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November 11th, 2015

Professor Forced Out of U. of Missouri J-School after Blocking Student Journalists at Protest

A University of Missouri assistant professor who was caught on video trying to block a student journalist from covering a protest on Monday at the university’s main campus in Columbia has resigned her “courtesy appointment” at the Missouri School of Journalism, the university announced late yesterday.

The protests, over the university’s handling of racist incidents on campus, were covered by the national media. Protesters eventually forced the resignations of the university’s president, and the chancellor of the U of M-Columbia campus.

The widely circulated video of the professor, Melissa Click, was shot and posted by student reporter Mark Schierbecker. The video shows a group of protesters confronting student photojournalist Tim Tai, at the urging of Click. She tells him to “back off.” Tai hold his ground, and asserts his right to photograph the protest under the First Amendment, until the protesters interlocked arms and physically push him back.

Schierbecker then doubles back with his camera towards Click, who was behind the line of protesters confronting Tai, and asks to speak to her. “You need to get out,” she tells him.

“No, I don’t,” he responds.

At that point, Click appears to grab at his camera, then she turns around and calls for other protesters to help force Schierbecker away:  “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here!”

Amid a storm of protest on social media over Click’s interference with the reporters’ First Amendment rights, Click said in a prepared statement yesterday, “I have reached out to the journalists involved to offer my sincere apologies and to express regrets over my actions.”

Last night, after a School of Journalism faculty meeting to discuss the incident, David Kurpius, the school’s dean, announced that Click had resigned her “courtesy appointment.” Kurpius noted that Click “never taught courses at the School.”

Her “courtesy appointment” at the School of Journalism simply enabled her to as a thesis reviewer for School of Journalism students, The New York Times explained in its report about the incident.

Click continues to hold her position in the communications department of the University of Missouri’s College of Arts & Science, according to the university.

Kurpius said in statement yesterday that “The Missiouri School of Journalism is proud of [Tai] for how he handled himself” during the confrontation with Click and other protesters.

Tai has said on Twitter, “I’m a little perturbed at being part of the story, so maybe let’s focus some more reporting on systemic racism in higher ed institutions.”

Related Articles

1st Amendment Watch: Will Police Ever Get the Message that Photography is Not a Crime?

Dept of Justice Blasts Ferguson Police for First Amendment Violations

November 4th, 2015

In Memoriam: Photographer Burgess Blevins, 73

Burgess S. Blevins ©Kathy Wildberger

Burgess S. Blevins ©Kathy Wildberger

Photographer Burgess S. Blevins, whose career as a commercial photographer spanned nearly four decades, died suddenly on September 27th while hunting on the Maryland farm where he was raised. He was 73 years old.

Blevins began his career in the late 1960s, and continued shooting assignments until a decade ago. His clients over the years included Anheuser-Busch, Army National Guard, Britten-Norman Aircraft, IBM, Dell, John Deere, Lockheed Martin, Remington, Northrop Grumman, and Visa.

“Burgess was a master of location production and the manipulation of natural light,” his friend and former rep Robert Mead wrote. “Having grown up on a farm, he had an innate sense of his surroundings. He was a ‘wizard of weather,’ and proved it many times. Whether it was pouring rain, or snowing, he was able to locate the one square mile within 50, where it was bright and sunny. And yes, he could make it rain, put ice on grass or on a man’s beard in 90º weather.”

Born January 30, 1942, Blevins graduated from the Maryland Institute of Art and set up his photography business in Baltimore. He was also a renowned bow hunter. “When on a shoot he wanted to be with his bow, and while on a hunt he wanted to be riding on a ridge looking for the perfect shot,” Mead said.

He is survived by his partner, Kathy Wildberger, as well as by three children, three grandchildren, and three siblings.

–Jay Watson

October 22nd, 2015

PhotoPlus Expo 2015: Nat Geo Photogs on How to Get Your Work Published

How do you get published in National Geographic magazine? Obsess, obsess, obsess. “If you’re not completely obsessed with excellence, with your story, with sharing your vision with the world, then there’s a problem,” said long-time National Geographic contributor Lynn Johnson at a Photo Plus Expo panel titled “Women of Vision at National Geographic.”

