The 2016 Anderson Ranch Advanced Workshop group at Anderson Ranch in Colorado.

I just completed a magical week at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center with Jim Estrin of The New York Times. We are co-teaching a three year Advanced Mentor Program with ‘the ranch.’ Jim and I will be mentoring 15 participants who range in ages and experience levels with photography, but who all share a passion for their projects and a keen desire to grow. They have become part of what has emerged as one of the most unique opportunities in the photo documentary world. The idea for this workshop was borne last year while Jim and I were co-teaching a one week workshop in Snowmass, Colorado, where Anderson Ranch is located. The opportunity to mentor photographers over an extended period of time was something that appealed to both of us.With the wisdom and support of Andrea Wallace, who is the director of the photography program at Anderson Ranch, our idea became a reality this past week.

Jim Estrin, Andrea Wallace and Ed Kashi at Anderson Ranch.

There were more than 100 applicants to this program, but in the end we had to choose 15 candidates all of whom showed up in Colorado this past week. The variety of backgrounds in the chosen group is delightful: there is a former scientist from India who is now a photographer, two folks from Canada, an American living in Jakarta who also teaches math to high school students there, a handful of young, ambitious and talented photographers from around the United States, a Canadian relocating to Mexico to work on his project about water, a Danish-American based in Los Angeles…you get the idea. The group is as diverse in age as they are in experiences, ranging from those in their early 20s to an amazing man in his 70s who was once in politics and law.

Their projects are inspiring and reflect so many of the issues and themes of our times. Three are working on water related projects and three on projects related to native peoples’ rights. There is a story on expats living in the bubble of Jakarta, a film project about military veterans, PTSD and murder, an examination of the US political process through the experiences of a fundraiser and young people, a project about domestic abuse from the perspectives of  the abused and the abuser, a story on walrus tusk hunting and the cultural implications of this ancient activity, a Puerto Rican photographer telling the timely story of the economic crisis there, a magical and lyrical street view of Detroit today and a project on Iraqi refugees in the Detroit metro area being told by an Iraqi refugee!

A selection of the participants’ work:

Photo by Amber Bracken: Koncept show in Edmonton, Alberta on Friday, January 22, 2016.

Photo by Amber Bracken: Aimee at her friend and drug dealers house in Edmonton, Alberta on Monday, August 17, 2015. Aimee smokes a lot of pot to deal with her anxiety.

Photo by Amber Bracken: DeeJay at the hospital in Edmonton, Alberta on Saturday, January 30, 2016. He didn’t remember what had happened but friends told him he’d slipped on the ice when he was drunk, cutting open his forehead. In the morning, after spending the night in the hospital on fluids, his blood alcohol level was still three times the legal limit though he seemed totally sober.

Photo by Charles Burson

Photo by Charles Burson

Photo by Charles Burson

Photo by Josh Corbett: Bowhead whale fin is sliced distributed among the community at the spring whaling festival in Point Hope, Alaska. Modern whaling is closely regulated by a quota system and whales are a vital source of subsistence foods for rural Alaskan coastal communities.

Photo by Josh Corbett: An elder eats a fresh slice of whale fin distributed by the whaling captain’s family.

Photo by Josh Corbett: Traditional blanket toss during the spring whaling festival in Point Hope, Alaska.

Photo by Luc Forsyth: The skyline of central Mexico City as seen from Iztapalapa, a low-income outer suburb that is chronically short of water. Many residents rely on on government water deliveries to meet their daily domestic needs.

Photo by Luc Forsyth: Government water delivery trucks arrive in Ecatepec, a satellite city of Mexico City, and are met by residents angry about long delays. With virtually no working water infrastructure, many Ecatepec residents rely on the under-equipped fleet trucks to meet their basic household needs.

Photo by Luc Forsyth: Marisol Fierro Granados waits for government water delivery trucks to arrive in her area of Iztapalapa while her house-bound schizophrenic brother paces in the background. According to Marisol, the water pipes in Iztapalapa turn on whenever there is an election, but are shut off again as soon as a candidate is elected, leading to widespread mistrust of local government.

Photo by Kara Frame

Photo by Salwan Georges: Iraqi refugees outside the Rafha Islamic Center after a Ramadan dinner on Friday, July 1, 2016, on the border of Detroit and Dearborn, MI.

