Tag Archive: time magazine
Scott and I began sharing pictures with each other when we met at the University of Washington – a practice that ultimately became Dvafoto – and we’ve always been interested in what we call “photo battles”, instances of photographers publishing similar photographs either from the same event or the same place shot years apart. One classic example is the pair of photographs of a boy on a tank in Chechnya taken by James Nachtwey and Christopher Morris in 1996.
We’ve posted a few of these ‘battles’ on Dvafoto over the years but I have to hand it to Time Magazine photo editor Phil Bicker for putting together a fantastic post and gallery of 73 pairs of images from the last year that show off photography déjà vu on the Lightbox blog. Read the whole post 2012: A Year of Déjà Vu for intriguing descriptions (and categorizations) of the different kinds of photographic referencing that take place, from photographers repeating themselves to pure coincidence half a world apart. Bicker also wrote a post in 2011 about photographers who travel together, particularly in war zones, coming up with similar pictures in another great post Two Takes: One Picture, Two Photographers.
Perhaps our contemporary, collective déjà vu is trigged by the news cycle’s constant hunger for images. Photographers, after all, do sometimes document annual events — at the same time and place, year after year— as if nothing at all has ever changed, or ever will change, at that location.
Documentary photography, meanwhile, raises its own breed of déjà vu. Photojournalists often travel together and work side by side at the same event, documenting the same moment—seeing the same things, taking the same pictures. Even when working independently, photographers are not immune to conscious (or subconscious) mirroring, and the 20th century has provided a litany of masters—Cartier-Bresson, Klein, Evans and Frank come to mind—who have influenced entire generations of image makers. After all, we all want to pay homage to our forebears and our heroes. Is it so surprising when, paying tribute, we veer into imitation?
Dismissing Paolo Pellegrin’s portrait of Mario Monti as a stock photo for a heart disease ad, Jon Stewart takes Time magazine to task for the lightweight cover stories on its American editions. The current issue, shown above, the American edition of the magazine has a cover about animal friendships, while the worldwide editions have a cover featuring Italian prime minister Mario Monti. This isn’t the first time there’s been such a disparity between the various editions, though it’s not always the Americans who get the lightweight cover.
This is pretty easy criticism that shows up every time this happens with Time, and it isn’t entirely fair. The different covers make Time look bad, but if anything, a closer look shows that the difference between the editions reflects more poorly on the American news consumer than on Time magazine. The contents of the US and various international editions is basically the same; both cover stories are in all editions. The covers are used primarily to attract readers at the newsstand, and this has got to be the reason behind different covers for different markets. In the US, the magazine is on stands in grocery stores and airports alongside fluffier magazines. Time needs to compete with the likes of O, People, and Cat Fancy. Outside of the US (in my experience, anyway) the magazine is most often sold in locations frequented by business and government travelers next to copies of the International Herald Tribune and the Economist. I don’t have Time’s per-issue circulation figures at hand, but I’d bet the lighter covers sell much better in the US than covers relating to hard news and international affairs. So, while I’m usually on board with Jon Stewart’s comedy, I think the Daily Show’s reading of Time magazine’s covers misses the mark with a simple reading of the magazine and its marketing.
Be sure to check out this short video of Pellegrin’s less-than-15 minute portrait shoot with Monti.
And also on the subject of newsweekly covers, here’s a look at all the cover options Newsweek tried for its recent sex issue.
This is one of my favorite series in a long time. Joakim Eskildsen traveled to New York, California, Louisiana, South Dakota and Georgia over seven months for Time magazine to photograph the growth in poverty in America. According to Time, more Americans live below the poverty line that at any time since the Census Bureau began collecting such data. Eskilden’s work here illustrates the striking diversity of Americans now living below poverty, showing the viewer how wide our continuing economic crisis has spread. The portraits are moving and emotive, portraying both the severity of the subjects’ situations and their underlying humanity.
I wasn’t well acquainted with Eskildsen’s work before, and ending up spending a while looking through his website. His book The Roma Journeys is available through Amazon; some of the pictures can be seen on his website.
