Tag Archive: history

The Walmart of Photography makes $120,000/week selling old newspaper photos on eBay

Rogers Photo Archive on eBay

Rogers Photo Archive on eBay

This is weird. Old press card photos of staffers from the Miami Herald are up for sale on eBay. Above is a 1981 image of columnist Edwin Pope, a print of which can currently be had for $28.88. Wait…what?!

I knew that newspapers have been selling off their photo archives, and had heard about the Arkansas-based John Rogers Photo Archive buying up many major newspapers’ photos. But I didn’t know what Rogers was doing with the photos. He started with the Detroit News and then eventually acquired the licensing and print sales rights to the photo archives of the Boston Herald, the St. Petersburg Times, the Denver Post, and other storied news organizations and individual photographers. It’s a good deal for the newspapers. The cash-strapped publications get a one-time payment and a searchable digital archive of their work. For Rogers, the deal was less clear immediately. He’d managed to parlay old sports photographers’ archives into major deals with trading card manufacturers. Images of celebrities and politicians in the newspaper archives would be valuable, but Rogers also began to put ordinary newspaper images up for sale on eBay and the money started to roll in.

The Rogers Archive is now one of the largest stores on eBay, with over 2 million images for sale (I’m not sure if there are other seller profiles operated by the Rogers Archive, but here’s one with 50,000+ images). In a 2012 interview with the Arkansas Times (That’s a great link, by the way, and where Rogers calls his archive the “Walmart of Photography”. Read it for a good background on all of this), Rogers says that eBay sales of old newspaper images bring in $120,000 a week. That’s not a typo. And that’s not the Rogers Archive’s only source of income. But that’s why and how prints of old press card photos of newspaper staff are showing up on eBay.

The Rogers Archive website says that a stock licensing portal will be made to facilitate licensing these images, but promises says it will be coming soon in 2011. Digital Stock Planet‘s website just says “under construction.”


(via Romenesko)

Worth a look: Revolution Revisited by Kim Komenich and University of Miami multimedia grad students

Kim Komenich - University of Miami - screenshot of Revolution Revisited website

Kim Komenich - University of Miami - screenshot of Revolution Revisited website

Photojournalism has a history problem. What was a banner headline and 6-column photo is often forgotten just weeks later. Rarely do we get to see what happened a year or a decade or longer after the main news event. Revolution Revisited does just that. Josh Meltzer, photojournalism instructor at Western Kentucky University, wrote in recently to let us know about this project that he and his classmates finished as part of a Master’s in Multimedia at the University of Miami. It focuses on Kim Komenich‘s 1987 Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Philippine Revolution for the San Francisco Examiner, and pairs that with follow-up photos and interviews with people in the photos and Komenich. The students started the project by working with over 800 contact sheets from Komenich’s original work, and the website makes more than 500 images available online, substantially broadening the tight edit of the work awarded the Pulitzer.

While you’re at it, also check out Maggie Steber’s excellent The Audacity of Beauty (recently featured on Lens), the website for which was created by students in the same program.

Perfesser Kev covers the canon of photojournalism

Jacob Riis - Cloth cutters on Ludlow Street - 1905

Jacob Riis - Cloth cutters on Ludlow Street - 1905

[T]his is a start on a “canon” to which you may contribute a suggestion. I’m looking not just for a list of the “great photographers” nor the most famous or successful. I’m looking for photographers who:

-Produced documentary work reflecting the important standards and ethics of the profession,
-Stood the test of time by repeatedly producing notable work, and
-Innovated in the art or profession by being first to adopt an important style or approach, break a barrier or rise above the limits of the day.

Kevin Moloney, photojournalist and professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has just finished a series of posts on the canon of photojournalism. It’s a great look through the history of the medium, including many photographers whose names aren’t as readily recognizable to most as Cartier-Bresson or the like. The whole series, linked below, is worth a read.

  • The Photojournalist’s Canon: Part One — The First 50 Years
  • The Photojournalist’s Canon: Part Two — Early 20th Century
  • The Photojournalist’s Canon: Part Three — From Then to Now
  • The posts ask for contributions to the canon, so if there’s a photographer that you feel should be listed, send in a contribution. I could see, for instance, the addition of Richards, Rodchenko, and Goldin.

    Vintage photos of Moscow and St. Petersburg resurface

    Traveling Priests of the lower class — © Murray Howe, 1909

    Traveling Priests of the lower class — © Murray Howe, 1909

    There’s nothing I like more than vintage photos from Russia. We’ve seen color photos from the very early 1900s Russia before, and now a new trove of images from pre-revolutionary Russia have been unveiled. The photos, reports the Moscow Times, were taken during a visit to the country by Union Carbide founder Cornelius Kingsley Garrison Billings. Billings was on tour with his prize-winning racehorses, and he brought along journalist Murray Howe, armed with an early Graflex camera, to produce periodic dispatches for The Horse Review magazine. And while Howe’s charge was nominally to report on horses, his pictures prove to be a valuable historical record of daily life in pre-revolutionary Russia. Of the 400 images captured by Howe, 76 have been posted here on flickr.

