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One of the best parts of my job is hanging out and talking with photographers — about photography, but also about the shifting media landscape, companies that are trying cool new things, technology that makes our life more efficient yet more complicated, and, of course, art of all kinds that inspires us.
That’s what I was doing yesterday (Sunday) in Union Square Park near our liveBooks office in San Francisco. If you don’t know Mark, check out his popular site, blog, and Facebook and Twitter streams. If you do know Mark, you’re probably not surprised that he asked to do a quick iPhone video while we were talking. I thought I should Flip video him at the same time — hope you enjoy the result as much as we did.
After that we headed to the office to talk some more and Mark made a video of me talking about RESOLVE a little more in depth. At lunch we were discussing how hard (but necessary) it is for photographers to stop focusing solely on the value of their images — today much more value is placed on education, audience engagement, and especially storytelling, as Mark explained and I asked him to rehash for the Flip.
Mark and I had not met before yesterday, so it was a pleasure to find out he is just as kind, helpful, and well-informed as his online presence suggests.
I also hung out with two innovators I’ve known for a bit longer on Saturday: David Alan Harvey, who has very exciting things in store for burn, his online photography magazine; and Phil Toledano, who I was ecstatic to hear has found a publisher for his Days With My Father project. Finally, here are few of the funner things Mark and I chatted about:
It’s not enough anymore to create work for one media platform, especially if you intend to raise awareness about issues or are trying to effect change. Now when I create a new project as a photojournalist or with Talking Eyes Media, the non-profit production company I founded with my wife, Julie Winokur, we have our eyes on expanded opportunities for distribution: the web, social media, books, exhibitions, T.V., lectures, workshops, academic applications, and NGO collaborations. There are undoubtedly even more I haven’t thought, of and we’re always looking for new options.
To work in this multi-platform landscape, you must develop skills beyond still photography. You should at least be proficient at gathering and editing audio, and preferably you’d also understand video and be able to handle post production to produce a finished piece.
Since Julie and I founded Talking Eyes seven years ago, we have developed a process that fluidly moves from proposal, field work, and post production to outreach and followup. With the Niger Delta work, we’re learning as we go. As usual, we’re applying for grants, but now they are in areas I’ve never ventured into before, attempting to receive funding support for educational outreach programs.
One small example of this can be seen on my blog where we posted papers written by history students at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where my book was required reading. They were asked to pick three images and write about them, and we posted a handful of their papers with the students’ consent.
This is an important aspect of multi-platform storytelling: It can easily be disseminated to a wide variety of audiences. It also provides the means for those audiences to talk back with the photographer/producer about the work. It is exciting to being able to create a groundswell of interest in this way, by building a feedback loop between the documentarian, their subject, and the audience.
I am currently writing grants to fund a broader implementation of this feedback loop idea (really it’s a wiki, but I wanted to avoid that term). My vision is to create a new website, or augment the existing one from liveBooks, so that students in the U.S. and Nigeria (or anywhere for that matter), who are using teaching materials I’ve created around oil and environmental issues, can contribute their own comments, information, pictures, and videos to the site. So a student in Port Harcourt, in the Niger Delta, would study these issues using the texts, stills, and video from my work there (along with expanded teaching materials we plan to include in a teaching DVD) and then do his or her own reporting or just contribute personal materials to the site. In this way, they can correct, augment, and develop my work to broaden, deepen, and personalize it. More »
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I returned from my six weeks of travel with about 2,500 images; I have never been a prolific shooter, probably because I started out shooting slide film and knowing the cost of each frame. Throughout my trip, I made a point of downloading and categorizing my images as I made them. To keep all the files in order, I created folders for each location I visited with RAW and JPEG sub-folders.
Since I was traveling for such a long time, I knew it was imperative to keep on top of my images so I didn’t face a nightmare editing session when I returned home. My organizational efforts also allowed me to keep track of where I was with the story, making edits in the evenings, following how my narrative was developing.
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which funded this project, asked me to write weekly blog posts about my travel experiences. This discipline helped me enormously because it made me stop and think about the importance of each stage of my trip. This further helped me keep track of my narrative and helped me stay focused on the main themes I wanted to explore through the work.
