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‘I’m Not Going to be Putting This in a Portfolio,’ Bernie Meme Photog Says

One of the most widely published photos shot during the inauguration of Joe Biden this week doesn’t feature Biden at all, but rather Senator Bernie Sanders sitting in isolation while wearing a big coat and homemade mittens. In case you somehow missed it, the photo has taken on a life of its own as a viral Internet meme.

Freelance photojournalist Brendan Smialowski was documenting the event on Wednesday with his Nikon DSLR and telephoto lens when he captured the independent senator from Vermont sitting with his now-famous posture.

Embed from Getty Images

The pose did not go unnoticed, as soon a tsunami of clever memes began rolling over the Web.

After the meme went viral, Bernie Sanders’ campaign even turned the photo into a $45 “Chairman Sanders Crewneck” sweatshirt, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity Meals on Wheels Vermont. The item has already sold out.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Smialowski reveals that he snapped a couple of quick shots of Sanders while his mind was actually focused on other politicians at the event who have been more prominent in the news in recent weeks.

“The picture itself is not that nice. It’s not a great composition. I’m not going to be putting this in a portfolio,” Smialowski tells Rolling Stone. “This exact moment, I took two photos. It’s funny because the second one — for me — I thought was better. But I sent the first one because the moment — his posture, his pose — is a little better. But the composition was garbage. It was messy, but it was a better moment.

“I always say that in photojournalism, composition comes second to content. And content is the moment. Make it look pretty after.”

As with many memes of this sort, the photographer behind the photo had no idea what was coming when he shot and submitted the photo — Smialowski says he shot the photo because it was a “nice moment” and a “good slice of life.” In fact, Smialowski says he would have never created a meme-worthy photo if he had the choice.

“If I could know, I would never take a meme,” the photographer tells Rolling Stone. “I would be more than happy to never have a meme.”

Statement Signed by 600+ Photography Professionals Demands Accountability from Magnum Photos

A group of 647 photography students and professionals have together signed a letter demanding Magnum Photos actively participate in addressing sexual harassment in the industry, namely with regards to accusations made against its photographer David Alan Harvey.

The letter, published on January 8 and available to read in full here, is signed by a large group of photographers, students, curators, writers, academics, and other professionals in the photography industry from around the world. The group has called Magnum Photos to “actively participate in shifting the industry’s understanding of the challenges associated with addressing sexual harassment and abuses of power from an individual’s problem to a collective and systemic one that requires shared accountability and action.”

In an article in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) by Kristen Chick published on 21 December 2020, eleven individuals have made allegations with corroborating evidence, of inappropriate and abusive behavior carried out over thirteen years by Magnum Photos member David Alan Harvey “ranging from suggestive comments to unwanted sexual advances to masturbating without their consent on video calls”.

We stand in solidarity with all these individuals, who have spoken their truth with incredible courage. We strongly condemn sexual harassment and abuse of power in all forms. We know that many survivors do not receive the support that would enable them to speak their truth, and so we acknowledge that the public testimonials that are visible are very likely only the tip of the iceberg. We recognize that each time someone shares their story of abuse they do so against great odds, due to substantial risks including re-traumatization, social and professional ostracization, loss of work and professional opportunities, and legal retaliation.

The letter was published shortly after Magnum promised to open a new investigation into the allegations covered in the Columbia Journalism Review story and also said that it would publish its code of conduct “soon.”

As the promised investigation unfolds, we call on Magnum Photos to go beyond crisis-management methods; to not allow time, bureaucratic and legal limitations to get in the way; to not once again place the entire burden of proof on survivors, but instead to seek every possible alternative while gathering evidence and witness testimonies. We call on Magnum Photos to demonstrate moral courage and leadership beyond this case, by taking proactive and reparative steps towards setting new institutional precedents and standards.

