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April 26th, 2013

Alec Soth on Wandering, Storytelling and Robert Adams vs. Weegee

Last week at the Portland Art Museum as part of the 2013 Photolucida festivities, Alec Soth gave a lecture titled “From Here to There: Searching for Narrative in Photography.” The talk could have been titled “Searching for Narrative in Photography Lectures,” because Soth mostly allowed the audience to lead the way with questions, which he responded to with the aid of a number of prepared slideshows. The evening was free-form, entertaining and a bit wandering, which made sense given that Soth emphasized that wandering and taking pictures without a set goal in mind has produced some of his most important bodies of work. But more on that later.

Soth started on a down note, sharing a quote from Robert Frank—“There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art any more. Maybe it never was.” He also showed a photograph of an installation by Erik Kessels: a pile of prints made from all of the images uploaded to Flickr in a 24-hour period.

Soth described the perspectives offered by the Frank quote and Kessels’ installation as “bleak.” But, he said, the “way out of this [bleak situation for photographers] is storytelling.” (more…)

April 26th, 2013

Body of Newspaper Photographer Found in Saltillo, Mexico

Daniel Martinez Bazaldua, a photographer with the newspaper Vanguardia, was found dead yesterday in the northern Mexico City of Saltillo, the Associated Press reports. He had been missing since Tuesday, when he left the Vanguardia office in the afternoon.

The bodies of Martinez Bazaldua, age 22, and another man identified as Julian Zamora, 23, were found dismembered on a street. According to state prosecutors, the body parts were dumped along with a  hand-written message saying that the Zetas drug cartel was responsible for the killings. Saltillo is located in northern Coahuila, a state where Zetas is known to operate.

Coahuila state Attorney General Homero Ramos told reporters that investigators had indications both men “were participating in illegal activities.” Vanguardia, which hired Martinez a month ago to shoot for its society pages, rejected the attorney general’s claim, which was made before any criminal investigation into the murders.

In a statement issued yesterday, Carlos Lauría of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said, “It is irresponsible for authorities to reach conclusions before conducting a full investigation.” CPJ called on Mexican authorities “to fully investigate this crime, examine all possible motives, and bring those responsible to justice.”

CPJ reports that according to a Vanguardia editor who asked to remain anonymous, “Photographers covering the society section in Mexico have been targeted by organized crime groups in the past for inadvertently capturing images of cartel members, according to CPJ research.”

In May, three news photographers who covered organized crime and drug violence in Veracruz were found dead and dismembered.
CPJ reports that more than 50 journalists have been killed or disappeared in the last six years

Related Article
Three News Photographers Murdered in Veracruz, Mexico

April 10th, 2013

Suspect Arrested in Shooting of Oakland Photographer

A suspect has been charged with murder in the killing of a freelance photographer who was shot April 6 while driving home in Oakland, California, the Oakland Tribune reports. Lionel Fluker, a former contributor to the Oakland Tribune, was killed by a stray bullet fired in a fist fight that escalated into a gun fight, according to the Alamada Country District Attorney’s office. The suspect, who was arraigned April 9, was also charged with possession of a gun by a felon, carrying a concealed weapon and carrying a loaded firearm.

A memorial service for Fluker will be held on April 13, the NPPA reports. (Details on location is available on the NPPA site.)

As PDN Pulse recently noted, several photographers and TV reporters have been robbed at gunpoint in Oakland this year.

Related article
Photojournalists Stripped of Gear at Gunpoint in Oakland

March 12th, 2013

Photogs Dish Anonymously About Clients’ Rates Via New Tumblr Site

A new site on Tumblr set up by an anonymous editorial photographer seeks to provide a platform where photographers can share information about what clients in all fields, from editorial to advertising to non-profits, pay photographers.

Still in its infancy, the site, Who Pays Photographers, is based on a similar Tumblr, Who Pays Writers, which, you guessed it, lists fees paid to writers. According to the anonymous founder of Who Pays Photographers, the response has been a bit overwhelming, indicating a serious interest among photographers to talk about, and read about, the fees clients pay for photographic work.