Others on the panel were photographers Jodi Cobb, Diane Cook, Stephanie Sinclair and Erika Larsen. National Geographic photo editor Elizabeth Krist moderated the discussion. They offered advice and tips for pitching ideas to editors, shaping stories, editing your work, and other topics.

“I love to work with photographers who are obsessed,” not only because their engagement is inspiring, Krist says, but because “I can trust they’e not going to miss anything.”

Several of the photographers described how consumed they are by their projects, not only because of insatiable curiosity, but because of the commitment they develop to their subjects along the way. That commitment often supersedes personal commitments, Johnson said. “Your family and friends can roll their eyes and talk about abandonment, but you’re out the door.”

Johnson continued to work on her story about medical marijuana for months after National Geographic published it. “The story is out, but we’re still on it,” she said, because by raising awareness about the benefits of the drug “there’s a chance to save a life or elevate the life of a family.”

“It’s not just a story,” Sinclair said. “What projects do you want to dedicate part of your life to [doing]? You spend years working on some of these projects.” Her “Too Young to Wed” project about child marriage was published by National Geographic in 2011. She is still working on it, with a goal of ending child marriage by raising awareness.

The panelists talked about how they find and frame stories in ways that appeal to editors.

“I’m looking for a way to make a story fun” so people can relate to it, said Cook, who produces stories for National Geographic with her husband, Len Jenshel. They are currently working on a story about trees. And rather than do another story about the destruction of the world’s forests, they are taking a humanistic approach by exploring the social, cultural, and religious significance of different types of trees. “I would rather, through beauty and seduction, get [viewers] to care,” Cook said.

Cobb said, “Editors love to be surprised” by story ideas as well as by photographs. She advised photographers to pitch stories “that are kind of unknown, something you have unique access to…What are you uniquely qualified to do?”

Krist agreed. “If you have access to part of the world that others don’t, that’s a huge advantage. It pushes you to the head of the queue” of photographers who are trying to get National Geographic interested in their projects. For example, Sinclair’s unique access to mormon communities convinced the magazine to assign the story she did about polygamy, Krist said.

Krist noted that National Geographic needs certain areas of expertise–notably photographers who specialize in archaeology–more than others, such as wildlife and underwater specialists.

In response to an question from an audience member about how to get magazines interested in publishing personal projects, panelists emphasized the importance of believing in your own projects and committing yourself to them, even if editors aren’t interested.

Sinclair said that when she first started pitching her child bride project, editors asked, Why should we care? “I had to go and make pictures to show why they should care,” she said.

Johnson added, “You have to know your subject matter better than anyone else, so it’s embedded in you. You have to put your money, your time, and your passion out there. It can take years” before editors get interested in what you are doing.

Cook emphasized the importance of showing works-in-progress to colleagues, and of editing tightly. “Make sure your first three pictures are your best, because if you lose [an editor] on the first three pictures, they’re gone.”

Panelists also said competitions and curated photo blogs are a good way to build exposure for your work. If editors see your work once, “and see it again, and again, they know if it gets better every time,” Johnson said. “At some point, [good work] will rise to the surface.”

Krist agreed, and said that as a body of work matures and rises, “eventually we say, ‘That’s someone we’d like to have shooting for us.'”

The Unsentimental Education of Lynn Johnson
Lynn Johnson on Veteran Survivors of Blast Force

September 23rd, 2015

Selfie Copyright Battle: Monkey See, Monkey Sue

©David Slater (unless a court rules otherwise)

©David Slater (unless a court rules otherwise)

An animal rights group has filed a copyright ownership claim in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of a monkey that used British photographer David Slater’s camera to shoot a selfie, according to an Agence-France Press report yesterday.

Naruto, the six-year-old macaque, grabbed Slater’s unattended camera in 2011 and took at least two selfies. The incident occurred in Indonesia. The photographs have circulated widely on the internet, and have been the subject of a previous ownership dispute.

On Tuesday, PETA filed suit on Naruto’s behalf, seeking a ruling from the court that the monkey is the “author and owner of his photograph,” the AFP report says. Slater, who has previously claimed copyright to the image, is named as the defendant in the case.