Magnum Photos has been the center of debate for some time after Fstoppers editor Any Day discovered a series of potentially problematic images by Magnum photojournalist David Alan Harvey that were being sold on Magnum’s website. After investigating the issue, Magnum suspended Harvey for one year. Not long after, a harrowing report by The Columbia Journalism Review cited multiple women, on the record, who accused Havery of sexual misconduct and abuse of his authority.

Magnum has not yet publicly responded to this latest letter.

Twitter Users Thought the Name of This Capitol Rioter Was ‘Via Getty’

After rioters stormed the US Capitol last week, one of the surreal photos that emerged showed a smiling man walking off with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern in the Rotunda. Then things got even more bizarre: people began calling for “Via Getty” to be arrested for his actions.

Getty Images chief photographer Win McNamee was the man behind the now-infamous photo that was quickly published by news outlets around the world.

Embed from Getty Images

The photo was then shared on Twitter by Politico Chief Washington Correspondent Ryan Lizza, who captioned it: “Via Getty, one the rioters steals a podium from the Capitol.”

As the Tweet was Retweeted tens of thousands of times, people misinterpreted the photo caption as being the name of the rioter.

It seems so many people were confused that Lizza had to follow up his Tweet with a clarification.

There’s now even a parody Twitter page for Via Getty at @viagetty.

Via Getty turned out to be Adam Johnson, a 36-year-old Florida man who was arrested, charged with three felonies, and released on $25,000 bail on Monday.

So if you ever see a photo caption with something like Via Getty or Via Reuters, just know that those are credits for the source of the photo and not the name of a person.

Magnum Photos Promises More Investigations in Response to Harrowing Exposé

Magnum Photos has continued to come under fire for its response to allegations of the treatment of women by one of its photographers, David Alan Harvey. Today the organization published a letter, promising to reveal its Code of Conduct and perform further investigation into allegations.

On December 21, 2020, The Columbia Journalism Review published a deep-dive exposé into Magnum Photos. Magnum had suspended Harvey from the organization for one year over what it cites as one anonymous case, a suspension that some viewed as lenient. But the piece argues that despite attempts to appear as a leader in the #MeToo movement by adding more female photographers and choosing women as both president and CEO, multiple accounts from women describe inappropriate behavior from David Alan Harvey over a span of 13 years.

The Columbia Journalism Review lays out multiple on-the-record cases of Harvey’s inappropriate behavior. That report cites distinct examples of harrowing behavior that caused irreparable damage to multiple women.

In response, Magnum today released a statement promising to do more.

Today we are opening a new independent investigation into the allegations of inappropriate conduct by David Alan Harvey made recently in the Columbia Journalism Review. This will be carried out externally and independently by Susie Al-Qassab, a partner at UK law firm, Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA).

We recognise that making a report takes courage and we promise that all accounts will be dealt with sensitively and confidentially. The investigation offers a safe space that is independent from Magnum and no information will be passed to us without the consent of the person who reports it. Out of consideration for those involved, we would like to progress quickly, and so respectfully ask those who wish to come forward to consider doing so by the end of the month.

In a full turnaround from previous statements, Magnum has now promised it will publish its code of conduct.

As we strive to improve, we realise that being more transparent about our processes is a key part of building confidence in Magnum. We will therefore be publishing Magnum’s code of conduct in the coming weeks. We understand now that not making this available last year contributed to some people’s reluctance to come forward, and we are sorry for not realising this sooner.

We also have plans to publish a new child safeguarding policy this year alongside a statement that sets out Magnum’s values in a new ethical code. Whilst our photographers practice independently and their work is diverse, there are standards and values to which we collectively aspire and that we would like to publicly commit to.

This has been a difficult and upsetting time for women in the photography industry, and for all those involved in Magnum. We are fully committed to supporting a full and independent investigation, and to seeing through whatever changes are needed to create a new welcoming and inclusive culture for all those who work for and with Magnum.

You can read Magnum’s full letter here along with The Columbia Journalism Review’s detailed report here.

