The New York Times


Oct 21, 2005

by Holland Cotter

'VII' Photojournalism throws everything that's philosophically complicated about photography into relief. The medium can be used in what are intended as interpretively neutral ways to document life as it is. It can also be a vehicle for political, social and personal statements. In many cases, the lines between objectivity and subjectivity, fact and attitude, are impossible to disentangle. Those lines crisscross like crazy in a group show of work by nine professional photojournalists at the new Hasted-Hunt Gallery in Chelsea. The participants are all part of the collective photographic agency called "VII," formed early in 2001 on the model of the member-run Magnum. As always, it is hard to overlook the paradox that while the purpose of such agencies is to give photographers control over their work, at least some of that work is devoted to recording the lives of people who have lost control of their destinies. Such is the case in John Stanmeyer's picture of drug addicts chained to a post in Indonesia, in images by Ron Haviv and Joachim Ladefoged (above) of uprooted lives in Bosnia and Albania, in Gary Knight's multiple views of a tsunami-ravaged Sumatra, in Antonin Kratochvil's shot of a corpse on a street in Haiti, and in James Nachtwey's close-up of the machete-scarred face of young man in Rwanda. By contrast, Christopher Morris's picture of ardent cellphone conversationalists in Pennsylvania and Lauren Greenfield's images of California teenagers in prom dresses seem to be from an entirely different universe. Yet two pictures by Alexandra Boulat suggest connections: one is of a turbaned man standing outside a ruined house; the other of a young woman in a Western-style formal gown posing in what looks like a hotel. Both were taken in Afghanistan in the last five years. Are the links between the turbaned man, the woman in the gown and the California teenagers confusing? You bet. That's why photojournalism is the art it is. (Hasted Hunt Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, Chelsea, (212) 627-0006, through Dec. 23.)