Category Archive: News


Brauer’s back in China until Aug. 5

I lived in China from 2007 to 2010, and haven’t been back since. Thankfully, all of that is changing right now. I’ll be back in China for the last two weeks of July, mostly in the middle of the country. Above, you can see a few images from my last year in China that I haven’t shown much. Editors, get in touch if you need anything.

Covering a violent weekend in Chicago


“I found myself barefoot, ankle deep in water, holding the hand of a 17-year-old boy who had been shot during the downpour. I told him to hang in there and that the ambulance was on the way.” -Vincent D. Johnson, He was motionless with his big eyes staring up into the rain

It was a particularly violent weekend in Chicago, with some 82 shootings in 4 days. Vincent D. Johnson, a freelancer for the Sun Times, wrote a moving piece about the watching one of the weekend’s victims die while Johnson kept him company waiting for the police. The piece is well worth a read. It’s part of the Sun-Times’ Homicide Watch section.

Huffington Post has collected tweets and instagram posts of two Chicago Tribune staffers, reporter Peter Nickeas and photographer E. Jason Wambsgans, as they covered the violence, too. As you progress down the sequence of events, the victims keep filling up lines in a notebook.

In his piece, Vincent D. Johnson said he remembered advice from one of his teachers, “You’re a human first and a photojournalist second.” The Columbia Journalism Review just published an article about this very subject, which is more contentious than you might think. I was glad to see LA Times’ Clarence Williams’ toothbrush picture lead the article; before I considered myself a photographer, I attended a lecture by him at my university and the story of that image and what effect it had has always stuck with me. There was massive backlash against the phtoographer and writer for not intervening in the situation, and they won awards for the work. Williams’ work on the story won the 1998 Pulitzer for Feature Photography. The story had a real impact, though. The subjects’ lives were improved as a result of the reporting and Los Angeles and the state moved quickly to reform child protective services there.

Make sure to read CJR’s Are we journalists first? It’s a good survey of the issue.

And while you’re at it, revisit Daniel Shea’s Chicago Fire for Fader from last year.

Gawker: Vice Media staffers and freelancers work for a “pittance”

Vice Media

Vice Media

Freelancers—writers, photographers, illustrators, and otherwise—tell us the rates are low, and that Vice (like many other publications) is often slow in paying them. Salaries at Vice Media and the company’s pay rate for contract work were described to us as “a pittance,” “a fucking joke,” and “so low I couldn’t even consider it, it was offensive.” -Gawker, Working at Vice Media Is Not As Cool As It Seems

I’ve never worked with Vice, but have plenty of friends who have, and I’ve heard horror stories about their pay rates and frequent payment delays. This Gawker piece alleges that the Vice empire has been built on wages and assignment rates that freelancers and staffers describe as a “pittance,” and which they often wait months to receive. A former intern told Gawker that they were offered a full-time job at Vice in Brooklyn with an annual salary of $20,000. A high-level editor at one of Vice’s highest-trafficked sites earns under $40,000 per year. Vice has responded to Gawker’s piece: VICE to Gawker: Fuck You and Fuck Your Garbage Click-Bait ‘Journalism’ but does little to dispute the facts of Gawker’s piece beyond some ad hominem attacks and writing that “entry-level salaries range by department and are competitive with comparable emerging media companies in the digital space.” All of Gawker’s sources are anonymous.

Vice has been doing a lot of things right these days. Vice on HBO is a thought-provoking and wide-ranging series. Vice News has been impressive to watch over the last year or so; the reporters there tackle hard news with depth and wit, often on topics and regions undercovered by other outlets. Simon Ostrovsky’s Russian Roulette series on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is not to be missed. There are creative, weird, and informative pieces periodically published by Vice, such as Mitchell Prothero’s Paintballing with Hezbollah. Vice’s Media Kit (direct pdf link) claims that Vice has over 650 million views on YouTube and the highest watch time of any YouTube channel with original content. Across television, print, and many online publishing outlets, Vice is one of the big successes of the digital media era. The Nieman Journalism Lab had an insightful article about the launch of Vice News which includes some information about the companies financials; selling a 5% equity stake to 21st Century Fox earlier this year means the market value of the company was about $1.4 billion at that time.

Since the Gawker piece came out last week, I’ve seen it posted a few times on social media, and each time have seen comments from freelancers complaining about low rates and long-delayed payments.

Remembrances of Camille Lepage

I’m still shocked by the news of Camille Lepage’s death in Central African Republic last week. We finally met in person a few weeks ago at the New York Times Lens Portfolio Review. It’s been tough to see her picture all over social media, but it’s good to see her infectious smile and her work reach so many.

