February 24th, 2014

White House Shuts Out Photographers Again. So Now What?

No photographers allowed: White House released this photo of President Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama on February 21.

The White House released this photo of President Obama and the Dalai Lama on Feb. 21, after barring press photographers from the meeting.

Now that it is evident that the White House is deaf to complaints from photographers and their employers about being shut out of some of President Obama’s official meetings, the question is, What can the media do about it?

On Friday, the White House  closed a meeting between the President and the Dalai Lama, and then angered photographers, their employers, and photo trade groups by by releasing an official photo on Twitter by White House photographer Pete Souza.

Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) refused to distribute the official photo, according to a report by the National Press Photographers Association.

The White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) issued a statement urging other news organizations not to publish the photo, describing it as “a visual press release of a news worthy event.”

WHNPA also said in their statement, “We are disappointed the White House has reverted to their old strategy of announcing a closed press event and then later releasing their own photo.”

Last November, more than three dozen news organizations signed a joint letter protesting limits on photographers’ access to some of Obama’s official meetings.

A few weeks later, The New York Times published an op-ed piece by AP director of photography Santiago Lyon, who called the White House handout photos “propaganda.”

Around the same time, journalists confronted White House press secretary Jay Carney at a White House press briefing about the issue. Carney told the journalists in so many words that The White House no longer needs photographers like it once did, because it can distribute its own pictures directly to the public on the internet.

“You don’t have to buy that newspaper or subscribe to that wire service to see that photograph,” Carney said at the time.

Nevertheless, he pledged “to work with the press and with the photographers to try to address some of their concerns.” About a week later, on December 17, he met with representatives of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the WHNPA, and other media organizations.

Afterwards, NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher said in a report published by NPPA, “We remain cautiously optimistic that the White House will follow through on its earlier commitment to transparency.”

That was then. On Friday, after photographers were shut out of Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, White House News Photographers Association president Ron Sachs said in another NPPA report, “I think the White House grand strategy is to talk us to death and do nothing.”

Osterreicher tells PDN, “We (media groups) should be having a meeting soon” to discuss what to do next.

Undoubtedly they’ll be looking for new angles of diplomacy or attack (or both) to regain the access that White House press corps photographers once enjoyed. In the meantime, we ask PDN readers: What would you advise media organizations and photographers covering the White House to do now?

Related:

Media Protests White House Limits on Photographers
White House Press Secretary to Photographers: We Respect You, But We Don’t Need You
AP Photo Chief Appeals to Public About White House Access. Will It Help?

January 23rd, 2014

AP Severs Ties with Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image

Courtesy of AP Photos

Courtesy of AP Photos

Associated Press (AP) has severed ties with freelance photographer Narciso Contreras for altering a news photograph he shot in Syria, the wire service has announced. Contreras was part of a team of AP photographers that shared the Pulitzer Prize last year for coverage of the Syrian civil war.

AP reports that Contreras “recently told its editors that he manipulated a digital picture of a Syrian rebel fighter taken last September.” The image shows the rebel fighter taking cover in a rugged landscape. Contreras altered the image by removing from the scene a video camera sitting on the ground near the soldier.

Santiago Lyon, AP’s director of photography, said the alteration “involved a corner of the image with little news importance,” but it was nevertheless a breach of AP’s standards. “Deliberately removing elements from our photographs is completely unacceptable,” Lyon said.

AP says the altered image was not part of AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning portfolio.

Contreras said he removed the video camera from the image in question because he thought it would distract viewers, according to the AP report.

“I took the wrong decision when I removed the camera … I feel ashamed about that,” he said. “You can go through my archives and you can find that this is a single case that happened probably at one very stressed moment, at one very difficult situation, but yeah, it happened to me, so I have to assume the consequences.”

Contreras, who is 38, began his career freelancing for newspapers in Mexico, but made his reputation with his coverage of the war in Syria. Time Lightbox showcased his work in December, 2012.

“[Contreras] has managed to illuminate and distill the horrors of the…war — more consistently than any of his often more-experienced peers,” Time senior photo editor Phil Bicker wrote in a story that accompanies the 44-image gallery. “What makes Contreras’s work in Syria even more astonishing is the fact that he has, in a sense, come out of nowhere to emerge as the one photographer whose work will likely be seen as the photographic record of the conflict.”

AP says it has removed all of Contreras’s images from its archives. There were about 500 in all. AP says it has compared as many as it could to Contreras’s original image files, and found no other instances of alteration.

March 12th, 2013

Photogs Dish Anonymously About Clients’ Rates Via New Tumblr Site

A new site on Tumblr set up by an anonymous editorial photographer seeks to provide a platform where photographers can share information about what clients in all fields, from editorial to advertising to non-profits, pay photographers.

Still in its infancy, the site, Who Pays Photographers, is based on a similar Tumblr, Who Pays Writers, which, you guessed it, lists fees paid to writers. According to the anonymous founder of Who Pays Photographers, the response has been a bit overwhelming, indicating a serious interest among photographers to talk about, and read about, the fees clients pay for photographic work.

Thus far the site has information about The New York Times, Getty Images, AP, AFP, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN and several other clients in the US and abroad.

We exchanged emails with the creator of Who Pays Photographers to find out a bit more about her/his goals for the site.

PDN: How long have you worked as a photographer and in what field?

Who Pays Photographers: I’m an editorial photographer with 6 years experience, about half of that time as a staffer at a magazine, and more recently, as a freelancer.

PDN: What inspired you to start the site? Was it just a natural reaction to seeing Manjula Martin’s Who Pays Writers, or was there more to it?

