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dpBestflowAfter two years of research by members Richard Anderson and Peter Krogh, ASMP announced the launch of its dpBestflow.org website at FotoWeekDC earlier this week. Shorthand for “Digital Photography Best Practices and Workflow,” the website, part of the three-tier project that includes a book and a traveling seminar series, aims to offer definitive guidelines for digital photography best practices and workflow.

Forbes Media announced yesterday that it has acquired digital magazine FlipGloss and its Digital Glossy Insert photo publishing platform. Launched about 8 months ago, FlipGloss combines search engine capabilities with the experience of flipping through photo content of a magazine, and users can click on objects in the photos to find out where to purchase an item or even be led to an advertiser’s website.

mr_foxWes Anderson’s new movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which opens in selected theaters today, is a stop-motion picture shot entirely using a Nikon D3 – over 600,000 stills that generate 18.5 terrabytes of data. According to movie review website IMDb, the beautifully art-directed adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic used Nikon D3 because it “offers a significantly higher resolution than even that of full High Definition.” Wired.com has a great “Making of” the movie here.

Google has cut the price for extra storage on its photo sharing site Picasa to about one eighth of what it used to cost. For $5 a year, now you can have 20GB photo storage on the site. “Since most people have less than 10GB of photos, chances are you can now save all your memories online for a year for the cost of a triple mocha,” according to the official Google Photos Blog.

Irving Penn, one of the masters of photography, died Wednesday, October 7, 2009, at the age of 92 at his home in Manhattan. Penn leaves behind him a wealth of iconic imagery, from portraits of cultural leaders to obsessively exact still lifes. Photography Now has a great selection of Penn’s work online and the Getty Center in Los Angeles is showing Penn’s exhibition “Small Trades” now until January 10, 2010.

Scientists Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, inventors of CCD (charge-coupled device), will be sharing this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics with Charles K. Kao, the “Father of Fiber Optics.” Although the duo had moved onto other research projects, their discovery made digital imaging possible, from point-and-shoots to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Both Outside and Esquire launched a moving magazine cover this month, with the full videos available on their websites. Alexx Henry, the photographer behind the new Outside cover, made a name for himself doing a “Living Movie Poster” for the movie Mrs. Washington. It’s the second time Greg Williams has shot a moving cover for Esquire, after the first one featuring Transformer star Megan Fox.

Fashion label Ralph Lauren landed in hot water this week with a “poor imaging and retouching” job on one of their advertising images. After Boing Boing brought attention to a photograph of already thin Filippa Hamilton photoshopped to unltra skinny, Ralph Lauren’s legal department sent the blog a take down notice. Bad move. Now The Drudge Report, The Huffington Post, Yahoo!, Jezebel and ABC News have jumped on it. PDN has the details.

In Ed Kashi‘s new book, THREE, images from his 30 years as a top documentary photographer are combined into triptychs that consciously abandon the idea of context or traditional narrative. Some of those triptychs will be part of a show opening tomorrow at FiftyCrows gallery in San Francisco (founded by liveBooks CEO Andy Patrick), so I thought this would be a good time to talk to Ed about the project. I love the book (that’s my copy getting flipped through) and find his words inspirational. Hope you do too.

“This book has freed me up to be more open-minded about my own photography and to see new connections within my work.”

Former BBC radio producer Benjamin Chesterton and photojournalist David White, as the multimedia production team duckrabbit, build high-quality multimedia pieces, provide insights on their blog, and help photographers through multimedia training sessions. Once a month on RESOLVE, Ben and/or David highlight and explain a multimedia piece that breaks a “rule,” uses a new technique, or creatively solves a common problem.

I’m writing this from a small hotel in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where duckrabbit and the Bangladeshi photographer Sheikh Rajibul Islam have been working on a documentary about the effects of climate change on this beautiful country.

If the scientists’ predictions are right, up to 20 million Bangladeshi’s will become environmental refugees in the next 50 years. There is no bigger long-term story than the havoc man is wreaking on nature.

