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October 29th, 2012

PPE 2012: James Balog on Using Art to Alter Perception About the Environment

As the Northeast braces for Hurricane Sandy to make landfall this evening, with schools and offices—including PDN‘s—closed in preparation, it seems an appropriate time to recap photographer James Balog‘s keynote address this past Saturday at Photo Plus Conference + Expo. Balog’s talk covered his Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) project, which shows through time-lapse video the recession of 27 glaciers around the northern hemisphere, from Greenland to Iceland to Alaska to Montana and Nepal. The time-lapses are remarkable: viewers the recent spike in the earth’s temperature manifested in the shrinking of massive glaciers over the course of just a few years. Balog also introduced and screened a documentary about the EIS project, called “Chasing Ice” (see the trailer here).

Balog has dedicated his life and career to photographing the environment and nature, and his talk was more focused on how humans are changing the planet than on photography. But it did present the photographers in the audience with some insights into how photographic tools can be used to change public opinion and into how one photographer is accomplishing that task.

“Art in combination with science has proven to be effective” in shifting the public understanding, Balog noted in explaining his methods and thinking. “We are visual witnesses. [Cameras] are not just tools, they are vital parts of the sensory apparatus of the human race.” Indeed the EIS time lapses, enabled by digital camera technology, have allowed Balog and his team to show us something we could never have otherwise seen.

Balog was a budding scientist when he decided he was more interested in photography than in statistics and crunching numbers, he recalled. As a young adult he “realized that one of the pivotal issues of our era is the intersection of humans and nature,” and his work has focused on “probing that boundary,” he explained.

The EIS project grew from assignments from National Geographic and the New Yorker to photograph glaciers. Through those assignments Balog discovered a way to visualize the idea that humans “are changing the basic operating system of the earth” by burning hydrocarbons, and that that reality could be understood through looking at the planet’s ice. Glaciers serve as barometers and thermometers for the planet, Balog noted, and “everyone knows what happens when ice melts.”

When he launched the EIS project five years ago, Balog and his team created digital camera systems with custom-made timers and solar panels that would capture an image of a glacier every 1/2 hour during daylight hours. Those systems were mounted in modified Pelican cases and trekked into remote areas around the planet to record the changes to some of the most massive glaciers in the world. The results of the project address the “need to introduce more understanding of the truth” of how humans are changing the basic functioning of the earth.

During his talk Balog noted that “Chasing Ice” has been sent several times to President Obama, and to every member of Congress. The film will open in 24 theaters nationwide in November, expanding to more theaters if the public response is positive. Balog also said the EIS group is engaging with the Evangelical Creation Care movement to spread the word about the project and film among that group, which is dedicated to preserving the environment. A book of Balog’s glacier photographs, Ice: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers, was also released last month from Rizzoli.

Balog envisions the EIS project going on indefinitely, he noted. He also spoke about a new non-profit organization he is establishing called Earth Vision Trust, which will look to fund other people’s environmental projects through fellowships.

October 9th, 2012

Luc Delahaye Awarded $106,000 Prix Pictet

Luc-Delahaye-Ambush-Ramadi

“Ambush, Ramadi, 22 July 2006,” by Luc Delahaye.

French photojournalist-turned-artist Luc Delahaye has won the fourth Prix Pictet, the organization announced in a ceremony this evening at the Saatchi Gallery in London. The theme of this year’s prize was “Power.”

Founded by Swiss private bank Pictet & Cie in 2008, the Prix Pictet is awarded to photographers whose work engages with themes of sustainability.

180 experts from around the world nominated 673 artists for the prize. From those the jury selected 12 shortlisted artists, all of whom will be included in an exhibition opening tomorrow, October 10, at the Saatchi Gallery in London. The exhibition will also tour internationally.

Delahaye submitted a portfolio titled “Various works: 2008-2011,” about which he wrote in his artist’s statement:

“I try to put myself in situations that I feel have a certain relevance regarding what we call a shared destiny. The reality I’m interested in is that of people who struggle to act upon it as much as they are subject to it. I sometimes work where power presents itself as a spectacle, as an event produced for or with the media, and my pictures may then take an ironic undertone. But I photograph the ordinary man more often than the leader. I usually stay at the distance where the human relationships are visible, multiple, active and where they remain problematic. I’m interested in narration and in photography’s phenomenological hold on the real.”

Among the other shortlisted photographers were Robert Adams, Rena Effendi, An-My Lê, who just received a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, and Joel Sternfeld.

Pictet & Cie, the company that founded the prize, also awarded a commission to nominated photographer Simon Norfolk to travel to and photograph a region where the Bank is supporting a sustainability project.

Previous Prix Pictet winners include Mitch Epstein, Nadav Kander and Benoit Aquin.

Related: Prix Pictet Announces 12 Photographers Shortlisted for Prize

October 8th, 2012

Call for Applications: €20,000 Tim Hetherington Grant

World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch have announced the call for applications for the second annual Tim Hetherington Grant, named for the photojournalist who was killed by a rocket attack in Libya in April, 2011. The €20,000 ($26,000) grant supports photographers who are working to complete a human rights-themed photographic project.

