Safe to enter: Filson + Magnum Outdoor Photography Contest no longer a rights grab

Filson + Magnum Outdoor Photographer Contest
Filson + Magnum Outdoor Photographer Contest

We know a lot of people depend on our deadline calendar. We try our best to only list contests with good terms and conditions and which will be beneficial to participants and winners. Generally, this means that the contest must meet the Artists’ Bill of Rights at a minimum.

I was excited when I first noticed a contest for outdoor photography sponsored by Magnum and Filson, the award for which would be a spot in the upcoming Magnum Annual General Meeting masterclass and some of the new Filson camera bags. I looked through the terms and conditions, as I always do, and noticed a rights grab that stated: “each winner shall irrevocably grant … the entirety of the rights in and to the winner’s Submission [to the sponsor] … for any and all purposes in any and all media whether now known or hereafter developed, on a worldwide basis, in perpetuity.” I was surprised that Magnum would lend its name to a contest with such an awful set of terms and conditions, so I sent a few emails. Magnum was founded in order to protect the rights of photographers, after all. In the end, Magnum and Filson worked to fix the terms and conditions and extend the deadline to June 12, 2014.

The contest is now safe to enter, and you should because it’s got some great prizes.

I first emailed Magnum’s general email address and used Filson’s online contact form. I didn’t expect to hear back from those initial messages, but a Filson rep got back to me the next day saying he’d heard from others about this and was looking into it. The original June 8 deadline was fast approaching, though, and there was no response. I decided to email the studio of Alec Soth, one of the photographers giving the masterclass offered as a prize in the contest, and he got right back to me saying he’d get in contact with some of his colleagues about this. The next day, I got a call from somebody connected to Magnum who had been in contact with the CEO of Filson.

Both Magnum and Filson did not want to rip off photographers and would be working to change the contest immediately. He’d explained that there was a lack of communication between the legal team and the people running the contest and that the legal team had drafted standard contest terms and conditions without consulting the photography side of the team. This is actually a pretty standard occurrence; I’ve found that many contest operators just user boilerplate legal language for their contests and aren’t aware that they’re bad for photographers.

Within a day, the contest had been amended to remove the rights grab from the terms and conditions and to extend the deadline to June 12, 2014. I’ve already submitted my entry.

Debate swirls around World Press Photo (again)

John Stanmeyer / VII - World Press Photo of the Year 2013 - African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighboring Somalia—a tenuous link to relatives abroad. Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants in transit from such countries as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East.
John Stanmeyer / VII – World Press Photo of the Year 2013 – African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighboring Somalia—a tenuous link to relatives abroad. Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants in transit from such countries as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East.

It wouldn’t be February without debate and controversy surround the annual World Press Photo awards. In past years, the chattering classes (that includes us at dvafoto) have gone back and forth on the images or techniques given awards, this year questions have been raised about the voting process itself.

Looking through the year’s winners, I thought there wouldn’t be any debate; the categories this year were filled with strong work from many of the year’s major (and soon-to-be-major) news events. John Stanmeyer‘s winning image, one of my favorite pictures of the year, seemed like a subtle choice for the top award. It’s an image that regards marginalized people with a sense of humanity and dignity, rather than using people from the developing world as puppets for pity or handwringing. The subjects, with cell phones aloft, are people with families and histories and futures, trying to communicate in a situation beyond their control. The photo rises above the usual sex, drugs, and war tropes that dominate the major photojournalism contests.

The selection of this image has not escaped controversy. As duckrabbit first pointed out, John Stanmeyer (the winning photographer) and Gary Knight (World Press Photo jury chair) are business partners (full disclosure: I interned at VII in 2005-6). The photojournalism industry is a small one–though that can also be debated, especially if we look outside of the US and western Europe–and it’s inevitable that the judges of these major contests will know or have worked with the photographers whose work wins awards, since both tend to come from the upper echelons of the photojournalism industry. In this case, Knight and Stanmeyer’s ties are very close. In a World Press Photo video discussing the winning image (above), Knight says that he voted the story out of the competition, but the jury kept the image in the running for a single award. Speaking with the New York Times’ Lens Blog, Knight said that he tried to recuse himself from the jury when the image was considered, but that contest regulations did not allow that. Because of this, we must rely on trust that the award was reached in a fair manner. Even the appearance of unfairness in the judging process, however, undermines the award. If nothing else, there is now a strong reason for World Press Photo to amend their the contest rules and create a procedure for dealing with apparent conflicts of interest in the judging. Ironically, it was in a press release announcing Knight as jury chair that World Press Photo said they would alter the rules to increase transparency for examining digital files for ethical violations after the controversy over Paul Hansen’s winning image last year.

I’m not sure that Stanmeyer’s and Knights close ties are the largest issue here. Knight has said that looking at the images entered in the contest, the industry lacks resources to cover the year’s important issues, though he says that is not the case with the winning images. Furthermore, 8% of images chosen for the final round of judging had to be thrown out due to ethics violations. And only 14% of entrants to the contest were women (that number is under “Data on Entries” in David Campbell’s post as secretary of the jury). We’ve written before about sexism and gender bias in the photography industry, but this is a stark statistic.

By the way, here is a video of Gary Knight talking about some of the other winning entries:
 

There have been a number of responses to the awards and analyses posted online. Here are a few that I found most interesting (some linked above):

Nice to Meet You – new Japanese photography

A few weeks ago Ryo Futamura of Japan’s Einstein Studio wrote in about their latest publication, Nice to Meet You. The mission of the organization, through publications and contests such as this, as Futamura told me, is to find and show the world young and talented photographers in Japan.

Nice to Meet You is a small magazine highlighting winners of the Japan Photo Award (previously known as the Einstein Photo Award). As you can see above, the work selected is a bit of a grab bag, but much of it is intriguing. I’m particularly interested in the images because they look so much different from what I think of as “Japanese Photography” (which is mostly just Daido Moriyama‘s harrowing work). Futamura said that many of these photographers have had difficulty getting their work out to audiences outside of Japan, and even within the country, the market for this type of work is quite small.

While it will be hard to get a copy of Nice to Meet You unless you’re in Japan, you can see work from all of the artists on the publication’s site. Here are a few that grabbed my eye: Daisuke Matsumoto, Hideki Masuda, Junicci Hayakawa, Arata Kato, Yasuhito Hatajima, Yuya Kaai.