Thus far the site has information about The New York Times, Getty Images, AP, AFP, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN and several other clients in the US and abroad.

We exchanged emails with the creator of Who Pays Photographers to find out a bit more about her/his goals for the site.

PDN: How long have you worked as a photographer and in what field?

Who Pays Photographers: I’m an editorial photographer with 6 years experience, about half of that time as a staffer at a magazine, and more recently, as a freelancer.

PDN: What inspired you to start the site? Was it just a natural reaction to seeing Manjula Martin’s Who Pays Writers, or was there more to it?

WPP: The site was a simple reaction to Who Pays Writers, a site that was linked to a number of times during the recent Nate Thayer kerfuffle with the Atlantic. It seemed obvious that the photo industry could really benefit from having such a resource and I found it surprising that nothing of the sort existed. (more…)

February 21st, 2013

Is It More Dangerous than Ever to Be a Female War Reporter?

In an interview with the Atlantic, author and former Reuters correspondent Anne Sebba makes several points about women war reporters that current female conflict journalists find insulting.

Sebba, who is the author of a history of women reporters called Battling for News, told the Atlantic’s Emily Chertoff: “A lot of these conflicts are now in Muslim countries, who see Western women wearing provocative—that’s their word, not mine—provocative clothes, and therefore, they feel, the West has to be taught a lesson, that they’re fair targets, fair game.”

Sebba points out that more women are graduating from media studies programs and argues that editors “are prepared to exploit” young women because “you see a gorgeous woman on your screens in a flak jacket, and it’s almost like entertainment.”

In particular Sebba singles out young freelancers who don’t have the training and backing of a major news organization. “These young kids, who are barely out of media college, try and be freelance journalists, and so they often go off on their own and get a story. Those are the danger areas,” Sebba says.

In a response to the article posted on her Facebook page, Scout Tufankjian, a photojournalist who has worked in Egypt and Gaza, among other conflict zones, wrote that she “found lot of the assumptions within [the interview] to be pretty insulting. Especially the assumption that ignorance and inexperience is a gender issue, such as [quoting Sebba] ‘More women than men graduate in media studies. They don’t know how to find a fixer; they don’t know about weaponry; they don’t know where is safe, where is not safe—they just want to prove themselves.’”

Photojournalist Nicole Tung, who has worked in Syria, Libya and Egypt, agrees with Tufankjian. “It seems like Anne Sebba hasn’t been out in a conflict zone for some time now,” Tung told PDN via email. “I feel incredibly insulted, as do a number of other female journalists who’ve voiced their concerns over social media networks…. I have come across both men and women who started out as inexperienced as I was. In Syria in particular, there are many rookies heading in without any conflict experience and they are predominantly (I would say 80 percent) males going in, emailing me with questions about how to do this or that, how to find the right people, etc.”

“I think she also fails to mention that women weren’t the only gender targeted in attacks in [Egypt's] Tahrir Square,” Tung points out. “Men were, too, and continue to be targets until today. Few people come out and talk about that. Why? It’s not only because both women and men are risking losing an assignment, but because sometimes we personally feel we can overlook some incidents and keep on moving, working. It is about the story we’re covering and not about us. That’s the mentality a lot of us go in with, and turning the focus on us is something we try to avoid until it becomes something we deem necessary. I think social media is a big part of why we hear more about attacks on the press and in particular, women, these days.”

Sebba also argues that having children impacts female journalists more than male journalists. “I think a woman has carried a baby for nine months, and she worries more about that,” Sebba tells the Atlantic.

After war photographer Lynsey Addario was captured along with three male journalists, Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell and Tyler Hicks, while on assignment for the New York Times in Libya in 2011, she said she felt that being groped by her captors was no worse than being hit in the head like her male counterparts were. (The Libyan driver for the Times journalists was killed by the captors.)

