March 31, 2014 in censorship, Citizen journalism, digital cameras, digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digital photo ethics, digitally altered pictures, DSLR photography, First Amendment, image ethics, media accountability, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Media representation, Moral complexity, national press photographers association, photo digital manipulation, photo digital manipulation survey, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, photography and history, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, propaganda, public journalism, Social Media, social media, technology | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Jarle recently commented on the post "Crazy light", in which I wrote: "We are constantly challenged to
make scenes that are less than interesting, more interesting." The question that this raises, however, is when and how are the conventions of honest visual reportage bent for the sake of making images more compelling?
Correct. We all strive to make our photos more interesting. But, ethically and philosophically speaking, isn't this in direct conflict with the "our pictures must always tell the truth" mantra?
There's often a thin line between photojournalism, "art" and subjective, commentary photography.
And, playing the devil's advocate, what's the difference between adding motion blur in Photoshop and using a slow shutter speed?
I'll start out by agreeing with much what Jarle has said here. From a purist perspective, "Straight" photography should be a style of photography that records what the eye witnesses without elaboration or embellishment. For the most part, this form of photography, what is photojournalism today, has remained pretty much true to form. At the same time, it is possible to find quite a few examples of photojournalism from the 1980s to the present day, that deviate from the normal conventions.
Photo Credit: Craig Aurness/National Geographic
As Jarle notes, "ethically and philosophically speaking, isn't this in direct conflict with the "our pictures must always tell the truth" mantra?"
According to the NPPA Code of Ethics, photojournalists should "Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects." The language here seems a bit vague. The language is vague because ultimately it is up to the photographer or his or her editor to determine what "accurate" and "comprehensive" really mean within a specific context. Is Aurness' image and honest, fair-minded and "accurate" representation according to National Press Photographers Association guidelines? In a sense, Aurness has created for the viewer an image that human eye is incapable of seeing. The human eye captures motion at 1/10th of a second, but it also has the capacity to follow a scene without disruption. The optics and mechanics of a camera far exceed the eye in this manner. Therefore, in a case like this, what constitutes a comprehensive and accurate representation?
This issue may actually be more about cultural tastes and values than it is about ethics. Cultural conventions and tastes change over time, but at the heart of any photographer/audience relationship is whether or not the image is deceptive and misleading. Digital manipulation has created a crisis of conscience for many photographers, simply because it has become so cheap, fast, and easy to embellish, construct, and correct images. So much depends on the context in which the picture is made. Motion blur in news photography has been an accepted practice for many photographers for decades. Motion emphases action and helps to make the reading of a scene more meaningful and comprehensive. Just as depth of field can add 3-dimensionality to a two-dimension image, adding motion is a "trompe le oile" or a photographer's way of tricking the eye. However, is it appropriate or ethical to create motion after the fact -- in PhotoShop? Most photographers would probably say no, it's unethical to manipulate images in order to produce an effect after the picture was captured.
Analyzing the image above, can we say unequivocally that a breach of ethics has occurred? Has the context in which the event took place been manipulated by my choice to employ a slow shutter speed? Is the scene somehow more inaccurate and less comprehensive a representation give the fact that the human eye is limited by how much motion it can see at a given point in time? Should photojournalists be required to photograph scenes at 1/10th of a second or higher to ensure that they are more truthful to the human eye?
These questions, and so many others, evoke a great deal of thought and emotion. At the same time, this "thin line" between photojournalistic convention and subjective "artistic" approaches mentioned by Jarle remains unresolved, because ultimately the decision resides with what the photographer believes to be right or wrong. So much of our decision to frame, freeze and fix a moment in space and time depends not only on context, but also on our motivation for being there in the first place.
December 01, 2008 in altered images, camera flash, digital cameras, digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digitally altered pictures, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, national press photographers association, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, photographic ritual, photography, photography and history, Photography and society, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Sometimes there needs to be a distinction between what people believe to be an ethical decision and a matter of taste. There are lots of disturbing images that may be distasteful to some, but not unethical to run in a newspaper or online. Cultural values and taste, not ethics, increasingly play a significant role in the decisions being made today about what picture see the light of day.
There is a tremendous amount of self-censorship going on in the news today. Many papers will not run disturbing images, not because they are afraid to tell the truth, but simply because of the push-back they get from advertisers and the public.
More than 70 percent of Americans feel they no longer can trust the news they get; and, they can't trust the pictures they see either. Reaction to this reality from editors is to be extremely cautious about running anything that might offend someone, especially advertisers. It wasn't always this way. Editors have been pushed into a corner in terms of how decisions to run controversial images are handled. I imagine that even a "corporate suit" or lawyer may be consulted before a picture is used today.
The impact of poorly made decisions -- ethical ones -- comes down to perception. The currency of journalism has to be believability, creditability and legitimacy. Without creditability the line between what you see in the National Enquirer and what you see in the New York Times is blurred. If you can't believe what you see in the New York Times, why believe anything at all?
One really good example of ethical principle related to the positioning and placement of graphic images is how newspapers around the world handled a graphic picture of the 2004 Madrid bombing.
What I really like about this example iof ethical-decision making is how so many newspapers came up with different choices in terms of how to display the image. In some papers you can clearly see a severed limb. Is this unethical? Who is to say what "ought to be" here? What is right and what is wrong about displaying the picture as a moment of truth. This is the reality -- 192 people were killed on the train and bodies were blown to pieces. In other images, editors decided to make radical crops to avoid showing the limb. The editors were probably using the old "breakfast test" here -- a logic that believes that nothing put the front page should make people lose their breakfast over. Is the crop unethical in the sense that they are hiding the bloody truth from readers?
We could look at this from any number of ethical perspectives, including what's in the best interest of the public, what is in the best interest of the advertisers, what is in the best interest of the publishers, or what is in the best interest of the victims of the bombing. Where do our loyalties lie in running such a disturbing image? What are the consequences of running it? Is it right or wrong to run such a picture? Clearly, all these editors had differing opinions on this issue and we can see them for ourselves here.
In others cases, editors chose have the image altered or deleted from the frame. To falsify an image by removing an element is, by all photojournalistic standards, unethical. It is unethical because it is a deception. The strange thing about this type of logic is that even though the paper is lying to its readers, it still expects to be believed as a creditable source of information. The editors might argue how the bloody limb does not really contribute all that much to the story, or they might say they were afraid to offend readers. Even if the limb was not deleted from the scene, some editor opted to darken the limb in order to make it blend in with the background. With headlines reading "Massacre" and "Platform of Death," this type of manipulation makes the display almost ironic. Is toning an image to make it more acceptable unethical? Some editors would say it is. In 2003, Patrick Schneider of the Charlotte Observer was fired over manipulating the color in some of his award-winning pictures. It appears, then, that tolerance for any type of manipulation has become more rigid in this digital age.
Are there any clear guidelines for editors in these situations? How should newspapers and Web sites deal with graphic images -- images that might offend viewers? Making ethical decisions in journalism is a critical responsibility of the press. The public deserves a press that is consistently honest and ethically principled. Having an on-call citizenship committee of peers and the public to help editors decide what people might perceive as right or wrong about using a disturbing image is a good idea. Some publications do have such committees to call upon. Further, communicating with the public about the ethics of using such images is also an important issue. Journalists need to educate the public about their responsibilities as eye-witnesses to acts of great compassion as well as acts of terrible injustice. Today, much of the corporate/consolidated media, however, avoids such accountability when. Therefore, it is no wonder the public has lost confidence in the press when it comes down to making decisions that require insight, empathy, and ethical reasoning.
November 11, 2008 in altered images, digital literacy, Fair Use , images of violence, media accountability, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, photography, photography and history, Photography and society, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Press Freedom, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Pictures have weight -- sometimes they crush. The social function of news images reside not only
in their capacity to inform, but also in their ability to entertain. In our increasingly visual culture, pictures must draw and hold the viewer's attention. Perhaps it is for this reason that editors believe pictures must be packaged and repackaged for us.
The social function of news images is grounded in the rhetoric of persuasion. Just as a lawyer may seek to sway a jury to his or her side of an argument, a picture, through its variety of visual cues, establishes a context of understanding that shapes perception and constructs a sense of reality.
"Mr. Clemens" -- the subject -- the sign -- in soft-focus foregrounding leads the eye upward to a carefully framed center of Mr. Clemens.
Pictures, as David Fleming (1996) eloquently contends, cannot be in and of themselves seen as arguments, but inevitably they seem to be able to cause a few.
The pictures freezes, frames and fixes in our memory a moment in time that can conjure up other memories. With the stoppage of time the persuasive determinacy of the picture emerges. Pictures may be a species of rhetoric, as Susan Sontag (2003) claims, for the very real sense that they appear before us as rational and orderly entities of time.
In this case, Clemens' testimony before Congress on steroid use may bring to mind other high-profile hearings such as in Iran-Contra with Oliver North or Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas' appointment to the Supreme Court. The low camera angle is iconic in that it produces a recognizable perception in which the subject is made to appear larger-than-life.
The camera angle is not trivial or a trick since it modifies our sense of a normal eye-line match. In other words, speaking in terms of grammar, the camera angle acts like an adverb -- it modifies the subject. Further, the sign, in this case, "Mr. Clemens," is indexical and points toward formality, courtesy and solemnity. The gesture is wholly symbolic. Clemens' look away from those questioning him, his raised hand suggesting defense. In addition, the essential framing of Clemens with his pseudo-archangelic lawyers. The gestures of Clemens' lawyers speak louder than words. Here we have the million-dollar pitcher in the proverbial "hot seat" and is million-dollar lawyers act as his intellectual bodyguards.
As mentioned earlier, news images function to both inform and entertain, but the real objective of making pictures is to make us think. Any object in the world, and pictures are objects, that can make us think about bigger ideas and issues can't be all that bad. We shouldn't have to settle for someone else's interpretation of the world if what is represented only serves to reinforce a status quo. The ultimate objective of a news image should not only be to serve us a preconceived packaged reality, but to wrestle with convention and conscience.