WPP: The site was a simple reaction to Who Pays Writers, a site that was linked to a number of times during the recent Nate Thayer kerfuffle with the Atlantic. It seemed obvious that the photo industry could really benefit from having such a resource and I found it surprising that nothing of the sort existed. (more…)

January 4th, 2013

Rep. Nancy Pelosi Defends Doctoring of Press Release Photo

Photo Courtesy Nancy Pelosi/via Flickr

Photo Courtesy Nancy Pelosi/via Flickr

© Cliff Owen/AP

© Cliff Owen/AP

 

The hand-out photo that the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave to the press yesterday featured all 61 female representatives of the newly sworn in 113th Congress. The problem was: Four of the representatives shown in the photo came late to the photo-op, and were Photoshopped into the photo after the fact. According to Poynter, the doctored photo was uploaded to Flickr and also emailed to news outlets with a note from a spokesperson in Pelosi’s office that said, “Please note this version has the four Members who were late photo-shopped [sic] in.”  The four late arrivals were dropped into the back row of the group photo.

The AP released an undoctored photo of the scene, without the four missing representatives. It was shot by Cliff Owen.

At a press conference yesterday, Minority Leader Pelosi defended the release of a Photoshopped photo. ABC News reports that she said the representatives who posed for the photo were too cold to wait for the latecomers.

“It was an accurate historical record of who the Democratic women of Congress are,” Pelosi said. “It also is an accurate record that it was freezing cold and our members had been waiting a long time for everyone to arrive and … had to get back into the building to greet constituents, family members, to get ready to go to the floor. It wasn’t like they had the rest of the day to stand there.”

Questions linger about this photo doctoring incident, however. Questions like: Why does any news outlet still run hand-out photos, especially when there’s a wire service photographer on the scene? And: Should we trust members of Congress who don’t have the sense to wear coats when they go outside in Washington in January?

April 30th, 2012

Student Photographer Claims Falling Bear Photos Were Infringed

You may not know the name of photographer Andy Duann, but you may have seen his work. Duann, a photographer with the CU Independent, the student paper of the University of Colorado Boulder, photographed the bear that fell out of the tree on the school campus after it was tranquilized by wildlife officials (landing gently on some pads below). The CU Independent distributed his images to the Associated Press (AP), the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily  and other outlets. As the Poynter.org mediawire reported on Friday, Duann claimed that the school had no right to resell the images, because he holds the copyright.

Today Poynter reports that, in light of Duann’s complaint, the AP has yanked his falling-bear photos, and issued an advisory to its members to scrub the pics from their archives.

What’s at issue here is whether the student photographer is considered an employee of the university’s paper—and thus his images are automatically “works for hire”—or an independent contractor—and thus retains copyright to the images unless he’s signed a work-for-hire agreement. The faculty advisor to the paper says Duann’s an employee, but an attorney for the Student Press Law Center says no. A student is not in an employee/employer relationship with his school, and federal law requires a specific work-for-hire contract, not a general understanding, for the copyright to be transferred from the creator. (The attorney, Adam Goldstein, also provides a succinct and clear explanation of when work-for-hire does and does not apply. You might find it useful the next time a client hires you for an assignment and says, “But why don’t we own the copyright?”)

Poynter reporter Andrew Beaujon explains that as soon as Duann saw his photo on the Washington Post and elsewhere, he headed to the university law school to find out his options.

Hey, don’t say the young photographers of tomorrow don’t understand their intellectual property rights!

You can read the whole saga, including the story of how Beaujon got inadvertently involved in the copyright dispute, at Poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire. You can see other photos of the bear in mid-air, not taken by Duann, here.

Update: Some copyright information for student photographers has been posted at Student Press Law Center, splc.org.

February 24th, 2012

Shepard Fairey Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges in AP Copyright Suit

Here’s a new installment in the long saga of AP’s copyright infringement suit against artist Shepard Fairey, creator of the Obama “Hope” poster. Fairey has plead guilty to a federal criminal charge for destroying documents, falsifying evidence “and other misconduct” in his civil litigation with Associated Press two years ago, the US District Attorney in Manhattan has announced.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 16. Fairey faces a maximum of six months in prison, and fines of $5,000 or more.

The full news story, including excerpts from the US Attorney’s statement on Fairey’s plea, is now on PDNOnline.

December 29th, 2011

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

© Korea Central News Agency

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

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

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

Undoctored photo, © Kyodo News

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

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

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

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

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

August 5th, 2011

AP’s David Guttenfelder Inside North Korea

© AP Photo/David Guttenfelder

In June,  the Associated Press announced it had signed an agreement with North Korea’s state-run news agency to open an AP photo and text bureau in Pyongyang. The AP also noted that David Guttenfelder, AP’s Chief Asia Photographer, had already made several trips to North Korea this spring, photographing extensively in several parts of the country.

Guttenfelder’s photos of this secretive nation were published this week on The Atlantic web site and in The Independent, the UK paper. As the article in the British paper notes, “The pictures are among the most candid ever published in Western newspapers.”

In a country where the press is tightly controlled, Guttenfelder captured slices of daily life in a variety of settings: a university and a pool for its students, a library, an elementary school, a fast food restaurant, a subway station, a museum dedicated to the Korean war. Guttenfelder also photographed outside Kim Il Sung’s mausoleum, where tourists pose for photos. Some of his photos depict an eery quiet: an empty multi-lane highway leading to the Pyongyang airport, and a traffic cop standing in a Pyongyang street where there seems to be no traffic. His photos are often beautiful, capturing landscapes of color and sometimes startling clarity: as The Independent notes, the lack of industry means there’s little smog.