Grab Shots: Elizabeth Taylor, Before the Camera

Elizabeth Taylor, Philippe HalsmanElizabeth Taylor,who died Wednesday in L.A., was one of the most photographed woman of her generation and became a Hollywood icon in an era when stars were idolized by photographers (instead of chased). The classic lighting and poses are worth a look, no matter if you are a Liz fan or not. Here is a selection of images of Taylor. The ones from the early years are my favorites.

* Magnum Photos has a wonderful slideshow of classic Taylor images, including several by Philppe Halsman (left, for Life Magazine) and Burt Glinn.

* The New York Times, in addition to its lengthy obituary, also has a slideshow that contains still from Taylor’s movies. They’re worth a look for the lighting alone.

* In case you didn’t make it to any of Taylor’s weddings, Life Magazine has pulled together an album of them all.

* Life, again displaying the power of a deep archive, is touting this collection of “unpublished pics.” Click in a few to see Taylor, in full louche, with Montgomery Clift.

* Want to own your own Elizabeth Taylor photo? Click here to see the many for sale on eBay — $3.99 will get you an 8 x 10.

* For a moving (literally) tribute to Taylor by  N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott, watch this Times video on YouTube.

Grab Shots: Eyes on the Prize

I saw ad this morning on the op-ed page of the New York Times touting the winners of the Hillman Foundation’s annual journalism awards for social justice journalism, so I jumped to the site to see the photojournalism winners. Sadly — and oddly — the page names the winners but doesn’t link to the work itself. Allow me:

* Childhood Poverty in Colorado — The Denver Post’s owner may be recovering from bankruptcy, but the photography (and reporting) staff is hard at work. Wonderfully intimate and ultimately saddening images from variety of families. The splash page is above.

* Ian Fisher: American Soldier — Photographer Craig Walker of the The Denver Post (again) follows the enlistment, war and homecoming of one soldier. Walker’s work also the Pulitzer this year for feature photography.

* The other photojournalism Pulitzer winner this year was Mary Chind, who shot the dramatic photo below of a construction hanging for a crain in order to rescue a drowning woman. Here’s the story behind the shot.

Grab Shots: Get Out of the Rut

Erica AllenWhen I’m feeling less than creative (too often) or think I’ve fallen into a rut (taking the same shot over and over), I look to other photographers for inspiration, especially those whose images are very different than mine. Here are a few I admire for their eye and creativity:

* Erica Allen — The image at right is from her series Untitled Gentlemen, which she calls “fictional portraits created using discarded studio photographs and anonymous faces from contemporary barbershop hairstyle posters.”

 * Ross Sawyers — Like me, he’s intrigued by empty rooms. Unlike me, he photographs them and makes rich, emphatic images.

* Bill Mattick — I can see him wandering the fringes of L.A., pausing before empty lots, dirt roads and billboards, and seeing among the detritus an honest, but lonely beauty. See it for yourself in the Gardens of Los Angeles.

* Phil Toledano — This London photographer says “photographs should be like unfinished sentences. There should always be space for questions.” His series on plastic surgery, A New Kind of Beauty, raises plenty of questions. (See Conscientious for more on Toledano and the project.)

Grab Shots: Get Some Perspective

Planet War

Here in the United States, with politicians and pundits of all stripes yammering ad nauseum about each other’s shortcomings, and with our insatiable obsessions with media and celebrity, it’s easy to lose perspective about what’s important in the world. Despite the tolls taken by the recession, we Americans still live in a comfortable bubble marked by the personal freedoms of expression, consumption and, most fundamentally, democratic standards — liberties denied to millions of other people on the planet by oppressive governments, megalomaniac dictators and hard-fisted clerics.

Photojournalism provides us with a window into that crueler world. Here’s a sampling:

* Planet War:  Foreign Policy editors put together a powerful photo essay on the 33 conflicts “raging around the world today,” reminding us that “it’s often innocent civilians who suffer the most.” Above, an Iranian dissident in December 2009.

