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March 3rd, 2015

Controversial World Press Photo Winner Under New Scrutiny Today (Update)

After questions over whether Giovanni Troilo staged this image, new questions arise about his "Dark Heart of Europe" project.

© Giovanni Troilo. After questions over whether Troilo staged this image, new questions arise about the integrity of his “Dark Heart of Europe” project.

Photographer Giovanni Troilo’s controversial prize-winning entry to the World Press Photo competition is under new scrutiny today because of reports that Troilo did not shoot one of the images where he said he shot it, according to Lars Boering, Managing Director of World Press Photo.

Troilo had said his project, “The Dark Heart of Europe,” winner of 1st prize stories in the Contemporary Issues category, was shot in Charleroi, a town near Brussels.

But a journalist investigating the project in the wake of controversy it has generated has reported that one of the images was shot in Brussels, which is 50 km from Carhleroi.

“There’s new information out now that one photo was shot 50 kilometers away from Charleroi,” Boering says. Bruno Stevens, a Belgian photojournalist,  announced the finding on his Facebook page.

“Of course this is going to be looked at again,” says Boering, who has been on the hot seat for several days over the controversy surrounding the Troilo project and prize.

The controversy began with questions about whether Troilo had misled the World Press Photo jury about the project and how he had shot it.

In particular, questions have been raised about whether Troilo staged a photograph of a couple having sex at night in a car. One of the subjects in the photograph turned out to be Troilo’s cousin, and Troilo says he placed a flashlight in the car with the subjects’ consent to help him light the picture. According to its own contest rules, World Press Photo “requires photojournalists do not stage pictures to show something that would otherwise have not taken place.”

But World Press Photo has defended Troilo and the jury’s decision to award him the prize, on the grounds that Troilo argued the photo was not “staged,”  because the photograph depicted something the subjects normally do.

*Update: Visa Pour l’Image director general Jean-Francois Leroy announced March 4 on Facebook that the photo festival will not mount the traveling exhibition of World Press Photo winners at the Perpignan photo festival this summer. “The photojournalists we want to represent do not call upon their cousins to fornicate in a car,” Leroy said in a statement explaining the decision. “It is a painful decision. But the values we stand for are non-negotiable.”

February 18th, 2015

Should Photogs Disqualified from World Press Be Banned? Org Says No, For Now

In the days since World Press Photo announced that 20 percent of the photographs they considered in the final rounds of the competition were disqualified for manipulation, many in the industry have called for WPP to release the offending images and make their standards more clear. In comments by jurors, WPP administrators and photographers published on the New York Times Lens Blog, 2015 competition jury chair and New York Times director of photography Michelle McNally noted that the manipulations led “many in the jury to feel we were being cheated, that they were being lied to.” World Press Photo jury secretary David Campbell notes that newspaper and wire service photographers get fired when they are caught manipulating news photos: “Narciso Contreras and Miguel Tova have lost their jobs because of manipulations that crossed the one line we can draw.”

These reactions beg the question: If World Press Photo is a reflection of the photojournalism industry, should photographers who attempted to deceive jurors—and the public—be banned from the competition? After all, newspaper and wire services have fired photographers who manipulated images.

According to World Press Photo managing director Lars Boering, the organization is not currently planning to ban any photographers who submitted manipulated images to the competition. “I might discuss that with the board and the team that is organizing the competition,” he told PDN, adding that “a lot” of the disqualified photos were cases of “clumsy” Photoshop use rather than blatant attempts to deceive competition judges.

World Press Photo rules state: “The content of an image must not be altered. Only retouching that conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed.” In her statement on Lens, McNally clarified that the manipulation the jurors disqualified included “removing or adding information to the image, for example, like toning that rendered some parts so black that entire objects disappeared from the frame. The jury—which was flexible about toning, given industry standards — could not accept processing that blatantly added or removed elements of the picture.”

