Tuesday Time Killer

19 04 2011

If your looking for some time to kill you might find this pissing war between a Boston TV station and some local street photographers – well, I won’t call it entertaining, but it is almost interesting.

Here is the original story by WBZ in Boston:

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/04/15/downtown-crossing-street-photographers-crossing-the-line/

And here is a response by one of the photographers in question:

http://thephotorecession.webs.com/

The photographs in the blog are not great, but they seem to be attempts to mimmick good street photography. The photographers look a little like they don’t know what they are doing, and I’m guessing they go after their subjects in that way because they are still learning how to shoot. People apparently are annoyed, but I am annoyed when people approach me on the street passing out leaflets or screaming political stuff or bible verses – the fact is that when you are in public people do annoying things.

The TV station seemed to find it interesting that legs were used in the photos. I don’t know what is in the mind of these photographers, but I do know that in my mind, legs make great graphic elements. In fact every photographer I know has taken photos using legs as a framing device or as a graphic element in a photo.

I found it almost laughable, and certainly hypocritical, that the street photographers wanted the TV station to stop videotaping them.

Bottom Line Regarding the TV Station: The TV station ran a story that is not a story; these are amateurs; legs make good graphic elements in photos; I have seen no evidence that they have done anything wrong and the tv station showed them doing nothing wrong. Stories like this make it harder for me to do my job as a photographer.

Bottom Line Regarding the Photographers: Okay, you have a right to take pictures in public. But seriously, so does the TV station. Also, if you want to be a better photographer, you need to learn to relate to your subjects. Find ways to shoot that don’t make your subjects so uncomfortable and you will see how drastically your images improve. Pick a scene and stick with it for a while. If you have confidence in your photography, your subjects will have confidence in you. Darting in and out of pedestrian traffic like a squirrel, it seems like you want to photograph people, but you are afraid of them. It’s very hard to take good pictures of people when you act like you are afraid of them.

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Is your Internship Illegal?

7 04 2010

You need an internship. Companies love having interns because it lightens the work load, they get to nurture and identify young talent and it supports the industry to train future photographers.

Tea pickin' is probably not eligible for unpaid internships. Photo by Alicia Wagner Calzada

There is an interesting article in the New York Times about the expanding trend of unpaid internships and the reality that some unpaid internships violate federal wage laws.

I also found a useful evaluation at this link.

One of the big concerns is that unpaid internships are being used to replace paid workers in this economic recession. This is certainly true in the photojournalism world.

Some states require that an intern receive school credit in order to be eligible as an unpaid intern.

The Department of Labor has provided a set of guidelines to determine whether someone is a trainee, entitled to not being paid (this is relevant for Fair Labor Standards Act- i.e., whether or not minimum wage laws are being violated).

There is also a report by the Economic Policy Insitute on the trends and need for reform for internships.

According to the DOL, there are six factors used for determining if someone is an employee or trainee:

1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the
employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic
educational instruction;
2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees;
3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close
observation;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the
activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually
be impeded;
5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training
period; and
6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to
wages for the time spent in training.

“If all of the factors listed above are met, then the worker is a “trainee”, an employment
relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the worker.”

This does not affect non-profits using volunteers.

You may think this is overkill when you have a student willing to work for free in exchange for valuable experience, but this is extra important for photographers because the consideration of whether someone is an employee is also important for consideration of who owns the copyright. Also if there is an on-the-job injury or a sexual discrimination case, employment status is extremely important.





Heartbreaking Video of the Killing of a Photographer released via Wikileaks

6 04 2010

This recently released video of the 2007 killing of photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his driver, in Baghdad by U.S. troops is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever seen.

It is incredibly disturbing, so in case you don’t want to watch the actual video, here is a link to the article by the New York Times, which does a very good job of describing the important parts of the video.

Reuters had attempted to get the video for years through an FOI request, but it was an anonymous whistle-blower leak via wikileaks that led the the release.

In addition to the devastating implications of the video, and the pain of the families, there are several important subtexts to this video release.

