Tag: photography

Screen: The collaborative future of storytelling

A few years ago, a group of bright minds decided to support visual storytelling and founded Screen.

They are photo editor and curator Jamie Welford, producer and curator Liza Faktor, filmmaker and cultural producer Frank Kalero, media producer Ivan Sigal, interactive storytelling pioneer Bjarke Myrthu, agent and multimedia producer Anna Zekria, recently joined by photo editor and cultural producer Monica Allende.

They put their skills together to define the future of sustainable storytelling and have taken on producing outstanding solo projects such as Libyan Sugar by Michael Christopher Brown, The Backs of Men by Dominic Bracco and Uncomfortable by Laia Abril.

Their next big step: A brainstorm lab for storytellers!

Blink’s Laurence Cornet spoke to the co-chiefs of content Jamie & Liza and the Screen Lab’s executive producer Amber Terranova to see what they have been up to.

 

Laurence: How did Screen come about?

Liza: Most of us have a traditional journalism background, and like many others we have played with multimedia tools. Five years ago, Jamie (Wellford) and I did a show called Projections of Reality to aggregate groundbreaking visual storytelling. That’s how Screen was born; we wanted to get away from the conversation about technology and new tools and focus on the subject matter of the stories.

Jamie: We are trying to channel the energy of discovery. Not knowing is thrilling and requires courage. Collaborative is the theme of the day. How do you build on that? You begin to work with designers, enlightened thinkers and put together a combination of people to walk down the path of turmoil. It’s a group effort.

 

Laurence: Concretely, what does that mean?

Jamie: The question is: “Can we take self-initiated projects further? How to diversify them and make them bigger in a way that we collectively believe in?”

Traditional media has a really painful standard. I have worked in it long enough to say that publishing a project sometimes kills it. How do you move beyond that and actually engage with it in a deeper way? Is it possible to diversify it further? The answer is obviously yes. There are many variations on a theme, and ways to look at it.

With the Projections of Reality exhibition back in 2010 we presented 22 pieces at the crossover of photography, multimedia and video – multi-channel video installations, web-based projects, and interactive documentary films by Tim Hetherington, Brenda Ann Kenneally, Alex Majoli, Yuri Kozyrev, Magnum In Motion and the New York Times. It was a collaboration of artists, architects and designers. We have curated several projects since then, between Barcelona, Brazil, Goa, Paris and Dubai, among other places, and at one point decided to move even further with the idea of collaborative projects.

Liza: A recent example is The Backs of Men, Dominic Bracco’s project exploring the roots of migration and the modern American frontier. Dominic has been shooting for five to six years on the border in Texas, Mexico and Honduras working with Jeremy Relph and other journalists. He’s been writing a fictional play based on the characters he met in Ciudad Juarez. By the time we met last year at the New York portfolio review Dominic had already enlisted a brilliant theatre director Danya Taymor to work on the production of his play, he’s done extensive outreach in universities and highschools across the U.S. and Mexico talking to students about the patterns of violence and poverty that their fellow migrant friends have come from.

The material is overwhelmingly rich, both visually and thematically. Now, how do you approach something like this and make it digestible, entertaining and epic at the same time? You need people with different expertise to find the right tone: film editor and multimedia producer Adrian Kelterborn, art director Ramon Pez, creative technologists Mandy Mendelstein & Ivaylo Getov are now all attached to the project. I’m super excited to work with all these immensely talented people. The project generated quite some buzz at the Sheffield Doc/Fest where it was presented at the Crossover Market just earlier this month.

We are aiming at the multimedia exhibition and the play to be released in 2016, with a web documentary and a book to follow.

 

 © Dominic Bracco II, from The Backs of Men, a cross-platform project about the roots of migration in production by Screen.

© Dominic Bracco II, from The Backs of Men, a cross-platform project about the roots of migration in production by Screen.

 © Dominic Bracco II, from The Backs of Men, a cross-platform project about the roots of migration in production by Screen

© Dominic Bracco II, from The Backs of Men, a cross-platform project about the roots of migration in production by Screen

 © Dominic Bracco II, from The Backs of Men, a cross-platform project about the roots of migration in production by Screen.

© Dominic Bracco II, from The Backs of Men, a cross-platform project about the roots of migration in production by Screen.

 

Laurence: How would you define your role at Screen?

Liza: We act as a production company. We are assessing each project’s potential to speak across platforms. Depending on the form – a book, a web documentary, an exhibition or a video installation – we’re going to respective buyers to raise the money. Our task is to act as a bridge between the markets and try to make the project reach a variety of audiences.

Jamie: In the world of ideas, there are many stages for people to explore them. Screen is another stage. It’s certainly not the only one; it’s not a novel idea, but it’s a continuation of creating space where creative ideas can be realized and explored – exploration being a really operative word. There are phenomenal ideas out there that are not expanded. We expand the storytelling journey with what we think is a remarkable collective of people.

 

Laurence: How do you find these projects?

Liza: Between all of us and our collective involvement with the agency and the editorial business over the years we have established long-term relationships with photographers and journalists who have consistently been producing groundbreaking content. We also come across exciting work at portfolio reviews, workshops, or the authors just contact us.

These photographers & filmmakers have great stories with great material to start with but something is missing because they can’t identify their technical or production needs by themselves. What are your deliverables? What’s your package in the end? Can you find companies to support your project? Can you work with your pre-existing audience in a productive way?

There are only so many projects that we can produce ourselves, but we have the formula that works, and we can serialize it to dozens of other projects. That’s why we have initiated the lab where there is a burning need for this kind of production help or guidance that is not out there in the market.

 

Laurence: Can we talk about Screen Lab in more detail?

Liza: Our Production Lab is a module of two five-day sessions, separated by three months in between. Participants come to the first session with content so that we can help shape it and identify the needs of each project. We then work with them on developing their work more specifically for the outlets that make most sense for their stories. Then, during the second session we help them distribute their work, wrapping up the lab with a pitching in front of real buyers. Depending on the needs, we get museum curators, broadcasting commissioners, film and cinema representatives. We have a very wide network and we tap into it for these projects that we believe in.

Our first Lab is held in New York with the support from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and is led by Jamie, myself, Adrian Kelterborn, Bjarke Myrthu & Amber. The next available session is in October with September 15th deadline. Link for the applications is here. The next Lab will be held in London later this year.

 

Laurence: What do you expect from the lab?

Liza: This lab is only the first one. We are already working on the next editions of the Lab with our partners in Europe and Brazil. As we are looking into the next generation of inspired visual storytellers, there seems to be a lot of demand for something like that, and many great projects we can discover, take on or simply connect to.

Amber: What sets us apart from a regular workshop is that we are a lab, which means that the projects are set on a production course. Screen picks up at least one project that comes through the Lab for further production and distribution. We consider all projects, but if we can´t take them on ourselves, we´ll help you find people who will.

 

 © Sofia Valiente, from Miracle Village, a project about the settlement for sex offenders in Palm Beach County, Florida. Having published the story as a book already, Valiente intends to exhibit the work as an outside installation in an attempt to change public opinion about the strict laws that govern sex offenders in the county.

© Sofia Valiente, from Miracle Village, a project about the settlement for sex offenders in Palm Beach County, Florida. Having published the story as a book already, Valiente intends to exhibit the work as an outside installation in an attempt to change public opinion about the strict laws that govern sex offenders in the county.

 © Sofia Valiente, from Miracle Village, a project about the settlement for sex offenders in Palm Beach County, Florida. Having published the story as a book already, Valiente intends to exhibit the work as an outside installation in an attempt to change public opinion about the strict laws that govern sex offenders in the county.

© Sofia Valiente, from Miracle Village, a project about the settlement for sex offenders in Palm Beach County, Florida. Having published the story as a book already, Valiente intends to exhibit the work as an outside installation in an attempt to change public opinion about the strict laws that govern sex offenders in the county.

 © Sofia Valiente, from Miracle Village, a project about the settlement for sex offenders in Palm Beach County, Florida. Having published the story as a book already, Valiente intends to exhibit the work as an outside installation in an attempt to change public opinion about the strict laws that govern sex offenders in the county.

© Sofia Valiente, from Miracle Village, a project about the settlement for sex offenders in Palm Beach County, Florida. Having published the story as a book already, Valiente intends to exhibit the work as an outside installation in an attempt to change public opinion about the strict laws that govern sex offenders in the county.

Laurence: What makes a story interesting for you?

Amber: We are interested in themes that can motivate change or show a unique and intimate perspective on a topic. This change can happen on a legislation level or just within a small community.

Liza: The projects don’t have to be multimedia. It’s about what the story needs to get delivered. In our guidelines we specifially stress on the potential of story to be told across several platforms, as opposed to incorporate several tools.

Amber: We are open to artists as well.

Liza: Yes, absolutely. We are interested in all kinds of issue-driven visual narratives.

Jamie: It’s a good time to talk about project examples because with us right now is Joao Pina, who has worked on a project called Condor, about the involvement of North America in South America dictatorship. Joao, in which direction does your project continue to grow?

