BRAD SMITH: RETURN ENGAGEMENT

By Jim Colton

Poet and historian Carl Sandburg once said, “I'm an idealist. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way.” I have shared that optimism all my life and have always believed it’s all about the journey and not the destination. No one travels the same path during their lives and careers as anyone else. Hell, when I was in high school, I wanted to be a gym teacher…and then a potter…and went through several iterations of majors in college before settling on Liberal Arts.

Looking back at my career path, I can even see where I doubled back and walked the same path…although with different shoes. I left Newsweek magazine as a senior photo editor for international news in 1988 to head up a news photo agency only to return three years later asNewsweek’s director of photography. Like many things, stepping away from something and getting some distance from it might make you appreciate it more when you come back.

There is also no right path…or wrong path...just your path. And you make corrections to it along the way to make that journey as pleasant and as rewarding as possible. One of my brethren in the industry who has also doubled back on his career path is the new Director of Photography at Sports IllustratedBrad Smith.

In the 1990’s Brad was the Director of Photography at SI for Kids as well as SI Women (which has since folded). Both titles were under the umbrella of Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated Group. In March of this year, after an extended stint as a photo editor at the New York Times, he returned to Sports Illustrated as their DP.

Less than a month into his new role, on deadline day, the Boston Marathon bombing occurred. No stranger to deadlines…in less time than he would have had to produce images for the New York Times, he closed one of the magazines most memorable covers and issues of the year. Eight months into his new role, Smith still describes it as, “I still feel like I won a contest!”

This week, Photo Journal has a conversation with Brad Smith as he talks about his path…that has taken him from a French photo agency to the White House, from Circus magazine to the New York Times…and gives us an inside look on how Sports Illustrated has gone from a weekly magazine to a 24-hour news service that covers the world of sports.

Read the interview here: https://nppa.org/page/brad-smith-return-engagement

DENNIS DIMICK: AN ENVIRONMENTAL PORTRAIT

By Jim Colton

Growing up as a teenager is the 1960’s with both parents in the journalism field, (Dad, the Director of Photography for the Associated Press and Mom the Art Director for People Magazine) there were always magazines and newspapers in the house. But the two staples that always graced the coffee table were LIFE magazine and National Geographic, delivered by subscription mail and arriving each month with great anticipation. 

As with many readers, I flipped through LIFE magazine from back-to-front starting with the feature on the last page called “Miscellany.”  It frequently displayed a photo which more often than not brought a smile to my face. It was surely one of my first encounters with the power of photography and its ability to move the viewer in some way bringing deeper meaning to many of life’s whimsical situations.

On a bit more serious note, I was equally fascinated by the little magazine with big impact,National Geographic. I remember the bookshelf in our living room which was lined with the trademark yellow boundary, perfect bound monthly issues….stacked as neatly as a library. Each issue brought me to places around the world, enriching my life with cultures I might never have the chance to experience in real life.  And every issue also came with an outrageous fold-out map with amazing detail which would keep me occupied for hours!

In my later years, as a professional photo editor, I have grown to appreciate the amazing visuals that continues to bring to their readers…and…I have a profound respect for the people behind the scenes that make that possible. One of those people is their Executive Editor, Dennis R. Dimick.

Dimick is not only a champion for great photography and great stories but he is also acutely involved in the magazine’s coverage of environmental issues, a topic that is near and dear to his very existence. In addition to overseeing all of NG’s environmental stories, you will find Dimick speaking about climate change on the lecture circuit, jotting thoughts on his blog and Twitter as well as posting his images on Instagram, Tumblr, and 500px (see links below). And for almost 20 years, he’s also given back to the industry as a faculty member of the Missouri Photo Workshop emphasizing documentary photojournalism inspired by the 1930’s Farm Security Administration photographers like Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. 

I don’t know where he finds the time to do all this, so I was flattered when he agreed to allow me to steal some of that precious time to share his thoughts on everything from his early influences to environmental issues to how National Geographic has tackled the digital landscape once littered with boxes of Kodachrome.

Read the interview here:   

https://nppa.org/page/photo-journal-dennis-dimick-environmental-portrait

 

PRESTON GANNAWAY: LEAP OF FAITH


By Jim Colton

As a photo editor, I have had the pleasure of being on the other end of the loupe for over 40 years. I have traveled the world through thousands of other eyes. I’ve been to places that I would never have had the opportunity to go to on my own. The lightbox, and now my monitor, has been my window to the universe.

