FABLES and FACTS

A giant-sized drool this week.

We start off with the world’s first look at some new work Clint
Mclean is doing in The Middle East(ish) region.

Then there’s some advise from Kevin Spacey, a bit of hype and,
finally, some video and stills of Stephanie.

Let’s go…..

CLINT MCLEAN- FABLES

My friend, Clint Mclean went to Afghanistan, Nepal and India
and took fotos. Typically when fotografers go to such places
they fall back on the tried and the true. Problem is tried and
true is shorthand for been-there/done-that. (vis.:much photo-
journalism)

Instead, what Clint decided to do in these places was to enlist
locals and shoot fables. Fable is defined as “a deliberately false
or improbable account”, or “a short allegorical narrative making
a moral point”.

a
The wise daughter, Nepal, 2011. ©Clint Mclean

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The girl who married a snake, India, 2010. ©Clint Mclean

What a relief to find someone who believes that fables are a valid
way in to these societies under attack, who believes that showing
the deliberately false can be as (or more) illuminating than “the
facts”.

Clint has just begun this project…..these are early days. This
dovetails nicely with drool’s penchant for showing work-in-
progress and I thank Clint for agreeing to be interviewed here.

drool: Maybe, Clint, you could start by briefly outlining why
you want to go to these places and shoot fables.

Clint: Sure. Well, ultimately, I am traveling to places I want to see,
and I have various projects on the go that lend themselves to being
photographed around the world, so I am am able to work on one or
more series anywhere I go. I am drawn to places that are very different
than where I am from, so I have been to Afghanistan, the Danakil
depression and Timbuktou, but not to London.

I am also sometimes disappointed that journalists at times perpetuate
the narrow views of countries rather than enlarge them. Stories about
Afghanistan tend to be only about war or the occasional piece on the
people or traditions that are treated as quaint at best, or more commonly,
backwards and barbaric.

I try not to photograph the things that we see so commonly from places
like Afghanistan. By taking a different approach to photographing people
there, I think the images can help add much needed context to the story
of Afghanistan.

b
The Khan and his son, Afghanistan, 2011. ©Clint Mclean

c1
Shiva and the potter, Nepal, 2011. ©Clint Mclean

drool: You mention “taking a different approach…..the images can help
add much needed context”. How do you see this happening?

Clint: I think by photographing Afghans in ways we are not used to seeing
them, we look at them differently. It is by no means a definitive portrait of
the Afghan people – no photograph or photographer can do that – but it
is a small piece to the puzzle. Likewise, by photographing Afghans in a
staged narrative based on their own folklore, we continue, with baby
steps, to add detail to people’s perception of Afghans and Afghanistan.

drool: Okay, enough theory, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. How on
earth did you facilitate these shoots? What’s it like doing this kind of
work in those places?

Clint: Building shoots like these in places like these is all of the fun
and all of the pain. Even fixers and translators who are used to work-
ing with photographers don’t generally quite get what I am trying to do.

I thought I was going to shoot a fable about an old and a young wrestler
when I was in Afghanistan, but it turned out my fixer (which coincidentally
was the first time I had ever hired one) didn’t really comprehend what I was
doing or explain to the wrestlers what I was doing, so they were expecting
me to take action shots of their wrestling class. In the end I just did some
portraits and drank tea.

wrestlers
Afghan wrestlers. ©Clint Mclean

Using regular people is key to the series. ‘Folk’ for the folktales. I love search-
ing for these people who are willing to drive out to a mountainous location in
a war torn nation with a stranger  who doesn’t speak their language, who then
makes them wait for two hours for the sun to move into place before putting
chicken blood on them and making them act the same scene over and over
and over again while a crowd of curious people from the nearby village watches. 

chickenkill
Slaughtering chicken for shoot (and eating). ©Clint Mclean

bts1
Shooting Afghan fable. ©Clint Mclean

India was the easiest place to create a fable image so far. I arrived in
Bikaner in Rajasthan in the late morning and by early afternoon I had
found a boy to act as translator, a girl to star in the image, a cobra
and snake charmer, and had rented clothes and jewelry appropriate
to fable and the time/place. I also found antique Rajasthan rooms
for the location.

