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March 25th, 2014

Tomas van Houtryve Drone Essay Longest Ever Published by Harper’s

 

© Tomas van Houtryve/VII

© Tomas van Houtryve/VII. “Baseball practice in Montgomery County, Maryland. According to records obtained from the FAA, which issued 1,428 domestic drone permits between 2007 and early 2013, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Navy have applied for drone authorization in Montgomery County.”

Tomas van Houtryve takes on the proliferation of drones as weapons and as tools of surveillance in the April issue of Harper’s Magazine, in a photo essay titled “Blue Sky Days.” At 16 pages, it’s the largest picture story ever published by Harper’s.

To create the work, Van Houtryve’s outfit a drone he purchased on Amazon.com for still photography and video, and then piloted it, in areas throughout the United States, over “the very sorts of gatherings that have become habitual targets for foreign air strikes,” the introductory text explains. These included weddings, funerals, and groups of people exercising or praying. The images also depict domestic borders, prisons and other areas where military or police have flown surveillance drones, or have applied for permits to do so.

“His idea was daring, elegant, and perfectly timed,” Harper’s art director Stacey D. Clarkson told PDN via email. “He explained that the technology for drones is way ahead of legislation concerning them, and though drones are part of our contemporary reality, the specific ways they are used (and can be used) are not in the public consciousness. The urgency of the work, the complexity of the ideas, needed space to be properly conveyed. And the images themselves needed to run large in order for the reader to see what Tomas’s drone could see—embroidery on top of a hat, spokes on a bicycle wheel, and home plate at a neighborhood baseball field.”

Captions for the photos make the connection between, for instance, a group of people exercising in a park, and the fact that a gathering of exercising men might, for the CIA, constitute evidence of a terrorist training camp. The effect is chilling. In an image of a wedding in central Philadelphia, a flower girl is the only member of a wedding party looking up at van Houtrve’s drone as he makes his image. A U.S. drone struck a wedding in Yemen in December 2013, killing 12 people, the caption tells us.

The essay’s title refers to the testimony a 13-year-old Pakistani boy named Zubair Rehman gave on Capitol Hill after his grandmother was killed by a drone strike while she was picking vegetables in her yard. The boy told lawmakers he no longer loves blue skies. “The drones do not fly when the skies are gray,” he said.

Van Houtryve will exhibit and speak about “Blue Sky Days” in New York on Friday, April 4, as part of “Surveillance.01-USA,” a symposium on surveillance-based visual arts projects. He will also appear with Clarkson at the University of Colorado, Boulder on April 7 as part of the university’s ATLAS speaker series.

Related: Client Meeting: Harper’s Magazine (accessible to PDN subscribers)
If We Spend $25K On A Photo Essay, Readers Should Pay to See It, Says Harper’s Publisher

February 28th, 2014

Facebook’s Teru Kuwayama on How To Use Social Media for Documentary Storytelling

Long before he went to work for Facebook as the social media giant’s liaison to the photo community, photographer Teru Kuwuyama saw social media as a tool for photographers “to eliminate the gatekeepers and the editors, and to be our own operators,” he told a standing-room-only crowd at the Aperture Gallery in New York on Tuesday.  Old media models formed in “an analogue era” no longer exist, but he said many photographers who have been “adaptable” to social platforms are using them to reach and engage audiences.

Kuwayama spoke along with Lev Manovich of the Software Studies Initiative at “Documentary, Expanded: Interventions in Social Media,” a panel moderated by photographer Susan Meiselas, executive director and board member of the Magnum Foundation, which organized the talk as part of its Photography, Expanded program. Photography, Expanded held its first conference, in collaboration with the Open Society Foundations Documentary Photography Project, in April 2013, Meiselas said, to encourage photographers to expand their storytelling beyond the still image at a time when “we all felt the ground shifting beneath our feet” due to a shortage of assignments and production budgets from traditional media. Kuwayama shared work by photographers who are using Instagram to connect with audiences — though not, in most cases, to make money with their images.

He began by showing his own social-media-based project, Basetrack. After having worked in Afghanistan as an embedded photojournalist, Kuwayama won a James S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford, where he came up with a plan to gather a small group of embedded photographers who would post images and information about a Marine battalion in Afghanistan for their families back home. Launched in 2010, Basetrack was “basically a tricked out blog,” he said, with a map and a countdown clock to the end of the Marines’ deployment, but equally important was the Basetrack Facebook page, which “became a rallying point for the community.” Basetrack was never intended to reach more than about 1,000 viewers. “Who cares about this 20-year-old Marine who was 8 when this war started? It was clear it was his mom, his sister,” Kuwayama explained.
(more…)

February 24th, 2014

White House Shuts Out Photographers Again. So Now What?

