Carlo Nasisse is thankful for being given the opportunity to fail. He loved his time at the Texan and will miss this community.
Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: A 30 column is a chance for departing senior staffers to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (–30–) to denote the end of a line.

The Daily Texan gave me the self-determination to ask questions, to meet people and go places I never would have otherwise. During my two years on staff, I was surrounded by a group of people that inspired me to make work and look for stories in my community that felt meaningful. The experiences I have had were only possible because of my colleagues — filmmakers, photographers and editors — who had an expansive vision of what the multimedia department of a college newspaper could be. 

Memorable among these experiences, stories and characters are Slobodan and his band of renaissance musicians and Karen the shamanic healer. These individuals and the worlds they welcomed me into taught me far more than I ever learned in a classroom. I found their devotion to specialized, atypical art forms to be inspiring and enlightening. Thankfully, in addition to nurturing my predilection for the obscure, the Texan forced me into situations that were uncomfortable and challenging. Being a photographer on staff never let you fall into a routine; no week was the same. 

Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

The Texan is an environment that allows you to fail. You can be sent out to cover a rally, measly rode mic and aging DSLR in hand, with no clue what frame rate is, but you are emboldened, somehow attempting to make a video despite your tsunami wave of ignorance. You are empowered because you have been given a job, to tell a story, and the license to do so. 

I want to thank the people who made my time here life changing. First is Taylor Barron, the reason I joined in the first place. We spent a year and a half on video staff together and made some kick-butt videos. Mostly fondly, I remember the beautiful disaster we made on food production in Austin. Apparently, five minutes isn’t enough time to tell the entire story of sustainable food practices in Austin. Who would have known? Taylor taught me what I know about shooting video. 

I have always been drawn to obscure subjects. I have endless gratitude to my video editors, Alec Wyman and Dan Resler for accepting and putting up with my more idiosyncratic story pitches. Alec was also my savior in times of technological distress. Thank you Alec for answering those late night, panicked phone calls. Amy Zhang and Lauren Ussery, thank you for putting up with me this past semester. I will miss our Sunday evenings editing photos for Monday’s paper and listening to Beyoncé. 


Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

As popularized in the science fiction novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” the answer to the universe is 42. That’s also the number of photographs in Austin photographer Robert Shults’ sci-fi-inspired project on the highest peak power laser in the world. 

“We got it down to 41, but we decided that was kind of a weird number,” Shults said. “So we added another one to get to 42 because it’s a popular number in science fiction.” 

The photo project titled “The Superlative Light” documents the Texas Petawatt Laser facility located on the first three floors of Robert Lee Morris Hall. Shults took photographs in the Petawatt facility nearly every weekday for nine months.

Photographing a laser posed challenges to Shults. Shults shot the project on an analog range-finder camera because of the conditions in the underground laboratory and the fear of burning out his eyes or his camera’s lens. 

“The laser dictates how it can be photographed,” Shults said. 

He also had to wait until one of the people he was authorized to follow entered the lab and then make sure he stayed in their line of sight. 

When he finished, he had taken 50 rolls of film and roughly 1,000 pictures of the ongoing experiments at the laser facility. 

“It’s literally right there under our feet — the brightest light in the universe, the most powerful laser in the world, this completely unparalleled thing,” Shults said. “There’s tens of thousands of students who walk across that space everyday and have no idea that they’re standing on the roof of this very historically significant device.”

The images will be on display in the Art.Science.Gallery. until April 11. Shults will speak at the gallery as part of South By Southwest on Saturday and on March 28 about the relationship between art and science and the influence of science fiction movies on the work, respectively. 

Shults said the project was a chance for him to convey the awe he felt when looking at the laser and capture the beauty of the lab for people who don’t have access to it. 

“It’s a big responsibility for me to be the designated observer,” Shults said. 

Mikael Martinez, chief of operations in the Petawatt facility, said the photographs offer an artistic view of what happens in the lab.