PETA asserts in its claim that U.S. copyright law doesn’t prohibit animals from owning copyright, and since Naruto took the selfie, “he owns copyright, as any human would.”

PETA filed the lawsuit as part of a strategy to establish through legal precedent that non-human animals can have property rights. PETA says that if it prevails, the case will establish for the first time that rights beyond basic survival needs are extended to a non-human animals.

The U.S. Copyright Office said last year that it would not register works produced by “nature, [non-human] animals, or plants,” suggesting that the office doesn’t consider those entities to be “authors” eligible for copyright ownership under U.S. law.

In any event, the case will be a test of the court’s willingness to hear monkey business.

Monkey Selfie Not Eligible for Copyright Registration Under New Rules
The Monkey Selfie: Who Owns Copyright to It?

September 15th, 2015

How Maggie Steber Turned a Brutal Portfolio Review into Career Success

Maggie Steber ©TK

Maggie Steber ©Jim Virga

During our interview with photojournalist Maggie Steber, she observed that the photography business is now so challenging that you have to be a “never-say-die person” to succeed. But it was no easier for Steber when she was starting out than it is for any fledgling photographer. She explains in this excerpt from the interview how she learned to persevere through failure, and prepare for her big break.

PDN: You mentioned you had to come up with ways to think about the business so it doesn’t crush you. What were your strategies for that?
Maggie Steber: If I had a bad interview, or somebody didn’t like my work, I would go home, and I would cry, then I would look at my work and realize that I had to be better. I had to be really honest with myself. In some roundabout way, those people were trying to help me. I turned whatever negative thing I could around. You have to do whatever it takes to stay positive in this business, because it can be discouraging–and more so now because it’s so much harder.

PDN: Was there a particular incident where you got kicked in the teeth, that taught you how to handle setbacks?
MS: I was very young, I just graduated. I had saved money, and went to Paris for three months, and I was street shooting, thinking I would be the next Cartier-Bresson, which everybody thinks! Somebody decided to [revive] Look magazine [in 1979]. Eliane Laffont, who used to be in charge of Sygma, had been hired to be director of photography. They were having a portfolio review day. I was there with my silly little portfolio. I waited and waited and waited, and finally got to go in and see her, and she went through it very quickly and said, “I don’t know why you are wasting my time with this. You’re just a dilettante. What is this? There’s no story. Who do you think you are? Cartier-Bresson?” And every time I tried to say something, she wouldn’t let me finish. She just said, “You’re wasting my time, you’re wasting your own time. This is silly, thank you, goodbye.” I went home, and I cried, then I looked at my work and I thought, “This woman is exactly right. She’s absolutely right. I have these pictures, and what do they say? They didn’t really say anything about France. They don’t even say anything about me.”

PDN: And so what did you do?
MS: I thought: Why do I want to take pictures? Why am I in photography? I decided what I really wanted to do was to tell stories, so that’s what I started to do. I started really small. I found a magic shop that had a cat that did card tricks. I found a doll hospital, [owned] by this eccentric man who repaired dolls, and he had this whole relationship with these dolls. Little bitty stories. Then I started  going to Cuba on my own time and my own dime, and I did a lot of work and I was terrible. I was learning how to tell stories, how to do a long-term project.

Now, Eliane and I are dear, dear friends, and she did me one of the biggest favors anybody ever did for me.

PDN: How long did it take you to get your chops?
MS: I had a real ally in [veteran photo editor] Jimmy Colton, who gave me enormous opportunities throughout my career. He had my back. Every time I would come back [from Cuba], I would make a tray of slides, and I would go show Jimmy at Newsweek. He would give me ideas and feedback. I couldn’t get my foot in the door at TIME, at all, or if I did, I had a very bad experience. Which told me right away: Don’t go there, that’s not the place for you. That was a good lesson to know: Where do you fit in? Who’s welcoming you with open arms? It wasn’t like Newsweek was publishing my work at the time, but they were open to looking.

And then [in 1984] for the 25th anniversary of the Cuban revolution [Newsweek] sent me to Cuba with a writer—their UN bureau chief, a woman—to get an interview with Castro at the 25th anniversary [of the Cuban Revolution].  I had about 20 minutes to photograph Castro. [Newsweek] ran [the interview and pictures], and every Miami Cuban cancelled their subscription after it came out. [Castro loved it.] The next morning, a convoy of Jeeps came down the road, and who’s driving the first jeep, but Castro.

