April 4th, 2014

AP Photographer Anja Niedringhaus Killed in Afghanistan

Anja Niedringhaus in 2005. ©Associated Press/Peter Dejong

Anja Niedringhaus in 2005. ©Associated Press/Peter Dejong

Associated Press staff photographer Anja Niedringhaus was shot and  killed while covering the run-up to elections in Afghanistan, the Associated Press announced this morning. Regional correspondent Kathy Gannon was injured in the same attack and is undergoing treatment at a hospital, the wire service said.

“[I]t appears they were targeted and attacked,” AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt said a statement.

AP says Niedringhaus and Gannon were shot by an Afghan police officer while traveling with a convoy of election workers who were delivering ballots in the town of Khost, near the border with Pakistan. The convoy was protected by Afghan soldiers and police, according to AP. Gannon and Niedringhaus were in their own car with a driver and another unidentified freelance journalist who witnessed the attack.

“As they were sitting in the car waiting for the convoy to move, a unit commander named Naqibullah walked up to the car, yelled ‘Allahu Akbar’ — God is Great — and opened fire on them in the back seat with his AK-47. He then surrendered to the other police and was arrested,” AP says in its report of the incident.

“Those of you who worked with Anja know what a life force she was: spirited, intrepid and fearless, with a raucous laugh that we will always remember,” Pruitt says in his statement about the attack.

Niedringhaus, who was 48, was based in Geneva. She joined AP in 2002, and had worked throughout the Middle East, as well as in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She was among the team of eleven AP photographers who shared 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for coverage of Iraq.

January 27th, 2014

Photographer Fired by AP Says Decision Was Fair, But Process Wasn’t

Courtesy of AP Photos

Courtesy of AP Photos

Freelancer Narciso Contreras, a talented war photographer who was cut off by Associated Press last week after he admitted he had Photoshopped a news photo, told PDN in an e-mail interview that he accepts his punishment, but said, “I’m critical when it comes to how the Industry handles the situation with individual photographers, especially when you are a freelancer.”

AP cut ties with Contreras publicly after the photographer informed the wire service that he had removed a video camera from a corner of an image of a Syrian rebel soldier taking cover during a fire fight. Contreras says he knew it could end his relationship with AP, but that he didn’t expect to be shut out of the process.

“I would have preferred to discuss with the editors the whole situation personally, [but] they went behind locked doors and made their decision.” He added, “As a photographer you should have the right to be included in the process.”

Contreras said he thinks AP also went too far in making its decision so public. “The public punishment seems more like an exhibit of power in order to protect [AP's] own interests,” he said.

Following is an edited transcript of PDN’s e-mail interview with Contreras.

Q: How did AP find out you had altered the photo? Did you tell them after they confronted you about it? Or did you voluntarily turn yourself in? And if so, what led you to do that?

A: I told one of the AP photo editors about the picture when we were working on selecting images for the [World Press and other photo] contests some weeks ago. I told the photo editor immediately when I saw the image on the screen. I didn’t hesitate in telling him, it just came up.

Q: If your own ethical principles required you to correct the mistake, why didn’t you tell AP sooner?

A. I was thinking all the time [about] that picture and I found the moment to explain [it] to the AP photo editor. Why not before? [For] the same reason that I submitted the altered picture, it was my wrong decision.

Q. Why were you retouching the image in the first place? Do you typically make the types of adjustments to your image files that AP permits, and if so, what are your usual adjustments?

A: I was conscious about the camera [in the original image] from the beginning. I couldn’t get the camera out of the frame when we were at the top of the hill and running down, away from the [gunfire]. I used a wide angle lens [because] the rebel [ie, the subject of the photo] was so close. [It was] difficult to work, under [fire]. So, when I got back to our base and tried to find a picture to describe the situation, I found this frame, but with the camera in the corner. It took me time to make the decision to remove it from the frame, but I did it.

I usually develop my images using the base process, RAW files toned and desaturated. The photo with the rebel ducking is my exception. I gave all my archives to the AP, almost 500 pictures, and they could see for themselves that this was a singe case.

Q. Do you know what caused your lapse in judgment? I am trying to understand: What caused you to cross the line this time–but not other times?

A: It took me time before I decided to take it [the camera] out. I recognize and assume the rules of photojournalism as the basis of my work, but I was weak at this point. There is no other reason, I broke my own rules. My fault was that I din’t contact my editors to ask for advice or try to get feedback from my very experienced colleague, who was with me.