“It shows the lab in a different light — no pun intended,” Martinez said. “It shows a bunch of our hardware and physicists working in the lab, and you can get a picture of what it looks like and what it is that we’re actually doing.” 

Gilliss Dyer, a research associate in the college of natural sciences who works at the center that manages the laser, said the project helps people who aren’t science experts understand the laser’s power. 

“We see a lot of beauty in the science ourselves, which requires you to have an understanding of the physics,” Dyer said. “[Shults] shows [the laser] in a different way and captures it in another light that captures the sense of wonder you feel when you’re first learning about the laser.”

Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

Over winter break, Daily Texan photographers documented their travels around the world. The photographers had a personal take on their environment, whether they were in New Mexico or Thailand or elsewhere. Follow @thedailytexan on Instagram to see more of their work.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff
Over the last month, The Daily Texan Multimedia staff left the comforts of Austin for destinations all over the Americas. Each photographer set out to encapsulate a new land and recreate the ethos surrounding him or her.

Magnum photographer Alec Soth speaks at the Belo Center for New Media on Wednesday evening as part of the Campus Conversation Lecture series. The award-winning photographer spoke about his inspirations, travels and challenges as a proffesional in the field. 

Photo Credit: Aaron Berecka | Daily Texan Staff

Magnum photographer Alec Soth, who is known for his all-American approach, presented his widely showcased photos at the inaugural Campus Conversations Lecture on Wednesday.

Steven Hoelscher, the Harry Ransom Center’s academic curator of photography, said Soth’s works achieve the characterization of the American culture.

“Soth was once a highly successful blogger that displays his work in an innovative way,” Hoelscher said. “His works represent the community life in all its uniquely American varieties.”

Soth is one of more than a hundred photographers that are part of the Magnum agency, which promote alternative mediums for photography other than magazines and combines the roles of reporter and photographer. 

Soth talked about his entry into photography and how he created his photo-taking style. Soth also explained the changes occurring in photography in the digital age.

“The reason I became a photographer is I liked being alone and wandering around,” Soth said. “In the digital age, people are hungry for human interaction.”

Soth said his approaches in photography have changed throughout the years. His new project is focused on photographing Texas, and he explained photography he has shot across the nation, in places such as New York, Michigan and Mississippi.

“I take a different approach with each dispatch,” Soth said. “The Kings of the Road inspired me in my photography.”

Soth said photography allowed him to explore areas and capture what he wanted with each snap of the camera. He discussed a commission he made in Texas while photographing a young woman’s parents. Soth was flown out to Texas for the commission and was able to personally connect with the family. Soth’s current project consists of taking photos of cinemas throughout Texas, most of which have been transformed into modern day buildings and facilities. 

“I become the photographer, producer and distributor,” Soth said. “Self-distribution will be large in Magnum’s future.”   

Meg Askey, Director of Communications in the Office of Graduate Studies, helped organize the lecture.

“Soth talks about how magazine journalism is not the only platform for photography,” Askey said. 

Hoelscher said the Magnum Photos Collection, which consists of images created between the 1930s and 2004, is now on display at the Harry Ransom Center.

“The collection displays some of the world’s most iconic photos,” Hoelscher said.

The lecture series is sponsored by Harry Ransom Center, the Graduate School, the College of Communication and the College of Liberal Arts. 

A sample of photographer Sylvia Plachy’s work. Plachy will tell the stories of her photographs at the Austin Center for Photography’s Icons of Photography Speaker Series on Thursday at the Blanton Museum of Art. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

Sylvia Plachy never intended to become a photographer. Although she attended the Pratt Institute School of Art & Design, Plachy never considered photography as a viable media. At the time, no one really considered pursuing photography as a creative career. Years later, Plachy has devoted her life to the craft. 

“Eventually, I decided that that’s how I liked to live, because photography is not just a way to do creative work, but also a way to live — to go out of your room, a way to have a connection and experiences that will sometimes be lasting experiences,“ Plachy said. 