* 2nd Tour Hope I Don’t Die: A narrated presentation of still and video images made by Magnum photographer Peter van Agtmael reflecting on his coverage of Iraq  from January 2006 to December 2008. He describes it this way: “I tried to make pictures that reflected my complex and often contradictory experiences, where the line was continuously blurred between perpetrator and victim, between hero and villain.  In time, the labels that had heretofore defined my perceptions of the world became meaningless.”

* Hell on a Small Island: Dirck Halstead writes about two photographers, Damon Winter of the New York Times and Shaul Schwarz of Reportage/Getty Images, who covered the horrific human disaster that followed the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. For them, says Halstead, “the camera becomes a shield, a protective layer between terrible death and the photographer.” Here is Winter’s gallery, and her is Schwarz’s gallery.

Grab Shots: Afghanistan Photojournalism

Afghanistan soldier

The battlefields change, the combatants differ, the technology improves, but some things about war remain constant: Soldiers are young, innocents die and photojournalists capture the carnage. Great human photography often emerges from terrible circumstances. Here are some examples from Afghanistan:

* The Long Haul: The Digital Journalist has a piece by photojournalist Lucian Reed about his life and work in Aftghanistan. It begins: “I’ve been to Afghanistan eight times in the last 18 months. My apartment is slowly taking on the look of a caravanserai. I have more friends in Kabul than Manhattan. My mind is full of snippets of Dari, counterinsurgency strategy and half-remembered warlords, major and minor. My son – not yet quite born – will have a Pashto middle name. I make no claims to being an expert on the place but, God knows, I seem to love it.”

* Field Test, Under Fire: Freelance photojournalist Danfung Dennis writes a technical piece on on DSLR News Shooter about using the still and video capabilities of the Canon 5DmkII in Afghanistan. He starts: “The 5D Mark II is capable of unprecedented image quality, but since it is a stills camera, there are several limitations that I had to address before using this camera in a warzone.”

* Getting Exisential in Afghanistan: Photojournalist Chris Hondros trails a platoon of GI’s on a hunt for Taliban caves. Stuck halfway up a hillside he ponders: “Why am I here? How did this happen? Why exactly am I hanging on the side of a mountain in Afghanistan this morning?  I’m not in Army, I didn’t sign up for this. I should be back home, watching TV or canoodling in bed or having a strong espresso in Brooklyn. Or just about anywhere else.” (In dscriber.)

* Gallery of War: Visit Battlespace, a powerful online gallery of images from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Grab Shots: Expo Exposed

Think Tank Photo video Photo Plus Expo, the mega photo show in New York, was last weekend. I uusually don’t have much interest in these events — I don’t need any more reasons to separate me and my money — but after reading and seeing these reports from the show I might have to make it to one. Here’s a wrap-up:

* Think Tank video: Photographer Kurt Rogers,  one of the founders of Think Tank Photo and and ex-newspaper colleague of mine, assembled a video of the action at Think Tank’s booth. That’s Kurt’s wife and co-founder Deanne Fitzmaurice, left, who won a Pulitizer while shooting for the S.F. Chronicle.

 * Kelby’s Take: Scott Kelby provides  a big wrap on the show, highlighting the buzz (video on DSLRs, what was missing (Adobe) and New York food (Keen’s Chophouse — “amazing steaks and atmosphere.” Only one low spot: A workshop in which “the instructor didn’t teach anything—he just showed slides and talked about himself (and how much smarter he was than the art directors, and the clients, and well…everybody).”

* Video Reports: John Harrington of Photo Business News walks the floor and does on-camera interviews with Think Tank, Photoshelter, Orbis and more. Here are his reports from Day 1 and Day 2.

Grab Shots: Grit, Wisdom & Laughs

Spent the last couple of days making the leap from PC to Mac. While setting up the browsers, I did some link cleaning. Some are worth sharing — a true grab bag:

Scoltt Kelby* Get Gritty: Scott Kelby tells us how to get that “cool, gritty look.”

* Find Some Release: A page of model releases from the National Press Photographers Association.

* List of Lists: This buy has made a list of 87 photo sites he consider great.

* Talking about Seeing: Pixchannel has interviews with great photographers — like Eddie Adams and Ruth Bernhard — on why they do what they do.