Cause for celebration: Time magazine has revamped the photo section of its website. It’s now called Lightbox and it’s a welcome change. Gone are the static HTML galleries that require scrolling to see the full image and caption; gone is the fake last image that was really a tease to the article; gone is the weird celebrity photoshoppery. Now there’s a full screen option, interviews, behind the scenes videos, clean design, and strong photojournalism brought to the forefront of Time’s visual coverage.
This is in part a guest post by photographer Daniel Etter
From the very beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there has been debate about the nature of US media coverage of the conflicts and the embedding system. One of my favorite sources for this media criticism has come from Michael Shaw at BagNewsNotes. He recently published a post about three news organizations publishing three stories about US Medevac units at the same time, which has set off a series of discussions and posts around the photo world. Medevac is short for Medical Evacuation, typically a helicopter rescue in the context of modern war zones. For a good round-up and links to all of the work in question, see this PDN Pulse post which includes a response from one of the photographers involved.
I think it is worth noting as well, before we get started, the photographic echoes we are dealing with when we look at medevac stories and why they are so visually/culturally interesting. This story’s inherent appeal is echoed in Etter’s response. We can start with Larry Burrow’s foundational Life Magazine essay One Ride with Yankee Papa 13 and David Turnley’s memorable photograph from the 1991 Gulf War of a soldier crying over the death of his friend in a medevac chopper. As well, James Nachtwey recorded a video interview with Time Magazine about his assignment in question: “Photographing the Birds of Hope: An Army Medevac Unit in Afghanistan”.
I was especially interested in this discussion because an old colleague of Scott and mine, Daniel Etter, recently completed an embed himself with a US Medevac unit and worked on his story Medevac, which we are also featuring in this post. I thought to ask him what his view was on the current hubbub, given his own personal knowledge of the process and decision making, and to learn more about his own project. He wrote back with some thoughtful ideas and insights and we have chosen to publish the entire piece. I consider this a guest post for Dvafoto by Daniel Etter, and turn it over to him with thanks:
So there were three major US publications that nearly simultaneously published prominent stories on US Army medevac units. My take on it? Partly coincidence and partly photographers’ herd instinct.
I approached the military specifically asking to be embedded with a medevac unit. There was absolutely no influence from the side of the military. It might have taken longer if I’d applied for a foot patrol, but I doubt that. I was embedded in Regional Command South and during my time there, there were at least four photographers with troops on the ground, while there were only two photographers embedded with medevac units, me being one of them. One additional photographer split his time between ground troops and a medevac unit. The people who didn’t ask for a specific unit ended up with ground troops.
I was surprised to see all these photographers doing the same story and, even more so, to see the same story being published in the NYT and Time Magazine within such a short time frame. The former is pretty easy to explain. You could be with the infantry on foot patrols for weeks and absolutely nothing happens, and, given the cynicism of our profession, you don’t want that. (Back in Kandahar, another photographer asked if I had seen any amputees during my embed. I said, yes. To which he somewhat jealously replied: “Strong images, man, strong images.”) Being embedded with a medevac unit means, you can be sure to get dramatic photos. About every third mission I accompanied was to a so-called “POI”, the point of injury somewhere in the dusty plains around Kandahar. In one case it was a hot POI, meaning that fighting was still going on. Wounded being rushed into helicopters, guns pointed at invisible enemies and dust blown up by the whirling chopper blades. Very visual.
In 2008/2009 various high profile photographers went to the Korengal valley embedded with US combat troops. Among them were Tyler Hicks, David Guttenfelder, Tim Hetherington and Adam Ferguson. Gary Knight (on Rethink-Dispatches) and David Campbell (on his blog) wrote about this strange clustering, asking if this was due to the military’s strategy to narrow the public’s focus on this tiny part of Afghanistan and keep it away from other parts. [Editor's Note: This is a terrific observation and both Campbell's and Knight's articles offer great insights that are applicable to this current discussion]. Now almost the same question is being asked again just the other way around. Is the military trying to get the focus away from combat? In both cases, I doubt that the answer is a simply “yes”.
