Posts Tagged ‘photojournalism’

The Curious Society

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

The Curious Society is an initiative from an idea by Kenneth Jarecke of Contact Press Images to promote photojournalism, which is attempting to develop a different paying model for the genre, outside of commercial publications. Given the problems of photographers working for the current newspapers and magazines around the world I think we should welcome anything that helps photographers involved in serious photojournalism.

The underlining goal of the Curious Society is to preserve the institutional knowledge photographers and editors need to produce great photojournalism. This knowledge was once passed along in the field from old people to young people. today, most of the old folks aren’t working, so there exists a real danger of losing what they know.

https://www.curioussociety.org/faq

The major current problems putting the future of photojournalism under threat are financial and contractual. Often photojournalists now have to sign ‘work for hire’ contracts with magazines etc to get support for their projects, which means signing away their copyrights in their images for a risible ‘day rate’.

The Curious Society hopes to issue four high-quality collectable 256 page print issues a year, and to pay contributing photographers on a ‘space rate’ basis to licence their images, initially at $100 per page, but hoping to increase this as membership grows. It needs an initial 4,000 members to get off the ground for its first year, but hopes to get up to 20,000, which would enable it to increase the rate it pays photographers to $500 per page – the rate magazines like Time used once to pay.

The publications will not ‘technically’ carry any advertising, though they may accept some ‘sponsorship’ and turn it into grants or other things that will directly aid photojournalists, and they make clear that “we’re budgeted to be completely supported by our members, so the sponsors won’t be able to dictate what appears on our pages.” But this means that members have to pay the full cost of production, whereas most publications are largely paid for by advertising, turning them into vehicles to supply readers to the advertisers.

There is a lot more you can read on The Curious Society web site, with some stunning photographs. There is also an Instagram page, which they intend to be their only social media presence. Their publications will be only available to members and there will also be some member-only videos.

Although I welcome this initiative and wish it every success I do have some reservations. With individual membership at $300 per year it clearly isn’t something for me – and there are higher levels of contribution for those wanting to be more involved, as well as a half price student deal and some gift memberships for young aspiring photographers. It’s also a very USA-centric organisation, with an annual meeting in a small to medium sized town in the Rocky Mountain West – the first planned hopefully for September 2021.

Although a positive idea, it’s also one of a limited scale. At $100 per page it is only injecting around $100,000 per year into paying photojournalists, an amount that will not go far around. Welcome though it is, even if successful it will hardly have a huge impact on the industry.

I’m also just a little put off by the web site. Partly because of the kind of images that it presents, all very high impact and newsy, but perhaps sometimes more about the photographer than the subject. And perhaps not in the finest traditions of photojournalism, where the pictures that really tell the story are rather less dramatised. I also wish that the text was not all in CAPITAL LETTERS. I’m averse to being shouted at either in visuals or text.

The Curious Society
https://www.curioussociety.org/

Harold Evans

Friday, September 25th, 2020

Harold Evans, certainly one of the greatest newspaper men of the second half of the twentieth century and the early years of this, died aged 92 on 23 September 2020. Many obituaries have appeared about him in print and online, and there is little point in my repeating the details of his life.

One thing that his career does illustrate is the malevolent power of Rupert Murdoch and the undue influence of him (and other billionaire newspaper proprietors) on what we are allowed to read. Murdoch appointed Evans as Editor of The Times when he took over the newspaper group in 1981, but the following year Evans resigned because of policy differences relating to editorial independence.

Like many photographers I have a well-used copy of his 1978 book ‘Pictures On A Page‘ written when he was Editor of The Sunday Times and in association with the paper’s Design Director Edwin Taylor. It was Book IV in a series of 5 volumes in the series by Evans, Editing And Design, “Published under the auspices of the National Council for the Training of Journalists“. It was a work I made extensive use of when I taught photography. It’s worth reading if you have any interest in photography or being a photographer, not simply for journalists.

I never met Evans, but Graham Harrison did, and on his Photohistories site is a fine piece on the man and the book Harold Evans and Pictures on a Page which I firmly recommend you to read.

The book has gone through several editions and revisions since its original publication and if you don’t already have a copy is well worth buying. You can find later editions secondhand for around a fiver as well as rather more expensively, though I’ve not found anything to match the £5,710.07 plus delivery that Harrison found on Amazon in 2015.


