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May 4th, 2011

Talking About the Deaths We Don’t Talk About

In the two weeks since the deaths of photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, the photojournalism community has been working through the stages of grief – bargaining, depression, lots of anger—and searching for ways to make something positive out of tragedy.   Forced to admit their vulnerabilities, conflict photographers are facing some unpleasant truths about the inequities in their industry. As the publishing industry shrinks, media companies are retreating from obligations to help freelance journalists when they get into trouble. They are also avoiding responsibility for the fixers, translators and drivers whose dangerous work is essential to war zone coverage.

An article in PDN’s June issue explores what freelance photographers can and can’t expect from clients if they are injured. In reporting the article weeks before the tragedies of April 20, writer Jay Mallin could find no newspapers or magazines willing to state their policies regarding support for injured freelancers– or even if they have a policy at all.

Photographers often put their trust in the photo editors they work with to bail them out of dangerous situations; there are plenty of anecdotes of photo editors working the phones to make sure contributing photographers get proper medical care. But in corporate media entities, legal and accounting departments hold sway.  Tom Kennedy, who has worked as director of photography for National Geographic and editor for, says, “Most organizations that I am familiar with that are working with freelancers regard them as independent contractors who are responsible for their own insurance, their own well-being.”  As magazines move from contracts and assignments to more tenuous “guarantees,” their obligation to photographers becomes more vague.

And what help can the fixers, translators and drivers whom news organizations employ in war zones expect? Every conflict photojournalist acknowledges that a veteran fixer with proven local knowledge, contacts and language skills is an invaluable asset. They also admit that these locals (whom the Committee to Protect Journalists call “media workers”) face far greater risk for retaliation or attack than the foreign journalists they work for.  Paid by the day or the job, they face the same hazards without insurance, workers compensation or contracts with their employers. When they are killed doing their jobs, their families receive no pension or insurance settlements.

In an article published last week on Gizmodo, photojournalist Teru Kuwayama, wrote, “Those people constitute a vast, grey, undocumented labor force that the international news industry is 100 percent dependent on. They face the highest risks, and almost invariably, they pay the highest price.”

Statistics and anecdotes bear this out. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that of the journalists killed in 2010, 89 percent were local, 11 percent were foreign.

In their first-person account of being taken captive by pro-Qaddafi forces in Libya, photographers Lynsey Addario, Tyler Hicks and two New York Times reporters reported that their driver, Mohammed, tried to plead with the soldiers, shouting, “Journalists!” The four Times journalists were about to be shot when a soldier spared their lives with the words, “You can’t. They’re Americans.”  As they were driven off in a truck, “Lynsey saw a body outstretched next to our car, one arm outstretched. We still don’t know whether that was Mohammed. We fear it was, though his body has yet to be found.” To date, The New York Times has described Mohammed as “missing.”

Kuwayama argues that the disparity in treatment, attention and concern paid to “internationals” and “locals” kidnapped, injured or killed on the job is “the Achilles heel of the war reporting business.”

It’s a topic the photojournalism community has been reluctant to discuss.  Kuwayama’s decision to talk of “bodies swept under the carpet” in the midst of the mourning for Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros has offended so many, Gizmodo’s editors introduced his essay with a disclaimer:  “The words are provocative. We ask that you read them with an open mind.”

We would encourage readers to do the same, and also to openly and candidly ask clients what support they and their colleagues – all of them, local and not—can hope for if they find themselves in danger.  There’s no bad time to try to make something positive out of tragedy.

Related story:
What To Expect if You’re Injured on Assignment

April 29th, 2011

AP to Publish Royal Wedding Keepsake Book Next Week

© AP Photo/APTN

Did a family emergency, act of God or snooze button prevent you from tuning in to watch the Royal Wedding this morning? Don’t worry, the Associated Press has you covered. The wire service sent 21 photographers to document every last detail of Wills’ and Kate’s big day.

AP picture editors are already picking through the thousands of images AP photographers made, the best of which will be gathered into a commemorative book that will be available next week (technology!) from online on-demand publisher My Publisher. The handshake between Mr. Middleton and the Prince, the exchange of rings, the kiss (!), that rascal Harry’s proud smile—all of these moments can be yours to cherish.

The limited-edition book—limited to what, you ask? As many copies as people are willing to order, we’d wager—will be available in two sizes. Prices for your very own Royal Wedding album have yet to be announced, but we’re pretty sure they’re just going to call it priceless. Well played, AP.

Watch this space:

April 20th, 2011

Chris Hondros Killed in Libya

Award-winning photographer Chris Hondros has died of injuries he sustained in Misrata, Libya earlier today, his agency, Getty Images, has confirmed.