* Obama Rama: The New York Times as a zippy compilation of readers’ photos of the Obama inaugural (told you I was doing some deep cleaning!).

* Foiled Again: David Hobby, aka The Strobist, tells us how to use aluminum foil for shiny table top photos.

* For Laughs: Get your eyes out of the histogram and onto xkcd, a web comic. Here’s a panel about photography.

Grab Shots: Pixels about PJ

*How Not to Get Shot in a War Zone: Advice from conflict photographer Teru Kuwayama. First on the list: Wear your seat belt because “it’s the traffic that’s most likely to kill you.” (Via Photo Editor.)

* Does the World Even Need Photojournalists? That’s a question being asked on Lightstalkers by Aaron J. Heiner. He comments: “Truth be known it’s hard to see why the media would want to pay us to do a task that people are willing to do for free. yes, we have training, and experience, but it seems that the big boys (the networks, CNN, FOX and so forth) would gladly give that up for free man-on0the-street coverage.”

* Dispatches: Report from Afghanistan on The Digital Journalist by photographer David Bathgate. A quote: “Attacks with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms were nearly a daily occurrence during my stay at Firebase Lindstrom.”

* Burn, Baby, Burn: Emerging photographers show their work at Burn Magazine.

*Magnum Blog No More: Photojournalism agency Magnum has put its blog on hiatus, promising new things on its website. You can follow Magnum on Twitter or Facebook.

Grab Shots: Craziness & Bizz-i-ness,

Link-gathering while I’m on hold with Adobe:

* Woodstuck: Magnum puts up a slideshow of photos by Elliot Landy from Woodstock. And, yes — since you asked — I was there.

* Crazy, man, just crazy: Dirck Halstead at The Digital Journalist gets asked, “Why would you be a photojournalist today?” And answers, “You have to be crazy.” Then adds: “I have always considered being crazy as important to a photographer as being curious.”

* Taking the biz out of news business: Jack Shafter says at the Slate that what’s bad for business just might be good for journalism: “If the downside of the battered-down barriers to entry is less pay and lower status, the potential upside is that a flood of new entrants into the field could portend a journalistic renaissance.” Now, let’s see about getting paid.

* Putting the bizz into journalism: National Press Photographers Association has a toolkit of business practices.

* Eddie Adams reviewed: Sportshooter has a review of “Eddie Adams: Vietnam.” One quote from Adams: “Making pictures in Vietnam is easy…Things are happening all around you and you just have to press a button and not get killed.”

Grab Shots: Fashionably Avedon

Richard Avedon and Twiggy * Avedon Hung Up: The International Center for Photography in New York is showing a Richard Avedon retrospective (until Sept. 16) and the New York Times has the story behind the exhibit. It summarizes his work this way: “Avedon’s photography has always amounted to a plea for beauty — to see it mysterious, to see it raw but ultimately to see it whole.”

Avedon’s early fashion work (he’s with the model Twiggy here) was before my time, but when I his American West portfolio, which I saw in a Berkeley museum when I was a young journalist, left an indelible impression for its straightforwardness and honesty.

* Avedon’s Competition: Irving Penn.

* Fashion Photography: What is it? Now you know.

Grab Shots: Capa, Lyon, Gilden

Cornell Capa* The Mexican Suitcase: The International Center of Photography in New York has begun releasing images from the 4,300 negatives it received in a suitcase a couple of years ago containing the work of Magnum co-founder Robert Capa and his fellow photojournalists covering the Spanish Civil War, Gerda Taro and David Seymour. Amazing images, say the curators, but still no negative of Capa’s most famous and somewhat disputed photo, “The Falling Soldier,” a shot of a Spanish soldier being hit by a bullet. Capa’s photo at left is of a Spanish refugee camp in France. The New York Times has a slideshow.

* Danny Lyon, Down and Dirty: The Times also has a profile of photographer Danny Lyon, who has a new book, “Memories of Myself.” The Times describes Lyon as being …

” … among a group a revolutionaries whose work rose to prominence in the late 1960s and ’70s and transformed the nature of documentary photography. … The idea of conscience has been embedded more deeply in Mr. Lyon’s photography than in those of all but a few of his contemporaries.”

