Images from the civil war in Syria have won both of the 2013 Pulitzer Prizes for photography.
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Images from the civil war in Syria have won both of the 2013 Pulitzer Prizes for photography.
There’s a long moment of dread near the beginning of Sebastian Junger’s new film about the life and death of Tim Hetherington. A video camera pans around a car full of journalists covering the uprising in Libya in April 2011. Hetherington and Chris Hondros are among them. As the car sets off through war-ravaged streets, Hetherington can be overheard asking, “Which way is the front line from here?”
That scene foreshadows the tragic ending of the film. Hetherington and Hondros died that day in Misrata when the rebels they were with came under mortar attack. Junger unspools those final moments with a deliberate and dramatic recounting by other photographers who were at the scene.
The film–Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington–will have its broadcast premiere on April 18 on HBO, which funded the production. The film is both biography and homage, depicting Hetherington as an exceptional photographer and humanitarian, as well as as a warm, funny, generous man. It is also rich with insight about what really matters in photography, and more importantly, life, though the lessons came for Junger–and viewers–at a high cost.
A master story teller to start with, journalist and director Junger could not have had a more sympathetic subject. He also had an unusually rich trove of material to work with: interviews–many of them quite raw emotionally– with so many people who were close to Hetherington, his remarkable photography archive, and plenty of existing video footage.
Much of that was behind-the-scenes footage from Restrepo, the Oscar-winning documentary about a platoon of American soldiers in Afghanistan that Junger and Hetherington made together. But Junger also had plenty of other footage to draw from, most notably that of Hetherington covering the war in Liberia during the 1990s. It was shot by James Brabazon, whom Hetherington worked with at the time.
Junger, an adventure writer and best-selling author of The Perfect Storm, is fascinated by the courage of men who risk their lives with adrenaline-infused feats of derring-do. And Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? is, on one level, a celebration of courage. War is risky. It’s dramatic, and it pulls in audiences. (And Junger explains in the film that he took Hetherington on to help shoot Restrepo partly because of the courage Hetherington had demonstrated in Liberia.)
But Junger is interested in courage in the service of some higher purpose, and Hetherington certainly had that. From the start of his career he was interested in the physical and psychological toll that war takes on individual people. Moreover, he always went in search of hope, not just suffering.
As photojournalist Chris Anderson and others interviewed in the film point out, Hetherington’s work was not primarily about war, but about human nature.
Hetherington says in one of the film’s clips that moral outrage motivated him but wasn’t a useful tool to get people to engage with the stories he told. “I think we need to build bridges to people,” he said. Within Junger’s film is a tutorial on how Hetherington went about it.
In one clip he says he doesn’t care about photography “per se;” for him it was a means to an end, which was to connect with people. That informed his approach, too. Hetherington shot medium format in order to get the camera away from his face, so he could engage directly with his subjects. Those interviewed for the film–including his parents, colleagues, and friends–talk about Hetherington’s warmth and humor toward everyone he met.
And Junger shows it, with numerous clips of Hetherington interacting with all types kinds of subjects, from children to warriors.
Much of Hetherington’s work is about what happens to soldiers who fall under the spell of war. Restrepo, for instance, explores the bonding and self-sacrifice of soldiers in close quarters, trying to help one another survive. One of Hetherington’s central questions, Brabazon points out in the film, is: How do young men see themselves in war, and why? The question infused Hetherington’s work from Liberia to Afghanistan.
Junger’s film suggests that Hetherington ultimately fell under the spell of war himself, and that was his undoing. By various accounts, he was ready by 2010 to quit photographing in and around war. He’d had close calls in Afghanistan. He also feared ending up alone, without a wife and family, if he kept running off to cover stories in conflict zones.
But Hetherington was having difficulty flipping between the realities of his personal life and his work life. And Junger points out that winning the Oscar award for Restrepo was both intoxicating and alarming for Hetherington, presumably because it so strongly affirmed the career path he was trying to escape.
When Libya exploded, Hetherington saw photojournalists–his own band of brothers–running to cover the action. He couldn’t resist the urge to join them. His father, who is interviewed extensively in the film, warned him not to go. So did Chris Anderson, who says in the film that he told Hetherington: ”This is not your story right now.” And it wasn’t. The point of Hetherington’s work had never been to document fighting.
Junger’s new film portrays Hetherington as a a rare talent and inspiration, but in so doing it also raises despair, and an imprecation: If only Hetherington had glanced at Libya, and heeded the internal voice that was telling him it was time to leave conflict journalism behind…
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.