All these big journalists had ignored us, these two little girls. We got into [Castro’s] Jeep, to the great surprise of all the famous journalists. We went to a little private farm, and we walked in, there was a barbecue. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was there. Castro held court. We ate, and drank. I was taking pictures like a nut. It was remarkable. I really wish I had been a better photographer. At one point, Castro laid down in a hammock, and pretended to be asleep, even though he was smoking a cigar. He was playing with us, because he loved, loved the interview.

So I got lucky. It had nothing to do with me, it was that Jimmy Colton sent me, and we had this great opportunity presented to us. So developing relationships matter. Find at least one person who says, “I can’t use this but I see something in you.” [And then] you have to prove yourself on your own time, and your own dime.

Related articles:
PDN’s 30 Photographers on Building Support for Their Work (For subscribers; log in required.)
How to Make the Most of a Portfolio Review (For subscribers; log in required.)
Advice on Funding Your Photo Project

September 11th, 2015

Marcus Smith on Navigating the Photography Business as an African-American

Marcus Smith. ©Paul Elledge

Marcus Smith. ©Paul Elledge

Women have “made huge headway” toward equality with white men in the photo industry, photojournalist Maggie Steber says in an interview in the September issue of PDN. “Now we have to make sure minorities are making more headway.” For minorities, she explained, there’s still “a lot of benign racism.” Marcus Smith, a successful advertising photographer, told us during an interview in 2013 that he worried about race at the the start of his career. In this excerpt from that interview, he describes what he experienced, and offers advice about confronting racism–benign or otherwise–to young African-Americans aspiring to launch careers in photography.

PDN: Are there particular challenges to being an African-American commercial photographer, because of race?
Marcus Smith: Going into it, I thought there would be. I would talk to my mom about it and say, “I don’t know if this is going to work the way I think it is because so much of this industry is about networking and personal relationships. And I wonder if I’m going to be able to relate to people.” I’m a lot younger than a lot of people in the industry, and also, my background and where I come from is a lot different, too. I thought about whether I would have a level playing field. But the less I thought about it, the less of a problem it was–when I was, “OK, whatever. It is what it is. I’m going to be who I am and find the people who accept that.” And those are the people I’m looking to work with.

I had an agent tell me that I needed to have more white people in my portfolio, and I thought that was the craziest thing ever. There’s a lot of Caucasian photographers who shoot lifestyle, fashion, whatever–and they have a book full of white people. And nobody’s telling them, “Hey you need to shoot more black people or you need to shoot more Asian people or Hispanic people or whatever.”

So I was like, OK, I’m not going to listen to you [the agent] because that doesn’t make sense to me. People should be able to see what they want and see what you’re capable of, regardless of whatever race [the subjects are] in front of the lens. So I was going to keep doing what I do, and photograph what interests me, and I’m going to show people. I wanted to take what’s “lifestyle” to me and “culture” to me, and present that to people, and hopefully they see my passion for that and respond to it. And they did. It doesn’t matter to me what color my subject is.

PDN: What advice would you give to other aspiring African-American photographers who might feel daunted being in a minority in the photo industry?
MS: My advice would be to be yourself. People are a lot more alike than you think they are. And people like a lot more of the same things than you think they do. Just because you may have grown up in the inner city, or whatever, and somebody else may have grown up in the suburbs, doesn’t mean that you can’t find a common ground to stand on. It doesn’t mean you don’t possibly listen to the same music, or that you don’t both hate the San Antonio Spurs, or something like that. You never know what kind of random common thread you might find. And you could become the best of friends on the basis of that commonality. And then you have someone you could be different with. I think that’s what makes all of us so interesting: you come from this background, I come from that background. You could have these interesting dialogues [because of that].

PDN: What advice would you give those photographers who may fear overt racism in the industry?
MS: You shouldn’t have fear of that, because you would never know where it comes from. When you can’t pinpoint it, it can paralyze you if you let it become a part of your thinking. You have to have faith that people are not going to do that to you, and if they are, then those are not the kind of people you want to work with anyway. I can be a testament that most people in the industry are not like that. I’m not saying everybody [in the industry] is past [racism], but I can say a big majority of people I’ve come into contact with haven’t responded that way.