The organization is very aware that manipulation accusations can deal huge blows to the careers of photojournalists, Boering says, which is why they are keeping confidential the names of photographers who were disqualified—despite calls for more transparency. “If people get caught by agencies, then they are thrown out, and I know it’s difficult for these people to get back to work or find other agencies, so that’s a serious thing,” Boering explains. “If an agency makes that decision it’s up to them because that’s their rules. We organize a competition; we care a lot about photojournalism and visual journalism, but…I don’t think we should be the ones that decide on the careers of photographers, and whether they should be ruled out of competitions with others or whether they should lose their job with their agency.”

“We’re not going to put their names out unless we think it’s really severe what they’ve done,” Boering adds. “It might be that we think about talking to them about the way they go about it.”

Boering said WPP had today sent notices to the disqualified photographers presenting their evidence and explaining their decisions. He says the organizations has received one or two responses from photographers accepting the decision.

It’s more important to WPP that this controversy sends a message to photojournalists and the industry, sparks discussion and, hopefully, a resolution, Boering says. “Technology makes a lot of things possible, but it makes it possible to find things…. The technicians that do our research, they’ve showed me several examples of things that you can do and I think it’s amazing.”

Boering says he’s heard from people at agencies and news organizations, and others in the photo industry in the past few days. World Press Photo is planning “several debates” starting on the day of the awards presentation, that he hopes will help the “find common ground with the industry to get it right.”

Related: Mads Nissen Wins World Press Photo of the Year 2014 Prize
AP Cuts Ties with Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image
Photographer Fired by AP Says Decision Was Fair, But Process Wasn’t

August 28th, 2014

Want to Buy a Drink for the Photographer Who Delivered James Foley’s Last Letter?

www.davidbrabyn.com/buy-daniel-rye-a-beer

www.davidbrabyn.com/buy-daniel-rye-a-beer

After the murder of journalist James Foley by his captors in Syria, his parents released to the public their last communication from him. Because all of Foley’s letters were confiscated by his captors, he asked a fellow captive to commit to memory a letter for his family.

Photojournalist Daniel Rye Ottosen (known professionally as Daniel Rye) had been kidnapped in May 2013 by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and was held with Foley for 13 months. When he was released in June, he called Foley’s parents and dictated the letter from memory. Foleys thanked him “from the bottom of our hearts” on the Free James Foley Facebook page where they shared the letter.

When photojournalist David Brabyn, a friend of Foley’s, heard about Rye’s message, he recalls, “I thought, what a thing to do! I wish I could buy him a drink.” Brabyn figured out a way to do that, and he’s offering others a way to thank Rye, too.

Brabyn has set up the Buy Daniel Rye a Beer web page, with a Pay Pal account where people can chip in beer money. (In addition to being a photographer, Brabyn is also a website consultant at digitaltechparis, and has experience at charity fundraising:  He and Foley worked together organizing the Friends of Anton benefit photo auction, which raised over $135,000 for the children of photojournalist Anton Hammerl, who was killed in Libya when Foley was captured and detained the first time, in 2011, along with two other journalists.)

Brabyn got in touch with a friend of Rye’s who will make sure someone picks up the photographer’s bar tabs while the funds last; friends who treat Rye will be reimbursed from the money collected through the website. Brabyn acknowledges that Rye may have need for more than beer, but says the Buy Daniel Rye a Beer effort is simply a way to say thanks. “This isn’t about turning his life around. It’s just a friendly gesture from people who think he did something great,” Brabyn says. “If he wants to order wine or anything other than beer, that’s fine.”

Given the number of people around the world who have been touched by the letter Rye delivered, there might be a lot of people thanking him. “I think what he did is an astonishing achievement: to be locked up in terrible conditions, in a war zone, for so long and yet manage to memorize this long text,” Brabyn notes. “On top of that feat of the mind, he delivered this moving letter that is obviously so hugely meaningful to Jim’s family.”

Related articles

Danish Photojournalist Released After 13 Months in Captivity

Print Sales, Web Site to Benefit Anton Hammerl’s Children

August 14th, 2014

Philly Paper Swaps Ferguson Riot Photo: Did It Do the Right Thing?

