September 23rd, 2015

Selfie Copyright Battle: Monkey See, Monkey Sue

©David Slater (unless a court rules otherwise)

©David Slater (unless a court rules otherwise)

An animal rights group has filed a copyright ownership claim in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of a monkey that used British photographer David Slater’s camera to shoot a selfie, according to an Agence-France Press report yesterday.

Naruto, the six-year-old macaque, grabbed Slater’s unattended camera in 2011 and took at least two selfies. The incident occurred in Indonesia. The photographs have circulated widely on the internet, and have been the subject of a previous ownership dispute.

On Tuesday, PETA filed suit on Naruto’s behalf, seeking a ruling from the court that the monkey is the “author and owner of his photograph,” the AFP report says. Slater, who has previously claimed copyright to the image, is named as the defendant in the case.

PETA asserts in its claim that U.S. copyright law doesn’t prohibit animals from owning copyright, and since Naruto took the selfie, “he owns copyright, as any human would.”

PETA filed the lawsuit as part of a strategy to establish through legal precedent that non-human animals can have property rights. PETA says that if it prevails, the case will establish for the first time that rights beyond basic survival needs are extended to a non-human animals.

The U.S. Copyright Office said last year that it would not register works produced by “nature, [non-human] animals, or plants,” suggesting that the office doesn’t consider those entities to be “authors” eligible for copyright ownership under U.S. law.

In any event, the case will be a test of the court’s willingness to hear monkey business.

Monkey Selfie Not Eligible for Copyright Registration Under New Rules
The Monkey Selfie: Who Owns Copyright to It?

September 21st, 2015

$10K Lange–Taylor Prize Goes to Michel Huneault for Project About Oil Train Disaster

Chaudière River at sunrise, February 2014. From "Post Mégantic" by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

“Chaudière River at sunrise,” February 2014. From “Post Mégantic” by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

Canadian photographer Michel Huneault has won the Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize from The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University, CDS announced today. Huneault was recognized with the $10,000 award for his project documenting the aftermath of an oil train derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in the small town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

The award, named in honor of the partnership between documentary photographer Dorothea Lange and writer Paul Taylor, supports long-term documentary work that combines images and words to tell a story.

Huneault’s project, “Post Mégantic,” relies on photographs, videos, oral histories, and installations to delve into the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion in 2013, which levelled the Lac-Mégantic town center and left one in 128 citizens dead. Huneault has spent more than two months in the town over the course of fourteen trips, and he plans to use the the Lange–Taylor Prize to continue the project.

Serge, September 2013. From "Post MÈgantic" by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

“Serge,” September 2013. From “Post MÈgantic” by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

“I’ll keep going back [to Lac-Mégantic]—hopefully to find more light and healing—but also up the train track toward North Dakota, to where this oil and darkness originated,” Huneault writes in his project statement. “Today, although Mégantic’s center remains flattened and contaminated while the criminal investigation continues, the tracks were the first thing to be rebuilt and train traffic has resumed. While no oil is transiting here, [they are] passing through other North American towns.”

Dandelion achenes, June 2014. From "Post Mégantic" by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

“Dandelion achenes,” June 2014. From “Post Mégantic” by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

The Center for Documentary Studies awarded an honorable mention to Alice Leora Briggs and Julián Cardona for their project about violence in Juárez, Mexico. In addition, Serge J-F. Levy received special recognition for his project about relocating from New York City to Tucson, Arizona.

Previous winners Lange-Taylor Prize winners include Antonin Kratochvil and Jan Novak; Donna DeCesare and Luis Rodriguez; Paola Ferrario and Mary Cappello; Larry Frolick and Donald Weber; Teru Kuwayama and Christian Parenti, and Jen Kinney. The prize has been awarded a total of 23 times.

Related: Video Pick: “He Doesn’t Love You Any More”
Lange-Taylor Prize of 10K Given For Photo Project On Tiny Alaska Town
A Photographic Response to an Oil Train Explosion

September 21st, 2015

Can Software Judge the Esthetic Merits of a Photograph?

