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March 25th, 2015

Staging News Photos: Take This Ethics Quiz

AssignmentChicago.com, Alex Garcia's blog.

AssignmentChicago.com, Alex Garcia’s blog.

Inspired by the uproar over the staged photo included in a series that won a World Press Photo prize (later rescinded, for different reasons), photographer Alex Garcia has posted an ethics quiz for photographers. Garcia describes five  situations in which photojournalists can find themselves in ethical gray zones, and asks: What would you do?

What his quiz adds to the current debate is a heavy dose of reality.As Garcia points out, “In this debate, I haven’t seen a lot of candor about how difficult it can be to uphold standards in the myriad of situations that photojournalists face.” Garcia, who says he has shot 6,000 newspaper assignments, tells PDN that he describes two of the situations exactly as they happened to him. The others are mash-ups of problems he’s encountered and that every news photographer will recognize: meddlesome PR people, subjects who offer to rearrange their routines or schedules for the photographer’s convenience, or ask “What do you want me to do?”

How do you portray to your readers what the “truth” is in these situations that you’ve only got an afternoon to shoot?

After the sometimes heated talk about the World Press Photo controversy– and outrage about the photographer posing his cousin– Garcia says, “the quiz was a fun way to make a point without getting hot and bothered.” Garcia’s quiz is short. There are no grades. But he does suggest certain parameters for quiz prep:  “Make sure to go hungry for the whole day, pull an all-nighter, promise delivery of images to a client within an hour–just to simulate other factors in a photojournalist’s workday that can affect decision-making.”

You can find it here on his blog, AssignmentChicago.com

Related article
World Press Photo Disqualifies Controversial Prize Winner

March 11th, 2015

Tim Matsui, TIME Win Top Prizes in 2015 World Press Multimedia Contest

Time magazine has won first prize for short documentary in the World Press Photo contest for film titled Behind the Video of Eric Garner’s Deadly Confrontation With New York Police. In the long feature category, photographer Tim Matsui has won first prize for The Long Night, a documentary he produced in conjunction with MediaStorm about teenage prostitution in Seattle. Last month, Matsui won POYi’s Documentary Project of the Year for the film.

A film titled {The And}, which explores the dynamics of relationships between couples, won first prize for Interactive Documentary. It was written and directed by Topaz Adizes and Nathan Phillips

Runners up in the multimedia competition included The New York Times, which won second place in the short documentary category for a video by Ben C. Solomon about the Ebola outbreak in Monrovia. Carlos Spottorno won third prize for his video called At the Gates of Europe, about a wave of refugees from Africa since the Arab Spring uprisings. (more…)

March 5th, 2015

DOJ Report Blasts Ferguson Police for First Amendment Violations

Ferguson, Missouri, police officers “frequently infringe on residents’ First Amendment rights, interfering with their right to record police activities and making enforcement decisions based on the content of individuals’ expression,” according to a report released yesterday by the US Department of Justice.

The DOJ report, titled Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department (FPD), says “FPD engages in a pattern of First Amendment violations.” The investigation was  conducted by the DOJ’s civil rights division in response to citizen complaints and civil unrest in Ferguson following the police shooting death last year of Michael Brown.

The DOJ says in the report that FPD arrests citizens “for a variety of protected conduct,” including talking back to officers, recording public police activities, and lawful protest.

The report cites a number of examples, including several involving recent arrests of citizens who recorded–or attempted to record–police carrying out their duties in public. (more…)

February 12th, 2015

Mads Nissen Wins World Press Photo of the Year Prize

2014 World Press Photo of the Year. ©Mads Nissen/Politiken

2014 World Press Photo of the Year. ©Mads Nissen/Politiken

Danish photographer Mads Nissen of the daily newspaper Politiken has won the World Press Photo of the Year 2014 prize for an image showing a gay couple during an intimate moment in St. Petersburg, Russia. The image, which was part of the news coverage last year about rising discrimination and hate crimes attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Russia, also won first prize in the Contemporary Issues category of the World Press Photo competition. The winners of the contest were announced February 12 in Amsterdam.

Read the full story at PDNOnline.com.

 

February 10th, 2015

Cameron Spencer Wins POYi Sports Photographer of the Year Honors

©Cameron Spencer

©Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Photographer Cameron Spencer of Getty Images has been named Sports Photographer of the Year at the 2015 Pictures of the Year International competition, organizers announced today. His portfolio included a variety of dramatic sports action and feature images from a wide array of sporting events, including the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Runners up for the award were second place winner Al Bello of Getty Images and third place winner Patrick Smith.

