a year through a lens by Marco Pavan

Hazim

Posted in final project, mapjd by marco on 11 September 2009

It is time to start editing what I shot in Sarajevo. I have 3 hours of video interviews and the pictures.

It has been a very interesting time and I met many nice and friendly people who introduced me to their life in the city.

This is Hazim, sutudent of journalism at Sarajevo University, in his shared flat.

hazim

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dinner

Posted in random thoughts by marco on 6 September 2009

What does an American in Sarajevo do?

brett_sarajevo

he opens cans of white beans with a knife…

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Off to Sarajevo

Posted in final project, mapjd by marco on 28 July 2009

Tomorrow I am off to Sarajevo. At dawn.

see you there 🙂

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Demotix, blurring the boundary between professionals and amateurs

Posted in assignment, mapjd, web 2.0 by marco on 6 July 2009

NOTE: This is a short essay I wrote for the master in photojournalism I am attending. It is part of a group of essays written by the students all related to the subject  of “citizen photojournalism”.

Citizen Photojournalism Research Paper
MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography
LCC University of the Arts, London

In this essay I am going to analyze Demotix as a case study and see how their vision of the market affects the definition of citizen photojournalism.
According to their site, “Demotix is a citizen-journalism website and photo agency. It takes user-generated content (UGC) and photographs from freelance journalists and amateurs, and markets them to the mainstream media.” In this sentence it is interesting to point out that they deal with citizen content but at the same time among their contributors there are professional freelances. The final users of the site are the mainstream media, such as magazines and on-line daily papers. On the ‘sales’ page we can see some of the clients working with Demotix’s citizen content.
The definition in the website continue saying that “Demotix was founded with two principles at its heart – the freedom of speech and the freedom to know. Its objective is nothing if not ambitious – to rescue journalism and promote free expression by connecting independent journalists with the traditional media.” The idea behind this it is to connect people living and working around the world, especially in the majority world, and make their stories available to the mainstream media and by consequence to the people living in western countries.
Let’s now see more in detail how Demotix works. Some of this information is easy to find in the website, other pieces of information come from a conversation with Andy Heath, commissioning editor, which I had on the 11th of June 2009.

What Demotix offers to photographers

The work of the photographers “con be seen (and licensed) by all of the mainstream media, all over the world, all the time”.  This is due to the global and extremely varied distribution network of Demotix. And they make sure that the photographers always keep the copyrights of their images, that are licensed for specific uses (as a normal photographic agency would do).
The difference towards other UGC communities and agencies, it that Demotix says they sell everything at professional rates., and saying ‘everything’ they mean “Street Journalist, Amateur, Professional, camera-phone or 12MB wonder-photo”. The fee of each image sold then will be split in two, 50% to the photographer and 50% to the agency.
One of their mantra is that “when it comes to sales, we don’t care who you are of where you’re from. We’re raising Street Journalists to professional rates (comparable and competitive with all the big, established newswires and photo agencies)”.
The concept is that if the photographs are worth (if their newsworthiness is strong enough), they deserve to be paid at market fees: that is what Demotix tries to do.
But Demotix is not only about selling. Demotix is also a community where photojournalists can virtually meet, give advices to other users, critique each other’s work and possibly arrange live meetings.

How Demotix works

Demotix and its team of editors act as a filter and aggregator of citizen photojournalism stories. Everything which is considered newsworthy and interesting is allowed on the website. Some works will be published in the homepage, others will be featured on the widget that Demotix offers to the clients. Other stories will only be uploaded in the community.
Demotix publishes everything that count as news (it happens that some images are rejected, because they do not have any context). Local or global issues, classical new stories, a single breaking event or a long photo essay in pure documentary style can be uploaded on Demotix.
In these pictures we can see some examples: from the politics, to the riots in Iran, from the black and white reportage to the fashion shows.

Editing and packaging
The editors working at Demotix decide what is important and fits the agency and often attach a story to it, also looking back in the archive.
Demotix adds extra value to a story and present a complete package to the mainstream media targeting individual media organizations.
If a story is good, Demotix pumps it out to the mainstream media and makes sure it will be seen.
The agency is only about one year old and most of its contributors are amateurs, however Demotix has a 25-year strong experience in journalism and the stock photography industry. Turi Munthe, the CEO, has appeared on pretty much every major international News Channel; and Jonnie Leger, the Head of Sales, has lectured on how to sell images all over the world.

