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December 4th, 2013

What Does Robert Capa’s “Close Enough” Rule Mean Today?

Photos © Robert Capa (left) and © David Goldblatt

Photos © Robert Capa (left) and © David Goldblatt

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” Robert Capa famously said. But was he right?

To celebrate the 100th birthday of Robert Capa and the upcoming show “Capa in Color” at the International Center of Photography, Magnum Photos has been asking photographers to reflect on the great photojournalist’s legacy—and his famous adage— in an online project called Get Closer 100.

Every day since Capa’s birthday, October 22, the agency has posted  a photo from Capa’s archive and invited the public to upload a photo of their own that mirrors it. They’ve also asked renowned photographers to share their response to the Capa image in the form of a single photo and a short written text. Photographers who have to date shared their thoughts on Capa include David Goldblatt, Richard Renaldi, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Thomas Ruff, Benjamin Lowy, Gideon Mendel, Stefano De Luigi, Thomas Hirshorn and many members of Magnum. Their thoughtful critiques on Capa’s “get closer” rule are as individual as the photographers themselves.

Magnum photographer Olivia Arthur notes that when she’s photographing people in intimate settings, she is often struggling to put more physical distance between herself and her subjects in order not to make them uncomfortable. She explains, “Being close for me is about being inside someone’s world, when they feel relaxed about my being around. I try to let people have their space.”

Micha Bar-Am of Magnum adds to Capa’s quote, “But if you’re too close to the grindstone, you lose perspective.”

Several photographers said that over time, they decided that Capa’s adage is a demand not for proximity but for empathy. Agnes Dherbeys, who won the Robert Capa Medal from the Overseas Press Club in 2011, paired a 1944 photo by Capa of a French woman accused of collaborating with the Germans with one of her own images from her series on the Red Shirts Crisis in Thailand in 2010. Dherbeys writes that she tried to empathize with the terror of the protester crouching in a street to take cover from Thai Army gunfire.

Ashley Gilbertson, another Robert Capa Medal winner, questions the image Capa inspired of the “swashbuckling photojournalist.” Gilbertson, who pairs a photo he shot in Falluja, Iraq in 2004 with one of Capa’s images of the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, says, “For the record, as hard as I tried, I never got that swashbuckling thing.”

The wide selection of Capa images underscore that he was much more than a conflict photographer.  Photojournalist Ed Kashi, who paired Capa’s photo of himself (seen in a mirror) photographing author John Steinbeck with a photo of Kashi’s father looking in a mirror, notes, “Conflict photographers of today are obsessed with only the agony, graphic violence and misery. Capa recorded those qualities with a quiet dignity, but he was also able to capture happiness. He was capable of portraying life in it’s full range of emotions, not just misery and death.”

There are 56 days left to the project. You can see Capa’s images—and upload your own response– at getcloser.magnumphotos.com.

November 27th, 2013

PDN Video: Is Your Photo Project a Contender for Lens Blog?

Jim Estrin: How Lens Blog Selects Photo Projects from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

Jim Estrin, founder and co-editor of Lens, the popular New York Times photography blog, recently sat down with PDN to talk about what he looks for in photo projects, what distinguishes the projects that Lens blog publishes, and why Lens editors reject many other stories. For photographers trying to get his attention, he offers insight and tips about work ethic, story choice, and representation of subjects. He also discusses two projects that exemplify Lens Blog’s standards and esthetic.

 

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.

October 23rd, 2013

NFL, Getty and AP Hit With Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

Seven photographer are suing the National Football League and two image distributors–Getty Images and Associated Press (AP)–for copyright infringement over widespread use of their images in NFL ads, products and promotions without fair compensation, according to an October 21 report from Courthouse News Service.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, is a legal tangle because Getty and AP represented the photographers, and were authorized to license their work at the time of the alleged infringements. But the case boils down to allegations that Getty and AP breached their fiduciary duty to the photographers because of conflicts of interest.

Both distributors had incentive to curry favor with the NFL in order to gain and hang onto an exclusive contract to license images of NFL events to third parties for commercial use. Getty won the contract in 2007, then lost the contract to AP in 2009.

According to the lawsuit, the photographers “recently discovered that both Getty Images and AP granted the NFL nearly unfettered access to plaintiffs’ photo collections and, either expressly or by inaction, allowed the NFL to make free or ‘complimentary’ use of plaintiffs’ copyrighted photos.”

