Reasons to Love Photography Now: Part 2

© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection
"Chicago, January 1956," by Vivian Maier. Photo courtesy of Harold Greenberg Gallery, New York.

8. Digital Imaging Technology Gives Us a Portrait of Mars

Mars photo by NASA Rover

Could there be life on Mars? We’re closer to finding out thanks to NASA’s rover Curiosity. The rover touched down on the surface of Mars in August 2012 after traveling 352 million miles from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. High-resolution photographs were produced using the Mars Science Laboratory Mast Camera (aka Mastcam), which consists of two camera systems (a 100mm and a 34mm) mounted on a mast extending upward from the Curiosity’s body . The cameras take color images and video footage, and the results show us in detail a place we could once only imagine. —Amy Wolff

9. Photographers’ Social-Media Shaming of Copyright Infringing Companies Raised Awareness of Intellectual Property Rights

Earlier this year two photographers who claimed their copyrights had been infringed by large companies took to social media—not a court of law—to file their grievances. The upsurge in social-media support for the photographers, Brandon Stanton and Theron Humphrey, caused clothing retailer DKNY and food company So Delicious, respectively, to respond to the photographers and apologize for the infringements. The companies also met the photographers’ demands that they make charitable donations to atone for the infringements.

Stanton discovered that DKNY had used his images in a Bangkok window display when someone who followed him on social media sent him a photograph. Stanton shared the photo on Facebook, and demanded that DKNY make a donation to a YMCA near his home in Brooklyn, New York. The company apologized and agreed to donate $25,000. “I didn’t want to take on a powerful company in any sort of litigation,” Stanton told PDN via e-mail back in February. “I don’t have time for that right now. I also didn’t want to try to personally enrich myself by drawing attention to the matter. So I decided on the YMCA.” More than 40,000 people “liked” his Facebook post, and nearly 40,000 shared it.

Later the same week, Humphrey discovered that So Delicious had grabbed one of his images from Facebook, Photoshopped one of its products into it and shared it on the So Delicious Facebook spage. Taking a cue from Stanton, Humphrey took to Facebook, and asked his followers to post on So Delicious’ Facebook page, asking that a $10,000 donation be made to an animal shelter. The company apologized and agreed to make a donation.

Whether you agree with their approach or not—and there were several people who commented on our blog, PDNPulse, that the photographers let the companies turn their infringement into good publicity, and that they should have sued in court—the photographers did manage to make a large number of people aware that copyright infringement is a major issue for photographers, and that photographic authorship should be respected, even if a photographer shares his or her work online.

“Educating folks to respect images and give them proper credit or ask for permission” is “way more interesting” than “slamming people with DMCAs [Digital Millennium Copyright Acts],” Humphrey told PDN in February. —CR

10. A David v. Goliath Copyright Case Scores a Victory for the Photographer

Just because a photographer uploads images to Twitter doesn’t make those images free for the taking by anyone with a Twitter account, including big corporations that would rather hire lawyers to push around a photographer who cries foul than admit they had made a mistake.

That was the conclusion earlier this year of a federal court that has been hearing the protracted and convoluted copyright infringement claim of Daniel Morel against wire service Agence France-Presse (AFP) and other media outlets.

Morel was one of few photographers in Haiti when a massive earthquake struck the capital of Port-au-Prince in January 2010. Within hours of the earthquake, the former AP photographer had posted a selection of his images on Twitter, offering to license them. But another Twitter user stole his images, and reposted them under a different name. Various news outlets subsequently distributed the images without permission, and Morel was deprived of thousands of dollars in licensing fees.

Morel has presented plenty of evidence that AFP and Getty—which also distributed the images—knew almost immediately that the images were Morel’s. But they either ignored or responded slowly to his demands to take down the images.

AFP filed a pre-emptive lawsuit, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had not infringed Morel’s copyright. AFP argued that anything uploaded to Twitter is freely available to other Twitter users for copying and distribution. Adding insult to injury, AFP also sued Morel for commercial disparagement because his attorney said AFP was engaging in unscrupulous business practices.

