there’s an app for photojournalism

So do you think this is photojournalism?

If the answer is yes, then what we knew as photojournalism at it’s purest form is over and POYi just killed it.  Well, they didn’t kill it so much as just dig another knife deeper into the back of its decaying corpse.  It’s time to really address the crossroads we’re at in photojournalism and figure out where it’s headed versus what it was.

I think it’s fair to say I’ve made my thoughts on the Hipstamatic app clear.  Here. The fact that Damon Winter’s “Grunt’s Life” was just awarded a third place at POYi is a game changer.  The fact it was shot on a phone isn’t relevant at all and fair game, but what is relevant is the fact it was processed through an app that changes what was there when he shot them.  It’s now no longer photojournalism, but photography. That transition happens when images become more about the photographer and less about the subject of said photos.

Contest judges respond to visuals first.  Then they read the caption.  Sometimes.  It’s not really fair to pick on judges because contests are subjective and they can pick what they like with a simple “in” or “out.”  However, there isn’t enough discussion over the process of making images and how much the photographer’s hand really made the photo after the fact.  Keyword being “after.”  Hand-of-God has always been a crutch to making mediocre imagery become contest worthy.  The last couple years of contests have really been laughable with certain award winners.  It’s to a point now where the more esoteric you can be with themes and the more proficient you at using Photoshop makes you rise above the rest.  Storytelling is about 4th or 5th down the list.

I have a Photoshop action on my desktop that is titled “POYi filter”  I made it as a joke.  It rotates an image 20 degrees, adds a heavy vignette, throws in a bit of grain, and converts to grayscale.  Pretty sweet.  I can send it your way for a small fee…

I hesitate even writing this because Damon Winter is a personal photo hero of mine and friend.  I worked with him at the Dallas Morning News when I was an intern and he’s personally shaped me as a photographer.  His work is absolutely stunning, and he truly is one of the strongest photojournalists working today.  I even love this particular series of photos, but it shouldn’t have been allowed – even with the Hisptawhatever borders cropped.  I didn’t even enter a single contest this year, so I don’t have a horse in this race.

The more that the World Press Photo, POYi, NPPA, etc. continue awarding these images, the more photojournalism  can be written about in the past tense.  Maybe it should be.

It’s history after all.

98 thoughts on “there’s an app for photojournalism

  1. Hey Chip,

    Respectfully, I don’t share your view that iPhontography is perverting authenticity.

    If we are really documenting history, as you say, isn’t Hipstamatic the lens through which our culture is currently seeing things?

    By that measure, is it not an appropriate frame for current events?

    To wit: for these soldiers, the visual evidence of their tour of duty will likely come from the pictures they take of themselves and their surroundings with their camera phones.

    Personally, I think the choice, and especially the execution, reflect genius.

  2. Well said Chip.

    I think because it’s so debatable, and more leaning towards the wrong end of the spectrum of photojournalism, it should be out.

    It flirts too much with illustration.

    It focuses more on the craft of photography than the reality of life.

    Sure I love Damon’s work and sure I love the Hipstamatic app. We all do. But we should remember at the end of the day, it’s just an application.

    Next year it’s likely we’ll see another essay shot with the Hipstamatic app.

    This has potentially planted a seed. One that tells the world what photojournalism is today.

    Unlike you, I don’t believe it’s (photojournalism) history. It’s just slowed down from it’s heyday of the 70′s, 80′s and early 90′s.

    I have the feeling visual truth, despite Winter’s entry, is on the upswing. We’ve seen it dragging on the bottom for too long.

  3. Great blog post, Chip. Maybe photojournalism is broadening. What a great way for us to better understand an experience we will never understand by a little tool we all have in our pockets. Maybe narrative isn’t the only tool a news photographer should rely on and maybe sometimes story does take a back seat to simply conveying emotion and simple experiences. These contests are usually photography for photographers. These are iPhone pictures that anyone can take if they want. Something very accessible about that. And the hipstamatic affects aren’t much more obtrusive than the vignetting I get on my 35mm 1.4 that I use to the point of gimmick.

    I also like how it’s a bit subversive. Photojournalists complain about the iPhone camera because it’s making ordinary people news photographers now. What a great way to show that if you are competing based on your tools your longevity in the business was at risk from the beginning. And if you are a non-photographer thinking that professional photographers were obsolete, think again.

