February 26th, 2013

World Press Hits Pellegrin with Wet Noodle (And Other Contest Scandals)

Last week, debate erupted over an image Paolo Pellegrin had entered as part of a portfolio that won prizes at both the World Press Photo and Pictures of the Year International competitions. He had apparently cribbed his captions from the New York Times, misidentified the subject of the photo in question, and while he didn’t exactly set up the photo–he arguably created what appears to be a documentary photograph of a tough guy brandishing a gun in a bad neighborhood.

As BagNews Notes first reported, Pellegrin had asked the subject, a college student and the friend of his fixer, to pose for portraits at a local shooting range. The subject, Shane Keller, told PDN Pulse that as he walked to his car with the gun, Pellegrin took advantage of the harsh light in the gritty-looking parking garage to make a picture for a larger story about the underside of Rochester, New York.

Today, World Press photo organizers issued a statement that said, “The jury is of the opinion that although a more complete and accurate introduction and captions should have been made available by the photographer, the jury was not fundamentally mislead by the picture in the story or the caption that was included with it.”

Officially, POYi has so far remained silent about the image, although one juror told PDN last week that he was “satisfied by Paolo Pellegrin’s explanation” about the image.

The big photojournalism competitions are supposed to be about celebrating great work and top talent, but this year’s contests have been overshadowed somewhat by charges of manipulation and the ensuing debate over what crosses ethical lines.

What ends up getting disqualified, and what ends up doing real harm, are arguably not always the same thing.

The White House News Photographer’s Association just rescinded Washington Post photographer Tracy Woodward’s Award of Excellence in the Sports Feature/Reaction category of The Eyes of History competition. WHNPA said it rescinded the award because “digital manipulation that was in violation of the contest rules.” Woodward had cleaned up background distractions in the image, which showed a high school wrestler celebrating after a match victory. NPPA reported the incident in detail on its Web site yesterday.

Meanwhile, debate about the Pellegrin image continues to simmer. Photojournalist Kenneth Jarecke posted a sharp critique of Pellegrin’s actions yesterday. “This controversy is no longer about poor, misleading or ‘lifted’ captions,” Jarecke wrote. “This is now about a self-proclaimed ‘documentary’ photographer who manipulates people and uses them as props to illustrate a story narrative he’s made up in his head. I thought these issues had been worked out by now. You don’t use people for props. You don’t manipulate them into doing things they aren’t doing and you don’t ask them to pose for you and then pretend it’s a situation that you’ve happened upon.”

Anticipating an onslaught by Pellegrin’s many defenders, Jarecke concludes his post: “Sling your rocks and arrows below. Please don’t hesitate to remind me that I’m old and outdated, and thus have no idea what I’m talking about.”

There was also some controversy early last week about the World Press Photo of the Year winner, an image showing  a parade of mourners carrying the dead bodies of two children in Gaza. The image was shot by Paul Hansen of the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Some critics took him to task for the dark toning he applied to the image before he entered it in the World Press Photo competition. The version originally published by Dagens Nyheter had lighter tone and slightly different cropping.

WPP photo jury chair Santiago Lyon told Jim Estrin of The New York Times Lens Blog that the jury had examined the image for post processing and decided that Hansen’s photo was “within the acceptable industry parameters.” He added: “Everybody has different standards about these sorts of things, but as a group we felt that it was O.K.”

That didn’t stop the hand wringing, but at the time, it was all that armchair ethicists had to work with. Through the lens of the more recent controversy, what Hansen did now seems quaint and, if not forgiven, at least forgotten.

February 22nd, 2013

Paolo Pellegrin and His Subject At Odds Over Photograph

Pellegrin-Shane-Keller

© Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

In response to allegations that he staged a photograph and plagiarized captions for his prize-winning story about the underside of Rochester, New York, Paolo Pellegrin has defended the work in a statement distributed by Magnum, his agency. The full text of the statement is below.

On the BagNews Notes blog, Pellegrin was accused of staging the photo shown above and plagiarizing the captions for the story, which recently won prizes in both the World Press Photo and POYi competitions. In the POYi competition, Pellegrin was named Freelance Photographer of the Year for a portfolio of images that included the Rochester story, called “The Crescent. Rochester USA 2012.” The Crescent is a section of Rochester where crime rates are high.

The subject of the photograph in question, Shane Keller, told PDN that he raised questions about the photograph in an e-mail to Loret Steinberg, a professor Keller had while studying photography at RIT. Steinberg approached Michael Shaw, editor of the BagNews Notes blog, who posted an article that quoted extensively from Keller’s original e-mail.