Joao: For me the main question is how to keep growing this? Not necessarily producing more work, but getting what’s produced towards a different audience. I started this as a classic press project. I wanted National Geographic to give me $50,000 and six months to a year to work on it. That assignment never came, and six months became nine years. In those nine years, readership shifted dramatically. I can now reach as many people on Instagram as National Geographic does with a printed magazine.

That’s great, but how can we reach more and, mainly, different people?

Liza: In Joao’s case, he already produced a book in three languages and an exhibition that now needs to travel widely, especially in the region – for people to know what happened forty years ago and build it into their historical memory. He also needs to produce a film out of all the amazing footage he has from the trials and the interviews he recorded with the survivors or relatives of the operation’s victims. We will join forces with Joao to achieve these goals and look into the digital platforms to widen the project’s audience.

 © Joao Pina, from Condor, a project about the 1975 political repressions and state terror implemented by the right-wing dictatorships in South America.

© Joao Pina, from Condor, a project about the 1975 political repressions and state terror implemented by the right-wing dictatorships in South America.

 © Joao Pina, from Condor, a project about the 1975 political repressions and state terror implemented by the right-wing dictatorships in South America.

© Joao Pina, from Condor, a project about the 1975 political repressions and state terror implemented by the right-wing dictatorships in South America.

 

 

Laurence: Do you have ideas on how to reach a different audience?

Joao: I have lots of ideas. I recently did a nine minute piece that can be used in a classroom, in a museum, online – pretty much anywhere. Now, the question is: “What resources do we need to really make something interesting out of this?” I don’t know but this is fascinating. The consequence of press being in such a bad shape is that you start looking into different ways out.

 

 © Joao Pina, from Condor, a project about the 1975 political repressions and state terror implemented by the right-wing dictatorships in South America.

© Joao Pina, from Condor, a project about the 1975 political repressions and state terror implemented by the right-wing dictatorships in South America.

 

 © Joao Pina, from Condor, a project about the 1975 political repressions and state terror implemented by the right-wing dictatorships in South America.

© Joao Pina, from Condor, a project about the 1975 political repressions and state terror implemented by the right-wing dictatorships in South America.

Laurence: Does the answer lie with your target audience?

Joao: The audience is much brighter than we are and get things the way we don’t. I am excited about having that conversation between the subject of the story and the people who are interested in it.

Liza: This is something that the great masters of advertising and visual communication such as Tibor Kalman and David Ogilvy never got tired of repeating: Always assume that your audience is smarter than you, don’t talk down to them. The editorial business tends to underestimate its audience, arguing that the readers and viewers are not interested in in-depth content. But look at video on demand market and the lineup for documentary films at Netflix and Amazon, look at the amazing impact that some of the films or public art campaigns have achieved because the audience gives a damn.

Now, that’s great, isn’t it?

 

Laurence Cornet is a writer, a photography critic and a curator based in Brooklyn. Her clients include L’Oeil de la Photographie, The Magnum Foundation, Images magazine, Vice, MSNBC, Vogue and Camera.

 

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Tim Franco’s work on Chinese urban development

Since 2009, the Chinese city of Chongqing has observed a rapid transition to urbanism.

Recently French photographer and Blink user Tim Franco spoke to Blink’s Sahiba Chawdhary about his book  “Metamorpolis- Urban Rise” capturing the city’s development process which he will be presenting later this week at the Asia Society of New York.

 

Sahiba: Can you tell us about your book and what inspired it?

Tim: I have always been attracted to chaotic urban environment. I wanted to document the transition from rural to urban and Chongqing was the perfect city to document this change as you can witness the uncontrollable growth of concrete taking over farmlands.

My book is about presenting the fast urban development process in the city of Chongquing. This growth is unique because the city is being built between mountains and two major rivers. It helped me present a point of view to the city urbanism.

I wanted to capture the beauty of chaotic city.  At the same time, I admired the local adaptation to change. I am impressed by Chinese people and their ability to adapt to change and overcob7dc611bf355c5a91d9a87c195a884me difficulties. I show how to people try to live there and entertain themselves during this change. I particularly enjoyed the Chongqing experience of spicy food, culture and urbanism.

 

Sahiba: How much time did you spend there to complete this project? 

Tim: I spent five years documenting the city. In 2009, I visited the city while traveling to secondary cities in China. The urbanism change caught my eye and I decided to return. Since then I traveled back and forth to shoot the urbanization of the city.

 

Sahiba: How did tackle the language barrier while completing your project?

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Tim: When I first arrived in China, I went to university to learn Mandarin. While documenting this project I tried to overcome the language barrier by learning the local dialect to talk to my subjects and connect with them.

It is exciting for my subjects to interact with a foreign photographer. Actually, one of the main portraits in my book are special because of my interactions.

 

Sahiba: Were you working on other projects while working on your book?

Tim: Yes, I often do freelance assignments for publications. Photojournalism is a tough market. However, I try to immerse myself in it along with my commercial projects. I often travel across China for work.

Shockingly, I was traveling in France and I received an assignment via Blink because of the Blink map plug-in on my website. It was a pleasant surprise because I did not imagine that I could get assignments while traveling in France. Unfortunately I was not able to do it, but the magazine contacted me based on my portfolio on Blink because they were doing a story on urban landscapes. chongqing_TimFranco-0101

Similarly, while traveling in secondary cities of China, Blink has helped me remain connected for assignments. I was not aware of this before, but the small location plug-in map on your website makes a huge difference. It is a revelation for the freelancers and it has made a difference for me.

 

Sahiba: What are your future projects?

Tim: This was a long and exciting project. I want to sell as many books as possible so the world can see and appreciate the rapid changes happening in China.

1485 006I will be traveling from the East coast to the West coast for a portrait project while promoting my book on the side. It would be a personal project to relax and have fun with my camera. I’ll be shooting with medium film format as I find it easier because I feel like I gain more time while shooting film.

My goal is to work on my style which is picking a place I like and capturing the right moment. My aim is to shoot less and more efficiently for the next project.

 

Tim Franco is a French photographer based in Shanghai, China. His work has been published in many international publications. He would be speaking at the Asian Society Museum of New York on Wednesday where he will be talking about his work followed by a Q&A session with the audience. Book sales and signing will follow the discussion. You can find the event here.

Metamorpolis is available for purchase online. You can find the video here.

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Andrew Quilty’s journey from Australia to Afghanistan

From a guest house in Taloqan the provincial capital of Takha, Northern Afghanistan, photojournalist Andrew Quilty spoke to Blink’s Kyla Woods about his beginnings in photojournalism, the founding of his photo agency Oculi and the risks of being a freelance photojournalist.

 

Kyla: How did you get into photography?

Andrew: I don’t have one of those “it’s always been my dream” stories. Two of my uncles were photographers. One of them gave me his old Nikon F3 and a bunch of lenses and the other gave me a little camera bag. I had this ready-made kit, and I went traveling around Australia for six months. When I got back, I enrolled into a course and the path continued. But at that point I didn’t know what sort of photography I was interested in at all.

 

Kyla: How did you get into photojournalism then?

Andrew:  It was mostly because of my peers and company. While I was studying, I worked at a bottle shop. One of my customers was a picture editor at Fairfax Media in Sydney, one of the two main print media organizations in Australia.  I’d talk his ear off about my growing interest in photography and he was always very supportive. One day he said, “why don’t you come in and gain some work experience with us?”

So I did, and that’s when I met established photographers who very quickly became my idols. I started spending more time with these people and eventually some of them became my friends. They shaped the way I thought and inspired me.

 

Kyla: What section were you working in?

Andrew: I was working for The Australian Financial Review. I had no interest in finance, but the fact that I was being paid to take photos was pretty incredible. I got mentored by senior photographers.  At the same time I tried my different genres of photography such as sports photography.

 

Gul Ahmad, an infant boy suffering from acute malnutrition, is covered by his mother's scarf while being treated in the therapeutic feeding centre ward at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) administered Boost Hospital in Lashkar Gah, the capial of Helamnd Province in southern Afghanistan. ©Andrew Quilty/ OCULI

Gul Ahmad, an infant boy suffering from acute malnutrition, is covered by his mother’s scarf while being treated in the therapeutic feeding centre ward at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) administered Boost Hospital in Lashkar Gah, the capial of Helamnd Province in southern Afghanistan. ©Andrew Quilty/ OCULI

 

Kyla: Tell us about your photo collective Oculi?

Andrew: Started in 2000, it comprises of photojournalists and documentary photographers who were working in staff positions for either Fairfax or News Limited. It was born partly out of frustration of many problems including not getting their work published the right way. The Internet, however, allowed them to take control of their own work. All were Australian working specifically on subjects within Australia and the region. Founding members included Trent Parke (now with Magnum Photos), Dean Sewell and Nick Moir, both of whom have pushed and inspired me.

