Connect with us
photojournalist Heidi Levine photojournalist Heidi Levine

Photo Gallery

Heidi Levine: Capturing hope in destruction

Did she think there should be stricter norms for the use of photographs and other content by third parties?



New Delhi, Oct 4 : Photographers, amateur or professional, usually like to capture beauty — snow covered mountains, breathtaking flora and fauna, beautiful landscapes and the like, but her camera lens follows pictures of destruction and misery. Conflict photojournalist Heidi Levine who took breathtaking photographs of the Gaza war in 2014 has recently been in the news for one such photograph of hers being misused by Maliha Lodhi, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the UN.

Image result for Heidi Levine

Heidi Levine, an American freelance photographer, was awarded the inaugural Anja Niedringhaus Courage

“I have dealt with bloggers and newspapers using my photographs without my permission but this is the first time I have dealt with a situation like this one and I hope it will be the last one. I was very upset and shocked to hear that Maliha Lodhi misused my photograph claiming it was the photograph of a girl from Kashmir. For me, it truly compromises the dignity of Rawya (the girl in the picture) from Gaza,” Levine told IANS in an email interview of the gaffe.

Lodhi had displayed the photograph in the UN General Assembly on September 23 while responding to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s scathing attack on Pakistan, saying it was evidence of “Indian brutality” in Kashmir.

Did she think there should be stricter norms for the use of photographs and other content by third parties?

“It seems as though people are disregarding the copyright of photographers and forgetting the fact that even downloading and copying our photographs is illegal without our permission or the companies many work for. Many photographers are taking legal action against those stealing their work. I am not sure how many people understand that it is illegal and for sure it would be helpful if this was better known and also if there are higher penalties,” Levine replied.

Speaking of capturing pictures of destruction and misery, the gutsy risk-taker said: “My first experience with covering misery and destruction was the refugee crisis in southern Lebanon in the aftermath of the Israel-Lebanon War of 1982. It was in the very beginning of my career as a professional photojournalist when I stared working for the AP in Israel.”

There’s been no looking back since then for Levine as she has documented most volatile war zones around the world.

Asked what drew her towards this passion, Levine said: “I always wanted to help people and before I became a professional photojournalist, I spent a lot of time trying to help those who were in need when I was growing up. I am not sure if I can pinpoint the exact reason that attracted me to document conflict because it feels as though it is something I feel I was born with. For me, photography has been a universal language that can connect all of us. It is a tool.”

Being in dangerous war zones away from family, children and home, for prolonged periods, bullets whizzing overhead, death always around the corner, how difficult is it to cover conflicts? How does her family perceive her work? Do they support and encourage her or, being apprehensive of her wellbeing, try to dissuade her?

“My family is very proud and supportive of my work but it has been very difficult on them as well. At times it has been very difficult to cover tragic events and then come back home and try to switch roles and take care of my children…I know that at times my children wished that I had a ‘normal job’, but today they are very proud of me. They do worry and I believe that because so many journalists have been killed and injured, my family worries more today than in the past,” Levine replied.

As for covering the Israel-Palestinian conflict, there wasn’t even time to unwind, she added.

“When I was in Libya, I decided to tell my youngest daughter that I was only on the border covering the refugee crisis. But in today’s social media connected world, it is much harder to lie, so I had to hide from her on Facebook. Later she told me that she knew I was inside Libya,” Levine said.

Working in war-torn areas, close to the action, positioned very near to explosions, firing and shelling, does she sometimes feel shattered seeing all this misery and feels like quitting?

“Of course I often get very upset. After all, I am a human and not a machine. But I have never felt like quitting because when I see misery, it makes me feel I need to work even harder to make people understand what is happening in the world,” Levine explained.

Has she noticed any change in the nature of conflict over the years?

“It is true that our world does seem to be in more of a state of conflict now. With modern technology, we are watching these tragedies unfold in real time. I wish I could answer why this is but I do not know the answer for this rise in conflict we are witnessing,” Levine replied.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


M. F. Husain’s rare collectible photographs on view



MF Husain
MS Subbulakshmi painted by MF Husain at ‘Art Bengaluru 2016’ by Navrathan’s Art Gallery, Image courtesy Thomas Jose

New Delhi, July 12 (IANS) When the lens briefly replaced the brushes for ‘Indian Picasso’ M. F. Husain, what took birth on the streets of Chennai in the 1980s was a rare series of photographs called the “Culture of the Streets”. Cited as a collector’s item, 20 individually signed photographs are on exhibition at the Art Heritage Gallery here.

In the photographic series, the Indian modern master (1915-2011) features India’s popular culture through cinema hoardings on the roads of Chennai.

“Along with graffiti on the street walls, Husain recognizes this as the authentic, intense visual culture that has developed in our teeming, urban metropolis,” the Gallery said.

His use of silver foil photo paper is an example of the artist’s experiments with unorthodox materials and techniques, it added.

Having worked as a billboard painter in his initial days, his association with the streets of India goes back a long way.

