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July 16th, 2012

Open Society Announces Photogs for 20th “Moving Walls” Exhibition

Open Society Institute, the human rights non-profit founded by George Soros, has announced the photographers who will be showing work in the 20th edition of its “Moving Walls” documentary photography exhibition, which will open in 2013. The selected photographers and projects are:

Katharina Hesse, on North Korean refugees who crossed the border into China
Fernando Moleres, on young men and boys imprisoned alongside adults and awaiting trial in Sierra Leone
Yuri Kozyrev, on the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa and their aftermath
Ian Teh, on the changing landscape of the Yellow River Basin in China
Donald Weber, on police interrogations in Ukraine

Photographers selected for the exhibition receive a $2,500 honorarium.

In addition to being the 20th iteration of “Moving Walls,” the exhibition will be the first in OSI’s new ground-level office space in Midtown Manhattan, which looks set to raise the profile of the exhibition. The new space “gives us opportunities to engage with the public in a different way,” noted OSI documentary photography project director Amy Yenkin in her announcement on the organization’s Web site.

For more visit the OSI site here.

Related: The Year in Photography: Yuri Kozyrev on the Arab Spring
Yuri Kozyrev Wins POYi’s 2011 Freelance Photographer of the Year
State Power: Donald Weber’s Interrogations

June 15th, 2012

The College Kid Whose Obama Photo Landed in The New Yorker

An article in the current issue of The New Yorker, about what President Obama might accomplish if elected to a second term, appears with a striking, double-page photo of the President standing alone and looking thoughtful. The photo was shot during the G8 summit last month by Luke Sharrett, a student at Western Kentucky University who has taken a break from his final semester in order to shoot on contract for The New York Times for 11 months.

Sent by The Times to cover the G8 summit at the Camp David presidential retreat, Sharrett was among roughly two dozen photographers who had assembled for a photo-op of the President greeting world leaders as they arrived. Sharrett recalls that the President had just walked out of Laurel Lodge, the Camp David conference center, and taken his spot on the edge of the sidewalk. “The first of the leaders hadn’t arrived yet,” he says. “It was an awkward, silent moment. It was kind of an in-between moment, and those are the pictures I enjoy photographing the most. My mentors [New York Times photographers] Stephen Crowley and Doug Mills encourage me to look for something different.”

He had little time to compose his shot, he says. The Marines who oversee Camp David had set strict limits on where, and for how long, the press pool could shoot. “We had to put surgical bags, like surgeons wear on their feet, over our lenses as we went to and from the photo-ops,” Sharrett explains. “They would not let us test, or check the frame until about two minutes before the photo-op, and then we could remove the baggies.” The long, dark shadows in the image were cast by the lights the White House Press Office had set up to the left and right of the press pool. Sharrett liked how his shot came out, but The Times ran other shots he took during the summit, showing other world leaders.

Sharrett, who enrolled at Western Kentucky in 2007, interned in the White House Photo Office in 2008, and in 2009 interned at The New York Times’ Washington bureau for what was supposed to be a three-month stint, but stretched to a year. Finally, he says, Michelle McNally, the paper’s director of photography, told him he had to go back to school. He had almost completed three semesters when, last fall, McNally called again and asked him to work for the Times on contract from January of this year through the election—though he’s still four courses shy of graduating.  “I split my time between Capitol Hill, the White House, and I spent some time with [candidate Mitt] Romney; I covered the South Carolina primary. That was a blast.”

During his Times internship he met Elissa Curtis, who is now a photo editor at The New Yorker, and she contacted him when his sports portfolio won honorable mention in the College Photographer of the Year competition last year.  When she needed a photo of Obama looking pensive, she called Sharrett. He was on the road with the President at the time, so she asked Redux Pictures, which licenses images by The New York Times photographers, to send a selection. Of the image Curtis chose, she says, “It was one of those [images] where the more I looked at it, the more I liked it.”

Sharrett (who addressed this reporter as “ma’am”) says he is glad an image he had liked is getting a second life, and was “floored” when Curtis told him it would run as a spread. “I’m just really happy to be there, and to make pictures for a living.”