In the past fifteen years the group has changed significantly. The most marked difference from its genesis is that only half of the collective consists of what you might refer to as traditional photojournalists, while the other half pursues other avenues of both funding and distribution. The group is proud of nurturing young talents as well. Oculi’s newest recruit, Raphaela Rosella was awarded a World Press Photo Award.

 

Kyla: When did you join Oculi?

Andrew: I joined in 2007.

 

Kyla: Are most of your colleagues freelancing in Australia?

Andrew: Many are freelancing. Last year, Fairfax let go of around 70% of their photographers nationwide at their flagship newspapers, like Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Financial Review.

There are still some who are working for Fairfax through Getty. As you know Fairfax signed a deal with Getty which was turned down by many former staff members at Fairfax due to pay reductions, no benefits or rights. As a result, work is hard to come by there for them now. For people who had worked there, even as freelancers, Fairfax was their bread and butter, and probably at least 50% of their work.

There are photographers in Australia who have won multiple World Press Photo awards but are really struggling to make a living. I think I probably left Australia at a time that, in hindsight, was fortuitous, as I’ve managed to make some inroads with outlets outside the country. I think only 20% of my work comes from Australia these days.

 

Kyla : When and why did you relocate to Afghanistan?

Andrew: I came to Afghanistan about an year and a half ago. I was interested in Afghanistan simply because I thought there was potential for work. I don’t think that was the case when I moved to New York though. I moved to New York to make connections with editors and publications.

 

Photo By Andrew Quilty

Street scene from the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan. Andrew Quilty/OCULI

 

 

Kyla: Did you make some good connections?

Andrew: It was good to meet the people who work at these places. I discovered that you don’t have to be there to work for them. When I was in New York, I would be jumping for joy if I got to shoot something for The New York Times, and get paid for a day’s work. Whereas in Afghanistan, the stories are at a level that I’ve never experienced in Australia or in the U.S.

I honestly can’t remember having to work on a single story here that has been the least bit trivial. Everything you point a camera at is compelling as a photographer.

 

Kyla: How do you work on stories in Afghanistan? Can you talk about the pros and cons of freelancing?

Andrew: Yes, it usually depends on the assignment and publication. I might be working with a writer who may or may not have staff fixers, whereas if I am doing personal work or self-generated work, I’ll have to employ a fixer, translator, or driver myself and cover those costs. Unfortunately,  it’s close to impossible to make back the money that you put into it in the short term.

The danger, as a freelancer, is that it’s often very tempting to save a few dollars by, for example, walking instead of paying for a taxi, or going to shoot something without a translator. While staffers here have all that covered, freelancers have to weigh up the possible risks and gains and act accordingly. Of course there are benefits as a freelancer as well; freedom being the major one. I suppose the important thing is being responsible with that freedom.

 

Street scene from Kabul, Afghanistan. Andrew Quilty/OCULI

 

 

Kyla: How do you work over there?

Andrew: The way I work is here is very different from the way I worked at home. I like to spend a lot of time with the people I photograph, whereas here, the general rule of thumb is ‘don’t stay in one place for more than half an hour’. So, it’s often a case of get in, get what you need, and get out before anything can be organized to affect your security. Those sorts of basic precautions have kept me safe to this point.

Friends and colleagues here are very supportive as well. Everyone knows the drill about calling in once or twice a day, using tracking apps on your phone, etc.

 

Kyla: Can you tell me one of your dangerous experiences?

Andrew: One time I was two hours drive out of Kabul in a province just to the North. I was working on a story with Azam Ahmed from The New York Times about how close the Taliban insurgency was to Kabul. We were going to this place that was reputed to have a heavy Taliban presence and to get there we needed a police escort. As the armored escort carrying the district governor was coming to meet us at a police base, they were ambushed, blown up by IEDs and attacked with gunfire. We were about 10 minutes away from the ambush.

 

Before sunrise on the northern edge of Herat in western Afghanistan – only a couple of hundred meters from the US Consulate and on the edge of a main road – families from Ghor province warm themselves by fires and in makeshift shelters and tents. The 300 or so Internally Displaced People (IDP’s) left their homes for reasons including factional fighting as well as because of drought and the associated effects on the farming communities’ source of food and livelihood. The temperature was -8 degrees celcius soon after sunrise. Andrew Quilty/OCULI

 

Kyla: Are you covered by insurance?

Andrew: I can’t afford to have insurance 100% of the time I’m here; it’s completely unaffordable for a freelancer in a place like Afghanistan. Instead I’m selective about when I use it. Generally speaking, that means anytime I leave Kabul for the provinces.

Reporters Without Borders is one of the few that offer it for Afghanistan. You can buy it on day-by-day basis online as you need it. I think Syria is the only country where they do not  offer coverage at the moment. For the most part though, planning is the best insurance – doing what’s possible to mitigate risk.

The front lines are almost invisible in Afghanistan. You can walk the streets in a district in Helmand one week and the next it’s been overrun by insurgents. It’s not like the Taliban has a uniform that you can watch out for. There’s an old surfing saying that for every shark you see, seven or eight have seen you. It’s pretty similar here I think.

 

 

Andrew Quilty is a freelance photojournalist and member of the photo collective Oculi. His work has been commissioned by world known publications including The New York Times, TIME Magazine, Harper’s, Mother Jones, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Le Monde, etc. He was recently renamed the 2014 Walkley Young Australian Photojournalist of The Year Award. He is currently based in Afghanistan.

Kyla Woods  works as a freelance writer based in New York, specializing in current affairs, photography, and design. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Kyla has contributed to articles featured in Long Cours, Le Figaro, Le Point, Gatopardo, This is the What, and Foam Magazine. Kyla has also been featured in the French magazine Jalouse. Since 2013, Kyla has regularly written for Musée Magazine, a digital magazine dedicated to displaying the work of international emerging photographers, Peril Magazine, an online magazine that focuses on issues of Asian Australian arts, and worked at the Bronx Documentary Center. She was also involved in the 2015 PhotoBook Melbourne Festival.

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Good surveillance can’t be detected: Gregoire Pouget on cyber security for journalists

 

Digital security has become an unavoidable topic due to exponential expansion of the internet.

Grégoire Pouget, the head of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) New Media desk, spoke to Blink’s Kyla Woods about RSF’s Digital Safety workshop and techniques that journalists can use to improve their cyber security.


K: What events prompted RSF to introduce digital security workshops?

G: In 2005, RSF released a report titled ‘Enemies of the Internet‘. This report detailed the alarming threat of online surveillance and forms of cyber censorship in all countries. At this point, RSF decided to introduce internships to aid in facilitating awareness about these issues.

We changed our approach to cyber security. In 2011, we realized that censorship was the biggest online problem. Consequently, we decided to take action and begin training media professionals. However, we soon realized that data protection and surveillance was the biggest online threat. Even now we believe that surveillance and different forms of censorship are two threats that are equally imposed.

 

K: Does Reporters Without Borders provide a series of different cyber security trainings?

G: Reporters Without Borders hosts a three to four-day cyber security training workshop with journalists all over the world. We have an “in-house” training session that usually lasts half a day. We keep all our resources for cyber security on the ‘Digital Security’ part of our website, which is in both English and French. We also have other readily accessible online resources featured on our blog.

Inside this training, we explain the fundamentals of the digital security. RSF provides the basics of privacy protection, threats and net surfing. We provide tools like VPN (Virtual Private Network), which is an Internet encrypted tunnel between your computer and a VPN server. We use another tool; Tor, free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance.

The website details the full program.

 

K: What do you teach in these workshops?

G: We teach the security basics, so privatizing your data so that people can’t access it. We provide tools that act as an electronic safe, like TrueCrypt, and aid in removing sensitive data from your hard drive, such as Eraser. We touch on the management of data, the process of backing up your hard drive, GPS and Internet threats.

Then comes the more interesting stuff that is crypto for dummies. These tools are very easy to install. CryptoCat, for example, is a useful app that allows you to securely chat with your friends either on a browser or mobile phone. Another is Malivelope, which enables the exchange of encrypted emails following the OpenPGP encryption standard. We also introduce participants to programs that hide your online presence, such as a VPN.

Generally, we design our program three days before hand, as we want it to accommodate to the students needs.

 

K: How does an individual know if their cyber-security is jeopardized?

G: The problem is that good surveillance can’t be detected. Most journalists suspect surveillance because there is a noise when they call someone, or the battery of their cell phone has an issue where it cannot last longer than half a day. There are times when it is blatantly obvious like when a journalist receives a phone call explaining that someone/somewhere knows that you have been working on a certain subject.

Unfortunately, a breach of cyber security is not something that is easily proven, but it is something that you can sometimes sense. RSF has developed a strategy to counteract this, which is when we provide training whether, in Pakistan or Afghanistan, we scan journalist’s hard drives.

 

K: Does it find specific spyware?

G: Yes, and this is the only way to find proof that someone has been under surveillance. When we begin the workshop, we use a software released by Amnesty International called Detekt, to scan someone’s hard drive and see if a spyware called Kingfisher was used on their computer.

