RadioLab discusses photojournalism; other podcast recommendations

Radiolab is usually an interesting listen. Sometimes the sound design is a bit much and sometimes the “gee whiz” presentation of science gets tiresome, but the subjects are almost always worth the time. The most recent episode (available wherever you find podcasts, embedded above, or here) discusses a particular set of photos taken by Lynsey Addario in Afghanistan in 2009 and you should take the 30 minutes to listen.

Unlike Addario’s other recent media appearances, the discussion focuses much less on her career and life and instead considers the nature of photojournalism, what it means to those depicted in the pictures, and who gets to decide what pictures get published and seen. You can see some of the pictures from the day at the end of this Time gallery.

On the subject of podcasts, here’s a few I’ve been listening to recently that you might want to check out:

  • RadioLab was an inspiration for my work photographing China’s zoos; make sure to listen to the early episodes of the show. Seasons 1 through 4 are my favorite.
  • Everything is Stories is a new podcast focusing on individuals or events on the edge of society. Their first episode, of particular interest to our audience, looks at the lives of a cameraman who worked on the TV show Cops and a photographer who is a crime scene specialist in the American southwest.
  • Here Be Monsters is “a podcast about the unknown” and often features stories from the northwestern US, where I spent much of my life. I first listened when our friend Pete Brook was interviewed for an episode. Episode 6, Clever Hans, is a particularly good entry point, but there are many more episodes to choose from.
  • Criminal is a podcast about crime, but it’s never quite what you’d expect. I really liked their recent episode Final Exit.
  • Love + Radio tackles all sorts of subjects, and the stories are usually emotionally complicated. The episode I tell most people about is The Silver Dollar, about a black man who befriended members of the KKK. The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt is also a standout.
  • The LPV Show is Bryan Formhals‘ podcast featuring interviews with photographers. It’s a good listen and much better than you’d think a podcast of interviews with photographers would be.
  • Finish Line, produced by the Boston Globe and WBUR, is a short-form podcast that recaps the day’s events in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev. The trial is now in the penalty phase, but the podcast is still worth listening to. The two hosts spend about 10 minutes talking about what happens in the courtroom each day. It strikes me as a great way to report this trial and their podcasts always add a little bit of historical or emotional weight to what you’d see in other news reports.
  • A Life Well Wasted was a short-lived podcast about video games. I’m not an avid video game player and this podcast is what you’d think a podcast about video games would be like. There are only 7 episodes.
  • The Memory Palace is a podcast about history, usually in chunks less than 10 minutes. Again, it’s not what you’d expect from a history podcast…much more impressionistic and emotional. Check out 400,000 Stars, an episode that caught my attention recently.
  • Wal-Mart of Photography Entrepreneur facing $90 million in lawsuits

    First, sports collectors who bought what they thought were original items from Rogers began crying ‘fake.’ Then a series of people Rogers did business with started suing him over unpaid bills. Finally, the FBI raided his place, and he was tossed out of the business, a receiver appointed to make sense of the mess.”The strange saga of John Rogers…, MinnPost

    This remains one of the strangest photography-related stories I’ve run across. In 2013, I first wrote about the Rogers Photo Archive‘s efforts to buy up old newspaper photography archives. Rogers claimed to be making $120,000 per week in a 2012 interview, mostly by selling prints, posters, and original negatives from these archives on eBay. Now the entrepreneur is facing at least $90 million in lawsuits and his operation has basically been shut down. The business was raided by the FBI, Rogers was ousted, and the operation has been placed into receivership, according to a piece published this week by MinnPost.

    Screenshot of Rogers Photo Archive website - 17 April 2015
    Screenshot of Rogers Photo Archive website – 17 April 2015

    Rogers had negotiated the purchase of original negatives of millions of photos from newspaper archives across the US, Australia, and New Zealand, including the McClatchy Company, the St. Petersburg Times, the Denver Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Sydney Morning Herald, and others. The Rogers Photo Archive would then restore damaged negatives, digitize and archive the images, and then both give the original newspapers a digital archive (see “What We Do” section of the homepage) and sell images through eBay and its own licensing firm, Argenta Images (link not work as of this writing).

    It’s hard to find evidence of the eBay sales now, though there remain a few eBay stores with names similar to Argenta Images and which are operated by accounts with tens of thousands of transactions. All of these stores have 0 active items as of this writing. I can’t say for certain whether they were run by the Rogers Photo Archive, but I’d bet they were.

    According to MinnPost, the entire operation has now come crashing down. There are now “more than a dozen lawsuits” aimed at Rogers, seeking in total more than $90 million. Sports collectors thought they had been buying original items but allege that Rogers was selling reproductions (interestingly, Rogers first made news when he bought a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card in 2008). Then businesses came after the archive for unpaid bills and the business has been taken over in receivership.

    One of the lawsuits against the Rogers Archive has been brought by Fairfax Media, a New Zealand newspaper company that sold the photo archives of 72 New Zealand newspapers and a number of Australian papers to Rogers. In May 2013, Fairfax sold the photo archives, approximately 8 million images, but did not receive the digitized archive before the Rogers Photo Archive’s recent troubles. The New Zealand Herald says that the sale of the images to Rogers took place only after the country’s Ministry of Culture and Heritage “granted Fairfax a temporary export permit under the Protected Object Act.” The Ministry told the NZ Herald that it is “concerned” about the fate of this historical archive and that it “reserves the right to take action as appropriate.”

    (via a friend on Facebook)

    Analyzing ISIS’ Photography

    A foreign fighter enjoying a kebab at a post-battle celebration in Iraq. September 2014.
    A foreign fighter enjoying a kebab at a post-battle celebration in Iraq. September 2014.

    In November last year, Aperture published a fascinating article about the use of photography by ISIS (aka Islamic State, ISIL, DAESH, Da’Ish. See this wikipedia section for the various names) by Sam Powers. I’ve been meaning to link to it since then, but am just now getting to it.

    The article looks at images in ISIS videos and publications and speaks briefly about the almost journalistic infrastructure across the world that produces and disseminates these images, often for a Western audience. The article examines themes used in recruitment and publicity materials and echo other media outlets’ efforts to analyze the production of ISIS propaganda. Vice looked at video production and branding, PRI examines video production and especially the speed at which videos are released and the quality of their translations, Slate compares the imagery to Homeland and addresses the history of jihadist propaganda, and the Daily Mail (I usually try not to link to them, but this seems like a decent article) reads various ISIS videos in a method reminiscent of the Kremlinology of the Cold War (and more recently). This sort of analysis, looking for clues beyond what is most obvious in ISIS’ communications, is particularly interesting with the videos featuring British hostage John Cantlie as a news presenter.