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Category Archives: Rants and Rambles

A small tradition from the past is returning to Athens Tuesday, March 18 – Photo Night. It’s a gathering of pixel pushers, something I heartily endorse. (The gathering, not the beating up of pixels.)

Skedded for 6:30 p.m. at Copper Creek (140 East Washington Street). Open to current and past students, working photojournalists and those who just wish to hang around with them. (While I won’t be there, there’d better be darts. It is not an official Photo Night until someone starts the Cricket taunting.)

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Small note here – that last post, on trapezoid cropping, was the 300th post on the UGA Photojournalism blog. Which also happened to celebrate its first birthday on Thursday, February 28.

Rusty Bailey sent along a link to a comic about two folks who decided to get away from the ‘net for a bit. (Yes, we can blog anything. But should we?)

The Los Angeles Police Department may be giving bloggers from BlogHer.com a hard time in getting “media credentials” that they can use to get access to the GOP debate.

That’s awkwardly phrased, I know, because it’s not clear if they are blocking them from getting credentials or if they’re putting them through the standard background check procedure or if they LAPD just doesn’t have a procedure for online media.

Thoughts? Are bloggers “journalists?” How can you tell? If they are, do all bloggers get treated the same? Do bloggers associated with a “traditional” media outlet get treated differently? And why do we even let any government agency think that they can decide who is and who is not a journalist?

This, of course, comes on the heels of Gizmodo pulling a prank at CES just after they started allowing bloggers in …

Would the AP or LA Times ever do that? Do the professional norms of “traditional” journalists set them above (or aside) “blogging journalists?”

I’m glad I don’t have to credential anyone …

Bernie Boston has passed.

Boston was the D.C. photo chief for the L.A. Times when I met him in 1992. Several of you have heard the story of that very uncomfortable meeting. He was as kind and gracious as any one could ever be, yet I was scared to death he was about to sue me …

I wish I’d gotten to know him better.

David Burnett has a nice post about him today.

… but buy extra batteries.

It was only a matter of time, I suppose, before someone decided to market themselves as a photographer who doesn’t actually, you know, make photos. Time magazine has an article on hiring your own personal paparazzi.

While it makes me wince a little bit, I guess if there’s no pictures there’s really no copyright to fight over …

Part of this quote makes me smile, part makes me cringe:

The trend is driven by the twin obsessions with chronicling one’s life and experiencing fame. “We live in a culture where if it’s not documented, it doesn’t exist,” says Josh Gamson, a University of San Francisco professor of sociology who studies culture and mass media. “And if you don’t have people asking who you are, you’re nobody.”

Two recent pieces worth looking at …

In the New York Times is a story about Richard Prince’s “art” – done by rephotographing famous ads and printing them large. Fair use? Copyright violation? No one’s sure yet.

Up next is a piece from Newsweek titled, “Is Photography Dead?” Which … well … no, it’s not. But author Peter Plagens has wandered off into the woods and stared a little too long into the sun from the edge of a large field and has, well, lost his mind.

Mr. Plagens, I invite you to come visit any of my photojournalism classes and you’ll see tht photography is most certainly not dead. Or even ill.

The Illinois High School Association, who oversees high school sports in the state last night denied access to several newspapers, according to an article in the Pantagraph.

At issue here is the policy of newspapers to sell reprints of published photos. The IHSA is considering this a commercial use of the images, and they claim ownership of the commercial rights to the games. Newspapers claim that reprints are a long-established customer service initiative. The vast majority of those reprints are sold to parents with no rights beyond personal display.

As a former photojournalist (and editor) who covered a lot of high school sports, I offer this opinion: While newspapers may be charging $20-30 a print which the average person believes can be made for a few bucks, the reprint “business” is not a profit-making one for most papers. The time it takes is substantial. The need to maintain printing equipment that meets the professional standards of the newspaper is substantial.