1) It shows the importance of anonymity of sources. I’m sure this doesn’t make the federal government more excited about a federal shield law, but for citizens, and for the fallen, it couldn’t be any more important than this. This video was “classified” and not released after years of official FOI requests. But as you can see, there is nothing in the video that reveals intelligence. In fact, it simply reveals the horrors of war, and raises outrage. The government shouldn’t be able to hide behind the principle of “government secrets,” in an effort to hide things that are only sensitive because it makes them look bad. Those within the government who realize this should be protected.

2) For those who glorify or romanticize the idea of being a war photographer, this also shows how dangerous it really is. Every photojournalism student should be required to watch this.

Let me repeat… if you are a photojournalism student, you need to watch this video. If you are an American you should be outraged.





How to be a safe and lawful Bluebonnet-er

28 03 2010


Shooting bluebonnets is one of the classic spring pastimes for photographers in Texas. For those of us who don’t shoot flowers for a living (and who does, really) it is a great way to rediscover the joy of just taking pictures for an afternoon.

But as with all things, it is important to keep it safe. I was happy to find this article (thanks to Helen Montoya Henrichs) that clarifies a few things- namely, that it is not illegal to pick the bluebonnets (but it is totally uncool to drive your car over them). Oh, yeah, and, no trespassing.

http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/director_staff/public_information/pr032602.htm





Constitutionality of Strip Club “Pole Tax”

26 03 2010

If you are a First Amendment fan, you might enjoy watching the oral arguments from a case heard by the Supreme Court of Texas. They are available via video feed here.

The issue: is the imposition of a tax on strip clubs (specifically a $5 tax for each person at a nude dancing club where alcohol is served), a violation of the First Amendment rights of the clubs?

There is also an article on the case here.

Why is this a First Amendment and issue for strip clubs? Because of the dancing.





Wedding photography disaster- protect yourself

6 10 2009

This story about a wedding photographer in England who was sued for providing “shoddy” photography holds a few lessons, for both photographers and brides to be. For brides, do your homework and get a decent, and professional photographer. These photos, and the video as well, make me wonder if the couple looked at any examples of the photographer’s work before they hired him. Was this just a bad day? I can’t imagine.

For photographers, the lesson is that an important element of your contract is a determination of what happens if something goes wrong.  Disasters happen. Car accidents and family emergencies happen. Even good equipment, on rare occasion, fails. My contract, regardless of the client, has a limitation of liability that says if something does go wrong, my liability is only the amount paid to me. I guarantee my work, but I am not willing to foot the bill for a second wedding if someone doesn’t like my style. To have such a guarantee would force me to raise my prices significantly.

This is important, not because I expect my client to be unhappy- on the contrary, I have very happy clients. But photography is subjective. For example, the judge in the above article found that the photography was bad based in part on the fact that some heads were cut off, and some horizons were crooked. Some photos were out of focus. From a stylistic perspective, you might have award-winning images with heads cut off, crooked horizons and soft focus.

This brings up another point. I don’t know whether the photographer in the above case gave all his images to the bride, or only a selection, but as a rule, I ALWAYS provided only an edited selection. I learned the hard way to never provide my entire take to someone who is not a photography professional. Doing so is an invitation to be judged by your outtakes, which by definition, stink.

You could certainly take my worst outtakes from any event I have photographed, haul me before a judge, and get a judgment that I am a bad photographer. But that will never happen, because my job is not to make every frame I shoot perfect. My job is to to provide a selection of wonderful, unique images. That is what the client wants, and that is what the client gets.





Some “factoids” for you

11 05 2009

For a little pre-summer fun. Check out this link.

Not a lot of bells and whistles, but kind of amusing, to see the errors we make in common phrases.

This fits with photoblawg because whether you are a journalist or a lawyer, your communication skills make all the difference in getting your point across.

I myself will be checking back with this Website (yes, it is supposed to be capitalized):

http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html#errors

One that I always struggle with: judgment