I’m not trying to excuse myself, but it is not easy to be at a place where you are facing death every single moment, your mind and feelings are moved to another reality, far away from the one you are used to, [and] you perform like a different person. You can support long working days under tough conditions, your mind is set up to survive, and obsessively in the perfection of your work. This is the problem. We are obsessed about getting the perfect shot, that means you want to get the perfect shot under hazardous conditions. It is not worth [it] as a photographer, to come back with nothing if you risk your life [covering a story]. This obsession made the difference, and affected my decision to alter the picture. But I recognize that I made a mistake, a severe one, and a wish I could undo it.

Q. Did you understand when you made the alteration what the consequences might be if you were caught? In other words, were you aware of AP’s ethics policy, and the consequences of violating it?

A: I did know the consequences to alter a picture, and I did know when I told the AP photo editor about this as well, but at the time I told the AP editor I was looking to be honest for what I had done, and I feel this time I took the correct decision to try to repair my mistake.

Q. What do you think of [AP's] ethics policy?

A: That policy means to respect the credibility of the profession and the credibility of the service that all journalists and photographers are doing. So, this is the basis of our work.

Q. Do you think the punishment was fair? If not, why not? And what action by AP would have been more fair?

A: As I mentioned before, the credibility of our work is on the table when a single mistake is [made]. So, to prevent this kind of situation [from] happening again, and to protect the credibility of our profession I have to assume the consequences. But all situations and cases are unique and should be treated as such.

I would have preferred to discuss with the editors the whole situation personally, before they took their decision, but I have not had the chance to talk to anyone. They went behind locked doors and made their decision. This is a very critical situation, and accordingly it has to be analyzed and talked through with whom committed the fault. We are not disposable. They have to analyze every single case according to its unique nature.

Q. Our readers are divided about AP’s reaction to what you did. Some think AP was too harsh. Others expressed zero tolerance for altering news images, and think your punishment was justified. What would you say to them?

A: Zero tolerance is justified when it comes to altering news images. We must all play by the rules. But I’m critical when it comes to how the Industry handles the situation with individual photographers, especially when you are a freelance[r]. [For] editors it is not always easy to handle mistakes, but as a photographer you should have the right to be included in the process. Every single case is unique and that has to be taken in to consideration as well.

Q. What would you have said to AP? Is there an argument you wanted to make to them, to prevent them from ending their relationship with you?

A: They have the right to cut ties if you break the rules, but they should not have the exclusive right to manage the consequences of a photographer’s fault. Dialogue is the base to solve any single problem. If you are not allowed to talk when you are being judged by a company, there is something that is not working properly.

I do accept to break up the working relationship between them and me if I broke the rules, but the public punishment seems more like an exhibit of power in order to protect its own interests.

Q. What effect do you think this incident will have on your career? Do you expect to continue working as a photojournalist? If so, for whom?

A:  This incident affected my working relationship with the AP, and probably with some other media outlets, but nothing has changed for me in terms of what I assume as my duty in life, as a person and as photographer, to document what I perceive as the breaking moments for our history. I’m still the same person that I was when I got recognition for what I’ve done in Syria or anywhere else. I’m still in the same place where I was when I started collaborating with the AP.

I made a mistake, but it does not mean that the whole body of my work is lost. I have to restore my credibility, firstly by assuming that I made a mistake and sincerely apologizing for this, secondly by reinforcing the working relationship with the media outlets I work with.

As far as I can, I would keep on doing photography. This incident affects my way temporarily, not permanently. I believe in what I do in my life, this is my engagement and this is beyond photography.

Related:
AP Cuts Ties with Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image

January 23rd, 2014

HuffPost Ignoring PhotoJ Credits For Images of Kiev Clashes

Yesterday Huffington Post UK published “29 Incredible Pictures Of Kiev Transformed Into A Warzone,” but didn’t bother to caption or credit the images to the photojournalists who are risking personal harm to create them.

(Oddly, another gallery published by the Huffington Post empire using some of the same images did include proper credits and captions.)

Several news outlets are carrying wire images of clashes in Kiev between protestors and police. Among the photographers whose images are featuring prominently on the websites and front pages of major news media are Sergei Grits and Efrem Lukatsky, who are covering the protests for AP; Valentyn Ogirenko, Vasily Fedosenko and Gleb Garanich for Reuters; and Sergei Supinsky, Anatolii Boiko, Anatoliy Stepanov and Vasily Maximov for AFP/Getty.

Show some respect, HuffPost UK, while you count your clicks.

December 12th, 2013

AP Photo Chief Appeals to Public About White House Access. Will It Help?