No photographers allowed: White House released this photo of President Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama on February 21.

The White House released this photo of President Obama and the Dalai Lama on Feb. 21, after barring press photographers from the meeting.

Now that it is evident that the White House is deaf to complaints from photographers and their employers about being shut out of some of President Obama’s official meetings, the question is, What can the media do about it?

On Friday, the White House  closed a meeting between the President and the Dalai Lama, and then angered photographers, their employers, and photo trade groups by by releasing an official photo on Twitter by White House photographer Pete Souza.

Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) refused to distribute the official photo, according to a report by the National Press Photographers Association.

The White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) issued a statement urging other news organizations not to publish the photo, describing it as “a visual press release of a news worthy event.”

WHNPA also said in their statement, “We are disappointed the White House has reverted to their old strategy of announcing a closed press event and then later releasing their own photo.”

Last November, more than three dozen news organizations signed a joint letter protesting limits on photographers’ access to some of Obama’s official meetings.

A few weeks later, The New York Times published an op-ed piece by AP director of photography Santiago Lyon, who called the White House handout photos “propaganda.”

Around the same time, journalists confronted White House press secretary Jay Carney at a White House press briefing about the issue. Carney told the journalists in so many words that The White House no longer needs photographers like it once did, because it can distribute its own pictures directly to the public on the internet.

“You don’t have to buy that newspaper or subscribe to that wire service to see that photograph,” Carney said at the time.

Nevertheless, he pledged “to work with the press and with the photographers to try to address some of their concerns.” About a week later, on December 17, he met with representatives of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the WHNPA, and other media organizations.

Afterwards, NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher said in a report published by NPPA, “We remain cautiously optimistic that the White House will follow through on its earlier commitment to transparency.”

That was then. On Friday, after photographers were shut out of Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, White House News Photographers Association president Ron Sachs said in another NPPA report, “I think the White House grand strategy is to talk us to death and do nothing.”

Osterreicher tells PDN, “We (media groups) should be having a meeting soon” to discuss what to do next.

Undoubtedly they’ll be looking for new angles of diplomacy or attack (or both) to regain the access that White House press corps photographers once enjoyed. In the meantime, we ask PDN readers: What would you advise media organizations and photographers covering the White House to do now?

Related:

Media Protests White House Limits on Photographers
White House Press Secretary to Photographers: We Respect You, But We Don’t Need You
AP Photo Chief Appeals to Public About White House Access. Will It Help?

February 12th, 2014

Does The NY Times’ Sochi Photo “Firehose” Do Photogs a Disservice?

Today The New York Times launched a live stream of images from Sochi, which they’re dubbing a “Firehose.” It funnels images by Times photographers and from the paper’s wire service feeds, and evidently there will be roughly 14,000 images per day coming through the, ahem, hose.

The images are running without captions. And while there are many great photographs, there are many others that leave us to guess what’s happening in the image, and which are pretty ho-hum without context (see: athlete celebrating win, for something, who knows what?)

There are good things about the site. It has a simple design and big photos. It’s giving a lot of images that wouldn’t make it into media outlets a run in a central place. And the site is presented by United Airlines, so they aren’t just giving this away. People who love sports pictures and can’t get enough of them can watch them stream by, and so what if there are no captions? Most of them you can figure out. And it’s not as if this replaces galleries of edited and captioned pictures.

But does this diminish not only the perceived value of the images, but also the editorial selection and captioning process at a time when the public perception of photography is that it’s so abundant it’s worth very little? Maybe. The name “Firehose” seems like self-parody, an admission that the flow of images has devalued photography to the point that the Times has decided to just throw up their hands and open the valve.

Perhaps we’re making too much of this? Maybe we should sit back and let the stream wash over us? What you do you think, dear reader?

February 5th, 2014

Pulitzer Center Releases Annual Report Highlighting Photography

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which provides funding to journalists and news organizations, allowing them to carry out independent, in-depth reporting, released its 2013 annual report today. Several projects involving photographers were among those highlighted in the report, providing a good overview of the types of work the Center is funding, and the types of projects the media is willing to publish, given the means.

They included:

Sea Change, the multimedia story on ocean acidification created by The Seattle Times and staff photographer Steve Ringman (our story about the creation of Sea Change is here.)

A series of photo stories and reports on Japan’s collapsing social safety net, including images by Shiho Fukada. (Our story on Fukada’s project on Japan’s “disposable workers” is here.)

