Category Archive: Uncategorized
“The only think [sic] you have in the industry is your name. The moment your name gets tainted, your credibility gets shot.” -Johann ‘Slang’ Hattingh, speaking to Mail & Guardian
Ordinarily, when a manipulated image makes its way into a news publication, the photographer or editor responsible for the ethical transgression is swiftly fired and shamed out of the industry. In this recent case involving the Citizen, a South African newspaper, a photographer was fired for writing publicly that the cover image was manipulated. Read that again. A news photographer has been fired for pointing out that his publication published a doctored photo. Photographer Johann ‘Slang’ Hattingh tweeted about an image on the cover of the Citizen of the aftermath of a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan. The image was manipulated to remove from the picture the bodies of two South Africans killed in the blast.
I suppose it’s understandable that a news organization doesn’t want to be publicly criticized by one of its employees; most publications and companies have social media policies of some sort, and this was likely a violation. But this case is such an ironic twist on a newspaper photo manipulation case that it demands public attention. The newspaper, the Citizen of South Africa, has acted unethically in publishing the image and has punished the photographer for trying to uphold his, and his paper’s, ethics. Asked by another South African publication whether he would publicly out the manipulated image again, Hattingh said he would, adding, “The only think [sic] you have in the industry is your name. The moment your name gets tainted, your credibility gets shot.” The newspaper has issued a release stating that Hattingh was fired for, “1. Bringing the company name into disrepute by making defamatory comments on Twitter on or around September 19. [and] 2. Irretrievably damaging the trust relationship between employer and employee.”
Ethical discussions of photography are always a bit tricky. Countries and cultures have varying standards for what can and can’t be done to a news photograph. The NPPA’s Code of Ethics, followed by many American newspapers, is a fairly conservative set of guidelines compared to, for instance, the sort of toning we often see in European publications or, especially, the international photo contests. And cover images are usually given more latitude than images accompanying articles inside a magazine or newspaper (though Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic have come under fire for particularly egregious cover manipulations). However, this image clearly misrepresents the facts of the scene documented in the image and it’s presented as a news image rather than an advertisement for content inside.
Kudos to Johann ‘Slang’ Hattingh for pointing out the manipulation of the image and best of luck to him as he moves past this unfortunate incident.
Rob Hornstra, who we’ve featured a number of times, had a film crew from Vice TV follow him around in his home in Utrect, Netherlands and in Sochi, Russia while working on “The Sochi Project”, an epic 5-year project he is working on with writer Arnold van Bruggen. Picture Perfect: Rob Hornstra offers a nice glimpse in to his photographic life and touches on how he has developed his career and how he approaches long-term work (he calls it “slow journalism”). It also introduces a cool new project from Sochi documenting lounge singers, which Hornstra talks about a little bit in his post about the experience of being “Followed by cameras”.
Just came across a new song that for obvious reasons I thought to post here (as part of our intermittent Book Club). The video features a cool vintage camera with fancy flash and cool vintage dancing people. Can’t really say what the song has to do with a ‘photojournalist’ because I can’t understand most of the lyrics. But really, it is kind of nice.
See the Pitchfork Review of Small Black’s new LP “New Chain” if you’re curious. It comes recommended by none other than KEXP’s head DJ John Richards, aka John in the Morning, who is one of my personal music gods.
(via KEXP’s Blog and their Song of the Day Podcast)
Antonin Kratochvil writes with Michael Persson an interesting and still-timely piece about modern photo documentary / photojournalism in a 2001 report from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University: “Photojournalism and Documentary Photography: They are identical mediums, sending different messages.”
There is a division in photo reportage. There is photojournalism and there are photo documentaries: Identical mediums, but conveying very different messages. Documentary photographers reveal the infinite number of situations, actions and results over a period of time. In short, they reveal life. Life isn’t a moment. It isn’t a single situation, since one situation is followed by another and another. Which one is life?
Photojournalism—in its instant shot and transmission—doesn’t show “life.” It neither has the time to understand it nor the space to display its complexity. The pictures we see in our newspapers show frozen instants taken out of context and put on a stage of the media’s making, then sold as truth. But if the Molotov cocktail-throwing Palestinian is shot in the next instant, how is that told? And what does that make him—a nationalist or terrorist? From the photojournalist, we’ll never know since time is of the essence, and a deadline always looms. Viewers can be left with a biased view, abandoned to make up their minds based on incomplete evidence.
Pause in our normal programming for a bit of an update on what I have been up to here in the Balkans. Lots has been going on and it seems like it will be continuing through the summer. And Scott and I have plenty of interesting things planned for dvafoto so keep tuned.
