Category Archive: Worth a look
Nina White’s Stay is a personal story of a woman coming to terms with the realities of aging grandparents with ailing health. It is quiet and simply presented and we wanted to know more about the project and the photographer. Nina White kindly answered a few questions about her work. You can see a larger edit of this work, and other nice projects, on White’s website. “Stay” is also available as a hand-made book and is White’s preferred way of sharing these pictures, she illuminates why in the interview.
Where are you from? How did you come to be a photographer?
I am from Brisbane, Australia. I live in a rural area called Ocean View, on a mountain, which is about an hour away from Brisbane city. My initial interest in photography was actually sparked by my grandparents and some of their close friends. My grandfather always had a camera, which I constantly ‘borrowed’ whenever I got the opportunity. One holiday when I was about 8 years old some of their friends dropped off a huge stash of back issues of National Geographic to keep me out of trouble. It is terribly corny, but Nat Geo was the reason I got my first camera.
Did you grow up nearby to your grandparents?
Yes, my mother and I actually lived in the same house as my grandparents in Brisbane city until I was 6. We moved to the Ocean View property and into our ‘shed’ whilst my grandparents built a house just up the hill, on the same property. My entire life they have never been far away.
One of your other projects, Prodigious, also deals with the idea of family. Is this common in your work? Why?
Yes, I suppose family is a common thread within my work. The concept of a family unit, and the various different forms and functionalities that can be encompassed by the term ‘family’ has always fascinated me. Coming from a non-conventional family myself, I am interested by peoples usually private interactions within familial environments. Prodigious was actually driven by my absolute awe of the Duncan family, who I photographed for the project. I have known them for most of my life and find their lifestyle and bonds extraordinary. More so possibly because they an example of the polar opposite family structure to my personal experience.
When and where did Stay begin?
I began actively making Stay in July 2012. My grandfather was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus and we had began investigating the possibility of surgery for him. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus is fluid on the brain – the cerebral fluid doesn’t flow and drain or regulate itself properly and slowly swamps the brain, reducing its overall functionality, it presents symptoms similar to dementia and so is often misdiagnosed in the elderly. Less than a week later my grandmother’s artificial hip broke through her pelvis, and she was hospitalised for emergency surgery. This was the beginning of 8 months of hospitalisation, surgery and rehabilitation for them both. The project really began at home, and ended at home.
Can you tell me more about the title?
It is a selfish plea really, from me to my grandparents.
And can you tell me more about the book you’ve made and why you chose that as your medium for showing the work?
I chose to present this work in a book format for a number of reasons. All my life I have seen books as an ‘escape’. In my experience they have the ability to engage a reader in a very different way to other forms of media. With such a personal work, I felt it was important that it was experienced one on one with the viewer, and was small and tender enough to hold in your hands. Another benefit of book format is the ability to control the narrative and rhythm of the work through the organisation of layouts and design. The book itself was entirely hand made by me and is completely unique. It was hand printed on photo-rag-matte double sided paper and the cover is cotton. The text within the book is all written in my handwriting, scanned and then reprinted. Hand-making the work was important to me, as it was really a labour of love, and I wanted to create a soft, tactile object a viewer could interact with, rather than just observe.
It would seem that the biggest magazines with the most hiring power hire mostly male photographers. -Daniel Shea
In September, Daniel Shea provoked quite the conversation with a post on his tumblr called “On Sexism in Editorial Photography.” We reblogged the original post on our tumblr but due to travel and assignment work never got around to a roundup on the main blog here. One great result of the conversation is Women In Photo, which collects the online conversation about these issues and presents a list of American and international women photographers that any editor shouldn’t hesitate to hire for assignment work. It’s a work in progress, with a few names I like left out (Melissa Golden, Melissa Lyttle, Alixandra Fazzina, Vivian Sassen, Sandy Kim, Ariel Zambelich, Megan Spelman, Narelle Autio, Krisanne Johnson, Carolyn Drake, Nadia Shira Cohen, Sim Chi Yin, Anastasia Taylor Lind, Jessica Dimmock, Stephanie Sinclair, Lynsey Addario), but it’s a great resource so far.
Shea pointed out that the biggest magazines have mostly female editors and hire mostly male photographers and presented a few observations and thoughts about why this situations has arisen, none of which he claims to be exhaustive or anything more than his own experience: editors say they don’t know female photographers who fit their magazine’s style; men might be more aggressive in pursuing assignment work; collectives and loose organizations of photographers don’t do a good job of including women; men have an easier time assisting due to sexism and climbing the ranks that way. The whole post is worth a read. Another particularly troubling statistic that saw recently that likely has a profound affect: 64% of women journalists responding to a survey said they had experienced “intimidation, threats, or abuse” in the field or in the office. That study was conducted by the International Women’s Media Foundation.