There are several joys in being a photo editor. The obvious one of course, is finding that gem. I’ve often described my job as that of a treasure hunter….digging through the lightbox looking for jewels. But my greatest pleasure has always been watching the blossoming of a great photographer….and….if I was lucky, to have been a small part of that growth.

Color transparencies from raw takes have slid under my loupe from the likes of James Nachtwey, Christopher Morris, Peter Turnley, Anthony Suau and a litany of others…many of whom got their first magazine assignments for Newsweek where I was the photo editor for international news.

So where does emerging talent come from today? Where does the next generation of Nachtwey’s go to cut their teeth? I have just returned from the 26th Eddie Adams Workshop where 100 students are taking those first steps.  It was there, 10 years ago, that I first met Preston Gannaway. I was her team editor and Sports Illustrated staff photographer Bill Frakes was her team leader.

I asked Bill for his thoughts on Gannaway and he said, “Preston is the prototype for a successful contemporary storyteller -- Passionate, talented, and committed. She identifies the subject and explores it completely with a sensitive, yet critical eye.  And the bonus is that she is delightful!” 

Talented and delightful indeed! And in those ten years, at various newspapers, she has garnered more than her share of photography awards including a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 2008 for her project "Remember Me," about Carolynne St. Pierre and her family's battle with a rare form of liver cancer.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Gannaway has just taken a leap of faith and left her position as a staff photographer for the Virginian-Pilot to go freelance on the west coast. While she was working and living in Virginia, Gannaway immersed herself in a project right outside her living room window.

The project (currently seeking funding on Kickstarter) called:  Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, is a visual essay exploring the working-class seaside community of Ocean View and the residents' relationship to the natural environment and the changing character of this American neighborhood.

Read the interview here:    

https://nppa.org/page/photo-journal-preston-gannaway-leap-faith

 

PETER TURNLEY: FRENCH KISS

 

By Jim Colton

A young man walks into the brasserie at 55 Quai de Bourbon on Isle Saint-Louis in Paris, in the mid 1970s. He is confident. Fresh from Fort Wayne, Indiana, he's been practicing his French and is now prepared to ply his newly learned linguistic acumen. He has been repeating to himself, "Je voudrais une bière...Je voudrais une bière...Je voudrais une bière." (I'd like a beer.) Ambling up to the bar, his eyes meet with the bartender and he states, "Je m'appelle une bière!" (My name is beer!)

Without blinking an eye, the grinning bartender responds...in perfect English, "Hello, Mr. Beer, what would you like to drink?" Thus began Peter Turnley's love affair not only with the French culture, but also with La Brasserie de l'Isle Saint-Louis.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Peter for more than 30 years. We worked together at Newsweek magazine and we covered some amazing stories during some equally amazing years. He never failed to produce outstanding work while on assignment. Which is quite a statement considering all the stories he’s covered.  But trust me, he's that good!

His travels have taken him to more than 90 countries covering everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the fall of the twin towers on 9/11. Throw in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Middle East conflict, Chechnya, Rwanda and others and you get the picture. He’s been a busy guy! Turnley has photographed Barack Obama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat,Princess Diana and Pope Jean Paul II, just to name a few. And along the way, he's had 43 covers of Newsweek.

He also has managed to change with the times and remain proactive and vital in an ever-morphing market.  He has a keen understanding of the business of photography and adapted while never compromising his true love for the “found moment.”  His philosophy is simple, “everywhere around the world, the things that people have in common with one another are greater than the things that make them different.”

So with his newest book coming out, French Kiss - A Love Letter to Paris, I thought this would be a perfect time to get an inside look at this soft spoken but hard driving -- American in Paris.

Read the interview here:  

https://nppa.org/page/photo-journal-peter-turnley-part-1

 

JACQUELYN MARTIN: FEEDING YOUR SOUL

By Jim Colton

I have often said that a good picture has to be “affective” to be “effective.” A truly great image causes a visceral reaction within us. It makes us mad, it makes us cry, it makes us laugh - it makes us feelsomething.  If an image hasn’t done one of those things, then it hasn’t done its job.

Finding and capturing those images is another matter. Where do you start? What homework is involved? Truly moving images and engaging stories are generally not the result of serendipity. Yes, there is the occasional spot news image that unfolds in front of our lenses but even then, there is usually some preparation that takes place before that happens. Luck favors the prepared.

But when it comes to finding that perfect feature story or personal project, Washington AP staff photographer describes the process as being, “…vital to have work that feeds your soul.” And with that hunger comes preparation, sacrifice and dedication…knowing full well that the results may never see the light of day in print.

