During the early years of his career, Stanley Greene (USA, 1949-2017) produced The Western Front, a unique documentation of the San Francisco’s punk scene in the 1970s and 80s. An encounter with W. Eugene Smith turned his energies to photojournalism. Stanley began photographing for magazines, and worked as temporary staff photographer for the New York Newsday.
In 1986, he moved to Paris and began covering events across the globe. By chance, he was on hand to record the fall of the Berlin Wall. The changing political winds in Eastern Europe and Russia brought Greene to a different kind of photojournalism. He soon found himself photographing the myriad aspects of the decline of communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Stanley was a member of the Paris-based photo agency Agence VU from 1991 to 2007. Beginning in 1993, he was based in Moscow working for Liberation, Paris Match, Time, The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Le Nouvel Observateur, as well as other international news magazines. In October 1993, Stanley was trapped and almost killed in the White House in Moscow during a coup attempt against Boris Yeltsin. He was the only western journalist inside to cover it. Two of his resulting pictures won World Press Photo awards.
In the early 1990s, Stanley went to Southern Sudan to document the war and famine there for Globe Hebdo (France). He traveled to Bhopal, India, again for Globe Hebdo, to report on the aftermath of the Union Carbide gas poisoning. From 1994 to 2001, Stanley covered the conflict in Chechnya between rebels and Russian armed forces. His in-depth coverage was published in the monograph Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003 (Trolley 2003) and in the 1995 publication Dans Les Montagnes Où Vivent Les Aigles (Actes Sud). The work also appeared in Anna Politkovskaya’s book, A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya (2001). In 1994, Stanley was invited by Médecins sans Frontières to document their emergency relief operations during the cholera epidemic in Rwanda and Zaire. He has covered conflict and aftermath in Nagorno-Karabakh, Iraq, Sudan, Darfur, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Lebanon.
Stanley was awarded a Katrina Media Fellowship from the Open Society Institute in 2006. In 2010, to mark the fifth commemoration of Hurricane Katrina - together with Dutch photographer Kadir van Lohuizen - Stanley made “Those who fell through the cracks”, a collaborative project documenting Katrina's effects on Gulf coast residents. The same year, Stanley’s book Black Passport was published (Schilt). In 2012, Stanley was the guest of honor of Tbilisi Photo Festival and began his project on e-waste traveling to Nigeria, India, China and Pakistan.
Stanley has received numerous grants and recognitions including - the Lifetime Achievement Visa d’Or Award (2016), the Aftermath Project Grant (2013), the Prix International Planète Albert Kahn (2011), W. Eugene Smith Award (2004), the Alicia Patterson Fellowship (1998) and five World Press Photo awards. Stanley presented the Sem Presser keynote lecture at the 2017 World Press Photo Award Festival.
Stanley Greene is a founding member of NOOR. Stanley passed away in Paris, France on May 19th, 2017.
Greene was born to middle class parents in Brooklyn. Both his parents were actors. His father, who was born in Harlem, was a union organizer, one of the first African Americans elected as an officer in the Screen Actors Guild, and belonged to the Harlem Renaissance movement. Greene's father was blacklisted as a Communist in the 1950s and forced to take uncredited parts in movies. Greene's parents gave him his first camera when he was eleven years old. Greene began his art career as a painter, but started taking photos as a means of cataloging material for his paintings.
In 1971, when Greene was a member of the anti-war movement and the Black Panthers, his friend, photographer W. Eugene Smith offered him space in his studio and encouraged him to study photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York and the San Francisco Art Institute. Greene held various jobs as a photographer, including taking pictures of rock bands and working at Newsday. In 1986, he shot fashion in Paris. He called himself a "dilettante, sitting in cafes, taking pictures of girls and doing heroin". After a friend died of AIDS, Greene kicked his drug habit and began to seriously pursue a photography career.
He began photojournalism in 1989, when his image ("Kisses to All, Berlin Wall") of a tutu-clad girl with a champagne bottle became a symbol of the fall of the Berlin Wall. While working for the Paris-based photo agency Agence Vu in October 1993, Greene was trapped and almost killed in the White House in Moscow during a coup attempt against President Boris Yeltsin. He has covered the war-torn countries Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, Somalia, Croatia, Kashmir, and Lebanon. He has taken pictures of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the US Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Since 1994, Greene is best known for his documentation of the conflict in Chechnya, between rebels and the Russian armed forces, which was compiled in his 2004 book, Open Wound. These photos have drawn attention to the "suffering that has marked the latest surge in Chechnya's centuries-long struggle for independence from Russia". In 2008, Greene revealed that he had hepatitis C, which he believed he had contracted from a contaminated razor while working in Chad in 2007. After controlling the disease with medication, he traveled to Afghanistan and shot a story about "the crisis of drug abuse and infectious disease". Greene has lived and worked in Paris since 1986.
He said: "My wife has left me but instead of becoming an alcoholic, I would go and shoot war."
Wars and Victims
February 18, 2008
"It remains essential for journalists to scour the ground, unimpeded, using the only weapons we know. Our cameras, notebooks and voices make us the unwelcome pests of aggressors around the world. Witnesses are inconvenient. Yet as most of my colleagues will agree, countries such as Irak, Chad, The Caucasus, and Chechnya, are becoming harder to cover.
In the world of spot news, publications don't want to pay for long engagements in complicated zones because its getting much harder to afford it. Authorities block access. And the lack of access, infrastructure and personal security makes logistics a nightmare.
Despite the odds, sometimes the effort can make a difference, and those rare moments never cease to satisfy in a profession that is otherwise lonely, demanding and thankless. Journalism rewards you with long days and even longer nights. There is no such thing as taking pictures from a place of safety, and you often pack your feelings in a suitcase until you can return to ‘reality.’
Some colleagues living in this perpetual emotional yo-yo are able to maintain a relationship, money in the bank, and perhaps even their sanity. If you're like the rest of us not born under that star, you never stop trying to find it. For the last fifteen years I have bore witness to long histories of invasions, mass migrations, conflicts, wars and destructions.
This group of images is to provide a body of work that is about war and victims but also, it's about photojournalism and the importance of those photo-correspondents that are passionate about shining the light in dark places. The resultant series of black and white and color photographs are more than a mere documentation of the darkness which exists in the world. Journalists today are like disaster tourists going from one hot place to the next. It has never been my intention to be such a photographer. I think it is better to build a full body of work which demonstrates the longevity of a working photojournalist, today and yesterday. I think that this should be taken into consideration when looking at this work. It is a fragment, taken from longer and larger photo-essays."
-- Stanley Greene (Sometimes We Need Tragedies)