An issue of Poetry magazine dedicated to Afghan landau poems and women’s rights, with photographs by Seamus Murphy. (For more on Murphy’s coverage of Afghanistan, beginning in 1994, see our story on his multimedia project, “Afghanistan: A Darkness Visible.”)

Documentary photographer Larry Price’s work on child labor in Philippine gold mines.

Reporting on gun violence in Chicago featuring photography by Carlos Javier Ortiz. (Our story about Ortiz’s long-term project, “Too Young to Die,” is here.)

And reporting on the perpetual conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo that includes work by photographer and filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies.

Related Article: Getting Funding from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting (available to subscribers with login).

January 23rd, 2014

HuffPost Ignoring PhotoJ Credits For Images of Kiev Clashes

Yesterday Huffington Post UK published “29 Incredible Pictures Of Kiev Transformed Into A Warzone,” but didn’t bother to caption or credit the images to the photojournalists who are risking personal harm to create them.

(Oddly, another gallery published by the Huffington Post empire using some of the same images did include proper credits and captions.)

Several news outlets are carrying wire images of clashes in Kiev between protestors and police. Among the photographers whose images are featuring prominently on the websites and front pages of major news media are Sergei Grits and Efrem Lukatsky, who are covering the protests for AP; Valentyn Ogirenko, Vasily Fedosenko and Gleb Garanich for Reuters; and Sergei Supinsky, Anatolii Boiko, Anatoliy Stepanov and Vasily Maximov for AFP/Getty.

Show some respect, HuffPost UK, while you count your clicks.

December 13th, 2013

White House Press Secretary to Photographers: We Respect You, But We Don’t Need You

In an exchange yesterday with reporters over why press pool photographers were kept away from President Barack Obama on his trip to Nelson Mandela’s funeral last week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney ducked, dodged–and said times have changed.

“This is part of a bigger transformation that’s happening out there that’s driven by the ability of everyone to post anything on the Internet free of charge so that you don’t have to buy that newspaper or subscribe to that wire service to see that photograph.”

In other words, the White House doesn’t need press photographers anymore, and neither does the public, now that the White House can distribute its own pictures of the president online.

The exchange began when a reporter asked why White House photographer Pete Souza was allowed on the speaker’s platform when President Obama spoke at  Mandela’s funeral, but press pool photographers were not allowed. Reporters also pressed Carney hard on why press pool photographers were not permitted to photograph the President and First Lady, along with former President George Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, on the flights to and from the funeral in South Africa.

The White House released its own photos, shot by Souza, from the flight.

Carney took the questions with a preamble of praise to photographers. “I have huge admiration for that service to the free flow of information and the unbelievable bravery that cameramen and photographers display, especially overseas in hard areas, in dangerous areas, like Afghanistan, like Syria and elsewhere,” he said.

He added later on after reporters kept pressing the issue, “From the President on down–and I mean that–there is absolute agreement that there’s no substitute for a free and independent press reporting on a presidency or the White House, on Congress, on the government. It’s essential. Essential. And that includes photography.”

The White House got as much access as it could for press pool photographers on the speaker’s platform at the funeral, Carney said. When pressed about the lack of access on the flight, which reporters pointed out was 20 hours each way, Carney said, “For a lot of those hours, the President, the former President, the First Lady and the former First Lady were asleep. So we probably weren’t going to bring in a still pool for that. Or they were having dinner or something like that. But look, I think I just made clear that I want to work on this issue.”

How committed he is to “work on this issue” is unclear. Reporters pressed repeatedly for details, and Carney offered none, other than to say his office has met with representatives of the White House Correspondents. And he added, “I can promise you that the outcome of that will not be complete satisfaction” because of inherent tensions between all administrations and the press over access.

Last month, Carney rejected a request from 38 news organization for a meeting to discuss their complaint about a lack of access for press pool photographers to the Oval Office. In doing so, he told them the public interest was served well enough by the stream of photos the White House was releasing on social media.

The media has dismissed those photos, by Souza and other White House photographers, as “visual press releases.” In an op-ed piece published in The New York Times yesterday, Associated Press Director of Photography Santiago Lyon labeled the White House handout photos as “propaganda.”

Related:
AP Photo Chief Appeals to Public About White House Access. Will It Help?
Media Protests White House Limits on Photographers

December 9th, 2013

Photogs Richard Mosse and Zanele Muholi Named Top “Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy

Two photographers, Richard Mosse and Zanele Muholi, made Foreign Policy (FP) magazine’s list of “The Leading Global Thinkers of 2013.” The list of 100 people Foreign Policy chose to single out in its hefty digital feature includes Edward Snowden, John Kerry, Elon Musk, The Pope, Rand Paul, scientists, innovators, politicians and artists.