Keller told PDN today that it is not clear that the photo was staged. Pellegrin had asked him to pose for portraits with firearms, and Keller agreed to do that. Keller went on to say that he’s not sure he was in the act of posing for the portraits when Pellegrin took the photograph above.

“It looks like he happened to be there, in the right place, at the right moment. It looks like spot news photograph,” says Keller, who now lives in Dover, Pennsylvania. “It’s in a gray area, where if we don’t view it as a portrait photograph, then it’s on the gray line: Would it be considered a staged photograph?”

Brett Carlsen, a friend and former RIT classmate, was on the scene as Pellegrin’s assistant. He told PDN that Pellegrin had asked Carlsen to help him find gun owners to photograph in Rochester. “He was trying to find the underbelly of Rochester. He wanted to look at gun culture, and [photograph] gun owners,” Carlsen says.

Carlsen knew that Keller had guns, and called him up to ask on Pellegrin’s behalf if they could come over to take pictures. After shooting some portraits against a wall in Keller’s apartment, Pellegrin asked if he could photograph them at a shooting range where Keller was a member.

Keller says he agreed, and that Pellegrin asked if he could take more portraits once they entered the garage attached to Keller’s residence. According to Carlsen, when they entered the garage, “The light caught [Keller], Paolo told me to get out of the way, and he started taking pictures.”

Keller believes the photograph misrepresents him, and he would like to see it removed from the series.

“What bothered me more [then the question of whether it was staged] was my being associated with the Rochester Crescent. I lived in a nice and safe neighborhood. That photograph goes with a story talking about the gang and drug violence. It’s associating me with these problems in Rochester, when in reality I had nothing to do with that situation. It paints me in a bad light. I don’t look at a photograph of person with a firearm and assume they’re a bad person, but in a collection of other photographs about violence and drug issues, it paints me in a bad light.”

But Carlsen sees it differently. He acknowledged that Keller doesn’t live in a violent, crime-ridden area, but he lives a few minutes’ drive away, Carlsen says. Pellegrin’s images, he continues, “Shows that people keep guns to keep violence out of their homes. From an ethics standpoint, I think it fits. I don’t see a problem. Those  guns are in [Keller’s] house to keep other people in the story out of his house.”

Pellegrin did not respond directly to a request for an interview, but the statement he provided through Magnum is reproduced below:

I’m sorry that Michael Shaw, Loret Steinberg and Shane Keller don’t like
my pictures from Rochester.  It’s not uncommon for people living in a
community to disagree with an outsider’s take. We all know that.  They
find my work “heavy handed.”  I found many of the things I witnessed in
Rochester shocking.  Part of a documentary photographer’s job is
sometimes revealing things that local elites would rather not have
discussed quite so openly.  In my experience, it was particularly true
in Rochester that certain portions of the population were disinclined to
have an open conversation about race, poverty and crime.

Shane doesn’t like the caption of the portrait I made of him.  (He does
acknowledge, however, that this picture was a portrait, and I’ve never
indicated otherwise.)  Here is the caption for that picture:
“Rochester, NY, USA.  A former US Marine corps sniper with his weapon.”
Shane agrees that he is a former Marine and that he is standing with his
weapon in Rochester.  My firm recollection is that Shane described
himself that day as a sniper.  He may have misspoken; I may have
misunderstood; or he may have used the word “sniper” in a manner that
was not meant to imply formal status as a Marine Corps Sniper (he spoke
for a long time about sniping).  In any event, if Shane was not actually
a Sniper in the Marine Corps the caption should be changed to read
“Rochester, NY, USA.  A former US Marine Corps member with his weapon.”

Shane also points out that I took his portrait.  This is true, and his
account of how we were introduced by Brett, who was assisting me, is
also substantially accurate.  I had been spending the majority of my
time riding along with the Rochester police in the Crescent and
otherwise interacting with the community there.  I approached the work
through a combination of reportage, portraiture, and even landscapes.  I
also realized that to tell more fully the story of gun violence in
Rochester, as exemplified by what I was seeing in the Crescent, I wanted
to make some portraits of gun aficionados.  Like any journalist, I
worked with my assistant to locate such people, and Shane was one of the
people we located.  I think his portrait, and even his reaction to it,
add an interesting dimension to the story.  Shane thinks he and his guns
have nothing to do with the violence in the Crescent; I disagree.  (For
what it’s worth, there is no firm agreement in Rochester as to what
constitutes the “Crescent;” it sometimes seems to be a conceptual
designation as much as  a geographical one.  I actually didn’t know
where precisely Brett had driven me to meet Shane, which is one of the
reasons I captioned the picture simply, “Rochester.”)

