Category Thoughts & Theory

Train Track Tragedies

Watch this. NOW.

And stop taking stupid photos on train tracks.

Only thing I disagree with is his statement about “trains plowing through without warning.” The train belongs there, the photographers and models are the ones there without warning.

Women in Photojournalism

This is an important read from Anastasia Taylor-Lind – it’s a question I wrestle with often. My program is 85% women, yet the industry is almost the opposite of that. Finding ways to support everyone, to ensure that everyone’s voice has a chance to be seen … that’s what I spend a lot of time trying to figure out.

Stock Photos … Why?

It’s been a while, but here we go again … my local publication, the Athens Banner-Herald, had a nice piece looking at our local YMCA. It’s 160 years old and, according to the story, was the third YMCA opened in the country – that’s a pretty cool fact.

They have a gallery of images from to go with the story – some historical photos, a current one of the building. A nice package overall.

And then I get to the last photo in the gallery …

… and it seems odd. Why is there a fade bar around it? Why no faces? Why no logos?

Why? Because it’s a stock photo, that’s why. It appears on other YMCA web sites, it appears on PlaySportsTV and it appears on the Starkville Soccer Association site, too.

In fact, a reverse image search has the same image appearing on dozens of web sites.

Why? It’s a stock photo. A generic image associated with no story. It doesn’t belong on a news web site.

This is the consequence of not having photo editors.

Another Camera Store Shuttered

Many years ago, I sold cameras. I worked in a catalog showroom, running the photo area for a while. I worked in a one-hour photo lab for a while and did time behind the counter at one of the major retailers in Washington, D.C.

Every one of those businesses is gone now.


The shops I frequented in Boston, places where I built relationships and spent tens of thousands of dollars … all gone.

Here in Athens I can’t look at anything beyond the most basic kit cameras in person, there’s no one that sells anything I’m interested in.

And now, Showcase Photo & Video, the last holdout in Atlanta, is gone, too. Phil Mistry has the story at PetaPixel – it’s a long read, but it’s worth it.

So what closed so many photo counters? There’s no one thing – the move to digital, manufacturers cutting margins, internet superstores and states not being able to figure out sales tax laws are all culpable.

I ran my photo business for years, I needed to get the best price I could. That’s what being in business is all about – lower costs mean higher profits. I never showroomed – I never walked into a brick and mortar shop, asked questions, played with the gear then went home and ordered online for a better price.

But I have ordered online and now, well, I have no more options.

It’s important for us as both photographers and journalists to understand this story.

(Thanks to Michael Schwarz for the link.)

Kandahar Journals Showing in Athens

As part of our McGill Symposium on Wednesday, October 5, we will be showing Louie Palu’s documentary on his time in Afghanistan here at the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Kandahar Journals looks at his time covering the war and its effects on his psychological transformation.

Doors will open at 7:30 and we will start at 8 a.m. in Studio 100 of the Grady College building. Free parking is available in the N09 and N08 lots at the corner of Hooper Street and East Campus Drive. To enter the building, use the entrance next to the exterior stairs on the Sanford Drive side of the building.

No admission charge and Mr. Palu will do a Q&A after the showing.

Photo Editors Please, or At Least Visual Awareness (Updated)

It seems that I am on a multi-year rant about my local news organization. I pay my subscription, I read it every day online, spend time with the delivered Sunday edition and I truly appreciate that they are severely understaffed. That the depth of their coverage has suffered is sad and I do not find fault with the individual journalists – photojournalists, reporters and editors – for the stories they miss. That’s economics, that’s the result of poor judgement on the part of past managers.

What I do take issue with is the sloppiness of the editing, the lack of awareness of what they have published and their seeming inability to improve what they have through simple adjustments.

Like, perhaps, looking at the front page and seeing that an obituary story, that has now been on the front of their web site for more than a day, features a teaser photo of the woman’s chest. Not her face, as in the adjacent stories of men, but of her cleavage.