Market-landing-page-desktop-mockup-bgThe past year has seen a big spike in automatic photo-tagging, with Lightroom, Flickr and EyeFi all rolling out software that scans images and applies tags based on the image’s contents. Even though auto-tagging has had its share of missteps, EyeEm has an even more ambitious agenda. Its software not only scans and tags images based on content, but passes esthetic judgement on photos as well.

EyeEm’s judgement passing algorithm, dubbed EyeVision, isn’t new, but as of today it’s seen a significant overhaul. Jackie Dove at The Next Web has a nice piece exploring EyeVision’s capabilities.

EyeEm runs a stock photo market and, like all stock photo markets, wants to surface the best images whenever a prospective customer is searching for something. The new EyeVision software update purports to do just that–it can find images by tag but also pass judgement on which photos are more esthetically pleasing than others in its archive. Photographers take note: humans are no longer the sole arbiters of taste.

According to EyeEm’s CTO Ramsi Rizk, EyeVision can detect not simply what’s in a photo, but emotions and abstract contents. As Dove explains, “EyeVision recognizes 20,000 objects (hat, shirt, man, sun), photographic concepts (rule of thirds, vanishing point, symmetry, negative space) and abstract concepts (surreal, sadness, emotional, alone, carefree, exciting, tradition) and is constantly learning.”

It’s not just software crunching numbers, but software informed by the judgement of human photographers. Rizk told Dove that the esthetic judgements “comes from hundreds of thousands of photos that have been painstakingly curated by our community by professional photographers and our team…” This one-two punch of software guided by expert human input is what EyeEm hopes will be a critical differentiator as companies like Adobe, Google and others seek to tackle the same problem.

But EyeEm’s ambitions raise an interesting question about the future of photography in a software-driven world. Can we trust algorithms to pass judgement on what constitutes a “beautiful” image or is that criteria so subjective that it doesn’t really matter who (or what) is judging?

September 17th, 2015

Artist Turns Condemned Building into a Disposable Camera

There are camera hacks and then there’s Vancouver artist Joel Nicholas Peterson’s camera hack. For a project titled Blueprints for Observation, Peterson turned a condemned building into a huge camera obscura.

Here, in Peterson’s words, is how he did it:

“I made holes through the walls peering outside from within dark rooms facing north, south, east, and west. This camera had no lenses – just apertures measuring 1/8” in diameter allowing light into the rooms. This simple design is the ancient technique and phenomenon known as the camera obscura.

“The projected images were exposed onto lithographic film then developed with an experimental darkroom process using sprayers. The developed negatives were then used to make contact prints on watercolor paper using the cyanotype process. The outcome is a near 360° cityscape of film negatives and blueprint images from the perspective of a building that no longer exists.”

The negatives were huge, measuring in at 13-feet. The entire process is documented in the short film below.

September 15th, 2015

How Maggie Steber Turned a Brutal Portfolio Review into Career Success

Maggie Steber ©TK

Maggie Steber ©Jim Virga

During our interview with photojournalist Maggie Steber, she observed that the photography business is now so challenging that you have to be a “never-say-die person” to succeed. But it was no easier for Steber when she was starting out than it is for any fledgling photographer. She explains in this excerpt from the interview how she learned to persevere through failure, and prepare for her big break.

PDN: You mentioned you had to come up with ways to think about the business so it doesn’t crush you. What were your strategies for that?
Maggie Steber: If I had a bad interview, or somebody didn’t like my work, I would go home, and I would cry, then I would look at my work and realize that I had to be better. I had to be really honest with myself. In some roundabout way, those people were trying to help me. I turned whatever negative thing I could around. You have to do whatever it takes to stay positive in this business, because it can be discouraging–and more so now because it’s so much harder.

