The Death of the Photo Editor

19 04 2008

I did not pick this image. I actually have no idea what it will be before I publish this entry. Why ? because it is a sort of semi “intelligent” algorithm in the background that will do it for me. A bit like Google ads scans a whole web page for keywords and post the relevant ads, this system, delivered by, does the same.

It will scan the page for keywords and post the most appropriate image. Like an automated photo editor. And because it is looking thought the feeds of Reuters, GettyImages and AP, I believe, it selects from a pool of already very tightly edited images. One could also foresee a Flickr API, a bit like I did with the yahoo pipes.

I am guaranteed a good and hopefully, relevant image . This is the future of news photo editing on the web. At least for sites that do not care so much about the image and use them as an illustration of  a written report. Why pay some guy to look at a stream of pre edited  images, download one, resize it and post when the whole thing can be automated. And better yet, computers don’t whine, do not take lunch breaks, or holidays and never, never ask for a raise. So why keep a web photo editor, if only to do some “best of the week” gallery ?

Think about it:  the biggest news source of the internet has no photo editor. It is called Google news and it selects images with a similar technology. Indeed, it relies on images previously edited by pro photo editors. For now.

The dailylife link is completely free, with no uncontrolled ads, like a Picapp or a GumGum would like you to swallow. Sure , it has a link for the site itself but the same technology could easily be applied by anyone on their own site.

Finally,, still in Beta, looks like an interesting destination. It seems they want to be a new Google news but put a heavy emphasis on photography and has a much better and smoother interface. More like a magazine designed for the internet, and not the opposite. Finally.

As newspapers and magazine are suffering more layouts as ad spending is weakening, most of the photo related professional are turning to the internet. However, because of its built in automation, it just seems that some of the jobs will not be recycle but ultimately replaced by machines. We will still need great pictures, thus talented photographers. Not so sure about needing photo editors.

B.C. Before Capa

14 04 2008

paris en image

Paris, France. Spring of 1871. After a four month siege of Paris by the Prussian army in a war started by Napoleon III, the French Government decides to surrender. In a decaying world where aristocracy is loosing its powers on the emerging working class,they also decide to let the German army parade in Paris. To add insult to injury, the french government relocates to Versailles, once the headquarters of the French Royalty.

The Parisian population, left defenseless, decide to take their fate in their own hands and organizes its protection. The Prussians, probably aware of the existing tensions, parade briefly and leave. The population of Paris takes control of the city and start their own independent government, called the “commune”. It will later be an insperition to Karl Marx, thus the name “communist”.

The French government send troops into Paris and it’s a bloody civil war, with mass execution. The revolution of the Parisians will have lasted only two lonely spring months. But it still has repercussions today.

Archive photo Agency Roger-Viollet has put up some great photographs of the uprising. Because, before Capa, there where other Capa’s. Without the advantage of fast film, most of the images are posed and lack the action of our current photojournalism. But they are poignant as well. Just to show that great images can make you learn about distant conflict, even in time.

Some commentaries are in French, but the trip is very well worth it. View it here.

And for those in love with the eternal city of light, the main site is all about historical views of the city.

A great idea of what a photo agency can do when they think a little bit outside the box.

Lost and found

6 03 2008

March 5, 2008 by pmelcher.French photo agency Gamma, now under the umbrella of Eyedea,  recently lost a judgment for the lost of 9 210 originals. Catherine Leroy, Legendary war photographer, will receive 1,381,500 €  ( that is $ 2,108,909.49). About $228 dollars an image.

Catherine Leroy died in 2006 and was represented by her mother.

Yes, you have read this correctly. That is more than twice the price company Green Recovery paid  Hachette to purchase Gamma, Rapho, Hoaqui, Jacana, Explorer and Top last year. The purchase price was rumored  to be  € 600,000.00 or $900,000.00

Sipa has also been condemned to pay € 1,200,000 ( about $1,8 Million)   to photographer Gérard Gastaud for the lost of 43,331 of his originals. ( about $42.00 per image lost)

Apparently, if you are going to have your originals lost, you are better off moving to France first.

