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October 15th, 2015

Iraqi Photographers Launch Ambitious Group Project About Millions Displaced by War

© Hawre Khalid / Metrography

© Hawre Khalid / Metrography. January 27, 2015, Kirkuk, Iraq: Abdullah Hazbar from outside his tent. Abdullah was wounded by Iraqi war planes’ bombing when he left his village with his family.

Metrography, an agency founded in 2009 to represent and train Iraqi photojournalists, yesterday launched a website for an ambitious group project that emphasizes the human cost of the ongoing war in Iraq and the greater Middle East, which has entered a new phase since the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014. “Map of Displacement” tells the stories of 12 families and individuals who are among the 1.5 million internally displaced people who have flooded into the Kurdistan region of Iraq since ISIS began to claim territory and terrorize civilian populations in the country.

The site aims to give people outside of Iraq an understanding of how conflict has effected “the real victims of the war, which are not the people who go fight it but are the people that are caught in-between,” explains Metrography editor in chief, Stefano Carini. It’s a particularly poignant story as refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere are struggling for asylum Europe and other countries around the world. Before people become refugees, most are displaced internally by conflict, Carini notes. “This is the story of every single person that is displaced. All the Syrians, all the Afghans that are now traveling to Europe, at first they were internally displaced people.” (more…)

August 3rd, 2015

Amanda Demme on Photographing Bill Cosby’s Accusers for New York Magazine

A photo posted by Amanda Demme (@amandademme) on

When New York magazine posted a blockbuster story in the early hours of Monday, July 27, to its website, many of the names involved were familiar: Bill Cosby, the iconic entertainer accused of drugging and assaulting dozens of women, outspoken victims such as Janice Dickinson and Beverly Johnson, and Jody Quon, the magazine’s director of photography, who got the story on the magazine’s cover. But one name was relatively new: Amanda Demme, the photographer who shot the striking cover. Featuring seated portraits of 35 of the women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault (plus one photo of an empty chair)—its visual impact was arguably as important as all of the interviews inside the magazine.

Demme has had multiple careers as an artist manager, music supervisor and nightclub producer. Relatively new to photography, she’s landed credits in LA Weekly, Rolling Stone and New York, and a solo exhibition at Obsolete Gallery in Venice, California in just two years. Because of her work for New York, she was fresh in photo editor Sofia Guzman’s mind when it came time to assign the ambitious project (“She’s the one who kind of spearheaded the whole concept,” Demme says of Guzman). Demme’s portrait style is both stoic and expressive, well-suited to capture the quiet dignity of Bill Cosby’s victims. “I was telling them to sit erect, don’t smile,” Demme says of her directions to the subjects. “When you look at me, you’re not looking at me, this is not a camera. You’re looking at Cosby. And you’re not mad, you’re not in pain…what you are is empowered.”

Demme was able to photograph 35 of the 46 women who have come forward to accuse Cosby of assault, but when she began, there were only 18 on board. She started shooting at her studio in Los Angeles in March, and would repeat the process six more times at multiple locations across the country as more women were recruited into the project. She describes a general uneasiness among the subjects at the start: “There’s always an uncertainty,” Demme admits, “because nobody knows why I’m shooting it a certain way.”

A video posted by New York Magazine (@nymag) on

Though Demme “wanted to immortalize these women in a really beautiful way,” she was still a stranger to these women. In the course of each shoot, she earned their trust. The network of victims has become quite large, and after she had photographed a few of the women, they spoke to each other (or their lawyers) and vouched for Demme and her work. “They were like, ‘Oh no, they’re really cool,’ and so the word of mouth amongst their community helped bring in others,” Demme explains.

Quon gave her minimal direction, asking merely that the portraits not be “dark,” like much of Demme’s published portraiture. Quon insisted that the women not be styled. “She wanted to keep it journalistic,” Demme says. “So the only request we made was that each of the women bring a set of black clothes and a set of either white or cream or really light gray clothes.”

At the first shoot at her studio in Los Angeles, Demme and her producing partner Stephanie Westcott set up multiple sets, then decided afterwards on which one to re-create at the subsequent shoots. To maintain consistency, she recorded the location, distance and settings for her lighting setups. Some locations required adjustments, like when a smaller studio necessitated the use of a different focal length than she had started with. “I would also have each woman turn their body, put their heads down, and in that moment, I said: ‘What you are showing me is where your head has been at for all these years. What are you feeling at this one moment that you used to feel when you were alone or in pain, or just trying to figure it all out?”

