The initial impetus for the award came after I received an electronic invitation to the opening of Jason Eskenazi’s “Wonderland: A Fairytale of the Soviet Monolith.”  I am familiar with Jason’s work and knew that it wasn’t receiving the attention it deserved so I spontaneously gave him this award and forwarded the email to everyone on my list.

I told Derek Stroup the story of how I made up this award and he laughed.  He was very encouraging and said, “Just keep doing it, the next thing you know people will be sending you their portfolios.”

A month or so later, Jay Nubile happened to send me a You Tube link to a video he and Toby Kaplowitz made for an experimental video workshop.  I tried giving him five stars but the You Tube software had a bug in it and only three stars were given!  This made me mad so I gave Jay what he rightfully deserved -– 6 GOLD STARS ******!

The idea stems partially from my discomfort with traditional media’s methodology for reviewing books, films, art, etc.  I feel these large entities have too much power over what is promoted nationally.  How often does the New York Times review a photography or multimedia book?????  Most of the decisions to review something are coming from editors with an expertise only in writing and editing text.  The visual arts are so dominant in our society yet only a handful of these editors have a strong background in this area.

I’ve always had complex feelings about awards because they foster competition and if someone doesn’t win, the individual often feels sad.  I’m not a person who likes competition or believes people need to be validated by awards, especially in journalism, photography and the arts.  However, awards often promote stuff that might go unnoticed and the psychology behind an award is still very powerful……so the intent is for this to be a friendly, quirky, happy, nice award.

The name of the 6 GOLD STAR AWARD is derived from my early pre-internet days in photography when I used to star my favorite slides so the editors would know which ones to choose.  The best slides were exuberantly given numerous stars.  Despite my not so subtle efforts, these editors have a mind of their own and often choose photographs I don’t want published.  As anyone in field of communications knows these listening skill problems persist to this very day.

And of course….we can’t forget our days in elementary school when we eagerly awaited our gold stars.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Julia Autumn Ford Wins SL6 For Best New Singer/Songwriter

Julia Autumn Ford wins the Steve Lehman Six Gold Star Award for the Best New Singer/Songwriter.

It's an interesting story; she's the waitress at a diner I eat at in a tiny town.  I try to keep my “ear to the rail” and fish around a bit for what’s going on.  I asked Julia how her day was going?  She was all excited and said, "Great! My album just came out!"  She was selling them at the cash register.  She's very innocent and was going to give one to me for free.  I said, "It’s OK, I’ll pay for it.  I prefer to support you."  I was nervous the album would suck and I have to pretend it was good so I wouldn't hurt her feelings.  But I was like wow! This girl is great.  I was really surprised.  I was happy for her.  I actually went back in and told her it was great. It’s hard to get my attention.  I’m finicky.  Even with big musicians, I usually only last three seconds on song. I played Julia's songs a bunch of times already. 

When I first met Julia Autumn Ford we kind of bumped into one another.  I said to myself, “Who this girl?”  My instincts told me there was something special about her.  It was intangible, I didn’t know what but there was something there.  Who would of thought right in Winsted, I discover a star.  The sound of her voice is a better than most people.  It’s distinct.

Julia Autumn Ford has huge potential.  It turns out she's only 17 and she's already writing these wonderful songs.  Jewel comes to mind because she was writing great songs like “Who Will Save Your Soul” at 16.  It's rare where someone has that level of talent at such a young age.  Julia’s story is heavy.  She was planning to commit suicide but at the last second had a spiritual/mental shift put down the knife and started writing songs. It was a shock to find that out because she seems happy.  It's brave of her to tell her story.  There’s healing message and I think it’s inspirational for people who have depression or mental illness. 