It would be easy for us at duckrabbit to reduce our stories about Bangladesh to the most brutal, the most shocking. This is always a temptation for photojournalists looking for the money shot, for their World Press award, but it’s a cheap and ultimately destructive way to capture the world because it reduces people to the status of victims.

At the BBC I used to produce Costing The Earth, their flagship environmental documentary programme. We always strived to tell a balanced story, beyond emotion, because understanding is more important than shock, and debate is more powerful than bashing someone over the head with a message.

Adam Westbrook, a multimedia journalist and blogger, expressed this point brilliantly in a post about a controversial video advertisement by the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontieres:

“We want true stories … but we also want balance.”

“We want true stories, and we want them as gritty as the real world is. But we also want balance — and we recognize a third-world-cliché when we see it.”

There are plenty of weak multimedia pieces about the environment out there that suffer from the same clichéd black-and-white photography and lack of balance in their storytelling, but let’s not blow any more CO2 on their two-dimensional approach. Instead I want to point you to a visually stunning and deeply thoughtful piece of work by Toronto Star photographer Lucas Oleniuk.

Airsick: An Industrial Devolution is designed to persuade us that the earth is slowly drowning in CO2. Part of why it works so well is that, instead of focusing on apocalyptic images of the developing world, the piece is rooted in the familiar, in the industrialized world. I can’t watch this and not feel part of the problem. That is powerful multimedia.

(duckrabbit would like to thank the CBA for funding their recent Bangladesh trip.)

When Ed came to Stanford a few months ago for an Aurora Forum on the What Matters book, I was reminded how unsatisfactory the term “documentary photographer” is when applied to someone like him. Years before multimedia became a buzzword, Ed and his wife Julie Winokur were leading the way into “multi-platform” storytelling, including exhibitions, books, websites, videos, multimedia, and educational programs. Ed explains how they are now exploring “feedback loops” between documentarians, their audience, and the subjects, so that the people in the photos and the people looking at them contribute as much to a story as the person behind the camera.
Ikpokiri is a poor community in the oil rich Niger Delta. The only school in this small community lay in ruins due to flooding and lack of care.

Ikpokiri is a poor community in the oil rich Niger Delta. The only school in this small community lay in ruins due to flooding and lack of care. ©Ed Kashi

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.

Unemployed local youths hang out around the Etelebou Flow Station in the Niger Delta. ©Ed Kashi

Unemployed local youths hang out around the Etelebou Flow Station in the Niger Delta. ©Ed Kashi

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 »

Sean Gallagher, a photojournalist living and working in China, won a travel grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting in February for his work on the country’s desertification. From a whirlwind trip to complete his coverage, Sean created several posts, slideshows, and the multimedia piece below. Sean explains how important it was to edit as he traveled to check in with his themes and cut down on post-production time. Don’t miss his earlier posts about finding and planning in-depth stories.

(Click on the four arrows in the lower right corner to expand to full screen.)

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 »

Former BBC radio producer Benjamin Chesterton and photojournalist David White, as the multimedia production team duckrabbit, build high-quality multimedia pieces, provide insights on their blog, and help photographers through multimedia training sessions. Once a month on RESOLVE, Ben and/or David highlight and explain a multimedia piece that breaks a “rule,” uses a new technique, or creatively solves a common problem.
From Paul Fusco's "RFK Funeral Train" project. ©Paul Fusco

From Paul Fusco's "RFK Funeral Train" project. ©Paul Fusco

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.

In June I interviewed Eric Beecroft, the founder of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, which took place recently in Manali, India. I was impressed with the multimedia pieces that came out of last year’s workshop, and wanted to showcase a couple from this year’s participants. Dhiraj Singh, a freelance photojournalist based in Mumbai, won the workshop’s top honors for student work. He and Tristan Wheelock, a freelancer from Florida, share their multimedia pieces from the workshop here, along with their experiences at the Foundry.

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.

****************

Tristan Wheelock

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.