Magnum Photos is an international photographic cooperative owned by its photographer-members that has existed for more than 70 years. Magnum says that its photographers have documented most of the world’s major events and personalities since the 1930s, and that “Magnum photographers are a rarity and the agency is self-selecting; membership is a minimum four-year process and is considered the finest accolade of a photographer’s career.”

How Bokeh Evolved and How Digital Photography Elevated it to Art

Bokeh is one of the most subjective aspects of photo or video. As Simon’s Utak says in this 20-minute discussion on its history and how it is elevating digital photography into art, we as photographers can’t even agree how to properly say the word.

This video is one of the most comprehensive discussions on not only what bokeh is – including descriptions and examples of the many different types – but also delves deep into the history of the defocused areas of images that predate photography as well as how digital photography elevated bokeh into an art form.

Prior to photography, artists – namely painters – rarely used blur as a method for isolating subjects. If you look at classic art, pretty much all aspects of an image are in focus. Simon argues that painters had an influence on how photographers first started using the medium, and then in turn photographers had an influence on how later painters would choose to render scenes.

Photo by Aaron Burden

Pre-photography Painters typically used one of two methods: they either isolated subjects using a neutral background or surrounded subjects with incredibly detailed backgrounds to help tell the story of the subject.

Simon points to an almost cliche example of when this changes: with Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Yes, this painting is popular, but Simon argues that may be due to the fact that the image has a soft, dreamy look to the subject and background that is reminiscent of how modern cameras would render defocused areas.

Photo by Ugur Akdemir

Once photography became a thing, the popularity of that blurred defocus grew. Originally, many photographers adopted the same techniques that painters did, either with neutral backgrounds of busy surroundings designed to tell a story. The longer exposures that photography used in the early film eras meant that bokeh wasn’t really a thing for quite some time. But that doesn’t mean lens manufacturers weren’t aware of what their lenses were doing to out of focus areas. There are multiple examples of old lenses with incredible out of focus areas made possible by huge numbers of aperture blades.

Even through the 1970s, bokeh still wasn’t really used and the word wasn’t really even common. Even fast lenses were most often stopped down and rarely wide open. Wide-open lenses were used mainly for their light-gathering ability instead of the benefits of out of focus backgrounds.

Photo by Илья Косарев

Simon argues that the digital era has really brought bokeh to the forefront. Since the explosion of digital photography, bokeh has ballooned in use as a method of adding interest to an image or using the defocused areas to isolate a subject. Simon argues that bokeh is very much a modern phenomonen and a product of the digital era. Its use is still evolving and growing, and how it is being used is about more than cameras and lenses, but also software.

Simon’s entire video is worth a watch, so we highly recommend hearing his full arguments. After you’ve done so, let us know what you think in the comments. Do you agree with his assessment? How do you feel about bokeh? There is no denying it is popular, but how much longer do you think it will continue to be important to many photographers and lens designers?

For more from Simon’s Utak, subscribe to his YouTube Channel.

(via Fstoppers)

Balancing Photojournalism with the Right of Refusal: The Debate Continues

A University of Virginia history teacher published a tweet asking what photojournalism and documentary photography would look like, now and in the past, if the photographer’s right to take someone’s image were balanced by that person’s right to say no.

In October of 2020, the New York Post published a controversial OpEd calling street photography a form of “gender-based violence” (and this piece argued against that perspective). A recent Twitter debate continues to question the norms of documentary photography against the right to refuse having a photo taken.

The aforementioned history teacher, John Edwin Mason, cites the story of Florence Thompson, the woman whose face would become the iconic image of the Great Depression, in his argument. Thompson is reported to have resented her photo being taken and dislikes its eventual spread.

The basis of this argument is a discussion of power and agency, and who has it. For Thompson, it is argued she was not in a position to deny “a well-dressed government lady” with a camera. The same could be said of others, even if the photo that was being captured was taken with good intentions.