Women In Photography also collects much of the rest of the conversation started by Shea and discussion about the conversation. There are responses by editors, photographers, and industry publications. Here’s a few I liked:
- Erin Patrice O’Brien had a great response stemming from a shoot with a mostly female crew which also includes a huuuuuggeee list of women photographers who are killing it (crossposted at APhotoEditor).
- Photo editor Jamie Goldenberg has a nice addition on the editing side of the conversation.
- Angie Smith took time to count the ratios of male photographers to women in issues from a bunch of magazines she had around, and the results were not good: 6:2, 9:1, 8:0, 11:3, 10:1, 12:0, 4:4, 8:1, 12:4, 5:4, 10:4.
- PDN has a nice roundup of thoughts on the issue.
- Also worth a read, Alexi Hobbs shares a short anecdote about how being mistaken for a woman caused an editor to contact him.
Firecracker does a great job finding and highlighting the work of European women photographers (featured on dvafoto previously), and offers an annual grant. There’s also the Women Photojournalists of Washington and their annual contest.
Buzzfeed also had a wonderful post a little while back: Women Are Covering The Hell Out Of The Syria War — So Why Haven’t You Noticed?
And check out the International Women’s Media Foundation.
While we’re on this subject, I imagine that we could have a very similar conversation about racial and ethnic diversity in the photo industry…
“Upworthy rankles some journalists partly because, even as it innocently coos Web readers with tender headlines, the repetitiveness of its style suggests a rather cynical ploy to lasso cheap attention rather than fully engage an audience hunting anything more than a dopamine rush.” -The Atlantic, Upworthy: I Thought This Website Was Crazy, but What Happened Next Changed Everything
For the past year, Upworthy-hosted videos and Buzzfeed listicles have been taking over my facebook feed. It’s been interesting to watch how these sites, and others like them, have come to dominate our news culture. Their headlines are manipulative, almost guaranteed to make you click, but rarely are the informative. You already know the style, and it’s creeping into other news outlets. Here are a few examples from a USA Today story about the emotionally charged headlines employed by Upworthy, Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed:
Coming from journalism, I hate these headlines, and so do others. They editorialize, tell the reader very little about what I’m about to see, and make the reader feel guilty if one doesn’t click them. But it’s been enormously successful for these companies. Upworthy is the fastest growing news site in history, with 30 million unique viewers in May 2013. While at first glance, the site seems like it only repackages videos hosted and created elsewhere, it’s making money through sponsored content and partnerships with organizations such as the Gates Foundation.
Marketing companies now offer advice on how to apply this viral-style headline writing to your small business. And it’s invading the internet. There are a ton of sites trying to clone Upworthy and Buzzfeed’s success, such as ViralNova. They use focus groups and a/b headline testing to find the most clickable headlines. There’s Godvine, a Christian site with headlines such as “See Why These Dogs Are Singing… It’s Way More Important Than You Think” and “He Has Strength, Faith in Jesus and Cerebral Palsy – This Video Will Make You Cry.”
Mainstream news outlets are taking note. The Atlantic recently published “The Case Against Cars in 1 Utterly Entrancing GIF“; Time, always one for Top # lists, has a Viral section with stories such as “The Absolute Grossest Way to Have Your Fortune Read;” Slate’s headlines are starting to change into writing like “This Awesome Ad, Set to the Beastie Boys, Is How to Get Girls to Become Engineers.”
Buzzfeed has been able to do the same thing with photos and gifs. Slate interviewed Buzzfeed founder (and Huffington Post co-founder) Jonah Peretti about how they make photos go viral. As of this writing, “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity.” And while not every post there is a hit–”84 Things That Aren’t On An Everything Bagel” didn’t post quite the same numbers (~41,000 as of this writing)–the site has figured a way to reliably draw traffic to photography. Of course, it’s not the sort of photography that we often write about at dvafoto. But just as Kony2012 showed that it’s possible to get the public interested obscure international issues, there might be something for the photojournalism community to learn from Buzzfeed.
Not all is well at Buzzfeed, though. The provenance of many of Buzzfeed’s images is often a bit questionable. They frequently lift images or whole lists from other sites without attribution or concern for copyright. The 21 Images That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity came from a combination of Ned Hardy posts and Reddit. The site often steals images without asking for permission, particularly troubling when the copyright infringement is used in a sponsored story. One photographer fired back at Buzzfeed, and got them to pay $500 to a charity of his choice, for stealing his photo: “10 Good Reasons BuzzFeed Is Going to Pay My Invoice for Copyright Theft“.