FP cited Mosse for “seeing war through a new lens.” His pink-hued images of military and militia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, created using now-discontinued Kodak Aerochrome film developed for the U.S. Military, have captivated audiences through their unusually esthetic interpretation of a conflict-ridden landscape and population. FP notes that Mosse’s film, “The Enclave,” “stole the show” at the 2103 Venice Biennale.

Mosse’s works “are allowing viewers to see conflict in a way they never imagined they could,” FP writes.

Zanele Muholi, a South African artist, has documented the black LGBT community in her country through striking black-and-white portraits. FP singles Muholi out “for photographing hidden lives,” and notes that her work has been widely published and exhibited, bringing much-needed awareness to the gulf between the legal rights of LGBT South Africans and their actual treatment in their communities.

FP divided their list of Global Thinkers into groups that included “Artists,” “Advocates,” “Challengers” and “Decision-Makers” among others. Mosse and Muholi are considered “Chroniclers,” people who, FP says, “[show] us novel ways of understanding the world and our place in it.”

Related: Theft of South African Photog’s Work May Be Attempt to Silence Her
Field Studies: Exploring the Complexities of War-Torn Congo

November 21st, 2013

Media Protest White House Limits on Photographers

Visual press release? President Obama and Vice President Biden met with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the Oval Office, July 30, 2013. Media organizations say their photographers were excluded on the grounds that it was a "private meeting." The White House issued this photo by staff photographer Chuck Kennedy afterwards.

“Visual press release”? President Obama and Vice President Biden met with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the Oval Office, July 30, 2013. Media organizations say photojournalists were barred because the administration declared it a “private” meeting.  The White House issued this photo by staff photographer Chuck Kennedy afterwards via Flickr.com.

More than three dozen news organizations and journalists’ trade associations have submitted a joint letter of protest to the Obama administration, charging it with denying the news media the right to photograph and videotape President Obama while he is performing his official duties.

“We write to protest the limits on access currently barring photographers who cover the White House,” the letter to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney began. “We hope this letter will serve as the first step in removing these restrictions and, therefore, we also request a meeting with you to discuss this critical issue further.”

To get Carney’s attention, the letter includes an indirect threat of legal action on First Amendment grounds. It says the restrictions on photographers “raise constitutional concerns,” and goes on to cite a 1980 Supreme Court ruling that protects the First Amendment right of the press to access information about the operation of government.

The letter was delivered to Carney today. It was signed by all major TV news networks, wire services, major newspapers, as well as American Society of Media Photographers, National Press Photographers Association, and other organizations.

“As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government,” the letter says.

It accuses the administration of excluding photographers by labeling the President’s meetings as “private events.” The letter lists 8 examples of meetings that amounted to “governmental activity of undisputed and wide public interest,” including meetings between the President and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and other officials, dignitaries, and activists.

After all but one of the meetings, the White House issued official White House photos of the meetings, according to the letter.   “You are, in effect, replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases,” news organizations complained to Carney in the protest letter.

The letter says that previous administrations were more transparent, and adds, “[T]he restrictions imposed by your office on photographers undercut the President’s stated desire to continue and broaden that tradition.”

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the letter.

The Obama administration has been subject to past criticism for its handling of the press.

For instance, the Committee to Protect Journalists says in a recent report, “Despite President Barack Obama¹s repeated promise that his administration would be the most open and transparent in American history, reporters and government transparency advocates said they are disappointed by its performance in improving access to the information they need.

“”This is the most closed, control freak administration I¹ve ever covered,’ said David E. Sanger, veteran chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times.”

The Times was one of the 38 organizations that signed today’s letter of complaint to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

November 12th, 2013

Newspaper Job Cuts Hit Photographers Hardest, Pew Research Says

In an article published yesterday by the Pew Research Center, writer Monica Anderson noted that photographers and other visual journalists have borne the brunt of newspaper layoffs from 2000-2012.

Basing her findings on newsroom census data released by the American Society of News Editors, Anderson wrote that “The ranks of photographers, artists and videographers have been trimmed by nearly half (43%)—from 6,171 in 2000 to 3,493 in 2012.” By comparison, the number of full-time writers and reporters fell only 32%, and editor and producer jobs by only 27%.

Related: Chicago Sun-Times Eliminates Photo Staff

Via Poynter