Recently, this point was brought home on the Magnum photo site when Christopher Anderson's bare-bulb approach to photographing presidential candidate Mitt Romney came under fire from some viewers. Anderson's approach was the "anti-photo op." Tired of making the same stale and banal images that most of the press pack gets of the candidates, Anderson blasted Romney through what appears to be a rain-splattered lens.
Click to go to Magnum's Picture of the Week
In his defense Anderson commented:
These events are rather ridiculous. they are staged and repetitive....It was a conscious decision to flash with this technique. It is as if throwing too much light on it might somehow expose these campaign photo ops for what the really are. The designers of these events want us to make a pretty picture. but a pretty picture to me felt like something that would be false to this event. I almost thought of the flash as being like an xray that would reveal what I really see at an event like this.
Anderson brings up one of the biggest challenges faces photojournalism today -- mediocrity. If news images do not seek to edify they run risk of becoming nothing more than someone else's spin. What we are tasked with here is to understand the relationship between the art of making news pictures and the larger implications of how these pictures function in society.
February 18, 2008 in Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, photography and history, Photography and society, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, propaganda, semiotics, signification, teaching, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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In our rush to adopt new skill sets in photojournalism -- that is, adding video, audio and the web to our bag of tricks -- we sometimes miss the point that whatever we do, we are still telling stories.
Richard Koci Hernandez's new book "Multimedia Journal" inspires photojournalists to explore the rich and layered world of multimedia in compelling ways. The idea for the book came after nearly a year's worth of conference presentations across the country about how the San Jose Mercury News photojournalists are generating multimedia stories for the Web. Koci Hernandez explained that many journalists expressed fear and reservations about using new technologies to tell stories.
"From top to bottom there is a huge debilitating fear about multimeda and video," he said.
In his book, which features more than 50 exercises, Koci Hernandez explores ways for journalists to tap into their creative energies and translate stories through words and images in new and dynamic ways. One thing he discovered during his travels was that many journalists were afraid to think of themselves as artists. However, in his approach to teaching multimedia, Koci Hernandez tries to convince people that they can still tell stories effectively and be creative at the same time.
From the traditional perspective, he says, "It’s like trying to paint with the same brush with the same color all the time."
"Journalists are afraid to fail and they never want to feel like their approach was wrong. I think that right now is the most exciting time in journalism ever.
"We have an opportunity to do things in ways that we never had before. If people don’t seize the opportunity we are going to miss out," Koci Hernandez said.
For photojournalists, multimedia can re-energize them and make them better journalists,
"What multimedia does is make you think in a longer format. It makes you ask more questions and makes you slow down more," he said.
"It has made my storytelling better. The words "creative" and "artist" are being infused into my work."
"Previously all we had as a journalist was the printed page – that was the only vehicle we had – and we did try to make emotional connections. But now, the platform has completely changed," Koci Hernandez said.
Marcus Bleasdale/VII on Media Storm
Recenlty, I showed some of the multimedia journalism being produced and presented by Brian Storm at the MediaStorm Web site. Halfway through a slideshow on drug abuse one student got up to leave the room. I stopped the presentation in anticipation of such a strong response as a way of emphasizing how important the work being presented online is becoming. One question that was raised in class, was why we don't see this sort of work on television, especially cable. On cable television there is no shortage of violence or sex, but when it's real and presented in both still and video, with a photojournalist's voice narrating the story the message is different. Many of the projects one might watch on MediaStorm fail to be commercially viable. The content is either too close-to-the-bone disturbing or it doesn't appeal to the wider target audiences commercial interest covet.
Marcus Bleasdale's recent work on Media Storm about the Democratic Republic of Congo is a case in point. If we didn't know or care about what is happening to this African nation before Bleasdale's voice and pictures, it's time we did. Advocacy photojournalism has a strong tradition in our culture and there is no reason why it should go away, even if every thing seems to be about making money and consumption. The main reason why so many people go into photojournalism is that they can tell stories that make other people care.
Bleasdale's photography wrenches reality into our consciousness in ways other media cannot do. The images speak to the powerlessness of a people, especially the children, that are forced into lives of desperation and despair so that leaders in government and the warlords can reap enormous profits. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 5 million have died in the DRC since 1998. The country seems to be feeding off its own flesh, yet international outrage about the conditions there seldom enter our world view.
January 21, 2008 in consumer culture, Current Affairs, Democratic Republic of Congo, Documentary Photography, Human Rights Watch, images of violence, Journalism, Marcus Bleasdale, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, MediaStorm, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photography and society, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, VII, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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It's more than ironic that the flap over Golfweek's controversial race-bating cover would fall around the same time our nation takes a moment to remember civil rights leader Martin Luther King. Despite the suspension of a Golf Channel announcer who made a racist comment on air, as well as the sacking of the Golfweek editor who approved the illustration above, nothing seems to escape the fact that our predominantly white-controlled media remains, at times, clueless when it comes to reproducing offensive stereotypes. Playing fast and loose with stereotypes, and in this case a visual metaphor, only serves to remind us how much work we need to do in order to come to terms with our legacy of cruelty and inhumanity toward blacks and peoples of color in this country.
From a Piercean semiotic perspective, it is possible to see the relationship between icon, index, and symbol in action as they construct meaning. The icon, a swinging noose, points toward a powerful symbol -- one that resonates memory and emotion. The visual language operates through symbolic action -- pictures trigger emotion, and emotions trigger beliefs. This explains some of the failings of Golfweek's editorial process. The editors knew they were working with a powerful symbol by selecting a noose to illustrate the TV commentator's lynching remarks, but they failed to make the deeper connections between the symbol, the emotions this symbol conjures up for people, and the belief systems behind the emotions.
I wonder what Dr. King would have to say about the controversy?
Clearly some strides toward reconcile and reform have been made since Dr. King's day, but the sad truth is that we still have a lot work to do in understanding just how powerful words and images are in shaping public perception and constructing our social reality.
January 21, 2008 in Golfweek, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, politics, Politics and Photography, signification, stereotypes, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The media, it has been said, may not tell us what to think, but it does tell us how to think about things. When the media frames a story in a particular way it also helps to shape our perceptions about an event or an issue. The recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan is no exception. Now we are learning that some media crossed the line when major networks digitally blurred the background on images showing the devastation surrounding the assassination.
Obliterating reality and censoring the truth is probably the most damaging thing the mainstream media can do to itself. It is interesting, that in a culture of violent movies and video games, the gatekeepers at the major networks felt compelled to clean up and sanitize the message before sending it out to the public. Was the self-censorship caused by a concern over offending our sensibilities or was it because the networks didn't want to rankle their corporate sponsors and possibly see a dip in their ratings? In this instance, the media is no better than any other instrument of censorship. Mano Singham observes:
Propaganda is far more effective when there is no overt control or censorship of journalists but where they can be persuaded to self-censor, because then everyone, reporters and reading public alike, think that what they are getting is 'objective' news and are thus more likely to believe it. Implementing such a sophisticated propaganda model requires some overt pressure initially, but reporters and editors quickly learn what they can and cannot say if they want to advance their careers.
It is far easily to leave all this mess behind and retreat into the chaos of our own lives, but images speak to us, especially those that are powerful enough to rock us out of the deep sleep of our day-to-day worlds.
Wonkette, the popular political buzz blog, got it right in writing about the assassination photos:
I think we see a hell of a lot of graphic fake violence at the movies, in video games and on the news and we know that it’s not real and there’s so much of it that it has lost its power to offend. But, when it comes to real violence to real people, we all turn away and thus make it less real than the fake violence. These are pictures of real violence, and of the horrible things people all over the world will do to one another, and it isn’t conveyed by seeing the reaction of another person. This look of this man’s pain, and shock, and horror doesn’t do justice to the carnage at his feet, even as real as that pain on his face is.
Emotional images such as those made in Pakistan should make us stop, drop, and roll, as if we were on fire. However, when exposed to such pictures from around the world, especially given the feeling that the media is holding back the reality from us, all we are left is a sense of powerlessness, disdain, and apathy.
The pictures showing graphic violence and the extermination of human life should lead us to action. But what action can we take to make sense of the senseless bloodshed in the world? Should we take to the streets, march on Washington, gather in communities to discuss alternatives, or come together in other acts of non-violent protest? Will our elected representatives really listen to our concerns?
Pictures, have throughout history, helped to move humanity into action. The dead at Gettysburg, the squaller of 19th century tenement life, child labor, and the dust bowl, are all example of pictures that help to raise awareness about issues.
Today, unfortunately, I am not confident this holds true. How many pictures of starving African babies do we need to see before we feel pressed into action to stop the madness? Now we are presented an image, one that is being sanitized for our protection, of a man crying out in grief and shock in the middle of a sea of blood and bodies. Will this picture soften our hearts and make us work for peace in the world. Inevitably, some people that truly feel the pain of this man and his country enough to take action, but what of the majority?
I return to the image of the distraught man repeatedly not out of repulsion or morbid interest, but out of fear. I fear that the day will come, or has already come if you think about 9/11 or incidents of school violence, that I too could be this man. That this man is already inside me.
The reality of the media sanitizing our news should be another wakeup call -- we should care -- we must care -- about the images we see. We must recognize that these images form a constellation of points on our horizons -- they create for us the conditions of knowing we need in order to make decisions about our lives and the world in which we live.
January 02, 2008 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, images of violence, Journalism, media accountability, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, pakistan, photo digital manipulation, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, Political pictures, Politics and Photography, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photo Credit: Jim Young/Reuters
In a political cycle of relentless photo-ops, countless handshakes, hugs and flag-waving hoopla, it is refreshing to see beyond the candidates to the more human side of life. Young's picture, showing two tired children holding campaign signs in Winterset, Iowa on December 22, offers some comic relief at a time when everything we see and hear out of Iowa or New Hampshire these days seems to little more than create more apathy toward the political process. Thousands of images are transmitted to news organizations each day, but what do they really say about a candidate?
One assumption is that the pictures say very little about the candidate's ability to lead a nation. Instead, what most of the images represent are more about the what the campaigns and media thinks the audience wants to see. At times, there is a glimpse of a human side of a candidate, but for the overwhelming majority of pictures just tastes like a spoonful of cold canned peas. The candidates attempt to project and protect his or her political image, something often proscribed by media handlers. The media, for their part, dutifully carry the message and image, out in the public domain. But increasingly, the message lands flat or is met with incredulity and suspicion.