In other sports categories, first prize for a Sports Action photo went to Al Bello of Getty Images for his dramatic shot of New York Giants receiver making a one-handed touchdown catch.

The winners of other sports categories are:

Sports Feature: Robert Sabo/Getty (1); Cameron Spencer/Getty (2); Ricky Carioti
Recreational Sports: Jacob Ehrbahn (1); Sol Neelman (2); Austin Anthony/AP (3)
Sports Action: Al Bello/Getty (1); Alex Livesey/Getty (2); Joel Marklund
Winter Olympics: Lucas Jackson/Reuters (1); Joel Marklund (2); Ezra Shaw/Getty
Sports Picture Story: Jacob Ehrbahn (1); Cristina Aldehuela (2); Yasuyoshi Chiba (3)

Judging for the POYi competition began at the University of Missouri on February 2, and will continue through February 20. Sports photo categories fall under the competition’s News Division. Judging of Reportage Division entries begins tomorrow.

Related:
Brad Vest Named Newspaper Photographer of the Year at 2015 POYi Competition

February 5th, 2015

PDN Video Pick: Vincent Morisset’s Interactive “Way to Go”

Promotional still from "Way to Go"

Promotional still from “Way to Go”

When you travel from point A to point B, what do you see? How does the experience change when the route becomes familiar? These are questions asked in “Way to Go,” a new interactive video project funded by the National Film Board of Canada and premiered at the recent Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program.

Part film, part game, “Way To Go” takes players through a 3D environment with a 2D character, following a predetermined path through an immersive, interactive environment. Players control a blockheaded animated figure, deciding whether to walk, run, stop, jump, fly, or investigate elements in the environment recorded on video.

“I’m really interested in the notion of space and time,” says Vincent Morisset, the project’s director, “and how we relate to our environment in real life, and if there was a way to transport or put into perspective this really universal premise of going from point A to point B.”

The visuals—art directed by Caroline Robert—are a striking mix of video footage, hand-drawn animation and live GL effects. Morisset captured the live video with a DIY pole-mounted 360-degree camera rig comprised of six GoPro cameras. He’s visible in the game as the black figure holding a pole that follows the main character everywhere through the interactive universe.

“In 2015 it’s less and less easy to get lost, we’re constantly knowing where we are,” Morisset says. “There’s something to the line and the path that resonates with how we deal with our environment.” As the character is confined to traversing the universe along a pre-determined path, the exploration is in the changing perspective—what do you run past, what do you stop and investigate?

The NFB previewed the project at a virtual reality at Sundance’s New Frontier utilizing the Oculus Rift VR headset. While the game is playable on any computer with a Web browser, the Oculus experience took full advantage of the 360-degree camera footage to provide a truly immersive experience.

Sounds are synced to the movements of the character. Composer Phillipe Lambert designed a Euclidean rhythm console so that the complex rhythms interweave seamlessly with the pace and movements of the character.

Lambert, Robert and Morisset, along with Édouard Lanctôt (a developer and technical director), make up AATOAA, Morisset’s Montreal-based digital studio. Their commercial clients include Red Bull and Google, and they’ve produced an interactive video for Arcade Fire’s “Just a Reflektor.” “Way to Go” is the team’s second personal project; their first, “BLA BLA,” was an interactive short film exploring human communication.

To experience “Way to Go” yourself, visit a-way-to-go.com. For more on the interactive projects produced with support from the National Film Board of Canada, visit: www.nfb.ca/interactive.

Promotional still from "Way to Go"

Promotional still from “Way to Go”

January 22nd, 2015

Magnum Foundation Announces Emergency Fund Grants, Fellowships

Gaza, Palestine. 2014. Schoolchildren head to class at the Sobhi Abu Karsh School in the Shujai'iya neighborhood. Operation Protective Edge lasted from 8 July 2014 – 26 August 2014, killing 2,189 Palestinians of which 1,486 are believed to be civilians. 66 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians were killed. It's estimated that 4,564 rockets were fired at Israel by Palestinian militants. (Peter van Agtmael / Magnum Photos)

Gaza, Palestine. 2014. Schoolchildren head to class at the Sobhi Abu Karsh School in the Shujai’iya neighborhood. Operation Protective Edge lasted from 8 July 2014 – 26 August 2014, killing 2,189 Palestinians of which 1,486 are believed to be civilians. 66 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians were killed. It’s estimated that 4,564 rockets were fired at Israel by Palestinian militants. (Peter van Agtmael / Magnum Photos)

Today the Magnum Foundation announced the recipients of its 2015 Emergency Fund grants, which support the production of in-depth documentary photography projects “that can no longer be funded through the media alone.”