On my return to my home in Beijing, I found that my meticulous filing in the field meant my editing was half done already. I could go straight to post-processing the images and then seriously think about edits for publishing outlets. More »
Living in Hollywood, there is one particular phrase that I dread hearing more than drunk sorority girls at a karaoke bar: “I’m working on a screenplay.” For years — no, decades — I clucked around Los Angeles smug as hell that I could avoid that ultimate Hollywood cliché because nothing I did as a photographer had anything to do with screenwriting.
Even shooting stills on movie sets, I didn’t really need to know the story. I just had to take good pictures and stay out of the way. But with video squeezing it’s way into photography more and more, photographers no longer have the luxury of ignoring story structure.
For a while now, the novelty of photographers shooting video has allowed us to get by with beautifully shot vignettes like Vincent Laforet’s Reverie or Alexx Henry’s fabulous living one sheets. But as video evolves in the photography industry, more is going to be expected from us. I strongly suggest you educate yourself now so you’ll be ahead of the curve when your clients ask you for video later. (Mr. Laforet saw this coming and is now producing a motion picture shot with the Canon 5D Mark II.)
Furthermore, understanding narrative can be an important skill for any photographer, even those not rushing off to film their first 5D movie. There is a skewed presumption out there that screen writing is easy. It’s not. It just seems easy because the three-act structure of a film is easy to grasp. But as with everything that is magical to watch, the genius is in the subtleties. More »
The Associated Press came under criticism this week for requesting that the organizers of Noorderlicht International Photofest, which starts tomorrow in the Netherlands, remove an essay from its event catalog. The essay, written by former Magnum Photos president Stuart Franklin, was supposed to accompany AP images from the Gaza Strip, according to this AP statment. More from both sides at PDN and the British Journal of Photography.
Starting this week, Getty Images will represent the Los Angeles Times’ archive of celebrity portraits through its Contour division, according to a press release published in PDN.
For those wishing they were at Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan, France, this week — there’s an app for that. If you have an iPod, you can download the free application here and see some of the exclusive images from the festival.
Less than a year after the demise of Digital Railroad, Image Warehouse announced that it will cease operations by the end of September. Carroll Seghers, the company’s founder, sent out the announcement earlier this week to all users of its services, at least giving them a little more time to find alternative storage that Digital Railroad supplied.
Last month we wrote about the Living American Masters Photography Project (LAMPP), which strives to document the photographers shaping our world — preserving their own stories, not just those told by their photos. Under the LAMPP umbrella, founder Paul Waldman has made portraits of many living (and now past) masters, including Gordon Parks, Sally Mann, and Mary Ellen Mark. When we talked to Paul before, he was looking for a home for the extensive LAMPP content. We’re happy to announce he’s found one, at least online, with a new website.
On top of the collection of portraits created for the project, Paul and other interviewers have recorded lengthy conversations with many photographers, which LAMPP is sharing snippets of each month on RESOLVE. Our last post included Marty Lederhandler telling his infamous “Pigeon Story” about trying to get unexercised carrier pigeons to take his images of WWII’s D-Day back to the AP. (It’s quite funny and definitely worth the listen if you missed it last time.)
Ron Haviv – Outsmarting Arkan
This month we have a story from Ron Haviv about an encounter with the Serbian paramilitary leader Arkan (at right) while he was covering the Bosnian War during the 1990s. With a little smoke and mirrors, Ron saved his revealing images from confiscation and helped share the horrors of ethnic cleansing he saw with the world. Much of the work is collected in his book, Blood and Honey.
From Paul: I met Ron Haviv back in March of 2005. Both of us were keynote speakers at the NPPA’s Northern Short Course. I’d sat in on Ron’s presentation and my good friend David Handschuh introduced us early on. Ron’s work had interested me for some time. Interviewing him for LAMPP would be a rare opportunity to speak candidly with a conflict photographer whose work had a direct impact on national politics, including outing a known Baltic warlord named Arkan. We recorded this segment in my hotel room at the conference.
When I met Ron again at Photo Plus Expo East; we were each being photographed for Tim Mantoani’s Polaroid Project. I took that opportunity to do portraits of both Ron and Lauren Greenfield. Unfortunately, I was unable to sit and speak with Lauren, an opportunity I’d hoped for for quite some time.
Click here to see the New York Times multimedia piece, “The Fallen.”
One of the great things about working as a radio documentary/features producer at the BBC Radio is that I was never expected to treat the audience like idiots. Instead, we were encouraged to have a journalistic vision for each program and to see that vision through.