(Image above: © The New Yorker/photo by Luke Sharrett/New York Times/Redux)

 

June 6th, 2012

NM Wedding Photogs Can’t Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples, Court Confirms

New Mexico’s appeals court has confirmed that wedding photographers who refuse to shoot same-sex weddings violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

New Mexico Court of Appeals judge Timothy L. Garcia affirmed two previous rulings that Elane Photography of Albuquerque violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act when they refused to photograph the wedding of a same-sex couple on religious grounds.

The NMHRA prohibits businesses offering services to the public from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The appeals court rejected Elane Photography’s arguments that forcing them to photograph a same-sex wedding under NMHRA amounted to a violation of their freedom of speech or freedom of religion protections.

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission originally ruled in 2008 that Elane Photography violated the state law. A trial court affirmed the NMHRC decision in 2010, triggering a second appeal to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

The case arose after plaintiff Vanessa Willock inquired about hiring Elane Photography to photograph her commitment ceremony. She indicated it was a “same-gender” ceremony. The owners fo Elane Photograph–Elaine and Jonahtna Huguenin–responded that they photographed only “traditional” weddings. Willock followed up, asking Elane to clarify whether “it does not offer photography services to same-sex couples.” Elane photography responded, “Yes, you are correct in saying we do not photograph same-sex weddings.”

The next day, Willock’s partner sent an e-mail inquiring about photography for her wedding, without mentioning that it was a same-sex ceremony. Elane Photography responded by sending pricing information, indicating a willingness to travel to the wedding, and offering to meet to discuss options.

Willock filed a claim for discrimination with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, and won her case. The NMHRC awarded her $6,638 in attorney’s fees. She did not seek monetary damages.

The appeals court re-examined all of the arguments that Elane Photography presented  in its original appeal to a state trial court, and rejected them one after another.

For instance, Elane Photography argued that it refused to photograph a same sex-wedding, but that didn’t amount to discrimination against Willock because Elane Photography would have photographed her in other contexts, such as portrait sessions, for example. But the court said that amounted to “attempt[ing] to justify impermissible discrimination” by separating Willock’s actions from her status as a member of a protected class. The argument, the court went on to say, “is without merit.”

Elane Photography also argued that the NMHRA violated rights of freedom of expression protected by the US and New Mexico constitutions. The basis of that argument was that photography is an artistic expression protected by the First Amendment.

But the appeals court batted down that argument, too: “the NMHRA regulates Elane Photography’s conduct in its commercial business, not its speech or right to express its own views about same-sex relationships. As a result, Elane Photography’s commercial business conduct, taking photographs for hire, is not so inherently expressive as to warrant First Amendment protections.” The court explained that taking pictures of a same-sex wedding doesn’t by itself convey a (constitutionally protected) message of approval or disapproval of same sex marriage, the court explained. “[A]n observer might simply assume that Elane Photography operates a business for profit and will accept any commercially viable photography job.”

Similarly, Elane Photography argued that forcing it, under the NMHRA, to photograph a same-sex wedding would violate its freedom of religion protections. But the appeals court said the NMHRA doesn’t prevent the owners of Elane Photography from practicing their religion. And the court reasoned,  “Elane Photography voluntarily entered public commerce and, by doing so, became subject to generally applicable regulations such as the NMHRC. When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes [that] are binding on others in that activity.”

The owners of Elane Photography were not immediately available for comment. It is not clear whether they plan to appeal the latest ruling to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The full text of the ruling can be downloaded here.

June 4th, 2012

BBC Fooled by Syrian Rebel Propaganda Photo on Twitter

The BBC recently suffered a predictable consequence of relying on citizen journalism: It published a photograph circulated on Twitter by a Syrian anti-government activist that purportedly shows dead civilians after a government massacre last month in Houla, Syria. The image turns out to have been misappropriated and mislabeled for the purposes of propaganda.

The photo was actually a 2003 photograph from Iraq by Getty images contract photographer Marco di Lauro, John Harrington reported May 27 on his Photo Business News & Forum blog.  The image shows dozens of bodies dug up from a mass grave. They were victims of a brutal crackdown by former dictator Saddam Hussein against a Shi’ite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

A Syrian activist reportedly circulated the image on Twitter as evidence of a Syrian crackdown against its citizens, in order to stoke the international outrage against Al Assad’s government. The BBC saw it,  “obtained some information pointing to its veracity,” and published the image with a disclaimer saying it could not be independently verified, according to the mea culpa that BBC published on May 29.