Pictures frame, freeze and fix a moment in time -- a moment, which has traditionally been grated a lot of credit as a faithful representation of reality and truth. In a political climate where there seems to be more similarities than differences between those seeking power in this country, pictures become a form of mind-numbing anesthesia.
The same thing could be said for other events. How many images have we seen now of President Bush visiting the hospital beds of soldiers injured in Iraq. Is there anything significant in Bush's patting the head of a bed-ridden Army Sgt. John Wayne Cornell of Lansing, Mich., and posing for a photo-op?
Photo Credit: White House
One way of looking at the image is that president would like us to see how much he really cares about the soldiers fighting in the Middle East. Another way of looking at the picture is as propaganda: Go to Iraq, get hurt, get a pat on the head from the Commander-In-Chief.
It's hard not to be a little disrespectful or cynical at times when photo-ops masquerade as reality. In fact, this critique should not be viewed as another Bush-bashing ploy. It doesn't matter who's in office -- the response, and the pictures that represent the response, are almost always predictable.
December 26, 2007 in Barack Obama, Current Affairs, digital literacy, George W. Bush, humor, Iraq, Iraq War, Journalism, media accountability, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, President Bush, presidential campaign, propaganda, Reuters, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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This year, in a refreshing way, you won't find any pictures of a sports super hero dancing into the end zone, nor will you find pictures of the baseball steroids scandal gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated's Pictures of the Year issue.
Instead, the popular sports magazine captures the true spirit of sport -- the jubilation of a college football player in a moment of great joy.
Photo Credit: John Russell/AP
Russell's image of Carroll University junior linebacker Brandon Day celebrating in the mud after his team won the NAIA football championship recently is a perfect example of a decisive moment. Everything, all the game action leading up Russell's picture seems inconsequential. Not only is the moment decisive, but it is also iconic. In 1979 and 1980, tennis great Bjorn Borg went to his knees after celebrating wins at Wimbledon, and in 1999, Brandi Chastain dropped to her knees with her shirt off in celebration of the Women Soccer World Cup victory of China.
What separates these moments, as well as firmly etches them in our collective memories, is the physical gesture of kneeling. The emotional association between kneeling in victory and praying cannot be missed or understated. This is what this genre of sports photography is all about -- capturing quintessential and universal gestures that every audience can relate to. Kneeling, according to a 1912 article on medieval hymns in the New York Times, was a "manifestation of the emotions..." One picture editor's "nice jubi" is another person's quaint and self-sacrificial gesture. Editors know that what makes people respond most are pictures that stir human emotions. That's why pictures of animals and children are perennial favorites with audiences.
It's not surprising that Russell's image would strike a chord with the SI editors. Many of the classic visual tropes that trigger an emotional appeal are clearly present -- mud, rain, pumping fists and bended knee.
People respond to not only context, but also aesthetic content. In this case, what the makes the picture significant is not necessarily Carroll's victory in the NAIA championships, but the universal emotional connections made between victory and sport.
December 19, 2007 in Associated Press, Dennis Dunleavy, digital media and teaching, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, pictures of the year, sports photography, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photo Credits: Jim Cole/AP, Jose Luis Magana/AP
What can we learn from looking at pictures? The signification of these two recent images of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is striking. On the left, we see a close-up of Clinton caught in a "real" and unflattering moment, while on the right, we get what one might expect from most media managed events -- the santized moment, flags, the powerful gesture.
Human beings are symbol-making animals. We use symbols to make sense of the world and photographs increasingly contribute to meaning and consciousness. When we think of objects, ideas, and constructs, our brain transforms these things into symbols so that we can share our experiences with others. Symbols connect us through language. When we use the words such as reality, love, peace, justice, terror, poverty, pride, or patriotism, images come to mind – images associated through convention with the words we choose to describe our every day experiences. Kenneth Burke reminds us that when we think of reality, what we are relying on has been built up for us through our “symbol systems.” Burke observes, “What is our ‘reality’ for today (beyond the paper-thin line of our own particular lives) but all this clutter of symbols about the past combined with whatever things we know mainly through maps, magazines, newspapers, and the like about the present?”
When we view an image in the media we are given to substituting the meaning of the image with something connotative and symbolic. A presidential candidate stands before a giant American flag, which in turn produces a symbolic relationship. The candidate is by proximity of the flag immediately associated with notions of patriotism, loyalty, duty, public service and sacrifice. The flag is reduces to a backdrop – a symbol that condenses and naturalizes how the viewer should look upon the candidate. Symbolicity is emphasized through the shape, size and colors of the flag. Burke may argue that the language (words) used to describe this scene act as a sort of screen or filter on meaning.
Many years ago, in a cathedral in Texas, there was a wall covered with pictures and petitions from the faithful. The first Gulf War was underway and people used the wall as a commonplace for pictures of loved ones, alive and deceased – a symbolic collective prayer. Images hold within their frames many symbols.
Looking again at the variety of images made during Hillary Clinton's campaign stops, it is hard not to imagine the intensity and determination of the candidates as they are beseiged under the glare of the media. At the same time, we are inudated by "the clutter" of symbols and struggle to understand and draw meaning from one picture to the next.
December 15, 2007 in Campaign pictures, consumer culture, Current Affairs, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, media accountability, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Photoblogging, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Can you tell if this picture was digitally altered?
In it's second year, the annual survey on digital photo manipulation seeks the participation of photojournalists and photographers, professionals and enthusiasts, from around the world to help us understand how attitudes toward digitally altered images may be changing.
Last year, more than 745 respondents participated in the annual survey on digital photo manipulation. Part of the study seeks to clarify how photographers define photo manipulation and another part explores how attitudes toward image altering my be changing over time. The study is part of a long-term evaluation of attitudes people have toward accepting digitally altered images in the media and elsewhere.
For example when asked, "I can tell when a photograph has been digitally altered," 42 percent of respondents (n=738) agreed or strongly agreed that they could tell the difference last year. However, 58 percent either disagreed or were undecided about whether they could tell a picture has been altered. Could it be possible that over time, given advances in image editing software, more people will be unable to tell. The survey encourages the participation of both professionals and amateurs photographers and explores other issues such as if it is okay for images of Hollywood celebrities to be altered but not okay for images of politicians.
In terms of defining what constitutes digital photo manipulation four questions were presented:
1) I define photo digital manipulation as changes to the content of a picture after it is made through electronic means.
2) I define photo digital manipulation as a process that helps to make the picture better aesthetically.
3) I define photo digital manipulation as a process that helps to make the objects in the picture more visually interesting.
4) I define photo digital manipulation as a process that changes the content of a picture by adding or removing visual elements from the original.
Other areas worthy of tracking over a long period of time include how photo digital manipulation is defined and whether the issue remains important in the public sphere.
More than 87 percent of respondents agreed to define photo digital manipulation as changes to the content of an image through electronic means, while 44.9 percent believed it to be process that helps to make the objects in the picture more visually interesting. When asked if photo digital manipulation helps to make the picture better aesthetically, 37. 8 percent disagreed, 23 percent had no opinion, and 38 percent showed agreement. In the last question, "I define photo digital manipulation as a process that changes the content of a picture by adding or removing visual elements from the original," more than 85 percent expressed agreement with the statement.
Although these results do not reflect any true surprises, it is important to help clarify how people define the terms they use to describe phenomena. When polled about whether participants feel photo digital manipulation is an increasingly important issue in society today, more than 85 percent agreed that it was.
(Answer: Nothing was altered on the picture above, but it sure looks like it could be. I made this picture at a home leisure booth at a county fair and there were a lot of odd things around the girl taking a nap.)
December 13, 2007 in digital cameras, digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digital media_, digitally altered pictures, observation, photo digital manipulation, photo digital manipulation survey, photo fakery, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Since August of 2006, I have been collecting responses from readers concerning attitudes toward photo digital manipulation.
In order to sample changing attitudes over time, I am relaunching the survey and will begin to compare results. Anyone can take the survey and all participation is voluntary, confidential, and anonymous. For instance, a respondent's IP address is not stored in the survey results, which protects the identity of the individual to some extent.
The intention of the survey is to understand the way people think about digital manipulation over time. In 2006, more than 735 people weighed in on the issue. One of the questions I would like to track is whether or not people can tell if a picture has been manipulated. Many people believed they could. Is that claim still true a year later? Let's find out.
November 27, 2007 in digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digital media_, digitally altered pictures, Journalism, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, new technologies, photo digital manipulation, photo digital manipulation survey, photo fakery, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photo Credit: Lauren Victoria Burke/AP
There are poignant moments in the life of a politician which become iconic -- even if it is for a moment -- a moment before it fades from public consciousness.
Each day photojournalists seek out images of the powerful, and even the not so powerful -- images that tell stories beyond the typical sound byte and the banal rhetoric of politics.
Even though this image was made more than a month ago, it has been given legs again because of Lott's decision to resign his seat in the Senate before the end of the year. Lott, the Republican Senate Minority Whip from Mississippi, is ending a 35-year-long career in Congress and plans to start a new career as a lobbyist.
The image was made by the Associated Press on Capitol Hill on Oct. 24, 2007, after the Senate confirmed Judge Leslie Southwick to the federal appeals court in Mississippi. The picture was also used by the Washington Post.
November 26, 2007 in Associated Press, Dennis Dunleavy, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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James Estrin's coverage of the life of Jeffrey Deskovic, a man vindicated by a DNA test in a rape case, epitomizes the importance of journalism in American society. Estrin's images are thoughtfully layered with bits of information or cues about a world Deskovic has stepped back into after 16 years in prison.
What makes Estrin's photography so powerful is the ability to capture, with great patience and detail, the moral and emotional complexities of one man's struggle to persevere despite the hardships he has endured. There are no camera gimmicks -- chopped up frames and off-kilter horizons -- in Estrin's work. There's no reason to employ anything less than straight up visual reporting -- the sort of work that takes a lot of time and understanding to complete. Estrin does not appear to try to make something more than what he sees as an eyewitness to the human condition. There is value to his work because it comes across as compelling and insightful.