Reporters Associés

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

The Eye of Photography has just published a series of articles by Louis Le Roux (in English translation) about the Paris photo agency Reporters Associés, founded in 1953. Le Roux joined them as a lab worker a few months later and eventually became the head of the agency, one of first generation which pioneered the “French photojournalism” of the second part of the 20th century, serving the rise of magazines such as Paris Match, Stern, Jours de France…

In part one of the five part series he brings to life some of the problems of working at the time, starting with a primitive darkroom around the same size as my own boxroom darkroom at home, and with the same lack of facilities, without running water or sink, though in a much grander house on Avenue Frochot.  

The second part looks in detail at Lova de Vaysse, real name was Vladimir-Lev Rychkoff-Taroussky (1921- 1983), the boss of the agency.

Part 3, The Fifties of the Rolleiflex, looks at the change from the press cameras using glass plates to film-based photography and some of the reportages carried out by the agency as well as giving some details about materials and storage of negatives and prints.

The fourth part of the series looks at the Agency’s peak in the 1960s when it covered all major events and a rapid change to 35mm took place, at first with Leicas and then Pentax, Canon and Nikon SLRs. While the square format of the Rollei meant that virtually all images were cropped in the darkroom, Le Roux comments “There will be less and less need to crop photos. The framing will be done directly by the photographers thanks to the change of lens. Besides, photographers don’t really like having their shots cropped.” And finally the agency got a proper modern darkroom and had to begin to cope with the move to colour.

In the final part Le Roux talks about some of the photographers who worked with the agency in the 1960s, and about the loss of their contract with Stern. Many of the best photographers were leaving to join newer agencies such as Gamma, and Le Roux, seeing the agency had no future he resigned. Two months later it was bankrupt.

It’s a well illustrated insider’s story into a period of great change in photojournalism, and well worth reading.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


Trailblazers of Light

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Around a year ago I read an article by the remarkable photojournalist Yunghi KimGaslighting in Photojournalism‘ in which she rightly took umbrage at a statement on NationalGeographic.com by photographer Daniella Zalcman, “For a very long time, we’ve been predominantly looking at the world through the experience and vision of male photographers“.

It was, she rightly said “a sexist and ageist quote“, which ignored the great contribution made by many women in the past in order to boost the achievements of NatGeo’s current crop of women photojournalists.

As some readers will know, I used to write for an online photography web site, and before that to teach photography to mainly young students, the majority of whom were female. I had a number of principles that underlie the articles that I wrote about photographers and the work that I showed students and among them were that I wanted to show the contribution that had been made to photography by women through the whole history of our medium and over many fields. Another was to show that not all photographers were American or even British or European – something that was probably a major factor in my contract eventually being terminated.

I tried hard to find women who would qualify for my list of notable photographers, but men still outnumbered them by around 5 to 1, at least in part because of the lack of published material (and particularly published material on the web) by or about them. But there were some truly great women photographers on that list and I think I wrote rather more about many of them than about most of the men.

Yunghi Kim has gone on from her critical article first to produce a list ‘The Silent Generation‘ of women photojournalists, and then to work with her team to produce a remarkable web site – Trailblazers of Light, highlighting the many, many women photojournalists of the film era, decades before the advent of digital cameras and photography.

Also referred to as the, “The Silent Generation,” it refers to a time when a few courageous women first entered the photojournalism work force and simply did the work without fanfare but with steely determination. They worked side by side with men on a daily basis at newspapers, magazines, wire services, and photo agencies. They reported from foreign war zones, the streets of our towns and cities across America, and everywhere in between.

https://trailblazersoflight.com/women-of-the-film-era

It isn’t an exhaustive list and will doubtless grow in time. As the site says, “Most of the names here are American photojournalists or those who worked for American-based publications, photo agencies and news wires. There are some international photojournalists listed as well.”

Currently the site lists 517 photojournalists and 249 picture editors, and the site gives a short history of the contribution of women to photojournalism in the USA, beginning with “Frances Benjamin Johnston, who worked for Acme News Service. She was born in 1864 and had a career which lasted over 50 years” and continuing to the digital age.

It’s a remarkable history, only a fairly small part of which was familiar to me, and although there are plenty of names among the 517 that are familiar to me, there are rather more I’d not before heard of. Clicking on their names in the list of Photojournalists generally links to an article on a web site with some more details or an article about them. The site also has a historical timeline and some oral histories.

