06 mars 2011

Positive Brothers

For my photojournalism class, I had to shoot a process and create an audio slideshow. I always tend to go for the complicated stuff even when the teachers tells us to take it easy, which was the case for that assignement.
On Wednesday I was in Times Square, on my way to take the Roosevelt Island tram and shoot the journey. As I was walking on 42nd/7th avenue, I heard music and laughter. I stopped to watch four street performers called "The Positive Brothers" do acrobatics and make people laugh (they were really funny), all of these while wearing spandex costumes and dancing on Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" (the video is ridiculous). I forgot my plans to go to Roosevelt Island, I followed these guys around for about an hour. Here is my audio slideshow:

Viewers' Delight from Hélène Franchineau on Vimeo.

01 mars 2011

Freegans in New York

It is certainly not the most imaginative idea I ever had for a photo assignment, but I had very little time to make this happen so I chose a safe bet: freegans. I had attended several times last August and September various freegan dinners, I like what they are trying to do, so I chose to follow a group on a "trash tour" last week.
I was surprised to see how diverse the crowd was. We were about 20: from the PhD student to the young mother to the 50- something hippy teacher to the Chinese girl who walks everywhere...
Some people didn't want to be photographed. I am always kind of pissed off when that happens. I tell them I am a student and that the pictures won't be published, but they don't care, they just don't want to. It would be okay had they expressed genuine concern for their job (what if somebody at work sees in the paper that a colleague goes dumpster-diving at night). But they are not going to be published! Oh well...I suspect some people do that just for fun and piss me off :-)
Then the following night was the "feast": a 3-hour cooking process, at one of the volunteer's apartment, using all the food that was picked up the night before. Everybody comes at 5 or 6pm and helps decide what recipe to do, peel the vegetables and cook the different dishes. We got to eat vegetable soup, chili, baked aubergines, a giant salade, freshly-squeezed fruit juice, fruit salad, and bread...It was really good.
Pretty much the same crowd showed up as the day before, including the young mother with her boyfriend. They brought their adorable little girl. And while the mother was busy eating and chatting, the father was shamelessly flirting with me. Ah!

03 février 2011

Environmental portrait

I met Grace and Sabrina last Sunday afternoon. I have searched a random event to shoot, to practise my photo skills, and I have stumbled upon this "cake pageant," happening in Chelsea. To raise funds for a art program for school girls in Queens, a small theather was organizing a cake competition. 15 contestants had registered, and 3 judges (including a journalist from NY1) had been summoned to taste the delicacies. Delicacies? Yes, but some of them looked a bit over-the-top and tasted nothing but sugar and cream.
I met Guadalupe, the youngest of the contestants (16 y/o), who had baked cupcakes and wanted to become a chef.
I met Grace and Sabrina too: they are setting up their venture called "Brown Butter Brooklyn," and they plan to sell cookies, cakes but also savory dishes to markets and parties. Grace's blood orange and ricotta cake won the competition. I went to Sabrina's house in Brooklyn last night to shoot them again. My assignment for the DM photo class this week was to shoot an "environmental portrait." I thought that it was overall a difficult exercise on several levels:
- you have to adapt in a completely environment, one that maybe is not ideal to set up a shoot (light, furniture etc);
- you have to create a relationship with your subject and be comfortable enough yourself to tell the person to move around, stand here and there, get closer, etc, but also make your subject forget that you are here;
- there is a time constraint: I felt that I could not ask them to put their lives on hold for 3 hours, although I would have needed that time to get a satisfying result. I stayed about 1h15mn, until 7.30pm. Sabrina's kid was hungry, it was time to go.
Below, what I'm going to submit to class tomorrow:

31 janvier 2011

Second semestre à la Columbia Journalism School: c'est parti!

Visual storytelling (photojournalisme), business and economics reporting, China seminar (un cours sur comment couvrir la Chine, avec Howard French) et video profiles : ce sont mes cours du second semestre. J'ai déjà beaucoup (trop) de boulot et suis déjà en manque cruel de sommeil, mais je ne m'en rend qu'à peine compte tellement j'adore mes cours!  Beaucou de terrain et de reportage en perspective...
Voici les premières photos que j'ai prises pour mon cours de DM photo:

No Pants Day 2011

Début Janvier, alors que nous sommes dans les jours les plus froids de l'année, environ 4000 New Yorkais (qui devaient sûrement s'ennuyer ferme) prennent le métro en slip et culotte et convergent tous vers Union Square. C'est le No Pants Day. Là-bas, quelques irréductibles défenseurs de la gambette couverte essaient, à grands coups de prospectus "qu'est ce qu'un pantalon?", "es-tu fait pour le pantalon?", de les convertir. Le tout dans la plus joyeuse des humeurs. Vidéo ci-dessous (désolée, le son est un peu dégueulasse, j'ai mal mixé):

Are you missing something? No Pants Day 2011 from Hélène Franchineau on Vimeo.