 

K: How do you keep up to date with the advancements in surveillance technology? How do you learn about the advancements?

G: Firstly, we undertake extensive online research. Secondly, we try to stay up to date by networking with hackers around the world and attending events such as Chaos Computer Club.

 

K: Do you have any security advice for freelance journalists and photojournalists?

G: Be cautious. You do not need to use fancy cryptography tools- stick to the basics. This means regularly updating your operating system, updating your software, using an antivirus, and no use of cracked operating systems. If you can, and you are interested in this kind of thing, we strongly advise people to use free and open source software. At the same time be concerned about your physical security.

 

Related Articles:

RSF Online Survival Kit: https://wiki.rsf.org/doku.php

Building Digital Security for Journalism: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002323/232358e.pdf

The international women’s fund has just developed a new security app which send alert messages and photo/video if there is a potential risk, and an SOS button to push a distress message to the journalist’s designated contacts before the app shuts down to prevent unwanted access. The IWMF is running a 6-week pilot program this summer to see how it works in the field and make it better. It will be FREE for freelancers, and could be a great resource for people without institutional security backup. It comes in Arabic, English, French, Hebrew and Spanish for iPhone and Android. If people want to participate, email: Cassie Clark at [email protected].


Grégoire Pouget worked for 10 years as an editor, web designer and developer before joining Reporters Without Borders (RWB). After having worked as head of the IT department, he joined the new media office where he leads projects on data security and the circumvention of censorship on the net.

Kyla Woods works as a freelance writer based in New York, specializing in current affairs, photography, and design. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Kyla has contributed to articles featured in Long Cours, Le Figaro, Le Point, Gatopardo, This is the What, and Foam Magazine. Kyla has also been featured in the French magazine Jalouse. Since 2013, Kyla has regularly written for Musée Magazine, a digital magazine dedicated to displaying the work of international emerging photographers, Peril Magazine, an online magazine that focuses on issues of Asian Australian arts, and worked at the Bronx Documentary Center. She was also involved in the 2015 PhotoBook Melbourne Festival.

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Connect: Metrography, the first and only Iraqi photography agency.

Blink is committed to connecting local journalists with media companies around the world; such connections allow companies to hire people who are on the ground and able to tell their own stories from inside the communities that they know better than anyone else. This is exactly what Metrography has achieved in Iraq.

Laurence Cornet interviews Metrography Agency’s editor in chief Stefano Carini and agency photographer Rawsht Twana for the first installment in our new series “Connect,” interviews with outstanding professionals from the Blink network.

 

LC: Stefano, you started to work with Metrography in May and it has been the most productive time since the agency started…

SC: When I arrived there was no war – it was a very boring Kurdistan for the editors. My role was to work with the photographers on developing in-depth stories and coach them. Already, in the first month I had lined up about 5 or 6 stories that would be developed, all of which we could not finish because the war started and we had to react to it.  We needed to exploit, basically, the moment and the photographers wanted to talk about what was happening in their country.

The events made it possible to work more. We gained some trust, people knew that we were there, and now we are slowly moving back to the stories that we had in mind, that we believe are important and will give legacy to Kurdish photography.

 

LC: What kind of challenges do you face?

SC: I don’t speak Kurdish so it’s difficult for me to promote the agency in Kurdistan in Iraq. We currently don’t work with people in the South because I have never met them personally and I can’t put an editor in New York in touch with somebody I have never met. It would be too stressful. Assignments are usually in dangerous places or about things that are difficult to access, so to send somebody without much experience would be risky.

 

LC: It’s not an easy job to be a photojournalist who satisfies internationally known photo editors…

SC: You need to prove that you can do it, and we did. We did several assignments with Der Spiegel, Le Monde and Al Jazeera. The editors were always happy.

Having a photographer who speaks Kurdish, but also Arabic or other dialects helps when it comes down to getting the access or finding the people you need for your piece. When you are from abroad, either you have been here many many times, in which case you are kind of a local, or you are not going to find the right people. You are going to find the mainstream characters that are always the same – politicians and so forth. The best scenario is to match local knowledge with international understanding and experience, in other words, to have an experienced writer teamed up with one of our photographers.

 

LC: Do you work with local writers?

SC: We tried to work with local writers but journalism here is hardly independent and the Kurdish language is very difficult to translate. What we do is work with international journalists who live here and know the place. Some of the most interesting stories we did involved this combination of international writers and local photographers.

 

LC: What successful stories did you produce recently?

SC: We are working on a large project about Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) in Iraqi Kurdistan – there are 1.2 million Iraqis who have entered Kurdistan since the beginning of the war in June. It’s an ongoing process, but it’s not really newsworthy so we are raising funds to do a series of in-depth stories.

The first story we did was with Rawsht who found a family in Erbil that was hosting two children from Alqosh, a Christian enclave in the North of Iraq. At that time Alqosh was attacked and then controlled by ISIS, so everybody left the city.

RT: The children are originally from Baghdad. The father left them. He is in Baghdad and doesn’t care about them. The mother died of cancer, so the children were left in an orphanage in Alqosh after having already been displaced a couple of times. When ISIS arrived they had to escape and that’s when I met them in Erbil where an uncle hosted them.

SC: Rawsht has this very particular way of working that he gets really close to people.

RT: I always eat with them!

SC: Rawsht had already started the story. We got some money for the expenses and a fee so he could continue the work and stay with them for a few weeks. Alqosh became secure again, so the orphanage reopened and school started. The children had to go back to the orphanage. They were being displaced once again from their family environment in Erbil, and sent back to the orphanage.  Rawsht went back to Erbil and stayed with the children for a few days, then traveled with them to Alqosh and spent one night at the orphanage. That’s something you can only afford to do with a local photographer – you get that kind of intimacy.

Of course, foreign photographers could do that but it would take a level of commitment that is very hard to capture when you come from abroad; because you are spending money to fly to a place that you only stay in for a limited amount of time. It took Rawsht two months, working every week with the family.

 

LC : Do you plan to develop the agency across the region?

SC: If we had more resources we would have already grown. It would not make sense to make the agency an international one, but a regional agency – yes. It would be very interesting to expand to the countries that border with Iraq such as Iran, which has huge photographic potential. Perhaps even Turkey, and connect a few photographers working in the Kurdish areas. You can then share, invite everybody, send the photographers from one side to the other and get different views on the same topics. But until now it has been impossible because of time and the amount of work, coupled with limited resources.

 

LC: What are your plans for the near future?

SC: We have many plans and projects in the works. We finally edited a 5-year project by Aram Karim about the smugglers on the border of Kurdistan. We also have a huge exhibition on contemporary photography from Kurdistan that you will hopefully see in New York in the next couple of years. Also, in Rawsht’s father’s archive there are over 30,000 images from a period of time when there were no formal records of Kurdistan. It’s a unique piece of work, so we are trying to find funds to archive it properly and create a project that would combine that with Rawsht’s own work. It’s all work in progress!

 

Metrography was founded in Iraq in 2009 by two photojournalists who wanted to create a place for photography in a country where it is largely misrepresented. Kamaran Najm Ibrahim and Sebastian Meyer’s idea was to define the agency as a place for the photographers to be protected, helped, supported and educated. Basically, a place where anybody could stop by to show their portfolio, browse through a book from James Nachtwey or Reza, learn, and most importantly meet an editor with international experience and a level of understanding for photography that could be inspiring.

Stefano Carini started photography in 2009. He then became the photo editor of Noor Agency for one year, working with some of the best photographers in the world. His idea for Metrography is to implement Noor’s very clear and organized structure on a local agency level, working with what he believes is something really important and often overlooked: local photographers and journalists. In the meantime he works on his own long-term projects without too much stress.

Rawsht Twana started photography in 2006 when he found the archive of his father, who photographed Kurdistan from 1965 to 1992. He became a member of Metrography in 2009, and is currently working on a book.

Laurence Cornet is a writer, a photography critic and a curator based in Brooklyn. Her clients include L’Oeil de la Photographie, The Magnum Foundation, Images magazine, Vice, MSNBC, Vogue and Camera.

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Tomas Van Houtryve on what drone imagery might mean for the future of photojournalism

Tomas van Houtryve received the 2015 Infinity Award for Photojournalism for the series Blue Sky Days, a drone’s-eye view of America. With his camera attached to a small drone, he traveled across the United States to photograph the very sort of gatherings that have become habitual targets for foreign air strikes. The images he captured engage with the changing nature of surveillance, personal privacy, and war. Laurence Cornet talked with him about what drone imagery might mean for the future of photojournalism.


L : I would love to hear how your project came about.

T: I was concerned about the drone war and was shocked to see that there wasn’t a good visual record of it. Usually, anytime the US goes to war the media is there; whether it’s distorted or not, it usually makes a lot of noise. The drone war has been going on for over ten years now, but it’s done in secret. The media is not very present, which is strange because we are living in a much more media saturated period now than during the Vietnam war. I wanted to do some portraits of drone strike victims and their families, but I am bad at portraits so that idea didn’t go really far.