If she got picked up by William Morris or CAA and had a lot of backing she could go all the way....  beautiful voice, good personality, right look, perfect demographic.  She’s needs more training and experience.  Julia is certainly better than that Myley Cyrus, Unfortunately, I know what those agents are like.  They would probably say were not interested and steal Julia Autumn Ford’s songs for Myley or Taylor Swift.  They get giddy over shit like that until someone bigger, badder, meaner, stronger shows up and screws them over. (*All this being said, the market for music has been crushed by the venture capitalists, Wall Street and elements of the government. It's debatable if anyone with great talent can do well.  Elements of the government don’t want artists to have power).

Connecticut has some very talented homegrown musicians....there's something going on here.  The quality is much higher than before and better than most places.  Toad's in New Haven was always an important place but the whole music scene has definitely evolved.  I go to some of these  open mics every now and then and some of these people are good.

© Steve Lehman 2014.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Win Maw Oo Wins the Steve Lehman 6 Gold Star Award for Standing Up Against Oppression.

Win Maw Oo posthumously wins the Steve Lehman 6 Gold Star Award™ for standing up against oppression.  Win Maw Oo was a 16 year-old democracy protestor shot by Burmese snipers in front of the U. S. Embassy.  I made an iconic image of her shortly before her death nearly 25 years ago.  I was always very moved by her courage and that of the other Burmese students.

The 25th anniversary of Win Maw Oo's death and the massacre of some 3000 democracy protestors are coming up on September 19th, 2013.  Burma has been in the news.  The Associate Press published an article on August 9, 2013, “25 Years After Unrest, Burma Begins To Cope.  In this article they discuss my iconic image of Win Maw Oo.  The reporting in the Associate Press article is inaccurate.  I feel compelled to set the record straight.  

The photograph of Win Maw Oo is important because it summed up the tragic events that unfolded in Burma in September 1988.  It is rare physical evidence of "war crimes" committed by the Burmese Military.  This image of the bloodied Win Maw Oo depicts one of thousands of murders that occurred throughout Burma.  Through the efforts of Win Maw Oo’s family and others within the democracy movement she became a symbol of those who gave their lives so Burma could be free.  Despite complete censorship, the image took on a life of it’s own.  It became famous in Burma through issues of Newsweek smuggled into the country. Underground copies of my photograph were created and secretly circulated throughout Burma.  The bravery of the Burmese democracy activists will always be an inspiration; it is wonderful to see that their sacrifice hasn’t been in vain.  Without my photographs and the reporting of a handful of journalists it is unlikely that the international community would have pressured the military junta to change.  If there was no press coverage I doubt the National League for Democracy would have been able to form.  Aung San Suu Kyi would not have won the Nobel Peace Prize; the Burmese Military might have just killed her.  I’m proud to have made an important contribution.  In the future, my images will play a significant role in bringing the killers to justice and ensuring Burma makes a complete transition to an open society. 
I’m glad these important issues are now being examined.  However, I’m concerned about the quality of the Associated Press’ journalism.  The Associated Press reported the photograph of the wounded Win Maw Oo was on the cover of Newsweek; this is incorrect it appeared inside the magazine.  Newsweek used a different picture of mine on the cover.  Furthermore, statements the Associated Press made concerning my photograph are untrue.   
I was the only photojournalist in Burma during the military crackdown in 1988. As far as I know, I was the only western journalist on the streets when the military was slaughtering innocent civilians.  Shortly after the shooting began, a scared student told me a blood-curdling tale of a Burmese videographer who was shot in the eye; the sharpshooter’s bullet went through the lens and out the back of his head.  The streets of Rangoon were like a war zone.  The Burmese military targeted photographers to prevent news of their barbarity from leaking out.
In the story, the Associated Press implies there is a direct link between the tragic suicide of Dr. Saw Lwin in 1996 and my photograph taken 8 years earlier. This type of reporting invalidates the photograph and me personally; something the Burmese military and rivals in media would want.  I feel awful about Saw Lwin’s suicide, but in no way did my photograph cause this man’s death.  Unless the AP has a suicide note from Saw Lwin citing the photograph as the reason for him killing himself, it shouldn’t be implied.  The AP story is libelous.  It wasn’t original reporting.  Reuters did a story about Win Maw Oo and my photograph a year ago (   These rumors relating to the doctors first arose in the Burmese media, which is notorious for factual errors.  On 8/5/13 the story emerged in English through an article published in the Irrawaddy by Kyaw Zwa Moe.  The Irrawaddy is a small regional website/blog about Burma and Southeast Asia.  The AP stole elements from the Irrawaddy piece.  I consider this to be a type plagiarism.  The decline of the Associated Press and other news organizations is common knowledge; one former AP bureau chief explains why in the blog post The AP Headed Toward Mediocrity (  Customers frequently complain about quality issues in media and many have left.

The Associated Press story also implies that the second doctor/democracy activist (then a medical student), Win Zaw, was persecuted four years later because he appeared in the dramatic picture carrying Win Maw Oo. The Burmese military has a sophisticated network of spies and informants. They knew about Dr. Win Zaw’s activities independent of my photograph and were oppressing most people involved with the democracy movement.  I’m sad about Win Zaw being detained for a few days but by Burmese standards what happened was minor.  Why didn’t the Burmese Military imprison, torture, or kill Dr. Win Zaw?  The potential backlash from the media, human rights groups and governments was too high because he appeared in the iconic image. The Associated Press' oversimplification of these complex moral issues is irresponsible. If members of the international press weren’t present in Burma, the death toll surely would have been greater.  I acted honorably and did the right thing.
I’m idealistic.  I work off the theory that by creating more awareness it is possible to affect positive social change.  Most Burmese I encountered knew I was very important to their cause and wanted me to document the atrocities.  It was horrific; they shot a young boy right between the eyes.  What happened in Burma was one of the great injustices of modern history.  The democracy movement hoped the images would galvanize people within Burma and bring outside support.  The Burmese student activists arranged for me to go with the ambulance carrying Win Zaw and Saw Lwin so I could get close enough to photograph the people who were killed and wounded near the U. S. Embassy.  If I wasn’t present there was a greater likelihood of the medical workers being shot.  I also rode with other ambulances and photographed; these people had no problem with me travelling with them.  We all were risking our lives for the sake of the common good.
The final decision to publish the photograph wasn’t mine; Katherine Graham (deceased) and Richard Smith of the Washington Post Company made this decision.  If I didn’t come back with the pictures I would have been fired by most media companies and drummed out of the profession.  Also, news organizations often refuse to block out the faces of people who might be endangered.  Furthermore, this was huge news story of great import.  The public’s need to know outweighed everyone’s right to privacy.  
At the time the photograph was made many people believed there would be a split in the military or foreign intervention. There was active resistance. The weak international response was shameful and for me a source of great disillusionment. The United States could have easily stopped the repression in 1988. No one expected it to take 25 years for Burma to change! The world community stood by and did nothing. I fault the major news organizations for de-emphasizing such a major story. Without my photographs it would have been even worse.  Sadly, some of the reasons for this are ethnocentrism and racism, a scourge that has plagued editorial decisions for years.  In journalism a disgusting adage exists, “for it to be news one white person has to die, 10 Europeans, 100,000 Asians and 500,000 Africans.”  I fought against this horrible attitude and often made decisions to work in under-reported regions.  
For the record, I wouldn’t allow the Associated Press to use this iconic photograph because of their exploitative business practices. These labor issues are arguably as important as what happened in Burma. AP knew the photograph was not in the public domain, ignored my wishes and went ahead and published the photograph despite my objections. This deliberate act of theft is unethical.  These unfair business practices are a violation of my copyright and moral rights.  Despite having non-profit status, the Associated Press is intent on hurting independent photographers and has a long history of employee rights issues.  To this day, I still believe the death of Associated Press photographer Hansi Krauss in Somalia was criminally negligent homicide.    It’s strange how my pictures are stolen and a story that subtly undermines me magically appears shortly after I whistle blew about health and safety issues in journalism. This is retaliatory action for my activities as an organizer for artists’ rights.  For years, media companies have used dirty tricks to stop people who have stood up to them. The culture of journalism must change.
This statement is not a compete recitation of the facts of this matter, nor of any of Steve Lehman claims or defenses, legal or equitable, all of which are expressly reserved.

                                                     Steve Lehman Biography
Steve Lehman is a man of many interests and talents.  He is an American born interdisciplinary artist whose oeuvre consists of photographs, mixed media, collages, videos, drawings, designs, writings, sculpture, ceramics, objects, paintings, installations and conceptual art.  He is also an entrepreneur and Person in Charge of WillyNilly™, a convergence company.  Steve is considered an important artist because he successfully merged fine art, journalism, anthropology, sociolology, political science, human rights, and advocacy.  He has exhibited in major museums, was one of the first multimedia journalists, contributed to most major news organizations, helped spearhead the citizen journalism movement, covered 15 political conflicts (Rwanda, Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Burma, Tibet, etc.), traveled to 50 countries, conversational in Chinese, graduated from Duke University and is an Eagle Scout.  The work depicted in his award-winning book The Tibetans: A Struggle to Survive™, was instrumental in the formation of Free Tibet movement in the West.  His exclusive coverage of military repression in Burma played a key role effecting social change in this country.

The Award-Winning Tibetans: A Struggle to Survive™

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WARNING:  This document is art.  The theft of the document or any of the contents, concepts or ideas contained within the document is a felony punishable by imprisonment. The copyright of all photographs, videos, art and text in this correspondence belong to Steve Lehman, and are presented here for viewing purposes only.  YOU MAY ONLY VIEW THE CONTENTUse of the content for any other purposes, including but not limited to use of the content as the basis of another business, concept, art concept, or story concept is strictly forbidden and a violation of Steve Lehman’s copyrights and/or WillyNilly™’s, LLC trademarks.  Using any image, art or video as the base for another illustration or graphic content, including photography and videography, is a violation of copyright and intellectual property laws.  Nothing contained within this correspondence may be reproduced, transmitted, distributed, copied, manipulated, altered or used in any form without prior expressed, written permission from Steve Lehman and/or a payment of a fee or other arrangement.  Any unauthorized usage or duplication is prohibited by United States and International Copyright laws and will be fully prosecuted. NO WORKS PRESENTED HERE ARE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.  Any violation of the above stated terms and conditions will subject the recipient of this correspondence to a non-negotiable $1,000,000 penalty fee. By receiving this correspondence the recipient or recipients hereby irrevocably agree to these terms and conditions.

© Steve Lehman 2013.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rebel Wilson Wins SL6 for her Performance in Pitch Perfect!

Rebel Wilson Wins SL6 for her performance in Pitch Perfect!  This girl is really funny.  I love her expressions.  Rebel stands out from the crowd.  She should get her own movie. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chris Erikson and The Kai Babies Pull Down An SL6™ for Their Song NO!

Chris Erikson and the Kai Babies Win a Steve Lehman 6 Gold Star Award for their song NO!

This song makes me laugh!  There's market for funny kid songs like this.  They're sitting on a goldmine.  There's real money in that space.  Chris and his kids should make an album.

I've know Chris since Kindergarten.  I remember him turning me onto albums (jefferson airplane, the mamas and the papas, doobie brothers, etc.) when were about six.  He always loved music and is getting buzz............his album Lost Track of Time was just named one of the 50 best of 2012!!!!!!

Last Resort Wins the SL6™ for being a Fascinating Television Show.

Last Resort wins the Steve Lehman Six Gold Star Award being a Fascinating Television Show. 