Photo by Salwan Georges: Issa Moody, 45, of Detroit, photographed outside the Rafha Islamic Center before a Ramadan dinner on Friday, July 1, 2016, on the border of Detroit and Dearborn, MI. Moody is one of the cooks who helped prepare the dinner.

Photo by Salwan Georges: A young Iraqi Shi’a girl with her mother outside the Karbalaa Center during the “Arba’een” walk event in Dearborn, MI, on 12/5/15. About 6,000 people marched from the Karbalaa Center in Dearborn to Ford Woods park to mark the Arba’een, the 40th day after death of Imam Hussain. Imam Hussain was killed in the battle of Karbala city in Iraq, in the first month of the Islamic Year. Shi’a believe that Hussain death, which led to a series of rebellions that eventually overthrew Yazid’s Umayyad Dynasty, preserved Islam.

Photo by Lauren Justice: Meaghan, a domestic violence survivor, experienced her first abusive relationship at the age of 15 and says that it was a gateway to even worse relationships. Now she uses her experiences as a way to educate and connect with others as an advocate at a domestic violence shelter.

“When the abuse begins at such a young age, at such a crucial time in a person’s development, it becomes so difficult to overcome. As a domestic violence advocate, I surround myself with knowledge of the issue. It is engrained in my daily life and helping others heal from the trauma of abuse helps me to feel a sense of purpose. It makes me feel like the things that I have experienced happened for a reason, because they make me a more empathetic advocate for others who experience abuse. It took me 9 years, but I forgive him wholeheartedly and that gives me the greatest sense of peace I’ve ever known.”

Photo by Lauren Justice: Lisa stands at her former partner’s gravesite. Lisa is a domestic violence survivor whose late partner threatened murder and suicide as a way to control and manipulate the decisions she made in the twelve years they dated. When he did commit suicide after she left him, she carried guilt and blamed herself for nine years. Over the past year she has realized that she is not at fault for neither his abuse nor his decision to take his own life.

“I feel safe any place now that Dave has died. I was never safe when he was alive because he was always not far behind me.”

Photo by Lauren Justice: Shannon, a domestic violence survivor, reflects on her experiences in a place that makes her feel peaceful and safe.

“The more violent he became, the more self-hatred I had towards myself. I have no clue as to why I never could blame him for the things he did to me. I would be angry at him yet every punch, every rape, every threat to my life; it was all somehow my own fault.”

Photo by Mette Lampcov: A girl is reaching over her neighbor’s fence to pet a puppy in Three Rocks, San Joaquin Valley, CA a small unincorporated town that has contaminated water delivered to them from Westlands one of the biggest water districts in America.

Westlands have increased their water bills as much as 300% an average of $150 to $200 a family and threatened to turn the water off if people could not pay. The state has agreed to subsidize the water bills and are delivering bottle water to the families for drinking and cooking.

Photo by Mette Lampcov: A young women has her make up done, getting ready for high school graduation at Cantua School, that serves both Three Rocks and Cantua Creek.

Photo by Mette Lampcov: Its 10 pm at night and farm workers are picking onions in a field near Cantua, making $1.30 for each sack filled. The farmers are increasingly turning away from vegetables as the earth is too salty and they have to dig new wells to reach water, as deep as 1600 feet. Farm Works average income a year is between $ 10.000 – $13.000 a year.

Photo by Emily Macinnes: Residents at a drug-rehabilitation centre for minors in rural Colombia greet each other outside the dining-hall before an early morning yoga and meditation session. The centre houses up to 100 residents aged between 5 and 18 years old and takes an abstinence-based approach with twice-daily yoga and mediation sessions as well as individual and group therapy.

Photo by Emily Macinnes: Boys rest on their yoga mats after a yoga session at a holistic drug-rehabilitation centre for minors in the district of Valle del Cauca, Colombia. The centre houses minors aged between 5 and 18 years old with drug and alcohol addiction for anywhere between 9 months to three years, depending on age and severity of addiction.