The grant not only bears Hetherington’s name, it also utilizes as its criteria the ideas and characteristics that defined the late photographer’s work: “Work that operates on multiple platforms and in a variety of formats; that crosses boundaries between breaking news and longer-term investigation; and that demonstrates a consistent moral commitment to the lives and stories of the photographic subjects.”

The inaugural Tim Hetherington Grant was awarded to Stephen Ferry for his project “’Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict,” which focuses on the history and current dynamics of the war in Colombia, while exposing the role of the distinct parties in the conflict.

The selection committee for the 2012 grant includes:

Marcus Bleasdale, documentary photographer VII Photo Agency; Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director for external relations Human Rights Watch; James Brabazon, journalist and documentary filmmaker; Whitney C. Johnson, director of photography The New Yorker; and Michiel Munneke, managing director World Press Photo. Adriaan Monshouwer, the founder of Picture Inside, will serve as the selection committee secretary.

The deadline for applications is November 15. The recipient will be announced in early December.

For more information and to apply visit: http://www.worldpressphoto.org/2012-tim-hetherington-grant

September 28th, 2012

On Sustainable Business Models, and Comparing Apples to Oranges

The American Society of Media Photographers’ program, “Sustainable Business Models: Issues & Trends Facing Visual Artists,” held September 27 in New York City, can be viewed online via ASMP’s video library. Speakers and panelists provided useful context and insights into the current marketplace for photography, as well as thoughts on how professional freelancers might adapt their marketing and licensing in today’s economy. A warning, however: Along with provocative insights, the afternoon panel also included the predictable, banal observation that photojournalists have no role to play now that “everyone has a cellphone,” and statistics on how many images are uploaded to Facebook or Instagram each day or each hour or each minute. If you’re like me, you find these comments irritating. Because the first comment is untrue, and the second is irrelevant to any discussion of the professional photography business.

Yes, news editors trolled Instagram to get images of the aftermath of the Empire State Building shooting, but those image sales had no impact on the market for photos by professional news photographers: If amateur cellphone users hadn’t been on the scene, we simply wouldn’t have had any images of the carnage. Yes, a zillion snapshots of cats, babies and plates of food are shared on social media every day. What bearing does that have on what a professional photographer offers to clients or their audience? (more…)

August 23rd, 2012

“Bears for Belarus” Photographer Released by the KGB

Bears for Belarus

Courtesy of Belarusian News Photos/www.BNP.by

Anton Suryapin, a photographer detained by agents from Belarus’s state security agency (still referred to as the KGB), was released on August 17, according to Reporters Without Borders. He is being charged with “organizing illegal migration”; authorities accused him of helping the pilots who airdropped 800 teddy bears carrying pro-democratic messages throughout country on July 4. Amnesty International reports that Suryapin is a journalism student at Belarus State University and that he was arrested on July 13 after uploading images taken of the “Bears for Belarus” demonstration to the Belarusian News Photos Web site.

The event was engineered by the Swedish advertising firm Studio Total. It has created tension between the two European countries and resulted in president Aleksandr G. Lukashenko firing a number of officials, including the foreign minister and head of air defense, because the plane entered Belarusian airspace undetected and without permission.

July 26th, 2012

Stipple’s Free Image Tagging Platform Aims to “Solve Image Attribution Problem”

Image technology company Stipple has launched the free public beta version of its image tagging platform, which allows users to permanently embed attribution and other content—from editorial to e-commerce links—into their images. The company hopes that their service, which has been adopted by more than online 4,000 publishers to date, and as of today is available to the general public, will help photographers, publishers and brands keep track of and monetize their images no matter where they appear on the internet.

Users of Stipple can upload images into the platform and then embed them with any content connected to a URL. For photographers this might include copyright information and a link back to their Web site, or to videos or articles that might enrich a viewer’s experience of a particular image. The information stored in the image by Stipple, the company claims, will follow that image wherever it is published on the Internet, even if the photograph’s metadata is stripped away. Other companies, such a PicScout, have offered similar services intended to help image makers and licensors protect their copyrights.

The Stipple platform also gathers data on images uploaded into the Stipple system that will allow photographers to keep track of where their images are being republished, and see how many people are viewing and engaging with their images and the content they embed into them.

“Stipple is all about context,” photographer Gerald Holubowicz told PDN via email. Holubowicz is one of a handful of photographers who were invited to participate in a private beta test. “It will help me bring more details and a wider narrative into the imagery I’m publishing…. I really like the fact that we can add videos, external links to articles or a Twitter feed.” Holubowicz says he plans to link his images to sites where he sells fine-art prints or his book.

For more information about Stipple or to try the platform visit www.stipple.com.