    I think these contests are also like fashion shows. They’re to inspire and capture imagination, not to be worn everyday. I think POYi is making itself relevant by acknowledging an interesting story and a conceptual one done with a tool that is supposed to be putting us all out of business. Straight forward, point and shoot photojournalism will always be relevant, and even more so as photojournalism takes a pendulum swing toward the conceptual. The contests aren’t the final conclusions. POYi has already done it’s job by getting us to talk about it, even if it’s a backlash against what it awarded.

  4. Dave,

    Great point – I remember Damon talking about the soldiers’ phones as a muse to give the project context on the LENS blog. Perfect reason to shoot it as such.

    I don’t have an issue with it being shot on an iPhone. More power to him for doing so and making compelling photos with it. My only problem is Hipstawhatever photos being awarded in a photojournalism contest and processed through that app. If the images were toned to reflect reality, then the whole debate would be- well, not a debate.

    I love that it is Damon’s photos sparking this debate…because he is one of the top photojournalists in the world and he is obviously a god to me as I’ve stated before.

    I’m all for photojournalism evolving and embracing new technology, but there should be some change from the higher ups in this industry to redefine it. Unfortunately, contests shape the trends and visuals of the industry. If it is allowed and acceptable, then game on, but there are too many conflicting contest rules that don’t really seem to gel with today’s photography.

    I can’t wait to see the entries next year.

    Chip

  5. Chip,

    As always a pleasure to read your thoughts. I have to agree with you on this point. I too share the same sentiments about Damon Winter. Overall, his work is stunning on many levels. However, the “fact it was processed through an app that changes what was there when he shot them,” is the defining factor that should differentiate this body of work as fine art documentary work rather than photojournalism.

    I do like the series, but POYi is a photojournalism competition. Therefore, the organization should be maintaining a specific code of journalism ethics?

    On another note, Winter’s “Grunt’s Life” does not push the envelope of photojournalism nor is it innovative in that he choose to use an iPhone. It is simply someone using the hipstercrapmatic in the same way a news writer might use adjectives excessively and in an editorial manner.

  6. Chip,

    I can’t help feeling like this is a byproduct of the over-saturation of cameras and the subsequent rise of aspiring photographers. Since most people don’t worry about the ethical concerns that photojournalists prescribe to, and community journalism is on the rise, it feels like the end result is a decline in journalistic integrity. However, while I personally disagree with the use of these apps, they are becoming a part of the public’s consciousness and thus they are better able to read and understand these photos. I certainly don’t condone the use of these alterations, but consider; would it have been more acceptable if he had used a Holga instead and achieved the effect in-camera?

    I’m rambling, so I’ll cut to the chase. With the line rapidly blurring, is it better to become increasingly vigilant in our ethical standards or to embrace the new technologies and find some sort of acceptable compromise? Or, I suppose the third option, continue singing funeral dirges.

  7. From the POYi rules:
    • No masks, borders, backgrounds or other artistic effects are allowed.
    http://www.poyi.org/64CFE/rules.html

    If Hipstamatic or any filter, actions etc (artistic effects) were applied, the entry should be disqualified. At the very least, just looking at image #1 I can see the Hand of God, which should be yanking this entry.
    The contest is not edited by a jury, so when questionable images are up either the judges should comment on this or the people running the contest should examine the images and make a determination.

    Whereas this has been published and therefore endorsed by POYi and the Missouri School of Journalism.
    Whereas examination can show artistic effects were applied to this image.
    Therefore, we declare POYi/Mizzou (and maybe even photojournalism) to be dead. Long live artistic expression.

  8. Chip and RJF,

    Henri Cartier-Bresson’s early prints were very flat. Prints made later in his career showed significantly more contrast as a reflection of evolving standards in the medium.

    A generation of photojournalists and especially the highly-regarded National Geographic photographers used Ektachrome, exposing for highlights so that shadows would contain no detail. Does their over-saturated, high-contrast view represent imagery “toned to reflect reality,” or have we just become accustomed to thinking so?

    Talk to Nachtwey’s assistant, and he’ll tell you they may spend three days perfecting one print to get his signature black and white look.

