Tag Archive: contests

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):

Woman in Aranda’s World Press Photo-winning image comes forward


“It was after an attack against demonstrators on Al-Zubairy Street. I went to the field hospital and did not see my son among the dead or wounded protesters. I checked the place again and saw my son lying on the ground suffocated with tear gas, so I embraced him and [Aranda] must have taken the photo at that moment.” -Fatima Al-Qaws, speaking to Yemen Times

According to Yemen Times, someone has come forward saying she is the veiled woman in Samuel Aranda’s World Press Photo 2012-winning image. Fatima Al-Qaws says she was comforting her son as he recovered from a tear gas attack. The man in the picture, her son Zayed Al-Qawas, told the publication, “I did not expect this photo to win among thousands of pictures and it is a real support to the revolution. It demonstrates that Yemenis are not extremists.”

Reactions to the image continue online. There’s an active discussion at the Facebook Flak Photo Network (where I first saw this story linked) and Paul Melcher has written a piece called “Emotionless.”

POYi Chatroom Heroes collects the snark so you don’t have to

Modified screenshot - POYi Chatroom Heroes

Modified screenshot - POYi Chatroom Heroes

Taking a page from the Overheard in… series of blogs (New York, the Beach, the Newsroom), POYi Chatroom Heroes has been chronicling conversation in the chat window of the online streaming of 2012 Pictures of the Year International judging process. There’s snark, armchair judging, admiration, and anything else you’d expect to hear among the audience. Worth a laugh.

While you’re at it, make sure to look at the winners as they are announced, and sit in to watch the judging as it happens. Judging continues through Feb. 24.

(via Matt Mills McKnight on Tumblr)

Steve Pyke talks about judging World Press Photo 2012

Thanks to Jonathon Worth for writing in to tell us about this short interview with World Press Photo 2012 juror Steve Pyke (embedded above). Pyke served as chair of judging for portraiture. The discussion offers an interesting perspective of the judging process from Pyke’s own perspective, especially focusing on the discussions between jury members during the process and the influence that each jury member’s own specialty and expertise plays in picking the winners. Particularly interesting, Pyke says (at about 5:45) that the winners in the Portrait category weren’t entered into the category originally. Jurors pulled images from other categories into the Portrait category and chose those as the winners.

There’s also an earlier short interview with Pyke that covers the chore of looking through 8,000 entries.

The awards will be announced tomorrow, Feb. 10.

By the way, do check out Jonathan Worth’s two open access online photography classes, Phonar and Picbod.

Watch out for rights grabs – National Geographic My Montana contest and SmartShoot (UPDATE)

UPDATE (20 March 2013): TurnHere is now known as SmartShoot and remains a rights grab.

We try to publicize good opportunities for photographers through the blog here and our deadline calendar. In deciding whether or not to include a contest or call for entry on our calendar, we look at the terms and conditions of submitting work to the contest. A good contest, in line with Pro-Imaging’s Bill of Rights Standards for Photography Competitions, promotes the winners’ work while respecting them and their work. Usually, this means by entering or winning a contest, the photographer retains all rights to his or her images and that the contest and its sponsors can use the submitted or winning images only to publicize the contest and its winners and only for a short time period. All of the contests on our calendar conform to these basic guidelines.

But we see a lot of contests that have bad conditions for entry, usually in the form of a “rights grab,” which you’ve also probably encountered in contracts for assignment photography. A “rights grab” takes your copyright away from you, preventing you from reselling your work ever again and, potentially, from even showing your work in your portfolio. It’s a dirty tactic, and it’s sad to see how many photo contests have rights grabs. A good rule of thumb is that any contest run by a travel-related company (airlines, luggage companies, resorts, etc.) is a rights grab. For the organizations in charge, running these contests is a quick, easy and cheap way to build an image library for its future use. Why should an airline company, for instance, pay fees to photographers to take pictures of tropical destinations when all of their paying customers will just send in their travel pictures for free? It’s a bad deal for photographers. Your rights have value. Here’s a short mention of one photographer earning upwards of $140,000 by relicensing images to the same client over 8 years. Had the photographer worked under a buyout, work-for-hire, or other rights grab situation, he would have made nothing beyond the initial fee. Had he submitted them to a rights-grabbing photo contest, he would have made nothing at all.

