Documentary Photography

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New Website Online

I have spent the last couple of months on having a new website built which does a better job of showcasing new and old work. Please click HERE or the link below to go and explore!

http://andersbirger.com/

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Off to Roskilde Festival

I’ll be photographing at the Roskilde Festival again this year for Modkraft.dk.

It’ll be a mix of concert photography and news stories, and with a line-up including Paul McCartney, Florence + The Machine, Barrington Levy, Einstürzende Neubauten and many, many more it should be a blast! It’s my 16th year at the festival, and (as usual) what I am looking forward to the most is all the amazing people you meet and share some amazing musical moments with.

Here’s to you guys…


Promo Video for ‘Seeing The World’ Course at LCC

I’ve had a new promo video produced for my short course in documentary photography at London College of Communication.

The camera can capture communities and situations for posterity, it also allows you to step back, reflect and comment.The course is very hands on, although we do touch on the theoretical parts of documentary photography. Much of the time you’ll find yourself out shooting single assignments, off to museums and exhibitions, as well as going through your work with the tutor and your fellow students in the computer room (we work in Adobe Photoshop – there will be a short introduction, so no need to know these programs before)…

You can see all upcoming courses here.


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The Invisible Ones – The story of a capsizing

CLANDESTINO

The story of a capsizing

This is an extract from my project on African migrants living in Nouadhibou, Mauritania, waiting for their turn to set out to sea, risking their lives getting to Fort Europa (2008)

“We could hear the sirens night and day & day and night. After the third day, everything suddenly went quiet. Eleven of my friends jumped off the boat, they couldn’t handle the waiting, and they decided to swim for the shore. One by one we saw them disappear in the waves. They got eaten by the sea”. This tells Babacar Diops.

The up to 800 kilometers (500 miles) across the ocean takes place in small fishing boats packed with up to 90 migrants in each. The Spanish NGO “Organization for Human Rights in Andalusia” estimates that up to a thousand people died last year in their attempt to cross the sea.

Babacar Diops’s pale palms turn towards the sky. His eyes stands out like cracked china. Through the last year and a half, Babacar has seen fifteen of his friends die of hunger, deceases or drowning. First time was after four days in a small fishing boat riding a rough sea towards the Canary Islands. When the Spanish coastguard stopped the boat, Babacar couldn’t speak anymore.
“I was in the hospital for three days before I regained conscience. I was almost dead”. Four of the other 64 passengers never woke again.

For one week he was lying in a hospital bed, looking out of the window. Looking at Europe living it’s life, smelling the foreign country and listening to the sounds of another world. Then he was sent back home.
The police took him to the plane, the plane took him to Mauritania and Mauritania took him to jail. In his backpack he had €500, donated by the Spanish Red Cross. After 10 days in custody, he was given back to the streets. Both the backpack and the money had disappeared in the police storage.

One year after his first attempt, Babacar found himself mashed together with 73 other hopeful migrants in the bottom of a small wooden boat again trying for Europe. This time didn’t go as well as the first. They quickly lost their bearings and were left drifting the open sea for eight days in the hands of the North Atlantic currents before they by chance finally saw the coastline of Spain. But the coastguard were again blocking their way to the beaches of Las Palmas.
“The police threw us bundles of food and water, but they didn’t want to touch us. They only wanted to make sure we didn’t get any further”.

It took three days before desperation took over. Eleven of Babacar’s friends jumped overboard. They all drowned. After that the survivors where brought ashore. Two days later, they were back on a boat. This time they were going in the opposite direction. In Mauritania the police were waiting. The sentence was doubled, 20 days in the local internment camp nicknamed “Guantanamo”.

Today, only six months after he last looked death in the eyes, he’s again scouting the sea. Looking for the next boat that might take him to Europe.

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Portraits of Journalist and Writer Lone Theils

I’ve been photographing crime writer, journalist and kickboxing extraordinaire Lone Theils for Dagbladet Information, working withJannie Schjødt Kold who wrote a splendid feature on life, correspondency and Lone’s new book “Pigerne fra Englandsbåden” (English edition imminent I’m sure).


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Work Featured in Photoworks Annual

Pleased to see my series “This Damn Weather” (2012) featured in Photoworks Annual.

It is part of writer and curator Daniel C. Blight’s essay “This Man Sits Alone: Some Thoughts on Photography and Collaboration” and was published in connection with this years Brighton Photo Biennial – The UK’s largest photography festival.

You can see the whole series here.

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The Last Exodus of Iraq’s Chaldean Christians

Three refugees seeking shade from the midday sun in the Syriac Catholic church Mart Shmony in Ankawa, Erbil. Schools, parks and construction sites are being used as temporary homes by thousands of families fleeing ISIL in Northern Iraq.

