Documentary Filmmaker Lou Dematteis Visits Photojournalism Class

WASHINGTON, DC, 26 October 2010 — Documentary photojournalist and filmmaker Lou Dematteis points out details in an image from his book of photographs, “Nicaragua: A Decade of Revolution.” As part of our Backpack Journalism Project speaker series, we hosted Lou in my “Photojournalism and Social Documentary” class yesterday. (See video of the visit on my Vimeo channel, Backpack Journalist.)

I knew Lou in Nicaragua during the 1980s when he worked for Reuters News Pictures and I worked for Newsweek Magazine, both covering the US-sponsored Contra War. Lou subsequently published an anthology of images, “Nicaragua: A Decade of Revolution.” He went on to publish “A Portrait of Viet Nam” featuring his images from that war-torn nation. More recently, he traveled to the Ecuadoran Amazon to document the destruction of Texaco’s (now Chevron) oil exploitation and resultant environmental pollution there. His book of photographs, “Crude Reflections: Oil, Ruin and Resistance in the Amazon Rainforest,” is a critical success.

Lou is visiting Washington for the screening of “Crimebuster: A Son’s Search for His Father,” a documentary Lou made about his father, the influential Italian-American district attorney and judge in northern California, Louis B. Dematteis, who gave Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor her first job as lawyer, at a time when none others would hire a woman. The film was presented last weekend at the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) here in the nation’s capital. The film won Honorable Mention for “Best Documentary” in the Los Angeles Reel Film Festival last month.

Lou is another example of how technology has allowed former still photojournalists like he and I to make the transition from news and documentary photojournalism, to film. As I keep saying, the methodology that we refer to as “backpack journalism” is built upon the shoulders not of the 6 o’clock news, but on the tradition and the technique of documentary photojournalism.

This week we’ll be posting a more comprehensive story, plus more photos and video on Lou’s visit, on American University’s Backpack Journalism Project site. (Photo by Kyoko Takenaka)