In Estrin's frame we see Deskovic riding the subway, head down, fingers barely grasping the support above him. To the right, there are two couples -- one kissing, and the other, appearing to be looking down at Deskovic. What does such a scene signify? Are we to infer that the image represents or symbolizes, in some important way, a lost soul trying to make sense out of a shattered existence?
We look toward the image as proof that what we hear and read or even see for yourselves is true. The signification of a human life, however, can rarely be captured in one frame. The frame is just one moment among countless moments. But nevertheless, there it is -- life -- 1/60th of a second -- in a subway car -- in one of the biggest cities in the world. It is easy to underestimate the commitment journalists like Estrin engage in to share such stories with others.
You can read the NY Times story here.
An interactive feature on exonerated prisoners can also be found here.
November 25, 2007 in photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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For nearly 19 months, the has held Bilal Hussein, right, an Iraqi Associated Press photographer, in detention for allededly taking part in insurgent activities, including making bombs.
Hussein, who was seized by the military in April of 2006, is now caught in a battle not only for his freedom, but for the rights of a free press. The government alleges that Hussein had links to terrorists and that an Iraqi court to decide his fate. AP, meanwhile, feels they have sufficient evidence to counter the allegations.
The ramifications of Hussein's trial will be far-reaching. At issue here, beyond the photographer's life and livelihood, is how the U.S. press has become so extraordinarily dependent upon native in-country staffers and stringers for its news. It's not clear how well Americans really understand how much of the news is actually produced by foreign journalists. Typically, wire services, in places like Iraq, have to outsource their news gathering capabilities, especially photojournalism, to people with better command of the language and the culture.
The at the core of this issue is one of trust and credibility. In August 2006, for instance, Reuters discovered that one of its stringers, Adnan Hajj, had manipulated images during the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in Lebannon. The Hajj incident has had the effect of placing doubt in the minds of an already skeptical public about the authenticity and credibility of the news we receive from overseas. Utlimately, it is hoped that justice and truth will prevail -- however, in times of war -- both of these ideals are at risk when power and politics are at stake.
November 21, 2007 in Associated Press, Dennis Dunleavy, First Amendment, Iraq, Iraq War, Israeli Lebanon conflict, Journalism, Lebanon, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Politics and Photography, Press Freedom, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photo Credit: AP via As-Sahab
It appears that Osama bin Laden's propagandists have been taking some Photoshop lessons lately.
Typically, over the past few years, Bin Laden's screen shots have been less than aesthetically interesting or eye-catching.
Now, as the extremist continues his war of words against all-things capitalistic, especially America, there's someone cleaning up his image, complete with feathered knock-outs and dynamic new background colors. Instead of bin Laden's usual mountain gorilla look, his publicists are now busy photoshopping him to appear other-worldly and prophet-ish.
In some ways, it might be concluded that either bin Laden's stature among his followers is gaining ground, or that his political operatives are finding it increasingly necessary to elevate him through visual representations that make him appear more holy and dignified. Either way, it is curious to consider the sophistication of techniques used to sway opinion and project an increasingly mythic and metaphorical likeness of the figure over time.
October 29, 2007 in Current Affairs, digitally altered pictures, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Osama Bin Laden, photo collage, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Rob Pegoraro, a Washington Post technology columnist, has some words to say about how innovations in digital photography is making it increasingly easier to make pictures that look better than reality.
The author contends that some of the new digital cameras on the market today can automatically correct problems that used to take more time and more skill to accomplish. Basically, modern cameras have digital deception built into them.
We now have available to us automatic "portrait enhancers", "slimming modes," and "red-eye reducers." For Pegoraro, "This kind of photo fakery ..... also fits in with the overall evolution of digital cameras."
From a sociological perspective, contemporary culture -- one that seeks out ideal notions of beauty, compulsive perfectionism and an appetite for self-indulgence -- has created a demand for such feel-good contrivances. We are now capable of creating new likenesses that differ from reality. We can create and maintain resemblances that might makes us appear slimmer and younger may improve how we feel about ourselves, but in reality it's all about the smoke and mirrors of digital bits and bytes.
October 11, 2007 in photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Techpresident.com, a blog tracking the online activities of presidential wannabees, offers a glimpse into how the social web is increasingly influencing the political process in this country.
One fascinating aspect to this site is a space dedicated to pictures using the Flickr photo-sharing site. If a picture is tagged with a candidates name, Techpresident links to it. In other words, if you are a campaign rally, all the images you upload to Flickr could have the potential to influence public perception of a candidate. It's a new twist on spin from stumpurbia.
What makes this site significant is how it is using the phrase "Votojournalism" to refer to citizen photojournalism. As the site explains:
'We call it "votojournalism" because it is a prime example of voter generated content, photojournalism by the people."
According to the corporate web consultancy firm iDionome, votojournalism is “The excellent portmanteau of Voter and Photojournalism, for voter-generated content where users post pictures of the candidates on the campaign trail, online.”
Techpresident's pitch offers an alternative to the professional spin applied to typical media coverage of a candidate's life during a campaign. As the pitch reads:
"You'll find lots of candid shots here, including those of people attending campaign events, along with the presidentials in sometimes unguarded moments."
The reach of the media spotlight on candidates is now expanding exponentially with the possibilities of the Internet and the social web. Anyone with a camera phone is potentially a "votojournalist", looking to catch that one decisive "tell-all" moment that may influence a candidate's chances to become president.
Although this activity may be beneficial for democracy -- now have more "eyes" than ever before scrutinizing the political process -- we also must be careful not to fall for the redactive nature of photography. The concern here is that the torrent of images we have to deal with on a daily basis tends to reduce complex events into bytes and bits. In turn, an unvetted and relentless stream of images appears intimidating and overwhelming for many people to process. Or, in other words, our visual memory banks is in danger of running over. Votojournalism, then, is creating another visual memory stream for people to contend with in the complex history of the political process. Our visual memory of events is altered by a relentless stream of image -- images that simplify and reduce the complexities of our times to an informational/representational system that appears increasingly biased and unvetted.
October 05, 2007 in Campaign pictures, Citizen journalism, consumer culture, Copyright, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digital media_, digitally altered pictures, elections, Journalism, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, mini-digital video, Mobile Journalists, moblogging, new technologies, photo digital manipulation, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, point and shoot cameras, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, propaganda, public domain, public journalism, techpresident, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, votojournalism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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There's a great deal of concern in the media these days about the power to deceive readers through the manipulation of news images. Sherry Ricchiarrdi writes in a recent American Journalism Review article, "Thanks to Photoshop, it’s awfully easy to manipulate photographs, as a number of recent scandals make painfully clear. Misuse of the technology poses a serious threat to photojournalism’s credibility."
We tend to think of the problem as one that has mostly occurred in the U.S., but that just doesn't make sense. Media has gone global, and with it so too do all the problems of a digital age.
Recently, France has been dealing with a media scandal involving the retouching of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's picture showing him on vacation in the United States. The scandal has set off a debate about the president's close ties to the publisher of one of the country's most influential newspapers, Paris Match.
What would make a newspaper manipulate a picture like this? Can it be that the editors decided that the people of France weren't quite ready to see their new president hauling around a few extra pounds? Or, did the editors decide that it was easier to remove a little excess flab than it would be to deal with falling out of favor with the most powerful people in the country? Did the editors get a call from their owner telling them not to make Sarkozy look bad -- that there was an image to uphold and that it was important to show the president looking healthy and active?
The truth may actually be much more complicated than simply removing elements from a picture.
Like its U.S. counterparts, French media is taking a hit these days in terms of public confidence over its responsibility to reporting what they see and hear -- not what they think people want to see and hear.
Thomas Seymat, a former student from France, explains that the newspaper has been defending itself against charges of photo digital manipulation by claiming that they had done no wrong. Editors claim that the picture made the president look heavier than he actually is because of the camera angle, cast shadows, and poor printing technique.
"The thing that makes the story more scandalous is that it is not the first time that something like this has happened with this newspaper. Last year, Paris Match put in front page a photo of Cecilia Sarkozy (Not yet France's first lady) with her lover, in the street of NYC. The editor in chief of Paris Match was fired shortly after, the unofficial reason being that the owner of the newspaper is a very intimate friend of Nicolas Sarkozy. Arnaud Lagardere, a major share-holder of Paris Match, even publicly called him [Sarkozy] "my brother").... which only illustrates once again that collusion between politicians and the press is threatening its freedom and reliability."
The Paris Match controversy demonstrates once again the power of images in the construction and shaping of public perception. However, when the truth is finally discovered what we are left with is a feeling that pictures aren't the only things being manipulated here. Over all, there is a heightened public awareness of the media's power over us. The silver lining to all of this, is that with all of the scandals over digital manipulation in the press these days, people are become better consumers of information. We are learning not to trust everything we see, which may seem unfortunate on the surface. However, in the long run, understanding the relationship between what we see and what we know benefits everyone.
In a recent survey respondents were asked if "it's okay for the media to digitally alter pictures of celebrities to make them look healthier, younger, or thinner. More than 85 percent disagree or strongly disagree that it is wrong.
Even if this all seems to be a matter of common sense, the nagging reality is that the number of incidents related to digital photo manipulation doesn't seem to be on the decline. Therefore, in order to survive in a digital age, we must become more sophisticated visual communicators -- more digitally literate. We must learn to call upon the media to never violate the social contract it builds with its public, as a force outside the reach of self-interests and party politics.
August 28, 2007 in altered images, consumer culture, Current Affairs, digital literacy, digitally altered pictures, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, nicolas sarkozy, paris match photo manipulation, photo collage, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, Press Freedom, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Credit: Carnegie Mellon Graphics
Photography and the Dark Arts? Look out Harry Potter.
James Hays and Jexei Efros are really smart people. Hays and Efros, computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon, report they have invented a whole new way of patching up pictures by "borrowing" pieces of other pictures from the web. They call the method "scene completion", but others will differ them, especially when it comes to how the "scene" gets completed -- by taking content from other pictures off the web.
Credit: Carnegie Mellon Graphics
Scene Completion Using Millions of Photographs
By using the data base of the World Web, with millions of images to pick from, Hays and Efros, have figured out that they can splice slices of reality in a seamless process that differ from previous methods.
