June 2nd, 2015

Steve McCurry Employee Arrested, Charged With Stealing $650K From Photographer

An employee of Magnum photographer Steve McCurry has been arrested and accused of stealing and selling prints, books and other items worth more than $654,358. The District Attorney’s Office of Chester County, PA, where McCurry’s studio is located, made the announcement this afternoon.

The employee, Bree DeStephano, age 32, who was McCurry’s print sales manager, “casually abused her position of trust to make some easy money, without a thought to the damage to Mr. McCurry,” said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan in a statement.

DeStephano allegedly stole 50 prints worth $628,000 between May 2012 and November 2013, and worked with a co-conspirator, Brandon Donahue, to sell the stolen prints. Donohue was the manager of Durango, Colorado gallery Open Shutter. DeStephano falsified McCurry’s print inventory records to cover up the illicit sales.

DeStephano is also accused of selling 233 of McCurry’s books and other items online, the value of which is more than $23,000.

Bail for DeStephano was set at $250,000. Donahue will be charged in Colorado, the statement said.

June 2nd, 2015

Meet the New Phase One XF Camera System and IQ3 Backs

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Phase One has released a new XF camera system and three new IQ3 medium format digital backs, hailing them as a “fundamental re-engineering” of its medium format camera system.

The XF camera incorporates revamped electronics and a new autofocus system dubbed the Honeybee Autofocus Platform (HAP-1, for short) which uses a new processor, a 1-megapixel CMOS AF sensor and a white spectrum focus assist light to keep subjects crisp. It features a hyperfocal point focusing feature that allows photographers to set a hyperfocal point for a lens and return to that point as needed. You’ll have a choice of spot, average and hyperfocal AF modes when shooting with the XF.

The XF camera system also marks the debut of a new 90° glass prism viewfinder with 97 percent coverage that will come standard with the camera. An optional new waist-level viewfinder is also available. The waist-level find uses the Honeybee AF system to perform light metering.

There were plenty of opportunities for customizing the XF camera. It sports three customizable dials and six customizable controls.

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The system will also feature a new touch-based user interface accessible through a pair of touch screens–a 1.6-inch screen available on the camera and a 3.2-inch display on the new IQ3-series camera backs that can zoom in to 100 percent on a photo with a single tap. The touch-based UI firmware on the XF camera is easily upgradeable, Phase said, and will be updated “at regular intervals” as users request new features. Profoto owners will also get a nice treat: the XF camera body will feature integrated wireless Profoto flash triggers with sync speeds of 1/125 sec. for focal plane shutter lenses and 1/1600 sec. for leaf shutter lenses

The XF camera will be compatible with three new IQ3 backs, IQ1 backs (40-80-megapixel versions) and IQ2-series backs with P-mounts.

The new IQ3 series digital backs will feature Wi-Fi, a high bandwidth port, auto ISO and ISO control, wireless remote control through the Capture Pilot iOS app and live view. All three are capable of exposures up to 60 minutes. They offer a 1GB image buffer and accept CF cards (a 16GB card and card reader are included).

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The XF IQ3 50-megapixel back uses a CMOS sensor and delivers a native ISO range of 100-6400, 1.8 fps continuous capture, and 14-stops of dynamic range. It will retail for $40,990.

There will also be 60-megapixel and 80-megapixel CCD-based IQ3 backs. Both feature 16-bit color, 13 stops of dynamic range, and an ISO range of 50-800 (or 140-3200 during long exposures). The 80-megapixel back will set you back $48,990 while the 60-megapixel back will cost $41,990.

A new version of Capture One 8 (v. 8.3) will be released and shipped with the XF system. The marquee change in the program is faster tethered shooting, which Phase One said gets a 30 percent speed boost in the updated software.

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Finally, two new Phase One Schneider Kreuznach leaf shutter lenses are also being introduced in support of the XF system: a 120mm LS f/4 macro ($6,490) and a 35mm LS f/3.5. Both are capable of resolving up to 100-megapixels and each will carry a price tag of $6,490.

The Phase One XF system, IQ3 backs and new lenses are shipping now.

