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June 23rd, 2015

Court Rejects Rentmeester’s Infringement Claim Over Nike “Jumpman” Logo

© Jacobus "Co" Rentmeester

Rentmeester’s 1984 photograph of Michael Jordan for Life magazine. © Jacobus “Co” Rentmeester

A federal court in Portland, Oregon has dismissed photographer Jacobus “Co” Rentmeester’s copyright infringement claim against Nike for the same reason so many “copycat” infringement claims fail: Copyright law doesn’t protect ideas, only the expression of those ideas. And Nike’s expression was not “substantially similar” to Rentmeester’s, the court ruled.

“Mr. Rentmeester has failed to show that he can satisfy the requisite objective test for copyright infringement,” US District Judge Michael W. Mosman wrote in his decision last week to dismiss the case. Rentmeester has filed papers announcing his intent to appeal the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (more…)

June 17th, 2015

A Photo Editor for Medium Makes the Case for Self-Publishing Platforms

Self-publishing opportunities abound, as we report in a feature story that’s now available at PDNonline.com, called “Are Visual Storytelling Platforms a Good Thing for Photographers?” We interviewed photographers about how they’ve benefitted (or not) from using a variety of platforms, including Exposure.com, Maptia, VSCO Journal, and Medium.

In an effort to promote their work, photographers are filling those sites with what amounts to free content–much of it high-quality content. So the question is, are photographers benefiting from the exposure provided by those platforms, as much as the platform owners are benefitting from the free content they’re vacuuming up?

As the story was going to press, we got a thoughtful response to the question from Keith Axline, the former editor of Wired magazine’s Raw File blog, and now editor of Vantage. An offshoot of Medium, Vantage is new online magazine established to highlight the best photo projects that photographers post on Medium.

Axline’s response came too late to be included in our story. But here’s the question as we posed it, and his response:

PDN: What’s in it for photographers? With a few exceptions, those I’m talking to are reporting that their stories pretty much get buried on these self-publishing platforms, and they don’t really attract clients and assignments. Which suggests they’re of marginal self-promotional value so far. So my question is, how would you try to convince skeptical photographers that these aren’t just more sites vacuuming up free content (photo stories) shot by hungry professionals, for the benefit of the site owners looking to generate ad revenue for themselves?

Keith Axline: It’s a really tough question. Some projects that Vantage profiles, I really love, but they don’t get much traction with readers. It was the same when I was at Raw File at Wired. But others find their audience on Medium when they wouldn’t have found it anywhere else. There’s no one-size-fits-all for every photo project or photographer. Any of these sites, including Medium, is just a tool for photographers and it’s up to them to make the most out of it.

I totally understand the perspective that photo blogs are exploiting photographers by running their stuff without payment. That’s one way to look at it. I see that. Though I disagree with it. At Vantage we only want to make that ask of photographers who are excited to be featured by us and for whom the attention is an asset that outweighs the granted one-time use. It’s not for everyone. Our posts are promotional in nature because we’re excited to talk about photographers’ work. So in that sense whatever the perceived cost of the granted use can be viewed as a marketing expense. We also encourage photographers to contribute to us directly so that there’s no middleman between them and potential fans. They get to see all the traffic to their story, where it came from, and reply directly to comments that readers make.

I also think that it’s not clear to photographers, or most people for that matter, how to turn traffic and viewers into a plus for their business. Hopefully in the future Vantage and Medium can get closer to facilitating that, and I’m happy to have a “best practices” discussion with contributors (I’ve been meaning to even write a few posts about it).

I think anyone who runs a photo publication is passionate about photography to some degree and they’re probably not exactly raking it in from ad revenue. Participating doesn’t make sense for everyone, but there is a large swath of people who would love to be featured. I’ve never heard of anyone regretting being profiled by us, but maybe they’re just being nice.

Related:
Are Visual Storytelling Platforms a Good Thing for Photographers?

