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Remembering Stanley Greene Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

20 May 2017

Stanley Green was born in Brooklyn to parents who were both actors. And in his 68 years on this earth, he played many roles himself.

He was a Black Panther, a painter, a teen in a mental ward, a punk rock photographer, a student of W. Eugene Smith, a strung-out fashion photographer in Paris, a photojournalist covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and hurricane Katrina, a founding member of the photographer-owned agency Noor, a war photographer in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, Rwanda, Chechnya and Georgia.

But like all great actors, he always played it straight.

His images told the truth whether they appeared adjacent to a frivolous ad or near your morning blueberry muffin. You don't want to see an upsetting image, he said, but that's the job of a journalist.

He came to this, he said, when he felt Smith's ghost haunting him that he "must give back." And photojournalism is the way he found, devoting the rest of his life to it. In this clip, he describes the two moments that changed him:

He was particularly aggravated about the effect of Photoshop on photojournalism, which he blamed for putting gorgeous God skies in Afghanistan where he only saw flat skies.

Anything not captured in the camera was not just a lie, he felt, but a cartoon:

I think digital is great -- for color. I don't think it's great for black and white. I think it's just too much manipulation. It's not real. There is this kind of grayness. I still don't get the blacks I want without taking it to such an extreme that it becomes a cartoon of its former self.

He was equally adamant against the practice of staging photos in conflict zones to recreate moments that the photographer arrived too late to capture live.

The public has lost trust in the media. We have to be ambassadors of the truth, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard because the public no longer trusts the media.

Greene's numerous awards included the Lifetime Achievement Visa d'Or Award (2016), the Aftermath Project Grant (2013), the Prix International Planéte Albert Kahn (2011), a Katrina Media Fellowship from the Open Society Institute (2006), the W. Eugene Smith Award (2004), the Alicia Patterson Fellowship (1998) and five World Press Photo awards.

His books include the autobiographical Black Passport and Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003.

His obituary in the New York Times includes a slide show of 21 images. And in his 2010 interview with Michael Kamber he discusses digital photography, Photoshop and their impact on telling the straight story. Finally, Time has a collection of reminiscences by photographers and editors who knew him.

"I'm no hero," he wrote in Black Passport, "but it made me so that once I commit to a story, I have to see it through."

Mission accomplished, Mr. Greene.

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