The 11 grantees were selected from more than 100 nominees from around the world. Their projects include investigations of Pakistan’s legal system; the trafficking of Nigerian women to Italy; Turkish television studios; income inequality in the United States; and failed foreign aid projects in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The grantees are:

Asim Rafiqui, Curran Hatleberg, Elena Perlino, Emine Gozde Sevim, Guy Martin, Massimo Berruti, Matt Black, Nii Obodai Provencal, Pete Muller, Peter DiCampo and Peter van Agtmael.

An international committee of 15 photo editors, curators and educators nominated photographers for Emergency Fund grants. In addition to monetary support that will allow the photographers to travel to complete their projects, the Magnum Foundation also offers mentorship and distribution support to grantees.

The Magnum Foundation also announced the Abigail Cohen Fellowship in Documentary Photography, which supports projects focused on issues critical to China. Yuyang Liu and Souvid Datta are this year’s fellows.

Finally, the foundation announced seven recipients of the Human Rights Fellowship, which offers young photographers from the global south scholarships to train at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in New York. This year’s Human Rights Fellows are Muyi Xiao (China), Nour Kelze (Syria), Anastasia Vlasova (Ukraine), Xyza Bacani (Hong Kong), Basel Alyazouri (Palestine), Sipho Mpongo (South Africa), and Chery Dieu Nalio (Haiti). The Human Rights Fellows were chosen from 576 applicants.

Related: Matt Black and Ed Kashi Bring California’s Dried-Out Central Valley to The New Yorker
Magnum Foundation Awards 2014 Emergency Fund Grants
Photo Tastemaker: Magnum Foundation Program Director Emma Raynes

January 15th, 2015

Under Pressure, FAA Issues Handful of Exemptions for Commercial Drone Use

phantom-2-vision-dji

For as long as inexpensive camera-toting drones have been popular, their commercial use in the U.S. has been in a precarious proposition. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that governs the use of our airspace, waited years after the proliferation of drones to issue any guidelines on their use in commerce. Until recently, if you were an architectural or real estate photographer looking for inexpensive ways to capture bird’s eye views, or a production company itching to take advantage of new perspectives in your video, the word from the FAA was clear: No, you can’t use drones for commercial purposes.

But that isn’t stopping businesses from using drones. DJI Global, the manufacturer of the wildly popular Phantom remote-controlled camera drone, skirted the FAA’s ban on commercial drone usage by donating the use of its DJI Inspire 1 during NBC’s broadcast of the 2015 Golden Globes for some free publicity. And under pressure from Congress—who included directives for the FAA to begin to develop the framework it will use to regulate commercial drone flights in a 2012 appropriations bill—the administration has begun to issue exemptions to its six-year-old ban.

In June 2014, it issued the first exemption to British Petroleum, who wanted to use drones to survey Alaska’s North Slope. In September, it issued six exemptions to film and television production companies, and in December, it issued four more exemptions, including one to a construction company. In the first week of 2015, Douglas Trudeau, a 61-year-old real estate agent in Tuscon, Arizona, received the first exemption to use drones for a real estate business. He had applied for the exemption back in July of 2014, after being informed that even though he was not selling his drone footage, using photos and clips shot from drones in his real estate listings constituted commercial use.

CNN—who wants to use drones for newsgathering purposes—has also appealed to the FAA. It recently entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the administration, working with the Georgia Tech Research Institute to collect data to help the FAA develop its framework for regulating drone usage in journalism.

While the FAA was called out by Congress more than two years ago and urged to get started on their regulatory framework, there is still no timetable for the process to be completed. For now, the FAA is issuing exemptions on a case-by-case basis, but if the red carpet at the Golden Globes and Amazon’s drone delivery plan are any indication, it will have to move quickly to keep up. As the FAA attempts to levy fines on drone pilots it feels are violating its vague guidelines, U.S. judges have already found in favor of at least one pilot: A federal judge tossed out a $10,000 fine on the grounds that the guidelines were not specific enough. The National Transportation Safety Board later overruled the judge and re-affirmed the FAA’s right to regulate, but it’s clear that the guidelines are doing little to stop commercial flights.

In the meantime, the administration has put together a website with safety tips for recreational, business, and public service users.

