be with,
  11. Be free,
  12. Have fun.


If you are a professional, act like one. If you aren’t a professional, that is ok! Just be who you are. If you want to take someone’s photo, you can. Talk to them. Ask them if you can take their picture, and tell them why. Don’t lie, to yourself or anyone else, about why you take pictures. Be honest, and you’ll get honest pictures.

Inspiration is for amateurs

“Inspiration is for amateurs, and the rest of us just show up and get to work,” said the painter and photographer Chuck Close “a likeness is an automatic byproduct of what I do.”

Listen to his interview on PRI’s Studio 360 here:

“The people that I paint lend me their image.” As the maker of 9-foot portraits, Close does not do commissioned work. “They often don’t like the way they look.”

What time is it?

What time is it? from FV on Vimeo.

Photographs by Jeff Jacobson. Read the poem by Marnie Andrews here.

On Privilege

Being a photojournalist is a tremendous privilege. People expect, and sometimes even want, you to look at them. Journalism is essential for a functioning democracy, and journalists are empowered by this need. As a photojournalist, you are sanctioned by society and protected by law to do your job.

Working the other night, someone said to me:

“Thank you for coming. You are a great chronicler. Sometimes we take advantage of your presence, but we’re glad you’re here.”

It was funny, because I always feel like I’m intruding when I photograph people. I feel like I’m taking their time, interrupting their life, interjecting. I forget that while this process is normal for me, for a lot of people it will be their only interaction with a journalist. These days, everyone is photographed everywhere they go. If I photograph a stranger, however, it may be the only time in their life that someone has really looked at them. I am a professional.

Being a professional has some big responsibilities. You have to get it right. You have to really look. If someone makes themselves available to you, you have to do your job right. You have to be serious and act like a professional; show up on time, be respectful, be truthful and honest, and take your job and yourself seriously.

Its pretty simple.

I am troubled by the sense of entitlement I see. You, who show up late, talk over others, back talk, do drugs, turn in lazy sub-par performances, and cheat, well, I wonder what the hell you’re doing in this profession. If you’re not going to try, why are you here?  Photojournalism is an entrepreneurial profession. There’s no room for floaters.

Half-baked photojournalists ruin it for us who do try. You give us all a bad name. You really are wasting people’s time. If you’re not in it, you might as well get out.

There are exceptions, of course, and these people give me hope for the future. They are, uniformly, people who have fought hard to be here and who have people backing them. They are responsible. They care about their work, and the people they photograph. They have chosen projects that reflect a deep caring for the world, and an interest in the well-being of other people. I am honoured to know you, and privileged to see your projects.