    We’re witnessing a radical change in the news business right now, far more significant than I think any of us can articulate, where subjectivity and opinion have crept into television reporting, news writing and photojournalism – territory where traditionally, the notion of objectivity has been paramount.

    To be sure, objectivity has always been a noble goal. And an impossible achievement.

    Fine art photographer Ralph Gibson has made some interesting observations on the nature of our expectations of pictures. We want them to represent reality, but they simply cannot. He points out that by 1) framing and cropping a scene with a particular lens, 2) transforming that scene from three dimensions to two and 3) printing in black and white, we are already three steps removed from reality.

    Street photographer Garry Winogrand said, “All a photograph ever does is describe light on surface.”

    To me, this evolution points to a thrilling and ultimate exploration of the nature of reality itself, which I hope humanity will undertake in earnest.

    Physicists have established that by removing all of the empty space in the atoms of the human body, the matter remaining could fit on the head of a pin. Where does that leave reality?

    In this era of Facebook, we now have digital projections of our actual selves. Which is more authentic?

    I love that Damon chose a ‘democratic’ medium to show the lives of soldiers, and I think it brilliantly and accurately reflects the times in which we live.

    I love Christopher Anderson’s notion of experimental journalism.

    I love Antoine d’Agata’s experiential journalism.

    I say, push the medium. Push artistry. Push the accepted notion of reality to expose its tattered edges.

    From the Matrix:

    “Do not try to bend the spoon – that’s impossible. Only realize the truth: there is no spoon. Then you will realize, it is only yourself that bends.”

  9. You should know that Hipstamatic is an app that automatically applies toning etc at the time of creation, NOT after the fact. The photographer makes a decision on lens and film in the app before making a photo. In theory this is no different than choosing to shoot with a lomo, holga or leica because of the unique aesthetic quality they produce. There are no “after the fact” effects applied. I hope this ends the argument.

    • Zach,

      I understand that…my problem is what is added is completely fake and foreign. It masks a truthfully composed image with fake borders/toning. My only rub lies with awarding it as photojournalism on POYi.

      I actually really love the images either way, my concern is context.

      Chip

  10. And what about the black-and-white “app” that has been added to so many originally-shot-and-published-in-color photojournalism over the years for the sake of winning in POYi year-after-year? That, to me, is a much more grievous, artistic after-effect than whatever has occurred in Damon’s pictures.

  11. And what about the black-and-white “app” that has been added to so much originally-shot-and-published-in-color photojournalism over the years for the sake of winning in POYi year-after-year? That, to me, is a much more grievous, artistic after-effect than whatever has occurred in Damon’s pictures.

  12. Chip,

    In your opinion, what is photojournalism in its purest form?

    Where do you draw the line between reality and different tools of photography, whether those be film, lenses, cameras, digital processing, applications that mimic these things? Would Damon Winter’s essay have been more acceptable if he photographed it with the regular iPhone camera app and then cropped everything square?

    What about digital color to black and white conversion (probably over half of what is submitted to contests)? Strange over-sharpening and desaturation (POYi award of excellence for “swimming with a disability”)? Total over-contrasting and over-saturating? In the black and white POYi second place sports feature photo, I can barely tell what’s going on let alone how it was shot.

    I think we all know contests are subjective, so maybe we should stop taking them so seriously, stop relying on them so much to tell us what good “photojournalism” is?

    Since a lot of people read your blog, how about you post a list of 10 great photos and photo stories from 2010 that you think are photojournalism at its best?

    Cheers,
    Erin

  13. This is a useful and interesting debate, but as is common when issues of ‘manipulation’ and ‘truth’ are raised with regard to photojournalism, it tends to assume that the issues can be considered in a neat, either/or fashion. Behind some comments is the assumption that there is a pure realm of images, pictures somehow untainted by aesthetic considerations, that can be contrasted to the problems with particular photographs deemed to be too aesthetic, too arty, too manipulated or whatever. We can all think of extreme examples where that might be the case, but I’m not sure Winter’s iPhone pictures are one of those extremes.

