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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…)

July 17th, 2013

UN Security Council Holds Debate on Protections for Journalists

UN-tvFour journalists who have covered war zones will speak before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) today as part of an open debate on international protection for journalists covering war zones and post-conflict zones. Correspondent Richard Engel of NBC, journalist Mustafa Haji Abdinur of Radio Simba in Somalia and Agence France Presse, Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad of the Guardian, and Kathleen Carroll, Associated Press executive editor and vice chair of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, will be speaking today to members of the Council on the need to address attacks against journalists and also pursue prosecution for their attackers. You can watch the event live via webcast starting at 10am EST at http://webtv.un.org.

The US Mission to the UN organized the debate. Ambassador Rosemary A. DiCarlo, charge d’affaires to the U.S. mission to the UN,  said at a press conference that the meeting would be “an opportunity to hear directly from journalists about the acts of violence they face while operating in conflict areas.”

Whether any UN action can actually help journalists around the world is unclear. The last time the Council considered protections for journalists was in 2006, when it ratified Resolution 1738, which condemned intentional attacks on journalists. Since then, DiCarlo noted, “worldwide violence against journalists has worsened and there has been a particular increase in murders and imprisonment arising from conflict situations.”

A “UN Plan of Action” report released earlier this year noted a “staggering number of journalists and media workers killed while performing their professional duties.” It also noted that in 9 out of 10 cases, their killers were never prosecuted.

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April 22nd, 2013

Video Pick: Thomas Dworzak’s Long View of the Caucasus

Since the 1990s, Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak has explored the volatile republics of the Northern Caucasus. It’s a region that’s now in the news because alleged Boston bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had ties there, but  Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia and other republics of the Caucasus have long been a source of curiosity and geopolitical ambitions, especially in Russia.

In his 2010 book, Kavkas, Dworzak, who is now based in Georgia, wrote: “Having discovered the importance of the ‘Caucasus Experience’ in 19th century romantic Russian literature, I finally put together a book with all the images from my years spent in the Caucasus.” Kavkas includes images Dworzak took while covering the conflicts in Chechnya and Abkhazia and their aftermath, as well as scenes from Dagestan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ossetia.

In the book’s introduction, Dworzak called Kavkas “a toast to the Caucasus.” Magnum in Motion made a multimedia slide show of some of the images from the book. They appear on screen as in the book, interspersed with text from writers including Tolstoy, Lermontov and Pushkin.

While many of Dworzak’s images are poetic and allusive, and compliment the writers’ rhapsodic prose, at other times they make a sharp contrast, showing the violence and hardship the region has seen in recent years.

Related article:
Boston Bombings Focus Attention on Caucasus, And Photo Projects on the Region

Notable Photo Books 2010 (review of Kavkas, published by Schilt)
(For PDN subscribers only.)