Photographer Maggie Steber on Women, Minorities, and How to Nurture Talent
PDN Video: Marcus Smith on How to Attract the Clients You Want
PDN’s 30 2014: Marcus Smith

September 9th, 2015

Newsha Tavakolian Wins €100K Cultural Prize; Pledges to €45K to Help Refugees, Charities in Iran

Photographer Newsha Tavakolian. ©Frank van Beek

Photographer Newsha Tavakolian. ©Frank van Beek

Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian has been named winner of the 2015 Principal Prince Claus Award, the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development announced last week in Amsterdam. She will receive a 100,000 Euro prize, and she has already pledged to donate nearly half of her prize money to charity, including an aid organization for Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

In announcing the award, Prince Claus Fund organizers described Tavakolian as “a trailblazing artist and photojournalist whose work offers a compelling insider’s perspective on contemporary life in Iran and the Middle East…she fuses artistic work and documentary reportage to create intimate portraits and unexpected human stories that enable us to look deeply inside societies. ” Tavakolian will receive the prize December 2 at a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.

Ten other individuals and organizations will also receive awards. But Tavakolian was named the winner of the Prince Claus Fund’s top award “for her beautiful and moving testimony of the complexities and ambiguities of contemporary Iran” as well as for her courage, critical insight, support for young photographers, and her commitment to women’s voices, organizers said.

In addition to the prize money, Tavakolian’s award includes an exhibition of her work at The Prince Claus Fund Gallery in Amsterdam from November 27 to March 4, 2016.

“Unfortunately it is hard for me to enjoy this prize as much as I would like to, seeing the region where I work and live in flames and tens of thousands seeking refuge in faraway lands,” the photographer said on her Facebook page, after the award was announced.

She went on to say she would donate 15,000 Euros to an organization that supports Syrian and Iraqi refugees. “[I] want to give back [for] all the kindness Iraqi’s and Syrians always welcomed me with, despite the dire circumstances they live in,” she wrote on Facebook.

Tavakolian pledged another 13,000 Euros to an independent photography prize in Iran that supports young photographers; 10,000 Euros to an Iranian charity that helps children with cancer; and 7,000 Euros to several organizations in Iran that protect animals.

The Prince Claus Awards  were established 19 years ago to honor outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development. They are awarded annually to individuals and groups who have had a positive impact on the development of their societies, according to the Prince Claus Fund web site.

Among other winners of 2015 Prince Claus Awards was photographer Latif Al-Ani, who documented life in Iraq from the 1950s to the 1970s. The other winners included artists, journalists, and arts collectives.

This year, the fund invited 250 people to submit nominations for the awards. Winners were selected from 103 nominations. Jurors included filmmaker and journalist Bregtje van der Haak (Netherlands); architect and writer Suad Amiry (Palestine); art historian Salah Hassan (Sudan); writer Kettly Mars (Haiti); theater producer and director Ong Keng Sen (Singapore); and independent curator Gabriela Salgado (Argentina).

September 4th, 2015

Getty Awards $10,000 Grants to 5 Photographers

From "Zanan," by Mojgan Ghanbari. ©Mojgan Ghnabari

From “Zanan,” by Mojgan Ghanbari, winner of a 2015 Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography. ©Mojgan Ghanbari

The winners of the 2015 Getty Grants for Editorial Photography are Souvid Datta, Salvatore Esposito, Javier Arcenillas, Mojgan Ghanbari and Matt Eich, according to an announcement yesterday from Getty Images. Each of the five photojournalists will receive a grant of $10,000, as well as editorial support from Getty, to pursue “projects of personal and journalistic significance,” the agency says.

Those projects include “Sonagachi: Vanishing Girls,” by Souvid Datta, about the red light district of Songachi, Kolkata; “What Is Missing,” Salvatore Esposito’s examination of the social and political dynamics underlying street crime in Naples; “Latidoamerica,” a project about atrocious gang violence in Central America by Javier Arcenillas; “Zanan,” Mojgan Ghanbari’s project about the lives of Iranian women; and “Carry Me Ohio,” Matt Eich’s look at everyday life in the economically distressed regions of southeast Ohio.

