War Through a Woman’s Eyes

There’s a great story in American Photo on female conflict photographers.

But being a woman can also prove an advantage. “I can slip behind lines where males can’t necessarily,” says Levine. During one long-term stint in a conflict zone, she recalls, “I would often just dress like the women. Male colleagues didn’t even recognize me. I would try to blend when possible.” She also gets a perspective on events that men seldom see. “I don’t want to say that women photograph differently, but sometimes our access draws us in differently,” she says. “If I’m in a room full of women mourning, especially Muslim women, I can stay with them longer. Being a woman allows me to embrace some of the intimate moments. I’m a female and I can enter the bedroom of a woman, whereas my male colleagues wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Being perceived as less intrusive or intimidating can also make it easier for women to move unobtrusively through the range of scenes in the theater of war. “You have to know how to weave in between all worlds,” Levine says. “You have to know how to behave, not only sitting on someone’s floor in a war zone or in a morgue, but meeting with high officials, moving in a motorcade, or riding on the back of a pickup truck with Libyan rebels on the front line.”

As for motherhood, Levine says it brings insight to her work. “Maybe I approach some of the situations I’m in differently because I am a mother, or I connect with women more easily in the field because I’m a mother as well,” she says. “I can imagine being in their shoes, God forbid, if I was on the other side of the camera. It’s a big part of me.” Having children also drives her to contribute to the effort to understand and resolve conflicts. “It draws me in closer and fuels my passion to do what I do,” she says, “because as much as I cover conflict, I hate conflict and war.”

Read the whole story here:War Through a Woman’s Eyes | American Photo.

Paolo Pellegrin’s Sloppy Journalism Ignites Controversy Online

Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin suddenly found himself under intense scrutiny in the photo blog world after a picture he took in Rochester, NY that won him 2nd at POYi, 2nd at WPP and 1st as Photographer Of The Year (I’ve omitted the various sub categories for these awards) was deemed to not show what it purports to show by Michael Shaw and co-contributors at BagNewNotes.

If you haven’t already been down the rabbit hole I will give you the short version (and links if you wish to have several hours of your time evaporate online). Paolo and several other Magnum photographers visited Rochester, NY last April as part of their “House of Photos” series where they collaborate and document something. The purpose I believe (and applaud) is to push the envelope, hang out together to create, and flex the Magnum muscles for potential clients. The award winning image in question was made as Paolo photographed a piece on The Crescent section of Rochester where drugs and violence can be found. The subject of the image was a photojournalism student at RIT who disputes what the caption says, what the picture depicts and how it was used. The student contacted his former Ethics and Photojournalism professor at RIT who consults with Michael on BagNewsNotes where they determined that Paolo had committed misidentification and plagiarism. The misidentification was that the person in the image was not a former Marine Corps sniper, just a former Marine and that he was not in The Crescent but miles away in his parking garage in the suburbs. The plagiarism is a description that accompanied the image that was lifted from a 10 year old New York Times article. Finally, there is allusion, in the subjects description to how this all came about, that the shot was staged. That a picture of this type was needed to tell the story, so they went out and found it.

In a press release and in several interviews Paolo disputes parts of this. He admits to lifting the description and says it was never intended to be published, but simply provided as information for news organizations who might publish the images. He says he may have misheard the subject or the subject misspoke leading him to write the sniper caption. And the  caption was not The Crescent but that was the name of the project he was working on. The caption was Rochester, NY, USA. Regarding the setting up of the image, Paolo simply says that it was a portrait like any other he makes in the course of storytelling (i.e. setup).

I believe Paolo Pellegrin has been very sloppy with his journalism here, but my idea of sloppy is someone else’s libel. I say this because I would categorize the magazines I’ve worked at as “infotainment.” Journalism co-mingling with entertainment and things the advertisers made us do. Which brings me to the point of writing about this whole mess. Photojournalism needs leadership. Photojournalism needs magazines, contests, blogs and photographers who lead by example and practice exceptional journalism. If there’s anything to be outraged about, it’s that one of photojournalism’s brightest stars is sloppy and thinks it’s not a big deal.

Here are the links:

The post that kicked it all off:

The follow up piece:

Paolo’s statement released to NPPA:

Len’s blog:


Jim Colton calls it Photo Contest Bashing, That Time Of Year:

The Online Photographer

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Photojournalist Danfung Dennis’s Movie Hell and Back Again

Shot entirely on a Cannon 5D Mark II, photojournalist Danfung Dennis’s film Hell and Back Again has been racking up the awards (2 at Sundance for best doc and cinematography). And, while I’d seen the crazy footage from the front line that had appeared on PBS I hadn’t seen the trailer for the movie until I found it on the Apple trailer site (here).