Seriously, however, neither agency would survive if they had to pay such penalty. Both are surviving right now and certainly cannot afford to part with more than $1 million dollar. Actually, besides Corbis, I do not know of any agency that could survive such a settlement.

I am all for compensating photographers whose images have been lost or mistreated. Especially legendary photographers like Catherine Leroy . However, I will question the intelligence of a judge who puts the settlement a such a high value that it endangers the jobs of 1,000’s of innocent people. Some common sense needs to also be applied here.

Both agencies have the right to appeal, which, in this case, I am sure they will certainly do.

More on these judgments here ( In French) :

The buyer gets bought ( * with an after thought)

25 02 2008

According to a press release of this morning, Getty Image board has agreed to be bought by San Fransisco based private equity firm Hellman and Friedman LLC for $2.4 Billion dollars. That is more than the estimated total size of the stock photo industry as per Getty Image itself . They had, as many others, evaluated it at $2 billion a year.

Shareholders will receive a mere $34 per share and better take it. H&F has investments in DoubleClick, currently being acquired by Google for $3.1 Billion.

Was the previously announced failed purchase of $1.6 billion a ploy to make this one look really appealing ?Probably.

What does this mean to the rest of us ? It wildly depends if the management team stays or not. There is a good chance they will and take the company private. They might abandon their editorial division as it has become overly pricey and bloated with its recent acquisition of Mediavast and it rising cost of operation, especially in international news. They also might divert a lot of resources towards other revenue streams than photography.

What will be very interesting to watch is whether all the contracts and deals Getty has made over the years with Leagues and others will survive. Usually, agreements do not survive an acquisition, thus forcing parties to renegotiate under new terms. In the line are agreements with the Olympics, Soccer leagues, NBA, AFP and many more.

But its only Monday, so we have all week to think about it.

* => Ok, week’s over. Here is our after thought : On August 2, 2007 , Getty Images, Inc. Issues Q3 2007 Outlook Below Analysts’ Estimates. Immediately th stock takes a plunge from which it will never recover. Immediately soon after, master wizard Johnathan Klein moves to New York. These “warning” as issued by the management. What if Getty management had sunk the stock on purpose in order to perform a cheaper management buy out and get itself rid of annoying investors? After all, it was obvious by summer 2007 that the stock would never reach its legendary $90 or more.

And the current $34 a share is much cheaper that the $50 plus it was just a little more than 6 month ago.

With this disguised management buy out, the executive team is now free to pursue long term projects without any scrutiny from neither the public nor the competition.

Very “conspiracy theory”, indeed .

The root canal

25 02 2008

Don’t take me wrong. I am a big fan of the Pictures of the Year International. They always have a great jury, a great taste and amazing photographers that, for the most part, I had never heard of before. Well, one cannot read all the newspaper of America everyday.

It is a great vehicle for local photographers to be known worldwide but : Their website is the worst I have ever seen. It looks like it was created by a 14 year as a school project on HTML . It is soooooooo painful to navigate and understand what you are looking at, it worse than a root canal.

For example, I am looking at the Second Place in Science/ Natural History Story . A great story on Whale hunting in Indonesia. A job extremely well done, with a the right combination of the grabbing images and informative one. Hardly any need for caption. Twelve that sums it up perfectly. I look for the photographer’s name. None. no where.

story here

I change browser thinking maybe it my fault. Still nothing. I look at other prize recipient. Nothing. No photographers name . Aaaaargh. Not only it took me two hours to navigate but I didn’t even found what I was looking for.

Can someone please help these guys design a site ? Anyone ?

dark, blurry, slightly incomprehensible and borderline boring

8 02 2008

The World Press awards has revealed its winners for 2008. As expected, the picture of Britney Spears having her head shaved off won for the best image of Arts and entertainment. Or did not. Once again, The World Press has shown its complete disrespect for the world of news in favor of an overly intellectualized vision of the world. A bit as if the judges, once gathered in a room, behind closed doors, had said: “lets kill photojournalism a little bit more this year”

The photojournalism intelligentsia has voted. A closed group of overly self adoring and painfully egocentric intellectuals whose vision of a news photography is closer to the likes of ICP than the masses. They look for the creative touch, the Holga/lensbaby effect, the “je ne sais quoi” that makes a news photograph a work of art. They over think photography to an excess and seem to look for the Picasso rather than the human touch. They do not believe that an news image can be good, if doesn’t carry the touch of a creative artifact.