Her self-funded story on albinism in Tanzania, “Tribe of Ghosts,” is hauntingly beautiful…and affective! It required months of research and contacting nonprofits and NGO’s but her hard work paid off…perhaps not so much monetarily, but her images not only feed the soul but also shine a light on the souls of her subjects.

Martin is a much decorated photographer with awards bestowed upon her from the White House News Photographers Association to the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism contest. She is also the President of the Women Photojournalists of Washington (WPOW) where she is a champion in educating the public about the work and accomplishments of women in the field of photojournalism.

This week, Photo Journal has a conversation with the very passionate Jacquelyn Martin about early influences, women in the industry, balancing the personal project with her full time gig as a staff wire photographer…and “feeding her soul.”

 Read the interview here:  

https://nppa.org/page/photo-journal-jacquelyn-martin-feeding-your-soul

 

ERIC STRACHAN: THE NAPLES DAILY NEWS

By Jim Colton

When I first started in this business (in 1972 for those of you who want to know) there weren't a whole lot of photography workshops. It was more an era of work hard, play hard, learn on the run, get the job done and move on. But I was lucky. I had several terrific mentors along the way. 

The first to take this long-haired teen under his wings was the director of the photo library at the Associated Press, Henry Mecinski. Every conversation with Henry started the same way. His glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, pipe in hand, he would bark, “Lemme ask you a question.” Always inquisitive, he genuinely wanted to know not only what I was doing, but why I was doing it -- looking out for me in an almost fatherly way. He got me excited about photojournalism and pushed me harder than he would his own son. He arranged my work schedule so I could work full time and finish my college degree.  Because to him, “There’s nothing more important than that sheepskin, kid!”

So if and when you find one of these mentors in your life, grab hold and never let go! Eric Strachan is that kind of mentor.

Strachan has been with the Naples Daily News for 32 years, starting as one of two staff photographers in 1981. He became the director of photography in 1991, then assistant managing editor, then managing editor and then in 2008 became senior managing editor where his responsibilities now include supervising the entire daily editorial operations.

Along the way he helped build and direct the photography staff, has won numerous awards for the newspaper, and led the editorial portion of three of the paper’s redesigns. He has also served as faculty for the Stan Kalish Picture Editing Workshop, the Mountain Photography Workshop and has been a judge for the editing portion of the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism contest. He is always giving back.

Needless to say, his impact on the Naples Daily News has been huge. He credits a lot of his success to hiring great talent along the way and “treating them like a partner, learning from each other and pushing each other as well.” As he rose on the masthead, he never looked down at those in the positions he left behind but rather embraced them, mentored them, and became the bridge between the editorial and visuals. Few have made the transition from photographer to managing editor as well. 

Read the interview here:   

https://nppa.org/page/naples-daily-news-eric-strachan

CHRIS CAPOZZIELLO: A BROTHER’S LOVE

By Jim Colton

A brother’s love…there is nothing like it. 

Growing up, I had an older brother…although at times that fact could be debated…he didn’t always act like the elder. And as with any household, there was the sibling rivalry, the one-upmanship, bragging rights as well as the occasional fight. Who hasn’t had them with a sibling? But at the end of the day, there was a bond like no other.

My brother, Jay Colton, passed away three years ago. I miss him every day. He was a talented photographer and respected photo editor, and we both wound up on the same photojournalism path albeit via different routes. Having both parents in the business, I blame it on our DNA.

As brothers we shared rooms, clothes, ideas, philosophies as well as likes and dislikes on everything from music to food. He loved Uni (Raw sea urchin)…I can’t stand the stuff! He beat me at chess…I beat him at tennis. But we both had a love for photography and a passion for editing. He was a champion for many aspiring photojournalists and always gave back to the industry. Jay passed away while doing portfolio reviews at a workshop in Brazil. A champion...right to the end.

Chris Capozziello has a brother…a twin. His name is Nick. They too, shared rooms, clothes, ideas and philosophies. But Nick has cerebral palsy. It gave Chris reason to question; “Why does this happen to anyone?” “Why did it happen to Nick and not me?” This curiosity inspired Chris to document his brother’s ailment and is now the subject of a book he is trying to finance via Kickstarter. The title is “The Distance Between Us.” (See link below) 

It hasn’t been easy. According to Capozziello, “There’s risk that this in the end might hurt my brother. Recently I read the book to my family for the first time from cover to cover and Nick didn’t make it past page 25. He began to tear up, and then couldn’t stop crying. That’s something I wonder about quite a bit. Photojournalists want to show life honestly and in all of its realness. But, how do the people whose lives are being shared feel about a wider audience scrutinizing their lives? Are they scared? Ashamed? Embarrassed? Excited? Ambivalent?”