Reading a Philadelphia Magazine report about the decision by editors at the Philadelphia Daily News to change a cover photo in response to some outrage on social media left us wondering:  Did photo editors at the Philadelphia Daily News change their minds because they thought they’d made a mistake? Or did they change their minds to avoid controversy and public outcry?

philly DN covers_555

The Philadelphia Daily News cover in question (above, left) featured a photo from Ferguson, Missouri that showed a protestor about to hurl a burning Molotov cocktail gas canister at police. Protests began in Ferguson over the weekend, after police shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. The protests began peacefully, and have remained mostly peaceful, but some violence and looting have erupted, and police have been widely criticized for their iron-fisted and highly militarized response to all protestors.

Against that backdrop, the Daily News published a cover photo of a protestor with the Molotov cocktail burning canister over the headline, “Hell Breaks Loose.” The photo drew immediate and harsh criticism on Twitter: Readers said the image could be taken to suggest that the (mostly white) police response was justified because the (mostly black) protestors were being so violent. In response the Daily News put out another edition of the paper with a different photo.

The second cover photo shows a distraught-looking female protestor, holding up a sign demanding answers from police about the shooting of Michael Brown. Police in riot gear can be seen lined up behind the protestor. The Daily News did not change the headline.

And that leads to some larger questions about photo editing in the social media age: Should editors show deference to the instant opinions on Twittering readers, on the theory that input from the public leads to more informed picture choices? Or does deference to the instant opinions on social media undermine photo editors by encouraging readers to constantly demand changes and retractions on coverage of controversial or sensitive topics?

Philadelphia Magazine published Tweets from Daily News readers, followed by a Tweet from a Daily News senior writer who wrote, “Based on reader reaction we’re changing our front page image — so we actually do listen.” That was followed by a Tweet from Daily News assistant city editor David Lee Preston that said: “Big takeaway from tonight should be that a bunch of pros with hearts & souls inhabit this newsroom.”

But it remains unclear why the Daily News changed the cover photo: Did they think they’d made a mistake? Or were they simply bowing to pressure from some angry readers?

Regardless of their motives, we throw open the floor to PDN readers: Did the Daily News make a mistake publishing the Molotov cocktail-throwing protestor? Should the paper have changed the cover photo? Should photo editors let social media reaction influence their decisions, and if so, to what extent?

Note: Earlier version of this story described the burning object in the protester’s hand as a “Molotov cocktail.” Readers noted it was a burning gas canister. We changed it.  In this case, we listened to readers on social media, too.

August 13th, 2014

AP Photographer Injured in Gaza Explosion that Killed Videojournalist, Translator

The Associated Press (AP) reports that video journalist Simone Camilli and translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash were killed this morning when an ordinance exploded in Gaza in the town of Beit Labiya. Hatem Moussa, an AP photographer was “badly injured” in the blast. AP spokesperson Paul Colford says, “Hatem is being treated for his injuries.”

The unexploded ordinance was believed to have been dropped during recent airstrikes by Israel in Gaza. Gaza police engineers were trying to deactivate the explosive when it blew up. Three police engineers were killed in the explosion, along with the journalists.

For more details, including information on the careers of Simone Camilli and Ali Shehda Abu Afash, see AP’s story.

Related articles
Photographer Killed in Israeli Airstrike in Gaza

August 12th, 2014

Photographer Reported Missing in Eastern Ukraine

© Rossiya Segodnya/images by Andrei Stenin

© Rossiya Segodnya/images by Andrei Stenin

Andrei Stenin, a photojournalist for the Russian state agency Rossiya Segodnya (also called RIA Novosti) has been missing since August 5, when he last reported to his agency while covering the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and military forces supporting the Ukraine government near the cities of Donetsk and Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine. According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other news organizations Rossiya Segodnya has reported, citing an anonymous source, that  Stenin is being held by the Ukrainian security service (SBU). SBU denies the allegation.

Rossiya Segodnya has launched a publicity campaign to lobby for his release. Dmitry Kiselev, the head of the agency, told the press that Stenin’s work has been “purely humanitarian in nature.”

Stenin’s photos are being displayed at the Rossiya Segodnya headquarters in Moscow, and the agency has posted a gallery of photos he’s taken in Ukraine since January.

The images Stenin last filed with his agency showed armed combat between separatist militia and Ukrainian government forces, and the capture of Ukrainian soldiers in Shakhtyorsk, outside Donetsk.

