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April 22nd, 2013

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

© Davide Monteleone/VII. From Red Thistle (published by Dewi Lewis)

© Davide Monteleone/VII. From Red Thistle (published by Dewi Lewis)

As investigations into the alleged Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev focus on their connection to Chechnya and to the region of Dagestan, where Tamerlan spent time in January 2012, we’re once again looking at photographic studies of the North Caucusus. This volatile and troubled region may be little known to many Americans, but it’s been the subject of in-depth examination by photographers including Stanley Greene, Thomas Dworzak and Davide Monteleone. They have explored not only the violence in the region, but its culture, rituals and legacy of ethnic and political tensions.

Talking about his 2012 book Red Thistle, which explores life in the Northern Caucusus, David Monteleone told PDN in  2012 that he wanted to learn more about the people in the region than he could learn from media reports about terrorist attacks and human rights abuses. The book is a collection of images he took over several years in the republics around Chechnya, including Dagestan, Abkhazia (the Georgian Republic), Ingushetia, Karachay–Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia and the disputed territory of South Ossetia.

“For every work that I do, I want to show the daily life of people,” Monteleone told PDN. “Then of course I try to get a little bit deeper and try to find my own vision, but it’s my curiosity first of all.”

People he met in the region who were hospitable and welcoming, he says, but “the authorities were not.” Many of his images were shot indoors, conveying the constraints he experienced. “You have this wild, big [landscape], and at the same time the people are sort of afraid of moving, they cannot reach some places. A lot of areas are closed because of antiterrorist operations, you cannot go to the mountains because it’s forbidden because of military operations … [The people] are restricted in a way, in the mind and physically.”

You can read Monteleone’s full interview in “Disputed Territories: Exploring Life in the Northern Caucuses” on PDNOnline.

* Photo, above: A woman in the Dagestan village of Gimri during the sacrifice of a bull. © Davide Monteleone/VII
Related articles
Disputed Territories: Exploring Life in the Northern Caucusus
Photo Gallery: More Images from Red Thistle

February 20th, 2013

Campaign to Prosecute Crimes Against Journalists Set to Launch

Goals of the CampaignAidan Sullivan of Getty Images, photojournalist Lynsey Addario, David Friend of Vanity Fair magazine and several others have announced their plans to launch a social media campaign to push for the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against journalists.

Called “A Day Without News?,” the campaign will launch on February 22, the anniversary of the deaths of newspaper reporter Marie Colvin and photojournalist Remi Ochlik. Both died when the Syrian military shelled a makeshift media center in Homs.

Organizers of A Day Without News will use Twitter and other social media starting on February 22 to direct people to a web site,  www.adaywithoutnews.com, where they can add their names to a list of supporters of the campaign. The organizers are also asking supporters of the initiative to use their own social media networks to spread the word.

“Over the course of the next 12 months, we will continue to meet with multiple governments who have shown interest and support for the campaign, to push policy and diplomacy to fight against impunity and to partner with educational institutions and NGOs to identify, investigate and ultimately prosecute cases where journalists and media personnel have been targeted and killed,” organizers said in a written statement announcing the campaign.

In addition to Sullivan, Friend, and Addario, others involved in organizing the campaign are photojournalists Tom Stoddart and John Moore, Sir Daniel Bethlehem, QC, founding director of Legal Policy International Limited, and Sara Solfanelli is the HR & Talent Director at MediaCom Worldwide in London.
                –David Walker

February 14th, 2013

Want to Guess What Will Win World Press Photo of the Year?

@ Samuel Aranda

@ Samuel Aranda

The announcement of the World Press Photo of the Year 2012 winner is now less than 24 hours away. Speculation is ripe: Which international news story will be depicted in the photo that wins the top prize?  The conflict in Mali, or Syria? Protests against austerity measures in Greece? Political unrest in Egypt? Hurricane Sandy?

The other question is: How will the news story be depicted? Since 1955, most of the World Press Photo winners have shown lone individuals who symbolize a larger story: a single grieving or injured or dead individual standing in for many who were left grieving, injured or dead by a conflict or natural disaster.  Only twice have the winning images shown groups of people in danger.   The number of winning images that depict  women in moments of grave danger, distress or overwhelming grief have far outnumbered the number of photos that show men in similar situations.  Women, alone or in groups, are usually shown as the passive bystanders to conflict or disaster.

© Jodi Bieber/Institute Management/Goodman Gallery for Time

© Jodi Bieber/Institute Management/Goodman Gallery for Time

That trend shifted in the past three years. The women subjects of the last three World Press Photo winners are depicted not as victims but as survivors. Take for example, photographer Jodi Bieber’s 2010 World Press Photo of the Year, the portrait of Bibi Aisha, the Afghan woman whose nose and ears were cut off as retribution for fleeing her husband’s home. Aisha looks calmly into the camera lens. In the 2009 World Press Photo of the Year, taken by Pietro Masturzo of AP,  a woman shouts from a rooftop in Tehran, Iran, after the results of her country’s disputed election results were announced. This defiant woman is a stand-in for the many citizens from all walks of life who took to the streets to protest the election. Last year’s winning image, by Samuel Aranda, shows a woman in a hospital – not an uncommon motif among World Press Photo winners – but the Pieta-like composition shows a woman, her face covered by a veil, giving comfort to a family member injured in the violence in Yemen.