Looks like he turned some compelling war time footage into a well rounded story. The film is opening this fall and needs help in getting it to as many theaters as possible so spread the word if you like what you see.

Tim Hetherington’s Last Interview

Outside magazine called over a month ago to ask if I would interview a photographer for their summer interview issue. I immediately pitched them Tim Hetherington whose work I admired although I’d never met or spoken with him before. The body of work he created in Afghanistan was so vast and varied, including an award winning Oscar nominated documentary (Restrepo), plus he’d made some outlandish statements like “forget photography” in the press that I just knew he was blazing new trails for photographers and photojournalism in particular.

When I emailed to setup the interview he said it needed to happen immediately, because he was going to Libya. After what he survived in Afghanistan and previous conflicts it never crossed my mind that Libya would be his last. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

ROB HAGGART: Hey, Tim, how are you?
TIM HETHERINGTON: Rob, I’m very well, man.

Good. Did you find a way into Libya?
Ah, I’m still trying to work out what to do. I mean, I’ve got a potential way in, but—I mean the thing is, the situation is moving so fast it’s very hard to know whether it’s a good call or not.

That’s the main thing at the moment.

And do you have an assignment or are you just going to go?
Yeah, it’s like a top-shelf documentary film. A director who I know who—and I said I wanted to go in. The problem is, unlike making still photographs, you don’t know what you’ll get in this kind of situation.

When it’s so fast moving, it’s very hard to structure a kind of narrative. It’s difficult to find characters—you know what I mean? I have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s like a complete fishing trip, so it’s also, like, not wanting to—for them back in New York, the director—for them to understand clearly that that’s what it is.

Right, they probably don’t understand that or maybe just basing it on your previous documentaries, right?
I just don’t want to set myself up for them thinking that they’re going to get something and then they don’t, because it’s impossible—it may be impossible to do what they want out of that. No second chances— like it’s so fast moving, it’s pretty crazy what’s going on. In terms of the government moving very close to Benghazi and who knows whether Benghazi is going to fall or whether the rebels will counter-attack or whether Gaddafi will buy people out in the town, you know what I mean?

Read the rest over at Outside Magazine.

Tim Hetherington Killed In Libya

Tragic, heartbreaking news from Libya that Tim Hetherington was killed and and photographers Chris Hondros and Guy Martin have severe injuries after being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.

I interviewed Tim just before he left for Libya for an Outside magazine piece. I hope to publish parts of our conversation soon. My prayers and thoughts go out to the photographers families and friends.

NYTimes.com story.

Update: Interview with Tim from November 2010.

Journalists Recount Days Of Brutality In Libya

The New York Times journalists–photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario among them–recount their ordeal after being captured in Libya:

“Shoot them,” a tall soldier said calmly in Arabic.

A colleague next to him shook his head. “You can’t,” he insisted. “They’re Americans.”

They bound our hands and legs instead — with wire, fabric or cable. Lynsey was carried to a Toyota pickup, where she was punched in the face. Steve and Tyler were hit, and Anthony was headbutted.

Cameras are now seen as weapons and the dangers of photographing conflict seems to be on the rise.

If he died, we will have to bear the burden for the rest of our lives that an innocent man died because of us, because of wrong choices that we made, for an article that was never worth dying for.

No article is, but we were too blind to admit that.

Read the rest of today’s A1 story (here).


The judges reflect on the World’s Best-Designed Newspaper Entries

Amid all our positive observations, we became concerned about the state of photojournalism in the pages we saw. We missed emotional photographs. Glossy magazines and newsprint pages with vast, luxurious expanses of space were largely devoid of powerful photojournalism.

The lack of strong, documentary images puzzled us. We wondered if this has something to do with reduced investment. The industry has lost so many positions for picture editors and others, and yet great photographs can’t be made without time, care and commitment. Perhaps in places where the work is being done, print space to showcase it is no longer available.

Having had the luxury of seeing hundreds of papers in the last few days, we’d like to raise a red flag on this issue. It’s one of print’s great powers to enable users to savor moments captured in the best photos. How can we recapture and deliver this value to readers?

via The Society for News Design thx Ryan.