The interesting point here is how science, which seeks to solve a problem, often complicates and creates even more problems.
As the image engineers explain:
"Our chief insight is that while the space of images is effectively infinite, the space of semantically differentiable scenes is actually not that large. For many image completion tasks we are able to find similar scenes which contain image fragments that will convincingly complete the image. Our algorithm is entirely data-driven, requiring no annotations or labeling by the user. Unlike existing image completion methods, our algorithm can generate a diverse set of image completions and we allow users to select among them. We demonstrate the superiority of our algorithm over existing image completion approaches."
To their credit, Hays and Efros, have just moved electronic photo manipulation to a whole new level -- they have given the photo industry a bigger gun in which to pass off composites, fakes, and illustrations as wondrous illusions of reality. Not that photography hasn't been dealing with these issues since its inception. It is just that this new process contributes to already growing ways in which digital shenanigans get passed off as "truthful" representations of reality. I can see the Pentagon, politicians, advertising industry, and even more conventional mainstream news operations clamoring for the software. It's all part of the slippery slope of image production in the 21th Century.
Not only are the possibilities of digital manipulation so much greater with this process, there is also the very big question as to what will constitute copyright infringement. Even if Hays and Efros use 1/1,000,000 th of a picture made by someone else, even if they borrow a few pixels here and there without asking permission or paying the owner for that 1/1,000,000th, would they be infringing on someone's copyright? What is fair use when there's a program out scanning images on the web in order to make a whole new image?
It should not come as no great surprise that science would eventually figure out a way to semantically and seamlessly reconstruct images. We already have these processes in place.
However, the implications of this new method add fuel to the already burning argument that pictures could never be trusted as faithful reflections of reality. What you get is not what was seen, but rather only a few pixels here and there of possibly millions of other images.
Thanks to Daniel Sato for the inspiration and the link.
August 22, 2007 in altered images, consumer culture, Copyright, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, digital literacy, digitally altered pictures, Fair Use , intellectual property, Internet Learning, James Hays, Journalism, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, new technologies, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, scene completion, signification, technology, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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A few weeks back, in my High School Journalism Workshop, I had a student who made images that inspire me to think more carefully about how young people see the world differently than I do. In particular, I think young photographers have a different perspective on how we should consider the relationships we have with our subjects.
Atiana's images are complex because they speak to something that often is ignored or underestimated in the discourse about the role of photography and society. Atiana's images seem to confront, honestly and naturally, the role of "self" in the picture making process.
There is no escaping the reading of this picture (above) as an image of a child's quirky expression. However, this is also a self-portrait of Atiana with her family.
The layering and juxtaposition of "self" against a tightly composed frame of the "other" makes me think how much of the photographer comes out in the image -- visible or invisible.
In fact, every image we make has as much to do with our own sense of place in the world -- our own sense of "self" -- as it does with the subjects we choose to capture.
Interestingly, much of what we consider the "best" photography seems to attempt to avoid any overt display of conscious of "self" in the process of constructing an image. There is this feeling that the subject must be somehow "out there" and not "in here" -- referring to how the camera tries to act as an omniscient eye on the world. The camera is often used as a tool to distance ourselves from the reality we are trying to capture. The emotions we desperately attempt to convey are therefore not our own but those of the subject, victim, or object of desire.
When young people are learning to make images, it is clear that there is a lot more sense of self in the pictures than when compared to someone who has been around a while.
The young look to photography as an exploration of who they are in the world -- they have yet to comprehend fully the aesthetics how the outside world is formally framed by the conventions of art and culture. What we get to see, then, is a rare and refreshing perspective of the photographer as who they are in relationship to their environments and experiences. What we get to see is a reflection, in this case literally, of the photographer as interloper and trespasser on time -- the stealing of moments and the capturing of fleeting whimsy. At the same time, we also get the sense that the picture also speaks directly to the discovery of "self" in an innocent and refreshing way.
August 22, 2007 in photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, Social Web, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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What do leggy women, newspapers, and sexual attraction have in common?
Editor & Publisher, the newspaper industry's leading trade publication, may need a little sensitivity training these days after people concerned with the objectification of women take a look at their latest promotion.
In an announcement for a photo contest, the organization ran an ad (see above) that can read in several different ways. Signification is the process of making sense of the things we see by interrogating the visual cues and associations represented. What we have here are faceless women, sets of legs, and newspapers without pictures.
The image is accompanied by the headline, "Papers without pictures just aren't very sexy." The associations implied suggest a relationship between newspaper photos, women and sex. We can assume that the people who approved such an advertisement were probably male, although it is hard to say with any assurance.
August 21, 2007 in consumer culture, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, editor & publisher, Education, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, semiotics, sexual identity, signification, stereotypes, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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I wrote about portfolio development more than a year ago, but I find the information still applicable to students and developing photographers. I being this up because I was recently interviewed by Dale Mayer, author of “How to Write and Design a Professional Resume to Get the Job", which will come out sometimes in the first months of next year.
Ultimately, your portfolio, resume and cover letter are what will open doors for you -- no matter how good you may believe your work to be. This about the job process as a series of stair steps you need to take with a gate blocking your entrance at each level. Once you have discovered an opportunity it is your responsibility to optimize your chances for success. No one is waiting to seek you out if you don't initiate the process with clarity and purpose.
Thoughts on Picture Editing and Student Portfolios
I have been thinking a great deal about how students put together portfolios for internships and jobs. What I have learned over the past few years is that there is perhaps no single activity more vexing and stress producing than editing a portfolio.
Emotionally and intellectually, students looking to land an internship or their first job must understand what they are up against in photojournalism today.
In a word -- competition.
Frankly, it is no secret that the number of candidates seeking internships and jobs far out number available opportunities. There is nothing particularly new about this revelation, especially for the so-called premium spots at larger and mid-sized "picture-friendly" newspapers.
However, to be more competitive there are a few things students should take to heart.
Recently, I read about a list of 25 words that can hurt your resume. According to Scott Bennett, author of "The Elements of Résumé Style" (AMACOM), potential employers are turned off when vague phrases and buzz words are used in a resume. Although we tend to think of a resume in terms of words, we can also extend the idea to images in a portfolio as well. Your portfolio, in fact, is a visual resume. Every image that weakens a portfolio through poor technique, composition or ambiguous content sends a message to the viewer.
Bennett's list of 25 words that can hurt your resume include the terms:
What this list suggests is that employers don't need you to tell them that you are a resourceful person,they want you show them that you are a resourceful person.
This works as well for images as it does for words.
My list of images that can hurt a portfolio include:
Confusing center of impact
Lack of Focus
Missing the moment
Assuming that the viewer can see what you see
Misreading the moment
Inability to tell a story with one frame
Context-driven images over impact-driving images
Images without immediacy
Images without intensity
Images without intimacy
The words and images that work in the resume or portfolio are those that shows not tell the viewer about your strengths, attributes and qualities.
For me, the power of an image is in its ability to communicate universal human meaning with immediacy, intensity and intimacy.
If you have ever been in one of my classes, you've heard all of this before so many it will make you throw up. Sorry. Consider this a refresher.
Images have to appeal emotionally and intellectually to a viewer. It is your job to figure out what these appeals mean to your audience.
As an editor, even before the cover letter is open and the CD drops accidentally on the floor, you need to know a few things.
Don't Assume Anything
Do not assume that editors are not busy people. Do not assume than an editor has been standing in the mail room all day waiting for the arrival of your portfolio.
The operative word here is that editors are people -- busy busy people. Editors have many obligations to attend to beyond opening dozens of portfolios, reviewing thousands of images and writing batches of rejection letters.
Do not assume that unless your work stands out immediately you will get any more time than just a few minutes to convince an editor that you are the real deal.
If, for some reason, an editor has to struggle to read a CD or catches grammatical errors on a cover letter, you may have lost your chance.
Do not assume that a shot gun approach to sending out work is acceptable. Do not assume that following a formula for putting together a portfolio will always work for you.
In my opinion, shotguns and formulas are less successful than those efforts which take the extra time to individualize a cover letter, resume and portfolio.
Less is more.
Editors who receive a generic mass-produced body of work with a generic few words can see this coming a mile away. Do not assume that an editor will spend a lot of time looking at your work when it is not created for their eyes, minds and hearts.
Let me repeat myself here:
Do not assume that an editor will overlook a few typos or stylistic problems in your cover letter or resume.
Do not assume that the editor is going to have a ton of time to spend with your images. Don't go there, it doesn't work.
Do not assume that it is okay to think that quantity is better than quality.
Rules of the Road
I. Be honest with yourself.
Edit your work ruthlessly, but humanely. Ask yourself why an editor would think a particular image is interesting or powerful?
Don't assume that because a bunch of people liked a particular image that it will make the final cut.
If you don't know what an editor is looking for, do your homework. Find out about the newspaper, magazine, website or other media and figure out what sorts of images they use. Is the publication big on sports, features, hard news? Does the publication run picture packages? Build your portfolio with a particular audience in mind. Do not assume that there is a one size fits all preference to editing your work. Take editing seriously. Spend the time it takes to really ask yourself some hard questions about the images you are submitting.
II. Every image you include in your portfolio should say something about who you are and speak to your strengths with integrity and truth-telling.
Your pictures should speak from your head as well as your heart.
What makes your way of seeing different from the next candidate?
Edit images down because they carry specific messages you want to send to the potential employer. Edit images because they express a particular feeling, mood, moment, and concept.
Ideas are carried by moments of truth, captured by light and arranged in time and space. If your images speak to me about your relationship to the world, to your relationship to light, to your relationship with people in time and space, then, you are communicating honestly. Your portfolio is what you have to say for yourself.
III. Understand the limitations of ambiguity in a frame.
This is a tough concept to get across to students. People read and see what they want to read and see in a frame.
People have certain tolerances for ambiguity.
The image has a moment but there are ambiguities in the frame that distract from getting a message and feeling across, then it might not be right for the final portfolio.
