New York, NY
|Alma mater||Washington University in St. Louis|
Benjamin Lowy (born 1979) is an American photojournalist. He is best known for his work as a conflict photographer in war zones, and is one of the early adopters of and a vocal proponent for mobile photography.
Early life and education
Lowy was born in New York City, a first-generation American. He attended Washington University in St. Louis, receiving a BFA in 2002. Initially intending to pursue a career as a comic book artist, he started out as a design and illustration major, before switching to photography. He was heavily influenced by Inferno, a book of James Nachtwey's war crimes photos from the 1990s.
Shortly after graduating from college, Lowy was hired by the Corbis photo agency and assigned to cover the Iraq war for Time magazine. He was 23 at the time. He covered the war from 2003 to 2008, embedded with numerous units of the American and Iraqi military.
In 2011, Lowy was awarded the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography, appearing on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to promote the related book, Iraq | Perspectives. The book documents his time covering the Iraq war, with profiles of the US soldiers' experiences as seen from their points of view, along with photos of everyday life in the war-torn country. The photos in the first chapter were shot exclusively through armored military vehicle windows, and the second chapter is composed of photos he took with a DSLR attached to a pair of night vision goggles.
Afghanistan and Libya
In October 2011, The New York Times Magazine published "Life During Wartime," a collection of 33 Hipstamatic photos Lowy took of daily life in Kabul, Afghanistan. His Hipstamatic photos of militia in Afghanistan appeared alongside a separate article in The New York Times that same month. Preferring their "rich palette and high contrast," the Times chose to use Lowy's iPhone photos over his 35-millimeter photos.
His photos taken in Libya's war zone were published as a photoblog on NBC News online, and were also featured in GQ. Social media played a large role in the story, as he first published his iPhone photos from Libya in real-time on Tumblr.
Lowy started out primarily using 35-millimeter digital SLRs, before becoming a pioneer of cellphone photography. He is a vocal proponent of the Instagram and Hipstamatic apps, and in-camera digital processing in general. He began shooting on an iPhone in 2008, shortly after it first came out, and began using the Hipstamatic app around the time it launched in 2010. His first use of the iPhone while on assignment was in 2010, documenting the abandoned town of Uravan, Colorado, for The New Yorker.
After shooting in Libya using iPhone, DSLR and Holga cameras, Lowy suggested to Hipstamatic that the company create a new lens and filter combination better suited for photojournalism, that would be more acceptable for Hipstamatic critics in photojournalism. He collaborated with the company on the new filter, which has minimal processing, was released in 2012 and named The Lowy Lens.
Along with four other photographers, Time magazine assigned Lowy to cover Hurricane Sandy with an iPhone, posting the photos on Instagram, and used one of his iPhone shots as the cover photo of the November 12, 2012 print issue of Time.
Lowy has been publicly defending cellphone photography since 2009, viewing it as an artistic choice, much like photographers who choose black and white film over color. He also feels the anonymity, ease of use and light weight of an iPhone is helpful when reporting in conflict zones. He appreciates that the resulting photos have a unique aesthetic, which helps bring attention for the war or social issues the images are documenting. In high intensity situations, Lowy typically carries two Canon DSLRs, and prime lenses with a variety of focal lengths, depending on the situation; a film camera that shoots 6x6; and his iPhone.
Lowy's first assignments were documenting the conflict in the West Bank, and then covering the Beltway sniper attacks in Virginia and DC. In 2008, he covered fashion shows in Paris, Milan and New York City for New York magazine. Lowy covered the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill for GQ. To cover the vast spill, he focused on the oil collected on the water's surface, shooting the psychedelic shapes in extreme close ups and abstract compositions, in an attempt to pique the viewer's curiosity. He also documented the cleanup and the toll the spill took on the environment. His behind the scenes photos of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart appeared on RollingStone.com in 2011. He covered the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions for The New Yorker. He has also covered stories in Darfur, Chad, Haiti, Indonesia and China.
