Uh huh. Enter the cabin.
Ah UNICEF, hitting the mark and then some. Dig deep, feel good, save lives.
(PS the translation of the ad at the end tells you how you can donate to UNICEF)
The Guardian is running the following story about AP photographer Narciso Contreras being hung out to dry for photoshopping an image.
This is the picture
It’s worth noting that it was AP who wrote the story themselves. You can either read this as a press release or an attempt at transparancy by the agency. I’d say its a PR exercise in making sure you get the story out there the way you want it before anyone else does. Most of all they are protecting the Pulitzer prize they won for photography in Syria to which Contreras was a key contributor. Note how they contacted Pulitzer BEFORE releasing the story (ass covering).
Contreras has this to say
“I took the wrong decision when I removed the camera … I feel ashamed about that,” he said. “You can go through my archives and you can find that this is a single case that happened probably at one very stressed moment, at one very difficult situation, but yeah, it happened to me, so I have to assume the consequences.”
It takes integrity to come forward and admit making a mistake. Investigations show this mistake was singular and took place in one of the most stressful and extreme environments anywhere on earth. The removing of the camera made little difference to how the photo can be read. It’s not a deliberate attempt to deceive the audience into thinking that something else was taking place than can be inferred from the pictures. It’s a nod to the fact that above all else in photojournalism it’s not truth but aesthetic which is valued. If this wasn’t the case it wouldn’t even have occurred to Contreras to alter the photo.
AP makes a big song and dance out of the fact that none of Contreras pictures that formed part of the Pulitzer entry were doctored in this way. At the same time they’ve removed all of Contreras photos from their library. If this is the case, if Contreras photos are no longer valid, they should do the decent thing and hand the Pulitzer back.
What is really laughable is Lyon’s comment that ‘The alteration breached AP’s requirements for truth and accuracy’. I don’t know what kind of truth Lyon is talking about, but I do know, more often than not, the facts the audience need to form a balanced view are outside of the image. The lie is that agencies like AP would have you believe otherwise.
As a child I was always fascinated with planes. For me the few times that family holidays required a flight, wet English coastlines or the ferry across the channel was the holiday norm, I was glued to the window for the entire duration. I remember once being invited up to the cockpit to meet the captain, my little heart pounding, I stepped into the cramped space, oblivious to the greetings of both pilot and co-pilot as my attention was completely fixed on the sea of cloud beneath us. Soaked in golden light it seemed to stretch out forever, dotted with ‘windows’ to the land below, like the inverse of reflections of the sky in puddles. There’s something about seeing the world from above that gives it a new, exciting and beautiful quality.
Needless to say I didn’t become a pilot (I joined duckrabbit), although for a while in my teens I was determined to join the RAF, but for the last week I have been earning my wings and am on the verge of buying a bomber jacket and some goggles and I haven’t even left the safety of Terra Firma. This is thanks to the guys at DJI and their Phantom 2 drone. Complete with GoPro, Gimbal and an FPV set up, which allows me to see a live feed from the camera, I have been taking to the skies of Birmingham and oh is it exciting! You can see some of my first shots in the one minute video below:
The drone itself, which has four rotors and built in GPS for stabilization, is very straight forward to fly even for those not brought up on video games. However an open field is a definite requirement for the first few flights and putting the hours in really helps. I have taken it out a total of five times now I feel pretty comfortable and quite used to it’s capabilities. The thing that is so exciting about it, other than the fun of zooming around the skies, is the quality of the footage. Straight out of the GoPro, after fine tuning some settings, the results are spectacular and every time I come back to watch the results my jaw drops. The things you can achieve with this bit of kit are not only outstanding but the difference in shot quality from my first flight to my most recent is exponential. Now that I have more control over the drone and have started to figure out what works best with angle, movement, settings etc the possibilities are mind boggling and the footage is getting better and better.
For the price of a (expensive) new lens you are getting a whole new perspective. And with that in mind I don’t think it will be long before we see the skies full of these things. I know they have been taking off (no pun intended) in the US and problems have arisen, notably with the Federal Aviation Administration issuing the first fine to a commercial drone pilot:
“the Federal Aviation Administration sought to penalize a commercial drone operator with a massive fine. It ordered Raphael Pirker to pay $10,000 for an October 17th, 2011 incident during which it says Pirker operated his aircraft — in this case a 4.5-pound Ritewing Zephyr-powered glider — “in a careless or reckless manner”"
Pirker fought the fine and according to his lawyer Kramer Levin they have filed a motion to dismiss. Kramer’s firm is dealing with more and more drone related cases as the FAA put a ban on commercial drone use:
“Instead of issuing a rule using the required notice-and-comment process, they just issued a policy statement saying business use is prohibited. We’ve argued that’s not an enforceable policy statement. If we prevail on that argument, I think it has implications for other people who are seeking to use these for commercial purposes.”