May 29th, 2015

Up in the Air: Vincent Laforet Finds Common Ground From the Skies

Sponsored by G-Technology

Sometimes it takes a new perspective on life to see the ways in which we’re all connected. Photographer and filmmaker Vincent Laforet has been working at his craft for the past 25 years, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan post 9/11 and capturing the human spirit through acclaimed journalistic and commercial assignments. But it’s only recently that he’s had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of his: taking to the sky at night to capture the intricate manmade patterns resembling “brain synapses” and “computer chips” of some of the most dense metropolises in the world.

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Los Angeles / © Vincent Laforet – AIR

His project, Laforet AIR—named as such because air is an element “that we all share,” he says—began in New York City. The aerial images spread like wildfire online. “I think these images struck a chord,” Laforet says, “because when you look up at buildings in a big city, you feel pretty insignificant, alone and somewhat powerless—but from the air you feel much more connected.”

G-Technology was the first company to see something special in his project, he says, jumping on board with his idea and helping him get it off the ground. Armed with what Laforet terms the “perfect storm of technology”—including some of the most “well-built, reliable, and fast” hard drives ever made—he was able to finally make his childhood dream a reality. He’s already photographed San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and he’s just completed a whirlwind trip through Europe, capturing nighttime aerial shots of London, Barcelona and Berlin, among others. Laforet couldn’t be more excited about the project, even though, he admits, he hasn’t slept much over the past year.

London / © Vincent Laforet – AIR

New York City / © Vincent Laforet – AIR

Making technically sound images from a helicopter at night was something that was not possible a couple of years ago, he says. But now with the improvement of digital camera sensors, and the ability to shoot clean and sharp images at a high ISO, he’s able to successfully shoot close to 10,000 high-resolution images of a city within a single day. Shooting from a helicopter is no easy task with all of the vibration and the added difficulty of shooting at night, he explains—let alone the sheer expense of air time—so it’s essential he uses the best and fastest technology to back up his work. With fast drives, photographers are less likely to skip out on making that second or third copy, and when so much is on the line, “you can’t afford to have mistakes,” he says. “You can’t afford to lose data.” Before he even leaves the helicopter, he explains, he already has three copies of his images: one on a G-DRIVE ev SSD (“the fastest and most stable hard drive you can get,” he says, “you can drop it and it’s fine—there’s no moving pieces”) mounted to a G-DOCK ev® with Thunderbolt; and two G-DRIVE® ev ATC with Thunderbolt copied to a G-RAID® with Thunderbolt 2, RAID 1.

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Laforet photographing from a helicopter.

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Laforet’s G-Technology storage in its case.

This “cutting-edge workflow” ensures that when he gets to his hotel room to do his first round of edits (selecting approximately 500 images from the shoot), he isn’t ever concerned with loss of data, because of the redundancy in his image storage. Waiting for data to copy over is one thing the photographer doesn’t have patience for, but he says the G-Technology drives make the process as painless as possible. Once he’s made his initial selection of shots in his hotel room, he then copies them to the Cloud and syncs them to two 64TB G-SPEED Studio Xls (one in Los Angeles and one in New York City) for safekeeping until he returns home. The process of protecting his data is allowing this high-stakes project to be possible, he says. “It’s pretty bulletproof at this point.”

This secure transfer of files is what also makes it possible for Laforet to translate his bird’s-eye view of cityscapes to the rest of the world. Lights not only ignite the landscape from above, but they serve to tie one culture to the next through distinct color patterns. Daylight-balanced LED lights, for example, (which, he says, are becoming more and more common) allow other surreal hues created by older sodium vapor and fluorescent lighting to be revealed. In Los Angeles, “you have one street that’s all green, followed by one street that’s all blue, and five streets that are all yellow,” he explains. “There are many more commonalities throughout the world and distances are much shorter than we assume. From up there, it’s clear there are a lot of stories to tell.”

Laforet plans to photograph as many iconic cities in as many countries as possible. His hope is to continue growing his audience through his website, laforetAIR.com, and also through social media meet-ups, lithographs and fine-art prints, a book of the images, and eventually, exhibitions.