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, from memorial for Nelson Mandela. Handouts like these are "visual press releases," argues AP's Santiago Lyon.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, from memorial for Nelson Mandela. Handouts like these are visual press releases, argues AP’s Santiago Lyon.

The White House has waved off a complaint from media organizations about photographers’ lack of access to the Oval Office, and now Associated Press director of photography Santiago Lyon has taken the complaint to the op-ed pages of The New York Times.

The question is, will the AP’s protest stir the kind of public outrage that makes the White House relent?

Last month, 38 media organizations sent a joint letter of protest to the Obama administration, charging that it was denying them the right to photograph and videotape the President while he was performing official duties in his office. According to the letter, the administration is keeping photographers out by designating the president’s work meetings as private. But the White House has been posting its own photos of those meetings on social media.

In other words, the White House is doing an end run around the press corps. The aggrieved media organizations criticized the administration for its lack of transparency, and dismissed the White House photos as “visual press releases.” The news organizations asked for a meeting with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to discuss removing the restrictions.

Through one of his deputies, Carney’s response boiled down to: We’re keeping the public plenty informed, so take a hike.

With Lyon’s Op-ed piece to the Times, AP is hoping to get a more sympathetic hearing in the court of public opinion.

Carney “missed the point entirely” with his dismissive response to the protest letter, Lyon writes. From there, he reiterates the point that White House photos are visual press releases, not journalism. The official photos “propagate an idealized portrayal of events on Pennsylvania Avenue,” he writes.

After arguing the merits of images by independent news photographers, Lyon concludes: “Until the White House revisits its draconian restrictions on photojournalists’ access to the president, information-savvy citizens, too, would be wise to treat those handout photos for what they are: propaganda.”

And he’s exactly right. But it’s hard to imagine a public clamor on AP’s behalf for two reasons. First, when it comes to Oval Office photo ops, citizens might have a hard time distinguishing between photos from the pool and White House handouts. Second, the public doesn’t hold the press in high esteem these days. To many non-journalists, Lyon’s complaint might only come across as whining.

What citizens are really interested in are images of the President’s unscripted moments, as Lyon suggests in his op-ed piece. He mentions some memorable photos of past presidents. Most happened outside the Oval Office: Nixon flashing a victory sign as he was boarding a helicopter after his resignation, Ronald Reagan waving from a hospital window after his cancer surgery, George W. Bush’s look of astonishment when he first heard of the 9/11 attacks.

What news organizations need to do, besides editorialize in The New York Times, is redouble their efforts to show the public what the White House will never release: fresh, unscripted, uncensored images of the President. The pictures from Nelson Mandela’s funeral of Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro and the selfie incident were certainly a good start.

October 23rd, 2013

NFL, Getty and AP Hit With Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

Seven photographer are suing the National Football League and two image distributors–Getty Images and Associated Press (AP)–for copyright infringement over widespread use of their images in NFL ads, products and promotions without fair compensation, according to an October 21 report from Courthouse News Service.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, is a legal tangle because Getty and AP represented the photographers, and were authorized to license their work at the time of the alleged infringements. But the case boils down to allegations that Getty and AP breached their fiduciary duty to the photographers because of conflicts of interest.

Both distributors had incentive to curry favor with the NFL in order to gain and hang onto an exclusive contract to license images of NFL events to third parties for commercial use. Getty won the contract in 2007, then lost the contract to AP in 2009.

According to the lawsuit, the photographers “recently discovered that both Getty Images and AP granted the NFL nearly unfettered access to plaintiffs’ photo collections and, either expressly or by inaction, allowed the NFL to make free or ‘complimentary’ use of plaintiffs’ copyrighted photos.”

According to the Courthouse News Service report, the photographers are also accusing Getty of using bare-knuckle tactics to keep them from moving their images to AP, after AP won the exclusive NFL contract in 2009. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that Getty threatened to stop marketing all of their sports images–including Major League Baseball photos–for commercial use, if the photographers moved their NFL images to AP.

Photographer Paul Spinelli is the lead plaintiff in the case. The other photographer plaintiffs are Paul Jasienski, David Stluka, Thomas E. Witte, David Drapkin, George Newman Lowrance and Scott Boehm.

AP and Getty both declined PDN’s request to comment about the lawsuit.

November 14th, 2012

Retired AP Photographer Walt Zeboski Dies

Retired Associated Press shooter Walt Zeboski, who photographed Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign as well as many other people and events for the wire service, died at the age of 83 on Monday at his home in Sacramento, the AP reports. The cause of death was pneumonia.