The images are intimate…and deeply personal. But they bring the viewer into a world that they normally wouldn’t see…and gain a greater understanding and appreciation not only for its debilitating effects but also the pure joy and humanity of how a family is dealing with it...together.

Read the interview here:  

https://nppa.org/page/photo-journal-chris-capozziello-brothers-love

RÓBERT CSERE AND .týždeň

By Jim Colton

 It’s been said that photographs speak volumes…and they do so without uttering a single word. Like math and music, photography is truly a universal language. It is understood and appreciated by all who view it, regardless of what continent you’re on. In the landlocked Central European country of Slovakia, the news magazine .týždeň is making its photographic voice heard loud and clear.

Half the size of Indiana, Slovakia’s population is a whopping 5.4 million people. Reaching out to that audience as well as Slovaks abroad since 2004, .týždeň’s impact on visuals has not gone unnoticed here in the US where it has been recognized by some of the largest photography contests. When the awards were announced, many photojournalists (including yours truly) were asking the question, “What’s .týždeň?” 

In addition to publishing some remarkable imagery from around the world, .týždeň puts an international spin on US stories and displays, quite handsomely, many American photographers’ work throughout its pages. The driving force behind that visual display is its Creative Director Róbert Csere who was named Magazine Picture Editor of the Year three times by the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism contest as well as receiving honors from POYi. 

According to Csere, The publishing of a serious print magazine in Slovakia is on the edge between a miracle and madness!”  Join us as we have a conversation with the dynamic, spirited and often humorous Róbert Csere.

Read the interview here:  

https://nppa.org/page/photo-journal-r%C3%B3bert-csere-and-t%C3%BD%C5%BEde%C5%88

 

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: APRIL SAUL

By Jim Colton

Family first! It’s an adage we've heard all our lives and in all industries. But what if you’re an aspiring female photojournalist in the 1970’s and a preeminent photographer tells you, “If you want to do what I do, you can’t get married!” What kind of a picture does that paint for one’s future? Can you pursue a career in photojournalism while maintaining a commitment to your family? The answer is YES!

It’s all about striking a balance. And few have done that better than Philadelphia Inquirer staff photographer April Saul. A 30 plus year Pulitzer Prize winning veteran with a warm smile and a compassionate heart, Saul is an inspiration to all photojournalists. In 1980 she became the first female photographer for the Baltimore Sun before landing at the Philadelphia Inquirer…and has been blazing the trail for aspiring women photojournalists ever since.

“I would love to say it’s been easy being a woman in this business, but it was hard from the get-go,” says Saul. “Being a single mother for over 20 years has also defined me. The good news was my children made me a better person and a better photojournalist.  And that being a mother did not destroy my career; it only forced me to tell stories closer to home.”

One of those “closer to home,” stories was a personal project on the city of Camden, NJ, which recently was recognized by both POYi and the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism contests. This week, Photo Journal talks with Saul about the project, discrimination along her journey, and what it was like to be a woman, a mother and a photojournalist through some difficult years.

Read the Interview here:  

https://nppa.org/page/photo-journal-april-saul

 

TECHNICAL KNOCKOUT

An open letter to all newspaper publishers and CEO’s

By Jim Colton

Technology has changed. We get that. Advancements in photography have now made it easier for anyone to take quality pictures. We get that too. But how we embrace these changes is what separates us from average and excellent.

The recent layoffs of the entire photography departments at the Chicago Sun-Times and now the closing of the photography departments at five newspapers and two weeklies in the Southern Community Newspapers Inc. (SCNI) in Georgia, has sent out a dangerous message. What those two entities (and anyone else considering doing the same) are saying to their loyal readers is that they are setting their visual bar to a level of mediocrity.

Fact: Everyone reads a newspaper or magazine the same way. The first thing they look at is the picture….then the headline…then the caption and then subheads, etc., before they decide whether they want to continue reading the article. If the image doesn’t capture their attention, there is a very good possibility they will skip over the article no matter how well it’s written.

So by eliminating the department that supplied those images, you have accepted the reality that you now consider your newspaper to be one that is “serviceable,” and nothing more. You are satisfied to publish average photographs and provide your readers with average content. If that’s the case, then change your mission statements to reflect that.