Photojournalists Push Boundaries With Apps And Computers

Fantastic debate going on in the world of photojournalism right now as two of the top contests have awarded images that stretch the definition of photojournalism. Wait, there’s a definition of photojournalism!? No, and that’s the reason for the debate. If contest organizers, newspapers and magazines would simply define what’s acceptable and what’s not, there would be no debate. It’s pointless for an all encompassing definition to exist because purists want facsimile’s and populists want aesthetics. What’s important is that contests and publications communicate to their followers the rules they’ve laid out and the purpose for them. If factual information is imperative to your mission then you must fact-check your photography (magazines) or hire photographers who follow your carefully defined rules (newspapers) just like you do with your writing. Asking photographers to police themselves is silly and lame.

The first debate erupted when Damon Winter was awarded 3rd place at POYi for a series of images taken for the NY Times with his iphone and processed in the phone with the Hipstamatic app. The very vague rules for POYi and the NY Times are as follows:

Assistant Managing Editor for Photography Michele McNally (here):

We do allow basic contrast/tonal adjustments as well as some sharpening and noise reduction.

POYi Rules (here):

No masks, borders, backgrounds or other artistic effects are allowed.

WOW. You people are really laying it out for everyone. Good job. Now that cameras are basically mini computers you sound like you’re stuck in 1984.

The second debate bubbled up when Michael Wolf was awarded honorable mention in the Contemporary Issues category at the World Press Photo contest (here) for a series of images taken of his computer screen while looking at google street view. In this case there seems to be not much debate about rules but rather a collective huh from photographers wondering if this really qualifies as picture taking.

FYI these are the equally lame World Press Rules (here):

11. The content of the image must not be altered. Only retouching which conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed. The jury is the ultimate arbiter of these standards and may at its discretion request the original, unretouched file as recorded by the camera or an untoned scan of the negative or slide.

12. Only single-frame images will be accepted. Composite and multiple exposure images will not be accepted. Images with added borders, backgrounds or other effects will not be accepted. Images must not show the name of a photographer, agency, or publication.

So, while the debate about it is great for photography, personally I have no problem with the tools photojournalists choose to tell their story. I do have a problem with contests and publications that claim to uphold the ideals of photojournalism but leave photographers flapping in the wind when it comes to defining what that means.

I highly recommend reading though the different threads on the debate.

More on the Damon Winter controversy:

Chip Litherland – there’s an app for photojournalism

Birds To Find Fish – Drawing the Line

dvafoto – Some thoughts on iPhone pictures and POYi

Gizmodo – Hipstamatic and the Death of Photojournalism

NY Times Lens Blog – Damon Winter Discusses the Use of an App

More on the Michael Wolf controversy:

greg.org – Michael Wolf Wins World Press Photo Honorable Mention For Google Street View Photos

BJP- Is Google Street View photojournalism?

dvafoto – Some thoughts on Google Street View and World Press Photo

Overall Discussion:

Conscientious – It is that time of the year again

Self-Guided Tour – On Technology and Photography: Damon Winter in POY, Michael Wolf in World Press

Mike Kamber: Military Censorship

This exclusive audio slideshow interview featuring Michael Kamber is from BagNews. If you haven’t visited Michael’s site, where he provides analysis of prominent news pictures, take a look, it’s a daily read for me.

I believe we owe it to our children to tell them that the profession of ‘photojournalist’ no longer exists

Searing commentary on the state of photojournalism by Neil Burgess, former head of Network Photographers and Magnum Photo, two time chairman of World Press Photo and owner of NB Pictures.  Read the whole thing on EPUK, but this tidbit should get you fired up:

Seven British-based photographers won prizes at the ‘World Press Photo’ competition this year and not one of them was financed by a British news organisation. But this is not just a UK problem. Look at TIME and Newsweek, they are a joke. I cannot imagine anyone buys them on the news-stand anymore. I suspect they only still exist because thousands of schools, and libraries and colleges around the world have forgotten to cancel their subscriptions. Even though they have some great names in photojournalism on their mastheads, when did you last see a photo-essay of any significance in these news magazines?


This doom and gloom on the state of photography/magazines/newspaper is all good blog fodder, but the takeaway for me has always been that publishers are in hiding and any path to the future will be forged by people who don’t work for them. Financing of accountability journalism by non profits is a solution that’s been talked about by Clay Shirky (here) and it appears that most of the significant work will come this way for the time being (based on that stat Neil gives about World Press).

VII Magazine – Photojournalism Transitions From Supplier To Publisher

I think most people will agree that if photojournalism is to survive the media revolution the innovations will need to come from the photographers and agencies, because the magazines that used to support them have run out of gas. The only hope really is experimentation and failure. The right business model will involve many different income sources and a myriad of ways to present the stories.