I have no idea why Shaw et al. appear to think there is something wrong
with making a portrait, or that making a portrait is not “authentic”.
As photojournalists, we make portraits all the time.  Are my portraits
from Gaza any less “authentic” because they’re portraits?  Of course
not.  It’s ridiculous.

There is one element of the Bag News Notes story that is worthy of
discussion in the face of a changing photojournalistic landscape,
however:  The relationship between my captions, such as, “Rochester, NY,
USA.  A former US Marine corps sniper with his weapon,” and the
background text about the story that accompanies them.  Traditionally,
when photographers like me produced work freelance, our agencies – in my
case, Magnum – would distribute the photographs to publications with a
background or “distro” text and a series of captions.  The captions were
meant for publication; the distro text was for editors, who, if they
took the work, would assign a writer to produce a text that would
accompany the captioned pictures.

In Rochester, I produced the work directly as part of a collaborative,
freelance project with a number of my colleagues, and the work ended up
winning awards without ever having been mediated by the English-language
press.  (Some of the work did appear in Zeit in Germany, although
Shane’s picture did not.)  Thus, my photo captions are accompanied on
the World Press Photo and POYi sites by the kind of background text that
ordinarily would not be published. (Zeit, for instance, didn’t publish
it.)  This distinction between captions and background information is,
in my mind, quite important.

My picture captions are my authored work, based on my individual work in
the field, and I stand fully behind them.  (If a small correction
sometimes needs to be made — like clarifying that Shane was a Marine
but not a sniper in the Marine Corps — so be it.)

The background text, which traditionally would be for internal uses, and
not for the public, is something I gathered from various sources in
Rochester and from the internet, including the New York Times.  Factual
background sentences like, “The Crescent is home to 27 percent of the
city’s residents and 80 percent of the city’s homicides” are frequently
repeated in the neighborhoods I was working in; I believe I first
encountered the statement in connection with the House of Mercy and the
amazing Sister Grace, with whom I spent a considerable amount of time.
(The sentence is on House of Mercy’s facebook page, for instance.)  I
confirmed my background information in various interviews with the
Rochester police, the House of Mercy, and many others – but that doesn’t
change the fact that it was intended as background information, i.e.,
the starting point for someone else’s authored work.  I’m a
photographer, and I produced a body of photographic work.

Looking at the presentation on the World Press Photo and POYi sites, I
do regret the formulation, “where these pictures were taken” in the
background text in relation to Shane’s picture.  Shane’s picture is not
captioned the Crescent, and I wouldn’t have captioned it the Crescent,
because I wasn’t sure it was taken there (as stated above:  I wasn’t
sure exactly where in Rochester Brett had driven me to meet Shane).  I
captioned the picture “Rochester, NY, USA.”  But the juxtaposition with
the background text is confusing and should be fixed.  The story is
about the Crescent, and I continue to believe that Shane’s picture tells
an important part of the story about Rochester, guns, and gun violence
(whether Shane agrees or not), but I don’t want there to be any
confusion.  For purposes of clarity, I don’t have any problem with the
picture itself, how it was made, or its inclusion in my story.

One final thought:  Neither Shaw, Steinberg nor Keller ever attempted to
contact me.  They do not quote Brett, anyone in the Crescent, the police
officers I spent so much time with, etc.  It seems somewhat strange to
me that while mounting a purported journalistic high horse they
themselves did not follow the basic tenets of fair and professional
journalism.

February 15th, 2013

Paul Hansen Wins 2012 World Press Photo of the Year

© Paul Hansen, Sweden, Dagens Nyheter

© Paul Hansen, Sweden, Dagens Nyheter

Swedish photographer Paul Hansen won the 2012 World Press Photo of the Year for an image that shows a group of men carrying the bodies of two dead children in Gaza City, Palestine. The World Press Organization announced the winners of the 56th annual contest at a press conference February 15 in Amsterdam.

Hansen, who is a photographer for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, shot the winning photograph last November after an Israeli missile attack destroyed the family’s home. This year’s chair of the jury was Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography at The Associated Press. In an announcement released by World Press Photo, fellow juror member Mayu Mohanna, a photographer and curator based in Peru, said about Hansen’s winning photo: “The strength of the pictures lies in the way it contrasts the anger and sorrow of the adults with the innocence of the children. It’s a picture I will not forget.”

Hansen will receive a 10,000 Euro award and other prizes at a ceremony to be held in Amsterdam in April.

The World Press Photo Contest honors outstanding photojournalism, both single pictures and photo stories, in several categories, including Spot News, General News, People in the News, Sports, Contemporary Issues, Daily Life, Arts and Entertainment, Portraits, and Nature.