My long-term project about the relocation of Belgrade Roma “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” is currently featured in Lens Culture magazine. This project was also shortlisted by Anthropographia and was included in the exhibition at the New York Photography Festival and will continue to tour worldwide (a cool picture of the exhibition, snapped by a NY friend, is in the gallery above).
I’ve also published “Chapter Two” of this project on my Photoshelter Archive and included some images in the gallery above, so you can catch up on the project since my last post about the project on dva. I am continuing to photograph this story, following the families of the Gazela camp as they resettle around Serbia following the destruction of their community.
Lastly, thanks to friend Pete Brook at Prison Photography for writing about my work on this project in a post titled The Roma People: Matt Lutton building upon a legacy of wandering photographers.
I also have published on my archive a new gallery of work from Bosnia in an ongoing project called “This Time Tomorrow”. I will be following events in Bosnia closely as political and economic stagnation continues to slowly suffocate the country. Some tectonic shift will and must come to solve one of the world’s most entrenched political crises. Maybe tomorrow, but probably not.
I am currently focused on completing my book about Serbia in the aftermath of the Milosevic decade, titled “Only Unity”. My project was recently announced as one of seven nominees for the POYi Emerging Vision Incentive, a $10,000 grant for an emerging photographer. See some of the work and my (full) proposal at the POYi website. Congrats to the winner of the grant, James Chance and the other nominees.
I am also announcing for the first time publicly the existence of an tumblr sketchbook for this project: onlyunity.tumblr.com. Have a look if you want to follow me feel my way through this work. The latest news is that I’ve finished the first book dummy, which will serve as my university thesis, enabling me to finally graduate this year.
It has been a busy couple of months with a few interesting assignments, taking me from Budapest on a corporate job to a British international school in Belgrade for a UK newspaper. There is much to come this summer, including a trip to a Serbian winery connected to the royal family and projects to be featured in well known online publications. And of course focus on Dvafoto. I look forward to sharing this all soon, and I hope you are enjoying your summer (or winter, if you happen to be south of the equator).
The BLDGBLOG is worth bookmarking, and they had two related posts this week that needed to be seen here. The first image below was published tonight and is a remarkable flash picture taken in 1944 of Stonehenge, and the accompanying post refers back in an interesting way to another piece, with the illustration of military tactics, published a couple of days ago. Click back through the links or the images to see the original articles.
And the second was Military Chiaroscuro:
Read through the posts and you’ll see some interesting ideas on the research of light as a tactic for war and reconnaissance. Very interesting to consider.
I’ll also remind you that BLDGBLOG has a great interview (at least his second) with photographer Richard Mosse about his project “Breach”, photographing Saddam Hussein’s old palaces in Iraq. Great stuff all around
Notwithstanding the NYT’s own low assignment rates and its onerous freelancer contract, the paper has a good article summing up the void staring back at many young photographers and how amateurs and agencies (Getty co-founder and CEO Jonathan Klein is quoted in the article) are filling that void. It’s nothing we don’t already know, especially those of us trying to carve out a space in the industry, but the article’s worth a read anyway.
As we get a little further away from the initial shock of Haiti I’m finding more perspectives on the tragedy and the media’s role in reporting on it. Here are a few links I can recommend that have kept us thinking.
First, a few days ago our friend Scott Strazzante published a beautifully honest post on his blog about his feelings of being a newspaper photographer in Chicago looking out on a world of “big stories”. It reflects the inner thoughts almost all photographers have about their place in the industry, the world and the importance of the work they’re producing.
This was echoed by another talented and thoughtful friend on his blog: Chip Litherland lays out his view on the situation and the importance of the photography emerging from this and other events to his relationship to the world. He has one passage that speaks to his optimism on the importance of the still photographs being produced in Haiti right now:
Soon, headlines will start creeping back to normal type and smaller fonts. Photos will run smaller. Media agencies will pull out of the country. One thing I haven’t felt in a while, though, is a renewed sense of the importance of photojournalism and what we do. I had that thought this morning when I realized I never wanted to watch a television news broadcast again. It’s so watered down, so filtered, so crafted and manufactured it makes me sick. I seek refuge in the glowing screen of my computer and photo galleries, newspapers, magazines and blogs which are putting these photos everywhere. The photos are what people are sharing. Twitter posts about journalists’ posts from the ground. Facebook postings with links to photo galleries. Photos. Not video. Not multimedia. Not a talking head in front of rubble waxing poetic about what a producer saw earlier in the day. Not showing up to the airport, setting up a live shot, saying you’re there covering the story and leaving. Photos. Photos that need no text. Just space to breathe and be seen.