On the other side of the debate, many argue that were this world that Mason suggests a reality, we would lack images that have since been used to frame major events.

Some have argued that all we would have are commissioned images which paint a false picture of how the world really was.

This particular thread eloquently argues for documentary photography as we know it, but through the context of understanding other conflicting opinions:

The debate of who has the right to be photographed and who has the agency in the situation will no doubt continue to be argued one way or the other. Street photography, photojournalism, and documentary photography along with the most successful photographers who shot in these genres are generally revered in the photographic community. To question the ethics of their craft can elicit strong reactions from those who hold them in such high regard. Nevertheless, it is important to consider the ramifications of photography both as an art and as a practice. What a person with a camera does and what they plan to do with the result is often not clear to those that are the subject of candid photography. It’s no wonder this makes so many uncomfortable and why there are such strong opinions on the matter.

What are your thoughts on the continued debate? Let us know in the comments.


Image credits: Header background image by Jerry Zhang.

LeBron James Slams Photog with $1M Countersuit in Copyright Fight

In December 2019, Los Angeles Lakers basketball superstar LeBron James posted a photo by courtside photographer Steve Mitchell to his Instagram and Facebook accounts without permission. That post has become the center of a raging copyright infringement legal battle.

A search on Getty Images for “LeBron James” shows 127,906 photos just on one agency at the time of this writing — in fact it has grown by 400 just in the last few hours. So, definitely, there are over millions of photos of the Lakers star on cellphones, pro cameras, and videos out there. But the question that is being raised is whether it is okay for even a superstar to take whichever image he pleases and use it anywhere.

The bone of contention is over a photo of LBJ dunking on Meyers Leonard in a Lakers vs. Heat game in Miami on December 13th last year. It was a side-on dunk, and James reportedly captioned the image “What. A.Time. To. Be. Alive and I’m LIVING with Pure Joy! Thank You,” followed by a basketball emoji. James posted it on his Instagram and Facebook pages, which have tens of millions of followers.

Steve Mitchell, who “has spent the last 27 years capturing the decisive moment on all levels of professional sports,” according to his website, is a seasoned photojournalist whose photographs have appeared in major publications, including Sports Illustrated and ESPN.

Mitchell is suing Lebron James and his companies Uninterrupted Digital Ventures and LRMR Ventures LLC, both of which, the complaint asserts, operate James’s Facebook page, over copyright infringement. Mr. Mitchell is bitter that he did not collect a dime from the photo he snapped of Mr. James, which attracted likes and shares on social media.

TMZ Sport reported in March that Mitchell filed a claim in court asking for any money made off the post or $150,000 for each time James used the image.

James and his lawyers have responded to Mitchell’s lawsuit by filing a countersuit against the photographer, the The Athletic reports. James is asking for at least $1 million and attorney fees.

James initially contested via court filings that he is entitled to post the photos as long as he isn’t commercially exploiting Mitchell’s work, but James later removed the photographs.

Sports Illustrated notes that no, that’s not how copyright works:

The fact that James is featured prominently in Mitchell’s photo did not give James the right to publish it elsewhere. Mitchell owns his photos. This goes to the essence of copyright law: absent a contractual relationship that instructs otherwise, Mitchell possesses copyrights in his creative works, including his photos. As a result, Mitchell has the right to control the reproduction of his photos, such as their publication on social media websites. He can decide whether to license his photos and, if so, demand financial compensation for granting a license, explains Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated’s Legal Analyst who is also an attorney and the Director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law.

King James’s counter lawsuit argues that Mitchell illegally used his photos on Mitchell’s website to promote his own photo service.

“Only after our client was sued for copyright infringement for alleged use of a single photo – which we have consistently tried to settle for a reasonable amount – did we file this countersuit upon learning the photographer was making unlawful use of photographs of our client on his website to advertise and promote his photography services business,” James’ counsel Howard Shire tells The Athletic in a statement. “We continue to try to resolve this matter amicably. We have no interest whatsoever in ultimately obtaining any amounts from the plaintiff.”