Three refugees seeking shade from the midday sun in the Syriac Catholic church Mart Shmony in Ankawa, Erbil. Schools, parks and construction sites are being used as temporary homes by thousands of families fleeing ISIL in Northern Iraq.

Text by John Paul Kuriakuz – former executive director of the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America.

(http://on.wsj.com/1wIRhkL)

“Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, an estimated 1.4 million Chaldeans and Assyrians inhabited Iraq. In the decade that followed, hundreds of thousands of these Iraqi Christians either sought permanent refuge abroad or were internally displaced. During this turmoil, more than 60 churches were bombed, a Chaldean Catholic Archbishop was kidnapped and murdered, and an Iraqi Christian population of 1.4 million dwindled to fewer than 500,000—a result of the insurgency, subsequent unrest, and radically anti-Christian sentiment that ensued.

Today, targeted by ISIS for their Christian faith, Chaldeans and Assyrians are the victims of an unabashed ethnic-cleansing campaign. After seizing the northern city of Mosul in June, ISIS spray-painted the symbol for “Nazarene” on the homes of Christians. Families had 24 hours to convert to Islam, leave the city or face execution. Christians leaving the city had their possessions confiscated at security checkpoints and were forced to leave with nothing.

Most refugees fled to neighboring villages under the protection of Kurdish security forces, the Peshmerga. In response, ISIS shut off water supplies from Mosul to those villages. ISIS then continued its rapid advance into the villages outside of Mosul, displacing hundreds of thousands from their homes, converting churches to mosques, destroying homes and businesses, and leaving nothing to return to. An entire people have been cleansed from the region, guilty of nothing but their faith and ancient ethnicity.”


The EU

Monday the 14th of April, only a month and a bit before the European elections, every parliamentarian, civil servant, political advisor and journalist yet again travelled from Brussels to Strasbourg to vote on the final issues before the Parliament goes into political hibernation before the May election.

This is for many MEPs the last chance to get their political causes voted through and to put their fingerprints on EU policy, both locally and internationally. With a public that often have difficulty recognising their MEPs, this is also a good opportunity to make their mark in the domestic debate and get voters engaged in some of the most important European issues right now.

I travelled on the heels of the EU elite to try to catch a glimpse of life in Europe’s political navel.


Ken Follett, Author

I’ve been photographing bestselling author Ken Follett for Børsen.

Follett is best known for his epic ‘Pillars of the Earth’ novel, but has sold more than 130 million books worldwide.

This series of portraits was shot for an article promoting his new book ‘Edge of Eternity’ concluding his ‘Century’ trilogy.


Red Shirt Rising

I travelled to Thailand’s capital Bangkok back in 2010 to document the first ‘red-shirt’ protests against the Thai government. Today the tables have turned and the ‘red-shirts’ are now in power with former Prime Minister and multi billionaire (now exiled due to corruption charges) Thaksin Shinawatra’s sister Yingluck as their leader.

There’s a good article over at PolicyMic explaining the situation.

I travelled to the North of Thailand to meet the protestors and document their journey to the heart of Bangkok and their failed attempt to overthrow the government.


Film Director Kristian Levring

I’ve been photographing film director and co- Dogme founder Kristian Levring for Børsen Weekend.

Kristian’s newest film, the Western ‘The Salvation’ premiered at Cannes this week, and he’s definitely the coolest guy in the West (Hampstead that is…)


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Refshaleøen

I am working on a new project documenting the small island Refshaleøen in Copenhagen leading up to the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 that will take place there.

Here’s a taster…


Places of Conflict

All pictures shot in Syria’s Idlib Province.

Arab Felix p.2


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Her Grace

As you might be aware, last December the Church of Ireland ordained its first female Bishop, Pat Storey. Pat is the first female Bishop in Britain and Ireland.

I’ve followed Pat for the last few weeks in her preparation for this historic role, culminating with her consecration at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.

Her nomination comes only weeks after The Church of England’s ruling body has voted in favour of proposals which could allow the ordination of women Bishops in England this year.

This is not a story about a religious ceremony. It is a story about a strong and much loved woman taking on a unique challenge in one of the world’s last male bastions.

Please feel free to comment below.


Orlando

Cathy Lucas

I’ve been shooting a series of portraits of musician Cathy Lucas for her new project Orlando.

The shoot took place in Artist David Blandy’s spaceship installation “Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark”, as it was the perfect complement to a song about escaping to the moon.