PDN: Was there a particular incident where you got kicked in the teeth, that taught you how to handle setbacks?
MS: I was very young, I just graduated. I had saved money, and went to Paris for three months, and I was street shooting, thinking I would be the next Cartier-Bresson, which everybody thinks! Somebody decided to [revive] Look magazine [in 1979]. Eliane Laffont, who used to be in charge of Sygma, had been hired to be director of photography. They were having a portfolio review day. I was there with my silly little portfolio. I waited and waited and waited, and finally got to go in and see her, and she went through it very quickly and said, “I don’t know why you are wasting my time with this. You’re just a dilettante. What is this? There’s no story. Who do you think you are? Cartier-Bresson?” And every time I tried to say something, she wouldn’t let me finish. She just said, “You’re wasting my time, you’re wasting your own time. This is silly, thank you, goodbye.” I went home, and I cried, then I looked at my work and I thought, “This woman is exactly right. She’s absolutely right. I have these pictures, and what do they say? They didn’t really say anything about France. They don’t even say anything about me.”

PDN: And so what did you do?
MS: I thought: Why do I want to take pictures? Why am I in photography? I decided what I really wanted to do was to tell stories, so that’s what I started to do. I started really small. I found a magic shop that had a cat that did card tricks. I found a doll hospital, [owned] by this eccentric man who repaired dolls, and he had this whole relationship with these dolls. Little bitty stories. Then I started  going to Cuba on my own time and my own dime, and I did a lot of work and I was terrible. I was learning how to tell stories, how to do a long-term project.

Now, Eliane and I are dear, dear friends, and she did me one of the biggest favors anybody ever did for me.

PDN: How long did it take you to get your chops?
MS: I had a real ally in [veteran photo editor] Jimmy Colton, who gave me enormous opportunities throughout my career. He had my back. Every time I would come back [from Cuba], I would make a tray of slides, and I would go show Jimmy at Newsweek. He would give me ideas and feedback. I couldn’t get my foot in the door at TIME, at all, or if I did, I had a very bad experience. Which told me right away: Don’t go there, that’s not the place for you. That was a good lesson to know: Where do you fit in? Who’s welcoming you with open arms? It wasn’t like Newsweek was publishing my work at the time, but they were open to looking.

And then [in 1984] for the 25th anniversary of the Cuban revolution [Newsweek] sent me to Cuba with a writer—their UN bureau chief, a woman—to get an interview with Castro at the 25th anniversary [of the Cuban Revolution].  I had about 20 minutes to photograph Castro. [Newsweek] ran [the interview and pictures], and every Miami Cuban cancelled their subscription after it came out. [Castro loved it.] The next morning, a convoy of Jeeps came down the road, and who’s driving the first jeep, but Castro.

All these big journalists had ignored us, these two little girls. We got into [Castro’s] Jeep, to the great surprise of all the famous journalists. We went to a little private farm, and we walked in, there was a barbecue. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was there. Castro held court. We ate, and drank. I was taking pictures like a nut. It was remarkable. I really wish I had been a better photographer. At one point, Castro laid down in a hammock, and pretended to be asleep, even though he was smoking a cigar. He was playing with us, because he loved, loved the interview.

So I got lucky. It had nothing to do with me, it was that Jimmy Colton sent me, and we had this great opportunity presented to us. So developing relationships matter. Find at least one person who says, “I can’t use this but I see something in you.” [And then] you have to prove yourself on your own time, and your own dime.

Related articles:
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September 11th, 2015

Marcus Smith on Navigating the Photography Business as an African-American

Marcus Smith. ©Paul Elledge

Marcus Smith. ©Paul Elledge

Women have “made huge headway” toward equality with white men in the photo industry, photojournalist Maggie Steber says in an interview in the September issue of PDN. “Now we have to make sure minorities are making more headway.” For minorities, she explained, there’s still “a lot of benign racism.” Marcus Smith, a successful advertising photographer, told us during an interview in 2013 that he worried about race at the the start of his career. In this excerpt from that interview, he describes what he experienced, and offers advice about confronting racism–benign or otherwise–to young African-Americans aspiring to launch careers in photography.

PDN: Are there particular challenges to being an African-American commercial photographer, because of race?
Marcus Smith: Going into it, I thought there would be. I would talk to my mom about it and say, “I don’t know if this is going to work the way I think it is because so much of this industry is about networking and personal relationships. And I wonder if I’m going to be able to relate to people.” I’m a lot younger than a lot of people in the industry, and also, my background and where I come from is a lot different, too. I thought about whether I would have a level playing field. But the less I thought about it, the less of a problem it was–when I was, “OK, whatever. It is what it is. I’m going to be who I am and find the people who accept that.” And those are the people I’m looking to work with.

