May 22nd, 2015

In Memoriam: Environmental Portrait Photographer Seth Kushner, 41

Seth KushnerSeth Kushner, a photographer who shot environmental portraits for The New York Times Magazine, Time, Vibe and Businessweek and was selected for PDN’s 30 in 1999, died May 17 of leukemia. He was 41.

A native of Brooklyn, Kushner knew he wanted to be a photographer when he was in high school. After he graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, he began shooting a number of editorial assignments and was syndicated by Retna. When he was profiled for the first issue of PDN’s 30: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch in 1999, photo editor Michelle Molloy, then at Newsweek, praised the vibrancy and energy of Kushner’s portraits, and noted, “He also hits it off well with people, which is important for a portrait photographer, yet he never loses perspective of the person he’s shooting.” Kushner said, “I want to say either by location or action or clothes or composition what my subjects are about, aside from simply what they look like.”

Kushner turned his passions for two of his favorite subjects – Brooklyn and comic books—into photo books. In 2007, he published The Brooklynites (powerHouse Books), which combined his environmental portraits of Brooklyn residents, both famous and unknown, with interviews by Anthony LaSala (former senior editor at PDN). Years before “Brooklyn” became synonymous with “hipster Mecca,” The Brooklynites celebrated residents from every part of the borough and every walk of life: writers and actors, handball players, a pizza maker, a teacher, British émigrés raising toddlers in Park Slope.

Stan Lee. Photo © Seth Kushner

Stan Lee. Photo © Seth Kushner

A collector of super-hero memorabilia, Kushner co-founded the website Graphic NYC in 2008 with writer Christopher Irving to celebrate pioneering comic book artists. Kushner expanded the website into a book, Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comic Books, published by powerHouse Books in 2012. It featured Kushner’s portraits of such artists as Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics; Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America; Frank Miller, creator of Sin City; and Art Spiegelman, author of the graphic memoir Maus.

Kushner was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014. Members of the communities Kushner was most involved with – the photo community, comic book artists and fans, and the Bay Ridge neighborhood in Brooklyn—contributed to an online fundraising campaign set up to raise money for medical bills and living expenses while Kushner was unable to work. Memorial contributions to the campaign will now help support his wife, Terra, and their son, Jackson, who survive him.

Related article:
PDN Photo of the Day: Real-Life Comic Book Heroes

May 21st, 2015

Winner of Kraszna-Krausz First Book Award 2015 Has Best Title We’ve Seen This Year

The cover of Ciarán Óg Arnold's award-winning book.

The cover of Ciarán Óg Arnold’s award-winning book.

Irish photographer Ciarán Óg Arnold‘s book, I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed. but all I could do was to get drunk again, has been named winner of the Kraszna-Krausz First Book Award 2015. The award is presented by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation in partnership with MACK Books.

It was one of three prizes awarded at a ceremony on Tuesday by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation. The prizes celebrate books which have made “original and lasting educational, professional, historical and cultural contributions to the field.”

Also awarded Kraszna-Krausz prizes were Amore e piombo: The Photography of Extremes in 1970s Italy (published by Archive of Modern Conflict), a reappraisal of reportage from Italy in the period associated with paparazzi documenting La Dolce Vita. A 10,000 pound award accompanies the prize. The book was chosen by jurors from among a short list that included The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip (published by Aperture) and Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful (published by Yale University Press).

The judges for the 2015 prizes were publisher Michael Mack, Polly Fleury of the Wilson Centre for Photography and the National Media Museum’s Greg Hobson, along with guest judges Simon Baker, photography curator of the Tate Museum, and Lucy Kumara Moore of Claire de Rouen Books.

The winners and finalists for the Kraszna-Krausz books are being exhibited at the Media Space at the Science Museum in London through June 28.

May 21st, 2015

Science Says: People Like Filtered Photos

Love them or hate them, photo filters are a staple of photo sharing. While some may view them as a shortcut to creativity, new research suggests they’re also a powerful lure for eyeballs on the web’s most popular photo platforms.

New research from Saeideh Bakhshi, David Shamma and Lyndon Kennedy of Yahoo Labs and Eric Gilbert at Georgia Tech aims to understand how filtering and “visual post-processing” impacts photo sharing.

What they found, simply put, is that filtering photos drives more engagement: photos with filters were 21 percent more likely to be viewed on Flickr and Instagram than those without. What’s more, filtered photos were 45 percent more likely to be commented on.

There is an art to filtering, though.