(And, for those who know me, yeah, it’s come to me talking about cleavage on this site. That’s how frustrating this is.)

I get that this is a wire service feed, that it is automated at some level. And, as with most other issues I have with the Athens Banner-Herald, I do not suspect any level of malice here.

In my classes, we talk about ethical transgressions of commission and omission. The former is an active attempt to deceive, think Jason Blair or Allan Dietrich. For whatever reason, they made a choice to lie because they did not care about their audience.

Transgressions of omission are, I suspect, much more common and more insidious. They come from failed processes, they come from a lack of awareness, they come from a lack of training. In the end, though, they again symbolize a lack of care.

Newsrooms are limited in their resources and need to make decisions about what to cover and what to publish. Part of that decision making process needs to ensure that what they do publish is both accurate and fair, that they have the resources to execute that coverage properly.

If you don’t have someone to monitor automated feeds, to at least check in once a few hours, then you need to decide if the risk of something going wrong is worth it. And here, my local news publication failed us.

Again.

UPDATE: After 34 hours, someone finally fixed the image. No note, no comment, just fixed it. Here’s what she looks like:

Support the HPR

Something a little light for a Tuesday afternoon.

“Here at Hipster Photographer Rescue we give these kids options, and make them see that lurking self-consciously on street corners, wearing a messenger bag filled with old cameras, cigarettes, a James Joyce novel, organic cashews and a Macbook Pro, does not make you a professional photographer.

“Still, we can only detox, de-program and re-home so many of these little guys,” he sighed.

Grace and Power

I suspect there will be a lot of discussions in my classes about Jonathan Bachman’s image of two Baton Rouge police officers approaching a woman to arrest her. Allen Murabayashi has a nice compilation of commentary over at PhotoShelter, a good starting point.

Photographing What You’re Interested In

This is an interesting video where Lee Friedlander talks about how his projects come together. And that wording is precise – he and the other panelists talk about the process of making images and then looking to see what you’re making images of and from that deciding if there’s a project.

Friedlander says, “I don’t know what I’m interested in until I see it.”

Fascinating look at the process.

On Photographing Everything

Here comes the cynical me … Jonathan Freeland wrote a pice for The Guardian about our penchant to record everything.

They will not need to look at sunsets and palm trees, for they will have flawless copies on their devices (click!). The great scale of the Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris, or the Colosseum, in Rome, will bring no risk of eyestrain: they will be able to see the grandeur of these sites in harmless digital miniature (click!).

(Insert get off my lawn comment here …)

But it’s true, isn’t it? That these devices we carry, more powerful than those that sent us to the moon, are used for the most banal of things. Encoding memories takes effort – effort to observe, effort to process, effort to remember. Snapping a quick selfie does none of those things – the advancement of technology have hurt our innate ability to recall the moments in our own lives.

There are studies that show taking notes by hand, instead of by keyboard, improves our comprehension.

It’s more the disengagement with reality and, in effect, shared experiences that concern me. Yes, I carry a camera everywhere. Yes, I take photos everywhere. But rarely selfies (three? Maybe four in my life?) and almost always they are intentionally composed after observing what’s before me. (My family hates this – I can’t walk up to something, glance, snap a pic and move on. Once I’m there, I look all around, studying before finding the vantage point I believe will best share that visage with others.)

Last week, I was wandering around Virginia and decided to put in some time and foot traffic at Petersburg National Battlefield, site of one of the most spectacular (and ill fated) moves of the Civil War. At many of the stops along the trail, I came across groups of teens and young adults. From a distance, this made me happy – people out experiencing history, walking the blood soaked grounds from where our country came to be.

Then I noticed they weren’t looking around, they were looking through their devices. Hunting not knowledge but Pokemon.

I’m now thinking of putting a sketching assignment into my photojournalism classes – force them to observe, to ponder, to decide what belongs and what does not.