I had an agent tell me that I needed to have more white people in my portfolio, and I thought that was the craziest thing ever. There’s a lot of Caucasian photographers who shoot lifestyle, fashion, whatever–and they have a book full of white people. And nobody’s telling them, “Hey you need to shoot more black people or you need to shoot more Asian people or Hispanic people or whatever.”

So I was like, OK, I’m not going to listen to you [the agent] because that doesn’t make sense to me. People should be able to see what they want and see what you’re capable of, regardless of whatever race [the subjects are] in front of the lens. So I was going to keep doing what I do, and photograph what interests me, and I’m going to show people. I wanted to take what’s “lifestyle” to me and “culture” to me, and present that to people, and hopefully they see my passion for that and respond to it. And they did. It doesn’t matter to me what color my subject is.

PDN: What advice would you give to other aspiring African-American photographers who might feel daunted being in a minority in the photo industry?
MS: My advice would be to be yourself. People are a lot more alike than you think they are. And people like a lot more of the same things than you think they do. Just because you may have grown up in the inner city, or whatever, and somebody else may have grown up in the suburbs, doesn’t mean that you can’t find a common ground to stand on. It doesn’t mean you don’t possibly listen to the same music, or that you don’t both hate the San Antonio Spurs, or something like that. You never know what kind of random common thread you might find. And you could become the best of friends on the basis of that commonality. And then you have someone you could be different with. I think that’s what makes all of us so interesting: you come from this background, I come from that background. You could have these interesting dialogues [because of that].

PDN: What advice would you give those photographers who may fear overt racism in the industry?
MS: You shouldn’t have fear of that, because you would never know where it comes from. When you can’t pinpoint it, it can paralyze you if you let it become a part of your thinking. You have to have faith that people are not going to do that to you, and if they are, then those are not the kind of people you want to work with anyway. I can be a testament that most people in the industry are not like that. I’m not saying everybody [in the industry] is past [racism], but I can say a big majority of people I’ve come into contact with haven’t responded that way.

Photographer Maggie Steber on Women, Minorities, and How to Nurture Talent
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PDN’s 30 2014: Marcus Smith

September 10th, 2015

Getty and Instagram Announce Winners of $10K Grants For Underreported Stories


An image by Adriana Zehbrauskas, one of the winners of the inaugural Getty Images Instagram Grant, which recognizes photographers using the social media platform to tell underreported stories. Here, a woman holds her daughter before her baptism at Mexico City’s Basílica de Guadalupe.

Getty Images, in partnership with Instagram, have announced three winners of the first annual Getty Images Instagram Grant, which recognizes photographers who’ve used the social media platform to tell underreported stories around the world. The winners, all of whom are experienced professional photographers, have documented communities in Bangladesh, Latin America and Russia. They will each receive $10,000 and mentorship from Getty photojournalists, and their work will be part of an exhibit which opens today at Photoville in Brooklyn, New York.

Brazilian-born photojournalist Adriana Zehbrauskas (@adrianazehbrauskas), who lives in Mexico City and whose clients include The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Sunday Times, was recognized for her photographs covering climate change and the everyday lives of Latin Americans. Zehbruskas, who worked as a staff photographer at a Brazilian newspaper for 11 years before moving to Mexico, says she began publishing her work on Instagram “naturally” and that her feed evolved from a place where she shared personal images to a space for professional work. “The fact that you could share something in real time appealed to me, maybe because of my newspaper background,” she told PDN via email. She says Instagram allowed her to “post images that were true to my vision and style” without having to conform to the wishes of a publication. It also allowed her to “build a story over time, in just one place.”

Ismael Ferdous received a grant in recognition of his project telling stories of the survivors of the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory collapse.

Ismael Ferdous received a grant in recognition of his project telling stories of the survivors of the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory collapse. This image depicts the prosthetic leg of Raihan Kabir, who lost his right leg after a machine smashed it during the collapse, trapping him for 14.5 hours in the wreckage.

