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August 12th, 2015

Why All The Articles in PDN’s New Issue Are About Women Photographers

© PDN/Photo by Lauren Dukoff

© PDN/Photo by Lauren Dukoff

The articles in the September issue of PDN, now available to subscribers and in the iTunes store, offer our standard mix of technical advice, interviews, and insights into the photography business. The one difference is that all the photography we are featuring, from our news pages to End Frame, is by women photographers. Why are we interviewing and showcasing only women photographers in this issue? Because we can.

It didn’t take much extra effort to find women photographers who could provide valuable insights and inspiration on every topic we wanted to cover: lighting, video post-production, pursuing and publishing a long-term project, marketing, meeting the demands of fashion and portrait clients, and many other issues relating to establishing a name in today’s photography business. Women photographers have to contend with lingering stereotypes about what women can or can’t excel at. By filling every section of this issue of PDN with images and insights by women photographers, we hope to emphasize the breadth of talent, expertise and experience of women photographers working in every genre and style.

This issue, whose theme section focuses on portraiture and fashion photography, seemed like an opportune time to make such a statement. Zanele Muholi’s beautiful, searing exhibition “Isibonelo/Evidence,” which opened in May at the Brooklyn Museum, exemplifies a powerful (and empowering) use of portraiture in social activism. In the spring, Aperture announced it would be publishing a compilation of celebrated photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark’s advice on portraiture. When we arranged to publish an excerpt, we didn’t know that Mark was ailing, or that the book would be published posthumously. It seems fitting, however, that PDN‘s first all-women issue includes words and images by a photographer who blazed so many trails.

Another timely story is our feature on the proliferation of groups formed by and for women photographers. We’ve noted before that, in today’s fractured marketplace, photographers have benefited from forming peer networks, both online and in person, to exchange advice, support, and job referrals.  A few of these groups, we’ve noticed, look like all-boys’ clubs. Women have responded by creating their own networks and gatherings. Some, like Women Photojournalists of Washington, have been around for years, but new ones seem to be forming every day.

Why now? Organizers of these groups point out that while there are more women working in photography than ever, men still get the majority of solo gallery shows, editorial assignments, and other opportunities that lead to greater recognition. In an interview in the current issue, photojournalist Maggie Steber notes that the market is hard for every photographer now—not only women. Competition can be particularly intense for the few token slots set aside for more diverse voices and talents. Expanding the opportunities for success requires new ideas and cooperative effort. “Instead of going back to the same shrinking pie, we should be thinking differently,” says Jennifer McClure, who recently formed the Women’s Photo Alliance in New York City. “We should be thinking, ‘How do we make more pies?'”

–Holly Stuart Hughes, editor

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.”

July 29th, 2015

Video Pick: Rep Maren Levinson: Being a Good Photographer Isn’t Enough

Seattle-based photographer John Keatley recently posted a video interview he did with his rep, Redeye’s Maren Levinson, in which she touched on several changes to the photography industry. Her frank assessment of the market in which professional photographers and their reps operate has earned the video nearly 30,000 views on YouTube. (more…)

May 21st, 2015

Science Says: People Like Filtered Photos

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

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

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

There is an art to filtering, though.

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.24.50 AM

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

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

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

May 14th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 1st, 2015

Why TIME Chose an Amateur Photographer’s Image for Its Cover

The May 11, 2015 cover of TIME Magazine, with an image by aspiring photographer Devin Allen.

The May 11, 2015 cover of TIME Magazine, featuring an image by aspiring photographer Devin Allen.

Yesterday TIME Magazine released the cover of the May 11 issue bearing an image of the Baltimore protests made by a 26-year-old amateur photographer named Devin Allen, who first picked up a camera in 2013. It is just the third time the magazine has used amateur images on the cover. It’s generated a lot of publicity for TIME, which issued a press release about Allen’s photo the day the issue came out. “[Allen’s image] was just beautifully composed and it was compelling, and it caught my eye immediately and summed up the story in a really interesting way,” says TIME deputy director of photography Paul Moakley.