22 novembre 2010

F.O.O.D. Emporium

Brunch at Spring Street Natural, Little Italy

Cheesecakes at Eileen's Special Cheesecakes, 17 Cleveland Place, Little Italy

11 novembre 2010

My picture on the Journalism school homepage

On Monday, I attended a meeting with the Current TV journalist Euna Lee, who got detained in North Korea for four months with fellow journalist Laura Ling in 2009.
The Journalism school published one of my pictures on the home page.
Next time I'll ask for another lens at the equipment room, because the default one is just too short: it's impossible to do a close-up unless I'm right under my subject's face!

08 novembre 2010


L'équipe du Pavillon Rhône-Alpes de l'exposition universelle de Shanghai (qui a fermé ses portes le 31 octobre) avait tout bon: un pavillon informatif et bien pensé, un super resto de l'Institut Paul Bocuse, et apparemment une équipe de photographes et monteurs qui savent bien manier leurs outils. Comme en témoigne l'épisode 5 de "Shanghai en mouvement", une série de courtes vidéos documentant la vie quotidienne de la mégapole:

Shanghai in Motion - Episode 5 from fredshanghai on Vimeo.

Hey, what's up?

Oh, how deeply I relate to this quote...
"Once in Vermont, Mr. Yuan worried when people smiled and asked “What’s up?” “It was really awkward,” he says, “because I wouldn’t know how to respond and while I was thinking of an answer they would just walk away.”
(From: "The China Education Boom on U.S. Campuses", The New York Times, November, 5, 2010).

A bit like the story of my life here. 

Courir après le temps

Meb Keflezighi, from the US, races toward the end. He won the marathon last year but finished 6th today
Aujourd'hui fut une journée marathon dans tous les sens du terme.
The ING New York City marathon was this morning. I'm writing an article on the economic impact of the NYC marathon on the city itself for the class website, so I had to attend anyway. On top of that, in my Digital Media Newsroom class my partner and I pitched a story for a 1 to 2mn-video: we follow around a father and his son from France before, during and after the marathon.
I got up at 3.45 am this morning to catch the subway and be on time to shoot them leaving the hotel Intercontinental near Times Square at 5.15 am. We stayed around the race the whole time, shooting and cheering at the elite runners (In a stunning development, Gebrselassie abandonned and is retiring! See results) and then recorded our last bit, when the son met the father after the race, then went home.

I was so sad not to be able to run the marathon this year. I had such a wonderful experience last year, but I rightfully decided not to apply this year because I knew that with the J-School, there was no way I could have trained seriously.  When will my next marathon be?

18 octobre 2010

Le lien du dimanche soir

“You cannot make your political system very appealing to global public opinion when you have a Nobel Peace Prize winner in prison and his wife under house arrest.”
Nicholas Bequelin, Hong-Kong based researcher for Human Rights Watch, about China's soft power being undermined by Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize, in "Changes seens as unlikely as China's ruling elite gather," October 14th, the New York Times.

15 octobre 2010


"Liu Xiaobo candle 66", Vox Asia via Flickr

- 你知道刘晓波上个星期得了诺贝尔和平奖吗?
- 我不知道你说的这件事情

- Did you hear that Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize last week?
- I don't know what you are talking about...

My friend is Chinese, he lives in Shanghai, so I am not that surprised. But still...

The New York World

On September, 25, I attended the NYC Dumpling festival, in Chinatown.
The key moment was the eating contest: how many dumplings can you shovel down your mouth in 2 minutes?
Turns out, 55 if you are a man called Joe Menchetti. He has won the contest for several years. And 38 if you are a tiny Hong-Konger called Floria Lee. I covered the event for my digital media newsroom class, and this is my favorite picture.
I also chose it for another reason: right now I feel a little bit like the girl in the picture. My life is so full, but I still want to grab every little crumb the Journalism school is willing to let me take. I love what I am doing, I would not be anywhere else in the world. But sometimes I remember the lecture Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes and my digital media newsroom professor, gave us in August: "joyful entitlement". Yes, that's the right word. Now Hélène get back to work, pick up that phone and talk to your sources!
I wonder where I'd be had I not accepted to go to Columbia (answer: most probably in China).