I thought I’d share two rights grabs that recently caught my attention because they at first seemed like interesting opportunities for me to gain exposure and future work.

National Geographic - My Montana contest is a rights grab

National Geographic - My Montana contest is a rights grab

National Geographic’s My Montana contest features a pretty standard rights grab. It’s particularly sad to see National Geographic taking advantage of photographers in this way, especially since the organization has been so supportive of photography and photographers since the beginning of the craft. Here’s the rights grab, from the contest’s rules‘, Section 4:

Submission of an entry grants Sponsor and their agents a license and right to use, publish, adapt, edit and/or modify such entry in any way, in whole or in part, and to use such entry alone or in combination with other works, as solely determined by Sponsor, in commerce and trade and in any and all media now known or hereafter discovered, worldwide, including but not limited to the Website, without limitation or compensation to the Entrant and without right of notice, review or approval of any such use of the entry.

Reading that section, it’s clear that by entering a photo in the contest, you give National Geographic and the State of Montana the unlimited, perpetual, worldwide right to use and publish your photos anywhere for any purpose. National Geographic could publish your photos in one of their books, or sell it as a poster on their website, and you wouldn’t see a dime. If Montana’s Office of Tourism wants to put your photo on a billboard in Times Square or on the side of a train in Minneapolis, they don’t have to pay you. And they could do it now, next month, or 300 years from now, and you wouldn’t know. I personally know the value of this. Montana’s Office of Tourism recently contacted me to license a photo for this year’s winter tourism guide (page 9 of this PDF). It was a very small usage, but it paid for rent. Had I submitted the photo to the contest, it wouldn’t have won and they could have used the picture for free. I would have lost twice, and possibly many times in the future, too.

I tried contacting National Geographic through the contest website and twitter, but have not gotten a response.

Turn Here - an egregious rights grab

Turn Here - an egregious rights grab

About a month ago I received an email from TurnHere with the subject line: “Hiring Professional Freelance Photographers.” The email said, “We’re growing our network of professional photographers and like what we’ve seen of your work. TurnHere provides paid shoot jobs to our photographers on behalf of some of the world’s premier brands (Google, Microsoft, Audi, . . .) and we’d like to invite you to apply to our network as part of our early access program.” Corporate work is a growing part of my business, and it looked like an interesting opportunity. After seeing the website, it looked even better: more than $12 million paid to creatives, $100,000 made by a single person this year, 600+ jobs currently available through the system. Sounds great! But the Independent Contractor agreement is really ugly. For instance, Section 4.a and b:

TurnHere is the sole and exclusive owner of, and Independent Contractor hereby irrevocably assigns to TurnHere all Deliverables, regardless of whether such Deliverables are specified in any Project description, and all rights, title, interest, and ownership throughout the world in any Deliverable, including all Intellectual Property Rights in and to any Deliverable. Independent Contractor hereby irrevocably and unconditionally waives all enforcement of each of the foregoing rights. All Deliverables are and will belong exclusively to TurnHere, with TurnHere having the right to obtain and to hold in its name, any and all Intellectual Property Rights. … In jurisdictions such as Canada, where moral rights may not be assigned, Independent Contractor irrevocably and expressly waives in favor of TurnHere and agrees never to assert any and all “moral rights” that it may have in any Deliverable.