June 15th, 2015

LOOK3 2015: Walter Iooss Jr. Shares Advice and Lessons from His Encounters with Great Athletes

Walter Iooss Jr, a sports photography superstar for more than 50 years, regaled a 2015 LOOK3 audience on Friday with some of the best tales from his storied career. Steve Fine, former director of photography at Sport Illustrated, joined Iooss on stage at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville to prompt Iooss about his encounters with many great athletes: Roger Maris, Dave Parker, Joe Namath, Muhammed Ali, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan, to name only a few.

Iooss was a teenager without a driver’s license when he got his first assignment from Sports Illustrated around 1961. His father had to drive him to the job. The subject, an 83-year-old man who had built a sailboat and sailed it to Florida and back, looked at the 17-year-old photographer and said incredulously, “This is my moment?”

Iooss was, by his own account, born with a passion and a talent for photography. “Photography’s not that hard. It really isn’t,” he said during his talk. “It’s just instinctual. I’ve never had another job. I don’t know anything else. [I’m an] idiot savant.”

Equal to his passion for photography is his love of and fascination with sports. “When you play, the moment a pitch is thrown, or you shoot, or hit a golf ball, the whole world stops. There’s nothing that’s really happening except that moment with you, and that’s the escape of sport,” he said. “Sport is a real fantasy world, and in some ways, I try to project my childhood fantasies continually in pictures because you need a child’s heart to get the energy of these guys.”

Asked by Fine to talk about the defining characteristics of his work, Iooss offered what amounted to advice for aspiring sports photographers. (more…)

June 15th, 2015

LOOK3 2015: David Alan Harvey’s Reunion with a Long-Lost Subject (and Other Surprises)

David Alan Harvey greets Lois Liggins on stage at the the 2015 LOOK3 festival, in front of a portrait of Liggins that Harvey shot in 1966. ©Jessica Earnshaw

David Alan Harvey greets Lois Liggins on stage at the the 2015 LOOK3 festival, in front of a portrait of Liggins that Harvey shot in 1966. ©Jessica Earnshaw

David Alan Harvey’s artist talk on the main stage at LOOK3 in Charlottesville on Saturday included several surprises: a peek at some of Harvey’s precocious early work, images from his latest project (called Beach Games, an exploration in black and white of beach sports culture in Rio), his insistence (against much evidence to the contrary) that he doesn’t consider himself a color photographer or an extrovert–and a heartwarming guest appearance by a long-lost subject from a project he shot when he was 22. (more…)

June 8th, 2015

Photojournalist Charles Mostoller on the Advantage of Shooting Photo Projects Close to Home

Seventeen-year-old Shahir Drayton rears back on a horse in a vacant Philadelphia lot. ©Charles Mostoller

Seventeen-year-old Shahir Drayton rears back on a horse in a vacant Philadelphia lot. ©Charles Mostoller

Philadelphia-based photographer Charles Mostoller was on assignment in the city one day when a group of African-American teenage boys rode by on horseback. It was an incongruous scene, which Mostoller turned into a personal project that was eventually published by The Wall Street Journal. The project is the subject of “Picture Story: Urban Cowboys,” which is now available on PDNOnline.

When we interviewed Mostoller, he made a persuasive case for shooting personal projects close to home. He picks it up from here:

“As a freelancer who is not making tons of money, doing personal projects that are in my backyard makes sense financially. But also, I truly believe in general [that] running to the exotic, or running away and looking to do a story somewhere else because you think that’s where people want to see you, or that’s where the story is, I think that’s a backwards way of going about it. I think the best way to make quality work is to do it in a place that you’re familiar with, where you can actually understand the situation and can really say something about what’s  going on.

