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May 23rd, 2012

Police Brutality? Pictures Tell a More Complicated Story

 

©Chicago Tribune/Brian Cassella

The Chicago Tribune has posted a dramatic series of photographs showing a clash between police and protesters outside the NATO summit meeting in Chicago on May 20. The images were shot by Tribune photographer Brian Cassella, who explains on his blog how he got the photos. The last image of the series shows a police officer cocking his fist to punch a protester. By itself, it’s easily read as (another) act of police brutality against citizens exercising their constitutional rights. But context is everything, as the rest of Cassella’s images illustrate: The police officer is throwing the punch to stop a protester from swinging a heavy stick (for the second time) at the head of another police officer who had lost his helmet. That helmet-less officer had already been struck once in the head by another protester swinging a lighter stick, which Cassella captured as it broke over the officer’s head. It’s a complicated story about two wrongs that don’t make a right, and Cassella tells it with clarity in nine frames. To see the series, visit the Chicago Tribune’s web site. (Cassella also talks about the photographs in this Chicago Tribune video.)

May 9th, 2012

Jeff Wall Photograph Fetches Artist Record $3.6 Million at Auction

"Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986," © Jeff Wall.

A 1992 photograph by Jeff Wall sold for $3,666,500 yesterday evening during a Post-War and Contemporary art auction at Christie’s in New York City. The previous record sale for a work by Jeff Wall was $1.1 million.

The work “Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986″ depicts a grisly scene in which Soviet Red Army soldiers killed by the Afghan mujahideen have come back to life and are conversing with one another.

The photograph, framed in a light box, was the first in an edition of two, with one artist’s print. The photograph has been in the collection of David and Geraldine Pincus, who acquired it from Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. The Pincus’s substantial collection formed a major part of the sale, which set a record for a Post-War and Contemporary art sale at $388.5 million, according to Christie’s.

The high lot in the sale was Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow,” which sold for $86.9 million, another record for a work from the Post-War period.

Three other photographs were included in the sale. A Richard Prince work that appropriated a Marlboro advertisement, “Untitled (Cowboys),” sold for $602,500. Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled #122″ sold for $206,500. And Nan Goldin’s “Ballad Triptych” sold for $218,500.

Related: Eggleston’s First-Ever Large Pigment Prints Earn 5.9 Million at Auction

May 4th, 2012

Three News Photographers Murdered in Veracruz, Mexico

Three photographers who had covered organized crime and drug violence in the Mexican state of Veracruz were found dead yesterday, AP reports. The bodies of  Guillermo Luna Varela, Gabriel Huge and Esteban Rodriguez were recovered from a wastewater canal near the port city of Veracruz, about 250 miles east of Mexico City. Their bodies had been dismembered and stuffed into black plastic bags. The Veracruz Attorney General’s office also reported that their bodies showed signs of torture.

Their deaths, discovered on World Press Freedom Day, bring to seven the number of journalists killed in Veracruz in the past year and a half. “Veracruz has seen a wave of lethal anti-press violence that is sowing widespread fear and self-censorship,” Carlos Lauria of Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.  Lauria called on Mexico’s government “to end the deadly cycle of impunity in crimes against the press.”

Luna was a photographer on the crime beat for the web site veracruznews.com.mx who was last seen on Wednesday May 2. He was the nephew of Huge, a journalist who had been working for the local newspaper Notiver until he fled Veracruz after two of the newspaper’s reporters were murdered last year. According to a fellow journalist who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity, Huge had recently returned to the state. Esteban Rodriguez had been a photographer with the newspaper AZ until he too fled; according to some news reports, he had recently been working as a welder. Also found on the scene was the body of Luna’s girlfriend, Irasema Becerra.

April 11th, 2012

At Bosnia Reunion, Journalists See Unfinished Work

Over 400 Bosnian and foreign journalists who covered the Bosnian war gathered in Sarajevo last week for the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict. But the reunion, organized by former Le Monde correspondent and editor Remy Ourdan and TV reporter Willem Lust,  with support from AFP, the Association of Journalists of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other organizations, generated as much discussion about the problems in today’s Bosnia as it did about the past, according to photographer Gary Knight, who traveled to the event with his wife, filmmaker Fiona Turner. “It wasn’t very celebratory,” says Knight. “For so many of us, there was an affirmation that we need to get back to work in that country.”

In Sarajevo, Knight, Ourdan and photographer Jon Jones (now director of photography for London’s Sunday Times Magazine)  presented the layout of the book they are self-publishing: Bosnia 1992 to 1995, featuring images donated by 45 photographers and essays by journalists who covered the conflict, edited by Jones. When the book is published in July, they will donate about 250 copies to Bosnian public libraries; they will also sell copies and send proceeds to charities in Bosnia (selected with help from Bosnian colleagues). Though Knight had anticipated that revisiting Bosnia and reconnecting with his old colleagues would be “emotional,” he says, “I didn’t anticipate to what degree and why.” He explains, “It’s staggering what has not happened in 20 years.”