Plachy will tell her story this weekend at the Icons of Photography Speaker Series presented by the Austin Center for Photography. The series strives to increase interaction between iconic photographers and Austin art aficionados. In the past four years the lectures have helped bring prolific photographers to the Blanton Museum of Art

“These are real photographers that do different things, and there is great diversity amongst them,” Aymn Kassam, Vice President of the Texas Photography Club and ACP volunteer, said. “It’s a good way to get exposed to different styles. You can migrate and study different people or different photography styles, but to go to a lecture is the best experience.” 

The speakers range in discipline and concentration, but each have made critical contributions to the field of photography. 

“They can be documentarians, photojournalists, fine artists, educators, experimenters, visionaries and all of the above,” Millan said. “They are also all successful photographers who have devoted their lives to the medium. Sylvia is both the same and different in her own special way.” 

Devoid of distracting enhancements or costumed muses, Plachy’s photographs capture the adventure and humor in little moments often taken for granted. Particularly striking are her black and white portrayals of the everyday passersby: children playing a park, two men touring Stonehenge, an intimate gathering of friends.  

“Most of the time I like disappear to find something that speaks to me, and find some brilliant, exciting wonderful image — maybe not brilliant but that has some weight when it speaks,” Plachy said. “I like to create a picture or pull a picture out of the world that is alive. That has a life of its own. It’s a truth for that second; it’s a visual truth and it’s a truth about something.”

Plachy worked for numerous publications including the Village Voice, the popular New York alternative newsweekly. Working for the Village Voice for nearly 30 years allowed Plachy the freedom to experience the eccentric city. Unrestricted, she sought stories and images that spoke to her. 

“I was kind of spoiled,” Plachy said. “Working for them, I didn’t have to tailor anything. I went out, covered what was there, and they wanted me to come back with my perception of what is there. What happens now when I look back, I find that on my contact sheets, many pictures there that had nothing to do with the story were somehow left behind. They are hidden and waiting to be discovered again.”

Plachy has photographed numerous subjects, from documentary photos of the sex industry to portraits of her son, actor Adrien Brody. 

“Richard Avedon wrote of Sylvia: ‘She makes me laugh and she breaks my heart. She is moral. She is everything a photographer should be.’ Her pictures are magical, descriptive and heartfelt,” said Kathryn Millan, the ACP event manager. “She is one of those rare visionaries who can tell a story without captions. She is able to make artful documents of the world around her.”

In an ever changing and fleeting world, she continues to find commonality with the simple human experiences.

“I’m drawn to subjects that feel like a cousin to me,” Plachy said. “Modern life is getting harder to recognize. It’s becoming another world, but within it you can still find humanity and vestiges of the past, and I’m interested in life and death and things like that and that’s still there.”

NEW YORK — Police questioned a suspect Tuesday in the death of a subway rider pushed onto the tracks and photographed while he was still alive — an image of desperation that drew virulent criticism after it appeared on the front page of the New York Post.

A day after Ki-Suck Han was hit by an oncoming train, emotional questions arose over the photograph of the helpless man standing before an oncoming train at the Times Square station.

The moral issue among professional photojournalists in such situations is “to document or to assist,” said Kenny Irby, an expert in the ethics of visual journalism at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit journalism school.

He said that’s the choice professional photographers often face in the seconds before a fatality.

Irby spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday, a day after the newspaper published the photo of Han desperately looking at the train, unable to climb off the tracks in time. It was shot for the Post by freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi.
“I’m sorry. Somebody’s on the tracks. That’s not going to help,” said Al Roker on NBC’s “Today” show as the photo was displayed.

Larry King reached out to followers on Twitter to ask: “Did the (at)nypost go too far?”

Commentary posted on social media and in news broadcasts came down to one unanswered question: Why didn’t Abbasi help Han?

But Irby said it’s not that simple.

“What was done was not necessarily unethical,” Irby said. “It depends on the individual at the time of action.”

It depends, he said, on whether the photographer was strong enough to lift the man, or close enough. Abbasi said he got the shot while running to the scene and firing off his camera in hopes the flash would attract the attention of the train conductor, the Post reported.

