Documenting Numurkah

I’m not sure why I am attracted to the comical, the whimsical, but I am. For my “Village” project, a documentary of villages around the world, I wanted to photograph a town in the outback of Australia. A country town big enough to be communally self-sufficient, but with a population small enough for everyone to know their fellow townspeople. I mentioned this one day in conversation with an acquaintance of mine in Melbourne, who offered to take me to Numurkah — the town she grew up in, where her mother and grandmother still lived.

Remembering Jeanette Chapnick

Black Star thanks Peter Howe (pictured) for his tribute to Jeanette Chapnick, who passed away last month. Here’s an excerpt from Peter’s article in The Digital Journalist:

Coming Soon: A Pulitzer for Cameraphone Photography?

At left is one of the actual entries in the second-annual contest by Sony Ericsson and The Times (U.K.) newspaper, Cameraphone Photographer of the Year 2007.

Nine Goals for Getty’s CEO

During his recent conference call, Jonathan Klein, CEO of Getty Images, outlined a number of priorities for the company. They include:

1. Stabilizing the Creative Stills Business. Sales of creative stills (RM and RF) have been in decline for 2007 and, to a certain degree, back into 2006. The top priority for the company now is to get units licensed and revenue at least to a stable level.

The 4-Hour Workweek for Photographers: An Interview with Tim Ferriss

Last Friday, The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The author — who encourages readers to use his principles of “lifestyle design” to escape the cubicle culture — has clearly struck a nerve.

Restoring Trust in Photojournalism: Black Star Rising Talks with Dr. Hany Farid

Photographers have been manipulating images ever since Abraham Lincoln’s head was attached to John C. Calhoun’s body in one of Lincoln’s most famous portraits. But today, digital technology has made tampering easier and more pervasive than ever. Some believe the trend threatens the public’s fundamental faith in the practice of photojournalism.

Learning the Universal Language

Sometime back, I shot in Burkina Faso and Ghana in West Africa. In Burkina Faso alone, there are over 82 different people groups and each one has a different language. While French is the official language of the country, not everyone speaks it. So, how do you make photos with a language barrier?

The Rap Video That Saved New York Photographers

OK, perhaps that’s a bit of an overstatement. But this video by comedy troupe Old English was one of the weapons in the successful grassroots campaign to force New York City officials to back off planned restrictions on photographers.

DigMyPics.com Goes Medieval on ScanCafe in Battle of Photo Scanning Services

Last month, startup ScanCafe officially introduced its photo scanning and restoration service to the world, followed this week by ProZone, its higher-end service aimed at professional photographers.

Are Your Business Practices Hurting Other Photographers?

My raison d’etre in doing blog entries on the subject of business practices is to be helpful to those who may need just a nudge in the right direction of information, need a little push, or need a full-contact shove. The degree of effort made is tempered by the degree of need, and some people may not like the counsel, but that doesn’t invalidate the benefit.

Nielsen’s New Rankings Offer Opportunities for Video Shooters

Nielsen//NetRatings, a global leader in Internet media and market research, recently announced a new system for ranking Web traffic called “Total Minutes.” This move could open tremendous opportunities for short-form videos.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: What Makes a Course “Advanced”?

I’m in the process of designing my syllabus for a course at the University of South Carolina called Advanced Photovisual Communications, which I will teach for the first time this fall. This is the successor to Photovisual Communications, a beginning-level skills course, which I have taught for two semesters. (Elsewhere, I have taught beginning photography, advanced photography, stock photography, and photography business practices.)

What a Difference a Millimeter Can Make

In my last post I discussed the importance of taking enough photos of your subjects. Once you’ve begun doing that, it’s easy to see how even a millimeter’s change in angle can make the difference between a good and a great photograph — or a good shot and a crummy one.

You Know What They Say About Green M&Ms

Mike Peters, the editorial cartoonist who draws the Mother Goose and Grimm comic strip, offers an amusing take on the ongoing faceoff between photojournalists and the NFL.

Arthur Lavine’s First Solo Exhibit Shows Off Seven-Decade Career

Photographer Arthur Lavine, who began working with Black Star more than 50 years ago in a seven-decade career, is being celebrated with a retrospective at San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts through September 2. You can view some of Lavine’s work here.

Without Captions, Are Photos Meaningless?

The wonderful documentary filmmaker Errol Morris [pictured] posted a thought-provoking piece on the New York Times Web site that poses the question: “Would it be possible to look at a photograph shorn of all its context, caption-less, unconnected to current thought and ideas?”

Why Photodisc is a Deadbeat

A number of Photodisc photographers have become increasingly upset at the non-payment of royalties for almost two years — and Getty is in a legal situation where it can’t do much to resolve the problem. A little history is important here.

iStockPhoto Rewards Contributors with Punctum Day

Kelly Thompson, senior VP of iStockphoto, found a novel way to thank the company’s photographers. On Aug. 19, the day Louis Daguerre’s discovery was released to the world in 1839, iStock will introduce a new holiday: Punctum Day. The name is an homage to French philosopher Roland Barthes (pictured), who defined “punctum” as the profound reaction evoked by an excellent image.

Are You Shooting Enough Photos?

“You need to take more photographs!”

This is almost always my No. 1 observation when viewing portfolios of students and emerging professional photographers.

Kodak has pushed this bit of advice for years — because with film cameras, every time you pressed the button, money left your wallet on its way to the company’s coffers. That’s no longer the case, but the advice is truer than ever. With digital cameras, it costs nothing to shoot all the pictures you could ever need of a subject.

NFL Forcing Photojournalists to Become Walking Billboards

The NFL has ruled that game photographers will be required to don red vests emblazoned with Canon and Reebok logos this season — infuriating many photojournalists and setting off a blogstorm of protest.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Different

The other day in China I watched athletes prepare for the Beijing Olympic games, and I thought about how difficult it is to get unique photographs at these highly documented events.

For the 2000 Sydney games, I was contracted by Kodak to be their photographer. I realized I would have to do something different, because I’m not a sports photographer and I knew that 1,500 other photographers would be there to capture the events and ceremonies.

Four Elements That Separate a Good Photograph from a Snapshot

Sometime back while flying out of
Dallas, I was sitting by a sweet little
grandmother. She had been visiting her
grandchildren and was eager to talk
about them. She showed me a snapshot
of a red dot in the middle of someone’s
front yard. The red dot (at least to her)
was a compelling photograph of her
granddaughter in a little red dress my
new friend had made for the child.

Elton John and Partner: The New Medicis of Photography?

Pop star Elton John and his partner David Furnish own the greatest privately held collection of 20th century photography, according to London’s Independent. The newspaper wonders if John’s collection — which will be displayed at the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art in September — is an indication that celebrity collectors have too much influence over today’s art world.

The Day the Old Man Disappeared

In one of the lessons for my online course “The Joy of Digital Photography,” I was trying to come up with a convincing anecdote about the value of photographing things when you see them — because you may never see them again. It’s a lesson most photographers have learned many times: If something of value places itself in front of your lens, you don’t have the luxury of being lazy: you must take the photograph.

John Szarkowski: Photography’s Curator

John Szarkowski, called “the single most important curator that photography has ever had” by Vanity Fair in 2005, has died from complications of a stroke. He was 81.

Szarkowski served as director of photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art from 1962 to 1991, where he emphasized the “casual, spontaneous nature” of photography. He was also an influential critic, having authored The Photographer’s Eye and Looking at Photographs.