What happens with Pirker’s case may have a huge effect on commercial drone use in the US and not just for media companies – drones are being used for all sorts of work, from helping farmers check their crops in vast spaces, to aerial and 3D mapping and even for search and rescue. Here in the UK you do not need a license if the drone weighs less than 20kg but you do have to apply for operating permission “for aircraft used for Aerial Work purposes or if flown within a congested area and/or close to people or property”. There are a few other rules which can be found on the Civil Aviation Authority website, our version of the FAA. Regardless it is going to be interesting to watch this grow as the next big thing and to see where it takes us.
…A post to follow shortly on the ins and outs of aerial photography.
As I noted last week, if you speak to a professional photographer they will often tell you how hard it is at the moment to make a living. Listen to those more inclined towards hyperbole (which in my experience is quite a few of them) and they will probably tell you it is nigh on impossible. Certainly an apparent mixture of falling rates and growing competition make photography a difficult field to make a living in. I say this from personal experience, as much as from casual observation. This coupled with my perennial inability to know what to charge for my own work has led me to spend quite some time pondering the wider economy of photography, the question of what a photograph, or photographs, are worth.
This obviously depends on the photograph in question (it’s content and quality), who wants it (and for what end) and as I observed in a recent post on limited editions, sometimes the rarity of that photograph as a unique object. While in certain circumstances the ascribed value of a single photograph can be enormous (Gursky’s Rhein II being the current exemplar of this), many people speak of feeling that there is a wider devaluation of photography, a consequence of it’s massive availability.
In terms of quantity, professional photographs disappear into total insignificance in the shadow of vernacular and amateur photography, a vast and heterogeneous collection of images ranging from family photographs to amusing pictures of cats. As cameras become integrated into ever more devices, and photographing something becomes an increasingly normal response (whether the stimulus is a traumatic event or a pleasant meal) this imbalanced professional-vernacular ratio seems will only increase, perhaps to the point where there is no longer even a ratio for us to note. Professional photography will be like the proverbial fly on the vernacular elephant, or perhaps more like the proverbial microbe.
The question that has come to occupy me lately is whether there any economic value in this vast mass of vernacular photography, or whether it is, as is commonly assumed, an almost totally worthless glut of images. It seems to me that the advent of several technologies have conspired to make vernacular and amateur photography an exploitable resource in a way it never has been before, but also a resource we should be very afraid of. These are first; the mass use of digital photography, which has freed photography from the constraints of physical media, making it easier to amass and trade in huge quantities. Second; the widespread use of the internet, and particularly social networking sites, which have centralised large quantities of these photographs in a few convenient locations.
Where once vernacular photographs were scattered in the wind, (or at least in far flung shoe boxes and family albums) they are now willingly deposited on the servers of social networking and communications companies by the people who take them, indeed often automatically, sharing has become part of the process of photography. In the act of uploading and sharing legal ownership of these photographs often passes to these same companies, or at least becomes somewhat ambiguous and contestable. This mass of vernacular images becomes a resource ready to be exploited for economic gain. But short of searching through billions of images for the very few significant ones which might command a price, how could these companies ever make use of these photographs, so many of which are technically poor and seemingly of little interest to anyone but the maker?
The most obvious answer to me comes in the maturation of a third technology, facial recognition. Already worryingly sophisticated, as this technology continues to improve the type of dystopian consumerist vision of films like Minority Report – where involuntary iris recognition is used to tailor adverts to people on the street, or to track them – becomes increasingly believable in our own world. The physical security infrastructure for this is already more or less in place. In the UK there are estimated to be 5.9 million CCTV cameras, or roughly one for every eleven people, making us amongst the most surveiled populations on the planet.
Yet any large scale deployment of facial recognition would still require two things to be viable. Those are first; a sizeable archive of photographs showing the faces of people for the cameras to ‘recognise’. Second; some information about that person which could be matched to the image in order to make their recognition remotely useful. This information might range from the most basic (name, age, gender) to the most sophisticated (tastes, politics, proclivities). This critical connection between image and personal information is, of course, exactly what is made each time a photograph is uploaded to a social network and tagged.
Our use of many online services comes at the price of personal information, most of us already knew this, it was part of the deal, and the official corporate line that this information is safe, anonymised, or will not be used for harmful ends in the pursuit of a quick buck has been enough to satisfy many. These reassuring murmurs, whether honestly heartfelt or slyly deceptive, are besides the point. The information is there, whether to be sold by a greedy company or stolen by a tyrannical government, and that fact alone should be enough to frighten us. For all the outcry over the NSA/PRISM revelations, the direct impact of these activities were felt by relatively few, even if the psychological impact of their disclosure was enormous. Social networks have already changed the landscape of privacy far more radically, and all the more pervasively because few us have really noticed the change. Worse I suspect, is yet to come, and when these greater erosions of privacy become evident we will have little satisfaction in knowing that they are ones much more of our own making.
A wonderfully inspiring story of vision, commitment and community, over on Buzzfeed. Simply beautiful heartfelt writing by Drew Philp, who is also the home builder. Well worth finding some time to read this over the weekend.
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