Photojournalists Stripped of Gear at Gunpoint in Oakland
Photographer and director Alan Spearman of the Memphis Commercial Appeal has won the Best Use of Multimedia prize at the NPPA Best of Photojournalism contest, judges announced yesterday.
Spearman won the prize for his short film called As I Am, a rich, poetic film about the hard edges of poverty, from the viewpoint of an insider struggling to pull himself out. Spearman entered the film in the NPPA contest under the title, “Memphis Poverty: What Obama Didn’t See.”
The subject of the film, Christopher Dean, had a moment in the YouTube spotlight in 2011 for his charming introduction of Barack Obama at a high school graduation, where Obama spoke. Community leaders in Memphis rallied around Dean afterwards to help him pay for college. During the summer of 2012, Dean was an intern at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, where he worked with Spearman on the “As I Am” film.
“Memphis Poverty masterfully tells an important American story in a non-traditional way, bypassing the literal translation of poverty to strike the soul,” Best of Photojournalism jurors said in an announcement posted on the NPPA web site. “The artful blend of documentary moments, poetry, music, cinematic shooting and editing craftsmanship moves our art of storytelling forward in a dramatic way.”
The jury, which included Nancy Andrews, Zach Wise, and Jonathan Quilter, gave special recognition to “Dying for Relief,” a multimedia story about the overuse and abuse of prescription drugs, produced by Liz O. Baylen of the Los Angeles Times.
Spearman also won the first place prize in the Feature Multimedia category for the “As I Am” project. First place winners in other BOP multimedia categories included Albert Lee of the Los Angeles Times, who won both the Multimedia Package category and Visual Column/Recurring Series category for his photo and video blog called Framework; MediaStorm in the Documentary Multimedia story category for “A Shadow Remains” (an extension of Philip Toledano’s “Days with My Father” project); Chris Zuppa of the Tampa Bay Times in the New Multimedia/48 Hours category for “RNC 2012, Inside and Out;” Misha Domozhilov for “Motoball Monsters” in the Sports Multimedia Story category; and Reuters for “The Wider Image” in the Tablet/Mobile Delivery Project category.
Picture Story: A Guided Tour of Poverty in Memphis (PDN subscription required)
It’s officially spring. Deadlines for some big grants are approaching.
Inge Morath Award
Administered by the Magnum Foundation, the Inge Morath Award of $5,000 is given annually to a female photojournalist under the age of 30. The Award supports the completion of a long-term documentary project, and is juried by Magnum photographers and the director of the Inge Morath Foundation.
Deadline: April 30.
Getty Grants for Editorial Photography
Starting April 1, Getty will be accepting applications for its 2013 Grants for Editorial Photography. Five grants of $10,000 each will be awarded to photojournalists “pursuing projects of personal and journalistic significance.” Deadline: May 1.
The Aaron Siskind Foundation
The Aaron Siskind Foundation offers grants of up to $10,000 each to individual photographers, selected by a panel of judges. The entry fee is $10. Applications are open to US citizens and legal permanent residents 21 years of age and older, and there is no requirement regarding subject matter, genre or process, except that the work must involve photography (no video). Deadline: May 24.
W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography
Each year the W. Eugene Smith Fund awards a grant (in 2012, the award was $30,000) to a photographer whose past work and proposed project follow the tradition of W. Eugene Smith’s concerned photography and dedicated compassion. The board of trustees of the W. Eugene Smith Fund appoints a three-member jury to evaluate written proposals and photos. There is a $50 application fee. Deadine: End of May.
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…)
A campaign to get Brooklyn Bridge Park to name a lawn after photojournalist Chris Hondros, a Brooklyn resident who was killed in Libya in April 2011, is being blocked by Park authorities who now say they will not accept proper names submitted to its Name That Lawn contest. (*March 13, 2013: See Update to this story, below.)
In February, Brooklyn Bridge Park, a city-run park, announced on its website that it was running a Name That Lawn contest to solicit names for a stretch of green on a recently repurposed pier. Patrick Whelan, photo editor at the Wall Street Journal, suggested it be named for Hondros, a New York native and winner of the Robert Capa Gold Medal. Soon dozens of friends and colleagues of the late photographer had spread the word via social media, and news about the campaign ran run on the websites of DNAInfo and a local CBS news affiliate.