    Before Xmas I wrote about these images and tried to put them in context of the ongoing photographic coverage of Afghanistan (see http://www.david-campbell.org/2010/12/17/aesthetics-of-war-in-afghanistan/). One of my central points was to emphasize how aesthetics is central to all photography including photojournalism. This is most evident when competitions bar some post-capture alterations but never rule out others, most obviously desaturation. (I’ve discussed this on my blog in other posts related to controversies from Danish and World Press Photo competitions – check them out via the ‘manipulation’ tag if you are interested).

    In this regard, consider the case of Victor Blue’s Afghanistan photos I mentioned in my post. According to an interview in PDN, ‘Blue is shooting the project primarily with a Canon 5D Mark II, and converting his images to black and white. “I envisioned Afghanistan in gray tones. I saw color as a distraction,” he explains.’ Let’s be crystal clear – there is nothing wrong with Blue’s approach. But…if that form of aestheticization is accepted as a professional norm – which it undoubtedly is – what is it really about the Winter pictures that causes such strong objections?

  14. well said chip. this is why I don’t enter this contest any longer. for years they have been allowing
    (and awarding) over toned, manipulated, suspect photos. for a contest that purportedly is about photojournalism I have been amused for years seeing some of the winners and realizing if a newspaper photographer turned in a photo
    like that they would be fired for violating the ethics policy. in all honesty they should come clean at the POYi
    and throw out their “rules”. they’ve been in violation of those for years.
    keep up the good work.

  15. I tend to agree with Zach in this discussion. The argument that Hipstamatic’s method of processing images is somehow less ethical than shooting with the original equipment those filters are modeled after is dogmatic, pure and simple. As Zach has noted, the way that Hipstamatic’s processing is applied is key — no after-the-fact image manipulation is applied within the app. You select the lens, film and flash in the software. If the way the software changes the image is faithful in reproducing the characteristics of the physical equipment that has been digitally modeled, where is the ethical breakdown?

    The logical end of Chip’s argument is to say that digital photography as a whole is somehow illegitimate as a photojournalistic tool. Why is simulating the physical and chemical process of light traveling through the optics to expose a piece of film permitted, while digitally replicating the idiosyncrasies of a Holga’s lens is considered anathema?

    Converting digital color to black-and-white is no different than the film modeling that occurs in Hipstamatic. The moment you convert to black-and-white, you have chosen to digitally simulate the tonal characteristics of a particular type of film.

  16. And one more thought…

    The ethical considerations of photojournalism are about telling the truth.

    Hipstamatic affects the image, but DSLRs often affect behavior. Why is Hipstamatic’s influence considered unethical while a DSLR’s is not?

    There are dangers in accurately representing the truth with either of these tools.

  17. This is indeed an interesting and useful discussion, and I think it dovetails nicely with Michael Davis’ recent blog post “What is a newspaper photograph?” (http://www.michaelddavis.com/blog/2011/2/8/what-is-a-newspaper-photograph.html) which he wrote after judging a recent NPPA monthly clip contest. In it, Davis criticizes newspaper photographers for generally making simple, literal photos with little depth.

    In both Davis’ comments and the discussion on this post, I believe the question at hand is what the goal of the contest is and, more generally, what the point of photojournalism is.

    While Davis’ criticisms of newspaper photography are accurate and will challenge me to make better pictures, I think he misses the point of news photography. In effect, he criticizes photographers for creating pictures that are more “Woodward and Bernstein” than “Steinbeck.” There’s a sharp distinction between photojournalism as reportage and photojournalism as advocacy.

    If you consider photojournalism as reportage, the point is to relate the visual facts of a subject to the audience. The *story* is the story, not how talented the photographer is. Content is king, which is why a blurry, grainy cell phone photo of an underground bomber in action is a more important news photo than the hippest, best-lit, most creative picture of a ribbon cutting. Sure, the ribbon cutting photo took a lot of skill and may be a cool picture, but that’s not the point of news photography. The emphasis is, and should be, on the “news” not the “photography.” (Of course, a properly exposed, in-focus image of the bomber would be even more valuable.)

    If you look at photojournalism as advocacy, though, the picture changes both figuratively and literally. In the position of advocate, the photographer’s goal is to attract attention to (and convince the audience of) a particular viewpoint. In that case there is a lot more room–and demand–for creativity. The motivation for these sorts of stories is more akin to marketing than news. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a definite distinction that should be recognized and, in most cases, it doesn’t belong in the news section of a news publication.