In an interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists, senior editor Lauren Wolfe asked Addario what she thought when one of her colleagues, Tyler Hicks, said during a panel discussion that it was a worse experience for Addario.

“Well, that’s his perception,” Addario responded. “Who can qualify what’s worse? Who has the right to say what’s worse? For me, when I was getting groped, I was listening to them—and I could only listen because I was blindfolded—I was listening to them get smashed on the head and I can hear them scream, like, grunting, and to me that was so painful…. It was horrible for all of us. I don’t understand why this is so much worse for me? Is it because I’m a woman? I don’t know who has the answer to that question.”

“I definitely think that more training needs to take into account female-specific issues,” Tufankjian wrote in her Facebook post, “but at the end of the day, of the 70 journalists killed last year, 3 were women and 67 were men. Has anyone heard any discussion about using these numbers to keep men out of dangerous situations? Maybe it’s just more dangerous than ever to be a war reporter.”

February 20th, 2013

David Alan Harvey Wins POYi’s Best Photo Book Prize

From (Based on a True Story) ©David Alan Harvey

From (based on a true story) ©David Alan Harvey

Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey has won Best Photography Book honors in the 2013 POYi competition.

Harvey won for “(based on a true story),” an experimental book comprising a collection of images–part true, and part fictional–of a journey through Rio that “explode with color, heat, humidity, sex, more sex, danger, fear, chaos, more chaos,” according to the Burn magazine Web site.

Finalists included six other books–”Brooklyn Buzz,” by Alessandro Cosmelli & Gaia Light; “England Uncensored,” by Peter Dench; “The Invisible City,” by Irene Kung, Ludovico Pratesi, and Francine Prose; “The Wrong Side: Living on the Mexican Border,” by Jerome Sessini; “In the Car with R,” by Rafal Milach & Huldar Breidfjord; and “Violentology: A Manual of the Columbian Conflict,” by Stephen Ferry.

The jurors also gave special recognition to Marc Asnin for his book, “Uncle Charlie,” and to “Bosnia: 1992-1995,” edited by Jon Jones.

POYi jurors have been selecting winners in Editing Division categories over the last several days. Winners so far include the Memphis Commercial Appeal, which took first place in the News & Issue Story Editing category for “What Obama Didn’t See.” The story is the print version of a multimedia project titled “As I Am” by Alan Spearman, which was featured in the January 2013 issue of PDN.)

National Geographic magazine won first place in the News & Issue Story Editing–Magazine category for “Nile Journey,” a story about Egypt photographed by Alex Majoli that ran in the magazine’s May 2012 issue under the title “Egypt in the Moment.”

The Washington Post won Feature Story Editing–Newspaper for “A Siberian Pictorial,” featuring images by Sebastião Salgado.

Related:
Notable Books of 2012: Part 1 (includes a review of (Based on a True Story) by David Alan Harvey)
Picture Story: A Guided Tour of Poverty in Memphis (about Alan Spearman’s “As I Am” project)
Paolo Pellegrin Named POYi Freelance Photographer of the Year
Paul Hansen of Dagens Nyheter Wins POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year

February 15th, 2013

Paul Hansen Wins 2012 World Press Photo of the Year

© Paul Hansen, Sweden, Dagens Nyheter

© Paul Hansen, Sweden, Dagens Nyheter

Swedish photographer Paul Hansen won the 2012 World Press Photo of the Year for an image that shows a group of men carrying the bodies of two dead children in Gaza City, Palestine. The World Press Organization announced the winners of the 56th annual contest at a press conference February 15 in Amsterdam.

Hansen, who is a photographer for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, shot the winning photograph last November after an Israeli missile attack destroyed the family’s home. This year’s chair of the jury was Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography at The Associated Press. In an announcement released by World Press Photo, fellow juror member Mayu Mohanna, a photographer and curator based in Peru, said about Hansen’s winning photo: “The strength of the pictures lies in the way it contrasts the anger and sorrow of the adults with the innocence of the children. It’s a picture I will not forget.”