Several media outlets that distributed the images settled with Morel on undisclosed terms. But the photographer fought for more than two years to convince the court that AFP was claiming rights to his images that it did not have under the Twitter terms of service. The court finally agreed with Morel, holding AFP liable for infringement on the grounds that Twitter users “retain their rights to the content they post.”

The Washington Post
was also found liable for infringement. Damages have yet to be determined. Meanwhile, Morel’s claim is still pending against Getty. The photo agency says it distributed Morel’s images as an Internet service provider for AFP, so it is shielded from Morel’s claim under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The court has left it to a jury to decide the question of Getty’s status and liability. Regardless of that outcome, the case is a testament to the courage of one photographer who refused to be bullied out of defending his rights. —DW

11. Scout Tufankjian’s Photo was the Most Viral Ever

Obamas Hugging by Scout Tufankjian

Photography is wildly popular on social media. But the most shared photo ever isn’t of a cute kitten or an Instagrammed plate of food. It’s a well-planned, well-composed image by a veteran photojournalist.

During her time covering Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, first as a reporter and then, in 2012, as an official photographer for Obama for America, photojournalist Scout Tufankjian was often struck by the relationship between the president and the first lady. “You would see the way they talked to each other, talked about each other, related to each other … their mutual respect and their partnership is quite clear,” Tufankjian says.

After noticing the Obamas’ rapport and taking an interest in it, Tufankjian made a point to document their interactions. During an August 2012 campaign stop in Iowa, as the first lady greeted the president onstage after the couple had been apart, Tufankjian made a photograph that became the most-“liked” (4.5 million) and most-shared (800,000) image ever on Facebook and Twitter, respectively.

“I definitely knew that there was a possibility [of making that photograph], and I stood on that side of the stage because I thought that you’d be able to see his face and so there was some planning involved,” she recalls.

Though Tufankjian believes “it’s possible that any image that they had Tweeted that evening as he won the election might have touched a similar chord with people,” her close attention to the story of the Obamas’ relationship gave the campaign and its supporters the image that defined their victory celebration. —CR

12. The Mysterious Life of Street Photographer Vivian Maier Inspires a Movie

Vivian Maier

You may think you know the story of Vivian Maier, the nanny who received critical acclaim for her street photographer after her work was discovered by an amateur historian, but the documentary Finding Vivian Maier makes the case that her life may have been a lot more mysterious than any of us thought.

The feature film is co-directed and co-produced by John Maloof, who originally purchased some of Maier’s archive after it had been sold to auction due to non-payment on a storage locker. Maloof later brought Maier’s work to the attention of the international art world. In the documentary, he aims to find out who Maier really was and what her life was like. Though he had purchased Maier’s work in 2007 Maloof didn’t realize what he had until 2009—the same year the photographer had passed away in a nursing home. Maloof never got the chance to actually meet Maier, so he reached out to anyone who may have known the notoriously private woman.

Maier had few friends and hardly any family. In the film, Maloof interviews Maier’s former employees, the children she cared for and past neighbors, trying to piece together as much information as he can. Members of the art and entertainment worlds, including iconic street photographer Joel Meyerowitz, are also interviewed for the documentary, and weigh in on the impact of her work as well as what they think it says about her. Based largely on the trailer (the film hasn’t been released yet) a picture of an intriguing woman emerges, as do many questions: Why did Maier never show her work? Was there a reason she sometimes used false names? What prompted her to document the streets of Chicago and New York City in the first place?

Variety reported in February that the film has been presold to a number of international media outlets including Swedish TV, Dutch TV and Italy’s La Feltrinelli film company. No word yet on when or where it will be shown in the United States, though the movie is supposed be released later this year. One thing that is for sure is that the story of an über-private woman who shot rolls and rolls of film that she never showed to anyone (some she never even developed!) is bound to intrigue and delight a modern audience living in an over-sharing, instant gratification kind of world. —MA

13. Blogs and Social Media Really Can Pay

Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: They’re all sort of fun, and essential tools for self-promotion. But many photographers wonder: Is there a way to actually make money by feeding the social-media maw? The answer is a qualified, “Yes.” A few photographers, at least, have built big followings, and landed assignments because of their proven ability to attract audiences online.