This segues to my rant about American television media and a Washington Post article about the rise of reporter-doctors. Many of us have grown increasingly frustrated with the tactics and presentation of the broadcast media and a situation like this brings out the worst in that institution, insofar as them featuring these acts (performances?) in their broadcasts. I’ve been glancing at CNN’s website a few times since the disaster began and I’m almost certain that there has always been at least one self-congratulatory article or link about the good work (“Anderson Cooper saves injured boy”, “CNN vehicle drafted in rescue”) the broadcast team is doing down there. Are they trying to justify their presence? Are they (subconsciously?) covering their backs from criticism of their presence? Or does their viewership hunger for stories of their pretty reporters helping out, thus feeding ratings… and is this then entertainment (are they actors?)? Of course TV News is in the ratings/entertainment business but are they really playing this out with peoples’ lives in such a crisis? I guess so.
Of course, as with the article above, I am quite happy to see journalists helping out whenever they can (see for instance Christopher Anderson in Lebanon), just keep it the hell out of your ledes and headlines. You are not the story. But it seems this exactly is what the broadcast media is aiming for and it is not a good thing. Especially when so many people get their “news” from these sources, perhaps exclusively.
There are also harder questions to ask, for starters whether or not it is appropriate to arrange a workshop on crisis photography in Haiti. 100eyes founder Andy Levin posted on Sunday his plans to arrange a February workshop in Haiti that will in part “transport food and medicine” and “also offer our services to NGOs who are in need of photographs”. duckrabbit beat us to print with a smart and fair post expressing their outrage and bewilderment at the timing and tact of this proposal. Levin responded to the post with some clarifications, but I am with the majority of commentators on duckrabbit that think this is a bad idea presented even more poorly. They also picked up a metafilter post about burden of enthusiastic but untrained volunteers in Sarajevo that Scott linked to in our first commentary on Haiti (“Like moths to a flame – so many cameras in Haiti”). It is an important and informed counter-point (along with many others brought up by duckrabbits’ commentators) to the idea of sending even more photographers, especially untrained and potentially vulnerable ones, to Haiti’s disaster zone.
Our friend Pete Brook at Prison Photography takes up this issue with Levin and many many more topics in the exhaustive post “Staring at Death: Photographing Haiti”. Catch up on the humanitarian and media situation in Haiti, the galleries of images being assembled and the section titled “How many photographers does it take to photograph a humanitarian disaster?” (which runs down the known photographers working there now).
Seriously, visit Brook’s site for the best up-to-date set of links around. We’re indebted.
Magnum’s Georgian Spring is an incredibly interesting project, and possibly a turning point in photojournalism and agency work. This book, print, web and ‘multimedia’ project is a collaboration with the Georgian state itself, funded by the Ministry of Culture and arranged by photographer Thomas Dworzak with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and independently curated by publisher Chris Boot.
As Scott mentioned when this project first went live, 10 Magnum photographers are involved and are a very interesting cross section of what is being done in photojournalism today. Jörg Colberg, of Conscientious and photojournalism criticism fame, agrees in his review of the book. To quote him, “So there are ten photographic voices, all from the same photojournalistic agency – how could there be a crisis in photojournalism when there is such variety? Or asked in a different way: What kind of crisis?”
I see Georgian Spring as the latest in a series of interesting photographer and agency-driven productions where people are “doing it themselves” with alternative funding methods. I think of two other Magnum projects directly that I’ve always respected: Euro Visions, about the ten new EU states in 2004 in collaboration with Centre Pompidou and Magnum Off-Broadway (a project that deserves a post in itself, definitely coming soon).
Beyond being a necessary development to continue doing the work we’re out in the world to do, these agency and photographer-led projects almost invariably produce more interesting and personal work. (But maybe this is because I’m a photographer? Wonder if there is a breakdown between publication-designed and producer-designed projects with the public?).
There has been some hubbub around VII’s recent efforts (especially on the public relations front) to get ahead of new funding opportunities, such as working directly with NGOs and then maneuvering to have the work published. In an era where the number of assignments is shrinking and our archives are our pensions, finding any way to photograph important stories prior to selling them is intelligent. So likewise getting countries to pay for portrayals of themselves is an interesting idea that just brings this idea to a new level, and shows impressive lateral thinking. The multifaceted distribution is terrific too, from podcasts to an impressive book (so says Colberg, I haven’t seen it in person yet), to an exhibition and interactive website (with maps and breakdown by region in Georgia, which is nice to see). All around, from ideas to photographs to presentation, extremely well done and I think (at this early moment, juries will tell in time) a new landmark in photojournalism.
