Petition the Guardian’s rights grab

On July 28, 2009, the Guardian announced new contractual terms soon to be forced upon contributing freelance photographers. In emails I’ve received about the matter, photographers liken it to the fight against the New York Times freelance agreement a few years ago. A petition has been started. Essentially, the Guardian is trying to escape usage fees for the unlimited re-use of images from commissioned assignments. Traditionally, Guardian News Media has paid for subsequent usage after initial publication. From the petition:

At a time when press photographers are suffering severe hardship as a result of the economic downturn, it comes as a further blow to be informed that [Guardian News Media] demands unlimited re-use of our photographs free of charge.”

Even if you don’t regularly shoot for the Guardian, please sign the petition in support of your fellow freelancers.

Martin Parr, Madonna, and Sepia tones

Pop star Madonna holds the child named Mercy, whom she hopes to adopt, in an undated sepia publicity photo taken in Malawi. Photograph: Publicity handout/Reuters

In what could be a small followup to Joerg Colberg’s earlier apprehension of black and white documentary style photography, Martin Parr’s penned a pithy analysis of handout photos provided by pop-singer Madonna from her recent attempt to adopt a child in Malawi.

Choosing sepia is all to do with trying to make the image look romantic and idealistic. It’s sort of a soft version of propaganda. … This predilection for sepia is all part of the baggage we have about photography … people seem to think it looks more real.” -Martin Parr

As media outlets dwindle, the majority of the viewing public’s connection with visual communication will increasingly be the province of handouts, PR shots, and propaganda, if it hasn’t already. While some might lament the failings of the mainstream media, one hopes newsrooms endeavour to hold themselves to a higher and less manipulative visual language than a publicity campaign. Analyses such as Parr’s here are necessary to the understanding of what we’re shown.

And while we’re at it, Randy Cohen, of the New York Times Sunday Magazine’s regular “The Ethicist” column (my favorite magazine column, next to Harper’s Index and Harper’s Weekly Review), analyzes the ethical concerns of international adoption for his new NYT blog “Moral of the Story.”

The Guardian’s “My Best Shot”

Tim Walker - My Best Shot

The Guardian’s been publishing the weekly “My Best Shot” series for a couple years now. It’s a great little column in which photographers (often well-known) share what they feel is their best shot, and why they think it’s their best. A lot of gems in the archive, though there are a few that leave me scratching my head. Here are a few: Bob Adelman, Elliot Erwitt, Lise Sarfati, Nadav Kander, Thomas Struth, Thomas Joshua Cooper (an innocuous landscape that likely would’ve landed him in jail), Edward Burtynsky, Joseph Szabo, Tod Papageorge, Tim Walker, Steve McCurry (not the first image that comes to mind…), and many more. Be sure to click on the pictures being talked about…some are cropped very awkwardly.

Don’t just look at the “My Best Shot” series, though, the Guardian’s whole photography section will keep you busy for a long while.