August 8th, 2014

Shark Peak: When Anti-Cliché Photos Turn Out To Be Clichés

Tristan-McConnell-FBMogadishu is to sharks carried on shoulders as Havana is to vintage sedans: No photographer who goes to that location can resist photographing the same photogenic subjects.

Tristan McConnell (@t_mcconnell), a Nairobi-based foreign correspondent for GlobalPost, Monocle and the London Times, posted a comment on his Facebook page the other day that pointed out the difficulty, in today’s image-saturated world, of finding a photo subject that hasn’t already been widely seen. He posted the comment, along with examples he’s collected, in an album titled “Mogadishu Fish on the Head Photographic Meme.”

McConnell, who has worked with many photographers and–when tight budgets require it– also shoots photos for his own stories, suggests that perhaps all these similar shots were the result of photographers struggling to avoid a different cliché: The African-capital-as-disaster cliché.

McConnell writes: “The image has to say ‘decades of conflict/failed state’ but in an oblique way, so you head to seaside Hamar Weyne, the old, war-damaged colonial neighborhood.”

He continues, “And then you see it. The perfect shot: A fisherman strides towards you with the catch of the day, a fish so big it’s draped across his head and shoulders. Behind him is the wreckage of the city. It’s perfect!

“You press the shutter. Done. Trouble is every other photographer has done it, too.”

Among the dozen examples McConnell shows are Feisal Omar’s photo which won 1st prize in the 2011 World Press Photo competition’s Daily Life/singles category,

© Feisal Omar

© Feisal Omar

and Michelle Shephard’s 2011 photo published in the Toronto Star:

© Michelle Shephard/Toronto Star

© Michelle Shephard/Toronto Star

He could also have included this photo by an AFP/Getty photographer, published last year in the Daily Mail .

© AFP/Getty Images

© AFP/Getty Images

Or Jan Grarup’s famous image, published as part of a story in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin (as well as in PDN.)

© Jan Grarup

© Jan Grarup

This put us in mind of a familiar dilemma: Is it better for  photographers to ignore other photographers’ work — to insure they’re never imitating anyone, and remain happily unaware that the what they’ve just photographed has been photographed before? Or, as many clients suggest, should they try to see as much work as they can, either to avoid duplicating what’s been done, or to know the standards they need to meet if they want to find a new view of a subject that others have already discovered?

December 16th, 2013

We Know Africa Is Not a Single Country, Newsweek Says

© Newsweek/photos © Tadej Znidarcic/Redux Pictures

© Newsweek/photos © Tadej Znidarcic/Redux Pictures

Today Newsweek.com published a story about the increasing dangers that gays face in Ethiopia, where sexual activity among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people has been criminalized. The only problem: The story is illustrated with photos taken not in Ethiopia, but in Uganda. The portraits of LGBT individuals were taken by Tadej Znidarcic in 2009 as part of his project about anti-gay legislation that had been proposed in the Ugandan parliament. The photos appear in the Newsweek story about Ethiopia’s anti-gay laws without a caption or clarification about their subject  or location.

When we reached Newsweek for comment, we were told that, yes, the editors there do know that Ethiopia and Uganda are two different countries. Yes, there was concern at the magazine about using photos taken in one country three years ago to illustrate what’s happening in a different country today. But no, a caption won’t be added.

It wasn’t a simple error. It sounds like a tale involving limited photographic options, bad website design, a few bad choices and some embarrassment on Newsweek’s part.

The LGBT Ethiopians quoted in the story by writer Katie J.M. Baker had asked that their faces not be shown in the story, so options for portraits were limited. Baker  provided photos she had shot on a cellphone at a gathering of gay friends in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia, with their faces cut out of the frame, but her photos were small and pixelated. Wanting something more photographic, Newsweek photo editor remembered Znidarcic’s photos, which were exhibited in the Open Society’s Moving Walls exhibition in 2011 and shown on several blogs.

Znidarcic had photographed gay activists in Uganda facing a wall, their faces hidden, because at the time, the Ugandan parliament was debating a bill that would have imposed the death penalty for anyone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality.” Newsweek contacted Redux Pictures to license the photos, and informed Znidarcic about the subject of the story.