“It was a mistake,” the BBC said, “and we apologise for it.” The image was displayed for approximately 90 minutes before it was taken down, the BBC says.

Harrington argues that the mistake was a predictable consequence of the rush by the BBC and other news organizations to embrace citizen journalism, while mouthing all the right words about upholding standards for accuracy, fairness and objectivity.

One would think that a few glaring errors like this might make reputable news organizations realize that there are no shortcuts to gathering and vetting news–and also make them twice shy about crowd-sourcing news in order to save money.

But for now the BBC seems undeterred. “Fortunately, such mistakes are very rare,” the BBC assures its readers. “BBC News has a strong track record of using content from non-traditional sources, and of stopping numerous examples of incorrect material making it to air or online – but it does underline the need to handle such material with great care.”

June 1st, 2012

Fleeing Violence against Journalists, Veracruz Photographer Seeks Asylum in US

A photojournalist from Veracruz, Mexico, is seeking political asylum in the US following a wave of killings of journalists who have covered drug trafficking in the violence-ridden Mexican state. The El Paso Times reports that Miguel Angel Lopez Solana, a photographer for La Jornada, a daily newspaper in Mexico, has decided to seek political asylum for himself and his wife almost a year after members of his family –who were also fellow journalists–were murdered.

The photographer’s father, Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, a columnist at the Veracruz paper Notiver, his brother, Misael Lopez Solana, a photographer with Notiver, and his mother were shot and killed in their home on June 20, 2011.

Last month, three news photographers who covered organized crime in Veracruz were found murdered; their dismembered bodies showed signs of torture, according to the Veracruz police.

Miguel Lopez Solana himself was kidnapped and threatened at gunpoint in 2009 over his coverage of the police beat.

Fearing for his life, he recently contacted Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders, and received a visa to travel to the US. He will file a request for political asylum later this month in Houston, according to his lawyer, Carlos Spector, who has represented other Mexican journalists fleeing anti-press violence in Mexico.

At a forum on press safety held May 23 in Austin, Texas, Lopez Solana told the audience, “They aren’t just killing us journalists, they are drawing and quartering us…We are living in terror.” The Texas Observer reports that Lopez Solana said his colleagues back in Veracruz feel isolated and afraid. “They are traumatized and living in fear. It’s way beyond any fiction you could ever imagine.”

Committee to Protect Journalists reports that since 2006, 45 journalists have been killed or disappeared in Mexico.

(Thanks to Emphas.is for alerting us to Lopez Solana’s story.)

Related story
Three News Photographers Found Murdered in Veracruz, Mexico

May 1st, 2012

FujiFilm to Increase Film Prices 20 Percent in US Market

After announcing last week that they would increase prices worldwide for their film and single-use camera products, FujiFilm’s North America division has clarified what those increases will mean for the markets in the United States and Canada.

In an announcement today, the company said that prices on all film would rise “approximately 20 percent.” The increase will take effect in August 2012. The company had originally announced that the increases would be effective beginning in May of this year.

“The price increases are a result of the continuing decline in demand for film products, the high costs of production, and the increased expenses associated with raw materials, including silver and petro-chemicals, and energy,” the company explained in its announcement. “Fujifilm is unable to absorb these costs entirely and must implement price increases at this time.”

Prices for FujiFilm’s one-time-use cameras, often called disposable cameras, will increase 15 percent, the company said.

Related: FujiFilm Announces Price Increase

April 25th, 2012

FujiFilm Announces Film Price Increase

Earlier this week FujiFilm announced that a price increase will take effect starting in May for its color negative films, color reversal films, black and white films and QuickSnap single use cameras.

Though the announcement (full text below) was short on specific details, it did say that the increases would be “substantial” and would be in the “double digits” for some films depending on where they are sold.

FujiFilm noted that, “The demand for film products is continuously decreasing, yen’s appreciation and the cost of production, such as raw materials, oil and energy, continues to rise or stay at high level.”

A representative for FujiFilm told PDN the company would issue specific information about increases in the US market in the next few days, so stay tuned.

For more on the future of the film photography business, be sure to check out our report coming in the June issue of PDN.