There has been little new information regarding her death, though this Le Monde article has more detail than most publications, and Google Translate does a passable job on it. A number of publications and individuals have published thoughtful remembrances of Camille and her work in the past few days (and I’m sure many more in French, as well), and I thought it’d be good to collect the links here.

The UN, Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists, have all condemned the killing and joined calls for an investigation into Lepage’s killing. Reports seem to indicate that the people she was travelling with were ambushed and all were killed. Immediately after news of her death became known, French president François Hollande called the killing a murder or assassination, and called for an investigation into the circumstances of her killing. Camille Lepage is not the only journalist to have been killed this year. As of this writing, Reporters Without Borders lists 18 journalists killed in 2014, and the Committee to Protect Journalists reports 15. Those killed have been both foreign and local journalists.

Putin tightens control of independent media with Russian blogging law

M. Scott Brauer - Russian opposition political activist and blogger Alexey Navalny prepares to be arrested during an unsanctioned anti-Putin demonstration in Lubyanka Square in central Moscow, Russia. Moments after this photo, police grabbed Navalny from the crowd and arrested him.  He was later released.  The protests come a year after protests in 2011 calling for fair elections and an end to corruption in Russia.  Navalny, a lawyer and political and economic activist, is known for his political blog on livejournal, which he has used to organize anti-corruption and anti-Putin demonstrations.

M. Scott Brauer – Russian opposition political activist and blogger Alexey Navalny prepares to be arrested during an unsanctioned anti-Putin demonstration in Lubyanka Square in central Moscow, Russia. Moments after this photo, police grabbed Navalny from the crowd and arrested him. He was later released. The protests come a year after protests in 2011 calling for fair elections and an end to corruption in Russia. Navalny, a lawyer and political and economic activist, is known for his political blog on livejournal, which he has used to organize anti-corruption and anti-Putin demonstrations.

After my participation in the US-Russia Young Media Professionals Exchange in late 2012, I’ve been keeping an eye on news regarding media and journalism in Russia. The latest development is a new law requiring bloggers to register with the state if they have more than 3000 visitors daily. Taking a page from other internet-censoring countries such as China and Iran, Russian bloggers with an audience that size (which is remarkably small…dvafoto frequently hits that number through our various outlets) cannot operate anonymously and must maintain an archive of their previous 6 months of posts on Russian soil. The law is widely seen as a move to stifle dissent.

Another Russian internet law, which went into effect on Feb. 1, 2014, was immediately used to shut down the blogs of well-known dissidents Alexei Navalny (seen in my image above; blog link) and Garry Kasparov (wiki). And these laws led Pavel Durov, founder of Russian Facebook-clone VKontakte, to leave the country rather than comply with orders to turn over information about political activists in Russia and Ukraine.

This follows 6 months or so of efforts to shut down or marginalize independent media in Russia. One of the biggest independent voices in Russia media, Telekanal Dozhd (TV Rain), was dropped by almost all cable providers around the country. Moscow City Court revoked the license of independent online news agency Rosbalt. Lenta.ru‘s progressive editor-in-chief was fired, and almost half of the staff lost jobs as new editors friendly to the Kremlin were brought in. The long-time director of prominent liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy was forced out and replaced with a Kremlin supporter. Putin dissolved state news agency RIA Novosti, which had been known for semi-independent reporting. I could go on, but the Committee to Protect Journalists page on Russia is a good resource to learn more.

On the subject, here’s a great overview of newspaper culture in Russia that includes a timeline of major events in the history of the Russian newspapers.

And at Wired’s Raw File blog, by the way, you can see my photo essay focusing on state-run media in Russia.

Defamation, Girls, and pictures through a window: recent legal news affecting photography and copyright

There’ve been a bunch of legal developments in the world of photography and copyright in the past couple weeks. Here are a few things that have been on my radar that all have relevance to freelance and staff photographers in the US:

Getty gives away 35 million photos and people don’t like it

Getty’s latest move in the stock photography market has been met with shock and horror. 35 million of Getty’s images are now free to embed, unwatermarked, for “noncommercial use,” which includes websites that run advertisements (see the image embedded above). In an interview with PDNPulse, Craig Peters, Senior Vice President of Business Development, Marketing at Content Images at Getty, says that while there is no current plan for this embed system to result in money going to photographers, at some future point, Getty might add advertising into the embedded images (as YouTube does) and photographers would get a cut of that. “This is their content, and if we generate any revenue from that content, we not only have the obligation, but we have every intent to share that revenue,” he said.

You can search the archive of embeddable images here at Getty’s site.