So will the winner announced tomorrow depict conflict, disaster or triumph, through a single person – maybe a man? –or a group? What’s your guess for what story – and what kind of symbol – will win?

Related articles:
Samuel Aranda Wins 2011 World Press Photo of the Year

Jodi Bieber Wins 2010 World Press Photo 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

September 7th, 2012

Shepard Fairey Sentenced on Criminal Charge in ‘Hope” Poster Case

Artist Shepard Fairey was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and fined $25,000 today in a federal courtroom in Manhattan today for destroying documents, falsifying evidence “and other misconduct” in his civil litigation two years ago against the Associated Press (AP). He had faced a maximum of six months in jail.

Fairey pled guilty to the criminal charge last February. The US District Attorney in Manhattan announced Fairey’s plea shortly after he settled his civil case with the AP over his unauthorized use of an AP image to create the “Hope” poster that became an icon of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for President.

“Shepard Fairey went to extreme lengths to obtain an unfair and illegal advantagein his civil litigation [against AP], creating fake documents and destroying others in an effort to subvert the civil discovery process,” US Attorney Preet Bharara said in announcing Fairey’s guilty plea.

AP claimed copyright infringement against Fairy in 2009 for unauthorized use of the image of Obama to create the Hope poster.

Fairey tried to pre-empt the claim by asking a federal court judge to declare that the Hope poster amounted to a fair use of the AP photograph. In seeking that declaration, Fairey gave “factually untrue” information about the image he had used, the US District Attorney said. Specifically, Fairey claimed that he had used part of one AP image to make the poster, when in fact had used a substantial portion of a different AP image.

Fairey admitted the discrepancy in 2010, saying he had made a mistake about which image he had used. He said he then tried to cover up the mistake. (His fair use defense was arguably stronger with the image he originally claimed to have used.)

The US Attorney began a criminal investigation after Fairey’s admission, and concluded that he had created “multiple false and fraudulent documents” which he presented to AP during the discover process in the civil litigation.

The US Attorney also said Fairey tried to get one of his employees to mislead investigators.

Prior to pleading guilty to the criminal charges, Fairey had settled his civil litigation with AP on mostly undisclosed terms (the two sides did agree to share proceeds from licensing of the Hope poster image, however).

August 8th, 2012

At Least 70 Journalists Killed on the Job in 2012

At least 70 journalists and media workers were killed while covering the news  between January and June of this year; 15 of them died in Syria alone, according to a report released today by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and conducted by the Cardiff School of Journalism. The number may be higher, as INSI reports that an additional 30 media workers were killed, but the organization was unable to confirm that their deaths were related to their work. By comparison, 56 journalists died on the job in the first seven months of last year, and a total of 124 died in the whole of 2011.

INSI, a coalition of new organizations, journalist support groups and individuals, is a non-profit dedicated to promoting the safety and security of journalists around the world.

INSI reports on all issues of safety for journalists, and not only the targeting of journalists by enemies of a free press. However, INSI Director Rodney Pinder says of today’s report, “Journalists are more than ever in the cross-hairs of the enemies of freedom.” Most of the journalists killed this year were shot or bombed. “Despite some encouraging international political moves to halt the murder, the gun and the bomb remain the favored method of censorship in far too many countries.”

INSI also notes that of the more than 1,000 journalists and media workers killed on the job in the past decade, “The great majority were born and raised in the land where they were killed. Foreign correspondents are the high profile casualties, but most victims are local.”

The full report is available on the INSI web site, www.newssafety.org.

(Via the Guardian and Committee to Protect Journalists.)

Related articles:

Your Cellphone is Not Your Friend and Other Security Tips for Conflict Zones

Columbia J-School to Offer Safety Course for Journalists

Were Journalists in Homs Targeted for Bombing?

July 16th, 2012

Photojournalist Describes Wreckage in Tremseh, Syria

© AFP/photos by D. Leal Olivas

Spanish photographer Daniel Leal Olivas, who reached the Syrian village of Tremseh on Friday July 13, reports that he saw what looked to be the effects of shells fired by tanks in the village. That would contradict the Syrian government’s claims that the Syrian Army did not use heavy weapons, a violation of a UN agreement. Olivas, speaking to PDN by Skype from the Istanbul airport on July 16, also said mourning villagers begged him and his companion not to leave them.  How many people were killed in Tremseh, what kinds of weapons were used and whether the Syrian government was pursuing opposition fighters or targeting civilians remains uncertain, according to reports from the BBC, The New York Times and other news organizations, as the Syrian government and anti-government activists have made claims and counter claims about what happened.

