Agency VII; Photographers Controlling Their Destinies Page 2

The group realized early on that the value of the idea encompassed the fact that they could take advantage of the newest digital technology as it emerged and ensure that their clients would not have to deal with numerous sellers and account executives in order to get to their photographs. Their archive is run by a relatively new company called Digital Railroad, based in New York. They designed an efficient system to get work to clients quickly as well as to syndicate the photographers' work around the world.

A Vanishing Way of Life.
© 2005, Joachim Ladefoged, All Rights Reserved

The agency has also signed a distribution deal with Associated Press (AP) so their work is available and distributed for sale via the AP to the newspaper market here in America. It is the first time an agency such as this is using the AP as a mechanism for distribution. "We don't have the infrastructure to reach the small newspapers out in the Midwest," Haviv says, "so now we have that ability to contact an audience we were not able to get to before."

The agency's presence is growing and with the awareness of how the market is changing, museum and gallery exhibitions, books, and speaking engagements have become the major outlets along with the Internet for photojournalists to show and distribute their work. For Greenfield the experience is overwhelming. "All of this has allowed me to become part of the history of photography," she says.

Refugee Prayer.
© 2005, John Stanmeyer, All Rights Reserved

Numerous books of the individual photographer's works have been published. One of the most outstanding literary examples, published by Georgio Baravalle, is War, documenting the turbulent battle on terror. Beginning with Nachtwey's terrifying photographs taken of September 11th followed by behind-the-scenes photographs in the White House, the images show the war in Afghanistan, the anxiety and tension in the Middle East, and combat scenes in Iraq. "It's a big book and a big subject," Haviv says.

The photographers of VII realized from the beginning that they had similar beliefs in the benefit of photography and what photography can do to maintain its place in the world. They also brought different ideas and views of the world to the table and in this way complement one another.

"It was always our intention to bring in people of comparable vision, dedication, and belief," Haviv says. "There are some core similarities but there are also these beautiful differences where people go off to expose, cover, and document different events--like Lauren expanded the vision and horizon of work that's available at the agency and that didn't exist before she came.

Hollywood Actresses (Zoe Saldana).
© 2005, Lauren Greenfield, All Rights Reserved

"Chris Morris is now covering the Bush administration at the beginning of the second term. He is also one of the best conflict photographers in the world," Haviv explains, "but since his wife has just had their second child he has slowed down and is concentrating more on the cause rather than the effect of politics."

With the stark realities of the battlefield looming large and needing to be seen, Agency VII is turning to still other ways to communicate their work. Moving further into the world of exhibitions and lectures, the group is currently very interested in education and finding new and different means to get their message out to young people.

On April 16th and 17th, Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, hosted the agency's first annual seminar. The audience was out there--every seat in the large auditorium sold out within the first two days. The schedule included slide shows and lectures by the nine photographers as well as a lively panel discussion titled "Is Anyone Out There Listening? The Relevance of Photojournalism Today."

Abu Ghraib Prisoner.
© 2005, Ron Haviv, All Rights Reserved

It is a profound subject and Knight suggested that there is always a glimmer of light and though things have changed, VII is adapting. Though much photojournalism has been taken over by newspapers the past 10 years there are many new avenues aside from the traditional media that keeps the work in front of the public. Photography is their language and the photographer must have a real vision, a purpose, and a story to tell. The photographers of Agency VII have spent their careers bearing witness to every important national and international conflict of our time. Nothing can tell us more than their photographs.

Nachtwey summed it up, saying, "I'm not here to discourage anybody, but this job has never been easy. I started a long time ago. It was tough then and it's tough now."

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