She shot some in pairs, and several group portraits. The shoots could be intense, with lots of laughing, crying and hugging, but Demme says having several women at each shoot helped put the women at ease, that “as each woman saw the next woman doing it, they knew how to handle themselves.” She also shot video interviews, and encouraged the women to support and converse with each other.

Demme shot tethered with a digital camera, but she always imagined the shoot in black-and-white. “I shot it with an intention and a look that was monochromatic…where it looked like an army,” she explains. “I wanted it to look like clinical and army-like, so you didn’t see what they were wearing, you didn’t notice the body language.”

As Demme’s images came rolling into the New York offices, Quon realized they had something, and began to campaign for the story to be on the cover. There were concerns about it not being in color, so Demme went back and tried converting a few files to color. But it didn’t have the same impact, so Quon pressed for the atypical black-and-white cover. It’s “why Jody is so dope at what she does,” Demme says.

Demme filed portraits of each woman sitting and standing, and several that featured “clusters” of the women in group portraits. Then the team at New York conceived the cover, with all 35 women seated in a grid, with a single empty chair at the end of the sequence. Demme calls the empty chair “an invitation” to not only the women that Cosby abused that they couldn’t get in the story, but also to “an entire movement of women speaking up. That is their chair and these women are behind them, supporting them all the way.”

March 6th, 2015

L.A. Pays $50k to Harassed Photogs, Agrees to Train Sheriff’s Deputies

Los Angeles County has agreed to pay a $50,000 settlement and instruct sheriff’s deputies to respect First Amendment rights to photograph and record their activities, according to a statement released earlier this week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the settlement on March 3, 2015, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and photographers Shawn Nee, Greggory Moore and Shane Quentin. (more…)

January 22nd, 2015

Fellowship Opportunity for Conservation Photographers

The International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) is currently accepting applications for its Associate Fellows program. The iLCP is a non-profit organization whose members create images and other content that help advocate for environmental conservation causes all over the world. The organization counts many respected conservation photographers among its ranks, including senior fellows James Balog, Paul Nicklen, Christina Mittermeier, Krista Schyler and Tim Laman.

Fellows work with the iLCP to promote the work of the organization and partner organizations involved in conservation, participate in expeditions organized by the iLCP and receive support for their work from the iLCP.

Associate fellows work with the organization for two years before they are considered for senior fellowship. The iLCP lists several expectations for associate fellows on its site. Applicants are expected to have completed and published two major conservation photography projects. They should also be willing to mentor Emerging League Photographers and participate in events and workshops, among other qualifications.

The application for associate fellowships is due Friday, February 27, 2015. The application process involves two rounds. Each round requires a fee of $125.

To learn more about fellowships and read more about the application process, visit the iLCP site.

Related: The International League of Conservation Photographers and the Wilderness Society Protect Idaho’s Clearwater Basin

January 20th, 2015

Behind Cosmo UK’s Honor Killings Protest “Cover” Photograph


This mock-up of a Cosmopolitan UK cover features an image from a series of photographs created by artist Erin Mulvehill.

Last week a mock Cosmopolitan UK cover that sought to protest honor killings drew attention and praise online. Honor killing is a horrific practice in which family members kill one of their own, often a daughter, who is perceived to have brought shame on a family.

The Cosmo UK mock cover depicts what appears to be a woman suffocating. In images of the cover circulated by the magazine and Leo Burnett Change, the agency that designed the cover, the issue is sealed in plastic bags, completing the impression that the woman on the cover is being asphyxiated. The cover was inspired by the 2004 murder of 17-year-old British Pakistani teen Shafilea Ahmed; Ahmed’s parents suffocated her in front of her siblings for perceived offenses that included refusing an arranged marriage. Ahmed’s parents were later convicted of murder.

After several outlets reported that the design would appear on the February issue, Cosmopolitan UK clarified that the cover was just a mock-up, created as part of a campaign the magazine is working on with UK women’s rights organization Karma Nirvana. (The actual February cover featured Khloe Kardashian.)

