December 8th, 2014

Luke Somers, Killed in Failed Rescue Attempt, Remembered for Compassionate Photos

© Luke Somers for Al Jazeera. Thousands of male and female protesters marched to the residence of President And Mansour Hadi to demand political reforms, December 7, 2012.

© Luke Somers for Al Jazeera. Thousands of male and female protesters marched to the residence of President And Mansour Hadi to demand political reforms, December 7, 2012.

Kidnapped photojournalist Luke Somers was killed December 5 in the midst of a failed attempt by US forces to rescue him from al Qaeda militants holding him hostage in Yemen. Somers, 33,  had been kidnapped in Sana’a, Yemen, in September 2013. He had been working in the country as a freelance photographer.

After President Barack Obama announced Somers’s death on Saturday, several news outlets that Somers had worked for, including Al Jazeera, and his agency, Corbis, shared samples of his photos, starting with images from Yemen’s revolution ousting President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011. Writer Tik Root of National Public Radio, who had crossed paths with Somers while they were covering Yemen, said the photographer’s work “reveals his deep and persistent love for the country.”

Last week, the photographer’s captors released a video threatening to kill Somers if the US did not meet their unspecified demands. According to CNN, The Yemen Times and other news outlets had pleaded for Somers’s release, noting days before his death that he “loves Yemen.”

Citing an anonymous source, BBC reports that Navy SEALs had tried to rescue Somers from the compound where he was being held, but a gunfight broke out when the militants spotted the SEALs. Somers was shot, and then evacuated to a US navy ship, where he died.  Committee to Protect Journalists reports that this is the third attempt by US special forces to rescue hostages held in Syria and Yemen; all three failed to rescue captured journalists.

March 7th, 2013

Love Poem for Rémi Ochlik, the Late Photojournalist

©Lucas Dolega

©Lucas Dolega

Obituaries of photojournalists killed while covering conflicts reduce their lives to bare facts: where they are from, what stories they covered and for whom, and how they died. Often left out are the details of their personal lives, and the sense of loss to the people they leave behind.

But a moving portrait of Rémi Ochlik, who died on February 22, 2012 while covering the uprising in Syria, recently appeared online in the form of a poem called “Love letter to Rémi Ochlik.” Written by his girlfriend, Emilie Blachère, it conveys something of the person Ochlik was, what inspired him, and how he loved.

Blachère ended up reading the poem aloud for a BBC broadcast. It is a reading that cuts to the heart, and it’s worth sticking with it to the end: Even the BBC announcer who introduced the poem took several seconds to compose himself when Blachère finished reading.

Related:
Photographer Rémi Ochlik Killed in Homs, Syria

June 4th, 2012

BBC Fooled by Syrian Rebel Propaganda Photo on Twitter

The BBC recently suffered a predictable consequence of relying on citizen journalism: It published a photograph circulated on Twitter by a Syrian anti-government activist that purportedly shows dead civilians after a government massacre last month in Houla, Syria. The image turns out to have been misappropriated and mislabeled for the purposes of propaganda.

The photo was actually a 2003 photograph from Iraq by Getty images contract photographer Marco di Lauro, John Harrington reported May 27 on his Photo Business News & Forum blog.  The image shows dozens of bodies dug up from a mass grave. They were victims of a brutal crackdown by former dictator Saddam Hussein against a Shi’ite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

A Syrian activist reportedly circulated the image on Twitter as evidence of a Syrian crackdown against its citizens, in order to stoke the international outrage against Al Assad’s government. The BBC saw it,  “obtained some information pointing to its veracity,” and published the image with a disclaimer saying it could not be independently verified, according to the mea culpa that BBC published on May 29.

“It was a mistake,” the BBC said, “and we apologise for it.” The image was displayed for approximately 90 minutes before it was taken down, the BBC says.

Harrington argues that the mistake was a predictable consequence of the rush by the BBC and other news organizations to embrace citizen journalism, while mouthing all the right words about upholding standards for accuracy, fairness and objectivity.

One would think that a few glaring errors like this might make reputable news organizations realize that there are no shortcuts to gathering and vetting news–and also make them twice shy about crowd-sourcing news in order to save money.

But for now the BBC seems undeterred. “Fortunately, such mistakes are very rare,” the BBC assures its readers. “BBC News has a strong track record of using content from non-traditional sources, and of stopping numerous examples of incorrect material making it to air or online – but it does underline the need to handle such material with great care.”

August 3rd, 2011

PDN Video Pick: Giles Revell Follows the Flow

Photographer Giles Revell frequently merges science and art in his work. He has used electron microscopes, a CT scanner and other scientific equipment to create images that examine the architecture of insects of flowers, insects and bubbles.  When Red Bee Media was creating an ad campaign for a new arts program on the BBC, creative director Tony Pipes tapped the London-based Revell to create a 60-second spot that would evoke curiosity and wonder.  The tagline is “See something different every time.”

Creative credits for the campaign can be found on Vimeo.