Here’s a collection of reactions to the news from around the photography world. Unsurprisingly, people are not excited about this development:

Regarding all of this, I’ve seen a few photographers on facebook saying they’re pulling their images from Getty’s collections. I don’t have any images available through Getty, but if the past is any indication (Hume be damned), other stock houses will likely follow Getty’s lead. Keep an eye on this. I think Todd Bigelow and John Harrington are correct that Getty’s interest in making these images out for free is the browsing data that surrounds the image. Licensing directly to blogs for small fees hasn’t really worked out, if you remember the Associated Press debacle a few years back, but getting (and selling) analytics relating to image usage is likely worth a lot.

In other Getty news, the Getty/Flickr licensing partnership started in 2008 will be terminated at the end of current content agreement. PetaPixel has the details, which makes it sound like this is just temporary as the Yahoo/Flickr and Getty work out details for a new agreement.

UPDATE: Judge rules commercial drone use legal in USA (updated)

“A ruling by an administrative law judge on Thursday held that the Federal Aviation Administration lacks clear-cut authority to ban the commercial use of drones in the continental U.S.” -Wall Street Journal

In January, I wrote about the legal issues of using drones for journalism in the US. This week, administrative law judge Patrick Geraghty struck down a $10,000 FAA fine against Raphael Pirker, a drone videographer, stemming from the 2007 filming of a University of Virginia advertisement using a 5-pound drone. The judge stated that the FAA lacks authority to regulate commercial drone usage, and as such, could not fine Pirker for his drone usage. The judge’s decision can be appealed. The Wall Street Journal also reports that the FAA is considering case-by-case waivers to its ban on commercial drone usage.

I’m very curious to see how drone usage evolves in the US and elsewhere. It could mean a lot for journalism and Facebook has plans to use 11,000 drones to facilitate internet access throughout Africa. As the ACLU has been documenting, however, police agencies across the US are using drones for surveillance and data collection.

UPDATE March 10, 2014: The FAA has appealed the decision, saying, “The agency is concerned that this decision could impact the safe operation of the national airspace system and the safety of people and property on the ground.”

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):

First-world problems or real problems? Western journalists are whining about Sochi Olympics hotels (updated)


I’ve spent about 10 months in Russia over the past eight or nine years, in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, but also in more remote cities such as Vorkuta, Ufa, Petrozavodsk, and Voronezh. Even in Moscow, where the hotel stood next to the Russian Foreign Ministry and the rooms was listed at about $175/night, there were substantial issues with water and heat.

Travel in Russia is not easy, and that’s why some of the viral complaints by journalists at the Sochi Olympics seem naive and privileged. Much of the world can’t flush toilet paper down the toilet. Much of the world can’t depend on clean water. Much of the world doesn’t have American breakfast food in the morning.

But there are valid issues coming through in the reports from the media village in Sochi. There are security issues. Some of the water is unfit even for bathing (West Virginia knows about that all too well). Much of the infrastructure is unfinished. There are stray dogs in hotels. By connecting to wifi in the Olympic village, you can be assured that your computer will be hacked and your data will be stolen. (See Update II below)

The Washington Post has the largest collection of journalists’ complaints about their hotels, calling the experiences “hilarious and gross.” Deadspin got in on the act, saying “Staying in Sochi is a Hilarious Adventure.” The Wire has a wonderful analysis of some of these complaints, classifying them either as “real problem” or “first-world problem.” Can’t flush the toilet paper? First-world problem. Water unfit for bathing? Real problem. Margaret Coker, blogging for the Wall Street Journal, tells journalists to stop complaining, offering a good read on the scope of these complaints.

In fact, many of the images purported to be from the Sochi Olympics site are not from Sochi or Russia at all. The Telegraph leads their story about these complaints with a picture of three office chairs facing a toilet. Gizmodo busts some of these photos, finding that many of them have been passed around online for a year or more. The Wire has a similar analysis.

As usual, BagNews has a deeper read on what these reports mean, warning that by saturating news sites with “hilarious” (and sometimes fake) complaints about hotel conditions, readers and viewers lose sight of the real issues surrounding these Olympic Games. Real infrastructure problems need to be reported, but so does the conflict in areas close to the Olympics, Russia’s abuse of human rights, corruption in the construction and production of the Sochi Olympics, and anti-gay legislation and sentiment in the country. These issues deserve the media attention now being diverted to pictures of toilets.

UPDATE: Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister responsible for the Olympic preparations, told the Wall Street Journal that they have surveillance footage of shower usage in journalists’ hotel rooms. A spokesman for Kozak quickly said they don’t have footage of anyone in showers or hotel rooms.

UPDATE II: The reports about Sochi wifi hacking seem to be exaggerated. Vice’s Motherboard site has a deeper look at NBC’s report, which served as the basis for the Yahoo piece linked above. The device infection demonstrations were done in Moscow and required the user to click on malware on a website, just as would happen anywhere in the world. The Trend Micro security expert in the NBC piece has a blog post and white paper detailing the method of infection used in his demonstrations.