    So the question must be asked–what is the point of these contests? Is it to honor the most creative photographers of newsy things, or to recognize the most important news photos of the year? All of the contests seem to vacillate between these choices from year to year, and even category to category. If it’s the former, the contest should be open to almost any kind of image manipulation. If it’s the latter, “Hipstawhatever” images–and many other recent winners–should not be eligible.

  18. Technology may change the way images are captured and it certainly offers ethical debate, but I really have no problem with the issue of Damon’s photos coming from an iphone app. We all put some form of stamp on our images, from choosing the camera and settings that we use, to the toning and “darkroom” techniques applied to images before sharing. Is this situation any different? What if Damon used a brownie camera or a Polaroid to make these photos? How about a camera obscura or a daguerreotype? Would his images be more/less acceptable in a contest. Personally, I’m more interested in the image than the process.

  19. Another thing that is great about the iphone, is that the people you are photographing aren’t paying attention to you and your big SLR, they’re paying attention to what they are doing. Now that’s journalism!

  20. The way I see it we’re talking about two different issues here.

    1) Are these photos truthful (or, did their treatment alter the truth)?

    2) Do these photos violate the POYi rules?

    If the answer to question 1 is yes, then who cares about question 2?

    Why? Because the truthfulness of an image is important to all people, whereas the violation of the rules of a photo competition only matters to those who win (and lose).

  21. Brian makes an excellent point about technology. Moving backwards to use photography equipment of the past would be a stylistic choice that is much more self-aware than using a common and now ordinary iPhone camera (with an app that objectively applies tonal qualities before the picture is taken, not subjectively afterwards). But all those technologies Brian mentioned were acceptable during their time, of course. And the 5D MKII won’t be the last camera we ever use. And one day we will be offended that a camera “app” meant to replicate the tonal qualities of the antique 5D was submitted to a photojournalism competition. We could stay the same and not welcome new technologies (and their stylistic differences), but that also seems counterproductive to photojournalism’s goals.

    And I think erasing color information from a documentary image is an “artistic effect”. If Damon Winter’s entry needs to be disqualified because it’s not pure enough, there’s a bunch of other black and white POY entries from the past few decades that need to be disqualified as well.

  22. I dont feel the app changes the intent of the origional image, no more “enhancing” or changing than I have seen photojournalists doing in photoshop. It is what it is, but now the average person can do it without the photoshop know-how. looks at some of the submissions to MILPHOG, looks pretty similar…

  23. Hmmm.
    If altering an image after it is made is a standard that can’t be broken, then we would only be able to enter raw files today or negatives or glass plates or daguerreotypes of the past. The Hipstamatic App is little different from a Holga or images made on glass plates. Are any of these less honest than a so-called unaltered image? (And please, let’s not use the truth argument.)
    Gene Smith altered negatives dramatically. Many newspaper images for decades were airbrushed in the production department. Hand of God burning was acceptable. Toning in photoshop changes things dramatically. And besides, there is not one reality – each of us sees color and light uniquely.
    There is more to say, but it’s better said over a beer the next time we get together.

  24. Someone needs to decide how a photo will look!
    If photojournalists aren’t allowed to manipulate images, then the look and “integrity” of photos will be left mostly to the engineers and technicians that design and build the cameras! …and with such huge variation in color, quality, and imaging characteristics of today’s cameras, the images they produce will most often be less-than-perfect reflections of true reality.

  25. @Zach – In reference to your statement – “You should know that Hipstamatic is an app that automatically applies toning etc at the time of creation, NOT after the fact.”. Really? The digital image is absolutely altered after the image was taken. The RAW file within the iphone is processed with the filters within the Hipstamatic app. Just because it pumps out a final image, does NOT mean the app did not APPLY its filters for a few seconds while doing it’s own post-processing.

