Join Paul Taggart for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding how the long-term panorama project started, part of Photography Project: Paul Taggart's Photojournalism Panoramas.
- In 2006, I was living in Beirut, and in July of that year, a war broke out between Israel and Lebanon. And the majority of this conflict took place in southern Beirut and all the way in south Lebanon on the border. The majority of my work was for newspapers and magazines just doing the daily grind of journalistic work just documenting what was actually happening. Sometimes with writers, sometimes without. And very long days, very exhausting days. And we also weren't allowed to move around the country.
When we were allowed, it was difficult to move around the country. There was air strikes that were continuous almost 24 hours a day. And an area of Beirut, which is considered southern Beirut, which is a Hezbollah stronghold was-- the whole neighborhoods were completely leveled. And this isn't-- the majority of my working time there was in southern Beirut, in this neighborhood. We photographed the normal newspaper stories, where you'd run down to a bomb site, photograph the carnage immediately after, try to find small stories in the time that you can in between strikes, lots of portraits, this sort of thing.
But in doing this daily work and taking your notes and sending your files via satellite back to the office, you feel like you're missing the bigger picture. And this project came about because, as I'm standing in the rubble in southern Beirut, I realized, I can't see everything. The damage here is so much larger than I can explain in a caption, or I was having a hard time explaining in just a single frame. Part of me wished I could get a helicopter and do aerial images, which was completely out of the question because Israel was still doing air strikes.
So it'd just be a death wish to try to do something like that. There were some images from Google, I believe, some satellite images that a couple of the newspapers were using which were very interesting because they showed the before and after of the daily air strikes. And it was extremely dramatic. For me, the way that I came up with, which wasn't for a newspaper or for an assignment, but for me to be able to show this level of destruction that I'd only seen in Banda Aceh after the tsunami in 2005, was to stand in one place in the neighborhood and take my camera and literally just start shooting frames as I turned my body in a circle.
And I would turn in an entire 360 degrees, and I would just keep shooting. And in my head I was thinking of it as three stripes of images, and so I'd go around three times. And I'd never done anything like this. I'd never stitched images together. It was sort of out of exhaustion and the necessity to try to tell the story visually in a different way. I thought, "I'll just capture everything I'm seeing "in this moment, and when I get back to my laptop, "I'll figure out a way to make it work." It worked, and it was fun because the creative process was back again.
It was like when you develop a black and white photo for the first time in a tray and you watch the image come up. It's exciting because you don't know what you're going to get. With this project I got that same creative energy back because I didn't know what these final images would look like. They're crudely stitched together using Photoshop. Some are blended more correctly. Most of them aren't; sometimes you'll have a character in a part of the frame and they'll show up two or three times just because of the nature of the program stitching it together.
And I would leave it because it's not for newspaper. I had the liberties to play with this. This is one of the first images that I created in this sort of style in Lebanon. And in this chapter, we're going to explore seven other images from this project. And I utilize collage and different techniques that sometimes work and sometimes don't, but this was the origin of what's become a multi-year project, and we're going to take a look at it.
For photojournalist Paul Taggart, long-term photography has been part of the assignment. Taggart lived in Beirut during the 2006 Lebanon War, and covered Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. While he took the typical photos demanded by international news agencies and magazines, he also shot dramatic panoramas that showed the full scope of these events. In this course, Paul shares images from Beirut and Port-au-Prince, and discusses the painstaking challenges and the rewards of this type of photojournalism.