Documentary photographer Ismail Ferdous won for his project “After Rana Plaza,” which documents the lives of the survivors of the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Ferdous created the @afterranaplaza Instagram feed to share those stories. Ferdous has an unusual way of sharing his stories on Instagram, publishing still images with audio commentary from his subjects.


An image of a child with Russian Airborne troops, from Dmitry Markov’s Instagram feed, where he often depicts orphaned and underprivileged children.

Dmitry Markov ( of Pskov, Russia, has used Instagram to share his photographs of orphaned children and highlight the work of charities for which he volunteers, such as the Russian Children’s Fund.

The three recipients were chosen from more than 1,200 photographers in 109 countries, Getty Images said in a statement. Judges for the grants were National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder; TIME director of photography Kira Pollack; photographers Maggie Steber and Malin Fezehai; and photographer and @everydayiran co-founder Ramin Talaie.

The three recipients “could not better exemplify the original aim of this grant: to document and share stories of underrepresented communities that otherwise rarely come into focus,” said Elodie Mailliet, Getty Images’ Senior Director of Content Partnerships.

Zehbrauskas plans to use the grant money to start a new project creating portraits of the families of 43 students who disappeared from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers School last year. Family portraits are important as “a proof of existence, [and in] perpetuating memory and hopefully saving [the missing students] from the fate of being forever forgotten,” Zehbrauskas says.

Beyond the financial award, the recognition for her work “means a great deal,” she adds. “It means that someone is listening to what you have to say, that it is worth it to keep doing it and believing in it.”

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New Instagram Feed Highlights Effects of Climate Change

September 10th, 2015

5 of the Coolest Things We Saw at Canon Expo


Canon gave visitors a unique opportunity to preview some of the technologies it’s currently working to perfect at its Expo, which opened its three-day stint in New York yesterday. Some of the most intriguing prototypes Canon had to show—including a 120-megapixel DSLR, an 8K video camera and 250-megapixel sensor—were announced before the Expo even kicked off. Still, we were able to catch a glimpse at a few other interesting products and technologies under development. Here’s what caught our eye.


600mm f/1.4 L Lens

Canon revealed that it’s working on a 600mm lens that will incorporate the new BR optics first introduced in the recently announced 35mm f/1.4 lens. Thanks to a combination of BR and DO (diffractive optics) elements, the new 600mm should be about 30 percent lighter than its predecessor. No other details were available.


Virtual Reality

Canon also showed off a virtual reality headset and 360-degree camera solution for creating virtual reality presentations. Unlike current VR headsets which strap around a user’s head, Canon’s prototype is held up to the face. The display has a 120-degree viewing angle and features two 5×5-inch screens with a resolution of 2560×2880. The omnidirectional camera system combines 24 Vixia mini X camcorders into an array that can record spherical video.


Smart Home of the Future

Somewhere between a Microsoft PixelSense Table and Minority Report, Canon displayed an interactive table that lets users engage with their photos in novel ways. Using a combination of sensors in the table and IR and other cameras mounted above, any camera placed on the table can have its images instantly displayed across the table’s surface. Users can swipe and pull images to get a better look, flick them across the table toward a TV where they are instantly displayed or drag them to a printer icon where they are made into tangible prints. The table can also bring analog images to life. A Canon rep placed a photo book on the table and the system scanned the images and pulled additional photos with similar tags down from a cloud library to display on the table (more pictures below).

It's hard to tell from this image, but the runner's body is raised about 1-inch or more from the media.

It’s hard to tell from this image, but the runner’s body is raised about 1-inch or more from the media.

Textured Printing

While photo printing on a variety of unique surfaces and substrates is not new, Canon is pushing to give prints a variety of different textures—like glass, wood, leather, snakeskin and more—through a dimensional printing process. The process creates photo prints up to 2-inches thick off the page using a UV curable inkjet press, layered ink and gloss coatings. Canon is already selling a version of textured printing to some of its commercial partners but the process under development will support more textures and greater depths. To our eyes, portraits printed dimensionally didn’t look quite as compelling as abstract patterns or objects like bricks and wood, which also felt startlingly close to the real thing.