    It’s incredible that there are some even trying to defend the usage this app as just another ‘tool’ for photojournalists. I’m bewildered! Chips hit the nail on the head with this one, and for anyone to say otherwise, clearly does not understand fact vs fiction. If you’re trying to document reality, shoot the damn scene as RAW as F’king possible! You want to add a little contrast? Go for it, but back to the way the ORIGINAL scene looked. You want to add a little saturation? Go for it, but back to the way the ORIGINAL scene looked! You want to use a digital photo app such as Hipstamatic to document someone, something, some event, some culture, a combat unit, a F’king ant!? GREAT, DO IT! Just don’t call it photojournalism. The real FAIL here folks, is the judges who allowed this to place. What this is saying to up-and-coming photojournalists is that it’s OK to alter reality, and as fact/story telling photoJOURNALISTS, we should be recording reality and not putting our own spin on how we want it to look. It’s lying to the viewers, and damaging our industry.

  26. You missed the point.
    Every camera does it’s own processing to the image.
    There is no such thing as a pure image.
    Why is it when some unfortunate camera distorts the colors, and/or exposure, and makes the image look totally wrong from the start, it’s ok…it’s still “photojounalism” (cuz it wasn’t manipulated by a human?!). That’s crazy!
    - I just hope the written story that goes along with those photos, is one about how any particular camera, uncontrolled lighting, and/or other factors can totally skew the reality of an image! (Photojournalism style…without any extra help from humans and/or software)

  27. This debate shouldn’t be that deep. General photography? Fine, do what you want. Facebook? Who cares? Awards? Blah – if Sandra Bullock won Best Actress, then they’re just giving these things to a anybody.

    But this is not real. If you’re trying to defend this as journalism – you’re wrong. It’s garbage, even it it was film it would be garbage. While we’re at it, let’s replace all the insurgents with Ewoks and replace all guns with walkie-talkies.

  28. Wow, this debate is getting crazy.

    @Tsu seems like an unrealistic hard line. I’m afraid that if we take your stance literally then every single photo submitted to POYi should be disqualified. To get a scene back to the way it actually looked, we should all be shooting HDR to get the 20 f-stops our eyes can see instead of the 8 f-stops most cameras see and every eye is different. Also the perception of every viewer is different. Photography cannot be completely free of subjectivity. Personally I love when photographers develop their own personal style and voice and try and communicate what they see with whatever tools they have at their disposal.

    @metfields good points on how every camera processes the image.

  29. Zach, many of the images awarded thus far were shot RAW and post-processed minimally using basic Curves, and saved as JPG for agency submission. Tsu, you make great points, but all digital images are processed in camera, though RAW is the most minimal.

  30. As a non-photojournalist, but passionate photographer with quite a few PJ friends, I find this discussion quite interesting. Please allow me a genuine question, because I think I’m missing something in the uproar.

    If the images in “A Grunt’s Life” had been taken with a Holga, on film, and developed in a “straightforward” way, would they be acceptable as “true” photojournalism?

    If so (and I’m not sure why they couldn’t be, or then we’re going down the path of a PJ must use a certain type of equipment), what if the images had been taken simultaneously with a holga/film, and an iPhone with the HIpstamatic filter? My logic tells me that if the hipstamatic app is halfway decent, then the images should look very similar….in which case, what’s the problem?

  31. Today’s photojournalists are looking for new and more creative ways of telling stories and pushing the envelope of conventional photographic methods. Using the i-phone as a professional tool is a relatively new discovery amongst PJ’s, that’s fine, it has a place in photography today. The problem, or even danger that arises particularly in regards to shooting war and conflict, is that the style and creativity photojournalists are so keen to pursue and show in their work is starting to usurp raw content and context.

  32. Hello, Chip.

    First of all and answering your question: Is this photojournalism? Yes, I believe it is.

    Secondly, what can be considered as “pure” in photojournalism nowadays?

    Sincerely, I don’t see the point when you say that the “app changes what was there when he shot them”. Neither Damon Winter nor the app changed the scene. They didn’t add nor deleted anything from reality.

    When I look at these pictures I don’t focus at the “shape” as much as at the story. I’m convinced that if instead of using the Hipstamatic app, Damon Winter would have used “normal” or “average” Photoshop tools, there would be no debate.

    A different point is what Steve Warmowski reminds about POYi rules (entry nº 8): “no masks, borders, backgrounds or other artistic effects are allowed”. According to these rules, Damon Winter’s pictures shouldn’t have entered the contest, but this is another question.