Hansen will receive a 10,000 Euro award and other prizes at a ceremony to be held in Amsterdam in April.

The World Press Photo Contest honors outstanding photojournalism, both single pictures and photo stories, in several categories, including Spot News, General News, People in the News, Sports, Contemporary Issues, Daily Life, Arts and Entertainment, Portraits, and Nature.

Hansen’s winning image also placed first in the Spot News Singles category. Coverage of the Syria took many of the other top news prizes. Rodrigo Abd, an Associated Press photographer, won first in the General News/Singles  category for his photo of a woman injured by shelling in Syria. Alessio Romenzi’s coverage of the war in Syria won first in General News/Stories.

Other first place winners include Paul Nicklen, who won first place in Nature Stories for images on Emperor penguins. Nadav Kander won first in Staged Portraits for a black-and-white photo of actor Daniel Kaluuya. Jan Grarup’s story on a women’s basketball team in Mogadishu, Somalia won first place in Sports Features.

Related Article:
Paul Hansen of Dagens Nyheter Wins POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year

February 11th, 2013

Paul Hansen of Dagens Nyheter Wins POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year

Paul-Hansen-POYi-Gaza© Paul Hansen/Dagens Nyheter

Paul Hansen, photographer with the newspaper Dagens Nyheter of Sweden has been named the 2012 Newspaper Photographer of the year in the 70th Pictures of the Year International (POYi).

Hansen was honored for a portfolio that included coverage of the conflict in Gaza and a series on individuals whose lives were affected by the mass murders on the Norwegian island of Utoya in July 2011.

Damon Winter of The New York Times won second place. Dave Weatherwax of The Herald in Jasper, Indiana, won third place.

The judging of the POYi awards takes place over a three-week period. The Freelance/Agency Photographer of the Year category will be judged on Sunday, Feb. 17.

The POYi awards for portrait, campaign, spot news and feature photography were announced last week.

 * Photo, above: An image from “Death from Above-Gaza,” a feature by Paul Hansen of Dagens Nyheter.

Related articles:
Associated Press Wins Top Portrait Prizes at POYi

POYi Announces Campaign, Spot News and Feature Category Winners

November 14th, 2012

The Failure in Crowd-Sourcing News Photos

© Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

At a time of cost cutting for media budgets, lots of news organizations imagine that user-generated content can fill the void. But the recent failure of crowd-sourced news photos of Hurricane Sandy, and the shortage of coverage of other climate change-fueled disasters around the world, demonstrate how far we are from truly democratizing the medium of photography. Photographers worry that the lowering of technological barriers means “everyone’s a photographer now,” but in fact, the number of people who can take and share news photos is still limited by economics, infrastructure and geography.

Now that news organizations have quit crowd-sourcing instantaneous images of the approaching storm, we are seeing enterprising professional photojournalists who are focused less on flooded tunnels and wrecked cars, and have been seeking out the less obvious stories behind the slow process of rebuilding, rehousing the displaced, and supporting those underserved by relief efforts. (The New York Times photographer Ruth Fremson’s November 2 coverage of people coping without power, elevators, heat or  a sense of security on the upper floors of public housing projects is one example.)

Among the critics of the media’s immediate response to the storm, photographer Kenneth Jarecke  and Prison Photography’s Pete Brook  (who gathered a round-up of storm coverage) seem most irked by the poor quality of many of the images editors chose to publish (by professionals commissioned to shoot on iPhones and by amateurs).  “Most of the photographs are REALLY bad,” Jarecke wrote. “It’s history. It changes people’s lives. You’re not allowed to make excuses or drop the ball, but sadly most of you did.”

As a New Yorker who was seeking up-to-date information about friends and loved ones the day after the storm made landfall, I’ll forgive esthetic lapses in favor of timely and useful information. The problem was, amateur photographers don’t seem to know how to write captions, and they lack  journalistic instincts.