It’s looks a hugely valuable resource for students and educators, though I’ve only had a short time to investigate it. It would be good to see a similar resource to cover other areas of photography worldwide.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


Not Window Dressing

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

I’ve never worked in the United States (or as they call it, America) or at least only digitally, having been on contract serially with three major US companies over a period of around 7 years. It started well, but ended sadly, at least in part because I wasn’t from the States.

During those years I sometimes had to write about the USA as if I was located there, taking a lively interest in exhibitions at US museums, reporting on some US events and US institutions, and about the US photography culture in general (and more difficult, on Thanksgiving and Independence Day.) In later years I even had to use ‘American English’, though I made no secret of being British and continued to try adopt an international approach, introducing my readers to photography around the world.

There were many ways in which photographers working in the USA had things rather better than us in the British Isles, and perhaps the basis of all these was a culture that took photography much more seriously than here, something that was perhaps most apparent in the number of museums and galleries and in the US press.

And generally books, magazines and papers were happy to pay usage rates that were considerably above those in the UK. I remember getting one request from a left magazine with a profuse apology for what little they could offer me for a picture which was at least twice what a more mainstream British publication would have paid, and was annoyed a few years later when a UK agency sold a picture for text book use at just under a third of the payment I had negotiated directly with the publisher for a previous edition (and then took 50% of that meagre fee for their efforts on my behalf!)

One of the reasons for these differences is the presence of strong organisations representing photographers, one of which is the National Press Photographers Association, NPPA. Of course we have organisations here, but good as some are, none has the same clout.

Newspapers across the USA are now suffering with competition from the web (and some have very fine web sites themselves) and many have made drastic cuts in staffing, with many photographers being ‘let go’, leaving many, particularly the smaller regional and local papers that are much more important in the US than here, without staff photographers and with very limited budgets for pictures. As of course we’ve seen in the UK.

It’s a situation that led Jaymie Baxley , a reporter working for The Pilot in Southern Pines, North Carolina to take pity on his fellow journalists and help them by “creating a resource for reporters in small newsrooms that no longer have visual journalists“, setting up a website offering his own editorial photographs for free.

As you can read on the NPPA web site in a post by Sue Morrow,
Pictures are not window dressing. In fact, pictures are the window, this did not go down well with other photographers. And the NPPA got on the case, explaining their position to Baxley, who quickly took down the website.

Under Morrow’s article is a post by NPPA President Michael P King which makes a great case for professional photography, starting from the premise ‘Photography is valuable‘ and giving some reasons why.

It’s a statement I think is worth reading and which makes a great case for using professional photography – by staff or freelance photographers. As he says it’s a matter of trust and legality and of retaining credibility for news organisations.

Women in photojournalism

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

When I taught photography – which I did, mainly at beginner level to students between 18-20, though my oldest student was in his eighties – for around 30 years – the great majority of my best students were female. Partly this was because generally they worked harder and met the deadlines more often, and perhaps they listened more carefully in my lessons and made better notes, but I think there were also some differences in thinking, perhaps because of peer pressure which made boys reluctant to show sensitivity lest they be thought feminine.

Because many of my students were women I tried hard to show examples of work by women when I could – despite at one time teaching a syllabus with a number of named photographers in the history of photography in which the only woman was Julia Margaret Cameron. And when I wrote a popular photography web site I made sure it featured the work of women who I thought had been neglected in both the history of our medium and in current practice.

I’ve also known many good women photographers and although there are fewer women than men among the photographers I’ve known (and in most areas of the profession) I have the impression that a higher proportion of the women are photographers whose work I particularly admire.

Many women have shown they can do as well as men even in the more hazardous areas of photography including German photographer Anja Niedringhaus who was the only woman on the team of AP photographers awarded the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for their coverage of the Iraq War. That year she also won the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Courage in Journalism award. On the web site ‘Menschen im Krieg: Das Lebenswerk der Anja Niedringhaus‘ buttons link to her work from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Gaza, Iraq and Bosnia. Her career had begun with a move from a local paper after covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and other events she covered included the aftermath of 9/11 in New York.

Niedringhaus died age 48 in Afghanistan on 4th April 2014, shot by an Afghan policeman while sitting in a car at a checkpoint near Khost while covering the presidential election. The officer walked up to their car, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” and shot killing her and severely injuring a woman journalist sitting beside her. He gave himself up and was later sentenced to death for wounding, murder and treason. The International Women’s Media Foundation founded the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award in her honour with the aid of a $1 million gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and it is given out every year to a female photojournalist whose work “follows in the footsteps of Anja Niedringhaus.

