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Thursday, May 12, 2011

What’s the Value of News Photos?

Someone recently posted a link on my Facebook page pointing to a humorous Slate piece called “Cats of War.” I figure it came from the articles written about the SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden, and how they brought a dog with them. But I didn’t have the the same reaction as others.

I did not find it funny at all. In fact, I wondered how Getty could sell news photos to Slate when they were going to be Photoshopping cats into the photos. Now Slate labeled the photos as “photo illustrations,” bit I was curious why Getty would allow that to happen.

In the days when I was a photo editor there was a sense that news photos were objects not to be played around with. In fact, before you used a news photo from an agency like Getty you asked where it had or had not appeared before. Doesn’t it devalue the photos now that people have seen them with cats added into the action?

One of the images is by Darren McCollester, and shot with night vision in either Iraq or Afghanistan (I believe). How do the Getty photographers feel about risking their lives for photographs that will be sold in order to be Photoshopped for a joke? That’s a photo that cannot ever be used again for a news story.

If it was a Chris Hondros photo would that be alright? Is it that the photos don’t matter to Getty, or the photographers, so they don’t care if cats are added to the photograph?

I emailed Pancho Bernasconi at Getty about this but have yet to hear back. I know that Getty has a lot to deal with, and is reeling from the death of Chris Hondros in Libya. But I do think someone needs to speak out about this, and someone else needs to answer. If I ever get a response I will report it here.

What do you think?

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Anonymous Aaron said...

I can see your point. I can see how this would be disrespectful to the photographers who risked their lives to showcase the horrors of war, plight of a specific people, etc, etc. Sadly, I'm sure every photographer using Getty (me included) has signed a Terms of Service allowing Getty to do this.

I think Getty should be especially concerned. Some photographers I know are either actively finding ways to go around Getty or using Getty simply isn't in either business plan. Not that their downfall is anytime soon, but their miss-steps aren't going to help.

On the other hand; would Getty know in advance of Slate's intentions? Shouldn't the blame of disrespect be placed at Slate and not at Getty? Or are we expecting Getty to release a statement saying how they disagree with the use of these photos? And if so, are we then expecting Getty to search out every misuse of a photo and releasing a statement condemning the misuse? These are not rhetorical, I wouldn't like to know an answer if there is one and not in a bitchy way; I'm genuinely interested in the answers.

I don't know a lot of the history with Getty and news photography, so please excuse any ignorance demonstrated.

May 12, 2011  
Blogger Stella Kramer said...

When I was photo editing the agency would make it clear what was not acceptable with the photos (e.g. no cropping, no type on the photos, etc.), therefore I would expect that there was some kind of understanding between the client (Slate) and the agency, especially since they were using so many Getty and AFP/Getty photos for one piece.
I am on the side of the photographers, so that's why I bring this up.

May 12, 2011  
Anonymous Aaron said...

If I was the photographer, and Getty knew the intent of Slate; I would be extremely displeased.

May 12, 2011  

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