When "News" is Not News (It happens more often than you might think)

The BIG HEADLINE today is a good example of why today's so-called "journalism" is more about gaining audience share rather than good solid reporting.

That headline has to do with Getty Images announcing via PRNewswire "Getty Images unveils innovative embed feature for sharing of tens of millions of images... New embedded viewer will provide easy, legal access to Getty Images' imagery for non-commercial use."

That move is simply a marketing mechanism to get more exposure for their business of selling images. Note "non-commercial" at the end of the news releases headline. It's just a barter deal. Getty is simply extending their website to a potentially infinite audience. There are a lot of technical implications, including probable higher ranking in Google search results among many other benefits for Getty's business.

Check out this from the press release; "This is the latest in a series of moves by Getty Images to harness technology and social media to drive broader exposure and usage of its content." There it is in black and white.

Now take a look at a screaming headline on an article "Getty Images makes 35 million images free in fight against copyright infringement... Getty Images has single-handedly redefined the entire photography market with the launch of a new embedding feature that will make more than 35 million images freely available to anyone for non-commercial usage.

Much of today's journalism relies on company handouts, especially when its a big name company. IMHO much too much that is passed off as "News." One of the few remaining News organizations is the Associated Press. To get a comprehensive idea of their News Values and Principles visit their web page.

I very often hear from people about what they claim is news. Unfortunately, the Internet enables anyone to post anything. That doesn't mean it isn't a superb research and information system. It is but people must question what they see and hear anywhere or anytime they see or hear it.

I won't bore you with how to evaluate Internet information. I have created a video (Fact, Fiction or Outright Lies; Evaluating Internet Information) about it if you're really interested in the subject.

Suffice to say thinking through the implications and real meaning of information and most importantly determine the original source of the information is part of the evaluation process.

PS I guess I'm giving them free publicity too.

Beyond Timekeeper and Threats of an Uncertain Future...

Jennifer showed me Anthony Friedkin's book "Timekeeper" a while back. It's a really great collection of b&w photos by a world renowned photographer. We were discussing a picture book of my 60s-70s photojournalism at that informal meeting.

Considering my last post about an "uncertain future" and my meandering into a bit of investigative journalism it is refreshing to know that the technologies that "threaten" photographers also empower them. A traditional print run of a couple of thousand "coffee table" photo books like Timekeeper would come to at or near $100,000 total for all costs, maybe more.

Technology has evolved to the point where it is no longer necessary to do a "print run." So the average price calculated above, about $50 per book, could be the per-copy price for a small batch of 5 to 10 copies of a similar book by another photographer. That's a price just about anyone can afford and you don't have to put up with all the many, many hassles and time delays of traditional publishing.

Technology can and should be a photographer's best friend. The photographer must not only master new technology in all applicable forms (creating photos AND exhibiting them) but also push beyond the current boundaries. That's the hallmark of a true professional.

So why aren't there thousands of great books around? Probably not because there's a dearth of good photos. My guess is that the number of photographers with a set of personal traits needed to undertake the project in the first place is the limiting factor.

Just because you can print a fancy book mean its real worth is much more than that of a glorified scrap book of photos.

So this great technology must be married with a photographer who has a body of work he strongly desires to see in print. But to get anywhere beyond the UPS delivery of the finished product requires a lot more than simply great photos.

It takes a vision for the project and the patience to shepherd it through to ultimate completion. It now only takes great photos but also the know-how and artistic ability to put together a collection of photos really worth publishing.

Making a successful photo book by no means guarantees its financial success or acclaim. That requires a whole other set of professional skills oriented toward marketing which in turn means knowing the market. PR for the fine art world is a fine art in itself, a highly specialized set of skills separating the average promoter/publicist from the really desirable professional suited for the task.

And that's why I'm fortunate to have Jennifer working with me.

Uncertain Future?

Jennifer sent me a link to a New York Times "Lens" Blog that appeared February 26, 2014 entitled "Empowering Photographers to Embrace an Uncertain Future."

Nice clean layout, interesting, educational, well organized... a typical top-flight professional enterprise, the updated Internet version of the "new" (as in new media) New York Times.

The blog topic is the "Photography Expanded" project  to empower photographers to "move into the future with some excitement rather than fear and with a more empowered sense of choices, rather than the sense of being of less value."

It started to get complicated when I clicked on the link for "Photography Expanded."

Turns out that is a project presented by Magnum Foundation and the Open Society Foundations Documentary Photography Project. Remember Magnum from my blog post a couple of days ago? Open Society Foundation is a different matter entirely. Open Society Foundation is backed by the global financier George Soros. Read very big bucks.

So, Magnum and Soros are cooperating on a project for documentary photographers. Again, sounds simple...

Wikipedia states, OSF's aim is "to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic, legal, and social reform." At least they didn't use the term "social justice." It is a very slippery concept and its meaning depends upon who you ask for a definition of "social justice."

So, we actually have "democracy" influencing journalism and, like a good journalist, I am skeptical. Especially because the Photography Expanded project includes "project labs" in which the major component involves "selected participants only." Who? What? Why? How? are discussed in private.