Have a listen to the first release ‘Earth Moon Earth’ here…

Orlando is currently playing at a range of London venues, check the website for more info and more tracks.http://orlando.zone/


House Of Cards author Michael Dobbs

I’ve been photographing “House Of Cards” author Michael Dobbs, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Lord Dobbs of Wylye. All-round nice chap and a very interesting day.


Summer Jobbing

I’ve been shooting a few newspaper assignments over the summer. Mostly it’s been portraits as it often is working for the dailies (around 90% of all assignments are portrait related when working in the newspaper industry). It’s always interesting meeting new people and trying to create something in a limited space as well as time with a few, simple remedies. Often the only thing you have available to create something special is light, and in that way it’s one of the purest forms of photography. Not that I’m particularly good at shooting portraits, but I do enjoy it!

Firstly I shot a series at the British Library of a Polish artist couple, Malgosia and Jakub. They showed me a secret garden at the top of the library which was amazing but I promised Malgosia not to tell anyone about it, so can’t say any more I’m afraid.

A week later I went to West London and met with Kasia and her daughter and did a series of them for an article about why immigrants (me included) chose to stay in London instead of going back home.

Finally I went on the hardest assignment so far this year. It was for a story about one of the so-called “transition towns” that are shooting up all over Britain. Smaller towns trying to prepare themselves for another recession by becoming economically self-proficient so they won’t be depending on outside resources for survival (no, we’re not talking doomsday preppers here, simply straight thinking ordinary folks trying to create a bit of balance in the system). This sounded like a dream assignment as there ought to be plenty to shoot, but unfortunately it was also one of those assignments that just didn’t work out because of timing. None of the projects were up and running when I arrived and many wouldn’t be for the next couple of years as it’s all about long-term investments. No matter, I’ll be back to shoot this again. This is what I got (and yeah, I am very pleased with the dog)…


Seeing The World

I’ve recently begun teaching a short course at London College of Communication.

I’ve always loved to teach but this is the first time where I’m leading the students through from the beginning to the end and it amazes me how much I learn from them and their progress each time. I love the connection that you get with the students as you share the world of photography through their work as well as through the historical representation of imagery.

It’s great to see students who come from a non-photographic background suddenly finding a voice of their own and create beautifully photographed stories with amazing storytelling as well.

Up until now they’ve covered subjects through their work ranging between everything from Jewish minorities, mans impact on nature, the notion of Home and the pugs role in British culture. Wow…

Here’s a selection of images from the course.

One of the main things we work with on the course is the development and execution of a personal story chosen by each student. We try to help each other develop this story and to find new approaches to the storytelling, locating right formula for each documentary project. The number one thing I try to teach is that it’s all about the storytelling!

Matthias Brücke’s story of Roehampton is a good example of this. A housing project there once build as a futuristic dream of togetherness now stands as a symbol of a time there once was…

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The next course starts the 2nd of September at LCC and you can find the course description here.


Arabia Felix p. 1

“The depth of the Syrian tragedy is poignantly reflected in the accounts of its victims. Their harrowing experiences of survival detail grave human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The destructive dynamics of the civil war not only have an impact on the civilian population but are also tearing apart the country’s complex social fabric, jeopardizing future generations and undermining peace and security in the entire region.”

Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

United Nations General Assembly
Human Rights Council
Twenty-second session
Agenda item 4
A/HRC/22/59

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We tend to see the frame as the image itself, objectifying the photograph instead of looking through it to understand.
Often our imagery is produced by highly educated “seers” as a product of a civilisation that have been taught to view the world in a singular way.

These Polaroid’s are shot in and around Syria in 2012/2013 and are all relating to the ongoing conflict. Each Polaroid have been exposed as well as composed correctly, but the exposed negative has never been removed from the photographic paper.

Right after the moment of exposure the Polaroid has been handed over to people present in the situation with a request for them to write on the back of the picture. No direction or explanation of what to write has been given, this has been left completely up to the individual.

"These are the mortar shells of Bashar that hit the house in the village of Al Hibat and resulted in a number of injured people and two women martyrs."

“These are the mortar shells of Bashar that hit the house in the village of Al Hibat and resulted in a number of injured people and two women martyrs.”

"This is the body of a woman who was killed by a mortar shell that fell on their house and killed this mother of seven."

“This is the body of a woman who was killed by a mortar shell that fell on their house and killed this mother of seven.”

The army killed us in our houses and we became homeless and I became disabled for life because of shrapnel and I lost my father and my mother who were killed by the Syrian army. Our thanks to Denmark.

“The army killed us in our houses and we became homeless and I became disabled for life because of shrapnel and I lost my father and my mother who were killed by the Syrian army. Our thanks to Denmark.”

