March 25th, 2014

Tomas van Houtryve Drone Essay Longest Ever Published by Harper’s

 

© Tomas van Houtryve/VII

© Tomas van Houtryve/VII. “Baseball practice in Montgomery County, Maryland. According to records obtained from the FAA, which issued 1,428 domestic drone permits between 2007 and early 2013, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Navy have applied for drone authorization in Montgomery County.”

Tomas van Houtryve takes on the proliferation of drones as weapons and as tools of surveillance in the April issue of Harper’s Magazine, in a photo essay titled “Blue Sky Days.” At 16 pages, it’s the largest picture story ever published by Harper’s.

To create the work, Van Houtryve’s outfit a drone he purchased on Amazon.com for still photography and video, and then piloted it, in areas throughout the United States, over “the very sorts of gatherings that have become habitual targets for foreign air strikes,” the introductory text explains. These included weddings, funerals, and groups of people exercising or praying. The images also depict domestic borders, prisons and other areas where military or police have flown surveillance drones, or have applied for permits to do so.

“His idea was daring, elegant, and perfectly timed,” Harper’s art director Stacey D. Clarkson told PDN via email. “He explained that the technology for drones is way ahead of legislation concerning them, and though drones are part of our contemporary reality, the specific ways they are used (and can be used) are not in the public consciousness. The urgency of the work, the complexity of the ideas, needed space to be properly conveyed. And the images themselves needed to run large in order for the reader to see what Tomas’s drone could see—embroidery on top of a hat, spokes on a bicycle wheel, and home plate at a neighborhood baseball field.”

Captions for the photos make the connection between, for instance, a group of people exercising in a park, and the fact that a gathering of exercising men might, for the CIA, constitute evidence of a terrorist training camp. The effect is chilling. In an image of a wedding in central Philadelphia, a flower girl is the only member of a wedding party looking up at van Houtrve’s drone as he makes his image. A U.S. drone struck a wedding in Yemen in December 2013, killing 12 people, the caption tells us.

The essay’s title refers to the testimony a 13-year-old Pakistani boy named Zubair Rehman gave on Capitol Hill after his grandmother was killed by a drone strike while she was picking vegetables in her yard. The boy told lawmakers he no longer loves blue skies. “The drones do not fly when the skies are gray,” he said.

Van Houtryve will exhibit and speak about “Blue Sky Days” in New York on Friday, April 4, as part of “Surveillance.01-USA,” a symposium on surveillance-based visual arts projects. He will also appear with Clarkson at the University of Colorado, Boulder on April 7 as part of the university’s ATLAS speaker series.

Related: Client Meeting: Harper’s Magazine (accessible to PDN subscribers)
If We Spend $25K On A Photo Essay, Readers Should Pay to See It, Says Harper’s Publisher

October 4th, 2013

If We Spend $25K On A Photo Essay, Readers Should Pay to See It, Says Harper’s Publisher

Harper’s publisher John R. MacArthur wrote a letter for the October issue of the magazine in which he took a strong stand against publishing free writing and photography on the web. He tackles the question of how journalism should be funded and distributed today, arguing that publishers, readers and journalists should reject the idea that good journalism should be given away for free in hopes of gaining page views. When he talks about good journalism, he includes good photography. (We’ve noted previously that Harper’s has become a great publisher of photography, winning National Magazine awards and other accolades.)

MacArthur says he has been distressed in recent years as publishers give away the work done by journalists and editors “in the quest for more advertising. Instead of honoring the reader, writer, and editor, this new approach to the publishing business instead insulted them,” MacArthur writes, “both by devaluing their work and by feeding it—with little or no remuneration—to search engines, which in turn feed information to advertising agencies (and, as it turns out, the government.)”

MacArthur says advocates of free content are peddling “nonsense.” “Who needs fact-checkers when we have crowdsourcing to correct the record? Why doesn’t Harper’s give away a particularly good investigative piece… so more people will read it?”

He also has the temerity to suggest that publishers, journalists and editors “have to earn a living.” He singles out a recent photo essay by an anonymous photographer, who risked arrest and imprisonment to report from inside Iran. The assignment cost the magazine $25,000, MacArthur says. “Shouldn’t Anonymous be paid for this courage and skill?” MacArthur asks. “Shouldn’t Harper’s be compensated for sending Anonymous into the field?”

“It is unreasonable to expect that an advertiser would directly sponsor such daring photography,” MacArthur writes. “It is wishful thinking to believe that parasitic Google, now bloated with billions of dollars’ worth of what I consider pirated property, will ever willingly pay Harper’s, or Anonymous, anything at all for the right to distribute Anonymous’s pictures…”

MacArthur will hopefully forgive us for quoting him at length on our blog, which is not behind a paywall. Those who want to read the rest of his statement, and see Michael Christopher Brown‘s fantastic photographs from Libya, or Misty Keasler‘s touching images accompanying a report about a controversial Montana orphanage for Russian children, will have to pick up the magazine on the newsstand, or subscribe for $20, about twice what I will probably spend on lunch today.

May 4th, 2012

Vogue, Harper’s Magazine and The New York Times Magazine Win National Magazine Awards for Photography

From Richard Ross's "Juvenile Injustice" photo essay in the October 2011 issue of Harper's Magazine. © Richard Ross

Vogue won the prize for best overall use of photography at the 2012 National Magazine Awards, held in New York City last night. Given out by the American Society of Magazine Editors, the awards honor excellence in magazine editorial. Vogue beat out four other finalists in the category of Photography: GQ, Interview, National Geographic and Virginia Quarterly Review. The fashion title’s photography department is lead by photography director Ivan Shaw.

In the News and Documentary Photography category, Harper’s Magazine won for “Juvenile Injustice,” a photo essay on juvenile detainees by photographer Richard Ross. He worked with art director Stacey D. Clarkson and assistant art director Sam Finn Cate-Gumpert on the assignment. In the same category, Harper’s Magazine was also nominated for “Uncertain Exodus,” photographed by Ed Ou. The other finalists were National Geographic for “Too Young to Wed,” photographed by Stephanie Sinclair; The New York Times Magazine for “From Zero to 104,” photographed by Damon Winter; and Time for “Birds of Hope,” photographed by James Nachtwey.

The New York Times Magazine won the Feature Photography award for “Vamps, Crooks & Killers.” Alex Prager shot actors dressed as iconic villains for the photo essay and accompanying video. She worked with director of photography Kathy Ryan, deputy photo editor Joanna Milter, design director Arem Duplessis and editor Hugo Lindgren on the assignment. The other nominees in the category were National Geographic for “Taming the Wild,” photographed by Vincent J. Musi; Time for “Portraits of Resilience,” photographed by Marco Grob; Vogue for “Lady Be Good,” photographed by Steven Klein; and W for “Planet Tilda,” photographed by Tim Walker.

For a complete list of winners, visit magazine.org.

Related Article:

ESPN, W, New York Times Magazine Win 2011 National Magazine Awards for Photography