August 20th, 2008

Kevin German in Beijing

Posted by Ben in General, Photojournalism

I guess it would have been better to have posted this earlier on in the month but if you haven’t been following it, photographer Kevin German has been running a great daily photo blog and commentary from the Olympic Games in Beijing.
He’s spending his time outside the actual events and showing the richness of life in Beijing and all the issues surrounding the games. There’s some really nice work there – well worth a look.

August 19th, 2008

People like big pictures…

Posted by Ben in General, Photojournalism

The Boston Globe stirred much admiration, and blogging about, when it launched its highly successful photo blog – The Big Picture – in June this year. Run by Alan Taylor, I don’t think it’s unfair to say it’s actually a pretty damn simple idea, and makes you wonder why no-one did it before. Pick a subject of the day, a selection of photos to illustrate, and let viewers see them VERY LARGE on the net. The Wall Street Journal then launched a similar effort, also originally called The Big Picture but which has now been renamed to Photo Journal.

Essentially these are the internet versions of a real bricks-and-mortar photo gallery (not quite, but you get the idea), and as we all know pictures displayed large just look great – so why did no-one do this before?

My guess is that it’s a function of the gradual improvements in technology. People used to create websites designed for 800 x 600 pixel monitors because that was the norm. Gradually 1024 x 768 became pretty standard and so that resolution took over. Now most websites are dynamically sized to whatever the reader’s monitor is set to, but it remains a fact that if the photo is larger than the monitor size, you’re not going to be able to see the whole image in one go, and that is very unappealing. The Big Picture uses its photos 990 pixels wide, while the WSJ uses them at 959 pixels, so it seems they are working on the basis that their readers have at least 1024 x 768 pixel monitors. As Alan Taylor remarks “You take a typical 1024 pixel-wide screen, subtract 34 pixels (enough to cover most browser’s scrollbars), and you get 990px”.

Another aspect to factor in is that large images take a much longer time to download and so slow down the loading of the page, but there seems to be an increasing acceptance now that the majority of readers will have reasonably fast internet connections, and so the burden is manageable.

Then there’s the copyright issue. Traditionally websites have tended to use images small in an effort to deter people and other publications from lifting the images and re-using them elsewhere. Certainly I know of many publications, e.g. in the third world, that routinely lift wire-agency news photos from online sources even at very low resolutions, and actually print them in their paper. I can’t work out what has really changed on this score, but perhaps it’s just a realisation that those who don’t care about copyright are also unlikely to care about quality and so restricting the size of images on the internet may be an ineffectual measure.

Regardless of the reasons why a site like this has emerged, it is certainly a very welcome addition that will surely increase the popularity of photojournalism as a means of exploring news, and that’s a good thing.

For more on the development of the Big Picture, read this interview with the site creator Alan Taylor.

August 17th, 2008

War on the “weekend snapper”

Posted by Ben in General, Photojournalism

Under the title “Has our increasingly paranoid society declared war on the humble ‘weekend snapper’?” the Daily Telegraph brings us the latest installments of what Bruce Schneier aptly described as the War-on-Photography. Countless stories of jobsworths keeping the world safe by harassing amateur photographers.

Also see this previous article.

August 11th, 2008

Pieter Hugo’s “Nollywood”

Posted by Ben in Africa, General, Photojournalism

© Pieter Hugo

Pieter Hugo, who won a World Press Photo Award for this photo of a Nigerian hyena handler, has some new work on the subject of Nigeria’s always-booming film industry known as Nollywood.

Having lived in West Africa for a few years and having spent some time in Nigeria I’m well aware of how wildly popular these films are throughout the region. They’re mostly traded around on worn-out videotapes or VCDs and watched in makeshift cinemas charging a small fee and consisting of a crowd of people gathered around a flickering TV set. For the countless numbers of West Africans living in poverty it’s some of the only entertainment accessible to them.

Pieter apparently adopted a creative approach to this project, rather than pure photojournalism, but it fits the subject well and the photos are just great:

“His first attempt to photograph on film sets documenting these scenes failed to produce pictures that fully mirrored the intensity of the situations. He then decided to bring his interpretation of these staged realities into another realm by assembling a team of forty actors and assistants. He asked them to recreate the stereotypical myths and symbols that characterise Nollywood productions, reproducing the dynamic of movie sets.”

You can see a selection of Pieter’s Nollywood photos here.

And if you want some good Nigerian music to listen to as you view the photos, go here.

[via The Click]

August 11th, 2008

Olympics TV footage manipulation

Posted by Ben in General, Imaging, Photojournalism

There’s been a number of incidences of photos being manipulated and the photographer found out… and now it would appear to be television’s turn.
The Daily Telegraph reports that aerial footage of opening ceremony fireworks purportedly shot from a helicopter, was “in fact computer graphics, meticulously created over a period of months and inserted into the coverage electronically at exactly the right moment.” PDNPulse also has an article on this affair.

June 11th, 2008

Jean-François Leroy interview

Posted by Ben in General, Photojournalism

The “A Photo Editor” site has an interesting interview with Visa pour L’Image photojournalism festival’s founding and current director Jean-François Leroy, talking about many aspects of photojournalism, the photography market, and the state of the profession in the world today.

June 10th, 2008

Leica M8 field-tested in Iraq

© Michael Kamber, used with permission

Photojournalist Michael Kamber – currently attached to the Baghdad bureau of the New York Times – has posted a very thorough review of the Leica M8 on his website.
The review is a real-world, hands-on, in-the-field style review from the perspective of the camera’s use in combat situations. Mike is a long time Leica user but despite the advantages of the camera’s “unobtrusiveness” he found:

“the Leica M8 to be unreliable, poorly designed, and to deliver substandard results in most of the situations in which I have used it. I can’t think of any camera – or for that matter any electronic device I have recently used – that so thoroughly fails to live up to its potential and its heritage.”

Ouch. Read more here.

Update: Mike’s review has sparked a vigorous debate over at Lightstalkers with people comparing his review to more positive ones by the likes of Bruno Stevens and Ashley Gilberston and trying to work out how a camera can be both terrible and fantastic. If you like debates of the “Mac vs PC” or “Nikon vs Canon” variety, take a look at the threads here, here, and endlessly here.

June 4th, 2008

Bruce Schneier on photo rights

Posted by Ben in General, Photojournalism

Well-known security researcher Bruce Schneier gives his analysis in today’s Guardian newspaper, and now also on his website, on what he calls the increasing war on photography that he says has arisen since 9/11. Bruce usually has a smart and sensible take on security issues and this article is no exception.

May 21st, 2008

Errol Morris on Abu Ghraib image

Posted by Ben in General, Middle East, Photojournalism

Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris has posted a lengthy examination of one of the Abu Ghraib photographs – from a photographic viewpoint.
The nearly 12,000 word (!) analysis of this image has much of interest to photographers and those seeking to better understand the interaction that takes place between reader and photograph. Read “The Most Curious Thing

May 19th, 2008


Posted by Ben in General, Photojournalism

A new quarterly current affairs journal has been launched, called Dispatches. Edited by Gary Knight of VII and Mort Rosenblum, you can read the journal’s mission-statement here.
They say it will focus on one crucial topic in its full context per issue – the first is titled “In America” and the second issue is titled “Beyond Iraq”.

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