April 29th, 2014

ICP Celebrates Infinity Award Winners (Recap and Video Links)

Last night the International Center of Photography honored photographers working in photojournalism, fine-art and fashion at the 30th annual Infinity Awards. The awards were inaugurated in 1985 as a way to recognize outstanding achievements by photographers working in various genres within the medium.

It was the first Infinity Awards ceremony for new ICP director Mark Lubell, who promised the crowd that the organization would remain at the “center of the conversation” about the medium. Perhaps as a way to illustrate that point, ICP arranged for a drone to photograph partygoers during the cocktail hour, then put those photographs on-screen at the beginning of the ceremony.

The Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement Award was given to German-born photographer Jürgen Schadeberg, who as an expatriate in South Africa during Apartheid, made some of the most famous images of Nelson Mandela, and encouraged black South African journalists to pick up cameras and tell their stories.

James Welling was honored for his contribution to fine-art photography; Steven Klein for fashion; Stephanie Sinclair and Jessica Dimmock were honored for photojournalism; Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin were honored for their publication Holy Bible; and Samuel A. James received the Young Photographer award.

Sinclair and Dimmock received a standing ovation from the crowd for their work documenting the practice of child marriage and its effects on adolescent girls, their families and their communities. The project, “Too Young To Wed,” is a decade-long pursuit for Sinclair that has spawned a non-profit that she hopes will help young girls and communities do away with the practice of child marriage.

Samuel A. James, who in his young career has worked extensively in Nigeria documenting the impact of oil extraction on the culture—including photographing the illegal tapping of oil pipelines and makeshift refining operations by impoverished Nigerians—thanked the Nigerians who “gifted me these stories” during a short acceptance speech. James also dedicated the award to a friend who was killed in an explosion while attempting to refine black-market crude oil.

In accepting the Publication award for their book Holy Bible, for which they combined the King James Bible with images from the Archive of Modern Conflict, Broomberg and Chanarin called the book their “attempt to somehow illustrate this text,” and said they hoped it would be an invitation to others to make their own attempts. They also paid tribute to their publisher, Michael Mack for his production of the book, and to the Queen of England, who owns the copyright to the King James Bible.

In a slightly incongruous presentation, pop star Brooke Candy spoke about Steven Klein and introduced a high-octane video that reviewed much of Klein’s work. The fashion photographer briefly thanked the crowd after noting that, “photography pretty much saved my life.”

MediaStorm produced short documentary films about all of the recipients except Klein. Watch those films on the MediaStorm site here.

Related: Tour de Force: James Welling’s Artistic Versatility
Best Photo Books of 2013

March 26th, 2013

Short Poverty Film Wins Top Multimedia Prize at BOP Competition

Photographer and director Alan Spearman of the Memphis Commercial Appeal has won the Best Use of Multimedia prize at the NPPA Best of Photojournalism contest, judges announced yesterday.

Spearman won the prize for his short film called As I Am, a rich, poetic film about the hard edges of poverty, from the viewpoint of an insider struggling to pull himself out. Spearman entered the film in the NPPA contest under the title, “Memphis Poverty: What Obama Didn’t See.”

The subject of the film, Christopher Dean, had a moment in the YouTube spotlight in 2011 for his charming introduction of Barack Obama at a high school graduation, where Obama spoke.  Community leaders in Memphis rallied around Dean afterwards to help him pay for college. During the summer of 2012, Dean was an intern at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, where he worked with Spearman on the “As I Am” film.

“Memphis Poverty masterfully tells an important American story in a non-traditional way, bypassing the literal translation of poverty to strike the soul,” Best of Photojournalism jurors said in an announcement posted on the NPPA web site. “The artful blend of documentary moments, poetry, music, cinematic shooting and editing craftsmanship moves our art of storytelling forward in a dramatic way.”

The jury, which included Nancy Andrews, Zach Wise, and Jonathan Quilter, gave special recognition to “Dying for Relief,” a multimedia story about the overuse and abuse of prescription drugs, produced by Liz O. Baylen of the Los Angeles Times.