This years big winner is a blurry image of a tired soldier. Although not taken in a combat situation, and probably because of low light, it is slightly blurry. I don’t care for such poorly taken image. What is so wrong about reality that it has to be altered and given the highest prize in photojournalism ?

Sadly enough, we see the same intelligentsia controlling most of the major prizes worldwide and spitting out the same type of winners. These judges are all friends with each other and spend the rest of the year over analyzing images as if they where reading a Kafka novel. It has to be dark, blurry, slightly incomprehensible and borderline boring.

No wonder photojournalism is dying. Once again, the sports images of this year seem to be the real winners. Amazing images of incredible situation. The rest is dark, so dark. Not just dark subjects, but simply slightly underexposed or taken with low light. The less you see, the more you can imagine. The image is good for what is not there, so you can fill in the blanks yourself. Even the Nature category is full of blood and sadness because a happy image, according to these judges, cannot be a good image.

Lets no forget that politics, for example, has no place in the World Press. We marvel at the John F Kennedy images in the Oval office yet there is not one image of world leaders in action. Between the French election last year, the changing of guards in England and the US election, you cannot tell me there was no great images.

It is a little bit as if, outside of Africa ( Kenya, mostly), Afghanistan and Iraq, the rest of the world stood still. Or, maybe it was not favorable for a nice moody b&w panoramic Holga image. You can almost hear the judges discuss the lightness of being, quoting “The human condition”, while sipping their warm cappuccinos.” This image is so Nietzscheen, isn’t it?”

Certainly not a good year for the World Press. Even more, because, once again, they refused to acknowledge multimedia, one of the most powerful tool of today’s photojournalism. Or, in a socially driven internet, they do not have a people’s choice, where image consumers could vote.

No, they prefer to remain in photojournalism Medieval ages, taking comfort in congratulating themselves for picking the least interesting images possible as to prove there is more to photojournalism than the reporting of the news. If anything, this, and other awards of it kind, are killing photojournalism. They create the false impression that this is the standard to achieve.

If you have time to waste and have really nothing else to do, here are the winners :

World Press

PS: At least I was right about John Moore’s images who, by the way, truly deserved this prize.

A quick lesson in political photojournalism

30 01 2008

Photographers work hard. At least some do. John Harrington, for example, not only goes out and shoot the State of The Union address made by president Bush last night in Washington D.C., but he also stays after around to check on the work of other photographers. Not only he had to file his own images but he also took the time to create a great video report on how his colleagues work, what equipment they use, at what angle they prefer to shoot the event, and, most importantly, why ?

What a lot of people are not aware and that this video shows, is that pro photographers are not just snappers that are just offered a seat to shoot from and are satisfied with it. They think ahead of time of what image they want to catch, what would be the perfect photograph and why. They are much more than simple button pushers sitting on their butts shooting the president in a sequential harmony. As portrayed in the video, most couldn’t care less about Bush and his final speech. They were there for the Obama/Clinton/Kennedy shot as they preempted that it would be THE shot. The money shot.

It also shows how restrictive the work of a photojournalist has become. You are assigned a position and you can not move. For people trained to find the best perspective, whose talent partly reside in where they physically stand, it is an exercise in frustration. They are locked up and grouped together, almost forced to shoot the same thing.

Finally, it shows how big news organization, like the AP, Getty, Reuters can afford to have photographers in multiple locations, thus increasing the overhaul chance of getting the right image while the lonely independent guy has to battle to make the best of his position.

Here is John Harrington ‘s video ( John also has a great blog that, although I do not always agree with, read every day):

I have also taken the liberty to show some of the results, which is, if it has any, the only weak point of the video :The Washington Post here :

Washington Post Slideshow

Stock it up, people !!!

29 01 2008

Last week, super giant discounter and famed losing money photo library Corbis announced with no small effort that it was going “global”.