 

L: That’s why you decided to use a drone?

T: I had an assignment from National Geographic to take aerial pictures of a mine. It was too high to use a helicopter so we used a drone. I saw it in action – I would control the camera while an engineer controlled the drone – and I said, “why don’t I use this little drone to talk about the big drones being used by the US military?”

The idea then was to research as much as I could about drone strikes in Pakistan. Even though it’s classified, there are human rights groups and investigative journalists who are piecing together and trying to account for all the strikes that happened. If you read the strike reports, there are some telling details. Many times it’s just “two males driving in a 4-wheel drive truck were hit by a drone;” but sometimes there are really horrifying ones like “wedding convoys were hit by drones.” I made a list of the most detailed ones, and then with my little drone, I went around the US looking for similar situations to photograph, just to flip things around. If the US is looking at Pakistan through a drone, what would it be like to look at the US from the same point of view? I slowly widened from just photographing strike situations to things you can see around America from a new perspective.

 

L: Do you look for the locations in advance on Google Earth?

T: Yes, often. If it’s something very big, you can see it on a satellite view of Google, but sometimes my drone is flying very low so it wouldn’t help to see it from Google Maps.

 

L: Your photographs are aesthetically striking – you play with the light, the shadows, the composition, etc. What are the challenges you faced while using the drone?

T: Learning to fly the drone is a question of practice; if you do it enough, then it becomes intuitive and you can focus on the frame and the photograph rather than on where your thumbs are.

The drone has a camera and I see everything that it sees on my screen, on the ground. My favorite altitude is between four and eight stories high because you can see people’s shadows and their gestures. You are allowed to fly up to four hundred feet but it’s only good if I am taking pictures of huge structures.

 

L: Did you get into trouble working on this project?

T: Before I put my drone in the air there is always a feeling of apprehension: “will someone come and tap me on the shoulder and put me in handcuffs?” It is a new technology and people react to it in many different ways – fear, wonder, curiosity, paranoia. Sometimes I ask for permission from the authorities in advance. On the US/Mexican border, I spoke to the border patrol before I flew it. But in other public places, I just put it in the air and see how people react. In Baltimore, I checked Twitter half an hour after putting the drone in the air, searched “Baltimore drone,” and there were four or five tweets saying “fucking drone is in the air! Fuck the police,” or “our protest even has his own drone now.”

 

L: Can drones be perceived as a new technology and tool for photojournalism?

T: Certainly. I have mixed feelings about it because I am nostalgic for the pre-drone era, even though I am now using a drone. As a photographer, you are not always photographing happy things, and by the time you take pictures at a funeral or an airstrike, you’ve passed through many channels in order to be there. The drone short-circuits this idea of gaining access by knowing people. It’s a bit terrifying that the human connection is lost – it’s more like playing a video game.

On the upside, you have so many situations where people are trying to hide things from journalists and artists, which then creates public interest to know about such issues. If BP oil spills in the Gulf they will try to keep the journalists away. Boom! The drone will see exactly what’s going on right away. In Nepal, they are using it for aid to show the devastation and destruction.

My main worry is that the first people to gain access to this technology are the military, law enforcement, and spy agencies. To control what the sky can see is very powerful, and I wonder if this is something that artists, journalists or private citizens will also have access to.

 

L: What does the law say ?

T: The law is being re-written as we speak. If you are a hobbyist or an artist you can pretty much do whatever you want, as long as you stay below five hundred feet and away from airports. There are some city governments and some states starting to enact laws, but the national law has not been finalized. It’s coming; they’ve been talking about bringing it in for the past two years.

 

L : How critical of an issue is it for you?

T: It makes me think about the power of the media. Photography is often spoken of as a neutral medium; there is this expectation that photography starts with the reality of the world and reflects it through light. There is the assumption of veracity. But there are many different kinds of photography. Surveillance photography has its own aesthetics, its own texture, and its own point of view. I used black and white for the first time in twelve years, and looked for behaviors that could easily be misinterpreted. I also started to think about certain aspects of photography that carry a weight, almost a presumption of guilt. If you are seen through surveillance video for example, people will be judging you in a different way than if you are seen through a vacation video, even if you are doing the exact same thing.

 

L: At the same time, you are breaking these codes of surveillance photography.

T: Right. It’s this weird intersection or collision between two different styles.
I’m more aware of that now and I might integrate in my photography all the codes and aesthetics that go with different ways of looking at things. In the past, I would switch subjects but I am now more likely to switch subjects as well as aesthetics.

For this project for example, I could not really see people’s faces and hands, so I really had to work with shadows and lines. The pictures became much more graphic than what I was used to. Sitting in a creepy location, kind of spying on people, is not so fun; but playing with lines and shadows is quite creative. That’s the joy I get out of it.

 

L: That also gives a lot of possibilities in terms of dissemination…

T: I am working as fast as I can before the law changes. Also, for every flight I shoot both videos and still photos. That gives some possibilities for installations. Everybody talks about multimedia, but a drone war is a war via multimedia. All the soldier sees is multimedia. It seems appropriate to do commentary through multimedia too. Different mediums have different characteristics, and I would like to explore them all.


Questions regarding drones and the Law? Here’s a few articles that can shed some light on the newest rules and regulations.

Drone Laws by State
Drone photography and the Law
FAA on media use VS. non professional use
New drone Law passes in Wyoming


Tomas van Houtryve is a photographer, artist and author who engages critical contemporary issues around the world. In 2013 Tomas began working on Blue Sky Days, a drone’s-eye view of America. Images from the project were first published in Harper’s as the largest photo portfolio in the magazine’s 164-year history. The series was awarded the 2015 ICP Infinity Award and honors from POYi, World Press Photo, and the White House News Photographer’s Association. Tomas has had solo exhibitions of his work in Paris, New York City, Spain and Italy. Many of his photographs of intense political actions are distinguished by their intimacy.

Laurence Cornet is a writer, a photography critic and a curator based in Brooklyn. Her clients include L’Oeil de la Photographie, The Magnum Foundation, Images magazine, Vice, MSNBC, Vogue and Camera.

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Nicolas Levesque's transformation from Photojournalist to Filmmaker

Nicolas Levesque is a photographer and a filmmaker based in Chicoutimi, Quebec who’s latest short documentary, “Interview With a Free Man,” was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival a few weeks ago. Laurence Cornet talks with Nicolas about the transformation from still photographer to filmmaker and the lessons he learned along the way.


LC: Can you start by giving a little bit of background about yourself?

NL: I studied photography for 3 years. I was then interested in cinema and wanted to become a director of photography so, I went to a cinema school in Santiago in Chile, where I study DP. When I came back, I made my first documentary short. It was a film about my father and how I didn’t takeover his farm. The film traveled a lot and won a distribution prize in a festival. I tried to sell it to the national television in Canada; they didn’t take it but they called me two months later and said: “We need a director with your style”. That’s how I started to work for national television, and this lasted about 5 years. In the meantime, I was still making some photography projects, and trying to look differently at things.

 

LC: How do you make a living? From the film industry, the photo industry?

NL: Of course there is more money in the film industry – maybe not in narrative films but television buys a lot of documentaries. Maybe it’s a “sexier” media; it’s easier to get some people interested in a film than in a photo essay. Television is a way for me to make a living and get a bit of extra money to start a project. Then, I ask for money from the government to continue a project; that’s how I usually work.

 

LC: Do you always have to start a project in order to get it funded?

NL: Not always. For my three last projects, I didn’t have to start them. I just asked for the money and luckily enough, I got it. But television is great, even if it’s sometimes boring – you have a time constraint, you have to do boring interviews with people in the center of the frame or things like that, you can not try some aesthetic movements. I learned a lot about journalism and reportage from the television industry; I learned how to be accepted into various contexts. It was a great school, and I don’t regret it.

 

LC: You just had a short documentary about prisoners reentry employment program at the Tribeca Film Festival. What else are you up to?

NL: Right now I’m working on two projects. I’m doing a documentary for television about gun ownership in Canada. It echoes my second short film, ‘In Guns We Trust’, which is about gun culture in Kennesaw, near Atlanta, Georgia. This short film traveled to 40 festivals and was sold to a couple of televisions networks; it had a great life. A producer saw it and offered me to do a TV documentary about gun ownership in Canada.

I’m also working on a feature film about seal hunting in Canada – in the Magdalen Islands, to be precise. I’m not looking for experts, I’m almost not looking for interviews, I just want to film people hunting seals – how they do it, how they live, who they are, what it is to live on an island where the nearest land is about 6 hours away by boat? This is going to be a long feature film. What’s going to happen, I hope, is that the film will be selected for festivals, and that television stations will buy it.