A feature in The Week’s ‘Captured’ photo blog shows the work of Niedringhaus together more stunning photography from this year’s winner Heidi Levine, Rebecca Blackwell (honorable mention) and Anastasia Vlasova (first runner up). All of their work is worth exploring.

Visa pour l’image

Saturday, September 7th, 2019

It’s always worth looking at the web site for Visa Pour l’Image, the annual festival of photojournalism which takes place every year around this time in Perpignan. It’s a festival like Arles that I’ve often though about attending but never got around to actually doing so. Back in the days when I would have got more out of both of them I was always still teaching when took place, Arles in early July and Perpignan in September, and now I feel too old.

The festival has a Facebook page and you can read more about Visa Pour l’Image in various sites on-line, many of them in French. In English as you might expect the British Journal of Photography has some coverage with an article with a lengthy title:
Visa pour l’Image returns with a focus on press freedom and fake news

A rather different approach comes from Euronews, whose feature is titled ‘Visa pour l’image: The story of the world from big food to defecation‘.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Controlling the Image

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Two stories I’ve read in the past couple of weeks have illustrated an increasing attempt by organisers of events to control the way they are photographed. It’s something that has happened over many years in some limited areas of photography, particularly around the film and music industries, but which seems now to be widening as PR people become more and more involved.

I’ve only rarely worked in areas where accreditation is vital, and have hardly ever needed to get permission before distributing or publishing images. Occasionally when taking portraits I’ve shown pictures of people to them before sending them off, but generally only as a courtesy; fortunately I’ve never had anyone object to my choices. But then I usually try to show people at their best, and generally delete pictures that show people in an unfairly negative light rather than use them. It’s a decision that has almost certainly cost me considerably with pictures of some politicians.

There have been one or two cases where long after an image has been published on a web site I’ve been asked if I would remove it. Unless there is a legal imperative or a very good reason – for example that it might endanger someone’s safety or even life by enabling a violent offender to trace them – I ignore such requests. Being unflattering isn’t grounds for censorship.

Often I’ve photographed aspects of events which the organisers would prefer were not shown, but I’ve not faced the kind of problems which Manchester-based photographer Joel Goodman describes in his blog post about his experiences in photographing Manchester Pride. Of course people have deliberately got in my way (police and security staff are skilled in this) but I’ve not been threatened with removal and ejection from events, though rather too often with arrest.

One of Goodman’s main complaints is about a PR person who tried to prevent him from taking pictures when “a lesbian gender ideology protest attempted to hijack the front of the parade“. Later the same woman came up to him at a candlelit vigil and told him he had to leave, because of his coverage of the earlier incident and also his photograph of Ariana Grande, taken from a public place after he and other photographers had been banned from photographing the event – for which the singer’s team provided a single image for media use.

Goodman, who I’ve met covering various events in London and whose photographic work is admirable, makes his points about this clearly, stating his legal rights as well as making clear what he feels is his job as a journalist, and his feelings as a gay, HIV+ man in being told by Pride’s PR team he was not “on our side” and would be refused accreditation for Pride in future years.

Clearly Pride’s attitude is totally unacceptable and as Goodman says, it “exposes the ever present danger of the sort of expectations PR operatives have of journalists, in exchange for access.”

At the bottom of the post are links to his photographs of the events, and as you can verify they show a totally professional approach.

The second article I read was by photographer Peter Dench in the Amateur Photographer, in a post I don’t care if my documentary shots are ‘unflattering’ about covering several sporting events. On a press trip to a prestigious horse-racing event for The Sunday Times Magazine he met two people who described themselves as ‘journalists and influencers and vloggers’ who he says seemed ‘to have spent most of their day in the hospitality box making saccharine social media posts of the sponsor’s products.’ I’m sure they were the PR’s delight.

At another sporting event he was asked when leaving by the PR to show the photographs he had taken in the VIP marquee. Dent writes: “‘I can’t do that,’ I said. ‘I haven’t seen them yet and after I’ve seen them, the client will be the next to see them, then I can let you have a look’ ” He was then informed that a photographer ‘the previous year had taken a less-than-flattering photograph of a minor royal and was now excluded from all of their events.

Dench goes on to mention other cases of photographers being warned not to take ‘unflattering’ pictures or have accreditation refused. He concludes with the sentence ‘Photographers shouldn’t stop taking truthful photographs of what they witness. They may not be seen immediately but one day, I hope, they will form an important archive of our time.’