While Upworthy’s sole positive is drawing eyeballs to some worthy stories (here’s a story from my hometown which aired on Rock Center, which I wouldn’t have seen had it not been for Upworthy), I have been impressed by Buzzfeed’s longform journalism section, BuzzReads. Though the headlines can be sensational, the content is good and original. Here are a few stories which have caught my eye recently: I Was Drugged By A Stranger, William Suess Thought He Was An American Until The Day He Was Deported, Was An American College Student Kidnapped By North Korea?, Wildcatting: A Stripper’s Guide to the Modern American Boomtown. Poynter has a nice article about what Buzzfeed’s push into longform reporting might mean.
“What would a Snopes for ViralNova or Upworthy even look like? It could question the sources of the stories and the details of the anecdotes, or provide context for their claims. But could it correct sentiments like, ‘man is fundamentally good’ or ‘we should do better?’ A site specific to this purpose would be more un-viral than anti-viral. Correcting a post like this is like fact checking Chicken Soup for the Soul, or refuting a prayer.” -Buzzfeed, “How Internet Chain Letters Took Over The Media“
Buzzfeed itself has one of the best pieces on how and why this emotionally-charged or nostalgia-infused content is taking over Facebook and the rest of the web. The article argues Upworthy, Buzzfeed, and their ilk substantially resemble chain letters and email forwards (what one MetaFilter commenter called “‘Jesus and kittens love you’ fwd-mails for twentysomething liberals.”).
Snopes.com arose to fact-check viral chain letters, but that doesn’t quite work with Upworthy and the like. Their posts are factual but packaged and reframed in an inspirational or otherwise emotional way. One can’t correct the sentiments in Upworthy headlines such as ‘man is fundamentally good’ or ‘person is brave for confront adversity.’ The best you can do is satirize the style, and thankfully a few people have:
By the way, here are two fantastic satirical exploitations of the Buzzfeed style on Buzzfeed itself: 22 Amazing Things Only a 90s Kid Would Understand, and 7 Fantastic Ways To Distinguish Between Sense And Nonsense. The first was created by what seems to be a Buzzfeed performance artist under the name Spacedog Escargot.
Also, if you use chrome, you can install an extension called Rather to filter Upworthy links, baby pictures, tv spoilers, and anything else you don’t want to see.
Working with Concord Free Press, Gilles Peress‘ latest book, The Rockaways, is being distributed for free via independent bookstores and the internet. The imprint will distribute 3000 copies of the book for free with the stipulation that recipients donate money to a charity of their choice and then pass the book on to another person. It’s an interesting model for fundraising, and the book looks great. In addition to Peress’ photography (there are some images at Feature Shoot, and others at Metro), there are short essays by people affected by Hurricane Sandy, from long-time residents to journalists to youth to artists.
You can request a copy of the book from the Concord Free Press website. The Concord Free Press website also tracks donations reported by recipients of the book. You can also support Concord Free Press by buying one of the items listed in their online shop.
The Wire (official site) is often held up for as a paragon of modern television, and with good reason, but rarely for its cinematography and visuals. Writers have criticized the show for being so plainly shot (David Bordwell calls The Wire “uninspiringly shot” here, for instance), but the video above by Erlend Lavik, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen, persuasively argues that The Wire’s plain shooting style belies the complexity of visual metaphors, compositions, and camera use throughout the series. The video is worth a watch…I rarely sit through video online, but made it through the 36 minutes of this essay with ease.
Lavik argues that just as the show doesn’t hold the hands of viewers in subject matter, dialog, characterization, and so forth, the cinematography of the show works subtly and effectively to communicate complex ideas in a visual way. Whereas the current crop of “cinematic” television can be quite heavy-handed with visual styling (Breaking Bad’s over-the-top sepia/yellow-toned scenes are a notable example), The Wire deftly uses camera movements and compositions influenced by documentary filmmaking to create a sense of verisimilitude and honesty in the story, all without really drawing attention to its techniques. The series uses wide compositions, frames within frames, lingering shots, a lack of flashbacks, music used only as experienced by characters, and a variety of other techniques to suss out mood, character, and plot, in a way that few other shows have been able to do, even with much flashier visual language.
If you liked the series, watch the video above. If you haven’t watched the series, watch the show, and then watch the video above.
While we’re at it, here’s a thread on reddit in which the supervising sound editor on the show talks about his work for the series; this comment is particularly interesting. And here’s an interesting oral history of the making of The Wire published last year. Matt and I could both go on and on about this show, having watched it as it aired, but that’s enough for now. Oh, an here’s a post from 2009 about the 100 greatest quotes from the show.
If you were following dvafoto on twitter yesterday, you would have seen our retweet of Jon Levy’s photo of a Libération spread without photos. The British Journal of Photography has a bit more information about the stunt: the French newspaper published an entire issue without photos in concert with the opening of Paris Photo. It’s intended as a show of support for photographers. A note about the special on the front page reads, “Libération vows an eternal gratitude to photography, whether produced by photojournalists, fashion photographers, portraitists, or conceptual artists. Our passion for photography has never been questioned – not because it’s used to beautify, shock or illustrate, but because photography takes the pulse of our world.” This is the first time since the newspaper (wiki) was founded in 1973 that it published an issue without photos.