July 5th, 2012

Getty IPO On Hold as $4 Billion Private Equity Sale Looms

Earlier this year Getty Images, the largest stock photo agency, retained Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to evaluate the possibility of a sale or an initial public offering (IPO). According to reports published yesterday by The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, Hellman & Friedman, the private equity firm that owns Getty, is preparing for the second round of a bidding process that would see the stock agency sold to another private equity firm for between $3.5 and $4 billion. (Hellman & Friedman also owns PDN parent company Nielsen.)

Unnamed sources for the Wall Street Journal said the IPO was on hold while private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. and TPG, among others, evaluated their interest in purchasing Getty. Earlier this year KKR invested $150 million in European microstock agency Fotolia.

Hellman & Friedman was rumored to have paid $2.4 billion for a majority stake in Getty Images in 2008, which was publicly traded at the time.

According to the Reuters report, Getty “has seen little growth in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) since Hellman bought it but has enjoyed increasing demand for its online imagery products and services.”

Since Getty became private, the agency has made several moves that may have been geared to making the company look more attractive to potential buyers in the lead up to a sale or IPO. The cost-cutting measures have affected its contributing photographers, and the agency has also gone through rounds of layoffs. For instance in November of last year, Getty introduced tough new contracts, cutting back royalties it pays to photographers, telling contributors that rights-managed images that have not sold well will be moved to royalty-free collections while the royalty-free images would be sold as part of subscription packages. The move drew the ire of photographers’ trade associations ASMP and APA, as well as a lengthy string of comments on our blog.

June 25th, 2012

Pulitzer Center Publishes First iBook with Photographer Greg Constantine

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit organization that provides key support to photographers and writers working on long-term investigative journalism projects, made its first foray into digital book publishing late last week with the release of “In Search of Home,” an iBook about statelessness, featuring the photography of Greg Constantine and essays by Stephanie Hanes.

The interactive, 49-page book, grew out Hanes and Constantine’s long-term reporting project on “stateless” people, who are denied the basic rights of citizenship in the countries in which they live, often for religious and ethnic reasons. The iBook focuses on three populations who have no nationality: the Rohingya from Burma, the Nubians of Kenya, and people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic. It features four slideshows of Constantine’s images, an audio slideshow that provides an overview on the problems faced by people who live in legal limbo without national identity, as well as other features, like an interactive map and timeline.

“In Search of Home” is the first in a series of iBooks that will be produced by the Pulitzer Center. The project, according to a post by Jon Sawyer, director of the Pulitzer Center,  on the organization’s blog, “is part of a broader Pulitzer Center initiative, seeking out new platforms and partners to extend the work of journalists we support and to make use of the extraordinary presentation of multimedia material now possible on tablets and other mobile devices.”

Proceeds from “In Search of Home,” which is being sold for $4.99 in the iTunes store and can be viewed using the iBook 2 app for iPad and iPhone, will go to Constantine and Hanes, minus the 30 percent Apple charges to carry the book on iTunes.

“We hope to make these books the capstone for the best of our projects, giving readers an immersive, narratively rich way of engaging the issues they cover,” Sawyer said. “We believe these presentations will appeal to all audiences, and especially to the university and secondary-school students that have become a major focus of the Pulitzer Center’s work.”

Related: Q&A: Getting Funding from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
Picturing Non-Profit Journalism
Picture Story: An Emmy-Winning AIDS Documentary in Poetry and Pictures
Field Studies: Exploring the Complexities of War-Torn Congo

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)

 

May 7th, 2012

Jeff Scott Wins James Beard Award for Photography

Johnny Iuzzini

Pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. © Jeff Scott

Fine-art photographer Jeff Scott won the 2012 James Beard Foundation Award in the Photography category for Notes From a Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession. The award for the self-published, two-volume book, which is a collaboration between Scott and chef Blake Beshore, was announced on Friday, May 4, 2012, in New York City.

The book doesn’t contain any recipes, but instead aims to reveal the creative process for some of the top, young chefs in America. Shot documentary-style, Scott’s photos show the chefs at work and away from the kitchen as well as their personal notebooks where menus are planned and recipes created.

Chef notebooks

Some of the notebooks included in the book. © Jeff Scott

Other finalists for the prize were food, still-life and lifestyle photographer Joseph De Leo, who was nominated for The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen, and food and travel photographer Alan Benson, who worked on Rustica: A Return to Spanish Home Cooking. Last year, Danish photographer Ditte Isager won the photography award for her work on the cookbook Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine.

The James Beard Foundation is a non-profit organization that offers “events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain and foster a deeper understanding of our culinary culture.” Each year the foundation recognizes people in every aspect of the food and beverage industry—from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors and food writers—who have excelled in their fields. Editorial and commercial photographer Landon Nordeman received the 2012 James Beard Foundation Award in the new category of Visual Storytelling for his Saveur assignments “The Soul of Sicily,” “BBQ Nation” and “Heart of the Valley.” Also of note: Gastronomica was awarded Publication of the Year alongside the Web site Food52.

Notes from a Kitchen Book cover

Notes From a Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession. © Jeff Scott

To see the complete list of 2012 James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast and Journalism Award winners, go to jamesbeard.org.

Related Article:

Cookbooks Come Out of the Kitchen