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson is currently involved in a similar legal dispute, and there have been numerous cases of celebrities using photos on their social media accounts without permission and subsequently being sued for it.

Sports photographers’ rights to using sports photos in publications are negotiated in collective bargaining agreements. However, another legal view is that James may have a point in claiming that the photographer is also profiting by promoting his photo service on his website by flashing James’ celebrity status connection.

Federal judge George Wu of the United States District Court for the Central District of California has called on both parties to settle the case between themselves after a hearing on Monday. A ruling is expected in about a week.


About the author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera classes in New York City at The International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and teacher for Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days Workshops. You can reach him via email here.


Image credits: Header photograph by All-Pro Reels and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sony a7R IV Used for Bokehlicious Live Shots in NFL Game

During the Seattle-Washington NFL game this past weekend, keen-eyed viewers spotted a Sony mirrorless camera being used by the FOX broadcast team for some unusual-looking on-field shots that featured a shallow depth of field and creamy bokeh.

After certain plays, a cameraman would run toward the players in the end zone and the broadcast would switch to a never-before-seen bokehlicious view. Here’s an example:

FOX Sports cameraman Mike Smole was using a Sony a7R IV and Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM stabilized on a DJI Ronin-S handheld gimbal.

Mike Garafolo writes that the FOX crew nicknamed the rig “The Megalodon” and that Smole refers to it as a “poor man’s Steadicam.” The complete rig with all accessories cost around $10,000, so it’s not exactly cheap, but compared to a broadcast camera and actual Steadicam rig, it represents quite a savings.

Viewers quickly noticed something was different about the shots. Many called the shots a highlight of the broadcast. Others thought it looked like cutscenes out of a video game.

“This camera isn’t ordinarily made to shoot live video,” FOX Sports SVP Mike Davies tells Sports Video Group. “It certainly does a great job of shooting beautiful video but is not typically used for live.

“We were astonished by how much this was recognized. Certainly, we liked it, and people on our crew have been working with it all year, but we didn’t know your ordinary viewer would see such a difference sitting on their couch. It’s fantastic.”

FOX News will reportedly continue deploying this new camera rig for the rest of the NFL season, so keep your eye out for this new look in upcoming close-up shots.

Nickelback Made a Parody of the Song ‘Photograph’ for Google Photos

Google wanted a way to encourage Google Photos users to look back on their cherished memories, so they got Nickelback to record a new parody version of their hit song “Photograph.” You can hear the 1-minute parody above.

The original “Photograph” was released by the Canadian rock band back in August 2005 as the first single from their 5th studio album, All the Right Reasons, and it went on to top multiple charts in the US.

Here’s the official music video for the original song, which has over 55 million views on YouTube:

Here are the lyrics for the new parody song, titled “Google Photos — Look at your photographs”:

Look at this photograph
Every time I do it makes me laugh

Must have shot a million more
Of my dessert but I don’t know what for

And this is where we come from
These matching suits are looking pretty dumb

Falling down the photo rabbit hole
Is it my hair or just a ramen bowl.

Oooohh, my eyeeees

Every memory regretting all my hair styles
If you wove it all together, it would go for miles
It’s hard to braid it, time to shave it.
Good-bye / Highlights

Every memory we never have to look for
They no longer have to spread out on the bedroom floor
It’s time to say it, gotta say it
Good times, Good times

Look at this photograph
Every time I do it makes me laugh

Every time I do it makes me…

“Fifteen years ago, we had no idea that the photos on our mobile devices would become such a ubiquitous part of all of our lives,” Nickelback lead singer Chad Kroeger says. “When Google approached us with the idea about marrying the song with Google Photos we felt like it would be a fun and nostalgic way to give the song a lyrical refresh and share some of our favorite memories.”

(via 9to5Google via DIYP)