“So there was an attempt to help,” said Irby, who blames Post editors “for the outcry” because they made the decision to publish the image.

The Post didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press and didn’t immediately make Abbasi available. His number isn’t listed in New York area telephone directories.

Another professional reluctant to reach conclusions was veteran photographer John Long of the National Press Photographers Association, where he is chairman of the ethics committee.

“I cannot judge the man,” he said. “I don’t know how far away he was; I don’t know if he could’ve done anything.”
However, both Long and Irby said that as a photographer, “you are morally obliged to help” — if possible, rather than take a picture.

Added Irby, “I would argue that you’re a human being before you’re a journalist.”

New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said investigators recovered security video showing a man fitting the description of the assailant working with street vendors near Rockefeller Center.

Witnesses told investigators that they saw the suspect talking to himself before approaching Han, getting into an altercation with him and pushing him into the train’s path.

Police took the man into custody Tuesday, but he hasn’t yet been charged.

Han, 58, of Queens, died shortly after being hit on the tracks. Police said he tried to climb a few feet to safety but got trapped between the train and the platform’s edge.

Printed on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 as: Photo of man on tracks raises ethical questions

Fun Fun Fun Fest Day One

Photo Editor's note: A look back on the first day of Fun Fun Fun Fest. 

All photos by Senior Photographer Pu Huang.

Irving Roth

Photo Editor’s note: Senior Photographer Marisa Vasquez had the not-easy assignment of photographing a holocaust survivor today, Irving Roth was giving a speech in the Pharmacy building. By being a touch more cognizant about light and what the, as she says, “dingy” room had to offer she managed to turn an opportunity for some good photos into a chance for something a little better. A well-known photographer once said that the best photos might be before or after the actual event, or something, I forget. Maybe no one ever said that. Even if they did they probably weren’t talking about the “after” photos as being those where the photographer sets up White Lightning strobes and poses the subjects for a very effective DOM image. But if they were, then she did that concept / quote some justice. Although I did enjoy the surreal photo of Roth against the galaxy projection, the set up portrait, that includes Roth's numerical markings, was much more appropriate for the front page, and much more appropriate in general.

"To ensure that I would be able to get a portrait, I arrived 30 minutes early with my lights to talk to Irving Roth or the event organizer and make sure he would have time before or after his speech. Once he agreed to a portrait after his speech, I left the dingy lecture room and scoped out the Pharmacy building for interesting backgrounds (with an outlet nearby). I ended up traveling to the floor above the lecture, where I found a cabinet full of bottles and pharmacy artifacts. I also had back-up locations in mind. I took photos during the lecture in case Irving Roth decided he didn’t have time to stay for a portrait. I started with typical lecture photos and as he continued to talk I noticed the projection screens behind him changing colors. I changed my exposure (to compensate for the brightness of the screens) and played around with using the screens as a background. During the Q-and-A an audience member asked Roth about his Holocaust number tattoo and his answer inspired me to include it in his portrait, something I had not thought of before. Once the lecture was over I went upstairs and set up my lights. I ended up staying 30 minutes after the speech to get these portraits but it was definitely worth it. I started with portraits of him in his suit and then asked him to show his tattoo. We tried different poses to showcase his tattoo. I moved the lights, several times, to make the photos more and less dramatic. I tried different angles, lighting positions, facial expressions and poses to give variety to the take." - Marisa Vasquez

I liked this one the best. - Lawrence Peart

Marisa Vasquez is a senior in the College of Communication studying photojournalism and Senior Photographer at The Daily Texan


Behind the Lens: Dancing with Santigold

Editor's Note: This entry is a part of our blog series, Behind the Lens, where we show you what it is like to be a photographer for The Daily Texan.

Take a look at one of our senior videographers, Demi Adejuyigbe, jamming it out on stage with Santigold. He was shooting The Warner Sound showcase at La Zona Rosa when she asked for people to join her onstage. He was one of the lucky few: