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, February 11, 2010

Including Samuel Nabs Seven Steve Lehman 6 Gold Star Awards™.

Before his son Samuel was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, multimediajournalist Dan Habib rarely thought about the inclusion of people with disabilities. Now he thinks about inclusion every day. Shot and produced over four years, Habib's award-winning documentary film, Including Samuel, honestly chronicles the Habib family's efforts to include Samuel in every facet of their lives. The film also features four other families with varied inclusion experiences, plus interviews with dozens of teachers, young people, parents and disability rights experts.

Including Samuel is a highly personal, passionately photographed film that captures the cultural and systemic barriers to inclusion. The stars of the film received the following Steve Lehman 6 Gold Star Awards™:

Samuel Habib wins the SL6™ for helping many people.

Isaiah Habib wins the SL6™ for being an awesome big brother and disability rights advocate.

Emily Huff Wins the SL6™ for being a great artist.

Keith Jones Wins the SL6™ for his courage and activism.

Alana Malfy Wins the SL6™ for helping people.

Nathaniel Orellana Wins the SL6™ for helping people.

Dan Habib wins the SL6™ for telling a moving story about his own family*.

*This is very important because so many journalists and documentarians look into the lives of others but rarely examine their own lives. It was very brave for Dan to open his life and family to the world in this way.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Robbie Barnett Wins the Steve Lehman Six Gold Star Award™ for being a Media Pioneer.

Robbie Barnett wins the Steve Lehman 6 Gold Star Award™ for being a media pioneer. Robbie was one of the first political bloggers; he was what existed 15 years before blogger and wordpress. He used faxes and later e-mail to deliver news and analysis. He successfully bypassed traditional media and distributed specific information about an area of interest to him and other people.

I first met Robbie Barnett on the back streets of Lhasa, Tibet during the first contemporary independence demonstrations. It was October 1, 1987 and the Chinese had just begun shooting at the Tibetan protestors. He was wearing an old army jacket and offered to hold onto some of my film in case I got arrested.

He like so many were very moved by these events and spontaneously began to gather information about what happened. What is unique is Robbie turned his conviction into the Tibet Information Network (TIN). TIN was an organization that collected and distributed information about what was happening in Tibet. It was a small but very important organization because the mainstream press did very little reporting from Tibet. He once commented upon his work, "I just couldn't stand them lying about everything." From a conceptual standpoint his efforts were also very significant because he successfully merged journalism and human rights (I believe I helped influence this).