Exhibitions and awards
- Open Society Foundation, Moving Walls 16, New York, 2009
- Tate Modern, Exposed, London, 2010
- MOMA, Exposed, San Francisco, 2010
- L'Invalides, Afghanistan Et Nous, Paris, 2010
- Museum of Fine Arts, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY, Houston, 2012
- Brooklyn Museum, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY, Brooklyn, 2013
- Photo District News 30, 2004
- World Press Photo award, 2008
- Pictures of the Year International, Spot News, Third Place, 2008
- Oskar Barnack Award finalist, 2009
- Critical Mass finalist, 2009
- Pictures of the Year International, Feature Picture Story, Award of Excellence, 2009
- Pictures of the Year International, Sports Picture Story, First Place, 2009
- Duke University Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography, 2011
- World Press Photo award, 2011
- International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Photojournalism, 2012
- Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund grant, 2012
- W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund finalist, 2013
- Iraq | Perspectives (2011, Duke University Press Books)
- “Benjamin Lowy,” World Press Photo. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- “Infinity Awards 2012,” icp.org. Accessed March 24, 2014.
- James Pomerantz, “Benjamin Lowy: War Photographer,” The New Yorker, November 9, 2011.
- Stan Horaczek, “A Look Into the Life of Conflict Photographer Benjamin Lowy,” Pop Photo, December 8, 2011.
- Pip Cummings, “Head On Photography Festival: Benjamin Lowy’s conflict photography,” ABC Arts, May 28, 2013.
- Kristen Joy Watts, “Behind the Scenes: A Different Battleground,” New York Times, September 28, 2009.
- “Iraq: Photographer Benjamin Lowy Covers the War,” Time, March 2003.
- “Benjamin Lowy (2010),” firstbookprizephoto.com. Accessed March 24, 2014.
- James Estrin, “Ben Lowy: Virtually Unfiltered,” New York Times, May 2, 2012.
- Luke Mogelson, “Life During Wartime,” New York Times Magazine, October 23, 2011.
- Luke Mogelson, “Bad Guys vs. Worse Guys in Afghanistan,” New York Times, October 19, 2011.
- Kathy Ryan, “Hipstamatic in Kabul,” The 6th Floor New York Times blog, October 20, 2011.
- Meredith Birkett, “One photojournalist’s surreal ride into Libya’s war zone,” NBC News, August 24, 2011.
- Sarah A. Topol, “This Is How You Start a War,” GQ, June 2011.
- Jakob Schiller, “Stop Arguing About Instagram and Go Make a Picture,” Wired, July 25, 2012.
- Erin Lodi, “Photojournalist Ben Lowy explains why he uses an iPhone,” Digital Photography Review, February 5, 2013.
- “War Through An iPhone Lens. Q&A With Ben Lowy,” EyeEm Blog, February 5, 2013.
- “Video: Uravan Ghost Town,” The New Yorker, September 6, 2010.
- Jeff Bercovici, “Why Time Magazine Used Instagram To Cover Hurricane Sandy,” Forbes, November 1, 2012.
- Jim Colton, “Ben Lowy: Embracing Change,” National Press Photographers Association. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- “Sideshows,” New York, November 24, 2008.
- Niko Koppel, “Painting in Deadly Oil,” New York Times, January 11, 2011.
- “Behind the Scenes with Jon Stewart,” Rolling Stone, September 14, 2011.
- Maria Lokke, “Ben Lowy Instagrams the Conventions,” The New Yorker, September 10, 2012.
- Jordan Galloway, “The Art of War on Display at Brooklyn Museum,” Brooklyn Based, November 8, 2013.
- “Winners of the Sixty-Fifth Annual Pictures of the Year International Competition,” poyi.org, March 7, 2008.
- “Winners of the Sixty-Sixth Annual Pictures of the Year International Competition,” poyi.org, March 6, 2009.
- “Robin Hammond Wins $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Fund Grant,” PDN Pulse, October 16, 2013.