“This is the most organic and pleasurable assignment I’ve ever done,” he says. “The act of photographing these cities and the joy that people seem to exude when they see their city is really special.”

May 29th, 2015

Google Photos Puts Dropbox, Box on Notice with Unlimited Photo Storage, Pushes Deeper into VR

slide8a_framedGoogle is rapidly pushing cloud storage into commodity territory with a new Photos app that gives users unlimited photo storage for images with a resolution of 16-megapixels and under. The app was announced at Google’s I/O developer conference.

Photographers shooting images at higher resolutions can opt to have Google automatically resize their images to stay in the free tier or to use Google’s existing paid storage plans for their digital negatives. Google plans start at $2/month for 100GB and $10/month for 1TB.

Videos can also be stored on the photos app. The free tier supports video resolutions up to 1080p. Videos recorded at a higher resolution will either be down-converted by Google to stay in the free tier, or you can opt to store the original file in Google’s fee-based storage service.

The new Photos app is largely aimed at consumers who have photos dispersed chaotically among a growing number of devices. The app will automatically and, Google claims, intelligently, organize images based on their contents. It will also synchronize images across devices.

Several photo features from Google+, like automatic image enhancement and collage creation, are also available in Photos.

Google Photos is available now for iOS and Android devices. It’s also available through web browsers. For more insights into Google Photos, check out Steven Levy’s interview with Bradley Horowitz, Google’s head of Streams, Photos and Sharing.

Google is also pushing its Cardboard virtual reality solution to Apple devices. Cardboard is an inexpensive, open-source virtual reality headset (literally made from cardboard) that uses mobile phones as the display. It’s a lower-cost alternative to high-powered gaming headsets like the Oculus Rift and Google told I/O attendees that more than 1 million Cardboard headsets were currently in consumer’s hands (or is that heads?).

To achieve an immersive effect, videos need to be played in an specialized app. Besides bringing its Cardboard-ready apps to iOS, Google said that 360-degree YouTube videos would also be playable in Cardboard headsets.

To jumpstart 360-degree video creation, Google is partnering with GoPro on a 16-camera rig called the Jump (which is different than the virtual reality rig that GoPro revealed earlier this week). Using the rig and the Jump Assembler software, videographers will be able to capture and stitch together video that can be viewable in any Google Cardboard app, including YouTube. The Jump VR rig is due in the fall.

May 28th, 2015

Photographer Cotton Coulson Dies in Diving Accident on National Geographic Expedition

Cotton Coulson ©Doug Menuez

Cotton Coulson ©Doug Menuez

Photographer Cotton Coulson, a former National Geographic contributor and Baltimore Sun DOP, died yesterday as a result of a diving accident last Sunday, according to NPPA‘s News Photographer magazine. He was 60 years old.

Coulson was participating as an instructor in a 17-day National Geographic adventure photography workshop in Norway when the accident occurred. According to the NPPA report, Coulson signaled trouble to a diving partner, who then dragged him to the surface of the water. The diving partner administered CPR, and rescue workers were able to re-start Coulson’s heart, but he never regained consciousness. He died at a hospital in Tromsø, Norway.

“We are devastated,” says photographer Doug Menuez, who along with his wife was close friends with Coulson and his wife, former National Geographic photographer Sisse Brimberg. Menuez remembers Coulson as an iconoclast “with a wicked sense of humor,” and adds, “Cotton wasn’t blowing his own horn. He was content to do excellent work, and let it speak for itself.

“It’s heartbreaking to think he’s gone.”

A National Geographic spokesperson told PDN that the publisher will soon issue a statement about Coulson’s death.

Coulson began contributing to National Geographic in 1975, after graduating from film school at New York University. He was hired as a contract photographer the following year, and produced more than a dozen stories for the magazine.

Around 1987, he became associate director of photography at US News & World Report, and several years later, joined The Baltimore Sun as Director of Photography.

In the mid 1990s, Coulson relocated to San Francisco, where he was senior VP/Product Development at CNET. About a decade ago, he and Brimberg moved to Copenhagen, and founded a production company called Keenpress. They produced photography and films about travel, climate issues, the environment and other subjects for various media outlets and corporations.