From :

“SnapVillage, a microstock site founded in June by stock-art sales company Corbis to compete with rivals such as Fotolia and Getty Images’ iStockphoto, has expanded to include international sales.

Although the site now works beyond the United States, the Web site is English-only for now. ”

Does that mean that prior to this press release, Snapvillage would refuse any sales coming from outside the United States ? To me, going international is to have your site in local language. Or open offices in countries other than your point of origin. So what did Snapvillage exactly do to go from local to international? The site works beyond the United States now, we are being told. Does this mean that the Corbis programmers have finally discovered that foreign browsers can read HTML too ?

The most interesting part is that a few days earlier, German RF company PantherMedia also announced it was going international by partially translating their site in English. So, what does “going international” really means people ?

According to my extensive research, it is :

1) Having a site in English

2) Having a site that works beyond your borders

3) Having your site in English

During one of my many tenures, and of on the subject of globalisation, I had to listen to a VP based on the west coast of the United States whose furthest travel had been to the East Coast of the same country tell me that ” The United States is the Business nation of the world thus what we do here will apply everywhere in the world” or something like that. No, his name is not George Bush and yes, he was serious.

I guess Corbis subscribes to that model. Corbis also sees Snapvillage as a “image warehouse” according to its own definition :

Image warhouse anyone

Which allows its contributors to proudly say to their friends and family that they are “stack” photographers working for an image depot. How proud they must be. Stock it up, people. Faster !!

Finally, on while we are on the subject of the second agency in the world (who decided that ? under what criteria ? Is it that Jim Pickerell again ? certainly not in profit), here is a post that you cannot miss :

Overheard at Corbis this week.epuk blog

Catching the rays of the blue sunshine

25 01 2008

We are all getting fat. let’s face it, we are gaining weight and it doesn’t seem like it is going to change. When we were dealing with slides and prints, we needed to physically move. We needed to get up and get the images in drawers, got to a lightboxe, compare the images, put the slide in sleeves, and get them ready for a messenger to pick up. Depending on the size of the photo agency, the traffic department was either close by or a few flights of stairs away. Even photo editors had to be “on the move” as editing required a combination of many physical steps.

Today, from the moment we sit down in front of our computer screens with a coffee and a bagel (or anything that will serve as a breakfast), turn on our screens, we hardly move. With a combination of tools, from phone to browsers, we hardly have to move. Thus we are getting fat. I am sure if you look down at your midsection right now, you will see a sign that you are gaining some unneeded volume. We barely move to get to a conference room where we cautioulsy sit down again to listen or talk with our peers who are also gaining weight.

Starring at the glare of our screens for more than eight hours a day, switching from e mails to photographs, news websites to blogs, our eyes are also becoming weaker. Hard to find someone working in this business who doesn’t wear glasses. Although our eyes are our weapon of mass destruction, they are slowly declining on us , as we abuse them hours on.

And of course our skins are not looking better either. We barely see daylight anymore as we hardly have any reasons to be outside. Only photographers escape this doom fate, as they still need to move to create their art. They are, however, still constrain to the mischievous chair and screen combination while they caption, photoshop, upload their images for hours on.

And the future doesn’t look much better. As we get more and more wirelessly freed from our offices and work more from home, we might decide not to wash so frequently, let alone take care of our forever growing hair. We might decide that eating three times a day is not enough, thus enjoying a permanent flux of food. We might not have any need to get out of bed that often as all our necessary tools of the trade may be at arms reach.

Paca, Cepic, Asmp, APA, SAA, PLus, ASPP and all other organizations should vote for a mandatory gym membership for all employees of our industry. We should lobby our respective governments to put in place salvation laws that would require a minimum of one hour of forced exercise to all those wishing to work in the photo industry . Finally, we should put in place motivational points of interest in our offices in order to force more activities than just going to the bathroom.

Otherwise, my dear friends, we might become instinct before we get to see the full effect of Global Warming.

A Gigantic clash of talent

22 01 2008

This is what you get when you mix the talent of Brian Storm and his team and the incredible dedication and eyesight of Marcus Bleasdale, new member of VII photo agency :

If only everyone had a camera…with a conscience. Like Marcus.