Olivas, a news photographer, has made two month-long trips to Syria this year; his first, in April, was his first time photographing in a war zone. In the past two days, he has given interviews to Al Jazeera and to National Public Radio about what he saw in Tremseh on Friday night. “I’m not a military guy,” he told PDN, then added that “being in Syria for two months, you know what weapons they used.” In Tremseh he took photos, many of which he transmitted to Agence France Press, showing burned out homes, holes blasted through walls, and boys holding up shells that Olivas says would have been fired by a tank – presumably on Thursday. He also photographed bloody hand prints on walls. He told Al Jazeera (quoted in The Guardian’s Middle East blog), “All the tank tracks were in the ground, very fresh. Everyone was in the town very nervous, trying to show us what happened in the town.” Olivas told PDN, “Those people who came running to us, screaming what they did in Tremseh, they were either great actors or they were really freaked out. What I saw in their eyes, I felt that they weren’t lying,”

Olivas says, “I went to Syria to help Syria.” He found places to stay and got help moving around the country from locals, in particular from one person he describes as “my good friend and amazing activist.”  Olivas was in Kafranbel on Thursday when he and the friend saw a report on Al Jazeera Arabic that 200 people had been killed in Tremseh. Olivas was eager to go; his friend said, “Only God can reach there.” On Friday, however, his friend made calls and researched a route. They passed several checkpoints, Olivas says, and “ finally got there with the last minutes of light,” around 7:30pm. UN observers “arrive[d] pretty much at the same time.”

He says that the observers left after less than 20 minutes. “It was getting dark, it was so dangerous to be in that area.”  He left soon after, and says he saw no other journalists.

Olivas says before he left Syria he transmitted images to the agency AFP using a pseudonym for protection. The credits on the AFP images were changed once he was safely in Turkey. Olivas’s images and captions from Tremseh can be found on the AFP Image Forum page.

July 12th, 2012

Civil Rights Group Demands End to Use of Same-Sex Couple Photo in Anti-Gay Ad

© Kristina Hill

When wedding photographer Kristina Hill learned that her engagement photo of a same-sex couple had been used without her permission in a political flyer attacking same-sex marriage, she told PDN she wasn’t sure she had the resources to pursue a long legal battle. Now Hill and her clients have an ally. Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the civil rights organization, yesterday sent a cease and desist order to Public Advocate of the United States, a right-wing political organization, demanding they confirm they are no longer using the image. In the order,  SPLC also says they are considering other possible legal action for infringing Hill’s copyright.

Hill’s photo shows Tom Privitere and Brian Edwards, a New Jersey couple, kissing. Public Advocate of the United States used the photo without the permission of Hill or her clients in a flyer attacking Republican Colorado State Senator Jean White, who had supported civil unions for same-sex couples. The photo, digitally altered to strip out the New York City skyline, appears under the words “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘family values?’”

Public Advocate had defended its unauthorized use of the image on the grounds that others “make fair use of our materials.”

SPLC has previously labeled Public Advocate “a hate group,” and noted in a statement released yesterday that it has “a history of attacking the LGBT community.” The statement quotes Christine Sun, deputy legal director at the SPLC, saying that the alteration and unauthorized use of Hill’s photo was “morally reprehensible.” Sun says, “This latest attack is the most vicious yet and should serve as a warning that your personal photos are not safe from anyone willing to stoop to the vilest level of harassment.”

In the SPLC statement, Hill says she took the engagement photo to document her clients’ love. “When I saw how my image was used, I was sad for Brian and Tom. I was angry that someone would take my work, distort it and use it to reflect the opposite of what it was meant to express.”

Related Article
Wedding Photographer Might Sue for Copyright Infringement Over Anti-Gay Attack Ad

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.”

June 4th, 2012

BBC Fooled by Syrian Rebel Propaganda Photo on Twitter

The BBC recently suffered a predictable consequence of relying on citizen journalism: It published a photograph circulated on Twitter by a Syrian anti-government activist that purportedly shows dead civilians after a government massacre last month in Houla, Syria. The image turns out to have been misappropriated and mislabeled for the purposes of propaganda.

The photo was actually a 2003 photograph from Iraq by Getty images contract photographer Marco di Lauro, John Harrington reported May 27 on his Photo Business News & Forum blog.  The image shows dozens of bodies dug up from a mass grave. They were victims of a brutal crackdown by former dictator Saddam Hussein against a Shi’ite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

A Syrian activist reportedly circulated the image on Twitter as evidence of a Syrian crackdown against its citizens, in order to stoke the international outrage against Al Assad’s government. The BBC saw it,  “obtained some information pointing to its veracity,” and published the image with a disclaimer saying it could not be independently verified, according to the mea culpa that BBC published on May 29.

“It was a mistake,” the BBC said, “and we apologise for it.” The image was displayed for approximately 90 minutes before it was taken down, the BBC says.

Harrington argues that the mistake was a predictable consequence of the rush by the BBC and other news organizations to embrace citizen journalism, while mouthing all the right words about upholding standards for accuracy, fairness and objectivity.

One would think that a few glaring errors like this might make reputable news organizations realize that there are no shortcuts to gathering and vetting news–and also make them twice shy about crowd-sourcing news in order to save money.

But for now the BBC seems undeterred. “Fortunately, such mistakes are very rare,” the BBC assures its readers. “BBC News has a strong track record of using content from non-traditional sources, and of stopping numerous examples of incorrect material making it to air or online – but it does underline the need to handle such material with great care.”