On March 9, however, several people who had submitted Hondros’s name received an email signed by Nancy Webster of Brooklyn Bridge Park, saying the Park was looking only for names that described aspects of the park. Acknowledging the volume of emails suggesting Hondros’s name, Webster’s email added, “While we very much appreciate the desire to honor Chris’s memory, we are also keenly aware that there are so very many deserving and special Brooklyn residents to memorialize and pay tribute to. And as such, the naming of one lawn for one person does not seem fully inclusive of the
Webster noted that the rule change had been added to the contest page of the Park’s website. It now reads, “We are looking specifically for a name that reflects the geography or features of the park, so no proper names please.”
Photographer Alan Chin, an early promoter of Whalen’s idea, called Webster’s email “disingenuous.” “All kinds of parks and parts of parks are named for all kinds of people. In my own neighborhood of Red Hook here, there’s the ‘Louis J. Valentino Park’ named for a local firefighter who died in a burning building in 1996. Wouldn’t the ‘Chris Hondros Meadow’ be in exactly the same spirit?” (Among city-run parks in Brooklyn alone, Chin might have added McCarren Park, Maria Hernandez Park, J.J. Byrne Playground, or the Lt. Federico Narvarez Tot Lot, which were named for a state senator, a city council member, a Building Department clerk and a New York police lieutenant who died in 1996.)
He said that the Park’s “backtracking” on the rules of its own contest “is graceless and insulting in the extreme.”
Webster’s email claims that the Park would contact the Chris Hondros Fund, the non-profit foundation created after his death to support photography education and photojournalism projects, “to explore other ways to honor his memory.”
Christina Piaia, president of the Chris Hondros Fund did not say whether the Park had been in touch, but sent PDN the following statement: “We feel humbled by the outpouring of love and support evident in the notes shared with us, and, in the spirit of Chris, this serves as a testament to the incredible life he led and legacy he leaves behind in each of us.”
Whalen says the Park’s decision is “disappointing,” but he hopes that supporters of the campaign will rally around another effort to create a place named for Hondros where friends and colleagues could meet or talk about his work. “Next month will be the second anniversary of our loss as well as Chris’ birthday. I feel the time is right and the support is there to make this happen.”
* Update, March 13, 2013: Four days after the Brooklyn Bridge Park changed the rules of the contest; the Park has responded to criticism of its change by calling the contest off, The New York Times reports today.
Chris Hondros Remembered as Humanist, Friend
The New York Times reports an alarming trend in Oakland, California: the theft at gunpoint of expensive camera gear from photojournalists as they cover stories.
“In less than a year, every major television news station in the Bay Area has been a victim, some more than once. One experienced newspaper photographer has lost five cameras,” the Times story says.
The victims quoted in the story are mostly TV reporters, describing how they have had broadcast video cameras worth up to $50,000 stolen–in some cases while the cameras were rolling.
Still photographers are also victims. Laura Oda, chief photographer for The Oakland Tribune, describes how she was robbed of her cameras and other gear at gunpoint twice: once while photographing people painting a mural, and a second time at a busy intersection.
Oda avoided the streets for a while, then returned with a new rule: never stay in one place for more than five minutes, according to the Times.
The story raises a question: Is the problem isolated to Oakland, or is the brazen theft of camera gear a growing problem in other US cities? If you’ve experienced the problem, we’d like to hear from you.
Obituaries of photojournalists killed while covering conflicts reduce their lives to bare facts: where they are from, what stories they covered and for whom, and how they died. Often left out are the details of their personal lives, and the sense of loss to the people they leave behind.
But a moving portrait of Rémi Ochlik, who died on February 22, 2012 while covering the uprising in Syria, recently appeared online in the form of a poem called “Love letter to Rémi Ochlik.” Written by his girlfriend, Emilie Blachère, it conveys something of the person Ochlik was, what inspired him, and how he loved.
Blachère ended up reading the poem aloud for a BBC broadcast. It is a reading that cuts to the heart, and it’s worth sticking with it to the end: Even the BBC announcer who introduced the poem took several seconds to compose himself when Blachère finished reading.
Abir Abdullah of Bangladesh has won the $15,000 professional award in the Alexia Foundation grant competition, organizers announced this morning.
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz won the Alexia Foundation Student Grant, which includes a full-tuition scholarship to study photojournalism at the Syracuse University London Program in Fall, 2013, plus a $1,000 grant.