Another thing we were never expected to do was slap music gratuitously over everything. In fact you knew that there were nine million listeners who were ready, willing, and able to rip you to shreds if you bludgeoned the art of radio with such an approach — which is just a long way of saying, “Why on earth are so many multimedia journalists and audio slideshow producers slapping music over everything?” Generally it shows a lack of confidence, either in the production process or the material. Either that or they don’t think the audience can handle something that is stripped down and real.
When we admire great web design we say its “clean.” Here’s my plea: Keep multimedia clean when you have powerful audio, powerful images, and you want your audience to do some thinking. Just like this awesome New York Times-produced piece built on Paul Fusco‘s legendary photos taken from the funeral train carrying the Robert F. Kennedy from New York to Washington.
Miki Johnson: Why did you decide to participate in this year’s Foundry Workshop?
Dhiraj Singh: I had heard about the Foundry Workshop on Lightstalkers and was even more keen after I read the list of tutors for this year. However, a huge concern was finances. Since I’m a freelancer and work is sporadic, gathering finances for the workshop was nearly impossible. I had almost decided to give the workshop a pass. As a last resort, four days before the workshop, I emailed Eric Beecroft. I told him frankly that, even though I would love to attend, it would not be possible because of financial constraints. He replied immediately, suggesting I come as an assistant and be a part of the workshop. I was in Manali 48 hours later!
MJ: What was the most beneficial part of the workshop for you? What did you learn?
DS: For me, the basic multimedia approach and nuances that I picked up from Tewfic El-Sawy was the most enriching part of the workshop. The other tutors, such as Hendrick Kastenskov from the Bombay Flying Club, Ami Vitale, and Ron Haviv, also shared a great deal of experiences, which helped me reach a deeper level of understanding of photojournalism and its current stage of evolution. How to take print-based photojournalism to the next step and preparing for the online aspect of the field has been an important lesson from the workshop.
MJ: Tell me about the multimedia piece you created at the workshop.
DS: In My Name Is Dechen, I photographed the inner mind of a woman who wasn’t quite in her senses. When I saw her on my very first walk in Manali, her moods, emotions, and communication with her environment captured my interest. I bonded with her instantly. I wasn’t sure what kind of project it would turn out to be, but I just couldn’t walk away from her. She had such a lively spirit and a sort of melancholy that touched me deeply. I spent time with her for a couple days and kept shooting and recording whatever I could. At the end, editing it down was simple — with huge help from Tewfic of course!
MJ: How was the community at the workshop? Did you meet people who you’ll continue to be in touch with and who taught you important things?
DS: I certainly hope to keep in touch with the people I met at the workshop. Photojournalists are a dying breed, and keeping in touch with the few that you meet is important, especially as for me as a freelancer. These people become your motivation and your best critics. The lessons stay with you even when the camera doesn’t.
I’m from Tampa, Florida, and worked at the St. Petersburg Times there. I quit my job to come to India and pursue freelance work. I’m currently based in Delhi and mainly work in multimedia. I make short documentary style projects combining video, sound, and stills using the new fancy Canon 5D Mark II.
A few months back I was reading PDN‘s 30 about photographers to watch in 2009. One of the photographers, Jared Moossy, mentioned the Foundry Workshop and how he made some good contacts there. I had never heard of it so I Googled it and it turned out that it was going to be happening in India about the same I was going to be there. It also turned out that the Bombay Flying Club guys, whose work I am in love with, were going to be teaching. It was pretty much a done deal from there.
At the workshop I met a lot of amazing photographers and saw some work that really inspired me. I learned a lot about incorporating sound into multimedia from my teacher Henrik Kastenskov of BFC. It was really great to hear what he had to say about the changing media marketplace. It was a tough week and I really felt like I pushed myself the entire time. I was working frantically right up to the deadline to get my project done. It was a challenge for sure, but in the end I was really proud of what I managed to complete.
Miki Johnson: When you were 30, your photographs were included in shows at both the George Eastman House and the MoMA. How did that come about? What impact did that have on your career?
Burk Uzzle: I suppose Magnum showed them pictures, as I was never a buddy of those people. It had zero impact on my career or development as a photographer.
MJ: What was your first solo exhibition and how did it happen? What lessons did you learn from it?