Press Release, April 23, 2012

FUJIFILM Corporation announces price increase of Photographic Films

FUJIFILM Corporation has announced that it will implement a worldwide price increase for its photographic films. The price increases are substantial and it would be double digit, but will vary depending on products, markets and regions.

1. Products: Photographic Films: Color Negative Films, Color Reversal Films, Black and White Films, and Quick Snap.

2. Date of Price Increases: Effective from May 2012

The demand for film products is continuously decreasing, yen’s appreciation and the cost of production, such as raw materials, oil and energy, continues to rise or stay at high level. Under such circumstances, despite our effort to maintain the production cost, Fujifilm is unable to absorb these costs during the production process and is forced to pass on price increases.
To sustain its photo imaging business, Fujifilm has decided to increase the price of photographic films.

Fujifilm remains committed to photographic products and asserts that even with the new price. Its photographic products remain exceptionally good value compared with other system products.
The new pricing structure will be applied to each market based on its individual conditions.

Related: Kodak Files For Bankruptcy Protection

April 9th, 2012

Does Homeland Security Target Journalists for Search and Seizure?

An article published yesterday by Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald details the Department of Homeland Security’s repeated questioning and harassment of an American filmmaker when she has attempted to reenter the country after traveling overseas.

According to Greewald’s article, award-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who has released two films of a trilogy about the War on Terror, has endured DHS interrogations nearly each of the 40 times she has tried to reenter the country since 2006, when her first documentary film about a Sunni opposition leader in Iraq was released.

Agents often wait for her at the door as she disembarks from international flights. Poitras, a US citizen, has been interrogated for hours, had her personal belongings and reporter’s notebooks seized, held and copied, and her laptop, phone and other devices searched and copied.

It is easy to imagine photojournalists who are working on projects that may be critical of the US government or its “War on Terror” suffering similar difficulties, and DHS’s treatment of Poitras should outrage any US journalist.

As Greenwald reports, Poitras is not alone in her experiences, but her systematic harassment has made traveling for her work miserable, and she has been forced to resort to other methods of transporting and transmitting her work in order to protect her privacy, her rights as a journalist, and the identities of her sources.

Writes Greenwald: “She now avoids traveling with any electronic devices. She uses alternative methods to deliver the most sensitive parts of her work — raw film and interview notes — to secure locations. She spends substantial time and resources protecting her computers with encryption and password defenses. Especially when she is in the U.S., she avoids talking on the phone about her work, particularly to sources. And she simply will not edit her films at her home out of fear — obviously well-grounded — that government agents will attempt to search and seize the raw footage.”

Greenwald’s article also notes that two pieces of legislation proposed by congresspeople aimed at limiting DHS’s power to question US citizens have gained zero traction.

The article is well worth the read for any photojournalists who are working overseas, especially those who are reporting stories on sensitive topics like America’s military actions.

If you’ve been detained or questioned by DHS because of your work and are open to sharing your story with the PDN audience, please comment below or send an email to: editor@pdnoline.com.

April 6th, 2012

Anton Hammerl’s Remains May Have Been Unearthed in Libya

The body of a white male found recently with a camera lens in a mass grave in eastern Libya could be that of photojournalist Anton Hammerl, the Huffington Post reports. Hammerl was shot by troops loyal to deposed dictator Muammar Qaddafi on April 5, 2011, according to other journalists who were traveling with him at the time.

Those journalists were captured and detained for several weeks, and reported Hammerl’s death after their release.

The Huffington Post says that Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, has been in Libya following inquiries into the whereabouts of Hammerl’s remains. Bouckaert is now trying to get the governments of South Africa, Britain or Austria to help administer DNA tests for a positive identification of the remains.

Related: Print Auction to Benefit Children of Anton Hammerl to be Held at Christie’s

March 23rd, 2012

Police Intimidation Watch: Beating a Photojournalist on a Lisbon Street

©REUTERS/Hugo Correia

In another horrific incident demonstrating police brutality toward photojournalists, even in Western democracies, a Portuguese policeman attacked AFP photographer Patricia Melo as she covered a general strike in Lisbon yesterday. Workers there were on strike to protest austerity measures imposed on Portugal as a condition of the $100 billion bailout provided to the country by other European nations. Reuters photographer Hugo Correia shot this image, which mirrors this other Reuters image from last October, showing an Athens policeman punching a photographer at an anti-austerity protest in that city.