Speaking of printers, Canon is also finalizing new photo inkjet printers in 17-, 24- and 44-inch sizes. They’ll use a new 12 pigment ink system, but no other details were available.

In this demo, Canon is recording four 4K streams from its 8K camera, passing it through a debayer box and sending four 4K quadrants into individual external recorders. To construct the 8K footage, the files from each external recorder must be merged in post production.

In this demo, Canon is recording four 4K streams from its 8K camera (which looks like its C300), passing it through a debayer box and sending four 4K quadrants into individual external recorders. To construct the 8K footage, the files from each external recorder must be merged in post production.

8K & HDR

Attendees were treated to a glimpse of 8K video on several displays—from a large movie projection to new 8K reference monitors still in the prototype stage. The footage was recorded with Canon’s new 8K image sensor, which was announced earlier this week. The 8K sensor can produce 35-megapixel still frame grabs from video files and offers 13 stops of dynamic range. As for data rates, 10 minutes of RAW 4K footage off the sensor generates 4TB of data, a Canon spokesperson said.

On prototype 8K reference monitors, the pictures were so sharp that even standing directly in front of the display with our eyes hovering mere inches from the screen and using a magnifying glass, the images looked crystalline and ultra-realistic with no hint of pixelation. The display in question had a pixel density of 300 ppi, which Canon said is about the limit a human eye can even resolve. From a normal viewing distance however, the 8K footage didn’t look noticeably different than 4K.

What was noticeably different from a distance was a high-dynamic range display. Canon showed off a prototype display capable of brightness levels of 2,000 nits. By contrast, the average display delivers roughly 200 nits and the next-generation high dynamic range 4K TVs will achieve between 600-1,000 nits, depending on the model and manufacturer. Using an HDR monitor, users will be able to see more of the image data recorded by today’s high dynamic range cameras.

Here’s a closer look at some of the technology Canon was demoing:

Canon's Smart Home concept. The smart table can use a picture frame to crop digital images.

Canon’s Smart Home concept. The smart table can use a picture frame to crop digital images.

An analog photo book comes to live as similarly tagged images and videos are pulled down from the cloud to the smart table.

An analog photo book comes to life as similarly tagged images and videos are pulled down from the cloud to the smart table.

Mounted above the smart table, a series of cameras and sensors track hand movements and more.

Mounted above the smart table, a series of cameras and sensors track hand movements and more.


Canon’s spherical image capture solution combines 24 Vixia mini X cameras.

Canon looks poised to refresh its professional inkjet printers. Three models, including this 17-inch mockup, were displayed at the Expo.

Canon looks poised to refresh its professional inkjet printers. Three models, including this 17-inch mockup, were displayed at the Expo.

By layering on the ink and gloss, Canon can create dimensional prints with textures that feel like the real thing.

By layering on the ink and gloss, Canon can create dimensional prints with textures that feel like the real thing.

With textured printing, you can feel the wrinkles and scars of a long life. If you're into that kind of thing.

With textured printing, you can feel the wrinkles and scars of a long life. If you’re into that kind of thing.

September 9th, 2015

Newsha Tavakolian Wins €100K Cultural Prize; Pledges to €45K to Help Refugees, Charities in Iran

Photographer Newsha Tavakolian. ©Frank van Beek

Photographer Newsha Tavakolian. ©Frank van Beek

Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian has been named winner of the 2015 Principal Prince Claus Award, the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development announced last week in Amsterdam. She will receive a 100,000 Euro prize, and she has already pledged to donate nearly half of her prize money to charity, including an aid organization for Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

In announcing the award, Prince Claus Fund organizers described Tavakolian as “a trailblazing artist and photojournalist whose work offers a compelling insider’s perspective on contemporary life in Iran and the Middle East…she fuses artistic work and documentary reportage to create intimate portraits and unexpected human stories that enable us to look deeply inside societies. ” Tavakolian will receive the prize December 2 at a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.

Ten other individuals and organizations will also receive awards. But Tavakolian was named the winner of the Prince Claus Fund’s top award “for her beautiful and moving testimony of the complexities and ambiguities of contemporary Iran” as well as for her courage, critical insight, support for young photographers, and her commitment to women’s voices, organizers said.