“Filters that increase contrast and correct exposure can help a photo’s engagement, and filters that create a warmer color temperature are more engaging than those with cooler color effects,” the authors write. “Photographically speaking, filters which auto-enhance a photo (e.g. correct for contrast and exposure) drive more engagement. We find the less-engaging filters exhibit transformation effects which are exaggerated and often cause photographic artifacts and/or loss of highlight details. The exception being filters which make a photo look antique.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.24.50 AM

The study gleaned insights from interviews with Flickr users, plus a quantitative analysis of over 7.6 million images from both Flickr and Instagram.

Incidentally, filters aren’t the only means of increasing engagement with images. The researchers also found that the more tags a Flickr image had, the more likely it was to surface in a search. The age of a Flickr account also had a “positive but small role” in the number of eyeballs an image attracted.

The full report, which provides a detailed breakdown on the methodology used in the study, is available here.

May 19th, 2015

New App Saves Your Video Even If Police Try To Delete It

MOBILEJUSTICE-ACLU
A new app promises to help citizen journalists record police actions.

Mobile Justice CA, a new mobile app from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, allows users to automatically send recordings of police activity to the ACLU. By using the app, citizens who record incidents involving police are assured that their videos will survive even if police seize their mobile devices.

The app, which is available via the Apple App Store and Google Play, may come in handy for photographers and journalists working in California. Versions of the app also exist for Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York and Oregon. Video by users of the Mobile Justice CA app in other states will still be sent to the ACLU of California, who will forward that video to local ACLU offices if the video depicts a civil rights issue.

In addition to sending a copy of a user’s video directly to the ACLU, the app saves the video to the camera roll of the user. It also prompts the user to fill out an incident report that will help the ACLU catalogue and sort the videos they receive.

On the website announcing the app, writer and activist Griffith Fuller, Jr., explains the need for it. He recalls an incident when he was detained and searched without cause by a cop in West Hollywood, California. Fuller recorded the encounter, but after the cop handcuffed Fuller and put him in his car, he “picked up my phone, which was still recording, and deleted the video from the ‘Camera Roll’ folder as well as the copy in the backup ‘Recently Deleted’ folder,” Fuller writes.

Other features include a “Witness” function, which informs users if others are using the app to record incidents at nearby locations. Information about the rights of citizens is also included in the app features. The app will also send the user push notifications with announcements and information from the ACLU.

Related: Federal Judge Sanctions City of Atlanta for Continuing to Violate Photographers’ Rights
L.A. Pays $50k to Harassed Photogs, Agrees to Train Sheriff’s Deputies

May 19th, 2015

A Website As a Calling Card: Robert Gallagher Dishes on His Online Tools

Sponsored by Clickbooq

Robert Gallagher’s photography career is dynamic: One day he’s shooting a travel feature in Bora Bora for The Guardian; another day it’s the cofounder and CEO of the dating app, Tinder, for the cover of Forbes. When we connect over the phone, he’s brimming with excitement over a shoot in Los Angeles with singer, songwriter and musician John Lydon, who is best known by his former stage name as the Sex Pistols’ front man, Johnny Rotten. The shoot was a treat for the photographer, who having grown up in England in the 1970s, notes that it was “Margaret Thatcher vs. the Sex Pistols” in the spectrum of cultural iconography. He had the opportunity to get to know the family-man side of the infamous English punk rock singer when he gave him a ride home from the shoot. “That’s why I love my job,” he says. “You never know who you’re going to meet from one day to the next—I love those little vignettes of life.” But what really struck him about Lydon was that he showed up to the set with only a simple plastic bag full of his belongings. “He still a little bit anti-establishment,” Gallagher laughs.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.13.32 PM

John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, on www.gallagherphoto.com / Photo by Robert Gallagher

Gallagher has a no-nonsense approach both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. In marketing his work, he believes his images should do the talking. That means he wants a website design “without all the unnecessary bells and whistles.” His site, he explains, is his “calling card” and a “marketing piece in itself,” so a clean design and a gallery that displays his images edge-to-edge is what gives the photographer’s work the most impact. “I have to get out of my own way and let the images do the selling for me,” he explains.

RG_09222014_IMG_6355

Billy Idol, photographed for Der Spiegel / Photo by Robert Gallagher

And sell his images do. Gallagher’s celebrity portraiture, travel editorial and personal surfing images have landed him jobs with top clients: from Vogue, Forbes and TIME to MTV, Apple and Nike. When the photographer isn’t on the road, he’s running the day-to-day aspects of his business. He doesn’t have a web designer, but having started his photography business before the digital era, he’s no stranger to adaptation. “I’ve had to learn how to think like a computer but I don’t want to spend all of my time learning a new program,” he explains.