SCNI Chief Executive Michael Gebhart stated, “Journalists need to write, shoot video, post on the Internet and edit. The technological advances in the world of digital photography made this strategic move logical. How many photographers need dark room skills to develop film and make prints?” Excuse me? Developing film in the darkroom? What century are you living in? That’s like saying, “How many writers still use typewriters? When we went to word processors did we consider eliminating the writers? No! It’s not the tool; it’s how you use the tool.

The economy is still bad. We get that. Cuts have to be made. We get that too. But let’s be realistic about what we cut and how we go about embracing these changes to better the quality of journalism we are producing rather than slashing and burning without thinking about the consequence. By eliminating the photography staff of a newspaper, you have eliminated the professionals who know what a good image is and know how to produce them….especially on a local level…and isn’t that the audience you are trying to serve?

Suggestion: Look elsewhere within your structure….perhaps your national and international budgets. Does it make sense to send a correspondent or writer out of state or out of the country to file their stories anymore? I’m sure there are “serviceable” stories filed by the wires, who probably have a better handle on them anyway as they were on scene. And I’m sure most of the local community picking up your newspaper isn’t going to know, nor appreciate, the difference in bylines.

Put your emphasis on the local community you serve! That’s where your staff photographers (and writers) need to be their best….providing both visual and textual information that your readers want and pay for. Training your reporters to shoot iPhone images is not the answer. No more than asking the photographers to file your stories. There is a need for professional images and exclusive content that raises the level of your bar to excellent…not average.

The Chicago Sun-Times statement after laying off their entire photography staff read in part: “Today, The Chicago Sun-Times has had to make the very difficult decision to eliminate the position of full-time photographer, as part of a multimedia staffing restructure.” Noting that, “the business is changing rapidly” and audiences are “seeking more video content with their news.”

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to retrain or restructure what the staff photographer’s responsibilities would be to satisfy those rapid changes? Doesn’t it make sense to start with someone who has a professional understanding of photography rather than training writers and reporters who have none? I’m sure the photography staff would have embraced these changes and happily restructured what they do to meet the newspaper’s new needs. 

The local staff photographer has more than just industry knowledge. Sun-Times photographer John H. White had over thirty years of local knowledge and contacts in the community and dedicated most of his professional life to serving that community and the Sun-Times. When they cut him and their entire staff, they cut out the heart and soul of the newspaper’s visual voice.

So here’s the rub publishers and CEO’s. If you are happy with average…continue down that road to mediocrity. When it comes time for recognition of your newspaper by the Pulitzer committee and others, you won’t even be on their radar. But perhaps more important, you have done an incredible injustice to the community you serve. Your loyal readers know the difference between average and excellent. They deserve better!

FORECLOSED DREAMS: DAVID H. WELLS

By Jim Colton

When we think about what elements constitute the “American Dream,” high on that list would be to own a house. There is nothing more personal, in both a physical and emotional sense, than the sanctuary of one’s home. After all, as Pliny the Elder (Caius Plinius Secundus) said in the first century, “Home is where the heart is.”

But what happens when that heart is ripped out of your chest? When everything you strived for in your life is taken away from you. The turmoil and emotional damage is unfathomable. According to several real estate tracking sources, there have been over 4 million completed foreclosures since the economic crash that started in September of 2008!

Several photographers have documented this American tragedy, but one photographer, David H. Wells turned it into a personal project that resulted in hauntingly beautiful yet terribly sad moments. He has turned the phrase “still life,” into exactly that, eerily still moments in life that exude ghost-like feelings among the remnants of the previous inhabitants. And he does so in the most unconventional of ways ... without showing any people!

Read the interview here:   

https://nppa.org/page/photo-journal-foreclosed-dreams

 

 

MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE: BRIAN PETERSON

By Jim Colton

Our industry is constantly changing.  And as with any evolutionary process, newspaper photographers need to adapt...or they will face extinction. Photographers are continually faced with new challenges, new technology and new needs. In addition to satisfying their print versions they must now take care of their web sites and their voracious appetite for multimedia, galleries and videos.

They must do so in order to remain relevant in the workplace while at the same time, attempt to retain their individuality. There is nothing more sacred to a photographer than having a strong and unique visual voice. So how does one go about dealing with new technology and the new workload without compromising that voice? With all the recent newspaper layoffs, and publications settling for “serviceable,” and un-vetted citizen journalist imagery, how do you stay current and vital in a market that seems to be placing less value on the work of professional photographers?

Look no further for your answers than to Brian Peterson at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. 