Getty says it received nearly 400 applications from 78 countries for this year’s grant competition. Jurors for the competition were photo editor Cheryl Newman, Sunday Times Magazine director of photography Jon Jones, Der Spiegel international director of photography Matthias Krug, Paris Match director of photography Romain Lacroix, and Visa pour l’Image director Jean-Francois Leroy.

In announcing the winners, Getty also announced that one of the Getty Images Editorial Grants will be renamed The David Laidler Memorial Award, in honor of the former Getty employee and veteran photo editor who founded the grants. Laidler died of cancer on August 11 at the age of 48.

Advice on Funding Your Photo Project

September 1st, 2015

How Paul Colangelo Keeps Bears at Bay When Shooting in Wilderness

Photographer Paul Colangelo's camp, with an electric fence protecting his kitchen and supply tents. Todagin Mountain, norther British Columbia. ©Paul Colangelo

Photographer Paul Colangelo’s camp, with a solar-powered electric fence protecting his kitchen and gear tents. Todagin Mountain, northern British Columbia. ©Paul Colangelo

Working on long-term projects in remote locations can pose logistical challenges for photographers, including lack of phone and internet service, and power for recharging batteries for cameras, laptops, and other gear. Vancouver-based wildlife photographer (and PDN’s 30) Paul Colangelo explains how he copes with those issues in our story, “Managing Photo Tech on Location, Off the Grid.”

But he faces another kind of challenge altogether during his long trips into remote, open country of northern British Columbia: hungry grizzly bears. Colangelo isn’t too worried the bears will attack him. But he does worry about bears raiding his three-month supply of food while he’s out of camp, especially during the day “when I’m not there to scare them away.” (more…)

August 12th, 2015

Suspect Arrested in Murder of Photojournalist Ruben Espinosa

Ruben Espinosa says he was barred from official events in Veracruz and harassed after this photo he took of Veracruz governor Javier Duarte was published on the cover of Proceso in April, 2014. Duarte reportedly sent staff out to buy every available copy of the magazine.

Ruben Espinosa said he was barred from official events in Veracruz and harassed after this photo he took of Veracruz governor Javier Duarte was published on the cover of Proceso in April, 2014. Duarte reportedly sent staff out to newsstands to buy up every available copy of the magazine.

Mexican authorities recently announced the arrest of a known criminal for the execution-style murder of photojournalist Ruben Espinosa and four others, according to reports by The Guardian and Al Jazeera. The killings occurred July 31 in a Mexico City apartment.

Mexican prosecutor Rodolfo Rios Garza told reporters that the suspect, who reportedly has a criminal record for rape and assault, was tied to the murders by crime scene fingerprints that matched fingerprints in a criminal database. The suspect has not been named by prosecutors.

Meanwhile, authorities are still searching for two other suspects seen on a surveillance video, leaving the apartment building around the time of the murders. Prosecutors say the three men shown in the video left the scene in a car that belonged to one of the female victims, according to the press reports.

Espinosa had covered social protests in the Mexican province of Veracruz for the newspaper Proceso, Agencia Cuartoscuro and other news outlets. He had also covered the murders of journalists in Veracruz, and advocated for the administration of Governor Javier Duarte to investigate those killings. He told other journalists he felt threatened by by the Veracruz government, and he relocated to Mexico City in June after he noticed his house was being watched and he had been followed.

Murdered along with Espinosa were his friend Nadia Vera, a social activist; Yesenia Quiróz and Mile Virginia Martín, both roommates of Vera’s; and a housekeeper, Alejandra Negrete.

On August 2, journalists held a demonstration in Mexico City demanding that the government clarify that Espinosa was targeted for his journalism, and not killed in the course of a robbery, as police investigators had first suggested. Journalists told the Mexican publication SinEmbargo that Espinosa had felt threatened by the Veracruz government, which has been suspected to have played a role in the deaths of at least 12 journalists and the disappearance of others.

Mexican Photojournalist Murdered in Mexico City, after Fleeing Threats in Veracruz
Fleeing Violence against Journalists, Veracruz Photographers Seeks Asylum in US