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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

February 8th, 2012

In Syria, Photojournalist Bears Witness to Violence

photojournalist Alessio Romenzi in Homs, Syria

© Time/Photo by Alessio Romenzi

With Syria strictly limiting access to foreign press, most foreign journalists trying to report on the uprising in Homs, Syria, have had to remain in nearby Lebanon while relaying reports from locals on the scene.  Italian photojournalist Alessio Romenzi, however, has managed to move through the besieged city. More than two dozen of his images of civilian casualties, women and children taking shelter during shelling, and fighting between the army of the Assad government and the rebel Free Syrian Army were posted today on Time’s Lightbox. Patrick Witty, Time‘s International Picture Editor, edited the pictures.

Romenzi, whose previous work from the Middle East and elsewhere has been published in Time, The New York Times, Washington Post, Le Monde and other publications, has been in Al Qsair and Homs, Syria, since late January. Previous posts to his PhotoShelter page include his images of Syrian journalists as they have tried to file reports on the fighting.

On assignment for Time, he has moved among fighters in the Free Syrian Army and at one point he took shelter from the shelling in the basement of a home in the southern Homs neighborhood of Bab Amr, according to a report on Lightbox. He reported seeing 25 civilian casualties in two hours of shelling. In an email to Time he wrote, “The word ‘safe’ is not in our dictionary these days.”

*Update:
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported on February 8 that Syrian journalist Mazhar Tayyara, a stringer for AFP and other news organizations, was killed in Homs on February 4, when the Syrian government shelled the neighborhood he was reporting from.  “The Syrian conflict is growing increasingly dangerous for all kinds of journalists, from citizens who have taken the role of documenting unrest in the country to international journalists who report from the frontlines,” says the CPJ.

December 29th, 2011

Official News Agency of a Totalitarian Regime Doctored a News Photo. Imagine That.

© Korea Central News Agency

The photo of the funeral of Kim Jung-Il distributed by the Korean Central News Agency, the official news agency of North Korea, was stunning: Limousines driving in formation behind a giant portrait of the Supreme Leader, rows of mourners lining their route, snow whitening the ground, a giant North Korean flag billowing majestically at the top of the frame. It was picture perfect. Too perfect, apparently.

Today The New York Times Lens Blog compares the image from the official news agency with one taken at almost the same moment by a photographer with Kyodo News of Japan, and distributed by AP. Working with digital forensics expert Hany Farid of Dartmouth, they show that the image from Korean Central was Photoshopped. The Lens blog goes into lots of detail, showing (with several close ups) that some men standing on the sidelines with a camera were erased, replaced with cloned snow. (Read more about their analytical methods and see the photos here.)

Lens reports that the doctored photo had been distributed by European Pressphoto Agency, Reuters and Agence-France Presse (AFP) before the retouching was discovered by The New York Times (which had also, briefly, run the image on its Web site). Once Lens reported

Undoctored photo, © Kyodo News

that the photo was doctored, the three agencies issued kill notices, Lens reports. “This photo was altered from the source and not by AFP,” the agency noted.

Gee, if you can’t trust an official news photo from the government of a secretive nation with a history of repressing journalism, who can you trust?

Maybe the agencies can be excused for not anticipating that such a stage-managed spectacle would be doctored. The retouching doesn’t seem politically motivated, as in all those airbrushed photos from Stalinist Russia. Why would a North Korean photo editor go to the trouble of Photoshopping out a few anonymous figures?

The Lens blog offers one explanation: “totalitarian esthetics.”

“With the men straggling around the sidelines, a certain martial perfection is lost. Without the men, the tight black bands of the crowd on either side look railroad straight.” When it comes to stage-managed spectacle, symmetry is all.