The photographer-owned photo agency, Noor, was started on Sept. 6, 2007, at the Visa Pour l’image photojournalism festival in Perpignan, France. This week the photographers will return, commemorating their fifth anniversary with the unveiling of a new Web site and an 11-volume book project. The Noor members Alixandra Fazzina, Kadir van Lohuizen and Jon Lowenstein spoke with James Estrin. The interview has been edited.
JE: How did Noor start?
KL: It started because Stanley and I started to speak, in New Orleans after the hurricane in 2005. We both felt that the market was changing very quickly, and that we didn’t have any influence. We were correct, though we didn’t know that it would happen so quickly. When we launched there were many people who felt that it was a risky idea to start an agency right now, but we proved that it was actually possible, and even a necessity.
JE: Why a necessity?
KL: A lot of other agencies, smaller agencies, went under. We saw that it was the time to unite photographers who are independent in the sense that they are initiating their own shows, initiating their own projects. and not waiting for assignments to come in. Those golden years were over. Every year, we do a group project where we work together on one theme, one issue, and we do master classes every year specifically for people not in the Western world. They’re just being selected for their talent they don’t have to pay for it.
JE: Jon, you were there when Noor started and you joined six months later. What made you want to join?
JL: When I saw the presentation at Perpignan five years ago, I thought Noor had the most hard-hitting and strongest photography that was committed to social justice. I thought that as a group we could really form a powerful entity to help to show what’s going on in the world. One of our major strengths is how we work together as a group. I also thought I would learn a lot from the other photographers, which I have. I also liked the autonomy — the ability to have an impact within the group and be a part of something and building something.
JE: Alix, why did you join?
AF: I’ve been working out in the field since Bosnia, but working very quietly, before the days of social media, working for picture desks at British newspapers and on long term projects. I didn’t want to go with just any agency, unless it was 100 percent perfect. Noor just had a lot more integrity and was doing more in-depth work than anybody else. I felt the effort between the group was incredibly strong. When you work as a photojournalist, you’re often very much alone on the road, kind of out on a limb. And it’s great to be with such like-minded people, and to have these opportunities to come together. And be stronger as a group.
JE: Alex, you mentioned being alone a lot of times, and traditionally, outside of newspapers, photographers have worked alone. Photographers often are more comfortable alone. Sometimes it feels as if working together can be antithetical to who many photographers are.
AF: Well I think in this case, we are such a tight-knit group of like-minded people compared to some of the bigger agencies. I do think it’s important that after so many years of out doing this, that you have a family to go back to.
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Interview by JAMES ESTRIN for The New York Times, September 4, 2012,