Related articles:

Commercial Drones are Legal, Federal Court Says

Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to FAA’s Drone Cease-and-Desist Orders

DJI One-Ups Phantom With More Powerful, 4K-Recording Inspire 1 Photo Drone

Drone Photographers Take To The Skies To Find New Perspectives

December 19th, 2014

Creative Cloud Photography Plan–3 Myths Debunked

Sponsored by Adobe

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 12.37.18 PM
Photos © David Guenther

When the subscription model was first announced for the Adobe Creative Cloud in 2011, many photographers were concerned about the implications of “renting” software. Adobe, recognizing that most photographers don’t need the entire suite of applications they offer, responded with a special version this summer that includes Photoshop CC and Lightroom–the two tools most important to a photographer’s digital workflow, and widely considered the standard for post-production.

David Guenther (www.davidguentherphotography.com), a respected wedding and portrait photographer based in Lethbridge, Alberta, uses Lightroom and Photoshop CC extensively– they are, as he puts it, his “jam”. Guenther does his photo processing in Lightroom before sending them over to Photoshop CC for final tuning and output. In his opinion, the subscription model of $9.99 per month is a great value. “I’d rather pay a low monthly cost than buy the software outright at a huge price, and then have to upgrade every time a new version comes out,” he explains.

While the cost efficiency is a plus, the subscription-only model has been a big change for photographers who were used to a one-time purchase and basic access from their personal computers. Three years after Adobe Creative Cloud’s first release, we still hear common misconceptions about its features and functionality. With the release of the Creative Cloud Photography plan, it’s time to clear the air.

David Guenther Adobe CC

The Myth: The Creative Cloud Photography plan is more expensive in the long run.

The Truth: When compared to the traditional model of purchasing and upgrading, the Creative Cloud Photography subscription saves hundreds of dollars and spreads out the costs over time. When you add in the mobile applications that can handle powerful photography editing (photo editing in Lightroom mobile, for example) and other services like Lightroom web for sharing and receiving feedback, the value of Creative Cloud becomes very clear. And, as an added bonus, photographers of all levels will find value in Adobe’s extensive video tutorials that are available with the plan.

The Myth: All of your images will be stored in the Cloud.

The Truth: It’s not necessary to store your images in the Cloud (nor will you lose them if you have a lapse in your subscription), and all of your files can easily be stored locally. The Cloud is a just a very cool bonus–for many photographers, like Guenther, access to mobile apps like Lightroom mobile and Photoshop Mix let him edit and organize his photos while away from the computer. He says, “I use the Adobe Creative Cloud quite a bit. It’s important for me to have access to images and shoots I’m working on, because I’m often collaborating on a project and need to discuss work when I’m away from my computer. In that way, it’s been a huge help. I always have access to my work. All that, combined with Smart Previews in Lightroom, means I can work pretty much anywhere at any time. That’s essential for me.”

photo[2]

The Myth: All Creative Cloud applications are Cloud-based.

The Truth: One of the biggest misconceptions about Creative Cloud subscriptions is that you need to be connected to the Internet in order to use the applications. All of the desktop applications live on your computer. There is no requirement to have a full-time Internet connection­–Creative Cloud checks once a month to validate the subscription, taking only a few seconds. And with the mobile applications, this means you can work anywhere: remote locations, at the client’s office, or wherever you travel to.

Guenther says, “For me, Creative Cloud Photography has allowed me to be more mobile and work while I travel or while I’m away from the office. The Adobe tools I use operate just the same, but I have more flexibility.”

You can read more about the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan at www.creative.adobe.com/plans/photography. And, as always, you can download a free 30-day trial of Lightroom or Photoshop CC–desktop or mobile–to try it out for yourself.

December 18th, 2014

FILM Ferrania’s Plan to Save an Analogue Slide Film Factory From Extinction

© Aischa Gianna Muller

Corrado Balestra taking spectrophotometric measurements of an emulsion sample in the LRF. Balestra is an expert in emulsion manufacturing and melting. © Aischa Gianna Muller (www.aischamuller.com)

Film is finished. Film is dead, declared deceased by David Lynch, among others. Contrary to all declarations, however, this year, two enterprising Italians have recently begun manufacturing film, and may have hit a turning point in their quest to make film’s resurgence a sustainable reality.

In 2003, Ferrania became the first of the major film manufacturers to declare bankruptcy. The Italian company, which produced the cinema film stock for such classics as De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief and Fellini’s 8 1/2, along with 35mm and 120 film for stills, had an expansive campus in the Liguria region of northern Italy, and the capability to produce almost 330 million rolls of film per year. Those days ended with the expansion of digital photography.