Read the interview here:  

https://nppa.org/page/photo-journal-life-brian

 

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: DOUBLE EXPOSURE

By Jim Colton

Of the many online photography blogs published by newspapers today, “Shooting from the Hip,” by Scott Strazzante and “Assignment Chicago” by Alex Garcia are among the best. They give Chicago Tribune online readers keen insights to their creative and compelling photographs. 

As photographer, writer and editor, Strazzante and Garcia share their unique and personal perspectives, giving readers daily visual treats with a personal touch -- a refreshing formula in today’s publishing world. But this opportunity requires extraordinary commitment to meeting daily deadlines, which frequently means hitting the publish button just under the wire!

I asked them to share how their blogs came about, how they balance their workload between daily assignments for the print editions and their blogs, as well as their thoughts on the industry today, the recent mass layoff of the Chicago Sun-Times photography staff and what lies ahead on their horizons.

Read the interviews here:

https://nppa.org/page/photo-journal-double-exposure

PROFESSIONAL VS. AMATEUR

By Jim Colton

In the wake of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s “misstatement,” that “there really aren't professional photographers anymore,” there have been several postings by readers who actually still agreed with those words.  I would like to think that the majority of them were from “non-professionals,” who truly don’t understand the distinction between the two. For many of them, the fact that today’s point-and-shoot and cell phone cameras produce such high quality imagery (megapixels only) seems to outweigh the value of content and more important the skills that are needed to produce “good” content….on a consistent basis.

On the positive side, there has also been a groundswell of support from the “professional” sector of the industry calling the “misstatement” everything from callous to insulting. And regardless of whether it was said in the context of Flickr Pro or otherwise, it truly was a poor choice of words.  She has since followed up with an individual Tweet reply as a form of apology (posted on my earlier blog)  I believe the thousands of hardworking, dedicated professional photographers deserve better and would respectfully request a formal apology directed to them all.

And for those who still believe that the professional photographer does not exist, I offer you the following example. The photo in question is already 4 years old….but speaks volumes about what the professional photographer and our industry is facing. At one of the many inaugural balls in January of 2009 after winning the Presidential Election, the President and First Lady appeared on stage and hundreds of supporters in the audience instinctively reached for their point-and-shoots and cell phone cameras and started zooming and snapping away while holding their cameras above their heads…hoping to capture a keepsake.

But one person in the room, Reuters professional photographer Kevin Lamarque, refrained from doing what everyone else was doing and realized that the better picture was not the Hail Mary zoom but was actually BEHIND everyone showing the “amateurs” striving to “make the picture.” Of the thousands of photos that were taken in that room, at that moment, it is the one that was taken by the professional that truly captured the scene.

 President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle wave to the crowd at the Home States Ball as audience members take pictures with their mobile phones in Washington January 20, 2009. Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle wave to the crowd at the Home States Ball as audience members take pictures with their mobile phones in Washington January 20, 2009. Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

So for those of you who still think there isn't any distinction between the two (This is no longer being directed to Ms. Mayer) think about two recent horrific events….the bombing at the Boston Marathon and the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.

In Boston, when the explosion occurred, watch the video, and you will see Boston Globe professional photographer John Tlumacki running TOWARDS the blast as well as police and first responders, also professionals, as others run AWAY.

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/dam/assets/130415160947-boston-marathon-explosion-08-horizontal-large-gallery.jpg

In Moore, Oklahoma, AP professional photographer Sue Ogrocki also ran towards the tornado, not away from it…and her images of the mother carrying her child through the rubble and the children being pulled out of the wreckage of the elementary school, will be ingrained in our minds forever.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/oklahoma-tornado-9.jpg

http://d1.stern.de/bilder/stern_5/panorama/2013/KW21/2105_oklahoma_kind_maxsize_2048_1536.jpg

I thank God every day for those hard working professionals who put themselves in harm’s way in an effort to bring a better understanding of today’s events for all to see….many times at the risk of their own safety…and sadly in some cases, have made the ultimate sacrifice….their very lives.           

Spitting on the Grave

By Jim Colton

Yesterday, at a press conference after an “acquisition” meeting of Tumblr, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was quoted with the following statement: “There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with so many people taking photographs] there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.” 

Excuse me?

I had to remind myself that this was coming from the CEO of Yahoo, who now manages one of the world’s largest on-line image databases.  Besides the obvious, that this is perhaps one of the stupidest comments I have ever heard, it is also an insult to all the professional photographers throughout history who have sacrificed everything to their craft…including their lives.

Does she really think that anyone with an iPhone or a point and shoot can cover the wars in Afghanistan or the strife in Libya or Syria where we recently lost incredibly talented professionals like Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington?  She probably doesn’t even know the names of people like Robert Capa, Larry Burrows, Henri Huet, John Hoagland, Olivier Rebbot, and countless others, who gave their lives covering the injustices of war in the name of their profession.