In addition to his wife, Coulson is survived by his son Calder and daughter Saskia, as well as by his sister and his mother.

May 27th, 2015

“SuicideGirls” Deliver Cleverest Response to Richard Prince’s Instagram Appropriation

Today the adult lifestyle brand SuicideGirls issued an applause-worthy response to artist Richard Prince’s appropriation of their images: The brand’s founder, Missy Suicide, also known as Selena Mooney, announced the brand would sell for $90 the same images Prince and his gallery, Gagosian, are alleged to have sold for $90,000 at the Frieze Art Fair in New York and at Gagosian’s Beverly Hills gallery.

The print specs on the SuicideGirls images are equivalent to Prince’s pieces: 67×55-inches, inkjet printed on canvas. SuicideGirls even did a bit of appropriation of their own, incorporating the Prince comments that were the only addition the artist made to the images he appropriated. SuicideGirls also included a sly comment of their own under Prince’s: “true art,” it reads.

Prince was already notorious among photographers for his copying of other photographers’ work (and his 2013 victory in the copyright infringement case brought by photographer Patrick Cariou). A lot of vitriol has been directed at the artist and his gallery since he started selling images he found on Instagram, but Mooney avoided any legal arguments when she announced the sale. Read the rest of this entry »

May 22nd, 2015

In Memoriam: Environmental Portrait Photographer Seth Kushner, 41

Seth KushnerSeth Kushner, a photographer who shot environmental portraits for The New York Times Magazine, Time, Vibe and Businessweek and was selected for PDN’s 30 in 1999, died May 17 of leukemia. He was 41.

A native of Brooklyn, Kushner knew he wanted to be a photographer when he was in high school. After he graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, he began shooting a number of editorial assignments and was syndicated by Retna. When he was profiled for the first issue of PDN’s 30: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch in 1999, photo editor Michelle Molloy, then at Newsweek, praised the vibrancy and energy of Kushner’s portraits, and noted, “He also hits it off well with people, which is important for a portrait photographer, yet he never loses perspective of the person he’s shooting.” Kushner said, “I want to say either by location or action or clothes or composition what my subjects are about, aside from simply what they look like.”

Kushner turned his passions for two of his favorite subjects – Brooklyn and comic books—into photo books. In 2007, he published The Brooklynites (powerHouse Books), which combined his environmental portraits of Brooklyn residents, both famous and unknown, with interviews by Anthony LaSala (former senior editor at PDN). Years before “Brooklyn” became synonymous with “hipster Mecca,” The Brooklynites celebrated residents from every part of the borough and every walk of life: writers and actors, a sanitation worker, a handball player, a pizza maker, clergy, teachers, British émigrés raising toddlers in Park Slope.

Stan Lee. Photo © Seth Kushner

Stan Lee. Photo © Seth Kushner

A collector of super-hero memorabilia, Kushner co-founded the website Graphic NYC in 2008 with writer Christopher Irving to celebrate pioneering comic book artists. Kushner expanded the website into a book, Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comic Books, published by powerHouse Books in 2012. It featured Kushner’s portraits of such artists as Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics; Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America; Frank Miller, creator of Sin City; and Art Spiegelman, author of the graphic memoir Maus.

Kushner was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014. Members of the communities Kushner was most involved with – the photo community, comic book artists and fans, and his neighborhood in Brooklyn—contributed to an online fundraising campaign set up to raise money for medical bills and living expenses while Kushner was unable to work. Memorial contributions to the campaign will now help support his wife, Terra, and their son, Jackson, who survive him.

Related article:
PDN Photo of the Day: Real-Life Comic Book Heroes

May 21st, 2015

Winner of Kraszna-Krausz First Book Award 2015 Has Best Title We’ve Seen This Year

The cover of Ciarán Óg Arnold's award-winning book.

The cover of Ciarán Óg Arnold’s award-winning book.

Irish photographer Ciarán Óg Arnold‘s book, I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed. but all I could do was to get drunk again, has been named winner of the Kraszna-Krausz First Book Award 2015. The award is presented by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation in partnership with MACK Books.

It was one of three prizes awarded at a ceremony on Tuesday by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation. The prizes celebrate books which have made “original and lasting educational, professional, historical and cultural contributions to the field.”