In addition to the prize money, Tavakolian’s award includes an exhibition of her work at The Prince Claus Fund Gallery in Amsterdam from November 27 to March 4, 2016.

“Unfortunately it is hard for me to enjoy this prize as much as I would like to, seeing the region where I work and live in flames and tens of thousands seeking refuge in faraway lands,” the photographer said on her Facebook page, after the award was announced.

She went on to say she would donate 15,000 Euros to an organization that supports Syrian and Iraqi refugees. “[I] want to give back [for] all the kindness Iraqi’s and Syrians always welcomed me with, despite the dire circumstances they live in,” she wrote on Facebook.

Tavakolian pledged another 13,000 Euros to an independent photography prize in Iran that supports young photographers; 10,000 Euros to an Iranian charity that helps children with cancer; and 7,000 Euros to several organizations in Iran that protect animals.

The Prince Claus Awards  were established 19 years ago to honor outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development. They are awarded annually to individuals and groups who have had a positive impact on the development of their societies, according to the Prince Claus Fund web site.

Among other winners of 2015 Prince Claus Awards was photographer Latif Al-Ani, who documented life in Iraq from the 1950s to the 1970s. The other winners included artists, journalists, and arts collectives.

This year, the fund invited 250 people to submit nominations for the awards. Winners were selected from 103 nominations. Jurors included filmmaker and journalist Bregtje van der Haak (Netherlands); architect and writer Suad Amiry (Palestine); art historian Salah Hassan (Sudan); writer Kettly Mars (Haiti); theater producer and director Ong Keng Sen (Singapore); and independent curator Gabriela Salgado (Argentina).

September 8th, 2015

Educator, Consultant Mary Virginia Swanson Named New Executive Director of LOOK3

© Tom Daly/courtesy LOOK3

The Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, during LOOK3 2015. © Tom Daly

The board of directors of LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph today announced they have hired Mary Virginia Swanson, a long-time photo educator, workshop leader, author and consultant to photographers and arts organizations, to be its new executive director. She succeeds Victoria Hindley, who had been executive director of the non-profit photography organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia, since 2014.

© Steven St. John

Swanson (left) teaching at Santa Fe Workshops. © Steven St. John

“I am thrilled to come back to my roots of developing educational programs and events that draw together diverse members of our photography community,”  said Swanson, who had previously participated in LOOK3 as a workshop leader and mentor.

Photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols, cofounder of LOOK3, said in a statement,  “We are thrilled and honored that such a well respected long-time member of the community will be calling LOOK3 home. With her over 30 years working with photographers she will take LOOK3 to new heights.”

Swanson says that as LOOK3 enters its tenth year, she hopes to put more emphasis on the week-long festival’s educational programming, which has sometimes been overshadowed by its exhibitions and public talks by photographers.

Swanson notes that LOOK3’s stated mission is “to celebrate the vision of extraordinary photographers, ignite conversations about critical issues, and foster the next generation of artists.” The festival began when photographer Mike “Nick” Nichols held slide shows annually in his backyard; it became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2006. Throughout its history, Swanson says, LOOK3 “has had a rich legacy of supporting three generations of photographers,” including emerging talent, mid-career photographers and the master photographers who have spoken during the festival at Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater. At times, she says, its educational mission has been “less visible” than its other programs. “I’m keen on photographers having a window onto the business as it’s evolving,” she says. “I want to continue our mentorship of young photographers and meet the need of long-standing professionals for continuing education. We all need to be lifelong learners.”

The LOOK3 board of directors, which was recently expanded, will hold its first meeting this month to discuss next year’s festival.

Before her appointment was announced, Swanson informed her photographer clients that she will be limiting her private consultations. Swanson says she will honor commitments to teach seminars this fall for Aperture Foundation and PhotoPlus Expo, and she plans to continue giving lectures and attending portfolio reviews. As a reviewer, lecturer and teacher, she says,  “I will wear different hats at PhotoNOLA  and [Houston] Fotofest. I’ll be an advocate for LOOK3 as well as an advocate for photographers.”

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