That’s hard to parse, but what it means is that you never own any pictures you take as part of TurnHere and that you can’t even show them as part of your portfolio. More than that, there’s no requirement that your work will be credited to you once it’s used in an advertising campaign. You’ll get paid (though I don’t know the rates) but you’ll have nothing to show afterward. Everything you do for the job becomes the property of TurnHere. This hurts you in a couple of ways. You can’t relicense any of your pictures to the original client or future clients. This may not seem like a big deal when you’re looking at a commission and don’t have a lot of other work, but subsequent licensing fees can and should be a part of your future business. I know a couple of photographers who’ve recently paid for cars and houses through corporate use of photos that started out in an editorial assignment.

Steer well clear of TurnHere and any other such deals. By taking part in such a scheme, you’re crippling your future earnings and making it difficult even to market yourself through your previous work. TurnHere suggests that by working through them, you’ll be able to associate yourself with some of the world’s top brands, but reading the above excerpt of their agreement about “moral rights,” your name will not be associated with the pictures you make for these companies. The only way to get work is to show your previous work. Here, you don’t have the right to show your photos without permission of TurnHere after the fact. By agreeing to work for TurnHere, you’ve pulled the rug out from under yourself before you’ve even begun.

I emailed back and forth with a representative from TurnHere to try to figure out what was going on here, and they seemed receptive to input from potential contributors. But communication died off without getting an official response from the company.

The sad fact is that rights grabs are becoming more and more common. The good news is that sometimes you can negotiate away a rights grab in a contract. I’ve had to do just that a few times this year. In a couple of cases, I was successful and achieved a decent fee for a limited usage of my work. In other cases, I’ve had to turn down the work because it was a bad deal for me. And I’m not a copyright absolutist. Everything can be had at a price. If someone wants to pay a million dollars for perpetual, exclusive rights to a photo shoot, I’m all ears. I have sold full copyright to one image in my career, and it was for a very nice fee.

Contests with terms such as in National Geographic’s My Montana contest and assignment contracts such as TurnHere’s make the future sustainability of a photographer’s career all but impossible. The best way to protect yourself is to educate yourself and keep your rights. You never know what images will sell down the line, and you don’t want to decimate your future earnings. A good place to start with learning about contracts and rights is with John Harrington’s excellent Best Business Practices for Photographers book. And here are a few tips on how to avoid a rights grab and how to deal with rights grabbing photo releases common in the music industry.

UPDATE (20 March 2013): TurnHere is now known as SmartShoot and remains a rights grab.

dvafoto’s Deadline Calendar and Upcoming Deadlines

If you aren’t familiar, let me introduce you to our dvafoto calendar which lists upcoming deadlines for photography contests, grants and events. We rely on submissions for most of the upcoming deadlines, so if you come across something that you think should be added to our calendar, please send us a tip at submissions@dvafoto.com

It is an interesting time of the year for grants and contests, and I wanted to point out a couple of deadlines that are soon approaching that I’m personally keeping an eye on:

Saturday October 22: The Terry O’Neill Tag Award is due, with categories focused on Fine Art/ Reportage / Fashion / Documentary / Landscape / Wildlife / Portraiture.

Tuesday November 1: the important Aftermath Project Grant is due on Nov 1 and Shots Magazine is interested in submissions for their Portfolio Issue on the same day.

Friday November 4: 2012 Call for Fellowships from Houston Center of Photography which offers to the chosen fellows a proper show and some financing to produce your exhibition. We have friends who have won this accolade and have made wonderful use of the resources at HCP.

For more recommendations about upcoming contests stay in touch over this busy fall.

Our monthly posting of dvafoto’s deadline calendar. The calendar can be accessed in a web browser, or with ical or xml applications. If you know of any upcoming deadlines not on the list, please send them to deadlines@dvafoto.com or use the submissions page.

This resource is especially useful this time of year, when there are a lot of new grants with new procedures and deadlines emerging every day. and please do pass on the news if you hear about contests or organizations with upcoming deadlines that we should add to the dvafoto calendar.
Submissions and reminders are always welcome.