Primarily known as a painter, Husain’s experimentation with the camera came at a time when the burgeoning film industry was all too visible in the popular culture in India.

“Culture of the Streets” is part of a group exhibition at the gallery which has photographs by photographer Cop Shiva, along with paintings, drawings and sculptures by noted artists like Gouri Vemula, Zai Jharotia, Sunanda Khajuria, Rajesh Deb, Arun Pandit and G. Reghu.

The show is open for viewing till August 6.

Continue Reading


How Georges Méliès films are still influencing cinema, more than 100 years later

The filmmaker’s spirit of adventure is the subject of a VR Google Doodle.



Georges Méliès

If you’ve ever watched a science fiction movie, or one that uses special effects, then you owe a debt of gratitude to Georges Méliès, the subject of today’s Google Doodle and one of the few people who truly deserve to be called a “visionary.”

One of cinema’s most important pioneers, Méliès worked in an age when the medium was changing rapidly and when the whole world was obsessed with scientific discovery, explorations, and expeditions to the furthest reaches of the planet. So it’s fitting that a Doodle created in another age of fast-paced cinematic change — our current time — honors him by using some fancy technology of its own.

Méliès, born in 1861, was an innovator par excellence, experimenting with effects in his films that blew people’s minds in an era when film itself was still startling to many people. Employing things like time-lapse photography, multiple exposures, dissolves, pyrotechnics, theatrical machinery, and more, he dazzled his audiences. It looked like magic. (You can see some of these effects on the Doodle’s background page.)

Méliès was working around the turn of the 20th century, a time of burgeoning scientific exploration and big dreams about the future of mankind. The filmmaker tapped into those through his experimentation with effects, and through stories he told tales of discovery.

Méliès’s most famous film is probably Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), from 1902. It’s a work of science fiction, inspired partly by stories by people like Jules Verne. In the almost 13-minute film, a group of space explorers travel to the moon, encounter a tribe of strange beings, capture one, and return to Earth. Méliès himself played the crew’s leader, Professor Barbenfouillis.

Continue Reading


Bollywood Spotlight: As ‘Padmaavat’ is targeted, recalling other films under fire

Nihalani’s “Dev”, Deepa Mehta’s “Fire”, Gulzar’s “Aandhi” and Anurag Kashyap’s “Paanch” are some of the other prominent films that have courted controversy.




When he directed “Dharmaputra”, his first film, in 1961, little did Yash Chopra know what he was getting himself into. The film, about Hindu-Muslim relations, touched on the raw history pertaining to events that were just over a dozen years old. The re-construction in “Dharamputra” of the carnage during the post-Partition riots opened up raw wounds in the audience, and sparked off riot-like situations in theatres screening the film. Yash Chopra vowed never to touch the thorny communal issue again.

“They threatened to burn down theatres, harm the actors… I was getting calls at any time of the day and night, warning me of dire consequences. I said, ‘Never again’,” Yashji told me when we met some years ago.

Cut to “Padmaavat” and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. What is that French “kahaavat”: The more things change, the more they remain the same.

As I write this column, vehicles are being torched, buses carrying school children are being stoned in Gurugram… because some fanatical elements don’t like the look of “Padmaavat”? Or maybe because Bhansali forgot to cover up Deepika Padukone’s tummy when she performed the ghoomar? Does that make sense to you?

We as a nation are a touchy people. Some may even call us intolerant. And, admit it, we are intolerant people. Over the years, there have been other controversial films, mostly to do with communal issues.

Govind Nihalani stepped into the territory bluntly and insouciantly. In “Dev” he recreated the Muslim genocide in Gujarat following the incident in Godhra where a two-train bogie full of Hindu devotees was set on fire — with chilling authenticity. As a fictional retaliation to Godhra, he sees a communal Hindu cop (Om Puri) stand mute accomplice as Hindu rioters burn a whole building full of Muslims. It was a frightening topicality dwelling on issues that pierce the facade of normalcy which we like to uphold for the sake of a peaceful and “civilised” existence.

Nihalani’s “Dev”, Deepa Mehta’s “Fire”, Gulzar’s “Aandhi” and Anurag Kashyap’s “Paanch” are some of the other prominent films that have courted controversy.

But no film has been as vehemently opposed as “Padmaavat”; none has evoked such fierce temper-tantrums from a nation on the boil. Could it be that somewhere the protesters have decided “Padmaavat” is a “feel-bad” film — as opposed to a “feel-good” film?

Nihalani rightly says, “Feel-good films will always be there. They serve a very important function in our society. But one feel-bad film every five years, which reminds us of the mistakes that we make, isn’t a bad idea.”

However, “Padmaavat” is not that feel-bad film which comes once every five years. Its depiction of Rajput valour and feminine derringdo is so broad and magnificent it just makes us happy that a filmmaker of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s vision takes history by its horns and raps a nation steeped in escapism on its collective knuckles.

If you want to kill a film by scaring little school-going children, then surely that film deserves to be seen.

(Subhash K. Jha can be reached at [email protected])

Continue Reading

Most Popular