The provenance of the photograph depicting the suffocating woman is also interesting. The black-and-white photograph used in the mock-up is part of “Underwater,” a fine-art series created by Brooklyn-based photographer Erin Mulvehill in 2009. The images in Mulvehill’s series depict women who appear to be floating underwater, many with their hands pressing out towards the viewer. (more…)

January 15th, 2015

Under Pressure, FAA Issues Handful of Exemptions for Commercial Drone Use


For as long as inexpensive camera-toting drones have been popular, their commercial use in the U.S. has been in a precarious proposition. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that governs the use of our airspace, waited years after the proliferation of drones to issue any guidelines on their use in commerce. Until recently, if you were an architectural or real estate photographer looking for inexpensive ways to capture bird’s eye views, or a production company itching to take advantage of new perspectives in your video, the word from the FAA was clear: No, you can’t use drones for commercial purposes.

But that isn’t stopping businesses from using drones. DJI Global, the manufacturer of the wildly popular Phantom remote-controlled camera drone, skirted the FAA’s ban on commercial drone usage by donating the use of its DJI Inspire 1 during NBC’s broadcast of the 2015 Golden Globes for some free publicity. And under pressure from Congress—who included directives for the FAA to begin to develop the framework it will use to regulate commercial drone flights in a 2012 appropriations bill—the administration has begun to issue exemptions to its six-year-old ban.

In June 2014, it issued the first exemption to British Petroleum, who wanted to use drones to survey Alaska’s North Slope. In September, it issued six exemptions to film and television production companies, and in December, it issued four more exemptions, including one to a construction company. In the first week of 2015, Douglas Trudeau, a 61-year-old real estate agent in Tuscon, Arizona, received the first exemption to use drones for a real estate business. He had applied for the exemption back in July of 2014, after being informed that even though he was not selling his drone footage, using photos and clips shot from drones in his real estate listings constituted commercial use.

CNN—who wants to use drones for newsgathering purposes—has also appealed to the FAA. It recently entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the administration, working with the Georgia Tech Research Institute to collect data to help the FAA develop its framework for regulating drone usage in journalism.

While the FAA was called out by Congress more than two years ago and urged to get started on their regulatory framework, there is still no timetable for the process to be completed. For now, the FAA is issuing exemptions on a case-by-case basis, but if the red carpet at the Golden Globes and Amazon’s drone delivery plan are any indication, it will have to move quickly to keep up. As the FAA attempts to levy fines on drone pilots it feels are violating its vague guidelines, U.S. judges have already found in favor of at least one pilot: A federal judge tossed out a $10,000 fine on the grounds that the guidelines were not specific enough. The National Transportation Safety Board later overruled the judge and re-affirmed the FAA’s right to regulate, but it’s clear that the guidelines are doing little to stop commercial flights.

In the meantime, the administration has put together a website with safety tips for recreational, business, and public service users.

Related articles:

Commercial Drones are Legal, Federal Court Says

Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to FAA’s Drone Cease-and-Desist Orders

DJI One-Ups Phantom With More Powerful, 4K-Recording Inspire 1 Photo Drone

Drone Photographers Take To The Skies To Find New Perspectives

December 23rd, 2014

PDNPulse: Top Stories of 2014

As another fascinating year in the world of professional photography comes to a close, we look back on the stories that drew the most interest from PDNPulse readers this year.

From manipulated news photos, to photographers arrested for doing their jobs, to collaborative efforts between photographers and an interview with one of photography’s most influential star makers, these stories capture some of the highs and lows of the photography business today.

1: George Steinmetz Wonders: Was It Worth Getting Arrested for National Geographic Cover Story Photos

2: 2014 Winter Olympics Op-Ed: Everything You’ve Read About Problems for Photographers in Sochi is True

3: PDN Video: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists

4: Photographers Share Intimate Images of Loved Ones for Curated Photo Website

5: AP Severs Ties With Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image
5a: Photographer Fired by AP Says Decision Was Fair, But Process Wasn’t

6: How Much Do Editorial Clients Pay? “Wiki” Gives Names and Fees

7: If that Kim Kardashian Photo Looks Familiar…

8: Calumet Photographic to Liquidate, Closes U.S. Stores

9: Photographer Creates Free iPhone App for His Signature Style

10: Wal-mart Sues Photographer’s Widow Claiming Copyright for Decades of Portraits of Walton Family

11: Suffolk County Pays $200K to Settle News Photographer’s Unlawful Arrest Claim

12: How Should Clients React to Sexual Coercion Allegations Against Terry Richardson?