Hansen’s winning image also placed first in the Spot News Singles category. Coverage of the Syria took many of the other top news prizes. Rodrigo Abd, an Associated Press photographer, won first in the General News/Singles  category for his photo of a woman injured by shelling in Syria. Alessio Romenzi’s coverage of the war in Syria won first in General News/Stories.

Other first place winners include Paul Nicklen, who won first place in Nature Stories for images on Emperor penguins. Nadav Kander won first in Staged Portraits for a black-and-white photo of actor Daniel Kaluuya. Jan Grarup’s story on a women’s basketball team in Mogadishu, Somalia won first place in Sports Features.

Related Article:
Paul Hansen of Dagens Nyheter Wins POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year

October 8th, 2012

Call for Applications: €20,000 Tim Hetherington Grant

World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch have announced the call for applications for the second annual Tim Hetherington Grant, named for the photojournalist who was killed by a rocket attack in Libya in April, 2011. The €20,000 ($26,000) grant supports photographers who are working to complete a human rights-themed photographic project.

The grant not only bears Hetherington’s name, it also utilizes as its criteria the ideas and characteristics that defined the late photographer’s work: “Work that operates on multiple platforms and in a variety of formats; that crosses boundaries between breaking news and longer-term investigation; and that demonstrates a consistent moral commitment to the lives and stories of the photographic subjects.”

The inaugural Tim Hetherington Grant was awarded to Stephen Ferry for his project “’Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict,” which focuses on the history and current dynamics of the war in Colombia, while exposing the role of the distinct parties in the conflict.

The selection committee for the 2012 grant includes:

Marcus Bleasdale, documentary photographer VII Photo Agency; Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director for external relations Human Rights Watch; James Brabazon, journalist and documentary filmmaker; Whitney C. Johnson, director of photography The New Yorker; and Michiel Munneke, managing director World Press Photo. Adriaan Monshouwer, the founder of Picture Inside, will serve as the selection committee secretary.

The deadline for applications is November 15. The recipient will be announced in early December.

For more information and to apply visit: http://www.worldpressphoto.org/2012-tim-hetherington-grant

February 22nd, 2012

Photographer Remi Ochlik Killed in Homs, Syria

© Lucas Dolega

Freelance photographer Remi Ochlik was killed today in the besieged city of Homs, Syria, according to several news organizations. Reporter Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London was killed in the same attack. An aid worker told Reuters the journalists were at a make-shift media center set up by rebels fighting the Syrian army when it was struck by shells. Ochlik and Colvin were trying to flee the building when they were hit by a rocket. The same aid worker also told Reuters two other journalists, including British photographer Peter Conroy, were injured in the attack. Syrian videographer/activist Rami al-Sayed also died of wounds sustained during earlier shelling.

This month, Ochlik, who was represented by the IP3 agency, won first place in the General News/Stories category of the World Press Photo Awards for his work on the civil war in Libya.
Our complete story is now on PDNOnline.
February 14th, 2012

Yemeni Woman in World Press Photo of the Year Speaks Out

© Samuel Aranda

In Samuel Aranda’s photo, named World Press Photo of the Year last week, she is an unidentified, veiled woman who symbolizes thousands who have suffered in the anti-government demonstrations that swept the Arab world this past year. Now the woman behind the veil has come forward, according to an article in the Yemen Times.

Fatima Al-Qawas, a resident of Sana’a, Yemen, tells the Yemen Times that she had gone to a field hospital on October 15 in search of her 18-year-old son, who had taken part in demonstrations against the Yemeni government. The photo shows her holding him as he was recovering from tear gas exposure.

“It was after an attack against demonstrators on Al-Zubairy Street,” she says. “I went to the field hospital and did not see my son among the dead or wounded protesters. I checked the place again and saw my son lying on the ground suffocated with tear gas,” she explained. “So I embraced him and [the photographer] must have taken the photo at that moment.” Al Qawas’s son, Zayed, says of the photo, “I did not expect this photo to win among thousands of pictures and it is a real support to the revolution,” he told the Yemen Times. “It demonstrates that Yemenis are not extremists.”

Related Story
Samuel Aranda Wins 2012 World Press Photo of the Year

November 7th, 2011

Photographer Stephen Ferry Awarded First Tim Hetherington Grant

Stephen Ferry has received the first-ever Tim Hetherington Grant, it was announced this morning. The grant was established to honor Hetherington, the photographer and filmmaker who was killed in Libya in April, 2011, and is administered by World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch with the support of Hetherington’s parents.

For more on the grant and Ferry’s work see our story on PDNOnline.