National Geographic seminar from Jean-François Leroy

Photo by Laura Wallach/National Geographic

This was posted on Jean-François Leroy La Lettre de la Photographie site:

The annual National Geographic seminar took place last week in Washington. Jean-François Leroy, director of the Visa pour l’Image Festival, was there:

“It was a beautiful Thursday morning. In the National Geographic lobby, the crowding meant it would be a brilliant new convention.

After National Geographic Photo Director Kurt Mutchler’s welcome speech, activities began with a screening of Paolo Pellegrin’s preceded by his homage to France 2 senior reporter Gilles Jacquier, recently killed while on assignment in Homs, Syria. The editing was a bit choppy, but the film provided spectators with a glimpse of the astounding work of the photographer in the last ten years.

A moment of relaxation with the next subject by Robin Schwartz who presented her work with her daughter Amélia about animals. Dogs and cats, of course, but also giraffes, elephants, tigers and kangaroos.

Many of us were a bit disappointed by Cirenaica Moreira’s work. The pictures were interesting, but the comments were laborious and too long. 45 minutes of comments and not enough pictures, which kept us yearning for more at lunch break.

Editor in Chief Chris Johns welcomed us back after the break. He greeted the many photographers and former editors in the room, with a warm acknowledgement to Kent Kobersteen, absent for health reasons but whose latest test results, we learned, were encouraging. Then he gave a long homage to the late Susan Smith, one of photography’s pillars for so many years, who passed away last July.

Kitra Cahana presented her work on teenagers ,that was one of the year’s story most recognized and most approved by National Geographic reader.

She was followed by Anthony Suau who spoke of the evolution of « Facing Change », that can already be compared to Carl Mydans and Dorothea Lange’s famous FSA… Would you believe it? In any case, the project is taking shape, advancing, and we can follow and encourage it here: 
Look at the participating photographers… Very interesting isn’t it?

Gillian Laub’s work on racism in small southern American cities and the changes her work provoked – notably after being featured in the New York Times Magazine – is just incredible. Sometimes but rarely photography can change the world.

The day’s final presentation was eagerly awaited. David Lachapelle! Everyone was expecting slightly pretentious extravagance. We were going to show him, the King of Photoshop, what a “real” photo was. Every one was nicely surprised. Lachapelle was very much himself. Humble, funny, immensely cultivated, he shocked everyone! At the end of his interview, he showed us the making of his Pieta. When spectators realized there was NO photo manipulation involved, he triumphed!”

Jean-François Leroy


About the author

RANDY OLSON’s 27 National Geographic magazine projects have taken him to many countries in Africa, the Siberian Arctic, Abu Dhabi, American Samoa, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Dubai, Guyana, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kamchatka, Newfoundland, Pakistan, Palmyra, Republic of Georgia, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, and the South Pacific.
National Geographic Society published a book of his work in their Masters of Photography series in January 2011. Olson was the 2003 Magazine Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International (POYi) competition, and was also awarded POYi’s 1992 Newspaper Photographer of the Year—one of only two photographers to win in both media in the largest photojournalism contest operating continuously since World War II. While working at The Pittsburgh Press, Olson received an Alicia Patterson Fellowship to support a seven-year project documenting a family with AIDS, and a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his story on problems with Section 8 housing. He was also awarded the Nikon Sabbatical and a grant from the National Archives to save the Pictures of the Year collection.
Melissa Farlow and Randy Olson are photojournalists in the documentary tradition. Their work has taken them to 50 countries over the past 20 years. Even though they are published in LIFE, GEO, Smithsonian and other magazines, they have primarily worked on 50 projects for the National Geographic Society. They normally work individually, but have co-produced National Geographic magazine stories on northern California, American national parks, and the Alps. They photographed the southern United States for a book by Collins Publishing and have collaborated on over 70 books by various publishers.