It is a reality that a majority of any U.S. media undertaking usually has a liberal orientation. This one is no different. George Soros can promote "democracy" but the fact is we live in a "Constitutional Republic" where "freedom of the press" is (at least legally) guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution.

I hope most Americans dig a little deeper into what they see on the Internet. Thinking, making connections and pondering with a skeptical orientation are, in my book, excellent traits critical for living today when everyone faces an uncertain future.

PS -- See "Soros-Funded Media Matters Attacks Conservatives."

Two Classes in Two Cities Followup

Saturday was a very rewarding day for me and I learned a lot from both classes.

The Advanced DSLR Video workshop provide a lot of hands on with pro-level equipment AND in-depth explanations of what-why-how topics applicable to each piece of equipment. Here are some photos from the 9 am to 3 pm class, including a working lunch:

Here are some photos of the class and field trip.

The lecture on "Camera Modes - What Do They Do and How Should I Use Each Mode?" was also rewarding. The free Meetup Group talk was an excellent, well organized introduction. Could have been longer but was worth it none-the-less.


Two Classes in Two Cities in One Day!

Tomorrow it's off to school I go...

I've got two classes in two cities. Thankfully, they're not too far from each other.

The first is 9 am to 3 pm with a working lunch. It's at Georgia Regents University, newly named because of a college mega-merger in Augusta, Georgia. The place used to be called Augusta State University and that's what all the locals wanted to keep as the institution's name. Most probably didn't know that GRU is the acronym for (Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye) the main military foreign-intelligence service of the Russian Federation, and formerly of the Soviet Union.

That class is called "Advanced Shooting Techniques in DSLR Videography." According to the description, "DSLR videography is more than setting the camera on auto and pushing record. Practice making creative shots using the tools available to the DSLR camera. Learn how to master exposure, control depth of field, framing, and camera motion to enhance your shooting skills."

I'm torn between using my trusty Canon HG10 camcorder and practicing with my T3i. I'll probably use both AND bring along my snap-shooter Coolpix P7000.

After that class I hustle over to my hometown library where I will attend a class called "Camera Modes - What Do They Do and How Should I Use Each Mode?" which is a freebie courtesy of one of the members of the group. He described the purpose saying, "We will do a class on learning how to use your camera better, by teaching you about most of the camera modes on the dial or menu of your camera, including the infamous MANUAL mode. We will cover what camera settings each mode affects and how that affects the resulting photos."

I'm really looking forward to not only learning the subjects but also meeting others who are as interested in photography and video as much as I am. It's a rare opportunity given the dearth of meaningful events in the region. I had to make many an overnight trip to Durham, North Carolina during the past few years for courses in documentary video at Duke University's Center For Documentary Studies. I even drove out to the University of Texas at Austin for a Digital Media Academy Documentary Filmmaking workshop three years ago.

So the short trip from Augusta to Aiken will be a relief from the long-distance driving I usually do, maximizing the fun and minimizing the monotony. I'll let you know how it goes in a later post.

WOW! Maybe Someday I'll Get There Too...

I knew the name Garry Winogrand and was vaguely familiar with his work but apparently he's a much BIGGER NAME than I recall, at least with regard to his photos.

While researching artwork for a potential documentary video I may be asked to produce I was browsing the list of lecture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. I stumbled upon a lecture and book signing for Winogrand.

Just how does a photographer and his/her photographs rise to a level that warrants exhibition at the National Gallery? Well, anyway, here's info about the exhibit...

Washington, DC—The first retrospective in 25 years of work by artist Garry Winogrand—renowned photographer of New York City and postwar American life—will be on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, March 2 through June 8, 2014. Revealing the full breadth of his art for the first time, Garry Winogrand brings together some 190 of the artist's most iconic images—many never before exhibited or reproduced.

Of course, I'd love to be present for the lecture and view the exhibit but I'm 520 miles southwest and I don't have any business trips up there  planned, at least as of now. Maybe I will make it up there before the exhibit closes June 8.

So, how does a photographer rise to the level of say, Garry Winogrand, at least with regard to exhibiting in the National Gallery of Art. The first prerequisite is to have taken great photos that many people have an interest in seeing.

Here's a bit of Wikipedia about him, "

Garry Winogrand (14 January 1928, New York City – 19 March 1984, Tijuana, Mexico) was a street photographer known for his portrayal of the United States in the mid-20th century. John Szarkowski called him the central photographer of his generation.[1]

Winogrand was known for his portrayal of American life in the early 1960s. Many of his photographs depict the social issues of his time and in the role of media in shaping attitudes."

I suppose that in addition to great photos that people are interested in viewing there's an accompanying life among other great personages and a long history of published photos, book publishing, and exhibits. There are probably other factors too but I suspect persistence and "staying in the game" is a strong factor too.

Devoting a life to the art of making pictures AND being in the right place at the right time AND knowing the "right people" helps immensely, I suspect. It remains to be seen whether great photos that people want to see is enough.