According to the Courthouse News Service report, the photographers are also accusing Getty of using bare-knuckle tactics to keep them from moving their images to AP, after AP won the exclusive NFL contract in 2009. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that Getty threatened to stop marketing all of their sports images–including Major League Baseball photos–for commercial use, if the photographers moved their NFL images to AP.

Photographer Paul Spinelli is the lead plaintiff in the case. The other photographer plaintiffs are Paul Jasienski, David Stluka, Thomas E. Witte, David Drapkin, George Newman Lowrance and Scott Boehm.

AP and Getty both declined PDN’s request to comment about the lawsuit.

October 16th, 2013

Robin Hammond Wins $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Fund Grant

A mentally disabled man in Kenya, living in a locked tin shack. ©Robin Hammond

A mentally disabled man in Kenya, living in a locked tin shack. ©Robin Hammond

Photographer Robin Hammond has been awarded the 2013 W. Eugene Smith Grant, a $30,000 prize, to help complete his ongoing project called “Condemned–Mental Health in African Countries in Crisis.” Hammond has spent two years working on the project, which documents the mental health crisis across Africa, and the abuse and neglect of victims of mental illness.

The $5,000 W. Eugene Smith Fellowship was awarded to Javier Arcenillas for his project, “Red Note,” an examination of violence in Latin America from the perspectives of criminals, victims, and their families.

The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund awards its annual grant and fellowship to photographers who are pursuing long-term documentary projects in humanistic photography in the tradition of photojournalist W. Eugene Smith.

The awards were presented at the School of Visual Arts Theatre in New York this evening. Scott Anderson, who has covered conflicts for The New York Times, Outside and Esquire and and is the author of Lawrence in Arabia, gave the keynote presentation.

The Smith grant and fellowship recipients were selected by a jury, including Sarah Leen, Senior Editor, Photo Story Development at National Geographic; Ann Thomas, Curator of Photographs, National Gallery in Ottawa, Canada; and Rich Clarkson, head of Rich Clarkson and Associates, and a longtime Smith Board member.

The winners were selected from 184 entries from 42 countries.

“Robin Hammond’s Condemned is a powerful look at people balanced on the edge of life who are generally neglected, forgotten and often abused,” said juror Sarah Leen in a prepared statement. “His images, often shocking but always tender, highlight this tragedy and search for moments of hope. His work stood out among many worthy candidates.”

Finalists for this year’s grant included photographers Bharat Choudhary, Edmond Clark, Maxim Dondyuk, Sebastian Liste, Benjamin Lowy, Pierpaolo Mittica, Ebrahim Noroozi, Sim Chi Yin, and Christian Warner.

This year’s winner of The Howard Chapnick Grant, which supports photographic leadership and education, was FotoKonbit, a non-profit organization that provides photography workshops to Haitian youth and adults.  FotoKonbit will use the $5,000 grant to produce a ten-day workshop for a group of Haitian students in the fishing village of Labadie.

This year, the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund was sponsored by American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Anastasia Photo, Canon USA, The Harbers Family Foundation, and Open Society Foundations. Additional support was provided by International Center of Photography, MediaStorm, NYC FOTOWORKS, Photo District News, School of Visual Arts, and Synergy Communications.

The Howard Chapnick Grant was co-sponsored by by Rich Clarkson and Associates LLC, NYC FOTOWORKS, and The Harbers Family Foundation.

Photographers interested in applying for the 2014 grant and fellowship can find more information on the Web site of the W. Eugene Smith Foundation here:  www.smithfund.org/apply/smith

Related stories:
Peter van Agtmael Wins $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Fund Grant (for PDN subscribers)
Krisanne Johnson Wins 2011 W Eugene Smith Grant (for PDN subscribers)
Anatomy of a Successful Grant Proposal: Krisanne Johnson’s Coming of Age Story (for PDN subscribers)

October 4th, 2013

If We Spend $25K On A Photo Essay, Readers Should Pay to See It, Says Harper’s Publisher

Harper’s publisher John R. MacArthur wrote a letter for the October issue of the magazine in which he took a strong stand against publishing free writing and photography on the web. He tackles the question of how journalism should be funded and distributed today, arguing that publishers, readers and journalists should reject the idea that good journalism should be given away for free in hopes of gaining page views. When he talks about good journalism, he includes good photography. (We’ve noted previously that Harper’s has become a great publisher of photography, winning National Magazine awards and other accolades.)