Abu Jameel is a rocket warrior

“Abu Jameel is a rocket warrior”

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Khalid Hmaydo

“Khalid Hmaydo”

Bab El Salama

“Bab El Salama”

Bab El Salama

“Bab El Salama”

At five in the morning we were awaken by the sound of a Russian plane then it fired a missile

“At five in the morning we were awaken by the sound of a Russian plane then it fired a missile”

A MiG plane dropped 4 missiles in the region of Hibat

“A MiG plane dropped 4 missiles in the region of Hibat”


Work in Progress

Here’s an extract from my latest project from Syria that should be ready for publication within the next two months.

Broken Boy Soldiers

A dark, starless night wraps its arms around us. We are floating in its deep, black nothingness and only the white reflective lines on the asphalt road caught in the one surviving headlight reveals our movement. We are rapidly being absorbed into the Syrian night, removing our self with increasing speed from the relative normality that comes with the Turkish border.

It’s been a while since we last passed the burning oil drums marking the start and end of cities, all revealing bearded faces of city elders that peer out of the darkness, the red warmth of the fire reflecting in their eyes. They stop us: Who are we? Or more importantly, who are we not? The two people in the front seats are well known faces on these roads so we continue onwards.

Momen and Yahoo are members of the Tawheed Brigade and fights for the revolution. Yahoo is 21 years old and experienced. He used to be a fighter, but due to his technologic abilities, he is now in charge of media and communication. Yahoo is driving the car. Moomen is 16 and carrying the Kalasnikhow. They are best friends.

A few hours earlier, walking down the main street of the Turkish border town Reyhanli, I stopped at a street stall selling army fatigues and belts for ammunition. I had recognized a black nylon vest with pockets on the front and back large enough to hold AK47 magazines and grenades.
This type of vest is the highest fashion among the rebels along with the black headscarves that carry the Shahaada (Muslim declaration of faith) in white writing.

A couple of men come up and look at the headscarves. With their long white robes and full-grown beards they are as foreign as me. They smile and I smile back. They are here to join the rebels and crossing over the border today. They ask me to come with them, but to their disappointment I politely decline and explain that I already have made arrangements. We wish each other safe travels and as I turn the corner I find my Syrian contact waiting for me.

As we approach the border barrier on foot I see a sea of faces through the metal bars marking the end of Turkey. A policeman stands blocking a small opening in the gate, not letting anybody in. We sneak behind a truck and walk up to the guard with our heads down. My friend grabs my arm and starts to press through the opening. The officer barely notices us. He’s too busy keeping the many Syrians out of Turkey to notice anybody trying to get in. Why would he?
This is the first time I’ve been smuggled over a border and I can feel the adrenalin pumping. The contrast of this other territory hits me immediately when we enter…

Stay tuned for the publication of the full story shortly.


Istanbul in December

In light of the recent protests spreading from Istanbul and through other major cities in Turkey I found it fitting to re-post this blog entry from my latest visit in December. Reading through this story again, this time seen in the light of the recent unrest, gives me a new understanding of my experiences back then.

I hope that you will have the same experience. Here goes…

Istanbul is a Feeling, an Impression and a Steppingstone

The first time I was here I was 12. Memories of smog, crowds, kebab and an incomprehensible wait for the telephone to connect to my mom in Denmark are left behind and 19 years later it’s a different city. The calls for prayer and the scent of apple tobacco are still the same but now they float through streets occupied by men in cravats and women with and without hijabs lunching at trendy cafes next to designer shops and photo galleries showcasing the latest from the international art scene.

As the plane approaches the airport it is increasingly clear to me that this is a metropolis with a responsibility. A responsibility to keep two parts of the world together so they don’t drift too far from each other, but also a responsibility to keep them separate so we still can tell them from us and us them.

Bosphorus is the name of the strait that cuts through the giant. With a head in one part of the world and a body in another the strait is like an aorta that pumps life into the Turkish economy as well as to the oil market in Europe via tankers full of the black Russian gold.

Also for the individual Bosphorus is a vein of life. All along the many kilometers of coastline couples promenade while local fishermen sells their catch of the day. Tivoli’s offer entertainment while small ferries sail back and forth non-stop, working as needle and thread tying these two continents together.

While the empty bottles on the table in front of me goes from one to two, ships slowly drift by in the night. Across the strait thousands of lights waver and then disappear one by one as we pass midnight. A new day is coming and one thing is for sure. Istanbul is neither Asian nor European, Istanbul is it’s own.


Maggie & Me

I shot Margaret Thatchers funeral for Danish newspaper Information. Here’s my view of the day…


Polaroids

These Polaroids are shot during my travels in Syria in 2012/2013. This is an ongoing project.