    Make sure to read the anecdotes that appear alongside some of the photos. The story accompanying this photo of the Moscow Thieves Market, for instance, is just wonderful.

    (via MetaFilter)

    My Lai massacre photographer admits he destroyed pictures

    In 1969, Haeberle told The Plain Dealer that he had made no effort to photograph actual killings. He evaded the issue during interviews with Army investigators.

    Last week, he said something distinctly different. “I shot pictures of the shooting,” he said. “But those photographs were destroyed.”

    By the Army?

    “By me.”

    -an interview with Ron Haeberle by the Cleveland Plain Dealer

    This story’s a bit old, but it’s the first I’ve encountered it. Ron Haeberle, US Army photographer during the Vietnam War, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2009 that he took photos of soldiers in the act of killing during the My Lai massacre but destroyed the negatives. Haeberle’s photos of the event were the first published evidence of the massacre, but did not show any identifiable soldiers. In the video embedded above (and on the Plain Dealer site) Haeberle states that he destroyed any such photos, not wanting to point fingers at particular soldiers and feeling a shared sense of guilt for being part of the coverup of the incident.

    David Quigg’s post on the subject, where I first heard about this, makes an interesting point about the journalistic value of the remaining photos: because photos showing clear evidence of the killing were destroyed, the remaining photos no longer serve to tell the full and true story of the event. As Haeberle says in the interview, the surviving photos “aren’t worth anything unless somebody actually talks about them.” This provides a clear example of how factual and unmanipulated photos can nevertheless deceive the viewer into thinking a full account has been given when the real story, in fact, remains hidden or obscured. I should be careful here to acknowledge that Haeberle’s decision to take any photos and come forward with some remains an important, courageous, and valuable act.

    Seymour Hersh‘s written account of the event for the St. Louis Post Dispatch won the Pulitzer for International Reporting in 1970.

    Boston exhibition: Lucien Aigner – Photo/Story

    There’s an interesting historical exhibition of Lucien Aigner’s work opening January 29, 2011, at the DeCordova Museum located just outside of Boston. Aigner was a contemporary of Capa, Kertesz, and other early 20th century photojournalists and, like the others, his work covered a broad range of subjects from war to race to celebrity to prisons to portraiture to children. The subject of the exhibition is his style of pairing text with several prints, so-called ‘photo stories.’ The exhibition is curated by Jennifer Uhrhane and aims to shine a spotlight once again on one of the forgotten pioneers of photojournalism. This is the first major museum exhibition of Aigner’s work since the 1980s.

    Entire Connections series now on youtube


    I have incredibly fond memories of watching James Burke‘s late-1970s BBC series Connections late at night on PBS during middle school. It’s a strange show, a meandering narrated documentary series about the history of science that draws well-known and obscure connections between major events in the past and present. The show is borne from a connected worldview of technological progress, “that one cannot consider the development of any particular piece of the modern world in isolation. Rather, the entire gestalt of the modern world is the result of a web of interconnected events, each one consisting of a person or group acting for reasons of their own motivations (e.g. profit, curiosity, religious) with no concept of the final, modern result of what either their or their contemporaries’ actions finally led to.”

    Now, the whole series is available to watch on youtube. Give each episode some time…they’re slow at first, but by the end of each episode, you’ll never have expected to have arrived where you ended from where you started.

    (via kottke)

    Another time traveler spotted in historical footage

    Time traveler talking on a cell phone? - footage from crowds outside Charlie Chaplin movie premiere

    Time traveler talking on a cell phone? - footage from crowds outside Charlie Chaplin movie premiere

    We’ve seen suspected time travelers in historic photos before. Another purported time traveler was spotted in historical footage, this time an older woman appears to be using a cell phone outside the 1928 premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus.” Nevermind that all the supporting mobile technology wouldn’t have been in place to make mobile phone usage possible, the filmmaker who spotted this believes there is no other explanation for why the woman’s hand would be in this position while walking and talking–portable radios hadn’t been invented yet and an ear trumpet would be too big. Others have suggested the woman is adjusting her hair or hat or scratching her temple.

    (via MeFi)

    Celebrated civil rights photographer was paid FBI informant

    Just as a museum celebrating his work is about to be opened, it has been uncovered that civil rights photographer Ernest Withers (see his work) was a paid FBI informant in the 60s, collaborating with agents to keep tabs on the civil rights movement. The Memphis Commercial Appeal uncovered the story after a two-year investigation and published the findings this week.

    Early Kodachrome color film test footage

    This is beautiful:

    The above video is early test footage of Kodachrome color movie film from 1922. Kodak’s blog has more info about the film. It predates the first color feature film by 13 years.

    In other Kodachrome news, you probably have already heard about how Steve McCurry was given the last produced roll of Kodachrome and shot it for National Geographic, and that the last place to process Kodachrome will cease processing the film in December 2010.

    In other test footage news, here’s some early improvisational camera test footage of Kermit the Frog and Fozzy Bear.