BU: The Riverside Museum in NYC worked with Cornell Capa to do a show of my work, and all that effort was a template for what eventually became his now famous “ICP” show. I learned how really great it feels to walk into a museum and see my prints big on a wall, and to offer a certain amount of trust to talented curators who love my work.
MJ: You must have had extensive contact with curators and gallery owners through your work with Magnum. Do you have advice for photographers who want to form relationships with these people?
BU: I left Magnum in 1983, so my contacts have been formed mostly since I left Magnum. I find it difficult to form relationships with museum people, as most of them seem to be dedicated to following the herd instincts of devotion to the latest fad.
On the other hand, the good ones, who think independently, can really change your life by believing in your work, encouraging you to keep on keeping on, and helping you have the confidence to work with the integrity of individuality that important work requires.
You just have to be very patient, find a way to figure out who the worthwhile people are, somehow meet them, and somehow show them work. All this is very different from pursuing “career” instincts.
MJ: How do you approach an art project differently from how you do a documentary one? What skills and styles apply to both styles?
BU: I consider documentary photography, whatever that term means in the world of Photoshop, to be the most subjective form of work. Art photography, for me, means fine work representing the same values of devotion to quality of feeling, seeing, craft, and artistic presentation as documentary work. I just try to do good work that feels true to myself, and don’t pay much attention to categories.
It’s really all the same — be yourself, be as good as you can be. Be honest to yourself and to your subject, respect your subject matter, and pay as little attention as possible to what other people think, or how they want to apply definitions and categories to what they perceive is important in your work. Or, for that matter, what they think the important agendas are in the world.
Some of the greatest work in any field is about the, at first glance, seemingly trivial subject matter. It’s really all about how deep are your feelings.
Miki Johnson: How long were you a staff photographer and where? Did you think when you started that you’d be a staffer for life?
David Leeson: My career in newspapers began on Nov 20, 1977 at the Abilene Reporter-News in Abilene, TX. When the newspaper hired me, I was 19, a full-time college student working a part-time job sweeping floors at a local jewelry store.
I had no portfolio or degree and was unfamiliar with the term “photojournalist.” I was an avid amateur photographer, however, and built my own darkroom in my parents’ home when I was 17. The newspaper photo staff knew me as someone who would occasionally show up with a contact sheet of images from an event. I was never discouraged that they didn’t use my photos — I was happy just to be shooting.
I fell in love with photojournalism when I realized the power a camera could possess in the hands of a compassionate photographer. My life became consumed with perfecting my skills, including my heart, mind, and soul, for the purpose of affecting my community with images that would hopefully make a difference.
That essentially describes my 30 years in news photography. The last few years were dedicated to helping my profession navigate difficult changes, a new era fraught with demands for rich online content, declining readership, shrinking resources, and more work. I didn’t enjoy the work but believed it was important to give back as much as possible to a profession that had given so much to me. Besides, I saw my industry facing extinction and I was ready to do whatever I could to change the tide.
Unfortunately, I feel that I failed. My grief was more than the loss of something I loved — newspaper photojournalism — it was the feeling of having failed to be everything I could possibly be. I have wondered many times what extra part of myself I could have given that might have made the difference. My solace today is in realizing that I can still impact the industry from outside its walls. Perhaps, in fact, it is the ideal place for me to do it.
But the further I get from my life in newspapers, the more I realize that the best I can be is to be who I have always been, a small voice hopefully providing something of value to my world. In many ways, little has changed in my life. The day I knew that my career as a newspaper photojournalist had reached the end, I told my boss (and friend), the director of photography at The Dallas Morning News, that I had never been dedicated to a newspaper. Rather, I had always been dedicated to the ideals of photojournalism: through credible and ethical image making, we can bring needed change to the world.
I did believe I would likely retire as a newspaper photojournalist at The Dallas Morning News. But understanding that I am still in active service to my profession, even though I am no longer on the DMN staff, has softened the blow. The loss of a title did not change who I am.
MJ: What are you working on now? What is the biggest difference between what you’re doing now and what you were doing as a staffer?
DL: There is little difference today from the life I was living the last few years of my career. My position at The Dallas Morning News could best be described as “research and development.” I spent inordinate amounts of time on finding new workflows and methodologies to help speed the process of rich media integration. Oddly, I found that I enjoyed that kind of work, although I knew it failed to “scratch my itch.” More »