Posts Tagged 'photographer'

The President, In Pictures


Photo by Pete Souza

So there’s a few people in England who have their knickers in a twist because Prime Minister David Cameron put a “vanity photographer” on the payroll. They say in these austere times it doesn’t make sense to pay someone to “take flattering pictures of him and other ministers.” While instituting this  job in the US’s current economic climate would no doubt be met with similarly strong objections, we’ve had an official White House photographer going back to 1960, when President Kennedy appointed Cecil W. Stoughton.

I think our country looks upon the job not as a “vanity” perk and more like an incredible opportunity to document history. Sure, there are plenty of feel-good photo ops, but then this photographer also has unrivaled access to some of the most important events in history. Who can forget the photo of a shell-shocked Jacqueline Kennedy looking on as Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office  in Air Force One after President Kennedy was killed? (By Cecil W. Stoughton of course.)

And, for better or worse, photos of the president can have a huge impact. Former President George Bush said last week he regretted allowing that infamous picture to be taken of him staring out of Air Force onto a devastated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He called it a “huge mistake” because it reinforced the perception that he was  totally removed from the disaster. (The photo wasn’t taken by his official photographer but by Susan Walsh, Christopher Morris or Mannie Garcia, depending on who you talk to.)

National Geographic takes on the fascinating  topic in this month’s “The President’s Photographer,” which features the recollections of all nine who’ve held the job (only five of which are still living). Along with the show premiering November 24 on PBS, there is a companion book of both well- and little-known images of recent US presidencies.

CBS’s “Sunday Morning” also did this piece on Souza and the role that’s worth a view, if you can stomach the horrible reporter. (Other than that, it’s good.)

DHS Officer Bans Photographer From Public Protest in Los Angeles

Last week on October 5, I decided to head to downtown Los Angeles to photograph a rally that was being held at the federal building. What was dubbed as a National Day of Action against FBI Repression ended up being a major non-event, and only about 5-10 people were there to protest the FBI’s recent raids that targeted political activists in Illinois and Minnesota.

So for a photographer hoping to capture another protest with the usual high energy associated with these kinds of events, there really wasn’t much to photograph. Plus, it started raining fifteen minutes into this tiny protest, and that was still before anyone even arrived. However, at the same time the rain started falling, a Department of Homeland Security vehicle arrived, which caused me to believe that people were going to show up—at some point—and they did.

I stuck around and burned the roll’s last few frames on the lackluster protesters that finally arrived and used the very last frame for the Homeland Security decal that was on the front fender of the DHS SUV. It seemed like an important stock image to get, seeing that DHS has been known to harass a photographer or two. I thought I could use my photo for future posts dealing with DHS harassment rather than pulling the DHS decal from the web.

Well, I should’ve known that I would be posting a video showing a DHS officer prohibiting me from returning to a protest that was being held on a public sidewalk before I even processed the roll of film I shot that day.

Two Misdemeanor Charges for Student Photog

Photo by Shawn Nee / discarted (Used to show that photographs of patients and ambulances are not illegal)

Justin Kenward, photo editor of the Chaffey College student newspaper, The Breeze, is facing criminal charges (that will likely be dropped by a level-headed judge on October 18), after photographing a car accident victim near the school’s newsroom.

According to the Student Press Law Center, Kenward began photographing the victim as he was being loaded into the ambulance on a stretcher by emergency personel. Kenward claims that the victim did not have an issue with being photographed, and that the man (who was talking on his cell phone at the time) even smiled and waved at him. But fire personnel attending to the patient are saying the opposite, claiming that the man objected to being photographed and that Kenward was interfering with them.

“Firefighter medics reported that while they were attending to a person experiencing chest pain, a photographer began taking photographs of the patient despite the patient’s objections, and allegedly interfered with the care of the patient,” according to a press release from Chaffey College.

According to SPLC’s report, a paramedic then told Kenward he was not allowed to photograph the patient due to doctor-patient confidentially. So Kenward obliged and moved back.

Minutes later, campus cadets arrived on scene, and like fire personnel, told the photo editor that he could not photograph the incident. However, Kenward identified himself as press, which caused the cadets to walk away.

“I took that as a green light and continued shooting,” Kenward said.

However, at that point, another firefighter again told Kenward he could not take pictures.

He was about twenty feet away when a firefighter said no pictures were allowed. Kenward argued with the man, took down his name and went inside.

Putting morals aside (which is simply one man’s opinion versus another man’s opinion), photographing a victim inside of an ambulance, which still has its doors open, is not against the law, nor does it violate doctor-patient confidentially. And how can someone even argue that this does violate doctor-patient confidentiality when a doctor isn’t even present? Is it maybe because this paramedic was inventing a non-existent law based on their own morals, rather than following actual law? Possibly.