Listening to Paul Myer, founder and executive director of the the VJ Multimedia Workshop, you might stop seeing multimedia as the downfall of photojournalism and see as he does instead: a versatile tool to get excited about. Headed by VJ faculty from the Brooks Institute and Pierce College and sponsored by Olympus, Photoshelter, and ThinkTank among others, the workshop recently offered tuition-free training — and sympathetic ears — to 25 students and 25 laid-off staff photographers.

Miki Johnson: Why was it important to bring together recently laid-off photojournalists to connect with each other and hone their multimedia skills?

Paul Myers: The workshop aspires to create a grounded space for the participants, a space to create but also to reconnect with our intentions as visual storytellers.
The most important thing to walk away from this workshop with is an approach to multimedia storytelling. The journey is what matters.

This workshop had little to do with technical multimedia skills and in the process it set people up for success. Yes, we taught a bit of Final Cut Pro, some audio recording techniques, just enough to get people creating, so they see how easy this really is, how much fun it is to tell stories with these tools. I think many of the students will look back at this experience, the magic of this moment, and relate it to when they developed their first black-and-white pictures in a lab, watching in amazement as that blank sheet of paper transformed in front of their eyes.

This workshop opened the eyes of both participants and the leadership teams in several ways. The focus on technical skills that so many people in our field buy into is mostly smoke and mirrors. If only I knew Final Cut Pro or produce a video, I would not have been laid-off — this is so damaging to our field in terms of our credibility and our emotions.

Economic factors are driving reductions in the workforce, but with the change of technology makes many veterans in our field feel particularly hopeless. Many are arriving at a point in their careers where they are ideally prepared emotionally to tell important stories that really need to be told, but they feel like they no longer belong in the field. They are actively looking for work outside the field because they do not see opportunities for their work and no longer feel needed. This workshop was about understanding a long-term approach to multimedia storytelling that will enable our community to embrace this new form of story.

MJ: How many people applied to the workshop? Do you feel like the first year was a success and why? More »

Joseph Rodriguez launched his extensive career as a documentary photographer with East Side Stories, a project examining the cultures of violence in East Los Angeles. He returned to L.A. recently to document the importance and difficulty of helping people re-enter society after incarceration. I spoke with Joe about his first foray into multimedia, and how he applied his still photography skills to a new medium.

Miki Johnson: Tell me a little about the re-entry project, how you got interested in it, and why you wanted to tell the story.

Joe Rodriguez: I’m going to be very honest with you. This is a very personal story. It started when I was a young child. I watched my stepfather come in and out of prison over the years, about a decade or more, and a few of my uncles did the same thing. Then he was also an addict, so we had to watch this whole process, this up-and-down roller coaster ride with the family. And there wasn’t really much support for addicts back then in terms of re-entering society.

My stepdad died many years ago, and as a young boy growing up into a photographer, that story has always stayed with me. So this project was a personal journey. When I was working in Spanish Harlem and all around the country doing socially impacting stories, I started to see that this issue of incarceration was affecting many families. So I’ve been watching this growth of incarceration throughout the United States of America for some time. You know, I watched it go to 1 million, then 2 million over the years.

Then last year the Pew Research Center did a study called “One out of a hundred people in prison.” That was kind of the spark to seriously revisit this story and see what I could do about telling it in a different way. I did not want to repeat myself, and I didn’t want to repeat what other photographers have already done with work inside prisons. I wanted to challenge that story somewhat, because I think when you come out of prison, you’re still doing time in many different respects. You may be on parole, you may be an addict, you may have problems getting employment, and you can’t vote — all those different issues that affect many ex-offenders.

I thought it could be interesting to look at a non-profit organization like Walden House, which has been dealing with people coming from prison, specifically addicts, and working very intensely on changing their behavior. So a couple of years ago, in 2007, I connected with the people at Walden House. And a whole year went by talking about this possibility of working together or me coming to work inside some of their facilities in Los Angeles and San Francisco. And then last year they gave me a green light; I visited three of the facilities. One was dealing with mothers and children, one was dealing with just women, and one was just with men.