The user of Demotix

Born a bit more than one year ago and launched in the market last January, Demotix now has almost 6.000 contributors, quite evenly split in three categories.

Complete amateurs
People who shoot with a cell phone or a point-and-click camera. They do it essentially for the fun of it and they tend to be opportunistic and take a picture only when they see something interesting.

Passionate amateurs
People who go out to find stories and do proper reports, but they have no background in photojournalism and no expectation to be paid every time.

Professionals
The “top third”, people who often used to work for main agencies and now want to be on their own to have more flexibility.

The Future of Demotix

Demotix is growing constantly, without pushing on advertising. Compared to other citizen photojournalism platforms (for example CNN iReport) they say they have a much better content. According to Andy Heath, this happens because new people coming to Demotix “look around before doing their upload and they get an impression of what is the standard”.
Demotix wants also to suggest assignments, give technical advices, exchange critical advices, and bring in some renown photojournalist to give help to the less experts.
They want essentially to become the “market place for news”. People should think to upload their newsworthy photographs on Demotix rather than Flickr or Twitpic, knowing that potentially they can be seen by thousands of other people and make some money. “Uploading in our network – adds Andy – it would be sufficient to get that around and get it seen by the mainstream media, if however a good news story uploaded on Demotix we will pump it out to the mainstream media, we will make sure they will see it. And that’s the difference.”

The street journalist

The term ‘citizen journalist’ invents a false dichotomy between ‘citizen’ and ‘professional’. The only difference to look out for nowadays, when it comes to journalism, is quality.
Turi Munthe, CEO of Demotix

It is not an arbitrary distinction, but it is a spectrum.
Andy Heath, commissioning editor

The idea that lies behind Demotix is that the market is changing as well as the way of reporting news. Nowadays it is much easier to report, film and photograph an event. The traditional notion of photojournalism is wider and essentially everybody can become a photojournalist because even a frame shot with a mobile phone can make the front page of a newspaper, if its newsworthiness is strong enough.  The idea of “citizenism”, says Andy Heath, implies inclusion and the set of citizen journalists includes the professional journalists. The term “citizen journalism” carries an arbitrary distinction between the two, a distinction that, according to Demotix, we should avoid to do. “Somebody out there with a Nikon is a photojournalist and somebody taking snaps is a photojournalist too, obviously the first one is much more able and has better equipment [..] but both are in the same scale of photojournalism. If you are involved in capturing news and in graphical form then you are a photojournalist.” This idea can visually be explained with this diagram, where in the circle on the right there is not any more any distinction between amateur and professionals.

The future of photojournalism

Some researches recently analyzed the role of the media in foreign reporting and how journalists find and reports the news.
A research by Cardiff University for Nick Davies’ book Flat Earth News found that journalists spend a large amount of time monitoring other media and the big news wires. “The job is far more office-based, with news desks often lacking the resources to send reporters out on stories” (Lewis, 2008).
Moreover, the number of foreign news bureaus is decreasing, and there is an increasing reliance on news agency feed and information derived from the public relations industry (House of Lords, 2008).
So, it happens that “much of the abundant news is homogeneous: news organizations often cover stories from the same angles and different news organizations repeatedly present the same information in their stories (be their images, quotes, or descriptive passages)” (Witschge, 2009).
Demotix was born to try to find an alternative solution to this evolution of the news market. It tries to encourage local amateur photographers to document their world, because that is considered better than having a professional “parachuted” somewhere for a short period of time. Demotix undercuts that kind of journalism and is trying to bring into the market the category of the amateurs who deserve, as well as professionals, to be paid for their work.
In this way Demotix broaden the market and they know they are going to affect the professional journalists, but they think that it is a way to save the foreign reporting in the newspaper and to have different angles on the news. Using the stories featured by Demotix, the papers can cut the expenses of having a reporter abroad and in this way have the possibility to get some fresh foreign news. And, at the same time, local amateurs can show the events with a different and more committed point of view.

Citizen journalism?