Using her logic, I guess we no longer have doctors either because of WebMD and the proliferation of medical information available on-line. I wonder too, if she just asked a friend to cover her wedding rather than hiring a professional to document it….and by the looks of the photo that accompanied her statement, she might considering hiring a professional to take her corporate photo!

This whole idea that “anyone with a camera,” can be a professional photographer is both absurd and unsettling. It is bad enough that the web is now filled with fodder and noise simply because everyone THINKS they’re a professional photographer and feels obligated to post them immediately without regard to its content. There have been more pictures taken in the last two years than all of history before it….an incredible statistic! And as a result, we are being bombarded with useless clutter.

What we need now more than ever is better filters. And that starts with the person taking the image to the professional journalists who are editing them to the imaging folks who are toning them and eventually to the editors who publish them. We have an urgent and dire responsibility to disseminate meaningful and truthful images to cut through all the noise that is deafening us.

Look no further than to yesterday’s image by AP professional photographer Sue Ogrocki showing a mother carrying her daughter through the post rubble tornado scene in Oklahoma. The power of the still image, in the hands of committed and dedicated professional photojournalists, is unmatched. Let us never degrade our profession with irresponsible comments like Ms. Mayer’s.

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Addendum: In the interest of fairness, I am attaching Ms. Mayer's Tweet in regards to her statement.....although I believe something a bit more "formal" like a Yahoo release might be in order: 

 said: I worded my answer terribly. I really apologize for what it sounded like outside of the context and notion of Flickr Pro.

The Perfect Portfolio

By Jim Colton

Perhaps the single greatest dilemma all image-makers face is putting together a portfolio that is marketable and satisfies their "photographic soul". In an effort to find the balance photographers will often make more additions and subtractions than a 5th grader doing their math homework. 

This three part series will explore the many variables that go into creating the well-balanced portfolio. 

Part one outlines basic Do’s and Don’ts with suggestions on creating the right mix. It answers the most frequent questions photographers pose, such as: Do I need a print and digital portfolio? Should I include clips? Are promo cards or leave-behinds still important? And how do I create the right mix of styles and subject matter?

Part two looks at recent major photography contest winning portfolios and provides perspective and advice from the winners. Paul HansenRJ Sangosti and Chip Somodevilla, describe the process of building their portfolios.  

Part three shares wisdom and advice from photo editors, curators and art buyers who look at hundreds of portfolios every year. Maryanne Golon, Mary Virginia Swanson, Pancho Bernasconi, Staci Mackenzie and Doug Hill, tell us what gets their attention and makes a portfolio stand out from the rest. 

Read the story here: https://nppa.org/news/photo-journal-perfect-portfolio

The Commercial Appeal

By Jim Colton

At the heart of every good newspaper you will find strong photographers and good visual display…but dig a little deeper and you’ll also find someone with vision. At the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, that someone is John Sale. A nine-year veteran at the Appeal, the Assistant Managing Editor for Visuals has been leading the charge with his team of photographers, freelancers and editors as the paper garners an abundant share of awards in the industry.

During a recent interview, I gained a deeper understanding of the photo operations of this Memphis Belle as they balance their coverage of local, national and global events with “connectivity” as their keyword. How does the Appeal stay connected to their readers? How have technology and multiple publishing platforms changed how the Appeal delivers its content?

This week, in a two-part Photo Journal, Sale takes on these questions in part one, as well as delivering a very candid and succinct analysis of each of the eight staff photographers featured in the image gallery (see captions for Sale's comments).

In part two, we examine the very fine mind of Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and photojournalist Alan Spearman. When this column was initiated, Spearman was one of those eight staff photographers at the Appeal. He has since resigned his position and has moved on to further explore one of his true passions...telling stories…through the use of video as a medium.

Spearman, and the Appeal, recently won Best Use of Multimedia at the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism competition for his work “Memphis Poverty: What Obama Didn’t See.” We talk with Spearman about the project as well as highlight images from that story in our gallery. We’ll also get Spearman’s spin on the difference between shooting for print and multimedia and the different mindset needed to tell those stories well.

Read the interviews here:  https://nppa.org/node/60887

Rich Clarkson: He's Got Game!

By Jim Colton

There’s an old adage in the photo business that says, “We ride on the shoulders of the great photographers that came before us.” We study photographic history in an effort to discover new ways to tell our stories. And along the way we may be fortunate enough to meet one of those “great” ones. Rich Clarkson is one of those greats.