Now, newspapers that are creating photo galleries of everything that’s sharp, with no thought to news value, those papers are looking at it as a revenue stream and, well, I’m not sure I can support that, ethically, as they may be profiting off of the players.

There’s a slightly off-center middle ground here, giving newspapers the ability to sell prints – with no additional rights granted – to the public as long as those images are part of their “standard” news coverage.

Now, go define “standard.”

(See earlier post about the Illinois Press Association suing the Illinois High School Association, a suit which was dropped when the IPA believed they were close to an agreement with the IHSA.)

As the headline says, the IPA is suing the IHSA. The IHSA has set restrictions on how photos and video from high school sporting events can be used – limiting still photos to printed newspaper stories only and video to 30 second clips, a maximum of two minutes per game and not to be used for more than two days after an event.

Why?

They’ve signed a contract with Visual Image Photography for the “exclusive and unlimited access to IHSA tournament locations and photo opportunities.”

There’s a slippery slope in here that I’ve mentioned before, but the IHSA’s action has huge issues in its limitations on how a newspaper uses images for editorial purposes. It would be extremely hard to say a paper’s web site is not an editorial usage. It would also be difficult to deny the editorial value of archived stories – or stories that are season-wrap ups.

The problem for newspapers comes when they start to defend their rights to sell reprints, as that is a fairly clear commercial, i.e. non-editorial, usage of the images. Granted, those images are going into private hands and not being used for publications, but a portrait photographer, for example, is in different realm than a photojournalist. The value in the formers images is the specific subject whereas in the latter it’s in the moment or story the subject represents – the individual could have been replaced by someone else, doing the same thing, and still had value.

Newspapers will defend their reprints as a public service, which to some extent they are. The problem may arise when they defend their pricing. As a “public service” you’re implying there is no profit margin on those reprints, which I know is not the case. If you’re doing it in-house, the prints are costing you a dollar or two and you’re selling them for $20-30 each.

There are some newspapers that are treading on extremely dangerous grounds by generating “web galleries” that have limited or no editorial value – dumping everything that’s sharp online and hoping to either drive traffic to the web site or make reprint sales. There’s no storytelling aspect to those galleries and could, in my non-legal opinion, be considered commercial ventures.

The IPA and their 600 member newspapers are on the right track – but they need to make sure the reprint issues isn’t brought into this because, again in my non-legal opinion, that’s been thin ice for years and will only get thinner. As for the IHSA, think – without local newspapers covering high school athletics, you essentially cease to exist in certain communities.

To that end, if the Illinois High School Association doesn’t back down and admit they have overstepped their bounds here, then the Illinois Press Association should explain to their readers why there is no coverage of high school sports in their paper. The parents’ outrage should send a clear message.

Okay, so Sony has a new camera that recognizes smiles. Now I could make some comment about how if the person behind the camera can’t recognize a smile they must be in art school or be a 20-year newspaper veteran, but that just seems cruel.

So, instead, I give you the other shutter releases I would like to see on cameras …

  • Tree Branch/Telephone Pole Shutter – Waits for it to fall down or blow over in a hurricane before releasing the shutter.
  • Zebra Crossing Shutter – Waits for referees to move out of the frame before firing.
  • Paparazzi Shutter – Only fires when (in)famous people do stupid things in semi-public places.
  • Golden Hour Shutter – Will only activate when the color temperature is below 4300 degrees Kelvin (which is sunrise or sunset).
  • James Nachtwey Shutter – Waits for you to have at least three layers of information of a relevant issue to a world-wide audience.
  • Double-Truck Shutter – Will only fire when your composition allows for a gutter through the center of the frame.
  • Stan Grossfeld Burn Shutter – Will only fire when the sky is overcast to allow you to burn it down to black later.
  • Annie Liebovitz Shutter – Fired only after you have sweet-talked some celebrity into doing something totally out of character.
  • The HCB/Decisive Moment Shutter – In honor of Henri Cartier-Bresson, only fires when it recognizes “both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.”

Feel free to add your own, I’m sure you have some in mind already