 

LC: So the way to impose your own language, in photo or video, is to do your thing first and then sell it…

NL: Yes. It’s a good thing to do. For ‘In Guns We Trust’, I didn’t ask for money. I used my own money, went there, took some photos, and shot some footage. After that, I found a bit of funding for the editing. And for sound design, you can just do a short demo pretty quickly and then ask for money to do the post-production, which can be very costly.

 

LC: How about photo projects?

NL: In photo it’s really hard to sell beforehand, so I ask for money from organizations – the Canadian Arts Council, or the Quebec Arts Council, for instance. It’s great if I can sell it to a newspaper or a magazine, but when you ask for institutional money they don’t see it as art if you say it’s for a magazine. You have to come up with something that involves gallery walls, or with a book. And it’s more interesting because you think about your image differently.

 

LC: What usually makes you choose photo versus video; is it because you like both of them and don’t want to choose or, is it because it helps you tell different kind of stories?

NL: I push them equally. When I have an idea, it comes naturally whether it’s a film, a short film, a photo series or an installation. Each discipline nourishes the other; some have qualities, some don’t. For example, the seal-hunting story is kind of heavy. You have to go with the soundman, a DP, and an assistant director. It’s fun to work in these conditions, but what is great about photography is that you are free to suffer alone if you want to, and not have the rest of the team suffer. Photography is so light. It gives you another access and another kind of image that can be useful in films too.

 

LC: You are talking a lot about access. Do you have any advice for photographers and videographers about how to get access?

NL: I always smile. And the thing is, when I was in Kennesaw for the gun project, if I had been saying that I’m a photographer for the New York Times that would have scared people. It was good to have the position of the artist doing a photo essay. Some people were like “Oh, poor little guy, he’s doing a photo essay; let’s help him do some pictures with us.” It’s still very confrontational to get in such contexts – it’s you against the subjects, and also you against yourself. And that makes me get better, bigger. You always become a better person when you return from a story because you judge less and you know the problems as a whole.

 

LC: How does that work for you?

NL: When you start a story people ask you: “Who are you? What are you doing? Why do you do that?” So, you have to think about yourself. And of course, I have a few tricks. Most of the time, you don’t talk too much, and when you do, it has to be something that you know they can relate to. For instance, Kennesaw was a rural place, and I come from a rural place, so we were talking about agriculture, machines and tractors. I was telling them about my first experience with a rifle when I went hunting as a kid, and because of that I was accepted pretty quickly. With the seal hunters, it was the same thing. When I arrived there, I was always asked: “Are you from a big city?” As I come from a small town we have a common ground. I think growing up on my dad’s farm always helped me.

 

LC: The way you approach people leads me to the next question about activism; you are not truly an activist, but you are always interested in subjects that have a social aspect. How would you describe yourself in that manner?

NL: You know, I first fell in love with Magnum photographers, and then when I was at school Seven was created. I was pretty excited with all that. Then when I studied cinema they always asked the students to explain themselves pretty well. It’s not just about your subject; it’s the reason why you’re doing it that way.

When I was working for my dad, a lot of people working for him were not rich, educated people; they were farm workers. I learned a lot from them, and I have a lot of respect for them. So social was always important to me because I always was interested in people who are working hard, struggling, but still surviving.

 

LC: Do you want to talk about your fishermen project in Ecuador or is this top secret for now?

NL: It’s not top secret. It’s about their daily life. I haven’t looked at my images yet and want to sleep on them for a while, so this is going to take a while. Till then, I have two book projects going on. One of them is the result of a $10,000 grant from an Arts Council that aimed to match an artist with an organization. The organization was a jazz festival. I hung out there for a week, stayed with the artists in the dressing rooms or backstage. That’s a good example of another way to have money and make something with it. Sometimes artists need occasions to create and try something – new twists, or another aesthetic. That’s what makes great films, great art pieces. You have to take some risks.

 

Nicolas Levesque is a photographer and filmmaker based in Chicoutimi, Canada. Graduated in photography at the Cégep de Matane, he also has a bachelor’s degree in cinema and arts at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. He co-founded the KAHEM photographer’s association, and worked as a director on the Télé Québec network. His documentary In Guns We Trust screened as part of the Not Short of Talent program at Cannes Film Festival before being selected for TIFF’s Top Ten Shorts in 2014. His latest short, Interview With a Free Man, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2015.

Laurence Cornet is a writer, a photography critic and a curator based in Brooklyn. Her clients include L’Oeil de la Photographie, The Magnum Foundation, Images magazine, Vice, MSNBC, Vogue and Camera.

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Founders of #Dysturb on current and future operations.

At midnight, the New York #Dysturb team slipped out of a cream colored Cadillac, popped the trunk and swiftly gathered a large rolled up poster, a ladder and a bucket of glue. Within 20 minutes, Olivier Jobard’s (M.Y.O.P) image of displaced migrants taking refuge in a Tioxide plant was planted firmly on the granite of the Manhattan Bridge.

This is the second time that #Dysturb has taken the streets of New York to inform the public through imagery. Blink caught up with Pierre Terdjman and Benjamin Girette, the founders of #Dysturb, to talk about their operation and its future.


K: How did #Dysturb come about?

P: I wanted to give more visibility to my stories, so this project began with my pictures. We quickly saw that people liked it and decided to paste pictures by other photographers.

This idea was born out of frustration. Photographers can spend weeks, sometimes months, on a story. These stories are published, but they have a tendency to evaporate into the continuous cycle of news. We paste these images, these snippets of stories, so that they can resonate with others. And, in some ways, we want them to transcend the cycle, because these events that we’re documenting are shaping the world in which we live.

#Dysturb campaign in NYC. ©Benjamin Petit

Ashley Gilbertson’s (VII) image pasted on the corner of Humboldt St & Metropolitan Ave, East Williamsburg. ©Benjamin Petit

K: You use guerrilla style street art tactics to paste images, yet you are not activists?

B: We do not consider ourselves activists because we do not have any agenda with regards to social or cultural changes. We simply want to inform and we do this by pasting current news photography in public spaces.

The primary goal of #Dysturb is to provide free information to the public. And in particular, we aim to educate youths, especially those still in school or university, on how they can read/ digest current journalism, and discuss current events with others.

P: There is this idea floating around that photojournalism, in general, is a form of activism. As Benjamin said, activism implies choosing a side, and, as (this is) the case with most forms of photojournalism, it is our duty not to (do this). We are only allowed to document the facts.

As members of #Dysturb, we can understand why some refer to us as activists, but ultimately the only “taking of sides” we do, is taking the side that wants to promote discussion about international issues and events through imagery.

K: Many people believe you are in competition with JR, are you?

P: We are not in competition with him. JR is doing wonderful work, and it is refreshing to see an innovative take on portraiture. While we do share some similarities, such as large format, black and white imagery, the dissemination of others’ stories in public spaces, or even the fact that we are both French, there are some very prominent differences.

Firstly, he is an artist and we are photojournalists. Secondly, photojournalists from around the world contribute to #Dysturb, either by submitting their images or by helping to paste imagery. Remember, this is a reaction to the failing economic model of the news industry, and it is our wish to inform others about current events despite the lack of funding or interest.

Once upon a time, photojournalists were well paid and their work motivated entire nations to address societal issues. Now however, media mistrust has desensitized readers to the validity of our photographs. This is why we have focused on working with educational facilities.

B: There is one thing I want to add. The only reason why #Dysturb uses black and white printing is because it’s cost effective!

K: Can you talk about #Dysturb’s work with schools?

B: At the moment, we are working with schools in France, Australia and the United Kingdom, to whom we send current photojournalism on a monthly basis. We usually begin this relationship by hosting a workshop or holding a lecture/ talk with a certain demographic at an educational facility.

It has been overwhelming to see how responsive students are. As you may know, we only paste international news within a country, so some of these children are really curious about the different worlds that are portrayed. We have taught, and pasted with, students as young as 10 years old, and regardless of the age, everyone finds them fascinating.

#Dysturb campaign in NYC. ©Benjamin Petit

Vlad Sokhin’s image pasted on the corner of Clifton Place & Bedford Ave, Brooklyn. ©Benjamin Petit

K: Apart from these types of collaborations, do you have any other ways of developing #Dysturb?

B: As we continue to expand our operation, we hope to add an interactive element so that the audience, regardless of their age, can communicate with the photographer and his/her stories.

We already have a functioning app (for smartphones) that enables you to view the closest images to you and information about each of them. However, we are looking to enhance it by introducing features that allow users to immediately follow the photographer on social media, to access articles in which the picture has been published, and to see alternative images that relate to a particular topic.

#Dysturb is also looking to include Podcasts into the operation. This would give photojournalists a chance to speak in detail about the story behind the image, and about their experience in the field. We really want to create a sense of intimacy between the photojournalist and the audience, and this is something that is completely absent from current media publishing platforms.

#Dysturb campaign in NYC. ©Benjamin Petit

Mario Cruz’s image pasted on the corner of Bowery St & Lafayette, Soho. ©Benjamin Petit

K: Does #Dysturb have any incoming revenue? How would your economic model differ from that of a traditional media portal?

