'Disco Night Sept 11'
My tenth-grade American history teacher once told us that in the Civil War, twice as many men died of disease than died in combat.
That macabre Snapple fact is all I really remember from that class. It felt weighty, highlighting something that seemed revelatory because it was suddenly so goddamn obvious: War doesn’t exist in a vacuum. War exists in this world—this brutally unsexy place of sandwiches, video games, baseball, friends, soda, Walmart, foot cramps, allergies, and—of course—cold weather and disease. Maybe I was slow on the uptake, but this blew my little 15-year-old mind.
Now, ten years later, Magnum’s Peter van Agtmael plops his new book Disco Night Sept 11on my desk, and I’m suddenly having the revelation all over again, only this time with a more immediate relevance and bite.
Peter Marlow’s Incredible Photos of Eerie Crises
Peter Marlow’s career has covered everything from news photography and war reporting to street photography and a much-lauded collection of portraits. However, he is perhaps best known for his own, more personal projects—like his series on the closure of Longbridge’s Rover factory, or Liverpool: Looking Out to Sea, the book focusing on the urban degeneration of Liverpool—often covering the stories with a lack of human subjects, which lends much of his portfolio a sense of eerie stillness even at points of crisis.
I gave Marlow a call to speak about not being cut out for war, spotting the moments and details that bring spaces to life, and the importance of curiosity in photography.
VICE: I spoke to David Hurn for the previous column in this series. He was very open about his motivation for getting into war reporting—that it was the most direct way to become a professional photographer at the time. What were your motives?
Peter Marlow: I am a generation on from David. I left college in 1974, which was an era when you could actually live off your student grant. I led the life of Riley, left school, did some work in the summer, and had never thought about what the hell I was going to do after. We had the luxury of knowing we would probably get jobs easily, because back then people who went to university were much more of an elite than they are now. I’d always wanted to be a photographer. Influenced by color supplements that came out in the 70s, seeing the work of Don McCullin and Larry Burrows. There was an issue of the Telegraph Magazine on war photographers, and I thought, That’s what I want to do.
I got a job as a photographer on a cruise liner. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. The other photographer had to suggest to me that I focus and press the button with different hands in order to save me from moving them. After that I traveled around and spent a few months in Haiti. That was the first experience I had of what we used to call the Third World. It was an amazing eye-opener, the first genuine hardship I had seen. I look back at those pictures and think they’re some of the best work I’ve done—the first thing I did that was a serious piece of work.
I then started talking to some agencies in New York and finally at job as a photographer with Sygma, a French photo news agency, and basically went all over the world for a few years. Got everything from Northern Ireland to the revolution in the Philippines, and war in Angola. You name it.
Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1977. A Republican youth with a gun during the Queen’s Jubilee riots
Food Tips for 4/20
“Feel da riddim!”—Bob Marley (Born: 4/20/1945 – Died: 4/20/1981)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been edited to comply with MUNCHIES’ stringent anti-marijuana policy.
4/20 is upon us, and y’all know what that means. Whether it falls on a miserable Monday or a sunny Saturday, 4/20 is the day when millions of artists, teenagers, and white-dread donning New England college students congregate to smoke tons and tons of
weed tobacco. Here are some quick tips on how to celebrate and eat right while getting mad blazed smoking two packs of cigarettes on this special day.
Preparation should begin before the big day itself. Instead of buying expensive 4/20 decorations from the store this year, we decided to make some of our own. After a year of follicular growth, the holiday’s customary dreadlock wreath can easily be thrown together for the price of a pair of scissors.
Once the day is underway, make sure you have plenty of delicious edibles and drinkables. Adding bong water to boba (or bubble tea to you n00bs) really gives an interesting kick to this classic Thai libation. However, much like infusing drinks with alcohol, you do have to worry about the risk of drinking and driving with this “THC tea” (but, its cool—I can totally drive better when I’m high not thirsty anyway).
London Is Turning Into a Depressing and Dumb City of Living Stock Images
Every city has its visual cliches. The stereotypes, falsehoods and cheery slices of xenophobia sold to us on cheap postcards and in crap films that reduce the world’s great cities to a handful of worn out cultural cues. If you’ve never been to Paris, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all girls who look like Charlotte Gainsbourg skipping along the Seine in Breton tops, doling out filter-less cigs to homeless accordion players. When in actual fact, it’s more like a bunch of exchange students laughing at dachshunds and dudes who are still bang into Justice plying rich schoolgirls with shit MDMA.
For New York, the cliches are motor-mouthed cabbies and kids fucking around with water hydrants. For Barcelona, it’s psytrance beachbums and animal cruelty on La Rambla. Tokyo? Weird fish, games machines and businessmen throwing themselves in front of bullet trains.
But what about London? Pearly Kings and Queens? Pie and mash? Foxtons Minis tearing down Brixton High Street, on fire? Rita Ora?
So I decided to pull back for a moment, and consult Getty Images’ wide range of London stock photos. What do they see when they look at the UK’s capital?
"London City Hall"
The vast majority of the London stock photos on Getty are scenic wide shots of the city’s skyline, usually taken at sunset and very rarely from anywhere east of Tower Bridge. Of course, this makes perfect sense. If you’re a journalist writing something about London’s chronic housing crisis, or a body in the Thames river, or Millwall’s terrible run under Ian Holloway, you probably want to illustrate your copy with a picture of the Shard and a few anonymous riverside yuppie-farms when the sun’s going down.
From the outset, it’s clear that this is the London that Getty are most interested in selling to their customers, the London with all the big glass buildings and shimmering water, the one that girl from your school has as her Facebook cover photo, the one on the opening titles to The Apprentice. Not the one where there’s three Paddy Powers on a single high street, or the one of food banks, pigeons cannibalizing fried chicken bones and crack squirrels.
But this one, the nice one by the river with the big buildings.
"Couple Having Coffee At Sidewalk Cafe"
The people in Getty’s pictures are predominantly happy young heterosexual couples who drink coffee, take selfies, and love life and London. And that’s fine. It’s not like they’re going to embark upon an investigative social project about co-dependent heroin addicts crying and vomiting in each other’s arms, or abandoned widows lying catatonic in single bedrooms in Catford.
Last time we checked in on British Jihadists, they were posting snaps of themselves messing about in swimming pools, hoarding Cadbury’s chocolates from home, and generally having a good time. Everything has changed.
"Behead first, ask questions later"
The Fake Town Where London Cops Train for Riots
The place is much like a film set—many of the peripheral buildings are just facades, while those at the “city center” are a lot more developed in order to give the trainees more varied terrain.
If You’re Sick of Hearing About Ukraine, Try Living There
Photos from Donbas, Eastern Ukraine, where you spend the day hacking away inside a pitch-black, kilometer-deep tar hole, breathing in exposed coal and methane.