Photo by Emily Macinnes: Andrés, a new arrival at the centre, gazes into the distance, during ‘privileges’ – a weekly session which allows residents to use the gym or football field based on good behaviour. Andrés, 16, was admitted to the home by social services after he was discovered sleeping rough and high on heroin in the streets of Cali. Physicians at the home say, because of his early drug abuse (becoming addicted at the age of 9 years-old) he now faces permanent brain-damage.

Photo by Arati Rao: Riverine fishermen all along the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin, the most populated river basin in the world, are easy pickings for pirates out to make a quick buck. Here, the son of a fisherman huddles in a boat, waiting for his father to return. His friend was kidnapped and held by pirates who demanded a princely ransom for his release. Paying such sums drives the already poor fishermen deeper in to debt.

Photo by Arati Rao: This crew of fishermen had traveled farther out into the Bay of Bengal than ever before and still come back with a meager catch. Overfishing by commercial trawlers is emptying the waters, leaving artisanal fishermen high and dry, and forcing them to abandon their traditional livelihoods for daily wage work in cities.

Photo by Arati Rao: The Sundarbans in South Asia is the world’s largest unbroken stand of mangrove forests and it straddles the border between India and Bangladesh. In December 2014, a ship carrying 358,000 liters of heavy fuel oil ran aground and emptied its bowels into the rivers running through this UNESCO World Heritage Site. In a startling show of apathy the government of Bangladesh forced fishermen and their families to clean up the oil. Children, like the young boy shown here, were in the forefront of the clean-up operation.

Photo by Erika P. Rodriguez: Julio A. Muriente, a prominent pro independence leader, speaks during the annual remembrance festivities of the Lares Revolt of 1868 against Spanish colonial rule. El Grito de Lares, as it is known in Spanish, is largely considered the genesis of the pro independence movement. The banner reads: The debt is not ours… is from the empire!

Photo by Erika P. Rodriguez: People observe a competition of trova, a Puerto Rican musical genre, during the Lajas Valley Agricultural Fair on July 6, 2014, in the southeastern town of Lajas, P.R.

Photo by Erika P. Rodriguez: People play ‘Pica,’ a popular traditional bet game with mechanical horses, at the Patron Saint Festivities in the mountainous town of Cayey, on August 18, 2012.

Photo by Erika P. Rodriguez: Room of a guest house in the northern west side of the island on Jan. 2, 2013. Puerto Rico is a small island in the Caribbean that belongs to United States, but is not part of it, according to the Supreme Court’s definition of the “unincorporated territory”. Its cultural limbo forged by its political status and self-identity crisis has been carried over for more than 500 years of colonization. Although have a rich culture, we don’t know who we are.

Photo by Amy Sacka: A couple dances in the backyard of a West Village home in Detroit, Michigan.

Photo by Amy Sacka: A skateboarder does a trick in front of the demolition of the former Brewster Douglass housing projects in Detroit, Michigan.

Photo by Amy Sacka: A man crosses Grand River street in Detroit, Michigan.

Photo by Amy Smith

Photo by Amy Smith

Photo by Amy Smith

Photo by Sarah Stacke

Photo by Sarah Stacke

Photo by Amiran White

Photo by Amiran White

Photo by Amiran White

One night we were invited to Charles and Bunny Burson’s home, a short distance from the ranch, for a BBQ and drinks. Charles is one of our participants and his wife Bunny is a very talented artist. At one point Bunny began to share her new book, Hidden In Plain Sight, which is this fascinating, creative and profound art piece based on letters from her Jewish grandparents who were left back in Germany, to her mother who had immigrated to America during WWII. It was simultaneously heartbreaking to hear the disconnected and longing voice of parents who had lost their child to forced immigration, and a tribute to the freedom that America represented to this new immigrant. At some point in this riveting salon-like event, where Bunny had about 12 folks gathered around her in her study, looking at the book and listening, I turned and realized that Salwan Georges, a 26 year old Iraqi Christian refugee, who came to America a few years ago and is now a staff photographer at the Detroit Free Press, was standing in the room. Chills went down my spine as I recognized this moment. Two immigrant experiences, separated by 70 years, religions, regions of the world and ethnic backgrounds, one European the other Middle Eastern, both in the room, both sharing the same experiences of dislocation caused by war, genocide and injustice. This moment reinforced the power of storytelling, the opportunity for this group to not only explore their own projects and issues, but learn from each other and thereby enrich our lives.

Ed Kashi works with a group of students at Anderson Ranch in Colorado.

I’ve never had such an amazing experience as a teacher. Never once in a group or private meeting did I drift off, fight tired eyes or wonder what I was doing there. I was constantly inspired, challenged and left excited about the future. The fact that this is over a three year period is what makes it significant. I usually teach workshops that are much shorter and while they almost always end with good feelings and connections that endure, this workshop was different. As we prepared to say goodbye, it was empowering to know that I  would be speaking to my mentees again soon to chart the progress of their projects. It is exhilarating to think that in a year from now we will all be together again in the beautiful environment that is Anderson Ranch, to share their projects and witness how their stories are developing.

Anderson Ranch is this unique place nestled in the mountains of Colorado, about fifteen minutes from Aspen. This year is the 50th anniversary of the ranch. They facilitate work in a multitude of different disciplines including ceramics, sculpture, woodworking, painting and photography, among other art forms. Their multidisciplinary approach has been actively taught and pursued on the ranch for half a decade. The facilities are excellent and the environment conducive to creative thinking, providing a safe space away from the hustle of New York and other photo and art capitals. I appreciate the people, environment and even the healthy, high quality food. The ethos of the place is phenomenal.

Jim Estrin’s contribution and importance to this whole project is hard to quantify, but let’s just say his intelligence, experience and point of view, beyond his connection to The New York Times and Lens blog, are profound and inspiring. He brings the right mix of care, critical thinking and sincerity in his quest to find and develop talent, and a deep interest in storytelling and the powerful impact visual storytelling can have on the world. I could see the impact of Jim’s words in the faces of the participants as they listened intently to him expound on important ideas and lessons.

The challenges of a program like this, which some of the participants noted is like a Master’s Degree program, are significant. The mentees have to figure out how to fund their projects as well as how to gain the necessary access and find the narrative thread that will hold their project together. The goals and ambitions of this program are serious. We have no doubt that it will produce a number of important bodies of work that will be published and seen widely. Jim and I also expect at least a handful of books and a film to come out of this group.

Time will tell. Incredibly, we have three years to see the visions of these projects become reality.

The 2016 Anderson Ranch Crew

Amber Bracken is a member of Rogue Collective and lifelong Albertan working across the province and farther from home. After starting as a daily newspaper staffer, she has moved on to a freelance career and the pursuit of long-term projects. Her interest is in the intersection of photography, journalism and public service.

After a career in government (Tennessee Attorney General, White House counsel, Chief of Staff to VP Al Gore), law (private practice; General Counsel Monsanto) and teaching (Professor at Washington University Law School), Charles Burson reinvented himself and decided to pursue photography at Anderson Ranch with the goal of becoming a photojournalist.

Joshua Corbett is a freelance photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska. He holds an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins, was selected for the 2014 Eddie Adams Workshop, and is currently pursuing a long-term project on subsistence hunting in rural Western Alaska with grant support from the Rasmuson Foundation.

Luc Forsyth is a freelance photojournalist currently based in Mexico City and a regular contributor to The New York Times, Al Jazeera, and The Diplomat. Formerly based in Cambodia, Luc documented the Mekong river for two years from sea to source. His long term projects now focus on water issues and environmental crises.

Kara Frame is a video producer at National Public Radio (NPR) and is a freelance photographer and documentary filmmaker currently based out of Washington, DC. She is dedicated to work that focuses on social issues surrounding women and veterans.

Salwan Georges was born in Baghdad, Iraq and raised in Syria calling Metro Detroit his home since 2004. He is currently a staff photojournalist at the Detroit Free Press. Georges long-term project, documents the lives of Middle Eastern refugees in Michigan. Metro Detroit has been home to the largest Arab community outside the Middle East and starting over in America has meant adapting to new surroundings while simultaneously trying to retain cultural customs and language.

Lauren Justice is a freelance photojournalist currently based in Madison, WI. Trust, intimacy, and time are cornerstones of her work. She believes in using photography as a tool for education, awareness, and understanding. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal among other publications.

Mette Lampcov’s passion is sharing people’s stories that are connected to human ecology in the context of climate change and social issues. She believes that we are all connected and share a common purpose. Photography is a way to allow this connection to reach beyond physical boundaries and look into people’s lives with respect and a great understanding for each other.

Emily Macinnes (b. 1989) is a Scottish documentary photographer currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2012 she gained a BA Honours in Photography from Nottingham Trent University and later studied Photojournalism at the Danish School of Media and Journalism. Emily has worked with various international NGO’s documenting local and global issues as well as more intimate stories of struggles faced closer to home. Some of her clients include Oxfam, UNICEF and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Arati Kumar-Rao is an independent environmental photographer & writer documenting the loss of traditional livelihood in communities living along South Asia’s rivers. Environmental degradation strips these communities of any means of sustenance and forces migration to cities. This displacement is creating millions of environmental refugees intensely vulnerable to climate change.

Erika P. Rodríguez was born on the last day of the year and was raised between the concrete jungle of the city and the green mountains of Puerto Rico. After suffering from the common island fever she took a one-way plane to California to get a BS in Visual Journalism from the Brooks Institute. Since that she has worked at Gallery 27 in Santa Barbara, the LA Times as an Assistant Photo Editor in the Calendar Section, and now as a freelance photographer. Recently she relocated from Los Angeles to Puerto Rico, to follow her heart and focus on a long-term project about Puerto Rico, her homeland. Erika’s background, being from a country that is culturally Latin American but politically American, has shaped her interest as a documentary photographer to explore the topics of community and identity.

Amy Sacka is a Detroit-based street photographer. Her work explores the shifting identity, culture and heritage of Detroit, a city undergoing dynamic change.

Amy Smith is a teacher and photographer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She has lived in the USA, Venezuela, China and now Indonesia, traveling the world and teaching math. Living abroad, she hopes to document the elements of expat life to help others understand the balance of cultural immersion, comfort and global perspective.

Sarah Stacke is an American photographer whose personal work develops intimate stories about people living in under-resourced and narrowly represented communities created by intersections of history, culture, and geography. In 2012 Sarah received a master’s degree from Duke University tailored to analyze photographic representations of sub-Saharan Africa. As a 2014-2015 Lewis Hine Fellow she worked with exalt, a Brooklyn-based organization that serves court-involved youth. She teaches at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies and the International Center of Photography. She regularly writes about photography for publications including Photo District News and National Geographic. Sarah’s personal work and editorial clients have taken her around the world with a particular emphasis on South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and within the U.S.A, Cherokee, North Carolina and the Bronx, New York. Along the way she has worked with institutions like The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, UN Women, Open Society Foundations, and Planned Parenthood.

Amiran White was born and raised in England, but began his photojournalism career in Portland, OR stringing for The Associated Press. From there, he spent 12 years working as a staff photographer for daily papers in Oregon, Pennsylvania and New Mexico. Since then, he has traveled through Central America, India and Europe as an independent documentary photographer and has earned a variety of awards including a Pulitzer Prize nomination, the Community Awareness Award from Pictures of the Year International and the Golden Light Award for documentary photography.

James Estrin, a co-instructor at the Anderson Ranch workshop, is a senior staff photographer for The New York Times and an editor of its photography blog, Lens. He started at the Times in 1987 and was part of a team that won a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. He has also written for The Times and produced multimedia projects for its Web site. In 2004 and 2005, he wrote and photographed several articles on assisted suicide and dying. Estrin was a staff photographer for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. from 1981 to 1983 and then freelanced in Washington D.C. and New York before joining the Times.

Ed Kashi, a co-instructor at the Anderson Ranch workshop, is a photojournalist, filmmaker, speaker, and educator dedicated to documenting the social and political issues that define our times. A sensitive eye and an intimate relationship to his subjects are signatures of his work. A member of VII Photo Agency since 2010, Kashi has been recognized for his complex imagery and its compelling rendering of the human condition. In addition to editorial assignments, filmmaking and personal projects, Kashi is an educator and mentor to students of photography and an active participant in forums and lectures on photojournalism, documentary photography and multimedia. His early adoption of hybrid visual storytelling has produced a number of influential short films.

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