In some cases, advertisers contact photographers about assignments after noticing a hugely popular blog or Instagram feed. For instance, photographer and graphic designer Steph Goralnick, who has 340,000 Instagram followers, has shot for Delta Air Lines, Evian and the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

“Any photography job I’ve ever gotten has technically been a result of the exposure I’ve created for myself through social-media networks like Flickr and Instagram,” Goralnick told PDN last year.

Other photographers, chosen for the popularity of their Instagram feeds, have been hired by clients such as Johnnie Walker, Esprit, and Giorgio Armani to shoot images for Web campaigns and the client’s Instagram feed. As part of the deal, the photographers often promote the brands by posting the assignment images on their own Instagram feeds.

Clients are also hiring photographers to take over their Instagram feeds temporarily as guest editors or curators. Martin Schoeller, Brad Mangin, Matt Eich and Jesse Burke have all been hired to take over The New Yorker’s Instagram feed for a week.

Photographers are also pursuing clients actively, rather than waiting for clients to come to them. Brian DiFeo (130,000 Instagram followers) and Anthony Danielle (190,000 followers) offered to manage an Instagram account for the Newport Folk Festival in 2011, in exchange for media passes. They shared backstage images of musicians with a lot of interested audience members. Then, realizing the possibilities for making connections between brands and audiences, DiFeo and Danielle teamed up with Liz Eswein (686,000 followers) to form The Mobile Media Lab. It is a digital agency that serves brands by documenting the events they sponsor with compelling photos, then sharing the pictures on Instagram and other social media.

Of course, most photographers are unlikely to achieve the critical social-media mass that leads directly to commercial assignments. But online image-licensing opportunities also appear to be expanding, especially in the editorial realm. Photo blogs such as Lens (The New York Times) and LightBox (TIME) are attracting big audiences—and paying contributors. Digital media is difficult to monetize, but here and there, photographers are finding ways to make it pay. —DW

14. The Most Talked-About Super Bowl Ad Was Made by Still Photographers

The day after the Super Bowl, as the media (traditional and social) and blogosphere digested the commercials trotted out by advertisers the night before in multi-million-dollar spots, one of the most talked-about ads featured a slide show of still photographs. And in the photo community, there was much rejoicing.

The ad for Ram trucks, created by The Richards Group for its client Chrysler, featured a series of striking black-and-white and color photographs depicting the lives of American farmers. The soundtrack was edited from a vintage recording of news-radio legend Paul Harvey giving the speech, “So God Made a Farmer,” to a gathering of the Future Farmers of America in 1978.

The images in the ad were created on assignment by ten photographers: Andy Anderson, William Albert Allard, Jim Arndt, Daniel Beltrá, Mark Gooch, Andy Mahr, Kurt Markus, David Spielman, Matthew Turley and Olaf Veltman. Adweek christened it the best ad shown during the Super Bowl, noting the “gorgeous work” of the photographers. A Forbes writer called it “stirring.” Even in criticizing the ad for misrepresenting the racial makeup of America’s farmers, a writer for The Atlantic noted that it “made everyone at our Super Bowl party stop and watch.” The Santa Fe Workshops created a tribute YouTube response, “So God Made a Photographer.” (Oddly, Chrysler will not give the photographers or creatives permission to discuss the celebrated work.)

The ad kicked off a “Year of the Farmer” campaign by the Ram brand, with events and the support of the Future Farmers of America, giving the ad, and the photographs a life beyond YouTube. —CR

Read more "Reasons to Love Photography Now" by checking out Part 1 and Part 3 of our list.

  Photos from top to bottom: © NASA/JPL - CALTECH/MSSS; © Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America; "Chicago, January 1956." © Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection/Courtesy of Harold Greenberg Gallery, New York.

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