Vote for “Small Concrete Boxes: Inside China’s Zoos” in the Viewbook Photo Story competition

M. Scott Brauer - Small Concrete Boxes: Inside China's Zoos at Viewbook Photostory

M. Scott Brauer - Small Concrete Boxes: Inside China's Zoos at Viewbook Photostory

My story, “Small Concrete Boxes: Inside China’s Zoos,” has made it through the intial screening for the Viewbook Photo Story competition. The submissions are now open to vote, and I would appreciate your vote for my work. You can vote for more than one project in the competition. The vote button is below the main image box on the main story page.

About the story:

The animals are in cages that are too small. Weather conditions are inhospitable to many of the tropical animals on display. And the food supply is generally inadequate; visitors often throw junkfood into the trash-strewn pens. While all is not lost–in Hefei, a large city in Anhui Province, for instance, the tigers have been moved to a large, open-air habitat. Many other animals in Hefei and elsewhere throughout China, from Sanya in the far south to Beijing in the north, remain locked in their small concrete boxes. -Small Concrete Boxes

Thanks for your support!

Enter Luceo and MJR’s two upcoming grant competitions #photocalendar

Two collectives are putting their money where their mouths are and supporting new journalism. It’s great to see this kind of effort and monetary support rising up from within the ranks of photographers.

Luceo Images’ Student Project Award is due real soon, but you still have time to submit. From the call for entries: “Central to LUCEO’s mission is our belief in the importance of long-term projects. We also understand that developing photographers need support. To advance both of these causes, LUCEO has created the Luceo Student Project Award, which will be disbursed annually to a talented student photographer in support of a significant and developing body of work.” One winner will receive $1000 to pursue the project as well as direct mentorship from one member of Luceo Images.

MJR’s film grant aims to support film-based projects, and will grant $500 to one photographer. More than that, the group wants “to start a conversation. This is where the information/drinks evening, portfolio reviews and the winner’s event come into play – it’s all an opportunity for us to get to know you and for you to get to know the wider photographic community.”

I know many photographers worry that their work isn’t good enough to win these sorts of competitions, but the only sure way not to win is not to enter. You lose nothing by entering, and gain valuable experience of editing a story or portfolio. If you’re even halfway thinking about entering, do it!

Be sure to check out more calls for entry on our photo calendar.

Lots of deadlines this weekend on the #photocalendar

There are quite a few big deadlines this weekend on our photocalendar. Some are free, others have entry fees…

Our monthly posting of dvafoto’s deadline calendar. The calendar can be accessed in a web browser, or with ical or xml applications. If you know of any upcoming deadlines not on the list, please send them to deadlines@dvafoto.com or use the submissions page.

Stepan Rudik disqualified from World Press Photo

“After careful consideration, we found it imperative to disqualify the photographer from the contest. The principle of World Press Photo is to promote high standards in photojournalism. Therefore, we must maintain the integrity of our organization even when the outcome is regrettable.” -Michiel Munneke, managing director of World Press Photo

Lens, PetaPixel, and BJP all have good coverage of the latest photo manipulation scandal in photojournalism: World Press Photo has disqualified Stepan Rudik, 3rd place Sports Features in the 2010 contest, for an ethics violation. Rudik removed an element of a picture (see the slideshow above) in violation of World Press Photo contest regulations against image alteration, specifically this rule: “The content of the image must not be altered. Only retouching which conforms to the currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed.” The object seems to stem from the removal of a person’s foot from the background of the picture, which Rudik defended to the BJP, saying, “the photograph I submitted to the contest is a crop, and the retouched detail is the foot of a man which appears on the original photograph, but who is not a subject of the image submitted to the contest.”

I’ve got to echo Asim Rafiqui: What a laughable extreme crop and toning job. Color and tilt correction in photoshop is one thing, moody vignetting in photoshop is another, but this is a whole new level of turning a crap photo into something entirely different. Wow. This, rather than the offending foot, is the bigger problem for the credibility of photojournalism.