I am going to conclude including a definition of citizen journalism which is widely used:

When the people formerly known ad the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism.
Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at the New York University

Considering what is happening today, with the massive use of twitter and blogs, the amount of citizen news coming from all over the world and the active role of the “people formerly known as the audience”, the boundary between audience and reporters appears to be precarious.
Ryan Sholin, American blogger and journalist, in a comment in Jay’s blog wrote that using “inform each other” is more appropriate (Rosen, 2008). Everyone can find himself in the position of having more information to share with the others, and the relationship can be suddenly inverted. It gives the idea of an exchange in two directions.
Given all that, probably, the inclusive definition of “street journalism” (but maybe not the term itself) given by Demotix can be highly appealing. “The only difference to look out for nowadays, when it comes to journalism, is quality”, intended as newsworthiness.


Bibliography

Appafrica and Munthe, T. (2008) Interview with Demotix [Internet]
Available from <http://appfrica.net/blog/archives/572 >
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

Citizen Media, in The state of the Media 2008 [Internet]
Available from <http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2008/narrative_online_citizen_media.php?cat=6&media=5>
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

Heat, A. (2009), Interview with the author. London, 11 June [Andy Heath is the commissioning editor at Demotix]

House of Lords (2008), The ownership of the news [Internet]
Available from <http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldselect/ldcomuni/122/122i.pdf >
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

Lewis, J. et al (2008), The Quality & Independence of British Journalism, Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies
Available form <http://www.mediawise.org.uk/display_page.php?id=999>
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

Rosen, J. (2008), A most useful definition of citizen journalism [Internet]
Available form <http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2008/07/14/a_most_useful_d.html>
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

Witschge, T. (2009), Street journalists versus ‘ailing journalists’? [Internet]
Available from <http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/47616/>
[Accessed 29 June, 2009]

the shape of the elephant/2

Posted in elephant, mapjd by marco on 14 June 2009

Update 26th June: download here the pdf with the complete presentation of the installation.

Does the elephant project work? Let’s test it on the wall!

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The regeneration process, which will completely transform Elephant and Castle, strongly affects the territory and the landscape. The main focus is the demolishing old buildings and the construction of new, often futuristic, houses, blocks and skyscrapers.

Walking around the area you can see all the steps of this process: empty buildings ready to be knocked down, empty pieces of land, new towers being build and few brand new blocks.

The regeneration is a process of de-construction and re-construction of the landscape.

This body of work explores this concept trying to look at Elephant and Castle with the eyes of the local residents. To many of the people living there, the regeneration appears to be something imposed and that will eliminate many little nice places, such as community gardens or playgrounds, or useful garages without providing new parking spaces. To them, Elephant and Castle is not an ugly and dangerous place as it is known all over London.

Sites with planning permission granted

With my photographs I tried to mirror the regeneration process, consisting of demolition and reconstruction, and I de-constructed the landscape in many pieces of a mosaic and re-constructed the scattered photographs on the wall as to form a bigger image of the Elephant and Castle.

The places I photographed are those indicated in the homepage of the regeneration team. They include both the core of the regeneration (the southern roundabout with the regenerated St. Mary churchyard, and the new 43 storeys Strata tower), and the smaller sites where new houses should have been built to re-house the resident of the Heygate Estate. Some of the new building sites have a planning permission granted, some don’t. The regeneration is always changing its face and everything can happen. For example, the site 50 New Kent Road, where the Oakmayne Plaza should be, has been demolished in 2007 but nothing happened since and after two year is still an empty abandoned piece of land. The planning permission of five housing sites has been granted in the last months of 2008, but the future of the other housing sites is still unknown and the resident are battling to have their voices heard.

elephant panorama

Posted in elephant, mapjd by marco on 29 May 2009

Panorama1low

Panorama2low

50 New Kent road … which one?!

rehousing sites map

Posted in elephant, mapjd by marco on 24 May 2009

among these are the locations I need to photograph for the ‘construction cityscapes’ project

E&C housing programme

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construction cityscapes

Posted in elephant, mapjd by marco on 21 May 2009

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bubbles

Posted in assignment, intelligent still life, mapjd by marco on 21 May 2009

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intelligent still life?

re-generation

Posted in elephant by marco on 11 May 2009

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New building in Elephant and Castle, London

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