Even if an image appears to be busy it still can have a strong central story and focus. These images are usually layered with information. I think often of Sam Abell's famous "red bucket" image of cowboys roping cattle. Although there is a lot going on in the frame, there are few ambiguities about the message. In fact, the secret to this sort of image, what gives it legs, is that you can look at the frame a dozen times and still discover something interesting in it. Mary Ellen Mark, Susan Meiselas, Diane Arbus, Eugene Richards, Alex Webb and so many others possess the skill of editing for layers of meaning in a frame.
IV. Don't edit to the weakest frame.
If you don't have the best images in any specific category why include them?
So many students think that they have it all. We think we have to have four fantastic sports action pictures, four amazing breaking and general news images, four graphically appealing features, four of this and four of that, and then a picture story to top it all off in our portfolios.
It would be ideal if a portfolio showed excellence in all these areas, but this is not always realistic. Don't overshoot your mark. Select the media that matches your ability. If you have never had an internship before, sending your work to a major daily may be problematic.
Traditionally, portfolios have been designed to show editors that a candidate can do it all, sports, news, features, picture stories.
This may still be true to some extent, but what I think editors are really looking for today is a bit more complex.
First and foremost, your work must show technical and compositional competence. Clear focus, ability to read and capture light, movement, and the decisive moment are givens. If you have fifteen or twenty pictures in a portfolio and only six or eight images show these competencies what message are you sending to an editor? The message you are sending is that more than half your portfolio actually shows incompetence.
V. Be a people person.
I know, I know that the term "people person" is on the list of 25 word not to include in your resume, but interpersonal skills go a very long way with editors.
Being a good photographer is important, but being a good human people is even more important.
Take care that the images you select speak to who you are as a human being.
Being a "people person" means that you demonstrate a unique insight, vision and empathy for the people, places and things you photograph. I think editors are looking for individuals that are going to fit in with the established culture in the newsroom.
If the editor, by looking at your pictures and reading your cover letter and resume, gets the sense that you won't quite fit in with the culture and climate of the news organization, then your success may limited.
VI. Get good advice.
Listen, look and learn from others.
If you are looking at a particular newspaper for an internship or job, why not track down someone who has been there. It's okay to have everybody and their brother see your work and offer opinions, but the final judgment is not yours or theirs.
Understand what you need and where you want to be.
Clarify your goals and ambitions before going to the expense of burning a zillion CD-Roms or print a zillion images. Find people that have "been there and done that" and ask them for a favor. Ask people you respect to help you edit your work.
Ask people you know who have experience with hiring interns or first-time hires. Use intelligence, common sense and discretion in applying any advice to where you want to do in your life.
VII. Edit for your audience.
Do not fool yourself into thinking you know what a good image is. Everyone has a different opinion when it comes to evaluating what a "good image" is.
Understand that there are certain conventions, standards, ideals, expectations, characteristics, and attributes good images share. Do your homework to see how your images compare with others that are winning awards and getting published.
You must understand all of these aspects and then acquire a mindset and attitude that will help you make the right choices. Your job in editing your portfolio is to communicate clearly and effectively with your audience.
The audience, in this case, is the person who wants to hire you. The audience is the person who needs you, but you have to do your part.
Don't assume that just because you send them some images, that you are automatically the right fit.
If you think every image you make is "good" or that there is nothing more to learn about making pictures, then you could very well be missing the point. Not every image is a "good image."
However, what does seem to help in evaluating pictures is what I call the test of the (i)s -- Immediacy, Intensity and Intimacy.
The three (i)s can help you to evaluate various characteristics of the images you are thinking about for your portfolio.
For example, if an image as a busy background with no clear and distinct center of impact in the frame, then it is probably lacking immediacy.
Immediacy is the first level of the (i). Immediacy refers to the speed and comprehension in which meaning is conveyed in a frame. In typography and design we talk a lot about immediacy in terms of legibility and readability. In photography, these qualities translate to immediacy. Immediacy hooks the reader like a good lead on a news story. Immediacy suggests that there is a direction and trueness of course to the meaning of an image. Immediacy can also suggest importance and directness. Immediacy is about the expected response and the contract you have with your audience to communicate and convey a message.
The second level of the (i) is intensity. Intensity refers to the qualities in an image that appeal to me emotionally and intellectually. When you have immediacy in a frame with intensity the image appears contextual. A mug shot or real estate picture may have immediacy -- we get it -- this is a face -- this is a house -- but what it is missing is intensity. Intensity in a frame means there is a forcefulness of expression. Intensity means power and force. Your images should have power and force in order to communicate with your audience, the editor, clearly and immediately. Decisive moment images, especially in the context of sports action, usually have intensity. Nevertheless, every image in your edit must tell a story with some sort of intensity. The images, even in implicit and subtle ways, must have power, hold focus, or possess some degree of strength.
Finally, there is the third level (i) of evaluating images -- intimacy.
Pictures that possess immediacy and intensity usually have some impact, but what really makes images stick is intimacy. Intimacy is a feeling of closeness with what we experience in looking at a picture. It is a visual encounter that indicates a deep connection with some feeling or thoughts we have. If a picture in a portfolio has intimacy it expresses some essential and innermost feeling and brings the viewer into it. Eugene Richards makes intimate images for me, as does Mary Ellen Mark. Larry Burrows' images from Vietnam are intimate in many ways.
I do not have a tried and true formula for editing, but I do know that if images have immediacy, intensity and intimacy they will have a pretty good chance of standing out. Through the three (i)s we can let our pictures speak for not only what we do, but who we are as human beings.
A word of caution about all of this. Rubrics like my three (i)s are simply ways for organizing our thoughts and images. There are many ways to be successful at picture editing and each individual must discover what works for them over time.
The art of cover letter writing
Many students spend a lot of energy and money putting together the perfect portfolio for internships and jobs. We take hours, days and weeks to select, tweak and prepare our digital portfolios. Once they are done, we burn the images to CDs or DVDs, find an interesting internship or job to apply for, and get ready to ship. The last thing, and perhaps the least thought of element to go along with the images, is the cover letter.
People have differing philosophies about cover letters. In one camp, there are those who think that it is always the body of images that will ultimately land them an internship or job not the quality of the writing in a cover letter. There is another camp, perhaps a smaller one, that believes in the whole package. We cannot escape dealing with words when we try to pitch ourselves and our work to the world. Words and pictures must work together.
I believe that the cover letter in an integral part of how a student can best promote themselves as a journalist and as a photographer.
Obviously, grammar, style, accuracy, and all those mechanistic processes must be attended to, but it is the content and the ideas that will win people over.
Errors and sloppy sentence correction in a cover letter may not help our chances very much. At the same time, a perfectly clean, coherent, and clearly written cover letter will get us onto the dance floor. I think much of this is also dependent on the individual editor or director. How much of a difference a well-constructed cover letter will make in nailing down an internship or job depends on the integrity of the employer.
Nevertheless, writing deserves as much attention to detail and selecting and toning our images. The cover letter along with the portfolio of images is part of a promotional package that will speak for or against you in the decision-making process.
What do editors and directors of photography want to know about you that they will not find in your images?
I have never been a great fan of sending out a million portfolios all with the same letter and images. I like to personalize every letter and portfolio to match the interests of a prospective employer. Time consuming? Yes, but I think the trouble is worth it.
At the same time, I can understand the logic behind the blanket approach, however, I maintain that for the most part it is a waste of time and money.
Editors want to know that we understand what the internship is about. They want us to know about the community and the newspaper, Web site or magazine we are applying to. Editors need to feel comfortable that they will be hiring an individual that is a team player, good communicator, careful thinker, curious and committed person and a "quick-on-their feet" resourceful photojournalist. Editors want to get the sense from a cover letter that the photojournalist is concerned as much about relationships as they are about making pictures.
All of this must be articulated in a one page cover letter that avoids trite and cliche language. Our sentences must be carefully written and organized to express our interests and talents in a way that does not smack of hubris. Sentences should be kept short and to the point.
Before sitting down to draft the cover letter, make a list of the major points that interest you about the internship or job. Evaluate the points which attract you the most. Know the history of the newspaper or the paper and the photojournalists who have worked their in the past. Take time with the publication to make sure it is right for you.
Make a short list of the things you feel you can contribute to the institution and community as a photojournalist. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Continue with your list by adding some of the things that you would like to see come out of the internship or job.
Once you have the two lists -- (1) a list of things that are most attractive about the internship or job, and (2) a list of things you feel you could learn and contribute to the institution and community when you are there -- start writing to incorporate the best points on the list into letter form.
Once you have written a first draft, put it aside for a day. Don't just take your first attempt and stick it into the portfolio. Let what you have written stew a little in your head. When you go back to it later, you will see things much more clearly. Edit this first draft carefully and start another. By the time you have reached the final draft you should be able to read the piece out loud in your head. Ask yourself if the letter flows from one main idea to the next. Are you saying what you really want to say or just writing to please the editor?
Finally, have people you trust read your letters. Make sure to read everything out loud to check for flow and accuracy.
Sometimes it is helpful to bring in an anecdote about why you were drawn to apply for the internship. Anecdotes or little stories are helpful because they make the writing seem more personal and real. Making the reader feel comfortable with who you are becomes an important part of the cover letter. The cover letter is a place where you get to share a bit more of your world view with an editor than may be apparent in a picture portfolio. Take this part of your portfolio development seriously and come things will come of it.
August 12, 2007 in Dennis Dunleavy, Journalism Southern Oregon University, marketing, photo portfolios, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Southern Oregon University, teaching, technology, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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It didn't take all that long to succumb to the power of the new iPhone. I've always been a little skeptical of new fads in technology, but this thing is something else all together. With all the hype about the device in the media I wasn't all that convinced that the phone could live up to the all-in-one personal media device label. It was a pleasant surprise.
Earlier in the day, I asked one of the technicians at school if he had purchased the phone yet. He paused, looked up at me with a smile, and said, "I was on the line the day the phone arrived. I got number 42."
I couldn't tell him that he was a little crazy waiting for hours for a piece of technology, but I can understand the passion.
After only a day, it seems clear that the phone has a lot of built-in potential to stay even more connected than ever. With a calendar, iPod, camera phone, email and the Internet, the only thing it seems to not do is make coffee. Maybe that will be coming with the first upgrade.