B: Through our collaborations with schools and festivals, we are covering operational costs. At the moment, this is by no means enough to sustain #Dysturb, but we believe that if enough educational facilities partner with us, it could be.

P: Yes, we are also looking for NGO’s and GO’s for support. There is one thing I want to clarify, we don’t use advertisements for revenue.

K: If an organization donates money to #Dystub, you wouldn’t place their logo on your images?

B: No, we wouldn’t. We might make a thank you announcement via social media, or place their logo in our ‘Sponsors’ section of our website, but otherwise no.

K: Do you think photo collectives, like #Dysturb, help struggling photojournalists?

B: We believe that the idea of community is important. We are fighting together, and we give each other tips and assignments, etc. It is hard for everyone! Even people who have won a World Press award have had hard months. So, as a freelancer, it is a good idea to be involved in a collective.

Disclosure: Kyla Woods has worked for #Dysturb on a freelance basis since early 2015.

Pierre Terdjman began his career in the Israeli daily left wing newspaper Haaretz. In 2007, he returned to France to join the team of photographers at Gamma agency. Since then he has covered the post-election violence in Kenya, the Russian-Georgian conflict, Afghanistan (where he spent a year following a French unit for Paris-Match), and Haiti after the earthquake. More recently, he photographed the Arab Spring, covering both the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt and the struggle for liberation against Gaddafi in Libya. He is also regularly in Israel, and is documenting the fall of the Israeli dream in a long term project called “La La Land”. In 2012, he won a scholarship Photoreporter Festival of Saint-Brieuc to continue his work in the long term. In 2013, he covered the uprising of violence’s in Central Africa for the French magazine Paris Match. Earlier this year, he won the Lens Culture Award for a picture from his work in Central African Republic. His photographs are regularly published in Paris Match, GQ and The New York Times Magazine. In April 2015, Pierre joined Getty Images Reportage.

In 2014, Pierre and Benjamin Girette co-founded #Dysturb, and then in April 2015, Pierre joined Getty Images Reportage.

Benjamin Girette is a photojournalist based in Paris. In 2011, he joined IP3 Press agency, and since then has been covering both national and international news stories. His reports include the fall of President Ben Ali in Tunisia, illegal immigration in Italy, the Indignados movement in Spain and the fall of Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. One of his most recent reports was on the uprising in Ukraine, in Kiev. His photos have been published in French and international newspapers and magazines.

Kyla Woods works as a freelance writer based in New York, specializing in current affairs, photography, and design. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Kyla has contributed to articles featured in Long Cours, Le Figaro, Le Point, Gatopardo, This is the What, and Foam Magazine. Kyla has also been featured in the French magazine Jalouse. Since 2013, Kyla has regularly written for Musée Magazine, a digital magazine dedicated to displaying the work of international emerging photographers, Peril Magazine, an online magazine that focuses on issues of Asian Australian arts, and worked at the Bronx Documentary Center. She was also involved in the 2015 PhotoBook Melbourne Festival.

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Maggie Steber on Visual Storytelling

Maggie Steber has an enduring passion for photography. Not only is she an award-winning documentary photographer, who has travelled extensively to cover humanistic stories, but she has also worked as photo editor, and for four years served as Director of Photography for The Miami Herald.

Last week, Kyla Woods spoke with Maggie about her work, the progression of visual storytelling and what she is looking for in Getty/Instagram Grant submissions.


K: You are a photographer, but you were also a picture editor?

M: Yes, I am a documentary photographer. I have worked in sixty-five countries, and I have been doing this for a long time.

I have created several long-term projects; one on Haiti, where I still work after thirty years. Another was about my mother, who for eight years suffered from memory loss. Initially, those images were made just for myself. However, it ended up becoming a project that I made public because of what I learned. Not only about how to ensure better care for people, but also in terms of witnessing the end of somebody’s life who meant something to you.

I was also a picture editor and a director of photography at a major newspaper. I love looking at pictures taken by other people – I could do it all day. I am just thrilled with the idea that everybody sees something different.


K: How long have you worked in the media industry?

M: I am elusive about it, but let’s just say a long time.

The reason that I am elusive is that I am concerned about age discrimination. In the sense that when you’ve been around for a long time people know of you, but they think “oh, she does this, she does that.” There is less sense of adventure about you, less mystery or surprise and so one has to work constantly to reinvent one’s self.

 

K: Can I ask you about this pigeon-hole idea; is that a prevailing mentality in the industry?

M: There are many photographers and a lot of them specialize in a specific genre or visual language or subject, and then they become known for that. However, even if they do specialize, they might change stylistically in the future.

In the meantime, there are people like me who love to do a lot of different things. I have also had the good fortune to be affiliated with National Geographic for many years, and now people think that this is all I do.

There is such a plethora of talent now, so picture editors have to organize photographers into categories because often they have to find somebody to do an assignment in five minutes.  Editors also have a tendency to look at a body of work, especially at portfolio reviews, and they are unable to step outside of the box of their magazine and see the work for what it is. This doesn’t especially serve a photographer at a portfolio review because it is a critique that comes from a narrow point of view.

Picture editors, the unsung heroes of this industry, have the ability to make photographers look great. At the same time, they can make them look terrible. They battle on our behalf and on behalf of our pictures, and many photographers have no idea about what a tough battle that can be.

Happy Birthday Madje ©Maggie Steber

Happy Birthday Madje ©Maggie Steber


K: How has visual storytelling evolved over the years?

M: When I was learning about photography, I found inspiration in Robert Frank and Eugene Smith. There were some Life Magazine photographers who created great work. Bill Eppridge did a great story on Needle Park. But I think they tended to have a certain look.

There was also a kind of University of Missouri look, which was very classic and beautiful. I didn’t go to school there, but many photographers did, and they had this beautiful visual style that lasted a long time. The composition and structure were distinct, and you could see it everywhere.

One prevalent problem is that photographers keep taking the same pictures over and over again. The issues never change. There will always be poverty, war, famine, and abuse. All of these things are issues that photographers feel compelled to capture. However, if we keep taking the same kind of pictures, viewers will feel a visual fatigue in regards to the sameness of photographic approach and visual reporting. As photographers we have to think: “How can we take new kinds of pictures that look different but still tell the story in an intimate way?”

Now, photography is moving towards a more contemporary look. Some pictures are very obvious, and there is nothing wrong with that. Those are genuine, honest images. But, if we’ve seen them before, we play less attention. Something that is quite contemporary is when photographers tell personal stories about their families. For example, Diana Markosian’s photo essay “Inventing my Father” and Jen Davis’ work on her body weight. There are others too of course.

I love that idea of turning the camera on ourselves. As photographers, we are always asking people to reveal so much about themselves, and it’s only fair that photographers also do that. The extraordinary thing I learned is that we can save ourselves through photography.

 

K: What role do you think technology is playing in this modern day visual storytelling?

M: It has certainly impacted photography in a way that has been both good and challenging.

The audience has exponentially expanded, and new technological inventions have seen interactive media become a commonly used tool. As a user, you can have an immersive experience, and this inspires you to find out more information on different subjects. But because of the easy availability of people to have access to smartphones, or cheaper cameras, everyone has become a photographer.  I love the democracy of this idea so much but there is also an important professional aspect that many would-be or emerging photographers are not aware of.

Madje had good days and bad ones. She went through stages of kicking, scratching, screaming, wandering, anger, fear, paranoia and gentle behavior, stages that all dementia victims suffer from and which pass. ©Maggie Steber

Madje had good days and bad ones. She went through stages of kicking, scratching, screaming, wandering, anger, fear, paranoia and gentle behavior, stages that all dementia victims suffer from and which pass. ©Maggie Steber


K: Do you believe there is a degree of advocacy in compelling visual storytelling?

M: Yes. However, the Internet has allowed it to reach a broader audience – and this is why it seems to be abundant.

The Everyday Project on Instagram is a great example of that. Peter DiCampo, a photojournalist and the co-founder of Everyday Africa, was tired of seeing the tragedy, suffering, war, and disease that had befallen parts of Africa. As a result, he created an account that displayed positive images of Africa, on a platform with a large audience. Images shape the way we think about people and places, and if we only see dark images, we do not see the full picture.

Everyday Climate Change is also another great example. Humanity is at a point where advocacy needs to be integrated into storytelling.

 

K: Can you talk about the problems that young professionals face?

M: There are many young photographers who don’t understand that if you work in this profession, it’s for the long haul. It’s an industry that requires ideas, energy, a lot of very hard work and believing in your ideas – because often, no one else does.

Young photographers also need to have the discipline to observe. When you start shooting, think about things and how a big subject can be boiled down into something manageable. Sometimes we can tell the story of many through the story of one or how you can relate the story of one to the story of many. Research is essential – you need to look at what is out there on that subject so that you understand what you have to do differently. This industry is tough and competitive, but it can also enable you to lead a remarkable life.