The official unemployment rate in Bosnia is 45 percent. Tens of thousands are still displaced 20 years after they were forced out of their homes. “You have people living on 100 euros a month,” he notes, “and there’s no justice.”

(more…)

March 9th, 2012

Behind the Photo of Invisible Children’s Founders Posing with Guns

© Glenna Gordon. Photo: Founders of Invisible Children pose with members of the Sudan People Liberation Army near the Sudan-Congo border, April 2008.

The Stop Kony2012 campaign video, which has now been viewed 55 million times on YouTube, has unleashed criticism about the video’s creators, followed by a backlash against the backlash.

The video, created by the charity Invisible Children, calls for intervention to bring Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, to justice. It is being criticized by Ugandans, NGOs working in Uganda and neigboring countries where the LRA operates, academics and the press.

Amidst the controversy there has been an outcry over a 2008 news photo showing Invisible Children’s founders posing with machine guns amidst members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which has battled the LRA. Photographer Glenna Gordon took the photo on assignment for AP in 2008, Ri-Kwangba, on the Sudan-Congo border, during peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA.
Gordon notes on her blog, www.scarlettlion.com that Vice magazine used the image without her permission –and without a caption – to illustrate its article “Should I Donate Money to Invisible Children?” That’s a valid question, she says, but just as the Kony 2012 video is being criticized for its lack of context, Gordon says her photo needs context, too. Without it, she says, the image “continues to perpetuate misinformation and to mythologize the film makers as bad asses, a practice I do not support.”  She says she tried to publish more information about what she calls the “questionable practices” of the founders but “no publication would bite.”

The Washington Post has just published an extensive interview with Gordon.  She is asked for her reaction to Invisible Children’s work and the video, and her thoughts on the photo:

Q. Invisible Children has received some criticism that their efforts and this photo seem “colonialist,” or hint at the “white man’s burden.” What do you say to that?
Gordon: I think all of those things are true. The photo plays into the myth that Invisible Children are very much actively trying to create. They even used the photo on their official response page. I don’t think they think there is a problem with the idea that they are colonial. This photo is the epitome of it, like, we are even going to hold your guns for you.

Invisible Children’s Jason Russell disagrees, the Post reports. Russell, who is shown in the photo along with colleagues Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole of Invisible Children, says they wanted to meet and film members of the SPLA to get their reaction to the peace talks.

“And because Bobby, Laren and I are friends and had been doing this for 5 years, we thought it would be funny to bring back to our friends and family a joke photo. You know, ‘Haha – they have bazookas in their hands but they’re actually fighting for peace.’ The ironic thing about this photo is that I HATE guns. I always have. Back in 2008 I wanted this war to end, like we all did, peacefully, through peace talks. But Kony was not interested in that; he kept killing.”

The full interview with Gordon, and links to both criticism of the campaign and the reaction by Invisible Children, is on Washington Post.

Correction: an earlier version of this story misstated the location at which the image was taken. Apologies for this error.

March 1st, 2012

Photographer William Daniels, Edith Bouvier Safe in Lebanon

Agence France Presse reports that French photographer William Daniels has managed to escape from Homs, Syria to safety in Lebanon with French reporter Edith Bouvier. The two journalists had been trapped in the besieged city for more than a week.

Bouvier’s leg was badly injured when Syrian troops fired mortars at a makeshift media center in Homs on February 22. Two other journalists –American reporter Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik–were killed in that attack, while British photographer Paul Conroy was also injured.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced at a press conference today: “Edith Bouvier and William Daniels are currently safe on Lebanese territory and will within moments be under the protection of our embassy in Beirut.”

Concern for the safety of Daniels and Bouvier had mounted as the Syrian army moved into Homs today, cutting off water, electricity and other supplies. Reporters Without Borders had earlier today reported that the two had not been heard from since February 23, when they managed to post a video pleading for “any assistance” to get them out.

Photographer Paul Conroy, also injured in the attack that killed Colvin and Ochlik, was smuggled to safety in Lebanon on Tuesday. Several activists who helped in his escape were killed by the Syrian army.

Related stories:

Injured Photographer Paul Conroy Smuggled out of Syria

Remembering 13 Unsung Heroes of Photojournalism

Photographer Remi Ochlik Killed in Homs, Syria

February 23rd, 2012

Were Journalists in Homs Targeted for Bombing?