VII photographers agency recently hired former Fortune Magazine photo editor Scott Thode and launched VII Magazine as their platform to experiment and innovate. One innovation that I think has great potential is the photographer interviews they’ve been doing. Infusing the photographers personality into the pieces makes them so much more enjoyable and watchable to me and seems like the opposite of the objectivity and invisibility photojournalists usually strive for. I think VII is different, with the strong personalities of the founding members and their initial foray into advertising the group with canon and their ongoing workshops, these videos are a perfect match.

Vanishing: Antonin Kratochvil

The Consequences of War: Ashley Gilbertson

Paparazzi: Jessica Dimmock

I asked Scott Thode to tell us more about VII Magazine and what they’re up to:

It is hard to describe what it is when in truth, it was and continues to be, a grand experiment. It is an experiment that is very much in a formative stage from an editorial and business standpoint. That might sound strange as it’s been online for two months and any casual viewer can see what’s there, but maybe knowing what’s not there gives a better perspective. There’s no website (it’s online but only as an insert in other people’s sites), there’s only a hint of commercial activity and there is limited content in the various story telling formats we have put together.

I think in some very important ways VII The Magazine is a reaction to what has happened to our industry over the last few years. Photographers have always been seen as “suppliers” (the traditional role of editorial photographers, one or two rungs up the ladder from stationers and utilities but suppliers nonetheless) to the print world. A big question now seems to be who is left to supply and why should we remain dependent on the whims of a dinosaur industry. The question VII asked is why not become publishers and control their own destiny? Obviously the answer to that is VII The Magazine. This is a huge shift in the role of the photographers and the agency that opens up a whole new world with all the possibilities of originating and distributing.

Editorially, the magazine is an editors candy store. There is just a wealth of content to be explored and repurposed in new and interesting ways. When I first came on as Editor in January I felt we needed to be very careful not to overextend what we could do with very little time and no budget. After some discussion we decided to proceed on four storytelling fronts: The Interviews, The Stories, The Videos and The Day. This strategy was important in that we also did not want to compete with newspapers and the newsweeklies. We aren’t a news source. To this end I see us telling stories in a different fashion. I don’t see simple linear tales but hope to break away from a beginning, middle and end format to a nonlinear story telling based on the emotional and visual. I’m really excited about this type of approach because it involves still photos, video, music, text, and audio in various combinations and emphasis.

From the outset, I have always felt that the strength of the magazine and its ultimate success would lie with the personality of the photographers and their personal visions, quirks, and unique way of seeing the world not only visually but editorially as well. They all have something to say and do it in their own way. Initially, my job was finding an interesting way for them to get their visual and auditory voices out there. To this end I came up with the idea of doing “The Interviews”. These are produced videos done in conjunction with Michael Hanna and Protean films where I sit down with the photographer and interview them on a specific subject. We have produced four of these, Ashley Gilbertson, “The Consequences of War”, Jessica Dimmock, “Paparazzi”, Antonin Kratochvil, “Vanishing” and Christopher Morris’s, “Mr. President”.

I have also incorporated the photographer’s voices and video in “The Stories”. These are meant to be less produced and are done by the photographers themselves at home or on the road. They are still asking to hear a point of view about what happened or in the case of Agnes Dherbeys what was happening as the story of the Red Shirt Protests unfolded. This was our first attempt to try to be on the news but with our own unique photographers point of view. I also decided to do wrap up of the story with Agnes that became “UPDATE: Red Shirts” where she summed up in her own words how she felt about what took place. One of my other favorites of this type of story telling is Marcus Bleasdale’s “Fashionista”.

Not all the stories incorporate the photographers. I still love a good slide show with music. One that I am especially happy with is by Ziyah Gafic called “Tito’s Bunker.” Not everybody wants to hear the photographers and not all the photographers want to lend their voices or be on camera. Take a look at “Invisible” with Franco Pagetti.

The Videos are the photographer’s own productions that are unedited on my part. It is a new way of working for many of them and I am very excited seeing what they are doing with it. I love Stefano De Luigi’s “Blanco”, the videos Chris Morris has done on Obama, and Ron Haviv’s Haiti. This is all about approaching stories in new ways and finding new forms of reaching our audience.

Finally there is “The Day” which takes an event that happened on a the specific day you are looking at and uses a photograph from the VII archive that speaks to the event but doesn’t necessarily pertain to it. It is definitely one of my favorite things to do as an editor.