13: AP Photographer Anja Niedringhaus Killed in Afghanistan

14: Cowboy Lifestyle Photographer David Stoecklein Dies, 65

15: Photojournalist Camille Lapage, 26, “Murdered” in Central African Republic

November 12th, 2014

Forest Service Chief Says Journalists Don’t Need Permits to Photograph in National Forests

When the United States Forest Service released a vaguely worded directive that suggested journalists would have to pay up to $1500 for a permit to photograph or film in national forests, photographers and first amendment activists were alarmed. The controversial directive, issued as a draft in September, was first reported by The Oregonian newspaper.

Following the outcry, U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell has clarified the USFS’s position with regard to photography and film for journalistic purposes, rather than commercial use. In a letter written to Forest Service officials, sent on November 4, he said the clarification was needed because “considerable response” from the public “raised significant concerns beyond the intended scope of the directive.”

“News coverage on NFS lands is protected by the Constitution, and it is our responsibility to safeguard this right on the lands we manage for all Americans,” Tidwell wrote.

He outlined how USFS officials should differentiate between journalism and other activities: “The following question should be asked: Is the primary purpose of the filming activity to inform the public, or is it to sell a product for a profit? If the primary purpose is to inform the public, then no permit is required and no fees assessed.”

Tidwell clarified USFS’s position with regard to commercial film and photography. “Permit fees should be primarily viewed as land-use fees. If the activity presents no more impact on the land than that of the general public, then it shall be exempt from permit requirements.”

Read the full text of Tidwell’s letter here.

Via The Oregonian.

August 19th, 2014

Getty Images Photographer Arrested While Covering Ferguson Protests

Getty Images photographer Scott Olson was arrested yesterday while on assignment in Ferguson, Missouri, where protests and clashes with police continue after the police shooting of a African-American teenager more than a week ago. Oslon has since been released, according to a Yahoo News report.

Getty confirmed his arrest in a statement today from Pancho Bernasconi, VP, News at the agency. “We strongly object to [Olson’s] arrest and are committed to ensuring he is able to resume his important work of capturing some of the most iconic images of this news story,” Bernasconi said in the statement.

The protests started in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown, Jr., an unarmed African American teenager, by a white police officer. Police have cracked down hard on the protesters, drawing strong criticism for violation of the protesters’ civil rights, and attracting intense national media coverage.

Olson has been covering the story for several days. A gallery of his images from Ferguson, along with a photograph of police placing him under arrest, has been posted by The Guardian.

According to the Yahoo News report, Olson was one of several journalists among 31 people who were arrested yesterday. At least two other journalists–Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of Huffington Post–were detained previously. Bot were later released. Lowrey had been recording police with a video camera shortly before his arrest.

July 9th, 2014

Why a Corporation Got a Religious Exemption, But a Photographer Didn’t

After the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, granting a corporation an exemption to a federal law on the grounds that the law “burdens the exercise of religion” of the company’s owners, we wondered: Why did the Supreme Court grant a religions exemption to a corporation, but decline to give a hearing to a New Mexico wedding photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex wedding for religious reasons?

In 2006, Elane Photography of Albuquerque declined to photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony because of owner Elaine Huguenin’s religious objections. Elane Photography was found  in violation of New Mexico’s anti-discrimination law, which explicitly bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Elane Photography was ordered to pay more than $6,000 in attorneys fees and costs to Vanessa Willock, who filed the discrimination complaint.

After exhausting her appeals in New Mexico state courts, Huguenin tried to appeal her case to the US Supreme Court, which declined without explanation in April to hear her case. Two months later, on June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby was exempt from a requirement under the Affordable Healthcare Act to provide employee health insurance coverage for certain types of  contraceptives because the requirement “substantially burdened” the company owners’ exercise of religion.

Did Hobby Lobby simply make a better legal argument for a religious exemption than Elaine Huguenin did? Could some other wedding photographer now win an exemption from photographing same-sex weddings for religious reasons by arguing that if Hobby Lobby got a religious exemption, then it’s only fair that a small business owner should get one, too?