Thomas Dworzak has a long personal history of working in Georgia, having been (or continuing to be, as the website suggests) based in Tblisi. And maybe because of his close relationship with the country, and the president, his photographs in this project are the most contentious to me. Dworzak presents a love letter to Saakashvili, which is a curious choice given the mix of other work by his colleagues and the nature of the project itself. By all means I’ll defend his right to publish what he feels like but in such a project it is so strange to see this photo-profile of the president traveling the world, wooing its leaders and his domestic successes. The video presentation is especially strange, with lighthearted music, rapid pictures of the smiling president and running tourism-board commentary by Saakashvili himself. As PDN brought up in its piece Magnum on Georgia, For Georgia a “photojournalistic” project about a State funded by that State on the surface is begging for careful scrutiny of its objectivity. There seems to be ample distance between the creative and journalistic freedom of the photographers and their curator Chris Boot from the state itself, and many of the essays and their subject matter probably would not be picked up in tourist literature by Georgia.
Also enlivening from the PDN article is this quote:
According to Dworzak, the project set off some debate within Magnum. “It’s nothing extraordinary, Magnum has done it and other agencies have done it for many other countries, it’s just usually done in a very shitty way,” Dworzak says. That the Georgian government agreed to a completely hands-off approach “made it really easy to accept,” Dworzak relates.
On the other hand, I was blown away by many of the other projects. In some sense this was a narrow assignment, to bring photographers into one country and have them all cover it in their own way, perhaps putting photographers in positions they are not suited for in an obvious time crunch (the book was published roughly a year after the conflict with Russia). But just the opposite has happened, it opened each to do what they do best and it really compounds the impression of contemporary Georgia. As I said above, this project brings together ten unique voices and gives them freedom to search out their own stories and it is a treat to see it come together. I haven’t had a chance to watch through all ten ‘Magnum in Motion’ video presentations but two really have stuck with me, perhaps for obvious reasons.
Alex Majoli has long been an important photographer for me but his work in Georgia, both here and in the recent war, has taken my respect for him to a new level. Please have a look at his piece for this project on Magnum in Motion. From two stark black and white title cards that tie his personal experience (and relationship to music, which is dear to my heart) to his early photography and then straight to the emotions and people he was photographing in Georgia. The soundtrack, from Italian punk band CCCP, provides stark cohesion with the best of movie scores. The images are raw, beautiful and confounding.
Russian photographer Gueorgui Pinkhassov provides a similarly personal dispatch from Georgia, with terrific commentary (I believe his words, read by another person). Most of this piece is short video clips, fitting for a man who began his career as a cinematographer and working with Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. And they are ridiculously beautiful, absolutely in Pinkhassov’s ‘style’ but in motion. Indeed some of the videos are from scenes that became final photographs for his contribution to the book, such as the one posted alongside here. It is a moving and unique vision, and I can’t recommend strongly enough seeing his work on Magnum in Motion.
And have a look at the Jonas Bendiksen video, you just might spot him having a drink with the people at the party (in another short video clip, again used nicely). Glad to see the photographers getting involved personally!
Another question, which I admit not giving much thought to yet, is the new “Hollywood” film about the war tentatively titled “Georgia”. Wired’s terrific Danger Room blog riffs on an AP story in a post titled One Year Later, Hollywood Re-Fights Georgia-Russia War. What does this other project Georgia-supported project mean for this Magnum work? The film isn’t funded by Georgia it seems but it has gotten state support, and Wired is framing it as pro-Georgia. Does this paint the Magnum Georgia a different hue?
In the end, I think it is a wonderful thing to have such a portrait about a nation in an interesting point of its history, and I of course want to see more projects of this sort of subject matter as well as innovative funding strategies like this. But the final product of Georgian Spring does still leave me with some caution, particularly with Dworzak’s piece included. Maybe it is the newness of this idea, having the subject fund the project themselves, or having potential conflicts of interest so close to the surface (that’s a good thing, but still something new to deal with), but I’m a touch uneasy still. A bold approach, ingenious in many regards, and its bound to ruffle feathers, and I’m happy that it has affected me that way too. Can’t wait to see what is next, and I’m inspired to think about all of these issues anew.
I just got late word that Jonas Bendiksen‘s groundbreaking multimedia exhibition for his The Places We Live project is now being exhibited in Washington, D.C. at the National Building Museum. It will be there until November 15, and I really wish I could get there to see it. Jonas showed me hand-made models for this exhibition back in 2007 and I’ve been yearning to see the real deal (room size projection ‘cabinets’ with audio piped in) ever since. Aperture posted about the first unveiling of the exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo when it opened a year or so ago.
Unfortunately, this sounds like the only stop for the exhibition in the States for now and it “will travel next to cities in Europe and Asia.” But in lieu check out again this video of Bendiksen talking about the work (from the beautiful harbor in Oslo!).