When deciding where to embed, photographers, especially those without much experience in the war theater, ask other photographers or look at work that has been done before. The most important question often is: Where do I get good photos? Which basically means: Where is the fighting? In 2008/2009 the answer was Korengal. Last year it was medevac, and I expect we will see more of it this year. This clustering doesn’t only happen with war photography, but with pretty much every subject. For example, most of the photographers based in India have done stories on Kushti, the traditional Indian wrestling.
The other thing is that medevac embeds are comparatively safe. Well, at least you feel safer. You are only on the ground for a minute or two and you spend the majority of your time on the base. On a foot patrol there’s always the danger of getting shot at out of the blue or, even worse, stepping on an IED. While with a medevac unit chances that you get under fire are much higher than with the infantry, at least you don’t have to carry that fear around all day long. Perceived safety and dramatic images at the same time make up for a pretty strong argument for a medevac embed. At least, when you look at it from a purely pragmatical viewpoint.
The latter, why there where three major publications who did the same story within such a short time span, I can’t explain. But I don’t believe that it was due to influence from the side of the military. Perception has a lot to do with the current ruckus, I think. If Nachtwey hadn’t done this story, nobody would have raised the topic. And also, there were other, less heroic pieces that got published around the same time. About a month earlier, the NYT did a story on night raids that were heavily criticized by the Afghan government.
That being said, I still think that this clustering of the same story being repeated is definitely a symptom of some problems of the photographical coverage of the war in Afghanistan. I just don’t think the gravest problems lie within the embed system. Sure, being embedded means that you are part of the military’s public relations strategy, and there are definitely stories withheld from the public (special ops, for example). But it’s not that you don’t see the downside of the military’s actions. Adam Ferguson had a big multimedia piece in Time on an infantry unit that accidentally killed a 14-year-old girl (there is also a a text version of the story).
The graver problem, I think, are the difficulties of getting out of the embed system. What’s missing are not stories about American troops fighting, but stories about the other side. It is not only very dangerous to report unembedded in Afghanistan, but also very expensive. An embed is free. So a lot of independent photographers end up doing the same stories with the military and their public relations strategy.
Another problem that comes up here sounds very simple: Photography relies on images. The more dramatic, the better to sell. Photographers aren’t magically drawn to stories like Korengal or medevac. You can make powerful and journalistically important images in these places, but on the other hand you are very limited with a camera. There are stories that simply cannot be told in images. And sometimes, even if the story is an entirely different one, the images remain the same. Can you tell the difference between an insurgent and a simply Afghan farmer on a photo?
My decision to embed with a medevac unit was mostly pragmatic. It was my first embed, and, to be honest, I was freaking scared to go. I didn’t set out with the idea to do the best or most unique story possible. And I don’t believe in the naive notion that one single photographer in the context of this war can change anything for the better. However, I do believe in the necessity of communicating these stories and events to a wider audience in order to keep public debate alive. But I just wanted to start with something that might not be the most important topic but seemed relatively safe. I’ve seen Nachtwey’s piece on the broader subject of military medicine in National Geographic, which also covers the work of US flight medics. It seemed like a good option. Simple as that. No conspiracies involved.
[Ed: Thanks again Daniel for your insights in to this story and your honest and open assesments of the situation. And to Michael Shaw for setting this discussion and our thinking off ]
TIME Announces New Version Of Magazine Aimed At Adults
Bad contract and bad payment practices: Reader’s Digest Publishing Australia and Time Inc. (via JP Morgan)Dec 7, 2009 by M. Scott Brauer 1 Comment »
Bad Contract: We’ve got a number of readers in Australia, and perhaps this is old news to them, but it’s instructive to freelancers everywhere. Reader’s Digest Australia has just foisted a new contract on its contributors, and it’s a doozy. Take a look at this clause:
RDA shall have the exclusive right set out in section 2 herein [exclusive worldwide rights to publish and distribute], for a period of 24 months which shall commence from the date of publication of the photos and thereafter the rights set out in secton 2 shall be read as non -exclusive for an indefinite period.
