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In this installment of Douglas Kirkland On Photography, Douglas Kirkland talks with his friend and colleague, Gerd Ludwig. A photojournalist best known for his work in National Geographic magazine, Gerd Ludwig has taken a special interest in Russia and the former Soviet Union—in particular, the people and stories surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
As the installment begins, Gerd is packing for this third major trip to Chernobyl. Gerd shares his techniques for choosing and packing gear for a photojournalism expedition.
Next, Douglas and Gerd sit down for a wide-ranging conversation. They discuss the changing business landscape of photography and Gerd’s approach to photojournalism. Gerd also describes how and why he works in Chernobyl and details how he financed his latest trip through the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.com.
After Gerd returns from Chernobyl, he and Douglas meet again to review some of the photographs and video that Gerd shot during his latest trip. They talk about Chernobyl today, about how video is impacting photojournalism, and about the future of Gerd’s "Long Shadow of Chernobyl" project.
Douglas > Today, we have a very special segment, talking about my friend Gerd Ludwig, the National Geographic photographer. Gerd, how are you? Good to see you again! Gerd > It's been a while. Gerd > This is the previous story in Chernobyl. Douglas > Yeah! Douglas > Okay this is where you are going tomorrow, literally. Gerd > This is my carryon. One camera, the most important lenses and then I am taking the 75 to 300 zoom. Douglas > Somebody like you Gerd has to, I repeat myself, always deliver.
You go through a lot. Gerd > Whenever I go into the job, "oh, piece of cake," chances are that you don't give your best. That fear really produces the energy. For the first time I wanted to try and to show in a video what it feels like to be in there. I did take this little camera, the GoPro camera. Douglas > How did you use this? Gerd > You can set it ahead of time and I would put it on my helmet.
It's strapped on to my helmet and I had it as, instead of a headlamp basically, I had this video camera. Douglas > Your first job is to get great stills of course because you want stills. This is a supplement and this is something you probably would never have realized 5 years ago. Gerd > Exactly! Douglas > This is the new Gerd Ludwig, and there is you at photojournalism. Gerd > It's the new work of a photojournalist or a documentary photographer.
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