Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy new year to photojournalism?

A large stuffed toy left is all that is left outside the home of a man who was evicted in November 2009. His former employers owed him £5000 when they went into liquidation. The landlord, rather than offering him a repayment plan, evicted him after five years of impeccable tenancy. The eviction notice is nailed to the door. © Magnus Andersson

2009 is almost over and I think it comes as a big relief for many in the industry. Newspaper titles and magazine budgets have been cut/slashed across the world, more and more photographers have found themselves unable to pay the rent using their cameras. Rights grabbing and abuse from the police have escalated beyond what is acceptable. Councils are launching their own free 'newspapers', funded by our council tax they are selling cheap advertising and their own council propaganda, which goes unchallenged by professional journalists, undermining the whole process of democracy and scrutiny, the list goes on.

I read a piece by now retired PJ Dick Kraus entitled 'Rest in Peace: Photojournalism Is Dead'. It doesn't sound very uplifting and trust me, it isn't. There is a huge irony to this piece though, because it wasn't written in 2009; it was written ten years earlier in 1999, and it was already bad back then, let alone now.

Dick Kraus has over 40 years of experience in the photojournalism business and he shares his views on a profession that more and more has been eroded, leaving us shooting mere 'head shots and real estate', as he puts it.

For sure, I am lucky to still be in a job, but I couldn't help feeling that his description from 10 years ago is very similar to my job today and, I'm sure, that of many other newspaper photographers still out there.

The Digital Journalist does us all a favour by a timely re-print for us all to see, a decade later after it was written. You can - no, you will - read it here.

Jean-Fran├žois Leroy, the 'General' of Visa P'our L'image, wrote earlier this year about the death of photojournalism, and both pieces have similarities.

So what will 2010 bring? More industry death or is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Surely the end of recession must come soon and freelancers and staffers alike might see a rise in income/decent jobs.

Multimedia might finally start to make an impact on newspapers and perhaps revenue from online content finally becomes viable? The amount of people with video enabled SLR's out there is growing but it is of course a new profession that needs to be learned and so far very few news organisations are investing in training. Instead they assume that a stills photographer should be able to produce stills plus video content.

Normally a TV crew would contain three people; a cameraman, a reporter and a sound engineer, and quite often a producer too. How can newspapers expect all that on top of stills production from just one person? That's quality control versus shareholders for you, and so far only one winner; the owners line their pockets and readers go elsewhere.

As it is, the proposed pay walls are up for discussion, but one thing is certain - advertising has already moved online and so has readership. The question is: can newspapers regain the revenue they lost at the introduction of the internet when cars, real estate and small ads all slowly went online to separate sites such as autotrader, rightmove, craigslist, gumtree, eBay and the like?

It might be a case of too little, too late for many of the old news empires, but the demand for content hasn't diminished, so there is still hope for us. We just have to see where the money men and women take us. Failing that we have to do it ourselves.

Have you got any resolutions for 2010? I usually don't make them but this year I will endeavour to produce at least two book projects. They will of course have nothing to do with my day job on the newspaper, instead they will be both self-financed and self-published, but hopefully it will bring back some joy into my day job, push me to do better things and see better days.

I don't know a single photographer who does this job for the money (OK, one or two have given up PJ and moved to advertising, but hey, they have a families to feed).

We are always much more motivated by communication, creativity and empathy rather than the monetary factor, and personal projects are often much more rewarding and hopefully also feeds into the newspaper work.

With all this in mind, here's hoping for better days in 2010. Happy new year to you all, especially to the photojournalists! :)

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas folks!

Open fire next to where we ice skate, hot dogs and mulled wine. © Magnus Andersson

I am currently celebrating Christmas back in Sweden and we've been fortunate with some snow this year although some of it has rained away already. I've also been reliably told that Santa will make an appearance but I doubt that he will bring me a replacement Nikon D700. That's right, mine broke yesterday, bohoo.

My brothers new kitten, Smulan, who is just like her mum Sivan, seen here in an earlier post. © Magnus Andersson

All of a sudden it wont record any new images to the SD card. Everything else works fine; AF, flash, shutter etc, but instead of writing a new file to the card when I've taken a shot, it shows the last image taken before it broke down. Seems to be some fault with the processor/buffer. I spent a half day yesterday Googling for a fix but to no avail, it is unusable at the moment and I will have to take it to Nikon in London when I'm back, and instead rely on the LX3 for the Santa shots.

