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Events and Exhibition in July in New York and San Francisco

There are two events linked to the U.S. release of “Behind the Curtains” in July:

‘Behind the Curtains’ exhibition

July 25 – August 31, 2012
Artist’s Reception: Thursday, July 26, 2012, 6:30pm – 9pm
VII Gallery
28 Jay Street, Dumbo – Brooklyn
2 blocks west of York Street station (F train)
New York

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‘Behind the Curtains’ book signing and artist talk

July 5th, 6pm – 8:30pm
Gallery Carte Blanche
973 Valencia Street
San Francisco


VII Photographers in London for Frontline’s Photo Week seminar

Join us —  VII Photographers —  May 22 at the Royal Institution of Great Britain for Frontline’s Photo Week seminar where you will find opportunities to ask questions and learn more about our work and the state of modern photojournalism.

9:00 Keynote address by Director and Founder of the Frontline Club Vaughan Smith

9:30 The Creation of VII Photo – The role of photojournalism in the 21st century

With Ron HavivGary KnightSeamus Murphy and John Stanmeyer.

11:00 Photographic Education: Finding your way

With Ashley GilbertsonRon Haviv and Anastasia Taylor-Lind. Moderated by Paul Lowe.

12:30 The New Economy: How to fund your projects

With Venetia DeardenEd KashiTomas van Houtryve and Donald Weber. Moderated by Stephen Mayes.

**I’ll explain how my latest personal project, Borderline: North Korea, was financed with the participation of the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, individual backers, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.**

14:00 Book signing of Questions Without Answers – The World in Pictures by the Photographers of VII, Behind the Curtains 0f 21st Century Communism by Tomas van Houtryve, and other new and recent books by VII members.

‘Behind the Curtains’ wins the 2012 POYi World Understanding Award

Behind the Curtains is the Winner of the POYi World Understanding Award.

Behind the Curtains POYi award winner

According to POYi, the World Understanding Award recognizes a photographer’s long-term project that focuses on the human condition and portrays a sense of justice or insight into difficult problems. This year’s awards ceremony is planned to be held in Chicago in late April.

Of special note, two of the photos in the 40-image portfolio were taken during my 2011 trip to Laos which was successfully funded by backers. This is the first time that I’ve won an award with photos created with the help of individual backers rather than with images which were self-funded or taken with the support of assignments and grants. I’m particularly proud that this honor can be shared with the people who were willing to put their faith in me and in an experimental new kind of photojournalism.

As reminder, there are only 12 days left to participate in my second campaign, which documents North Korea’s borders. At the time of writing, two-thirds of the project’s budget goal had been reached.

The same series of images which just won the POYi World Understanding Award is available in a new 288-page book. To get a copy, sign-up as a $65 backer or higher of Borderline: North Korea on the website before February 28th.

. . .

“Behind the Curtains” production samples have arrived

Behind the Curtains of 21st Century Communism

Fresh off the press, the first production samples of Behind the Curtains of 21st Century Communism are here!

You can pre-order the book via the website until February 28th. Your purchase will help support new work documenting North Korea’s borders. backers also get a behind-the-scenes view of the full production and printing process.

Book details:

Publisher: Editions Intervalles
ISBN: 978-2-916355-65-8
Hardbound, 288 Pages
Cover Price: $65 Price: $65 (making-of-zone access and domestic shipping included)

. . .

Laos | Open Secret multimedia in VII The Magazine

Laos Open Secret multimedia for VII The Magazine

The latest incarnation of my Laos | Open Secret photo project is featured with sound and video in VII The Magazine. The multimedia was edited by Scott Thode.

If you’ve been following this project, you’ll know that it would not have been possible without the support of 140 individuals through the crowd-funding platform. The International Rescue Committee is also supporting this work and helping to get the word out about the situation in Laos by distributing Open Secret mini-books.

If you would like to help raise awareness about the treatment of the Hmong in Laos, please actively share the multimedia link or contact me to order bulk copies of the mini-books for distribution.



“Laos | Open Secret” goes public with books, Paris screening and VII feature

Thanks to the support of 140+ project backers on, my story about Laos is going public.

• You can now find it featured on the VII Photo website:

VII feature: Laos | Open Secret

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• A softcover mini-book is now available for purchase directly from Blurb:

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• There is also a hardcover collector’s version of the book, which is limited to 100 signed and numbered copies. Please contact me directly for price and availability.

Laos | Open Secret

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• If you are in the Paris area on Monday, June 20, the new photos from Laos will be included in a screening of “Behind the Curtains of 21st Century Communism” as part of the Slideluck Potshow Paris II. The event includes projections of more than 30 other photographers and takes place from 7:00 PM to 11:45 PM at Le BAL, 6 impasse de la défense, 75018 Paris.

The Laos mini-books are ready to print

Laos | Open Secret mini-book

Laos | Open Secret

Today, the test proofs of the Laos mini-book returned from the printer. I’m really pleased with how well they turned out. They look fantastic, and the hardcover version is an especially nice object to hold in the hands. The front cover is bright red with black titles, and the back cover features a collage of the online comments left by project backers, along with other clippings from the project.

back cover

Back cover detail.

To arrived at this stage, I brought in my project backers to engage in the editorial process at various steps along the way. First, I sent them a Photoshelter lightbox with a large selection of 100 images from Laos.

Lightbox edit

Lightbox sent to backers. comments

Comments and ratings left by project backers.

Over the following days people rated the photos from 1 to 5 stars and added questions and comments to the individual images.

Taking into account this feedback and the average ratings of the photos, I then put together a tight edit of 24 photos. Then I started trying out various page layouts for the mini-book.

Next, I put up a slideshow of the page layouts in the ‘Making of Zone’ and asked for more feedback. The response was very helpful. Overall, people liked the rhythm and message of the book, but two particular pages brought up a debate. For those two pages I made some alternative layouts and put them up for a vote by the backers.

While people had the chance to take part in the edit, I started writing the essay that would go in the book. I spent a few days in isolation and wrote a six-page essay about conditions on the ground in Laos, trying to answer the question of how Communism had managed to adapt and survive in the country.

The resulting mini-book is a lot more condensed and personalized than you would find in an average large print-run photo book, yet much longer and more in-depth than the average magazine feature. More importantly, I feel I have managed to maintain a more pure level of authorship than most magazines generally allow to photojournalists. At the same time, I got crucial feedback from backers which helped to refine, polish and validate the final product. There was never a risk that my photos would be used out of context or as simple illustrations as can unfortunately happen in the press. I was able to express my vision and rely on the tight group of engaged backers to toss out any editorial errors. Harnessing the platform has also allowed me to gather significant resources for a subject that is generally overlooked and forgotten by the media. So far, this way of operating has required more work  on my part than usual, but it has also been much more rewarding.

For people interested in getting involved in this project during this last stage, it is still possible to order a softcover mini-book for $75 or buy access to the ‘Making of Zone’ on for $10 (if you want to look over the behind the scenes process in detail).

The hardcover mini-books are limited to 100 signed and numbered copies, so please contact me directly to request one. The initial price is $125 per copy, but it increases as we get closer to the series limit.

Laos | Open Secret

Laos | Open Secret. First print proofs.

It is also possible to order bulk copies of the book to distribute for advocacy purposes. The International Rescue Committee has already stepped up and ordered 30 copies to distribute to policy makers. If you need bulk copies, contact me directly and I will calculate the bulk discount.

Acknowledgements page detail

Acknowledgements page detail.