It turns out that the cases are quite different. Hobby Lobby, a federal case, would have been no help to Elaine Huguenin, who broke a state law. Photographers opposed to shooting same-sex weddings, but who are subject to anti-discrimination laws, can’t invoke the Hobby Lobby decision to make religious freedom arguments, at least not in cases involving state laws.

“The Hobby Lobby [decision] doesn’t apply to state laws,” says Andrew Koppelman, a law professor at Northwestern University who has analyzed the Elane Photography case. He also emphasizes that the Hobby Lobby decision didn’t address an issue of constitutional law, which would trump state law. “Hobby Lobby was an interpretation of [federal] statute and it only modifies other federal statutes. It doesn’t modify state statutes.”

The court reached the Hobby Lobby decision on the grounds of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). That law, passed in 1993, prohibits the federal government from taking any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion–unless the action is the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest. The Supreme Court said there were less burdensome ways to provide the disputed insurance coverage to Hobby Lobby employees than to make Hobby Lobby provide it against the owners’ religious beliefs.

In the decision on the final Elane Photography v. Willock appeal, handed down last August, the New Mexico state supreme court upheld lower state court rulings against Elane Photography for discrimination. The court rejected Huguenin’s religious freedom and free speech arguments.

She had argued that under the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act (NMRFRA)–the state’s version of the federal law–her religious beliefs should be accommodated. But New Mexico’s high court ruled that the NMRFRA doesn’t apply to private disputes; a government entity has to be a party to the dispute, and that wasn’t the case in Elane Photography v. Willock.

Moreover, the court said, the wording of the NMRFRA bars state government agencies from restricting a person’s free exercise of religion; it doesn’t bar the New Mexico legislature from passing generally applicable laws, as long as they don’t directly discriminate against religion. For instance, a law that applies to everyone, but doesn’t interfere with the exercise of religion, is legal under New Mexico state law, even if some people have religious objections to the law.

Koppelman wrote in his analysis of the Elane Photography case, “After the loss in New Mexico…there was no hope of bringing the religious liberty claim to the Supreme Court. Huguenin lost her case under a [state] law that did not target religion, and the [US Supreme] Court has held that the Free Exercise clause does not create an exemption from neutral laws of general applicability.”

In other words, Huguenin couldn’t appeal to the US Supreme Court on the grounds that her constitutional rights of Free Exercise had been violated by the New Mexico anti-discrimination law; the state law passed muster according to an earlier Supreme Court ruling (Employment Div. v. Smith, 1990).

In response to that 1990 ruling, politicians of all stripes were outraged, so Congress passed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA] to restore protections of individual religious freedom from infringement by other federal laws. But even if Hobby Lobby had successfully invoked the RFRA before New Mexico courts found Huguenin in violation of state anti-discrimination laws, the Hobby Lobby decision wouldn’t have helped Huguenin because the RFRA has no effect on state laws.

In addition to rejecting Huguenin’s religious freedom claims, the New Mexico  supreme court also rejected her free speech claims. The state supreme court said, “The United States Supreme Court has made it clear that the First Amendment permits [anti-discrimination] regulation by states,” and that the New Mexico anti-discrimination law didn’t deprive Huguenin of her rights to free speech.

Huguenin tried to appeal to the US Supreme Court on Free Speech grounds, not Free Exercise grounds, but the Supreme Court declined without explanation to hear her case. Koppelman asserted in his article that the court rightly rejected the case because the New Mexico anti-discrimination law is “not a serious burden on free speech.”

It’s worth pointing out that the Elane Photography v. Willock decision applies only in New Mexico. Wedding photographers in about 30 other US states can refuse to photograph same-sex weddings for whatever reason–religious or otherwise–without consequence. That’s because federal law doesn’t bar providers of goods and services from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, and those 30 or so states also have no laws barring such discrimination. New Mexico just happens to be one of the 20 or so states where discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is now illegal.

US Supreme Court Declines New Mexico Wedding Photographer’s Discrimination Case
Photographer Who Refused to Shoot Same Sex Wedding Loses Another Appeal
NM Wedding Photogs Can’t Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples, Court Confirms
Photographer Loses Bid to Refuse Same Sex Wedding Jobs (PDN subscription required)