Since Monday, Allen, who has a job working with autistic children and is an aspiring photographer, has covered the protests of the death of Freddie Gray, who died after his spinal cord was nearly severed while he was in police custody. (The state’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby, announced this morning that she has filed homicide, manslaughter and misconduct charges against Baltimore police officers). The cover text ties Allen’s black-and-white image of a protester running from a line of riot police to scenes one might have seen during the Baltimore riots in 1968, implying little has changed for black communities.

Allen brought an insider’s perspective to his coverage of the protests of Gray’s death. He is from West Baltimore, where protestors have clashed with police and riots have erupted into looting and arson. His images went viral on Monday when he published them on Instagram. They were shared by actor Michael K. Williams and singer Rihanna, and caught the attention of editors at several news organizations, including TIME. (more…)

April 30th, 2015

Marcus Bleasdale Wins 2014 Robert Capa Gold Medal

Body parts on the road after a lynching by FACA (les Forces Armées Centrafricaines, the military of the Central African Republic) soldiers.

Marcus Bleasdale has won the 2014 Robert Capa Gold Medal Award for his coverage of the religious violence in the Central African Republic, the Overseas Press Club (OPC) has announced. The images were made on assignment for Human Rights Watch, Foreign Policy and National Geographic.

The Robert Capa Gold Medal Award is bestowed annually for the best foreign photo coverage “requiring exceptional courage and enterprise,” according to the OPC. As tales of the Islamic State’s brutality dominated news reports around the world, Bleasdale covered the brutality unfolding in the Central African Republic, as Muslims and Christians battled in the streets. In a brief description of the work, the OPC said “His menacing, unnerving images of chaos had a profound impact on the judges. The images place the viewer in the moment in a way that demands and holds attention.” Bleasdale has been honored by the OPC before, winning the 2013 Feature Photography Award for “The Last of the Viking Whalers,” which the OPC called “completely original photographic storytelling executed perfectly.”

Other winners of OPC photography prizes for work completed in 2014 include: Jerome Sessini of Magnum Photos, who won the Olivier Rebbot Award for his photos of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines jet shot down over eastern Ukraine; Bulent Kilic of Agence France Presse, who won the John Faber award for his photos of the Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev, Ukraine; Rodrigo Abd of the Associated Press, who won the Feature Photography Award for his photos of Peru’s illegal gold mining industry.

Bleasdale, Sessini, Kilic and Abd, along with several other journalists, will be honored at a banquet at the Mandarin Oriental New York later today. The event will be livestreamed here.


Tyler Hicks Wins Robert Capa Gold Medal Award

David Guttenfelder Wins Two Overseas Press Club Awards

February 18th, 2015

Should Photogs Disqualified from World Press Be Banned? Org Says No, For Now

In the days since World Press Photo announced that 20 percent of the photographs they considered in the final rounds of the competition were disqualified for manipulation, many in the industry have called for WPP to release the offending images and make their standards more clear. In comments by jurors, WPP administrators and photographers published on the New York Times Lens Blog, 2015 competition jury chair and New York Times director of photography Michelle McNally noted that the manipulations led “many in the jury to feel we were being cheated, that they were being lied to.” World Press Photo jury secretary David Campbell notes that newspaper and wire service photographers get fired when they are caught manipulating news photos: “Narciso Contreras and Miguel Tova have lost their jobs because of manipulations that crossed the one line we can draw.”

These reactions beg the question: If World Press Photo is a reflection of the photojournalism industry, should photographers who attempted to deceive jurors—and the public—be banned from the competition? After all, newspaper and wire services have fired photographers who manipulated images.

According to World Press Photo managing director Lars Boering, the organization is not currently planning to ban any photographers who submitted manipulated images to the competition. “I might discuss that with the board and the team that is organizing the competition,” he told PDN, adding that “a lot” of the disqualified photos were cases of “clumsy” Photoshop use rather than blatant attempts to deceive competition judges.