That reminds me of my high-school friend Dan Garson. He traveled to Woodstock for the famous concert and came back with lots of pictures. Not such a big deal at the time but many years later they were published in a book that was lauded. It's an interesting story and I'll tell it with more detail in a later post.

Profound Changes In Photography

Jennifer suggested I take a look at Wired article "Photographs Are No Longer Things, They're Experiences." It starts off with this, "To say that digital cameras have profoundly changed photography is both true and cliché."

I would agree with that and emphasize the cliché part.

Digging deeper into the article (it is quite long and detailed) I got sidetracked by the link to the interview subject's web site. Stephen Mayes is director of VII Photo Agency and his business itself is a testament to the "profound changes in photography."

The main categories on the web site tell it all. They are; Photographers, Partnerships, Cultural,  Education and Films. You would expect a photo agency to feature the work of its photographers. But how about the other four categories?

Partnerships? Cultural? Education? Films?

Those are relatively new concepts for a photo agency business. Photo agencies are generally composed of a small group of select photographers that share a mutual interest in a certain type of photography. I'm familiar with some of the photo agencies that represent photojournalists and I can say that VII's business is diverse compared to others. That in itself is a "profound change."

When I checked today there were 20 photographers represented on VII's site. Overall their styles seem to be oriented toward documentary and photojournalism. In addition to displaying their traditional portfolios there is a "Featured Story" link for each of the 20 members.

There has been a resurgence in the concept of "storytelling" during the past several years. Even local TV reporters and shooters are being urged to adopt the concept instead of (or in addition to) the typical news reporting common to traditional TV news programs. That is a big change from reporting facts to something else entirely. Not that I'm against it but getting the who, what, when, where, why and how information is, in my opinion, still paramount.

Also during the past decade or so the "digital revolution" has meant enormous new competition for professional photographers who make most or all of their income shooting photos. Today you can generally add video to the offerings. Because of the competition and decline in revenue many photographers have experienced the better ones now teach too.

There always were many "master classes" and other photography workshops led by experienced photographers and photojournalists. However, to me it seems to be on the rise. After all, if there are many new digital photographers making ever-better quality digital images the market for educating them has grown too. Diversification is usually a good thing in business.

"The VII Mentor Program, a new initiative conceived by VII Members, seeks to provide professional development for emerging photographers whom the Members consider to be the brightest new talents in the industry," is one of the agencies educational efforts.

There are master classes and workshops ranging in price from $650 to 2200 Euros (a little over $3000 when I checked). The later is the Chernobyl Masterclass conducted by Antonin Kratochvil. The range of offerings and the international locations are not usually found on the typical photo education web site.

I attended the 1974 Missouri Photojournalism Workshop held in Warrensburg, MO. The program is now called The Missouri Photo Workshop. It did help me to improve my skills but it also provided a sort of reference point in my career path navigation. Perhaps more abut that in a later post.

The "Partnerships" page carries a long list of the requisite causes while "Culture" encompasses various programs, speaking engagements, etc. The "Films" page provides samples and background information on the documentary videos produced by the agency's photographer. An interesting range of subjects are represented including some of the requisite causes.

All in all a unique mix of products, services and offerings by a group of very talented photojournalists, representative of how they can rise above the enormous competitive environment wrought by the "profound changes" brought about by the digital imaging revolution.

The CNN iReport Quandary

I fully believe in "Citizen Journalism" and all that it embraces. In fact I would go so far as to say that this participatory concept might have saved newspapers from dying off. If newspaper managements had embraced this concept early on and had taken a leadership role in developing its potential many newspapers probably would still be around.

But... the title of this post is "The CNN iReport Quandary" so...

It's great that people with talent and desire participate in providing free material for CNN (and many of the other national news and weather sites) but I wonder about "who profits." As a 16 year old budding news photographer my published photos garnered $3 each and usually a credit line. More than mere pocket change back then!

CNN almost certainly pays nobody for their hard work. Think about it for a minute...

Almost everywhere you go via Internet some commercial interest is tracking you and making full use of whatever personal information they can garner from your Internet wanderings. We allow them to take that information and sell stuff to us, presumably in return for all the great free things we can do using Internet.

But then we go the extra mile, perhaps taking many hours of hard work to prepare and upload an iReport and CNN gets the content for free. They might even profit from not having all of the local bureaus they once operated.

I assume that having your work displayed on CNN's iReport pages is a thrill for many people that more than compensates them for their creative and expressive work. But then again...

If we provide personal information about our buying habits in return for free services shouldn't we get something in return for highly crafted free content?

It is possible that some iReport contributors (an extremely small percentage) either get paid for their work or maybe even hired as a stringer (newspaper term for freelancer).  As I mentioned above, there are many ways iReport content could help make CNN corporate more profitable for their shareholders.

Is it fair not having CNN compensate people more widely?

I've got the comments section open and I hope a few of you respond with your thoughts. It really will help me to make up my mind about whether to participate in iReports. Thanks!