MacArthur says he has been distressed in recent years as publishers give away the work done by journalists and editors “in the quest for more advertising. Instead of honoring the reader, writer, and editor, this new approach to the publishing business instead insulted them,” MacArthur writes, “both by devaluing their work and by feeding it—with little or no remuneration—to search engines, which in turn feed information to advertising agencies (and, as it turns out, the government.)”

MacArthur says advocates of free content are peddling “nonsense.” “Who needs fact-checkers when we have crowdsourcing to correct the record? Why doesn’t Harper’s give away a particularly good investigative piece… so more people will read it?”

He also has the temerity to suggest that publishers, journalists and editors “have to earn a living.” He singles out a recent photo essay by an anonymous photographer, who risked arrest and imprisonment to report from inside Iran. The assignment cost the magazine $25,000, MacArthur says. “Shouldn’t Anonymous be paid for this courage and skill?” MacArthur asks. “Shouldn’t Harper’s be compensated for sending Anonymous into the field?”

“It is unreasonable to expect that an advertiser would directly sponsor such daring photography,” MacArthur writes. “It is wishful thinking to believe that parasitic Google, now bloated with billions of dollars’ worth of what I consider pirated property, will ever willingly pay Harper’s, or Anonymous, anything at all for the right to distribute Anonymous’s pictures…”

MacArthur will hopefully forgive us for quoting him at length on our blog, which is not behind a paywall. Those who want to read the rest of his statement, and see Michael Christopher Brown‘s fantastic photographs from Libya, or Misty Keasler‘s touching images accompanying a report about a controversial Montana orphanage for Russian children, will have to pick up the magazine on the newsstand, or subscribe for $20, about twice what I will probably spend on lunch today.

September 27th, 2013

Russian Photographer Detained After Greenpeace Ship Boarded

Denis Sinyakov, a freelance photographer based in Moscow and represented by Redux Pictures, was among the 30 people detained by Russian authorities after they seized the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. According to The New York Times, Russia’s Federal Security Service boarded the ship on Thursday, September 19, after two activists climbed an oil rig as part of a protest near the Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea. The Arctic Sunrise was then towed to the Russian port city of Murmansk.

Greenpeace released a statement earlier today condemning the ruling of Russian courts to remand 22 of the detained people, including Sinyakov, for up to two months “pending an investigation into piracy charges.” The remaining eight people will be held for three days while they wait for a new hearing. In the same statement, Greenpeace called the piracy charges “unjustified,” and noted the protest was peaceful, in international waters and meant to raise awareness of the oil industry’s environmental exploitation of the Arctic. They have dubbed the detained activists the “Arctic 30.”

Reporters Without Borders noted that a judge ruled on Thursday to detain Sinyakov for two months because he travels abroad frequently and therefore “might try to elude authorities.”

Greenpeace has been posting frequent updates on the situation on its website, greenpeace.org, and many American and international news organizations are reporting on the story.

September 25th, 2013

In TwitPic Copyright Claim, Daniel Morel Seeks $13.2 Million from AFP, Getty

©Daniel Morel

©Daniel Morel

Photographer Daniel Morel is seeking as much as $13.2 million from AFP and Getty Images at a trial to determine damages for copyright infringement of his exclusive images of the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which Morel had posted via Twitter. The trial is scheduled to begin November 12.

A federal court determined earlier this year that AFP infringed Morel’s copyrights in 8 photographs by distributing those photos without his permission.  The November 12 jury trial is meant to determine the amount of damages owed to Morel, based upon the question of whether or not the infringements were willful.

Morel asserts that the infringements were “willful and intentional,” and says in court papers  that “AFP knew or should have known the images were his when they distributed them without permission.” For copyright infringement, he is seeking a maximum of $1.2 million in statutory damages.

Morel also contends that both AFP and Getty images violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by intentionally removing copyright management information that identified the images as Morel’s. He says AFP and Getty “knowingly provided and distributed false copyright management information” to their customers. For the DMCA violations, Morel is seeing a maximum of $13.2 million.