Getty released the following statement:

“Getty Images is deeply saddened to confirm the death of Staff Photographer Chris Hondros who has died of injuries while covering events in Libya on April 20th.  Chris never shied away from the front line having covered the world’s major conflicts throughout his distinguished career and his work in Libya was no exception. We are working to support his family and his fiancée as they receive this difficult news, and are preparing to bring Chris back to his family and friends in the United States.  He will be sorely missed. ”

Tim Hetherington was also killed in the attack. Also injured were photographers Guy Martin and Michael Christopher Brown, according to a report in The New York Times.

An obituary for Hondros has been posted on PDNOnline: “Chris Hondros Dies of Injuries in Libya”

Related story:
Tim Hetherington Killed in Libya

April 19th, 2011

Tsunami Slide Show iPhone/iPad App Benefits Red Cross Japan


A new iPhone/iPad slide show app, featuring images of tsunami devastation and rebuilding in Japan taken by 14 international photographers, has been launched to benefit the Japanese Red Cross Society. The “3/11 Tsunami Photo Project” app sells for 99 cents on the iTunes store, and has been released with help from Kodansha Ltd., Japan’s largest publisher.

The current version of the app has images, comments and audio recordings by Dominic Nahr, Adam Dean, Shiho Fukada, James Whitlow Delano, Paula Bronstein, Jean Chung and Keith Bedford. An update to the app, due out later this month, will add contributions from Pieter Ten Hoopen, David Guttenfelder, Giulio di Sturco, Ko Sasaki, Jake Price, Guillem Valle, Ryo Kameyama. In all, the app will show 120 images by 14 photographers.

To purchases the app, visit the Apple iTunes store:

April 18th, 2011

LA Times, Washington Post Photographers Win Pulitzers for Photos

Barbara Davidson of the Los Angeles Times has been awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography for her story on innocent victims of gang violence. Carol Guzy, Nikki Kahn and Ricky Carioti of the Washington Post were awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography for their images of the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. The Pulitzers were announced today at Columbia University in New York.

Both prizes come with a $10,000 award; the Washington Post photographers will share their $10,000 prize.

Finalists in both photo categories were also announced today. They include photographers with The New York Times, the Naples (Florida) Daily, Getty Images and the Los Angeles Times.

More information on the Pulitzer prizes in photography, including the list of finalists and the members of the jury, can be found on

April 12th, 2011

PDN Video Pick: Hey You! A Project for Haiti

After the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, seven young artists, including photographers Kareem Black and Wyatt Gallery, formed an art collective they called Le Set (Creole for “seven”) and volunteered with They have continued to use their work to raise money for the and to inspire others to help. They call their initiative “Hey You: A Project for Haiti” because “hey you” is what they heard from children wherever they went in Haiti.

Filmmaker Eugene Fuller, a member of Le Set, has created a film about the collective’s trip to Haiti. Here’s a trailer,. The full video was shown at a fundraiser held at the Mother agency in New York last week. You can see it, and learn more about Hey You Haiti, on the project’s web site.

April 6th, 2011

PDN Video Pick: POYi Winner On a Military Family Left Behind

When Pictures of the Year International announced that its 2011 Multimedia Portfolio Prize was won by Leslye Davis, a student at Western Kentucky University, we were initially surprised. Then we saw Davis’s intimate, sensitively produced videos.

In “Leaving Without Absence,” which she produced for the Mountain Workshops in Elizabethtown, Kentucky where her coach was Liz O. Baylen of the LA Times, Davis observes Chris Jensen, preparing for his fourth deployment, and the young son he leaves behind.

Davis has also created videos on  a high school football team’s relationship to their coach, a young man who survived a suicide attempt, and the self-described “contrariest postman you’ve ever met.”  These videos are all available for viewing on Vimeo.

Related article:

Student Wins Multimedia Portfolio Prize at POYi

April 5th, 2011

Syria Releases Photographer Held for Six Days

Syrian authorities have released Reuters photographer Khaled al-Hariri, who had been missing since Sunday March 27, Reuters reports.

Al-Hariri, a Syrian who has worked for the Reuters for more than 20 years, was on his way to work at the Damascus office of the agency when a witness saw him stopped by two men who then lead him away.  A Syrian official told the agency last week he would be released “if there was no evidence against him.”

“Reuters is relieved that Khaled al-Hariri has been released,” Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said in a statement issued on Monday. “Thankfully he has now safely returned home to his family.”

Al-Hariri is one of several journalists who have been detained in the past week and a half in Syria, where protesters have taken to the streets to demonstrate against President Bashar al-Assad.  Two Lebanese television journalist and a Jordanian reporter were held for two to three days and then deported.  Another Jordanian reporter with Reuters was immediately expelled from the country without being detained. The AP has reported that two of its journalists were ordered out of Syria with less than an hour’s notice.