Bora Bora with Andrew O'Hagan. Travel feature for The Guardian W

Bora Bora with Andrew O’Hagan. Travel feature for The Guardian / Photo by Robert Gallagher

RG_10272014_IMG_7258

Tinder cofounders Jonathan Badeen, Sean Rad and Justin Mateen. / Photo by Robert Gallagher

This is why he turned to Clickbooq when he wanted to build a website: The templates are user-friendly and intuitive so he doesn’t have to spend his time learning new technologies, and the new HTML5 sites are search engine optimized and fully responsive so he knows he’s on the cutting-edge of web design. Further, the highly-customizable Moderna template displays his portfolio in a grid-style that gives an overview of his work, but can also be expanded edge-to-edge, allowing portraits of icons like Lydon to shine. “I personally think [the grid] is what people look at—they want to see the general [portfolio] overview. I love how it repopulates based on the browser size,” he says. “It kicks butt.” He also notes his delight over the full-screen images that “show off” his web page. “I know it will have an impact.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.14.55 PM

“Tearsheets” thumbnail view on www.gallagherphoto.com

Gallagher is also enthusiastic about the possibilities of integrating his more recent motion work into his website; he recently added a video page in just a few minutes, describing the “user-friendly” process of embedding “video playboxes” as “genius.” Over the phone he asks me to refresh my screen to see if I prefer his videos in a larger format. “I just made that change while we’ve been talking,” he laughs. But on a more serious note, he says, “Clickbooq is genuine about wanting to make their websites better for photographers.” And for a photographer who is as forthright as Gallagher, that makes all the difference.

Ready to launch a new website? Sign up for a free 14-day trial and take 15% off any new plan with promotion code, PDNNATIVE.

May 15th, 2015

An Apple Camera Makes No Sense, But This Does

iCloud_Photos_iPhone4s_iPad_MBP15inch_PRINT Over on LinkedIn, Sean White argues that with the Watch, Apple is now in the business of disaggregating pieces of the iPhone so it only makes sense for Apple to launch a standalone digital camera next.

“The watch is an obvious step for Apple because it’s a familiar device that benefits from ensemble integration…. An Apple Camera would benefit from the same integration and design,” White writes.

Color me skeptical. Wearable technology is a growing category, so Apple’s decision to dip its toe (or is that wrist?) into that market makes sense. The standalone digital cameras business, on the other hand, isn’t growing (you can thank the iPhone for that).

But that’s not to say there isn’t a significant photo-related opportunity for Apple to capitalize on, one that would speak to both the casual snap-shooter and the professional: iCloud.

Apple has taken a relatively cautious and slow-moving approach to the cloud. iCloud originally debuted as a means of syncing files between Apple devices and only recently evolved into a proper file storage system. Nonetheless, iCloud remains immature and costly relative to its competitors. But Apple has something many of its cloud competitors don’t have: profit. A lot of it.

Let’s back up.

In our piece surveying long-term storage options for photographers, one theme came up again and again: the cloud had a lot of promise as a long-term archive, but the costs and risks associated with a cloud provider going out of business makes many users reluctant to entrust their archives to the cloud.

While cloud storage is definitely here to stay, picking the right cloud provider is still an exercise in stock-picking. Dropbox and Box, for instance, are both flush with venture capital, but Box isn’t profitable and Dropbox’s financials are a mystery. Google is profitable, but a business model built on data-mining isn’t exactly a welcoming home for important creative assets.

Apple, on the other hand, has more cash lying around than some nation states. With that money they could not simply build a better cloud storage service, they could guarantee a long-lasting one. What if Apple used a portion of this towering mountain of cash to back a “lifetime guarantee” for iCloud–a kind of financial promissory note to reassure users that images stored in Apple’s servers will remain accessible for generations? You could argue that this guarantee is implicit in iCloud today given that Apple is so wildly profitable, but this promise could be made explicit and indeed, be the principle differentiator for Apple versus its other cloud rivals.

Just how they could structure and back such a promise is beyond the scope of this post, but it seems like a challenge worth tackling.

So a standalone Apple camera sounds like a dead-end. A lifetime or more of secure cloud storage, on the other hand, sounds like the future.