Getty and AFP no longer dispute that they violated Morel’s copyright, but deny that they acted with reckless disregard or willfulness. They say they “do not believe Mr. Morel can meet his burden of proof on this point.” They say in the pre-trial court papers that “they believed they had the right to do so and were acting within industry norms, customs, and practice.” Getty also says it distributed Morel’s images with “innocent intent.”

Both defendants also assert that if they did violate the DMCA, Morel is not legally entitled to the level of damages he is claiming for those violations.

Morel happened to be in Haiti at the time of the January 2010 earthquake there. He posted exclusive images of the destruction on his TwitPic account less than two hours later. The images were immediately stolen and re-posted under the name of another Twitter user. AFP picked up the images and distributed them through its own image service and through Getty under the false credit.

Morel’s agent, Corbis, sent take-down notices to Getty and AFP, but it took AFP two days to issue a kill notice. And when they did, they told clients and partners to kill images credited to Morel, but not the identical images that had been sent out initially under the false credit. Getty allegedly didn’t purge the images with the false credits, and continued to distribute them.

Morel has maintained that the companies violated his copyrights willfully because at least some AFP photo editors knew the images in question were his, not those of the other Twitter user who stole the images.

In his original claim, Morel also sued several AFP and Getty customers for unauthorized use of his images. Those defendants previously settled with Morel.

Related story:
AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyright, Judge Says

September 19th, 2013

Police Intimidation Watch: New Haven Police Sued for Arresting Photographer, Erasing iPhone Video

A New Haven man jailed for recording New Haven, Connecticut police arresting three people filed a $500,000 lawsuit suit yesterday against the city and several individual officers for violation of his civil rights.

Luis Luna, a medical interpreter, was jailed in September, 2010 after he came upon police making the arrests, and began recording the incident with his iPhone. At the scene was Assistant Chief Ariel Melendez, who approached Luna, snatched his phone away, and ordered him arrested, according to a report in the New Haven Independent.

Luna’s iPhone was returned when he was released from jail four hours later, but his videos had been erased.

In his court appearance two weeks later, Luna contested the charges of interfering with a police officer. Prosecutors agreed to drop that charge on condition that Luna plead guilty to a charge of “creating a public disturbance,” and pay a $50 fine. Without legal representation to fight the more serious charge, Luna agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge and pay the fine.

Police internal affairs investigators later issued a report charging the assistant chief who ordered Luna’s arrest and the erasure of the video with “conduct unbecoming an officer.” The investigators said that Luna had acted legally, and that the assistant chief had violated his rights, according to the New Haven Independent.

As a result of the internal affairs report, Luna was able to get his guilty plea for “creating a public disturbance” reversed. Assistant Chief Melendez has since retired, and the New Haven police department also issued a new policy to prevent officers from interfering with the rights of citizen journalists.

In his lawsuit, Luna charged Melendez and the City of New Haven with false arrest, violation of his First Amendment rights, and illegal seizure in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. He is seeking $500,000 in damages and a declaration from the court that it is illegal for the police to arrest anyone for filming them while carrying out their duties in public.

Related:
Department of Justice Warns Police Against Violating Photographers’ Rights
Police Intimidation Watch: Cop Charged with Lying About a Photographer’s Arrest
Police Intimidation Watch: Detroit Police Apologize After Video Shows Them Violating Photographer’s Rights

September 13th, 2013

Do Execution Photos Serve a Journalistic Purpose?

TIME announced the publication yesterday of “exclusive images taken by a photojournalist of Islamic militants publicly executing, by decapitation, a young Syrian…near Aleppo, on August 31, 2013.” TIME said in the announcement that, “because of the danger in reporting inside Syria,” it cannot confirm the identity or political affiliation of the victim, or the motivation of the killers.

The unnamed photographer gave a statement to Time in which he says, “I was feeling awful; several times I had been on the verge of throwing up. But I kept it under control because as a journalist I knew I had to document this, as I had the three previous beheadings I had photographed that day, in three other locations outside Aleppo.”

Read more at TIME Lighbox. A link to the images accompanied the announcement, but some of us at PDN couldn’t quite bring ourselves to look. Do such images, presented with so little context, do more harm than good?  Do they inform, and stir public outrage that ultimately discourages atrocity? Or does the photographer’s presence encourage the atrocity by giving the perpetrators a forum?

We’d like to hear from our readers about this. The images are posted at http://ti.me/14OW3hX.