It was overwhelming and daunting because I profiled 40 to 45 people. And out of the 40 to 45 people, I focused on about 5 who we did these multimedia pieces on. I am hoping to reach a larger audience, because of the Internet and its long reach. I also just wanted to create a historical document of these people. And to be very honest, I don’t know what more I could do right now. I would love for it to change things, but I’m not that gullible.

“I wanted to create a historical document of these people — I don’t know what more I could do right now.”

MJ: Tell me about that decision to make this into a multimedia piece and, especially, to gather audio?

JR: The first trip was completely on my own, but I received a grant from the USC Annenburg Institute for Justice and Journalism for the second trip. That was specifically to do multimedia stories. The reason I wanted to do audio was because I can’t always get down everything the subjects are saying in a written interview. So the audio became a way to tell a more concise story and also to bring the audience in, in an emotional way. I want to grab the audience so hopefully they can feel Tracey’s story and Darlene’s story and John Vaughn’s.

MJ: And also they can’t ignore the words, right? I think a lot of people never get around to reading text with photos.

JR: We’re living in the age of interruption. I’m starting to look around and watch people when they’re reading on the web. It seems to be tricky for them to stay focused for pages and pages of text. I think audio really helps get the story in their head much faster. And then if they really want to learn more, they’ll be hungry enough to read. I think it’s a way to pull people in, not just into your immediate story, but to hopefully give them something more where they can go further with the issue or with this person’s life.

MJ: And when you were actually doing these interviews, how did you make the creative decisions, when to record and when to make images and how those work together?

JR: I just tried to keep myself calm knowing that what this person is saying while I’m photographing, I’m gonna hopefully be able to revisit in audio. One guy, Marko, was working in a bakery and I wanted to take pictures of him there. I photographed him working behind the counter, dealing with the public. Then the pictures slowed down and while I was waiting for him to go in the back with the ovens, I did some ambient audio of the store.

Then I knew I needed to do a portrait. I went into it thinking that if I could make a very engaging portrait, and I have a pretty engaging interview, I was gonna be happy with that. If I got anything extra, more reportage-type stuff, that would just help it even more. So I was actually multitasking with that particular interview. It really just depends on the subject and what’s happening.

What I like about the way I work is that it’s slow, so it enables me to revisit the person. And the more I revisit, the better story I get, either in audio or pictures. But I try, really, really earnestly to separate them — if I’m taking pictures, it’s gonna be about pictures. I try not to start thinking about what they’re saying or what’s going on, because then that just fractures me even more.

MJ: When you were planning the actual multimedia pieces, how did you think about how you wanted to put them together?JR: The first thing that was very important for us was just to listen to the audio. For an hour’s worth of audio, we could use maybe 5 or 10 minutes of workable audio from that. And after listening to the audio — and saying, is that important, that could be good, that could be good — then we laid out the proofs.

We feel that proofs are a more concise way for us to edit than on the monitor, because we can leave them down on the floor or leave them up on the wall and revisit them. That was the thing that we learned, the importance of revisiting. It took actually two or three months just to do the first multimedia piece. Now we know how to do it. I have to give major props to Benjamin Jarosch, our studio manager, who had never done this before, just like myself.

Revisiting is key because some days you think you’ve got it, and then you go back and you see it differently that time. Not to the point that you’re gonna pick it apart to death, but just making sure everything makes sense. When we laid the pictures out and looked at it with the audio, we’d say, ah that doesn’t really work there. Do we have a photo that kind of relates to this or can be a metaphor for this? Or can give us some atmosphere?

In the Darlene piece, she talks about her father passing away, and there is an image of a cemetery. That cemetery is not far from where she grew up, although that image was not taken at the same time the interview was. Because I know this culture so well, some of my images from other projects, even from East Side Stories, came into that story. And I would not have been able to do that if I didn’t allow myself the time to look and listen and then leave it alone and come back and revisit.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: What role does “revisiting” play in your work?

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