    Anyway, as a photographer and journalist, I thank you, Chip, for livening up the debate.

    Cheers.

    Enrique

  33. You can’t dismiss this as photojournalism – while shooting it on a phone might be controversial, its symptomatic of the shift that photojournalism has made in the past decade or so. I’ve never played around with Hipstamatic, but from what you are saying vignetting, grain and heightened contrast do not change the core content of the image. As someone here has said, every camera alters an image to an extent – but moreover, post-processing has always existed. Originally it was chemical treatment, now its photoshop… So long as the image is still an accurate representation of what was going on, then it can’t be disregarded as ‘not photojournalism’.

    I actually think that it is an interesting piece of work – the images narrate a story through what they show alone, but the use of a new technology (particularly in a warzone, perhaps the mainstay of photojournalism) also makes a statement about how the field is changing.

  34. Authentic…. I don’t think anything is truly new or unique these days. A photo is a photo. You can change it, tweak it, etc. As long as the original content is still viewable (people, emotions, weather, etc) the original shot is there. What you do after that is artistic.

    These applications are fun but I don’t understand the big hubaloo over them…. it’s a wonderful shot, it caught the moment. Every photo used with that setting may have the same vignetting, the same burned out area, the same hue. But they won’t have the same subject or emotion.

    That’s what makes a picture special. If I used the same app/settings to take a photo of a cola can it probably wouldn’t have garnered much attention.

    So no, hipstamatic is no more authentic than any other way of taking photos. But they are still real photos with real emotion.

    No camera/photographer will capture the same scene identically.

  35. If a “photojournalist” is a journalist who uses photography as a means of telling his/her story, then there is always going to be a certain amount of artifice which is utilized to best tell that story. Journalists struggle long hours searching for just the right words to convey maximum emotional impact, how is that any different than adjusting tones and subtle nuances to accomplish the same impact on a visual level. More importantly, who ever came up with the notion that the truth must always be plain, simple, even ugly to be accepted? We sweeten the truth with our body language, our vocabulary, our sentimentality – every action we do when engaging one another as human beings involves wrapping our truths with enough subtlety to make it our own and “sell it” as hard and effectively as we can. Every conveyance manipulates fact in some minor way, we accept it and even embrace or celebrate it when it suits our purposes and decry it when it runs against our norms. If this medium is going to have to survive, it needs to be honest with itself and understand that it is built on a foundation of tiny deceits that don’t take away the truth as much as they manipulate it into something malleable, in order to bend it to our needs and to touch the audience in ways that leave an impression. This argument smacks of elitism, as if somehow only by means of a very controlled process can someone be trusted to be truthful. Those who would be that gatekeepers to such decisions are possibly the least honest among your numbers.

  36. This is all much ado about NOTHING!
    After reading Mr.Winters statement and confirming that the original content and subject matter of this photo is truly original. Then who cares if he shot it with an enhancement app or not? Are we supposed to go back to the last 100 years of news Photography and examine them tooth-by-tooth and hair-by-hair. Can we oppose or disqualify a photo because a craftsman used a unique tool to create his image? To what degree? Tell me how different “Grunts Life” is compared to say a black and white print. Where maybe the sky was burned in. Or shadows were dodged to open up the subject’s face. The phone camera and App worked in conjunction under the Photojournalist’s control. Not the tools control! He shot with that tool most likely knowing what the end result of that applied technique will render. Much the same as using Kodachrome vs Ektachrome. Those 2 films would render very different results.

    And please let’s not forget that Mr. Winters and many others put themselves in harms way over and over to bring images back to the world. Who are we to limit their working method’s!

  37. You’re en titled to your opinion, of course. A nikon d7000 or a leica m6 is only a tool. As is a darkroom, digital or otherwise. So too is the iphone. What is important is quality content. As long as that is authentic, that’s all that counts.