Radio communications between Syrian army officers have shown that the army was ordered to bomb the make-shift press center in the besieged city of Homs where photographer Remi Ochlik and reporter Marie Colvin were working, The Telegraph newspaper reports. The journalists died yesterday when the center was shelled. Photographers Paul Conroy and William Daniels and reporter Edith Bouvier of Le Figaro were also wounded in the bombardment of the press center, Reuters reports.

Journalists used the press center’s electricity and internet access to report on the shelling of civilians in Homs. Colvin’s reports of the ongoing humanitarian crisis had been broadcast on the BBC and CNN. According to The Telegraph, radio orders intercepted by the Lebanese intelligence service show that Syrian army officers were ordered to bomb the press center, and if journalists were killed,  army officers were instructed to make it appear that they died accidentally in battles with “terrorists.”

Jean-Pierre Perrin, a reporter for French newspaper Liberation who had been in Homs last week before leaving for Beirut, tells The Telegraph that he learned, “The Syrian army issued orders to ‘kill any journalist that set foot on Syrian soil’.” The Army may have used journalists’ satellite phone signals to target them.

Syria strictly controls access to foreign press, and most journalists trying to report on the humanitarian crisis in Homs and elsewhere have entered Syria without visas. Following reports of the deaths of Ochlik and Colvin, the Syrian foreign minister announced, “The ministry urges all foreign journalists who entered Syria illegally to report to the nearest immigration office to legalize their presence.” That’s a request foreign press are likely to ignore.

Related Stories

Photographer Remi Ochlik Killed in Homs, Syria

In Syria, Photojournalist Bears Witness to Violence

Survival Training for Conflict Zones

February 22nd, 2012

Photographer Remi Ochlik Killed in Homs, Syria

© Lucas Dolega

Freelance photographer Remi Ochlik was killed today in the besieged city of Homs, Syria, according to several news organizations. Reporter Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London was killed in the same attack. An aid worker told Reuters the journalists were at a make-shift media center set up by rebels fighting the Syrian army when it was struck by shells. Ochlik and Colvin were trying to flee the building when they were hit by a rocket. The same aid worker also told Reuters two other journalists, including British photographer Peter Conroy, were injured in the attack. Syrian videographer/activist Rami al-Sayed also died of wounds sustained during earlier shelling.

This month, Ochlik, who was represented by the IP3 agency, won first place in the General News/Stories category of the World Press Photo Awards for his work on the civil war in Libya.
Our complete story is now on PDNOnline.
February 16th, 2012

Sale of Forged Photos Embarrasses French Auction House

French police have opened an investigation into the sale at auction of 153 vintage photographs that are suspected of being forgeries, according to a report in The Art Newspaper.

The sale took place last March at Artcurial Deauville, an auction house in the city of Deauville near Le Havre on the English Channel. The auction house said prior to the sale that the photographs in question were made in 1848, and that they were from a collection alleged to have come from the family of a minor artist, Charles Edouard de Crespy Le Prince, who died in 1850.

The sale totaled €554,200, but some of the collectors who purchased lots have refused to pay or asked for the sales to be canceled and their money refunded after inspecting the works.

The investigation was initiated when Grégory Leroy, the independent expert who presided over the sale and initially verified the authenticity of the photographs, made a complaint to French police in December.

“This seems to have been a carefully prepared swindle,” Leroy told The Art Newspaper. “We were all taken in.”

The consignors, who are said to have bought the works in the 1990s believing they were authentic, sued the auction house unsuccessfully in December for the money owed to them from the sale.

Police have not commented on who, if anyone, they suspect in the forgery of the works.

February 14th, 2012

Yemeni Woman in World Press Photo of the Year Speaks Out

© Samuel Aranda

In Samuel Aranda’s photo, named World Press Photo of the Year last week, she is an unidentified, veiled woman who symbolizes thousands who have suffered in the anti-government demonstrations that swept the Arab world this past year. Now the woman behind the veil has come forward, according to an article in the Yemen Times.

Fatima Al-Qawas, a resident of Sana’a, Yemen, tells the Yemen Times that she had gone to a field hospital on October 15 in search of her 18-year-old son, who had taken part in demonstrations against the Yemeni government. The photo shows her holding him as he was recovering from tear gas exposure.

“It was after an attack against demonstrators on Al-Zubairy Street,” she says. “I went to the field hospital and did not see my son among the dead or wounded protesters. I checked the place again and saw my son lying on the ground suffocated with tear gas,” she explained. “So I embraced him and [the photographer] must have taken the photo at that moment.” Al Qawas’s son, Zayed, says of the photo, “I did not expect this photo to win among thousands of pictures and it is a real support to the revolution,” he told the Yemen Times. “It demonstrates that Yemenis are not extremists.”

Related Story
Samuel Aranda Wins 2012 World Press Photo of the Year