But there’s new life for the old Italian brand. Intrepid film devotees Nicola Baldini and Marco Pagni have managed to form a new, leaner version of the old company, called FILM Ferrania, with a group of former employees itching to get back to their life’s work. They recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $322,420 to purchase and relocate the old Ferrania manufacturing equipment, which had been collecting dust on the Liguria campus. They’ve already begun manufacturing the first batches of 135 and 120 film for still photography, as well as Super 8 and 16mm film stocks.

“Everyone told us we were crazy,” Baldini says in their Kickstarter video, admitting “perhaps” it was true. “Or maybe not…” Pagni counters.

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Marco Pagni (left) and Nicola Baldini (right).

Their plan was to scale down the massive operation of the old Ferrania to make it more sustainable. The original company still produces industrial chemicals at the Liguria campus, but the equipment they needed was scattered throughout a series of abandoned buildings.

The small Research & Development team is comprised of former Ferrania employees Corrado Balestra, Daniele Montano, and Danilo Ferraro (who study and prepare the chemicals); Ezio Perone (who coats the film); Renzo Manera (who finishes the film); and Marco Scognamilio, who oversees the entire process. They set up shop in the Laboratori Ricerche Fotografiche (LRF), the small R&D building on the Ferrania campus where they used to test the films they manufactured. It’s a small-scale version of the entire plant; everything needed to make film lives inside the LRF. It was owned by the government of Regione Liguria, where the plant is located. But seeing economic benefits to the restoration of the old plant, Regione Liguria offered FILM Ferrania team a favorable lease.

But the team still had a “goldilocks” problem. The equipment in the LRF was too small to mass-produce enough film for their business, and the full-scale operations were too large: The building that (just barely) contains the precision coater they needed was nine stories high and 100 meters long. “Big Boy,” as the team calls the industrial film coating facility, is designed to make as many as 330 million rolls of film in a year—an unrealistic goal for sales, as Ferrania’s 2003 bankruptcy proved. 

“If there’s gonna be any long-term viability for film, it has to be done on a much different scale then it’s done currently,” says David Bias, who heads FILM Ferrania’s nascent U.S. office. “The scale of the operations of Kodak and Fuji are literally just too big for long-term sustainability.”

So the Ferrania team set out to scale their operations “just right,” using the Kickstarter funds to purchase “Trixie,” the large-scale triacetate base production machinery that makes the plastic that holds the film together; “Walter,” the high-volume chemical synthesis lab that makes the chemicals (named after Breaking Bad‘s Walter White); and “Big Boy,” which they would scale down to meet their production needs.

So who is the Ferrania customer? To hear Bias tell it, their customer base is diverse: professional digital photographers who shoot film in their spare time, kids who grew up with digital devices in their pocket at all times, for whom film is a brand-new thing, and older people who never really latched on to digital devices. Film used to be the only option for photography; now that there are so many options, shooting on film has become a deliberate, conscious choice.

“No longer do you have to buy film if you want to take a picture,” Bias says. but it doesn’t mean people won’t buy film. The last analogue photography project Bias worked on,  the Impossible project, proved that. “You want to buy film. That’s a very, very different kind of thing.”

Ferrania can’t match the scale of Kodak and Fuji, so its film won’t be a low-cost alternative—Baldini and Pagni’s goal is not to undercut the big boys. Kodak and Fuji are the only other players who can manufacture color film from start to finish, and as they continue to make less film at higher prices, the companies that rely on their materials for production—such as AgfaPhoto and Lomography—may not be able to keep up. Ferrania should have an advantage to start, at least; their first production runs will be reversal film—which Kodak already killed, and Fuji has severely cut back (most recently, cutting Velvia 100F 120).

“Kodak and Fuji are going to exit from their traditional analogue market,” Baldini claims in an email interview with  PDN, “while Ferrania is investing to redefine the market in order to be sustainable for many years ahead.”

Baldini’s drive to save film is partly about esthetics. He is a filmmaker, and his decision to launch the company began with his desire to shoot on film that didn’t exist anymore. Time will tell if the artistic vision of a pair of dreamers will provide a solid enough foundation to support a business. But the pair has at least 5,582 Kickstarters at their back, and a quick look at the #FilmIsAlive hashtag on Twitter and Instagram—which they’re using to promote the relaunch—shows they are not alone. The audience is there, and they’re passionate. But as operations get into full swing, will they put their money where their mouths are?

Baldini says the company’s profitability hinges upon how much film they are able to produce, “because the market is very willing to accept new analogue products that fit specific needs.” They plan to ramp up production steadily over the next three years, and project a profit as early as 2016.

“I think film has become more of an art material,” Bias says. “The people who shoot film, want to. They seek it out, and they spend the money that it takes to do it.”

Related Link: The Future of Film, May 2012