Now that the semester is in full swing, our RW1 class finally set up a blog, reflecting the theme of the class ("New York, the international city"), where we will post our stories. Its (modest) name is "The New York World". "The New York World" was also a newspaper owned by Joseph Pulitzer, the founder of the school, from 1883 to 1911. Oh hasard, comme tu fais bien les choses.
But don't forget to check it out regularly, as we will update it every day.

Sorry for the lack of real logic and construction in this post, but after all it may be the last place where I am not forced to write a lede + nutgraf...

06 octobre 2010

"Covering crisis" with Tom Kent from AP

13 septembre 2010

Demonstrations, kisses and Chinese students: one 09/11 afternoon in New York

I spent the afternoon yesterday walking on the streets for an assignment: first Ground Zero (unfortunately we could not get to it because of the different memorial ceremonies happening throughout the day), around Ground Zero and City Hall, the south part of Broadway, then 5th Avenue and Bryant Park. It was a beautiful day, and the sun made the picture-taking process much, much easier: pictures always look good when the sun is shining.
Here is a little summary of my day:

When I was in Bryant Park, I saw a group of three Asian hipsters. On the left part, a guy and a girl were taking pictures of themselves kissing while the third one, a girl with her hair dyed in blonde, was busy talking on the phone. They all had skinny jeans and hip sunglasses, except for the blondie.

I was still taking pictures when the guy in the middle leaned over to his friend on the right, mimicked a kiss and held his arm in the air, in a perilous balance, to take a picture with his Iphone. But he lost his balance and almost fell from his chair. They all laughed and suddenly, the blonde girl saw me and said in English: "Hey! I did not pay you to take my picture!" Then I replied "It's just for fun..."

I thought I might as well engage the conversation and start asking a question right away while still taking pictures, a way to entertain them and keep their mind away from the fact that I was snapping non-stop. "Where are you from?", I asked. "China!" replied the blonde girl with a big smile.
My luck. We pursued the conversation in Chinese. The guy instantly turned around when he heard me speak. They are from Shanghai and are studying at St Francis, a private college in Brooklyn.

Then I left the park and ended up in front of the New York Times building.

09 septembre 2010

The time keeper

Voici mon 1er audio slideshow réalisé à New York.
Résultat plus que modeste... (Ceux réalisés à Shanghai sont visibles sur ma page Viméo):

The last 15 minutes from Hélène Franchineau on Vimeo.
Every morning, Johnny Votta Jr. takes care of the NYU students around Washington Square Park. He makes sure no one gets run over by a cab and yells the time remaining before class. His morning hobby has earned him some sort of celebrity status.

02 septembre 2010

Yankee vs. Red Sox

Love it! We are in a very competitive school, which fosters creativity and excellence, so when the Dean of Academic Affairs, Bill Grueskin, does not know what to do with a spare ticket to a baseball game... He organizes a twitter/haiku competition for the students.
Read below the email we all received in the evening: 

Dear students,

I have two extra tickets for J School students for the Yankee-Red Sox game scheduled at 4 pm on Saturday, Sept. 25. And rather than have a boring raffle to give them out, we decided to have a contest.

To embrace old and new media, we will give one ticket to the student who authors the best tweet about the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, and one ticket to the student who can do the best haiku about the rivalry. The winning entries will be original, passionate and historically accurate.


Your tweet must be 140 characters or less. Your haiku must be three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, five in the third.

To enter, send your Tweet to (XXX)  and/or your Haiku to (XXX). Only current J School students (part- or full-time, MS, MA or PhD) can enter. Deadline is 10 am on Monday, Sept. 13.

You can enter each contest only once (thus, each student can send in one Haiku and/or one Tweet.) 


Each contest will have one winner and two runners-up. If a winner can’t go, the ticket goes to the next runner-up in that category.

Winning and runner-up entries will be announced via the J School list serve. All decisions are final, and arbitrary.


Good luck!

So now, wait...who are the Red Sox?