As you can see above and at the BJP’s coverage, the pages seem empty without photos. Just as when Russian media blacked out photos in protest of the imprisonment of photographer Denis Sinyakov, this Libération issue serves as a stark reminder about photography does for the understanding and communication of news and ideas. Bravo!
New York Times staff photographer Tyler Hicks was nearby to the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya on Saturday when he heard about gunmen opening fire inside the popular shopping center. He immediately went to the site of the attack and entered the building, photographing as security forces and police attempted to find the gunmen and rescue hostages. He was interviewed by James Estrin of the New York Times’ Lens Blog about what he saw and they published a gallery of the terrific and harrowing photographs that Hicks took inside of the Westgate mall yesterday.
We managed to find an entrance where people who were hiding inside the mall were coming out. We ran into that service entrance and we hooked up with some police who let us stay with them as they did security sweeps clearing different stores — very much like what you see when the military enters a village. Shop to shop and aisle to aisle, looking for the shooters who were still inside. – Tyler Hicks on the New York Times Lens Blog
As of the time of posting the siege at the mall is ongoing and the New York Times is reporting that 59 people have been killed in the attack and more than 175 wounded, including family of the President of Kenya. Foreign Policy Magazine’s Passport blog is also covering the story with analysis about the attackers and the broader situation in Kenya.
Update (9/23): Scott pointed out this gallery of images on Buzzfeed about the attack a few minutes after I published this post. It shows the work of other photographers from inside the Westgate mall and the scene outside. They are also harrowing and gruesome, and also notable for their quality. It is interesting to note that so many professional conflict photographers, like Reuters’ Goran Tomasevic, were present when this breaking news happened. More on that later.
Also worth reading is BagNewsNotes’ analysis of the images in Michael Shaw’s post “Things to be Concerned About in the Mall Attack Photos from Nairobi”, which as usual is thought provoking.
Newsweek Autopsy: a conversation with James Wellford about photography and the death of the magazineAug 20, 2013 by M. Scott Brauer No Comments »
“The management backed off; they gave all the money to high profile writers, abolished all the contract photographers, names, personalities and creativity. Certainly, in the world of journalism, photography took a back seat to some of the more infamous portrait photographers who shoot celebrities and power. They still get paid. But it was depressing for me as I am interested in news. It was possible for me to take one assignment for a portrait photographer, then cut it in four ways. This would enable me to support stories in other parts of the world very easily. I always believed in that and I could not ever accept or understand why they simply rejected it, hook, line and sinker. In the end it was terribly disappointing.” -James Wellford, speaking to Emaho Magazine
If you’re following dvafoto on tumblr, you’ve already seen our link to Emaho Magazine‘s interview with former Newsweek Senior Photo Editor James Wellford about the death of the magazine and how he tried to curate photography for the publication. Wellford talks about the types of photography he tried to support through his helm at the magazine and how that ultimately ran counter to what the publication’s management had in mind for Newsweek. It’s definitely worth a read.
This ad (above) is a few months old, but just came across my desk again. Made for the launch of the Leica M-Monochrom rangefinder at the Sao Paulo Leica store, it recreates vignettes from Robert Capa‘s life, including paratroopers landing at Normandy, his relationship with Gerda Taro, and his death by landmine in Indochina (and his final images). The spot is beautifully shot; there’s no wonder why it has won a number of industry awards.
I just caught up with the trailer above, and I’ve got to say I’m excited about Everybody Street. It’s a look at street photographers who’ve been working in New York over the past few decades, long before Humans Of New York or street style blogs such as The Sartorialist rose to popularity. They’re photographers who’ve found the gritty, the sublime, and the human moments in the city over the years. The movie includes photos from, footage of, and interviews with Bruce Davidson , Elliott Erwitt, Jill Freedman, Bruce Gilden, Joel Meyerowitz, Rebecca Lepkoff, Mary Ellen Mark, Jeff Mermelstein, Clayton Patterson, Ricky Powell, Jamel Shabazz, Martha Cooper, Jeff Mermelstein, and Boogie, with Max Kozloff and Luc Sante.
The film started as a kickstarter campaign and an old duckrabbit post seems to show that it was originally a 30-minute short documentary. Now, it’s an 83-minute documentary drawn from Cheryl Dunn‘s three years following these photographers around the streets. Here’s a recent interview with Dunn about the project.
The screenings page hasn’t been updated in a while, but here’s hoping the movie will be showing soon near you (and me!).
Related: Check out Bill Cunningham New York right now if you haven’t already.