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.