Afghanistan was the hardest and in the end I’m not yet sure i”m
happy with the results, though I still have film to be processed
so we’ll see. 

flower
Portrait on Flower Street, Kabul, Afghanistan (“I love that Kabul has a flower street”). ©Clint Mclean

Nepal was interesting because I had a couple Sadhus squished
in the car with me as we drove from the temple area where I
found them to the location, which was an old town famous
for its pottery. I used an actual potter who I had met when I
scouted the location and it seemed like half the town was
watching. My translator explained the fable of Shiva and the
Potter to them as I was again waiting on the light to change
so I could use my Canon flash to make an otherwise flat scene
more dramatic.

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Clint and Sadhu on way to shoot. ©Clint Mclean

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Shooting “Shiva and the potter”. ©Clint Mclean

Clint Mclean.com is here.

Clint Mclean Projects is here.

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WE GET LETTERS

letter-0231

Yes, we get letters, usually of the electronic kind. And we answer them all.
But this one, from Donald, in Tabrax, Scotland, came in the mail with no
email address so it’ll get answered here…..

After a few personal thoughts on my work Donald asks for my advice to
young photographers……I’ll let Kevin Spacey, answer that:

“To want is not enough, that’s just desire.”

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FOUHSE MAKES THE SOCIETY PAGE

Further to last weeks drool thingy about the big Ottawa Magazine
Interiors issue launch…..here’s a shot from that affair, included in
the society page of The Ottawa Citizen…..

society-page-2011-small

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CONSCIENTIOUS SHOUT OUT

Just in case you missed it, Joerg Colberg, at the highly respected fotoblog,
Conscientious, ran a post on “How to promote your work”. And the impetus
for that post was, I’m flattered and honored to say, drool.

con1

Now, I might mention that I’ve never seen drool as a promotional device,
at least not in the traditional sense. In fact, in my local commercial market
it may actually cost me clients.

But getting clients was never its point. Its point was to allow me to write (a
thing I really like doing) and to represent my take and politics. While that
might not be the best way to pay the bills in this neck of the woods, it’s the
only way I know.

That particular post is here.

And Conscientious, one of the few fotoblogs in my bookmark bar, is here.

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STEPHANIE

So much of this trip with Stephanie is about waiting. I never (well,
hardly ever) just swing by, pick her up and we get going. There’s
always some drama at the house, or Steph just woke up or she’s
not there/not answering or she needs to get drugs before we can
do anything else

For instance, in the video below, it seems like she walks down the
road, gets what she needs and comes back to the car. But the time
that elapsed between her walking away and her returning was about
30 minutes. (And you can see the difference in her demeanor, her
energy, from when she’s waiting for it to when she gets it in her
hand. Holding is relief…..)

And then there’s the rush…..the rush to get on to the next thing,
which is getting the drugs into you, and, after that, you’ve got to
get out to hustle enough money for the next hit.

But in-between the end of that video and Steph going off to find
more money, we, Steph and I, managed to go for a soda…….

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After the soda we went to look for some kind of beads or drape.
Steph had rearranged her room and wanted something to hang
between her bed and the door to her room.

We didn’t find any beads but we did find this, and thought it was
perfect…..

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And as all this goes on (and on) Stephanie waits for the next
step: the appointment on April 7th to see if she can get into
the Substance Use & Concurrent Disorders Program at The
Royal Ottawa Hospital.

Waiting for the man, in more ways than one…..

Author: Tony Fouhse

Tony is an Ottawa-based photographer.

2 thoughts on “FABLES and FACTS”

  1. @ Justin.

    Yes. I’ve seen all kinds of buys, this is one type. There are also very aggressive, combative exchanges as well as matter of fact ones. But, in a way it’s all no different than many jobs (being a drug addict is a full time job)…..in the end we all have to feed whatever demons we contain.

  2. God! Steph’s buy is such a contrast to the visual stereotypes surrounding drug addicts and their relationship to the street life/environment.

    A joyless task – devoid of glamour, rebellious romance or excitement that comes across as banal, bleak and desperately suburban sad.

    Somebody’s kid ……..

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