Category Business & Industry

Looking Back at Joe Rosenthal’s Iwo Jima Photo

Seventy five years ago today, Joe Rosenthal made made, perhaps, the most iconic photograph – the flag raising over Iwo Jima.

There have been many stories written and told about what happened that day, from how he heard about the planned flag raising to whether he posed the photo (he didn’t, let’s be clear). I’ve talked about this photo almost every semester that I’ve been teaching (and, having worked from various readings and talks I attended, got a few elements wrong), but the Associated Press has put together an extraordinary package about the making of the photo, its impact and the man behind it.

Stocking Canadians

There are days I am so proud of my Canadian heritage. (Even if it’s phenomenally flimsy heritage.)

“That’s My Profession, To Look”

Robert Frank died in September of 2019 and he made The New York Times Magazine’s end of year retrospective, The Lives They Lived.

This is an interesting look at his work, moving well past his seminal book, The Americans, and into some of the other work that helped pay the bills inlcuding promotional work for the Times.

All these pictures had such loose, grainy softness that the lack of concern for formal composition suggested Frank was after something else: essential human feeling extracted from the blur of life. “I saw a lot of things other people didn’t see,” Frank said. “The eyes were always fine and could always find a place of interest and zoom. That’s my profession, to look.”

Transmitting History

We think it so common now – make a photo, two or three clicks later it’s shared around the world. There’s an entire generation who doesn’t even understand the idea of having to wait to see your own photos, let alone having to wait to see news photos from around the world.

But 85 years ago today, the Associated Press changed the world – the first Wirephoto made its way around the country and visual storytelling became an integral part of our news consumption.

Sixty years later, I was racing around New England with a trunk full of chemicals, stainless steel tanks, film reels and a … $35,000? … Leafax IIId digital transmitter, still needing a place to process film and tap into a phone line.

We’ve come a long way and it has been a very good journey.

The Best of Season Begins

Over the next few weeks, most publications and agencies will start pushing out their annual best photos of the year galleries.

National Geographic’s stood out to me because of the bylines – if you scroll through their 100 best images, 37% were made by women.

The Washington Post’s gallery includes some propaganda/hand-out photos, about 19% of them were made by women.

If you’re curious, my Advanced Photojournalism class this semester was 89% women. My section of the introductory class was 83% women.

Keep that in mind as you look at bylines through the season.

Photographer Caricatures

Something a little lighter … PetaPixel has the story of Pixelcrush’s caricatures of photographers and they’re worth a little time.

And, yes, I’ve met most of these folks.

One Step Closer to a Small Claims Copyright Court

The House of Representatives passed the CASE act yesterday on a 410-6 vote, which brings the bill one step closer to becoming a law.

Why do we care? This bill has been ten-years in the making, supported by the U.S. Copyright Office and trade organizations (including the National Press Photographers Association) and is designed to make sub-$30,000 copyright infringement claims much easier to pursue.

The Senate now needs to take this up.

Start Your Holiday Shopping with Photojournalist Barbie

On the one hand, I think the partnership between the Barbie brand and National Geographic is great – giving kids, especially girls, more role models and career views is fantastic. The growth of the Barbie line in my lifetime has been fun to watch (even if our own kid never played with one).

That said, the video released as part of the promo is … well … not what photojournalists actually do. The first half is what we call “spray and pray” – point the camera everywhere without any thought.

After that doesn’t work, NatGeo Barbie sulks off with Forest Conservationist Barbie until – Oh LOOK HOW LUCKY WE ARE – the mythical monkey appears and plays happily in front of them.

As the commercial says, that’s not how this works, that’s not how any of this works.

I suppose a video with NatGeo Barbie reading academic journals that explain the movements of monkeys through the forest is not going to be as exciting, but this is setting kids up with the (overly common) mistaken belief that great photos come from luck.

They don’t. They come from preparation.

Visualizing Change

A good behind the scenes look into how The Guardian is changing the way they use images in stories about climate change.

I think this is an incredibly important discussion to have for many of the reasons they denote – we all feel bad about the polar bear, but it doesn’t impact most of our daily lives and so, after a few moments of sadness, we move on. The emotional connection may be there but it doesn’t persist, we aren’t reminded of it as we go about our daily lives.

Images need to educate us about what is happening and resonate with us – that persistence idea is so critical. And the same applies to images in other stories – wars, man made disasters, natural disasters and even images of poverty. If the images don’t look like the things we deal with on a daily basis, then we are, effectively, othering the story which disconnects us from it.

This may be why I’m attracted to images of the vernacular, images of the everyday things in our lives. The work of photographers like Walker Evans and Fred Herzog intrigues me because it shows me the common things in life, the things I feel I may have or might still experience. It connects me, it shows something that is not other than what I am used to.

But this is incredibly hard to do. The impacts of climate change are both enormous and subtle. Massive storms are easy to visualize yet difficult to contextualize. The smaller, daily impacts can be easier to explain but harder to show. What does a 1.5 degree shift in average temperature look like? It is far too easy to get drawn into the extremist traps, leaving us with polar bears alone. We must do better.

Land is cleared in Athens, Georgia, to build a new gas station. Even as fuel economy increases, fueling locations are becoming more common. (Photo/Mark E. Johnson)

The Importance of Design in Cameras

The designed Luigi Colani died recently. While that New York Times obit deals with many things, it doesn’t do justice to the work he did with Canon in the 1980s – he is credited with the design of the T90, the first truly modern SLR camera.

Look at that camera – introduced in 1986, almost every DSLR of today owes a debt to its purposeful, organic and humanist design. That was the camera that truly moved manufacturers away from the dedicated dials and knobs and started to take full advantage of microprocessors.

In the mid-1980s, that was one of the cameras we all lusted after. A beautiful piece of kit that was truly revolutionary.

Over at The Online Photographer, Adam Richardson has a nice tribute to Colani.