Related:

In the Digital Age, Longevity Is No Sure Thing

High Capacity Storage for Your Photo Archive

May 14th, 2015

How Greg Constantine Keeps a Human Rights Story in the Public Eye, and the News Cycle

An outdoor exhibition of Greg Constantine's photographs in the Plaine de Plainpalais park in central Geneva. Photo courtesy Greg Constantine.

An outdoor exhibition of Greg Constantine’s photographs in the Plaine de Plainpalais park in central Geneva. Photo courtesy Greg Constantine.

For more than a decade, photographer Greg Constantine has worked to document the lives of stateless people—people who have no nationality and are denied basic human rights—in places such as Sri Lanka, Kenya, Malaysia and Ukraine. Constantine has also photographed Burma’s Rohingya Muslims, hundreds of thousands of whom live as refugees in Bangladesh, who are trapped “in a cycle of misery that has no borders,” he writes in a statement about his work.

Creating photographs is just the start for Constantine. By exhibiting his work in cities all over the world, and by engaging with universities and non-governmental organizations, Constantine has developed a unique and effective approach to building an audience for a serious topic.

Developing new methods for getting his work out is essential, says Constantine, who is exhibiting his Rohingya photographs through May 28 at PowerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, and is participating in a panel discussion about Burma and the Rohingya at the Open Society Foundations on May 18. Traditional media outlets tend only to cover the plight of the Rohingya during tragedies. In the past two weeks, the Rohingya have been in the news because a mass grave was discovered at a human trafficking camp in Thailand, while other traffickers, fearing a crackdown, abandoned trafficking boats, stranding thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis at sea, prompting global media coverage. “Whenever something really tragic happens it pops up in the news and then it just kind of evaporates,” Constantine notes. Read the rest of this entry »

May 14th, 2015

Federal Judge Sanctions City of Atlanta for Continuing to Violate Photographers’ Rights

In the wake of recent violations of news photographers’ rights by Atlanta police, a US federal court judge has held the City of Atlanta in contempt of a 2012 court order to reduce interference with citizens documenting police activity.

US District court judge Steve Jones handed down the civil contempt ruling against the city yesterday, and imposed sanctions intended to force compliance with the 2012 order and “address future monitoring of [Atlanta’s] compliance with the order.” Read the rest of this entry »

May 13th, 2015

PDN Video: Gillian Laub on Winning Over Reluctant Subjects to Film “Southern Rites”

Gillian Laub: "Southern Rites" And The Challenges of Access from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

In 2009, Gillian Laub’s story in The New York Times Magazine about segregated high school proms in Mount Vernon, Georgia, stirred national outrage, which finally forced the community to integrate the proms. Afterwards, Laub faced down the hostility and threats of locals to work on a documentary film about race relations in the area. In this PDN video, she describes the challenges of filming where she was unwelcome, and how she managed to win the confidence of her subjects– including a murder suspect who had granted no media interviews before he sat down with Laub. Titled “Southern Rites,” the film debuts May 18 on HBO. Laub’s still photographs are showing at Bonnie Benrubi Gallery in New York City from May 14-June 27, 2015. Damiani will also publish a book of the work in June.

Related:
PDN Photo of the Day: Gillian Laub’s “Southern Rites”

Shaul Schwartz’s Reel Peak Films: A Production Company Devoted to Editorial Documentaries

May 11th, 2015

Andy Biggs Talks Shop About Moab’s New Juniper Baryta Rag

Sponsored by Moab

Wildlife photographer Andy Biggs has a well-stamped passport. “I’ve been everywhere, man,” he says with a chuckle, listing his recent travel itinerary—including India, Tanzania, Utah, Botswana and Scotland—while noting that Africa is his “home turf” for dramatic wildlife and nature pictures. The Houston-based lensman’s travels have a dual purpose: He leads photo-workshop safaris on the road, and he sells commercial prints of his own resulting images.

AndyBiggs_COA19_SparringWildebeest

Photo © Andy Biggs

“I supply interior designers with prints for their clients,” Biggs explains, “and I’ve entirely switched all my printing over to using this terrific inkjet paper.” He’s referring to Moab Juniper Baryta Rag 305, which he uses for both his large-scale color and his trademark black-and-white prints.

“I like the vividness of the colors and the depth of the black,” Biggs says. “In the black-and-white world, you want that really rich, deep black, which you can get with the Baryta. Plus it has the right white point that I’m looking for, a nice, mellow shade. A lot of papers on the market have an unnaturally bright white, which can look sort of fake. The color of white in a paper is really important—there are tons of shades of white, more than you’d ever imagine.” Read the rest of this entry »