  38. Nope…shouldn’t have been allowed, shouldn’t have won anything. Yes, it’s an app (think PS), but the app has changed what was recorded. Photojournalism is about recording, unfiltered, what was in front of you. This ‘photo’ is like editorializing in a news story…

  39. So I take it you don’t rate the work of Basetrack (http://basetrack.org/2010/11/01/cop-7171-part-ii/). Teru Kuwayama, one of the forces behind the project, even shoots with a Holga sometimes (see a previous post on this blog)! I know many photographers who, foolishly, would dismiss your own work simply because it’s shot on digital. Personally, although I may prefer one medium over another, I believe it is the end result that we must look to to gauge success. In that sense, Damon Winter’s work works, although I don’t believe it deserves third place, unless it was a year of paucity for POYi.

  40. I personally love the Hipstamatic. It’s a brilliant app. I am currently doing a portrait project using my iphone/hipstamatic combo. I was considering entering it the portrait category of World Press but when I read the rules. No borders… I chose not to circumvent the rules as they were laid out before me and did not enter. It’s that simple. These pictures by Dan Winter should never have been accepted by the judges. They are great pictures, no doubt. Maybe being great photos, being published in a major newspaper, should have been enough for these pictures. If Dan didn’t read the rules, that’s one thing, but if he read the rules and ignored them, thats simply dishonest. I’m wondering if there are a different set of rules for the big boys, The Times and the Post’s and their war photos.

  41. Chip, you nailed at least one thing on the head: the POYi Photoshop action you developed. Congratulations and thanks. As someone who came out of the Tri-X and Acufine era of photojournalism, I always got my grain the old fashioned way: I earned it with thin negatives, hot developer, and long nights burning down backgrounds. Trouble was grain became synonymous truth when, in fact, it was just an unfortunate by-product of the process. Now we are stuck with that vestigial appendage to our craft because photojournalism is a product of evolution. If photojournalism had been defined from the beginning by something like a constitution we might be able to say, with confidence, what photojournalism is and what it isn’t. (And we could just burn the heretics at the stake.)

    It’s not that I’m not sympathetic with your argument, and might even agree if put to the test (or the torch.) But you are describing a descent into hell from some supposed golden age and I don’t know when that was. Certainly not in the era when I started, when we painted on every picture that ever went to the backshop. (I mean actual water-based gray paint so we could paint in white’s of eyes and catchlights.) Or when we airbrushed the backgrounds of basketball games we shot with on camera flash so that you could make the black players stand out from the black background.

    I’d just like to know when it was that we reached that supposed point of honesty in photojournalism from which we are now descending.

    Certainly you are right that there is something unseemly about using an app to make reality look more real. It’s as if we believe The Matrix because of it’s green, garish caste more than we believe the real world in real sunlight. (Much of that evolutionary imaging throwback can be laid at the feet of us photographers who shot color slides under florescent lights and just let the images go green as a “statement” about the cold, hard, modern world made green and garish by ruthless corporations.)

    So perhaps the question is this: would Damon Winter’s pictures have won without the app effects? Probably not. But then something similar can be said of a whole host of pictures taken over the last several decades. Many depended on some photographic technique to effect their statement. I’ve judged POY. The awards go photographers who make statements, whose photography goes beyond mere recording into another realm. Judges look for images that step out from the crowd and make us pay attention. I think Winter’s pictures did that. By most definitions, they probably are not pure “photojournalism.” In the end, and in this case, I don’t care. That probably makes me a heretic.

    So here we have a case where something other than photojournalism did a pretty good job of bringing us a truthful understanding of the grunt’s life, perhaps better than “pure” photojournalism would have done. If so then photojournalism itself needs to do some soul searching. At least that’s what I think right now.

    Thanks for spurring the debate.

  42. June 1994, TIME Magazine OJ Simpson cover. Please tell me you remember the shit storm this caused. Martin Gee posted a comment earlier of his attempt at the OJ Simpson photo using the hispta app, here –> http://bit.ly/fasM59. Take a look, decide for yourself.

    @Francis – The word ‘enhance’ should only be coming out from Horatio’s mouth. Not a photojournalists. *facepalm*

  43. I just feel that this cheapens the quality of the product and the quality of photojournalism. I think the gut reaction against this is pretty loud and clear.

  44. hey, i’m doing a school paper on if digital photography has changed the nature of photojournalism and was wondering if i could quote this /and/or/ perhaps have a skype interview with the author of this? i created a temporary email for you to message me at just in case someone tries to spam: littlebatshat@gmail.com
    thank you!!

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