The most difficult part for me is making sure there is a balance of stories from something on the lighter side like Jessica’s Dimmock’s Paparazzi and The Kimbangist Symphony Orchestra by Marcus Bleasdale to a story on Afghanistan by Eric Bouvet or Haiti by VII.

So what’s to look forward to? First, I’m happy to say that recently I became the full time editor of VII The Magazine. We will begin designing our new home for the magazine on the web and on the iPad. We will continue to search for new ways to tell stories in as many new and exciting formats as we can think of. We are also going to begin incorporating writing into the magazine. Yes! The written word does have a place in our hearts.

From a business standpoint, VII The Magazine is designed to be a commercial tool. In the modern environment where innovation and implementation often precede monetization, the evidence for this will have to follow (and I’m not giving away the keys to our thought-bank just yet), but suffice it to say that there is a method in the madness. We are greatly encouraged by the responses to date and we have laid the foundation for a dynamic (and funded) editorial product.

For even further insight into the future of VII and the Magazine here’s an interview with Stephen Mayes managing director of VII Photo Agency.

via, Gerald Holubowicz/bulb

Luceo Images – Documenting Small Town America

Back in 2008 when I first heard about the new photographers collective Luceo Images I questioned the value a collective creates for the clients. Well, ever since then I’ve seen the name Luceo pop up in all the major contests and generally enter the lexicon of the photography industry, so the value has been clearly shown. As David Banks told me when I initially questioned him about it it “The other reason for all this is our belief in helping each other out and being open in the photo industry rather than the one-for-all mentality that is so ingrained.” So, it’s no surprise that they recently announced a new group project where over the coming year all the members will be “documenting various aspects of life in rural America.” What a fantastic idea. Not only will fans and clients get to watch as the story develops, in the end they will have created an important and original body of work.

From the blog post about it:

LUCEO will be documenting the decline of small town America as a group project over the coming year. Over this course of time, LUCEO members will commit several sessions of 24-48 hours documenting various aspects of life in rural America in different towns across the country. Among our goals is to record history during a unique shift which may very well lead to the demise of these places that once stood as the core of America. One of the most exciting parts of the project to me is working together with my colleagues towards a common goal, and this idea that what we can create as a team is greater than just the sum of our individual parts – one of the same notions that drives our partner network, some of whom we will likely be collaborating with as the project evolves.

vist the post (here) to read more and see an interesting discussion in the comments.


Another Victory For Independent Journalists

David Morse, a member of the Indybay Collective (a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage) was arrested on December 11, 2009 during protests at the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s house.

He wore a press badge, and repeatedly identified himself as a reporter to University of California police officers when they detained him. Nonetheless, campus police seized his camera and arrested him, initially charging him with several felonies. (source)

According to the First Amendment Project who represented David in court pro bono:

Prior to his release on bail the next day, the UCPD obtained a search warrant to look at the photographs Morse had taken. In obtaining the search warrant, the UCPD did not inform the judge of Morse’s claims that he was a journalist. The charges against Morse, which included rioting and vandalism, were dropped soon thereafter.

California Penal Code section 1524(g) provides that “no search warrant shall issue” for unpublished information gathered by a journalist during the course of newsgathering. The law was enacted in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision which held that the First Amendment did not bar search warrants from being issued against newsrooms. Thus any protections journalists had in such circumstances must come from the legislature.

Judge Northridge issued her order over UC’s argument that section 1524(g) should not apply when the journalist was suspected of having committed or observed a crime. Judge Northridge also rejected UC’s argument that even if the search warrant was improper, UC should be permitted to keep copies of Morse’s photographs for use in its internal disciplinary investigations.

Graphic Evidence of the Dangers Involved in War Journalism

Wikileaks.org an organization that releases sensitive documents while preserving the sources anonymity just released a classified US military video showing a group of iraqi’s and two Reuters news staff being shot from an American helicopter (here).

David Schlesinger, the editor in chief of Reuters news, said in a statement that the video was “graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result.”

I cannot imagine the extreme difficulty in trying to determine whether the people you are looking at are friendly or foe, especially in an urban environment. The chilling part of the video comes when the photographers are walking down the street with their cameras hanging from their shoulders and the gunner says “he’s got a weapon” before requesting permission to engage and then killing everyone.

Reuters said at the time that the two men had been working on a report about weightlifting when they heard about a military raid in the neighborhood, and decided to drive there to check it out.

The attack killed 12, among them the Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and the driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40.


via, NYTimes