Ashland, for a small town, is a pretty wired place and it was easy to maintain access to the Internet and email all day. Now, it's only a matter of time before these device get cheaper, smaller and even more efficient.
August 01, 2007 in Ashland, Oregon, camera phones, Citizen journalism, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, digital literacy, early adopters, iPhone_, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, point and shoot cameras, Southern Oregon University, technology, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Our second annual high school journalism workshop hit the ground running today and it is always amazing how much enthusiasm I find in young people when it comes to making pictures. Perhaps part of the excitement is that photography affords people greater access to the lives of others. The camera is like a key to opening new doors for learning about life. There is also the feelings of instant gratification when everything seems to come together for the student.
I remember the excitement of seeing my first roll of film come out of the wash more than 30 years ago. It seemed to me such a magical process. Today, even though we no longer wait as long for the results, the sense of anticipation is still pretty much the same. I can see the same expression on students' faces as they discover the power of this medium.
In the workshop tomorrow I hope to speak about why I believe so deeply in the promise of photography as a way of opening up our hearts and eyes to the world.
Many people get into photojournalism because they believe that images can make a difference in the world. Here are some reasons why people do photojournalism:
When you look carefully at this image what is most striking is that there is only one boy, the dominant subject, wearing a watch. The lead boy stands in a defensive pose (arms crossed) before the camera -- other boys surround him, casual yet at the ready. Can we read metaphors implicit in this scene such as "the boys of summer" or as "time stands still"? Could the posturing of the boys come a little too close to cliche for us to have impact on how we understand them?
In his photography, Burnett dutifully captures feelings of confidence and perplexity in the lives of boys. And that's what Burnett does so well in his work -- he makes what seems obvious even more obvious and clear to us.
Boyhood is a proactive theme for a photographer to come to terms with and Burnett handles this assignment well. For the most part, Burnett is the quintessential fly on the wall in his Online essay. His photographs conjure up a stillness that belies the chaos of specific moments by speaking to the universalities of youth.
At the same time, in the article for which Burnett's pictures accompany, author David Von Drehle, provides a juxtaposition:
Statistics collected over two decades show an alarming decline in the performance of America's boys--in some respects, a virtual free fall. Boys were doing poorly in school, abusing drugs, committing violent crimes and engaging in promiscuous sex. Young males lost ground by many behavioral indicators at some point in the 1980s and '90s: sharp plunges on some scales, long erosions on others.
While Burnett's photographs conjure up a larger, more romantic, picture of boyhood in our imaginations, Von Drehle's words appear more solemn and desperate. Full of statistics and sociological referents, Von Drehle spells out the "boy crisis" in great detail, while Burnett delights us with Rockwellian moments.
In a sense, it would be quite easy to view these two forms of reportage as disparate perspectives, somehow disconnected from one another. Yet, considering the words and pictures as a package, we are bound to draw a more emotionally and intellectually challenged conclusion.
July 29, 2007 in David Burnett, Dennis Dunleavy, Documentary Photography, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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As our visual culture becomes accustomed to digital photography, are people becoming more apathetic about the digital alteration of pictures in the media? Will people come to expect that most of the pictures they view in the media today have been electronically enhanced in some way? If so, how will this acceptance, impact journalism and photography as a source of information and reportage?
Last year, I surveyed photographers about their attitudes and perceptions concerning the digital manipulation of photographs, especially within the context of news reportage. This year, I would like to continue to ask respondents about the alternation of images with a brand new survey. However, the questions in this survey are far broader with the hope of collecting responses from a wider audience. Just how serious are people about photo digital manipulation?
What I discovered last year was that only about half of the more than 480 respondents believed they could detect a picture when it was digitally altered. Only 6 percent strongly agreed with the statement, "I can tell when a photograph has been altered." At the same time, 85 percent of the respondent agreed that they had seen a digitally manipulated picture in the media within the last five years.
This year's annual survey is different in that it seeks to understand how people define photo digital manipulation. The survey also explores how significant digital manipulation is as an issue in society. Further, at the bottom of each question is an area for comments, which is something last year's survey lacked. Broad participation in this survey is encouraged as it is not only designed for professionals, but for enthusiasts as well.
July 01, 2007 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, digitally altered pictures, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, national press photographers association, photo digital manipulation, photo digital manipulation survey, photo fakery, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, TED awards, visual journalism education, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Pictures help make sense of the past while we live in the present.
When we recall an image that conveys meaning for us, the picture will often hold a certain power over how we think and act in the world. In other words, pictures help shape or construct what we know of as reality.
It has been argued that memory is actually a form of energy. Asha Clinton (2006) in a journal article concerning transpersonal psychotherapy suggests "The memories, cognitions, emotions, sensations, and intuitions human beings experience are themselves composed of energy."
Many of this nation's iconic imagery, from the 20th century at least, such as the flag raising on Iwo Jima, Nick Ut's picture of a young girl fleeing the bombing of her village in Vietnam, or the shooting of college students at Kent State University by National Guard troops, are images that signify traumatic events in society. These are pictures in which symbolic meaning extends beyond the actual occurrence. If we consider the number of prizes given to pictures displaying trauma and conflict each year in professional photojournalism competitions, we may begin to realize just how insatiable our appetite is for the sensational. This is not a criticism of the value of providing people with quality on-the-spot reportage of significant events. Instead, the point here is that our culture has become numb to the suffering these images represent. In our collective conscious every image we see in today's press is compared with other images representing similar events -- war, famine, natural disasters. We are a culture continuously awash in images of violence and devastation.
Recalling such images may rekindle for some negative feelings, while for others, pictures may hold little or no significance. Do pictures influence how we interpret and remember our world from one generation to the next?
Pictures can evoke difficult emotions and give rise to negative beliefs and fantasies. Pictures can also bring about healing. Pictures can rebuke or challenge prevailing negative attitudes as well as reinforce them.
In this way, the power of the image is undeniable. We live with our past, because we are constantly reminded of it through the images we care to remember.
Aaron Johnson's latest "What the Duck" cartoon demonstrates how far we have come in thinking about and accepting technology's impact on photojournalistic routines and rituals. In the past years, there seems to have been a fairly universal shift in the benefits digital technology offers photographers.
There is no question that digital technologies have leveled the playing field for many users. Today there appears to be a perception that because picture making is easier and faster, the need for specialized knowledge once requisite in the field is no longer valid. In other words, the distinction between what it means to be a professional seems no longer to hold true, or, it is at least changing.
The bottom line impact on photojournalism is that news organizations as businesses can now try to cut corners around hiring professional photographers. There is nothing new about this trend, in fact, the writing has been on the wall for a long time now. The bigger question is how will photojournalists respond to the challenges forced upon them?
There are times when technology gets the better of us. Yesterday, for example, the technology driving the dynamic web design at MTV.com created irony when video from the Virgina Tech killing spree became juxtaposed against an advertisement promoting the new "Smokin' Aces" movie -- a film that promises to be full of bloodshed and mayhem.
Dynamic web content refers to an interactive design that places elements on a page in response to various contexts. However, this type of interactivity can also end up sending conflictive messages, especially since studies show that viewers do not navigate web content the same way in which they would read in a traditionanl print format.
To its credit, given the fact that technology can bump heads with social and cultural values, MTV is aware that issues such as this one can arise from time to time.
According to MTV, its news staff makes an effort to "....move on removing such inappropriate juxtapositions...Unfortunately, the system did not react as quickly as we did. We continue to do our best balancing the inevitable byproducts of dynamism."
At the same time, there appears to be a critical flaw in the increasingly blurry lines between news and advertising content these days on the web -- one that places a premium on making money through advertising over the common sense and good judgment of providing reader's with news.
Kate Zimmerman writes about another juxtaposition of questionable ad placement on Yahoo -- one which a reader views a story about the shootings next to an advertisement for L.L. Bean.
"The contextual ads shown against this story are almost completely irrelevant, if not inappropriate - further proof that contextual ad networks need human editors (or at the very least, a way for advertisers to safeguard against poor placement)."
April 16, 2007 in advertising, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, digital literacy, Education, images of violence, Internet Learning, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Picture Editing, teaching, technology, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, ways of seeing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The writer lists some of the high-tech features available
today in cameras such as, "red-eye" reduction and the elimination of
facial blemishes and pounds. Of course, there are even more features to
come, all of which will enhance our experiences, fix and frame reality
for us, and make the world a better place for our children.
Musgrove contends, "Digitally enhanced photos are starting to bump up against the real world. A few news photographers have lost their jobs for digitally tinkering with their shots, but there's weirder stuff afoot as well."
Without beating a dead pixel here, it's worthwhile considering the larger societal implications of a culture that will actually have to face up to the fact that photography has never been an objective process. Today, digital technology is forcing us to realize that we've been in denial about the process of making pictures since its inception.
We like to think that what we are seeing in a picture is real. Sure, a picture is real, but it also a social construction -- a contrivance of will, an act of authority, a whim, muse, or something that tickles our fancy. This is what's real about photography. When we freeze, fix, and frame a moment in time and space we are essentially excluding a million other moments that are equally as real. A picture is real only in the sense that it represents a fragment of reality. If we alter a fragment of the real in some way during or after a picture is made how much are we altering reality?
This is a particularly sticky problem for some of us when we begin to realize how the whole logic surrounding the notion of reality or what is real is flawed.
Pictures serve personal and public needs, and by doing so they exist contently within the realm of subjectivity.
Science and technology makes it possible to re-render reality in and out of the camera -- correct the objectionable -- make the imperfect, perfect.
Ultimately, what this really means is that in an imperfect world, digital technology makes it possible for life to appear picture perfect.
April 16, 2007 in altered images, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, digital literacy, digitally altered pictures, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Mike Musgrove, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, Washington Post, ways of seeing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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At a time when public confidence in journalism continues to slip, questionable professional practices or lapses in personal judgment are having as much an impact on the industry as they have on a given individual.
Last month, when, Toledo Blade photographer Allan Detrich digitally altered an image to make it less distracting, his actions, whether intentional or accidental, provide yet even more fuel to the fire of public distrust. Apparently, Detrich's creative license may prove to extend beyond this one incident.
We now have reached a point in our society when, at times, the media seems determined to abdicate a portion of its commitment to the truth, for expediency.