Lightstalkers (email me or comment here if you need an invitation, by the way) and Kenneth Jarecke have a clause-by-clause analysis of the contract. The best thing to do with contracts like these is to just say “no.” There’s no way to make a living releasing work compensated at normal editorial day rates with such expansive rights being relinquished.
Bad payment practices: Time Warner’s payment vendor, JP Morgan, has unveiled a new payment plan for all suppliers. Essentially a codified 2/10 net 30 payment program, all suppliers are required to pay a fee to Time Warner if they want to be paid on time. Ranging from 4 percent fee for payment within 3 days to a .5 percent fee for payment in 25 days. John Harrington also notes that the fee is for an acceleration of approved payments, rather than an acceleration of payment. So, you’ve still got to wait the 30-90 days for the payment to be approved and then you’ve got to pay a fee if you don’t want to wait another 30 days on top of that. JP Morgan sees this model of payment, that is, exploiting small vendors’ need for cash as a way to make more money, as a “lucrative tool”. From JP Morgan’s explanation:
“There is another large pool of suppliers…the non-strategic suppliers. These suppliers are typically small to mid-size suppliers…they are also the hungriest for cash and much more likely to accept discounts versus strategically sourced suppliers. Understanding your supplier’s need for cash is a key to success.” -JP Morgan article
Gawker’s report, with interesting discussion, points out: “Given how desperate freelancers are to be PAID NOW, largely because companies like Time Inc. never pay them on time, this is a pretty genius idea.” John Harrington’s Photo Business News & Forum has good analysis, as well.
For commiseration: Check out Clients from Hell and ClientCopia, growing collection of client horror stories from designers and other creative professionals, this short about what would happen if the vendor-client relationship occurred in real world situations, and this brilliant exchange between a designer and a client who wants him to work for free (the client in that case is none-too-pleased with it being published and claims it is a hoax, by the way. Others see no reason to believe either side.).
In spite of some killer photography of late (Q. Sakamaki, Adam Ferguson, Eros Hoagland), the magazine’s $30 cover photo and this collection of fake “What if” opinion photos of President Obama winning music and sports awards have made me shake my head in disbelief.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good ridiculous photo. I’ll admit to having spent time at FailBlog and There, I Fixed It and This is Photobomb and ICanHazCheezburger. But, for a magazine such as Time, which I still believe has journalistic importance and merit, this photo essay of illustrations denigrating Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize in such a ham-handed and childish and poorly-executed way…I’m at a loss for words.
What’s the point?
Saw two interesting things from Time Magazine’s website today:
Adam Ferguson, part of the VII Mentor program, returns to Afghanistan for the magazine and produces a quite nicely narrated slideshow about life for US troops in Wardak Province. Ferguson was recently featured on the Wired Magazine blog Raw File, where you can see his first Time cover. BAGnewsNotes wrote about his most recent cover, which comes from this same assignment, in the post Afghanistan Update: In a Bind. The pictures may be very one sided in perspective (but quite nice as photographs), echoing other pieces from embeds in remote outposts, but Ferguson’s audio backing helps elucidate his, and the subjects, questioning the idea of “why are we here?”
Secondly, while playing with Time’s new iPhone app, I stumbled upon an odd piece titled “France May Put Warning Labels on Airbrushed Photos” with this
“When writers take a news item or real event and considerably embellish it, they are required to alert readers by calling the work fiction, a novel or a story based on dramatized facts. Why should it be any different for photographs?” [Conservative parliamentarian Valérie Boyer] asks. “Rules on food-labeling let consumers know the origins of the contents and the presence of things like additives and preservatives. What’s wrong with … informing them when photographs have also been modified from their original form?”
This is an old argument, but apparently (I have no verification besides this article) it is gaining some traction in one of the most historic nations for photography, which has perhaps regressed (consider the purpose of Luc Delahaye’s “L’Autre” book) a bit from the heyday of H C-B, Ronis and Atget.
I think the sentiment is honest and surely most photographers who work in “straight” photography would love to have some bulkhead between outwardly manipulated images and what they try to do. But I don’t think it is possible, we’ve gone too far and the lines are too thin and/or blurred. And a $55,000 fine for failing to label a photograph as manipulated sounds very strange.