Also awarded Kraszna-Krausz prizes were Amore e piombo: The Photography of Extremes in 1970s Italy (published by Archive of Modern Conflict), a reappraisal of reportage from Italy in the period associated with paparazzi documenting La Dolce Vita. A 10,000 pound award accompanies the prize. The book was chosen by jurors from among a short list that included The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip (published by Aperture) and Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful (published by Yale University Press).

The judges for the 2015 prizes were publisher Michael Mack, Polly Fleury of the Wilson Centre for Photography and the National Media Museum’s Greg Hobson, along with guest judges Simon Baker, photography curator of the Tate Museum, and Lucy Kumara Moore of Claire de Rouen Books.

The winners and finalists for the Kraszna-Krausz books are being exhibited at the Media Space at the Science Museum in London through June 28.

May 21st, 2015

Science Says: People Like Filtered Photos

Love them or hate them, photo filters are a staple of photo sharing. While some may view them as a shortcut to creativity, new research suggests they’re also a powerful lure for eyeballs on the web’s most popular photo platforms.

New research from Saeideh Bakhshi, David Shamma and Lyndon Kennedy of Yahoo Labs and Eric Gilbert at Georgia Tech aims to understand how filtering and “visual post-processing” impacts photo sharing.

What they found, simply put, is that filtering photos drives more engagement: photos with filters were 21 percent more likely to be viewed on Flickr and Instagram than those without. What’s more, filtered photos were 45 percent more likely to be commented on.

There is an art to filtering, though.

“Filters that increase contrast and correct exposure can help a photo’s engagement, and filters that create a warmer color temperature are more engaging than those with cooler color effects,” the authors write. “Photographically speaking, filters which auto-enhance a photo (e.g. correct for contrast and exposure) drive more engagement. We find the less-engaging filters exhibit transformation effects which are exaggerated and often cause photographic artifacts and/or loss of highlight details. The exception being filters which make a photo look antique.”

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The study gleaned insights from interviews with Flickr users, plus a quantitative analysis of over 7.6 million images from both Flickr and Instagram.

Incidentally, filters aren’t the only means of increasing engagement with images. The researchers also found that the more tags a Flickr image had, the more likely it was to surface in a search. The age of a Flickr account also had a “positive but small role” in the number of eyeballs an image attracted.

The full report, which provides a detailed breakdown on the methodology used in the study, is available here.

May 19th, 2015

New App Saves Your Video Even If Police Try To Delete It

MOBILEJUSTICE-ACLU
A new app promises to help citizen journalists record police actions.

Mobile Justice CA, a new mobile app from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, allows users to automatically send recordings of police activity to the ACLU. By using the app, citizens who record incidents involving police are assured that their videos will survive even if police seize their mobile devices.

The app, which is available via the Apple App Store and Google Play, may come in handy for photographers and journalists working in California. Versions of the app also exist for Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York and Oregon. Video by users of the Mobile Justice CA app in other states will still be sent to the ACLU of California, who will forward that video to local ACLU offices if the video depicts a civil rights issue.

In addition to sending a copy of a user’s video directly to the ACLU, the app saves the video to the camera roll of the user. It also prompts the user to fill out an incident report that will help the ACLU catalogue and sort the videos they receive.

On the website announcing the app, writer and activist Griffith Fuller, Jr., explains the need for it. He recalls an incident when he was detained and searched without cause by a cop in West Hollywood, California. Fuller recorded the encounter, but after the cop handcuffed Fuller and put him in his car, he “picked up my phone, which was still recording, and deleted the video from the ‘Camera Roll’ folder as well as the copy in the backup ‘Recently Deleted’ folder,” Fuller writes.

Other features include a “Witness” function, which informs users if others are using the app to record incidents at nearby locations. Information about the rights of citizens is also included in the app features. The app will also send the user push notifications with announcements and information from the ACLU.

Related: Federal Judge Sanctions City of Atlanta for Continuing to Violate Photographers’ Rights
L.A. Pays $50k to Harassed Photogs, Agrees to Train Sheriff’s Deputies