Portraits in the snow. © Magnus Andersson

Luckily I've managed to get some nice pictures already - and I still have my health - so Merry Christmas to all and sundry! See you in the new year.

A pine tree mid-fall. © Magnus Andersson

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Hey, stupid! Camera = WMD?

© Steve Bell/The Guardian

I'm saving the best for last in this post, so here we go: This is totally getting out of hand. The ACPO issued a letter to their staff last week stating that photographers should no longer be persecuted. The big question is: has this worked out on the ground? In short, no.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

I like the fact that the guy in 'Exhibit A' used film and therefore the ill informed officers were unable to see a preview of the images he had taken. Is that the solution if you want to take a photo in public; go old school on their Metropolitan asses?

The big point for me is that the police seems to have forgotten what they are there to do, namely catch criminals. That differs quite wildly from incriminating anybody with a camera, i.e. anyone with a mobile phone, which equates to pretty much every single person on the street, tourist, casual or professional. Are the police underused? Have we got a case of too many officers on the payroll without doing any proper work? Could this be the source of this police obsession with cameras?

In the recent case of Grant Smith, who took pictures of a church near to the Bank of America, where four police units, some of them armed, responded to a person with a camera doing his job. Surely it would have been much more beneficial to society if police actually would have gone inside the premises of the bank to see what the employees were up to?

Detailed view of Westminster as seen on Google Street Maps.

Its been said before, but I doubt very much the idea that criminals intent on doing some serious recon would use a full DSLR setup. Personally I would stick to Google's Street Maps.

© Steve Bell/The Guardian

Last time I looked, the powers fighting terrorists were branded MI5 and MI6. Somehow our friendly neighbourhood officers seems to have overdosed on Spooks and decided that the chosen weapon of mass destruction is a camera.

A plainclothes officer covers the camera of Guardian journalist Paul Lewis.© Paul Lewis/The Guardian

If you are interested in disturbing video evidence of the Kafka-esque society in which we live today, look no further. It really is frightening.

Marc Vallee has a comment piece here.

Even The Daily Mail has raised the issue here.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Sleeping man

Collage of a man having an afternoon nap on a sofa inside the NFT, Southbank, London. © Magnus Andersson

I've been feeling a bit dozy lately, the dark days and the time of the year has all been taking its toll, plus there has been nothing but bad news internally at work, sadly the blog isn't the best forum to vent that stuff in (plenty of angry drafts that wont see daylight though).

On the photography front its been a bit quiet as well, but this is normal for this time of the year; the silly season is upon us and that means a lot of Xmas lights being lit up, kids performing their Xmas performances, etc etc, ad nauseum. is also three years ago since the first post appeared on this blog, and a lot has happened in that time. Print media is in big pain, Facebook came and went, Twitter has taken over the world, I've got eight pages of apps on the iPhone, yet the blog is still here (at least for a while longer, until we are all Google Waving each other).

I recently read a post on why having a blog might actually be more beneficial for us photographers than having a traditional homepage showcasing your work. Read it here, makes a lot of sense, plus it means I can still drag my ass on finding a decent web designer who can finally do some work on my homepage, which has been dormant since I bought the domain in 2006. If you know of someone good, drop us a line. Alternatively, send me a link to the best page on 'how to become a web designer in one evening'.

Just to give you an idea of the type of folks coming here for a look I shall present you with some stats, bear in mind that these only go back until May 2008 when I installed Google Analytics.

Most of all though, this goes out to my dad back home in Sweden. He gets on my back if I have been slack with blog updates, plus he keeps pushing up my Google stats as well.

Number of visitors: 5197 (since May '08)
Overall pages/visit: 1.55
Overall avg.time on site: 1 min 36 sec
Most visits in a day: 194 (Nov 28, 2009)
Top 3 countries: UK, then USA, closely followed by Sweden.

Geographical breakdown of the top three visiting countries. © Magnus Andersson

Most viewed post here. 838 times, and that stat will probably remain for a while. I'd much rather it was this one, currently lingering in the third most read post, and that moment was really funny.

On the browser front, Mozilla holds a steady 44%, while IE and Safari are tied on 25% each, leaving 6% of random connections. Bonus points for the person/s who are reading this through their PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable!