A larger than life personality, Clarkson is perceived by some in the industry as being a bulldog. But during a conversation over a Steak Diane (his favorite) and an occasional libation (also his favorite) I discovered that his bark is worse than his bite. The Octogenarian with a wry smile is a kindred spirit and shares his time and wisdom eagerly, especially with young photojournalists craving to learn.

On April 6th, when the last four teams enter the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the NCAA Division I Basketball Championships, Rich Clarkson will be courtside, camera in hand, for the 59th consecutive year -- a truly remarkable achievement! 

But in addition to being sports photography’s “King of the Court,” Clarkson has also managed to remain at the top of his game as a teacher, editor and businessman, staying relevant and vital as the industry changes around him. 

Read the Two Part interview here: https://nppa.org/node/52427

Tampa Bay Times: The Intern That Could

By Jim Colton

Internships. The very word strikes fear and apprehension into the hearts of the thousands of college students and grads who apply for them every year as they take their first steps on their chosen paths.

There are many misconceptions about internships and depending on the size of the newspaper and its internal structure, responsibilities and expectations will vary. But in most cases, the benefits of an internship will be what the intern themselves can make of it...within the confines of the organization.

Will there be days where the mundane is the required action of the day…where filing or captioning or the grunt work of producing a daily newspaper consumes you from dawn to dusk? Yes. It’s all part of the program. But more often than not, you will also find opportunities worth pursuing...stories or subject matter that spark your synapses.

So how does one go about chasing those stories? How can you best take advantage of your time and energy once you’ve landed that internship? To find the answers to these questions, Photo Journal had a conversation with and examined the work of Tampa Bay Times Super Intern Eve Edelheit.

Read the interview here: https://nppa.org/node/42644

Photo Contest Bashing: That Time of Year

By Jim Colton

In my 40 plus years in this industry, I cannot remember a time when there was so much fodder regarding photo contest winners. And this year is no exception. With only one major photo contest completed (World Press Photo) and one partially completed (POYi) there have already been dozens of stories claiming everything from manipulation to plagiarism.

Frankly, I cannot recall a single year where the World Press Photo of the Year has not been slammed by someone who has taken offense to some element of the image…..be it content, composition, subject matter, toning….you name it.

Whereas I believe it is highly valuable to have discussions regarding matters such as ethics and manipulation, I also believe it is highly destructive to make accusations without hearing ALL sides to a story, which is exactly what happened this year to Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin regarding his award winning work at World Press and POYi.

One story made wholehearted accusations of misrepresentation and plagiarism WITHOUT contacting Pellegrin for a response. That in itself is more troubling to me than the accusations. The only one who got it right from what I can tell is the venerable Donald Winslow from the NPPA who actually ASKED for a clarification...and OMG…guess what?... he got one.

https://nppa.org/node/36604

Whether we all agree with the statement Pellegrin and Magnum released is another matter, but to me, that’s inconsequential. The fact that he was asked AND responded is what is important here. I have known Paolo and have been familiar with his work for many years. He is an extremely talented photojournalist and his work has been recognized by major photography contests for a reason. It’s damn good!

Another image that has been getting bashed this year is the World Press Photo of the Year by Swedish newspaper photographer Paul Hansen of Dagens Nyheter. The image in question shows the bodies of two children who were killed by a missile strike being carried to a mosque for burial through the streets of Gaza. In the opinion of this photo editor, it was one of the most powerful images of the conflict, filled with emotion, horror and sadness. If you are not moved by the content of the image, you probably don’t have a pulse.

Yet detractors don’t see its power….rather than appreciating the content, they look for anomalies and reasons to find fault…calling it everything from over manipulated to it looking like a movie poster. I was not a very good photographer when I first started in the business but loved the craft so much that my heart and soul went into picture editing so I could see the world through other photographer’s eyes. And I am confident, that there is not a single photographer out there who wouldn’t be proud to have taken that picture.

So yes, discussion is healthy. Asking questions and continuing the dialog and making sure our ethical guidelines and morals are not crossed have never been more essential in our ever changing industry. But let us do so in a responsible way. We are photo JOURNALISTS. We must think and act before we react and make sure we are treating these issues in a fair and unbiased way.

Sure there will be pictures I like that you hate…and vice versa….that’s the nature of the business…it’s totally subjective. But for God’s sake, can we not also take the time to enjoy and appreciate the masterful work that is being produced by some incredibly talented and dedicated photojournalists before we burn them at the cross?