(more…)

July 9th, 2012

How Sean Hemmerle Photographed Drones

© The New York Times Magazine/photo: Sean Hemmerle

To accompany an article in the latest issue of The New York Times Magazine about how the Air Force trains its pilots to control unmanned drones used for deadly strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, the magazine assigned architecture and portrait photographer Sean Hemmerle to photograph the aircraft at Holloman Air Force Base, a training facility in New Mexico. His images, shot with a Mamiya 7, make the drones look stark and strange—“They’re blind moles in the sky,” says Hemmerle—and also technologically astonishing. That, says Hemmerle, was his intent. “When I got there I thought: Wow, these are strangely beautiful,” he says. “They’re curious to look at. I was hoping the pictures would sort of lull you in with beauty, and then hopefully an hour later you’ll say:  ‘What did I just see?’”

Stacey Baker, the photo editor at The New York Times Magazine who produced the shoot, says she gave Hemmerle a wish list of shots to take. Despite—or perhaps because of—the increasing criticism of the CIA’s use of remotely piloted drones to carry out assassinations in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, Hemmerle was allowed to shoot everything on Baker’s list. “They basically threw open the doors to us,” explains Hemmerle, who was accompanied throughout the two-day shoot by First Lt. Logan Clark of the public affairs office. “They only asked that we not show the last names of the pilots.”

He photographed both types of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), the Predator  and the Reaper, take offs and landings, a flight simulator, and rows of ground control stations (GCS): the windowless, antenna-studded containers from which pilots control the aircraft while watching video monitors. At Holloman, which is located near the White Sands Missile Range south of Albuquerque, trainees learn to hone in on targets by tracking cars driving along local highways.

Captain Emily Chilson, chief of public affairs at the base, tells PDN that Holloman is a training facility “so there’s nothing classified here.” The facility had hosted a “media day” for photographers and reporters in February; another media event is scheduled for later this month, Chilson says. Wanting something different for The Magazine, Baker secured permission to send a photographer when other press weren’t around. She contacted Hemmerle on May 11, and on May 15 he and Ari Burling, a photographer friend who acted as his assistant, flew from New York to New Mexico.

© The New York Times/photo by Sean Hemmerle

Hemmerle spent two 16-hour days, shooting from dawn to dusk, hoping to get the best light possible. Shooting in a World War II-era hanger, “They were long exposures, of 15 or 30 seconds, to make dawn look like day.” Baker had asked him to shoot film, and he backed up everything he shot on the Mamiya RZ by shooting with a Canon 5D Mark II. Once his film was processed, he looked through about 60 contact sheets and about 100 digital frames before sending a selection of his 20 favorites to Baker. Four images appeared in yesterday’s print edition; nine images appear online.

Hemmerle, who has shot in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, has photographed other centers of power.  Kathy Ryan, The Magazine’s director of photography, had recently seen Hemmerle’s photo of a meeting at US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, which he shot for the MIT Technology Review. Ryan and her husband, editor and curator Scott Thode, are co-curating an upcoming exhibition of work by School of Visual Arts alumni, and had visited Hemmerle’s studio two weeks before he got the call from Baker.

Hemmerle served in the US Army from 1984 to 1988, and believes mentioning this experience on his bio has helped him when he’s photographed the military. “The commanders are always respectful.” Of the Air Force personnel he met at Holloman, he says, “Everyone’s so accommodating, so professional, and smart, too.”

He didn’t know other photographers had visited at Holloman, and didn’t know why he was given so much access.  “I was thinking that if they’ll let me see that and they’ll let The New York Times publish it, it’s the cherry picked tip of the iceberg. When I see that we can photograph that, I’m like,  ‘What else you really got going on?’” He adds, “There’s a touch of Dr. Strangelove there,” referring to the Cold War movie about military hardware run amok, “but the experience of actually photographing them was fantastic.”