But if the paramedics’ claims are true, and the victim did object to being photographed, it doesn’t matter because the accident occurred in public where an expectation of privacy does not exist. Which means, anybody (including accident victims) can be photographed despite their objections. So it appears these paramedics, firefighters, and campus cadets need training regarding photographers’ rights and the First Amendment.

Seriously though, when are firefighters and police officers going to realize that they are not victim watchdogs in charge of censoring anybody trying to document an incident scene that involves injured people? That is not their job. Nor is it their job to threaten college reporters with expulsion if they do not kowtow to their unlawful demands, such as what one officer tried to get Kenward to do.

Shortly after, an emergency team member came in with a police officer. Kenward, the newspaper adviser and a Breeze reporter spent about an hour discussing the matter with the police. The officer wanted the images but the group refused. Kenward said the officer threatened to expel him from campus for two weeks if he did not hand over a copy of images.

Thankfully, the officer’s threats had no effect on Kenward who held strong to his position and did not hand over the photos.

“I knew he wasn’t able to actually expel me, that’s up to the school board,” Kenward said.

More important, law enforcement does not have the legal authority to demand the images either. Especially in California, which has very strict shield laws that protect journalists from the prying eyes and hands of cops. Greg Leslie, an attorney for Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press explains:

“You cannot seize the work product — including notes and photographs — even if you have a search warrant,” Leslie said. “The proper route would be for them to subpoena the photos.”

Greg continues, bolstering the fact that law enforcement or firefighters can not prevent photographers (or anybody as a matter of fact) from documenting accident or crime scenes, including when victims are inside ambulances:

“You can always take pictures at a crime scene, but you can’t interfere,” Leslie said. “Even taking pictures inside an ambulance is not necessarily illegal.”

But despite all of that, the unknown officer did not relent and eventually returned hours later, charging Kenward with “interfering with a firefighter and disobeying an order from a firefighter.” Which, as we all know, are your standard “contempt of cop” charges that all cops use when somebody hasn’t violated any laws but stood up for their rights and didn’t acquiesce to their imperious tactics and empty threats.

“I wanted to scream,” Kenward said.

So do we.

Article via SPLC

Famed Photographer’s Double Life

The Commercial Appeal in Memphis dropped a bombshell this week – that famed civil rights photographer Ernest Withers was also working for the FBI as a paid informant. Many people, including Withers’ family, expressed shock that the photographer could have been at the same time documenting the black community’s struggle and helping the government keep tabs on it. The Appeal was able to obtain more than 7,000 pages of documents that outlined Withers’ work for the FBI in the 1960s, including handing over photos and names of people involved in protest activities.

Known as the “original civil rights photographer,” Withers was on the front lines during some of the era’s seminal events, including the Emmett Till trial, the integration of Ole Miss and Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Withers’ actions are infuriating. As documentary photographers, we all know how difficult it is to earn someone’s trust and be allowed entry into their private lives. We are privileged when that happens. But when someone like Withers comes along, his behavior casts a looming shadow of distrust over all of us. If Withers were alive today he should be expelled from the profession and marked with a scarlet I—for informant. That way, everyone would know how much of a disgrace he his, despite his fascinating work.

On a personal note, a few years ago I was on Sunset Boulevard and an LAPD officer asked me what I knew about some people I was photographing and if there was anything I would like to share with him. I told him I didn’t know anything. The cop then let out this dismissive chuckle and said, “Oh yeah?”, knowing that what I just said was absolutely not true. That’s all I said and walked away. Like most documentary photographers, I would never betray the people I photograph.

Articles from Commercial Appeal and AP

Dennis Hopper, Photographer


Photo by Dennis Hopper/Taschen

In the various tributes to actor Dennis Hopper, who died May 29 of prostate cancer, many celebrated his sideline as an artist and long-held interest in photography. First picking up a camera the 1960s, Hopper’s work chronicled many of the era’s art house scenesters, as well movie stars like Paul Newman on set and even Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement.

Hopper’s photos were published in the Taschen book Dennis Hopper: Photographs 1961-1967 in 2009 (you can view a mini film here and  flip through it here), and LA’s MOCA will hold an exhibit of Hopper’s work from July 11-September 26.

Article from NPR.org and Culture Monster

Threatened With Arrest

Last week I wrote about a confrontation between myself and the LAPD while legally photographing a crime scene where a man had been killed. During the encounter LAPD officers berated, bullied and threatened me with unlawful arrest for supposedly obstructing their investigation. At no point did  I encroach on the crime scene, or cross police tape to photograph the incident. I was well within my legal rights granted to me by the US Constitution and LAPD’s Media Relations Handbook.



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