“Also, if you’re trying to show [potential clients] you can hack it, it’s much more difficult to make very good stories that are kind of pedestrian, or where nobody would expect them. Nobody would expect this story [about teenage urban cowboys] out of Philly, but everyone is expecting young photographers to want to go to Haiti. So I could show Haiti pictures, and no one’s going to care, but this one story has people everywhere coming up to me, saying, ‘Oh my god, I saw this!’ It made the rounds because it was so surprising. I’m not always looking for something exotic in Philadelphia. this one just happened to be that. but I think it’s important to focus on where you’re at as a young photographer doing personal work, rather than saying, OK, I need to go somewhere else to do my work.”

Related Articles:
Documenting Philadelphia’s Teenage Urban Cowboys
PDN Video Pick: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists
How to Find Projects in Your Own Backyard

May 28th, 2015

Photographer Cotton Coulson Dies in Diving Accident on National Geographic Expedition

Cotton Coulson ©Doug Menuez

Cotton Coulson ©Doug Menuez

Photographer Cotton Coulson, a former National Geographic contributor and Baltimore Sun DOP, died yesterday as a result of a diving accident last Sunday, according to NPPA‘s News Photographer magazine. He was 60 years old.

Coulson was participating as an instructor in a 17-day National Geographic adventure photography workshop in Norway when the accident occurred. According to the NPPA report, Coulson signaled trouble to a diving partner, who then dragged him to the surface of the water. The diving partner administered CPR, and rescue workers were able to re-start Coulson’s heart, but he never regained consciousness. He died at a hospital in Tromsø, Norway.

“We are devastated,” says photographer Doug Menuez, who along with his wife was close friends with Coulson and his wife, former National Geographic photographer Sisse Brimberg. Menuez remembers Coulson as an iconoclast “with a wicked sense of humor,” and adds, “Cotton wasn’t blowing his own horn. He was content to do excellent work, and let it speak for itself.

“It’s heartbreaking to think he’s gone.”

A National Geographic spokesperson told PDN that the publisher will soon issue a statement about Coulson’s death.

Coulson began contributing to National Geographic in 1975, after graduating from film school at New York University. He was hired as a contract photographer the following year, and produced more than a dozen stories for the magazine.

Around 1987, he became associate director of photography at US News & World Report, and several years later, joined The Baltimore Sun as Director of Photography.

In the mid 1990s, Coulson relocated to San Francisco, where he was senior VP/Product Development at CNET. About a decade ago, he and Brimberg moved to Copenhagen, and founded a production company called Keenpress. They produced photography and films about travel, climate issues, the environment and other subjects for various media outlets and corporations.

In addition to his wife, Coulson is survived by his son Calder and daughter Saskia, as well as by his sister and his mother.

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.” (more…)

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

April 28th, 2015

U.S. Copyright Office (Once Again) Studying Copyright Struggles of Photographers

The U.S. Copyright Office has published a call for comments from photographers and visual artists about how their works are “monetized, enforced and registered” and about “obstacles” artists face protecting their copyrights “when navigating the digital landscape.” The U.S. Copyright Office announced the research initiative April 24 in the Federal Register. The written comments are due by July 23.

What action, if any, the U.S. Copyright Office takes as a result of its research remains to be seen. “We just want to get an overview of the landscape,” says spokesperson Catie Rowland. “We’re just researching it, to see where it leads. There are a lot of concerns. We want to see if we can address them.” (more…)

April 22nd, 2015

PDN Video: How to Take Your Career to the Next Level

At a turning point early in his career, veteran celebrity photographer Brian Smith had a brazen (and slightly cringe-worthy) encounter with John Huston, the famous movie director. He got away with it–just barely. At the time, Smith was a staff photographer on assignment for the Orange County Register. He was trying to take his career to the next level, and the shoot with Huston was an object lesson in how to do that, as he explains in this video. (Smith is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and author of Secrets of Great Portrait Photography.)

Related:
PDN Video: Photographer Brian Smith on How to Get a Striking Celebrity Portrait

PDN Video: Gregory Heisler on How to Relate to Portrait Subjects

PDN Video Pick: Miller Mobley’s Tips for Landing Clients

How Top Photographers Shoot Great Portraits