As a representative of an industry already under intense public scrutiny, Detrich, who recently resigned from the newspaper, now joins a growing list of photojournalists, such as Charlotte Observer photographer Patrick Schneider, Lebanese freelancer Adnan Hajj, and Los Angeles Times photographer Brian Walski, who have succumbed in recent years to the temptations of digital technology.
The big question these incidents raise is simple: Why do some photographers feel compelled to manipulate images, while others live with what they get? Getting to the answer, however, is far more complex and may reside actually in a culture, which excels in competition and individualism.
People do not like being lied to. Digital manipulation, the addition or subtraction of contributing or distracting elements in a frame, is a type of fraud and lying.
Jonathan Wallace observes, “The reason that I hate lies is because, like you, I wish to navigate carefully through life, and to do so I must be able to calculate my true position. When you lie to me, you know your position but you have given me false data which obscures mine.”
Journalists have always been moral agents of culture and societal tastes. News content falls within an informational/representational system that changes over time. Journalism has its good times and its bad times throughout history. Within this informational/representational system, however, truth has always remained a core journalistic virtue. Journalists must struggle to obtain and maintain truth in reportage because every situation they encounter is slightly different – always presenting differing degrees of moral complexity.
The act of altering an image to correct a deficiency may seem innocent enough on the surface, but deeper down the shift from fact to fiction signifies a moral choice that is informed by either ignorance or duplicity. Regardless of motive or rationale, Detrich’s case should remind us that journalists function to serve the public good through a series of professional and societal expectations and obligations that are imposed upon them.
In this digital age, these expectations and obligations become intensified to the point, where opportunities to make things look better or to get the better of the competition are just too easy.
Ultimately, it seems not to matter how rigorous and vigilant the media is in detecting and ousting those who lie through their photography and reporting. The damage is done -- public faith, once again, is lost.
April 13, 2007 in Allan Detrich, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Design, digital cameras, digital literacy, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Los Angeles Times, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Moral complexity, photo collage, photo digital manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Reuters, reuters adnan hajj, Southern Oregon University, teaching, technology, Toledo Blade, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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TIME magazine's White House photo blog provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Bush presidency that usually doesn't appear in the pages of the magazine or elsewhere. Photographers such as Brooks Kraft and Christopher Morris have distinctive ways of looking at the day to day in the life of a U.S. president.
April 07, 2007 in Bush, elections, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Politics and Photography, portrait photography, President Bush, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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How much of what we know about the human costs of war do we let in to impact us in profound ways?
Although there are remarkable and powerful images of war to remind us of the unthinkable horrors human beings continue to suffer, it appears that for the most part we rarely truly learn from them.
Although we appear fascinated by the sacrifice people endure for a cause, noble or ignoble, most of the pictures that remind us of those sacrifices seem all about ignored.
The pictures we see of dead and wounded civilians and soliders in times of conflict become social artifacts that may or may not stir our emotions or move us to action.
In recent times, we have seen how Joe Rosenthal's picture of a band of Marines raising a flag on a tiny island in the Pacific could mobilize millions of Americans in the war effort during WWII.
Later, we have seen how another image could have just the opposite affect, as Nick Ut's picture of a young girl running naked down a road after she was burned in an aerial attack on her village by the South Vietnamese Air Force, with U.S. support.
Images such as those by Rosenthal and Ut remain embedded in our collective consciousness because of how often they are repeated and recollected in our visual culture. When we speak of patriotism and sacrifice, or, of so-called the "good war", the Iwo Jima flag raising image seems to always come to the forefront of our common discourse. When we speak of atrocities and failed U.S. foreign policy, so too, do we find referencing the incident at Trang Bang, Vietnam, where a little girl and nations were changed forever.
Recently, a photographer in Southern Illinois has made an image, or a series of images, that should become emblematic of what critics are beginning to call the current quagmire in Iraq.
The picture by Nina Berman of Redux, is a wedding portrait of a Marine who had been burned over much of his body. Although badly disfigured from a bomb blast in Iraq, his facial features all but melted away to bone, Ty Ziegel lives to tell his story to the world.
The picture, as simple as a picture can be, makes us want to listen. The picture makes us cry out in empathy, muster hope in the presence of such incredible human spirit and strength, or simply cringe in disgust. In the end, however, it is the couples resolve that makes us want to listen.
In a recent article in Salon.com, photographer Berman suggests, "What makes pictures interesting is that they provide the space for the viewers to contemplate."
Contemplation is a form of listening to our innermost feelings about the things we see. Contemplation, if given space, moves us to act on our feelings. To contemplate the explicit and implicit meaning of Berman's image means to imagine our own lives transformed by war as Ty Ziegel's life has been.
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and writer, once observed that "True contemplation is inseparable from life and from the dynamism of life--which includes work, creation, production, fruitfulness, and above all love. "
"Contemplation is not to be thought of as a separate department of life, cut off from all man's other interests and superseding them. It is the very fullness of a fully integrated life. It is the crown of life and all life's activities."
Berman's wedding portrait has received acclaim in photojournalism. In fact, it won top honors in the portrait category of the World Press Photo competition this year. But it is not the picture, as an object or artifact, that should be admired and remembered. What should be contemplated here, first and foremost, is that the judges recognize the saliency and value of the content within the frame. The space Berman speaks of here moves beyond the rancor of congressional debates and presidential pomposity. The space Berman speaks of gets to the core of some of the most essential qualities of being human -- love, loyalty, hope, and reconciliation. Can a picture evoke the "big" ideas expressed here? Apparently so.
How will history remember Ty Ziegel's wedding picture? How could this unassuming portrait of a wedding couple become the next Iwo Jima or Trang Bang in the collective memory of wars past and present?
What distinguishes the pictures is less a matter of aesthetics and more a more of politics. For the Iwo Jima picture the U.S. government adopted the image as mass marketed it as the embodiment of the "good war." In the case of the Trang Bang picture, the anti-war movement of the 1970s embraced symbolism of the moment as proof of the so-called "dirty little war."
Pictures, in iconic terms, extend beyond the meaning of occurrences in several ways. Iconic pictures, such as the hooded prisoner of Abu Ghraib, signify ideological bench marks in history -- turning points -- in the cultural memory of American society.
It is only through the assimilation of an ideological benchmark image into our visual culture as a form of a larger societal discourse that an iconic permanance can emerge. Although the Berman image has been seen now by ten of thousands of web-watchers, it will not be until we see the picture on billboards, war posters, and TV screens that its status as an iconic image will endure as a product of social consciousness.
March 10, 2007 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, iconic images, images of violence, Internet Learning, Iraq, Iraq War, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Moral complexity, nina berman, photo digital manipulation, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, pictures of the year, Political pictures, portrait photography, President Bush, ritual, semiotics, signification, teaching, Trang Bang Vietnam, Ty Ziegel, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing, Web/Tech, World Press Pictures of the Year | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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In January 2004, Kodak announced it would stop making film cameras. Faced with the reality that film was rapidly being pushed aside by digital technologies, George Eastman’s company was in turmoil. In fact, in the first years of the new century, the firm cut more than 22,000 jobs.
For Kodak, the writing had been on the wall for some time as digital cameras were already outselling their cousins in film by leaps and bounds. In 2003, more than 50 million digital cameras were sold, an increase of 64 percent from the previous year.
Today, the digital camera market is flattening out. As the market becomes increasingly saturated with product, digital camera sales are predicted to peak at 111 million by 2009. Nevertheless, there seems to be no turning back. More than a century earlier, George Eastman, Kodak’s founder, dreamed of making photography an “everyday affair.” Consider Eastman’s surprise at how much photography has changed since the day he hit the street promoting his Kodak One to the public.
The introduction of the digital camera has changed how people act in front of and behind the lens. The act of reviewing the picture immediately after capture, similar to the affect Edwin Land’s Polaroid, alters the interpersonal dynamic between subject and photographer significantly.
The time of Eastman’s “everyday affair” has come in an age of instant everything. Digital photography is making how people communicate cheaper, faster and easier than ever.
The immediacy of digital photography has several advantages over older technologies beyond speed and cost. The digital photography allows people to be more productive, feel more creatively empowered, and to develop greater levels of social interaction than previously experienced with older technologies.
Digital photography has a democratizing impact in that ultimately increases social and empathic interactions, greater productivity, and creative empowerment. At the same time, the seamless and malleable nature of the digital format raises, once again, concerns about the authenticity and veracity of the image.
From a social psychological perspective, thanks to digital technologies, human visual behavior in the age of instant becomes a fascinating and ever changing challenge.
Increasingly, for many of us, the world in which we live has been defined not only through our direct experience with it, but also through the pictures we carry in our heads about it. Advertising images, television, still pictures, and now just about everything about Internet, provide us with a relentless stream of mediated visual messages.
Young people now experience the world radically different from their ancestors. Growing up in the age of instant means that people learn about themselves predominantly through the likenesses and representations created by others.
The images we see in print or on a screen map a world view, construct and define desires and fears, create self and group identity, promote societal likes and dislikes, and promulgate a collective memory.
On the day we dropped our toddler off at daycare for the first time we included a tiny book of family photographs. Feeling guilty that day for having to leave our child with strangers, we believed that the pictures would be a consoling influence for her throughout the day.
In grocery store we avoid the cereal aisle knowing well that the brightest, most colorful, and most seductive boxes of cereal, designed to attract the attention of little ones, are always placed on the lowest shelves for easy viewing. Pictures, as a form of persuasive communication, inform, shock, terrify, tease, inspire, entertain, teach, seduce, and console us emotionally and intellectually.
“We thus live in an era in which it is difficult to conceive of even a single human activity that does not use photography, or at least provide an opportunity for it to be deployed in the past, present or future.”
Ariella Azoulay, (2005). The Ethic of the Spectator: The Citizenry of Photography. After Image: 33
What is unique about the photograph is the almost instant capacity to substantiate our experiences, and by extension, our very existence in time and place. The only problem now is that in a world already saturated with images, we continue to produce more and more of them. If cultures are shaped through ritual and routine, then, images play a significant role in process as an on-going medium of recollection.
February 24, 2007 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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