There are some photographers who have been discovered, and they become overnight stars. However, they are not prepared for what follows. Suddenly everybody wants you, and you can burn out so fast! I’ve seen it happen even in my generation, where people became overwhelmed; they didn’t know how to say no, and they burned out.

 

K: You are a judge for the Instagram/ Getty Grant – can I ask what qualities you will be looking for in submissions?

M: The theme is designed to shed light on underrepresented communities. I believe that all the judges will be looking for this.

At the same time, I am looking for stories – the same stories we have seen throughout the years, but told in a new way perhaps with a new approach, visually and philosophically, or something that has a different point of view. I hope some people are thinking about animals, too, as these are communities that are underrepresented.

The work submitted doesn’t even have to be story-related. It could be an essay, or work that is so out of this world, but it must give voice or shine a spotlight on underrepresented communities.

 

Maggie Steber is a documentary photographer who has worked in 65 countries. Her honors include the Leica Medal of Excellence, World Press Photo Foundation, the Overseas Press Club, Pictures of the Year, the Medal of Honor for Distinguished Service to Journalism from the University of Missouri, the Alicia Patterson Grant, the Ernst Haas Grant, and a Knight Foundation grant for the New American Newspaper project. Steber has served as a Newsweek Magazine contract photographer and as the Asst. Managing Editor of Photography and Features at The Miami Herald, overseeing projects that won a Pulitzer and were twice finalists for the award. She served as a jurist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize awards. Clients include National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, AARP, The Guardian, and Geo Magazine. Steber teaches workshops internationally including at the World Press Joop Swart Master Classes, the International Center for Photography, Foundry Workshops and the Obscura Photo Festival.

Kyla Woods works as a freelance writer based in New York, specializing in current affairs, photography, and design. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Kyla has contributed to articles featured in Long Cours, Le Figaro, Le Point, Gatopardo, This is the What, and Foam Magazine. Kyla has also been featured in the French magazine Jalouse. Since 2013, Kyla has regularly written for Musée Magazine, a digital magazine dedicated to displaying the work of international emerging photographers, Peril Magazine, an online magazine that focuses on issues of Asian Australian arts, and worked at the Bronx Documentary Center. She was also involved in the 2015 PhotoBook Melbourne Festival.

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Connect: Sebastian Junger on the importance of safety training for freelancers.

As media and news organization staff numbers shrink, they increasingly rely on freelancers to produce content – often putting those freelancers in harm’s way. Thankfully, there are organizations committed to giving you the skills and training needed to stay safe and react appropriately when disaster strikes.

Laurence Cornet chats with Sebastian Junger, founder of RISC (Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues) who explains why freelancer safety is important and how to be prepared.


Sebastian Junger, you have covered conflicts on and off for 18 years. What made you stop war reporting?

My last war experience was with a photographer named Tim Hetherington. We worked together in an outpost in Afghanistan where we shot Restrepo, which was nominated for an Oscar. Two weeks after the Oscars we were supposed to go on an assignment to cover the Arab Spring, but I found out at the last minute that I couldn’t go. Tim continued his work in Libya as a freelance photographer and was killed in Misrata on April 20th, 2011. He was hit in his groin by a mortar fragment; it was not a very big wound, but it hit his femoral artery and he died of blood loss. Had he been with the American military, the medics could have saved his life, but nobody around him knew what to do. I wouldn’t have known what to do either. I would have watched my friend die.

 

Very few journalists on the field have medical training…

Freelancers do most of the front line war reporting but they are often the least prepared, and the least supported by the industry. After I learned that Tim was killed I decided within an hour to stop war reporting. I started an organization called RISC (Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues) where we train experienced freelance war reporters in combat medicine for free. We originally did it in New York, and we are now starting to do it in other areas of the world.

 

How many people have you trained so far, and do you have any feedback from them?

We have trained 200 people in three years. The response has been amazing. Journalists, especially freelancers, are not used to anyone doing anything for them. Our organization puts them in a hotel for four days and gives them medical training for free. A lot of them cannot believe it.

The deal is: if you get the training, you have to always carry your medical kit with you in a war zone. Not in the car, not in your hotel room, but on your body.

Anti-trust laws in this country make it illegal for freelancers to unionize or to collectively demand fair pay, and they prevent news agencies from agreeing to elevate pay. However, there is no law against someone making a statement about what they believe, and RISC just issued a statement.

 

Can you talk about this?

For me, a huge safety issue is fair payment. If you don’t pay people well, they are economically desperate, and they might take risks they would not otherwise take. If you pay them decently, they will be a lot calmer and wiser about the decisions they make in a war zone. When successful news organizations pay $25 for a combat photo, they are exploiting people. It’s not any different than paying a Mexican migrant $1 an hour to pick fruits in an orchard. It’s exploitation and it has a direct impact on the journalist’s safety.

Our statement lists what level of medical training and what equipment freelancers should have, and what they should get paid per word for an article, per photo, or per day.

A photographer just forwarded us an email that she sent to an editor declining a job in Syria and including the link to our statement. So it is starting to be used to demand fair payment from editors.

 

What about their liability?

I am not a lawyer so I don’t know what the liability of companies hiring freelancers is. Ethically, however, if you send reporters to a war zone you should support them. But this goes in both directions. Employers have the right to expect that freelancers being sent to a war zone have a bulletproof vest, a helmet, medical care, and have been medically trained. It’s a fair thing for employers to expect. And if they are hiring someone who has those things, the freelancer has to right to expect fair payment.

 

In the meantime many reporters take fishing trips to war because that’s a great opportunity for them to sell a story…

That’s true. That’s a great reason to go overseas. That’s one of the great things about journalism. You can just go overseas, start working, be recognized and work your way to an assignment. It’s amazing. You can’t do that as a lawyer, an accountant, or as a doctor. In journalism you can just go.

 

So would you advise freelancers to cover wars, warning them about the risks, of course?

Yes. I wasn’t conscious of the risks and of their consequences when I was 30. I wanted to be a journalist; I was totally self-focused, which you are supposed to be when you are young. If you are not self-focused, you are not going to go anywhere. That’s natural, but there is a point, at least in my life, there is a point where I made it; I didn’t need to go back to a war zone in order to become a journalist.

There is also a point of maturity where an experienced war reporter starts to understand that war is super exciting, compelling, frightening, very demanding, it’s all these amazing things, but it’s also incredibly sad. And it takes a long time to understand how sad it is.

 

Let’s go back to the notion of risk, for people around you.

Until Tim was killed I always thought of the risks that I took as a personal matter. I was gambling with my life and if I lost that gamble I was the one paying the price. Then, when Tim died I suddenly realized that actually, if you get killed you are the only one not suffering the consequences, ironically. Once you are dead, there are no consequences; but the emotional consequences continue for a lifetime in everyone you care about. Your family, your loved ones, your friends, everyone else you love is going to pay for that shit their whole life.

It suddenly made war reporting sort of selfish, and it only felt selfish because I was 50 years old. I think there is a point in your life where you have to start living for others primarily and not for yourself. Tim’s death triggered that realization in me. I am no longer married but my wife and I got the news about Tim by phone. I realized that if I continued war reporting, even if nothing ever happened to me, every day that I was gone she would jump every time the phone would ring. That would have meant inflicting harm to someone I love, there is no other way to put it. And I just couldn’t do it. There are other people, younger people, doing really important work and that’s why I am trying to support them. If you can create a sense of mutual responsibility between freelancers, everyone would be better.

 

What about you? Can you tell us a few words about your latest movie, The Last Patrol?

I took two soldiers from Restrepo and a photojournalist named Guillermo Cervera who was with Tim when he died, and we did a long walk along the railroad lines from DC to Philadelphia, to Pittsburg. What I wanted to do was not a matter of survival so much. I wanted to experience the closeness of combat at home, and you need hardship and difficulty for that.

I think it is really healthy. I cannot ethically advise people to put their life at risk, but you don’t have to be in danger in order to be out of your comfort zone. You have to do things that you dread in order to lead a really interesting and fulfilling life. If nothing scares you, you are not doing enough.

 

Sebastian Junger is a freelance journalist, documentarian and best-selling
author of “The Perfect Storm,” “War,” “A Death in Belmont” and “Fire.” He
has covered major international news stories since the early 1990s in
combat zones around the world including Bosnia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and
Afghanistan. He is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and his work has
also been published in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, National
Geographic Adventure, Outside, and Men’s Journal. Junger’s documentary
“Restrepo,” which he co-directed with close friend and colleague Tim
Hetherington, won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival
and was nominated for an Academy Award. In 2013, Junger directed “Which Way
is the Frontline From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington.” In 2014
he released “Korengal,” a sequel to “Restrepo,” and “The Last Patrol.”

Laurence Cornet is a writer, a photography critic and a curator based in Brooklyn. Her clients include L’Oeil de la Photographie, The Magnum Foundation, Images magazine, Vice, MSNBC, Vogue and Camera.

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