World Press Photo rules state: “The content of an image must not be altered. Only retouching that conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed.” In her statement on Lens, McNally clarified that the manipulation the jurors disqualified included “removing or adding information to the image, for example, like toning that rendered some parts so black that entire objects disappeared from the frame. The jury—which was flexible about toning, given industry standards — could not accept processing that blatantly added or removed elements of the picture.”

The organization is very aware that manipulation accusations can deal huge blows to the careers of photojournalists, Boering says, which is why they are keeping confidential the names of photographers who were disqualified—despite calls for more transparency. “If people get caught by agencies, then they are thrown out, and I know it’s difficult for these people to get back to work or find other agencies, so that’s a serious thing,” Boering explains. “If an agency makes that decision it’s up to them because that’s their rules. We organize a competition; we care a lot about photojournalism and visual journalism, but…I don’t think we should be the ones that decide on the careers of photographers, and whether they should be ruled out of competitions with others or whether they should lose their job with their agency.”

“We’re not going to put their names out unless we think it’s really severe what they’ve done,” Boering adds. “It might be that we think about talking to them about the way they go about it.”

Boering said WPP had today sent notices to the disqualified photographers presenting their evidence and explaining their decisions. He says the organizations has received one or two responses from photographers accepting the decision.

It’s more important to WPP that this controversy sends a message to photojournalists and the industry, sparks discussion and, hopefully, a resolution, Boering says. “Technology makes a lot of things possible, but it makes it possible to find things…. The technicians that do our research, they’ve showed me several examples of things that you can do and I think it’s amazing.”

Boering says he’s heard from people at agencies and news organizations, and others in the photo industry in the past few days. World Press Photo is planning “several debates” starting on the day of the awards presentation, that he hopes will help the “find common ground with the industry to get it right.”

Related: Mads Nissen Wins World Press Photo of the Year 2014 Prize
AP Cuts Ties with Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image
Photographer Fired by AP Says Decision Was Fair, But Process Wasn’t

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 7th, 2015

New Instagram Feed Highlights Effects of Climate Change

Everyday Climate Change (photos © the individual photographers)

Everyday Climate Change (photos © the individual photographers)

An Instagram feed showcasing the work of photographers documenting the causes and effects of global climate change launched on January 1. Founded by Tokyo-based photographer James Whitlow Delano, @everydayclimagechange was inspired by the @everydayeverywhere feed, which presents selected images of daily life around the world, and will show how extreme weather and changes to the climate affect life in the developing and the developed world. So far, the feed has featured images by Sara Terry, Katharina Hesse, Michael Robinson Chavez, Janet Jarman, Paolo Patrizi, Ed Kashi, David Butow, John Trotter, Delano and other photographers who have covered such topics as water shortages, pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, forest fires, rising sea levels and the destruction of crops by infestations of funguses and insects.

Delano says that before launching the feed, he contacted photographers he knew who had completed bodies of work relating to climate issues. “I am looking for photographers who are able to see how local climate changes relate to the bigger, global picture,” he says. Delano, who has covered logging and deforestation in Southeast Asia, says he sought photographers based around the world. The contributing photographers are from five continents, and the images featured so far have shown diverse locations: a farm in Mexico; wetlands in Guinea Bissau; a denuded rain forest in southern Papua; a stretch of beach in Far Rockaway, Brooklyn. Says Delano, “I love the way that the photographs tell us that we must all consider how to deal with these issues.”

Though he gave contributors suggestions for hashtags, Delano says he wants to take a hands-off approach to editing. “I have told photographers that I will not curate or interfere unless photos go way off theme. As a photographer, I cherish latitude and freedom.”

Seven days after its launch, the feed has attracted over 1,600 followers. Photographers who have agreed to contribute in the future include Patrick Brown, Ron Haviv, Dominic Bracco II, Veejay Villafranca, Suthep Krisanavarin and Peter DiCampo, co-founder of @EverydayAfrica and @EverydayEverywhere. Delano says he’s happy with the work so far, but might expand the feed in the future. “In a month or so, we may start accepting hashtags or doing a Follow Friday like other everyday feeds. I like the democratization of the feeds that way,” he says. “First, though, I wanted to have a look how the feed functioned. So far, so good.”

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