My favourite stat relates to the number of countries visiting: 85 (see image below)

Eighty five countries, that is mental! I love the internet! Thanks for looking!

(Sadly, Google doesn't supply stats from other planets yet)

Map of the world indicating (in green) where visitors have accessed my blog from. © Magnus Andersson

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Working together?

The financial district of London partially immersed in clouds, as seen from Greenwich Cemetery. © Magnus Andersson

There was one very significant development over the weekend here in the UK after chief constable Andy Trotter declared that photography was no longer to be seen as a threat by police officers. Both amateur and professional photographers should now be allowed to enjoy the hobby/work without being hassled by real police and/or plastic police (Police Community Support Officers).

And then this happened today. Photographer Grant Smith was first questioned by security guards (who have no rights to do so) on why he is taking pictures of a building. It should be noted that Smith is an experienced London architectural photographer. The security guards call the police and shortly three police cars and one police van are on the scene, with up to six armed police officers. WTF?

The problem seems to lie with ground staff's training: #1 why would the police operator who took the call decide to dispatch four patrols to a photographer? #2 why would the officers at the scene think that this was a terrorist at work? #3 why did the security guards get involved at all? Smith was photographing the building next to theirs.

You might argue that a crime was potentially prevented here, but I would argue that a crime was potentially enabled here; four police units and two security guards allowed themselves to be drawn into a perfectly peaceful and non-violent past time of most UK citizens, i.e. photography. Meanwhile genuine criminals went about their normal criminal routines, safe in the knowledge that the officers on the ground waste their time pursuing law abiding, tax paying citizens. These officers don't have a clue about how to interpret the laws in place.

Here's the official line from the Met Police. Their slogan is: 'Working together for a safer London'.

Great piece from Henry Porter in The Guardian.

Tomorrow's BJP piece.

And perhaps a silver lining to all the media exposure these events have been given in the last few days?

I would like to know the exact figure on stopped photographers versus discovered terrorists. I suspect it stands at umpteenth vs. none. I think the Met slogan should read 'Working to alienate the population of London, especially anyone with a camera'.

Even more scary, today it was announced that the British Transport Police will be allowed to carry 50,000volt taser guns. For those that remember, the police officer that illegally confiscated my camera was also from the British Transport Police. And next time he will be armed with a taser gun as well? Lordy.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Cause of death still under investigation

Dead pigeon floating in Regents Canal, London. © Magnus Andersson

When you think about it, you don't see many dead animals around do you? Lots of living one's are all around us, scurrying, flying, skipping and jumping, barking, growling, howling, yelping, scratching and itching.

And if you ever have been to London, there is one animal that is omnipresent; the pigeon. Two things amaze me; you never see pigeon chicks and you never see dead pigeons. Maybe they are like elves? Perhaps they live forever?

The pigeon is from earlier in the year, but this big mama of a fish (possibly a carp?) is from yesterday. © Magnus Andersson

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Lets dip into the sea!

Diving into the Mediterranean sea, somewhere between France and Spain. © Magnus Andersson

Its gotten cold in London and when that happens, it doesn't hurt to look back at the delights from the summer just gone. Visa pour L'image was one of the highlights of the year for sure, but there was a trip inside the trip which made the whole thing extra-special:

Five Vikings in the Mediterranean. © Magnus Andersson

Canon Sweden have been along for the ride for 10 years and they decided that it was time to celebrate a decade's worth of sponsoring the event. Thank God for Canon! A bus was hired which took us down to Collioure, a small seaside town at the bottom of France, just before you get into Spain. Medieval and beautiful, we still didnt have much time there before...

Ringo Star - aka Mattias Johansson - also dipped in. © Magnus Andersson

...we got on a rented yacht which took us all the way into Spanish waters and back again, and of course we were treated to a Mediterranean feast whilst on board.

Tuckin' in on the freshest seafood on the...sea. © Magnus Andersson

Anna and her crew from Collioure served up the most amazing smorgasbord of food, most of it fresh from the sea, and only one of us Vikings felt seasick, the rest had the time of our lives. Thank you Per!

The Scandinavian Canon boys that made it all possible. Sadly they were all showcasing the Canon EOS 7D, nuff said about that camera. :) © Magnus Andersson

Rhianna inspired photograph

Old lady with an umbrella checking the view from the Somerset House terrace in the rain. © Magnus Andersson