I like this show a lot. The psychology of it is fascinating. It's probably the best written TV show about the military I've seen. I love the concept, strategy, suspense, and complex moral questions, etc. I can't believe ABC is not renewing it!!!! Shows like this are the future.....they should keep it going.  It's cerebral and formulaic at the same time.  The network is afraid to let go, pull out all stops and make this show great.  They are almost there but need 15 to 25% more effort.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Jules Mattsson Wins the SL6™ for Standing up for Free Speech

I herby give Jules Mattsson the Steve Lehman 6 Gold Star Award for Standing up for Free Speech. I love this kid! You go get 'em Jules!!!!!! I love the fight in this 15 year old. Thankfully there are still some people in the world like him. It gives me some hope. He has greatness in him.

At just 15 years old, Jules Mattson, was photographing a military parade in the United Kingdom. Jules broke no laws. In an attempt to control information and increase their power, the police/government bullied, intimidated, and arrested Jules because he was a photographer. He valiantly stood up to authoritarianism and defended his right to free speech. After he was released from police custody, he stuck to his principles and fought for justice. He received an apology and was awarded a undisclosed settlement from the police. It's hard to take money off the cops. To reach in their pocket and give them a giant fuck you is hard. We need that lawyer of yours over here too!

I love how he shoved it up those cops ass for fucking with him. I can't stand when the police flagrantly break the law and waste taxpayer money. I want every New York photographer up the cops asses as hard as Jules for violating the First Amendment. That's what I want out of all the artists and photographers. That's what I want see....tough on artists' rights issues.

Three cheers for Jules. If you are ever in America you have place to stay. We like you. You go Jules. You made a name for yourself. You have a seat at the table in the world of photography. We don't want loser, REMF types, slithering around cheating people. We want passionate, idealists like you. This kid got some heart! Amen brother! Thank you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Robert Stolarik Wins the Steve Lehman 6 Gold Star Award™ for Standing up for the First Amendment.

Hurray For Robert! I love the feist in him. I love it. I hereby give Robert Stolarik the Steve Lehman 6 Gold Star Award™ for Standing Up for the First Amendment.

Over last several years the police have been interfering with photographers/artists' photographing in public places. It came to a head when photographers covering the Occupy Wall Street Movement were attacked in New York City.

After protests from media organizations, NYPD refused to stop violating photographers' first amendment rights. In the video below you can clearly see how Robert Stolarik's stands up to police who bullied, intimidated, harassed, and assaulted him. He and others were targeted because they were photographers.

For more information, please see the following links:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Timothy Alexander Wallace Wins The SL6 For Being A Great Pianist and Creating An Incredible Listening Environment!

Timothy Alexander Wallace wins the SL6 for being a Great Pianist and Creating An Incredible Listening Environment. This man has a great ear and great eye. Timothy has created a wonderful music experience in a beautifully decorated music salon. He is on to something special, this is the new way to listen music! 10 to to 30 people in intimate surroundings....enough of the huge concert hall. This is lightening in a bottle. Hurray! there's something cool in Connecticut. Torrington has a budding music scene, there's interesting stuff happening there.

Studio 59
59 Barber Street
Torrington, CT
s t u d i o 5 9 m u s i c @ g m a i l . c o m

Monday, September 13, 2010

Randy Moss Wins SL6 Great Wide Receiver Award.

Randy I appreciate you. You're a great receiver! I'm happy you're playing with the Patriots. You also help sell tickets and get people to watch on TV. Don't wory, I hear what your saying...the man ain't treating you well.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Elyse Butler Wins SL6 for Being a Great Young Photographer

Elyse Butler Wins the Steve Lehman 6 Gold Star Award for Being a Great Young Photographer! this woman has an interesting eye. If you look at tons and tons of photography it can all start to look the same after a while. Elyse's work makes me pause and look. Congratulations Elyse!!!

Her photography collective Aeveum (Chris Cappozella, Matt Mallans, Andrew Henderson, Yoon Byun) is doing some cool things too. These young photographers seem sincere, committed and passionate. They're a lot nicer, less conniving and jaded then some of these old &%$#*@'s who would sell their own mother for a picture. It seems like they actually care about people.