Though an editor at Newsweek was concerned that the images might be confusing or misleading, since they weren’t shot in Ethiopia, Newsweek ended up running them with the story anyway, above the words: “In many countries, it’s getting better for the LGBT community. In Ethiopia, it’s getting worse.”

That’s not the caption to the photo, a Newsweek staffer explained; that’s the deck to the story. The web page is designed with no caption. And for some reason, the writer or editors chose not to insert a photo caption into the text (for example, where comparisons were made to the 75 other countries in the world where same-sex sex has been criminalized). The lack of clarity about the photos mars a rare international story about topic under-reported in mainstream media.

Yes, we know that there are deadlines, and contingencies, and that web templates can be rigid and aren’t often designed with journalistic concerns in mind. But we have to wonder: Would the editors have illustrated a story about news in Germany with an image taken in Denmark?

September 4th, 2013

John McCain’s iPhone Poker: A Brief History of Long-Lens Gotchas

©The Washington Post. Photo © Melina Mara/Washington Post

©The Washington Post. Photo © Melina Mara/Washington Post

Yesterday photographer Melina Mara of The Washington Post got a photo of Senator John McCain playing poker on his iPhone during the Senate hearing on military action in Syria. Mara’s photo is the most widely seen photo of yesterday’s meeting of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

This isn’t the first time a sharp-eyed photographer has managed to zoom in and figure out what was on a politician’s mind during a long meeting.

© Rick Wilking/Reuters

© Rick Wilking/Reuters

There was the famous close-up of the note that President George Bush slipped to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during a 2005 UN summit, asking if he could get a bathroom break.

Reuters photographer Rick Wilking photographed the note, and the wire service enlarged the image to make sure the writing was legible before distributing the image.

In 2011, Mario Tama of Getty Images got a shot of the text of the speech Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered to the UN General Assembly, including the revisions he had scribbled on the page– possibly while he was listening to the previous speaker, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Tama told PDNPulse he shot over Netanyahu’s shoulder from a booth above the Assembly using a 400mm lens, and then zoomed into the image in Photoshop to read the words.

The takeaway for photographers: Bring a long lens with you, and remember to look down.

The takeaway for politicians: Look behind you.

Unless, that is, the politician doesn’t care who sees what you’re doing. After he was caught playing online poker during the hearing on Syria, Senator McCain made a sarcastic joke about the photo on Twitter.

August 1st, 2013

Detroit Native Dave Jordano Uses Street Photography to Counter “Ruin Porn”

 

© Dave Jordano 2013

© Dave Jordano 2013

Photographer Dave Jordano’s three-year project “Detroit–Unbroken Down,” featured in this week’s Time magazine and on a recent post on Time’s Lightbox, represent a return to Jordano’s roots – both personally and professionally. Jordano grew up in Detroit, and he began revisiting it three years ago to document how it had changed since 1977, when he moved to Chicago to launch his commercial photography career. The project also represents a return to the documentary street photography he had done before he began shooting ad campaigns. Almost a decade after he began transitioning from advertising work to fine-art photography, Jordano, 65, has had several projects exhibited and sold prints to several museum collections. But, he says, “This Detroit work is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t think the project’s finished yet.”

In 2010, Jordano noticed that there were many photo books being published about Detroit, all focused on “abandonment and emptiness.” He says, “The term ‘ruin porn’ was used to describe it.” Jordano still had the street photos he’d shot in Detroit as a photo student in the 1970s, and he decided to try a re-photographing the same streets 35 years later. But the project soon changed course. Over the course of 22 trips in the last three years, he’s started focusing on “portraiture and small moments.” He explains, “There are people living here and they’re stuck here because they can’t afford to leave.” His view of Detroit isn’t rosy. City neighborhoods lack grocery stores, bus service or street lights; calls to 911 take at least an hour to rouse a response. “Anyone there will tell you it’s awful, but this is what they deal with every day” he says. His images capture people managing to survive.

As a native of Detroit, Jordano says, “I was just more emotionally connected to the place than photographers who were just coming in and out, and then posting work that made the whole city look bad.” (more…)