Spearman also won the first place prize in the Feature Multimedia category for the “As I Am” project. First place winners in other BOP multimedia categories included Albert Lee of the Los Angeles Times, who won both the Multimedia Package category and Visual Column/Recurring Series category for his photo and video blog called Framework; MediaStorm in the Documentary Multimedia story category for “A Shadow Remains” (an extension of Philip Toledano’s “Days with My Father” project); Chris Zuppa of the Tampa Bay Times in the New Multimedia/48 Hours category for  “RNC 2012, Inside and Out;” Misha Domozhilov for “Motoball Monsters” in the Sports Multimedia Story category;  and Reuters for “The Wider Image” in the Tablet/Mobile Delivery Project category.

Related:
Picture Story: A Guided Tour of Poverty in Memphis (PDN subscription required)

June 12th, 2012

MediaStorm Now Charging to View Its Stories

Multimedia production company MediaStorm says it will start charging viewers $1.99 for access to each of its stories under a new system it calls Pay Per Story. “We have decided it is time to try a new model that transfers a minimal cost to the viewer,” company founder and executive producer Brian Storm said in a prepared announcement. “We believe that our industry is in need of a sustainable business model that will allow us to continue to report and produce compelling stories.”

Until now, MediaStorm has produced and distributed stories for free, relying on revenue from workshops and corporate clients to sustain the company. But Storm said in his announcement, “[T]he reality is, no company or industry can sustain itself for long without producing a product for which people are willing to pay.” He told PDN that production costs for MediaStorm stories vary, but can be as high as $100,000 for the largest stories.

MediaStorm is initiating Pay Per Story with the launch of two new stories about old-age dementia: “A Shadow Remains” by Philip Toledano, and “Rite of Passage” by Maggie Steber. Both stories are about the decline of the photographers’ parents, and their struggles with the responsibility of being their parents’ caregivers.

“We’ve earned the right to do this,” Storm told PDN of his decision to charge viewers. “We’ve put a lot of [stories] out there for a long time, and built a great audience.”

Most of the more than 30 stories the company has produced since 2005 have had a million or more views, Storm says. Many are issue-driven stories, which draw large audiences outside the photo industry, he says. The stories are also what he calls “non-perishable” so views accumulate over several years. “We’ll make our money back over a long period of time” under the Pay Per Story system, he says.

The big question is whether viewers will be willing to pay for the company’s long-form stories, which cover serious topics and have run times of 12 to 20 minutes. In other words, the stories aren’t light entertainment, and require time commitment on the part of viewers.

Storm is confident viewers will pay in significant numbers, however. Asked what pay-per-view content models he was taking cues from, Storm said, “iTunes–30 billion apps downloaded.” He also says MediaStorm “could have easily” charged more than $1.99, “but that would have resulted in less sales and we wanted a price point that was low enough where people wouldn’t think twice about the cost.”

At the same time, though, he said he doesn’t expect the $1.99 fee to fully cover the costs of production. “That would be amazing if it did,” he said. For that to happen, the most expensive stories would have to attract 100,000 viewers–or up to 10 percent of the current non-paying audiences–who are willing to pay (MediaStorm is splitting the download revenues 50-50 with the photographers who provide the story content).

Storm told PDN that MediaStorm has not made projections about viewership under the Pay Per Story model, however. Asked whether MediaStorm might stop producing stories if it turns out that not enough viewers are willing to pay, Storm said, “No, we will continue to do what we do no matter what happens as this is only one of the various ways that we generate revenue.”

MediaStorm has made a deal to embed its proprietary Pay Per Story player on MSNBC’s web site. It claims 50 million unique visitors per month. They will be able to watch trailers for the MediaStorm stories for free. Storm is optimistic that exposure will contribute significantly to MediaStorm’s paying audience.

Storm said in the Pay Per Story announcement that MediaStorm plans to license its Pay Per Story player to other companies in the future “so they can also leverage the business model and functionality that we have developed.”

Related Articles:
PDN Photo of the Day: A Shadow Remains

Picture Story: Untangling the Afghanistan Tragedy