Zeboski joined the AP staff in 1966. Over more than three decades he covered California politics and politicians. Among other subjects he photographed were labor leader Cesar Chavez, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (who attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975), and Queen Elizabeth during her 1983 visit to Yosemite National Park.

More details are available in the AP obituary for Zeboski.

September 7th, 2012

Shepard Fairey Sentenced on Criminal Charge in ‘Hope” Poster Case

Artist Shepard Fairey was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and fined $25,000 today in a federal courtroom in Manhattan today for destroying documents, falsifying evidence “and other misconduct” in his civil litigation two years ago against the Associated Press (AP). He had faced a maximum of six months in jail.

Fairey pled guilty to the criminal charge last February. The US District Attorney in Manhattan announced Fairey’s plea shortly after he settled his civil case with the AP over his unauthorized use of an AP image to create the “Hope” poster that became an icon of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for President.

“Shepard Fairey went to extreme lengths to obtain an unfair and illegal advantagein his civil litigation [against AP], creating fake documents and destroying others in an effort to subvert the civil discovery process,” US Attorney Preet Bharara said in announcing Fairey’s guilty plea.

AP claimed copyright infringement against Fairy in 2009 for unauthorized use of the image of Obama to create the Hope poster.

Fairey tried to pre-empt the claim by asking a federal court judge to declare that the Hope poster amounted to a fair use of the AP photograph. In seeking that declaration, Fairey gave “factually untrue” information about the image he had used, the US District Attorney said. Specifically, Fairey claimed that he had used part of one AP image to make the poster, when in fact had used a substantial portion of a different AP image.

Fairey admitted the discrepancy in 2010, saying he had made a mistake about which image he had used. He said he then tried to cover up the mistake. (His fair use defense was arguably stronger with the image he originally claimed to have used.)

The US Attorney began a criminal investigation after Fairey’s admission, and concluded that he had created “multiple false and fraudulent documents” which he presented to AP during the discover process in the civil litigation.

The US Attorney also said Fairey tried to get one of his employees to mislead investigators.

Prior to pleading guilty to the criminal charges, Fairey had settled his civil litigation with AP on mostly undisclosed terms (the two sides did agree to share proceeds from licensing of the Hope poster image, however).

July 19th, 2012

New Gizmos at the Olympics: AP’s Robotic Cameras

Major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and Olympic games are the incubation grounds for new camera technology, because news organizations are jockeying for competitive advantage and a chance to show off. And the Summer Olympics in London are no exception.

Associated Press has posted this promotional video touting the robotic cameras it has developed for this year’s games. Remote cameras are usually fixed, but operators of AP’s remote robotic cameras will be able to pan, zoom, and swivel the camera up and down using a joy stick, as they monitor the view on a computer screen–and click the shutter at decisive moments.

AP says it will have a robotic camera in each of 12 different venues. Anticipating where all this might be leading, we asked whether a single operator will be controlling several cameras at once, and whether operators can work from far-off locations–say a desk in New York–similar to the way the military flies its drones.

AP spokesperson Paul Colford says there will be one operator per camera. He adds that according to AP director of photography Santiago Lyon, the operator has to be at the venue where the camera is located, “because otherwise there would be a delay in what the operator is seeing.”

May 25th, 2012

AP Launches New Entertainment Agency to Challenge Getty

©Matt Sayles/Invision--Pop star Katy Perry

The Associated Press and a group of veteran entertainment photographers have launched Invision, a new photo agency based in Los Angeles. The agency will cover entertainment and red carpet events, as well as take on assignments for consumer brands, film and TV studios, and PR agencies.

Invision’s goal is to take on the dominant player in the celebrity photo business: Getty Images, which has owned entertainment agency Wireimage since 2007.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people I’ve worked with that they weren’t happy with one choice. They wanted another option,” says Invision managing director Dan Becker.

Becker, who was formerly director of commercial content and services for AP Images, says Invision will operate as a separate company from AP. The wire service is the majority owner, and will provide distribution for Invision.

So far, Invision has just one staff photographer–Chris Pizzello. Other contractors and freelancers include Matt Sayles, Evan Agostini, Jordan Strauss, Todd Williamson, John Shearer, Jon Furniss and Casey Rodgers.

Becker says there will be opportunities for other photographers, too. “We will use AP’s freelance network, but we intend to recruit other photographers and grow our own freelance network,” he says. “It’s a big part of our mission.”

Becker says he relies primarily on word-of-mouth recommendations from photographers he’s currently working with to identify new talent. “We will try people out with entry level assignments,” he says.