March 29th, 2011

Adam Dean: On Covering Japan’s Devastation

Adam Dean, a Beijing-based photojournalist represented by Panos Pictures, arrived in Japan roughly 20 hours after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that struck the northeastern coast of the country.  After he returned  home to Beijing  on March 26, Dean (one of the 2011 PDN 30 emerging photographers) answered our questions about the logistical challenges of covering the catastrophe, and also wrote about the story’s emotional impact. We reprint his email to PDN below.

(Some of Dean’s images from Iwate and Myagi Prefectures can be seen on The New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog, and were printed in last week’s issue of the magazine.)

Dean writes:

“I was traveling and working with a British writer from The Daily Telegraph newspaper,  and between us we have covered earthquakes in China, Pakistan and Indonesia, cyclones in Burma and tsunamis in Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as undercover reporting trips to North Korea and Burma but from a logistical point of view this has been one of the hardest assignments to cover.

“When we first arrived it was almost impossible to find a car available to hire and a fixer or translator who was prepared to travel north. In Japan, obviously a wealthy country, it is much harder to find an English speaker who has the financial motivation to come and work in a potentially dangerous environment with journalists compared to poorer countries …. Japan is also a deeply rules-based society so therefore the ‘work-arounds’ that journalists might normally use when covering a story like this are less effective here.

“When we first arrived in Tokyo about 20 hours after the tsunami, we were hearing reports of water shortages up north so we bought up as much food and water as we could find in stores in Tokyo where many of the shelves were already beginning to empty.  In the first 36 hours most of the flights and trains north from Tokyo were canceled, all the highways were closed to all but emergency vehicles and as a result the minor roads were clogged with traffic. The other real supply issue was fuel. Some of the oil refineries were damaged in the earthquake so there has been a shortage of fuel which has been compounded by residents fleeing from areas affected by the nuclear reactor leaks who have been constantly topping up on fuel fearing a meltdown. Over a week after the earthquake, there were queues of up to seven hours for fuel in some areas.

“Communications has also been a problem in the tsunami-affected areas where the network infrastructure has been badly damaged but generally it is not too bad. I hired local mobile phones and 3G data cards on arrival at the airport which allows us to be online in most areas and I have a satellite phone and a BGAN for transmitting images when conventional networks are down.

“Once on the ground,  the access has not been a problem. Soldiers, police and other officials have been very helpful in allowing us to work. The real problem has been a logistical and supply issue and access to the remote areas that were affected by the tsunami.

“The catastrophic tsunami was sadly eclipsed by the potential threat of a nuclear meltdown so I have been covering both angles of this story. Once we had sorted out the logistics after our arrival, we headed north to Sendai and stopped on the way in Fukushima at some of the evacuation centers for people living in the exclusion zone close to the failed nuclear reactors. Since then we have been working our way up the tsunami devastated northeast coast in the Myagi and Iwate provinces.

“Covering stories like this is always harrowing. You are photographing people on what is likely to be the worse day of their lives. Many whom I met had lost everything; family, home, savings etc and were now living in cold temporary evacuation centers with little to eat and no idea what or how they would recover their lives. Despite this, without exception all the people that I talked to and photographed in Japan were kind, gracious, generous and optimistic. There was very little complaining or even criticism of the government response.”

Photo © Adam Dean/Panos. Dean’s March 15 image of rescue workers piling bodies onto a truck in Rikuzen-Takaata, Japan, was recently published in The New Yorker.

March 21st, 2011

Getty, AFP Photogs Missing in Libya; 4 Times Journalists Released

Two photojournalists, Joe Raedle of Getty Images and Roberto Schmidt of Agence France-Presse, and reporter Dave Clark of AFP have been missing in Libya since Saturday, AFP reported Sunday. Clark and Schmidt told editors via email they were working with Raedle in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk and were planning to meet with opponents of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and refugees fleeing the fighting. They were last heard from Saturday.

Today The New York Times reports that four of its journalists missing since Tuesday, including photographers Lynsey Addario and Tyler Hicks, have been released by Libyan authorities.  The four Times journalists, who had entered the country without visas, were arrested while covering the fighting in the eastern Libyan city of Ajdabiya. In a memo to staff, Times editor Bill Keller said the paper waited until the four journalists were safely out of Libya before announcing the news. In today’s   statement, The New York Times says, “We are grateful that our journalists have been released, and we are working to reunite them with their families.  We have been told they are in good health and are in the process of confirming that.”

Several other journalists, however, are believed be held in Libyan custody.  On Saturday,  four journalists with the Al Jazeeera network were detained by Libyan government. A TV cameraperson for the network was killed over the weekend amidst heavy fighting near the rebel-controlled city of Benghazi.

Senior Libyan officials have warned US diplomats that foreign journalists entering the country without visas to cover the rebellion would be considered Al Qaeda collaborators, the AP reports. The US State Department has advised media organizations against sending more journalists into Libya.

Related Stories:
Libya Says It Will Release Times Journalists Today

Lynsey Addario, Tyler Hicks Missing in Libya