The new book is a collection of photo essays whose settings range from Chicago to Haiti.

* Detroit: The Troubled City: Think the recession has hit your town hard. Chances are where you live is better off than Detroit. Magnum shooter Bruce Gilden has a new photo essay up showing the hard times in Motor City.

Grab Shots: Annie Hocks Her Work

*Pawn My Photos: Annie Leibovitz has hocked all “copyrights … photographic negatives … contract rights” to work (past and future) as well as several pieces of real estate in exchange for a $15.5 million loan from a company called Art Capital Group, essentially an art pawn shop for the well-to-do. In other words, as the New York Times put it today, “one of the world’s most successful photographers essentially pawned every snap of the shutter she had made or will make until the loans are paid off.”

* Shooting Annie: Seattle photographer John Keatley talks with Feature Shoot about photographing Leibovitz: “I didn’t want to over think it, or get too worked up so far in advance. So I took a vacation to Mexico!”

* Making a Difference: Zack Arias produces a video for Scott Kelby in which he explores how to make his mark on “this massive matter of visual pollution we serve up every day.”

* Hot Shoe Diaries: That’s the title of Joe McNally’s new book on shooting with speedlights. Good stuff for those of use who don’t know everything. Pre-order it here.

* May I Shoot? No! Mary Ellen Mark talks about photographing Marlon Brando on the set of The Missouri Breaks. Brando’s rule, she tells LA Weekly, “was that set photographers must always ask permission before shooting him. Every time. And the answer was always no.” (Via A Photo Editor.)

Grab Shots: Old News Edition

* Newsies in the Pipeline: Newspapers are on life support, but J-school applicants are up in the U.K. and and in N.Y., reports Jarvis. Discuss.

* Readers Come, Money Doesn’t: Newspaper web readership is up 12% year over year (although web revenue is down). Nieman Journalism Lab lists its Top 15 newspaper sites. My hometown Chron (SFGate) averages 4.1 million uniques a month, up 10%. Somehow, there’s got to be a business in there.

* Ready the Tombstones: Former S.F. Examiner colleague and Salon pioneer Gary Kamiya concludes: “If newspapers die, so does reporting.” And, in light of the web revenue report, he adds: “Currently there is no business model that makes online reporting financially viable.” (Mutter mines the same vein.)

* Cancel the Funeral: Steve Yelvington says he just has “to call bullshit on the “Newspapers Are Dead” meme. Some numbers:

“In spite of the worst economy since Roosevelt, many U.S. newspapers are still turning profits in the 15-20 percent range, and the U.S. newspaper industry is still turning around 50 billion dollars of gross revenue every year.”

* Cue the Elegy: that “show deep digging.” (Andrew Cline calls BS on him, saying: “Nostalgia is dead. It’s time to discover or create the next venue for journalism.”

Grab Shots: Autumn and Annie

* Mystery Image Revealed: While doing some rainy day bookmark cleaning, I found this aging link from David Pogue of the Times about one man’s quest to find the origin of the Windows screensaver image you see at the left. Here’s the whole, hilarious story from writer Nick Tosches. One quote: “I see people in black hoods and robes sitting round a table, bound by blood oath never to divulge the latitude and longitude of Autumn.” Read on.

* Annie Works, We Watch: Annie Liebowitz photographs pairings of actors and directors for Vanity Fair. Here are the vids. Make sure to watch Mickey Rourke, then click to this Huffington Post collection of Rourke photos with him posing with one hand down his pants.

* Blogging Photog: A new entry on the blogroll is travel photographer Paul Souders. His blog is well worth the click. Here’s a takeout from an entry on shooting surfers in Costa Rica:

“I have never been much of a surf beach kind of guy. I grew up next to a chicken farm, a long way from any ocean. Plus I have issues with public nudity stemming from low self-esteem and a rigorous Lutheran upbringing.”

* Wayback Machine: Ever wondered what big city newspaper photographers looked like a couple of decades ago? Here’s the answer. The big guy on the left, Kim Komenich, won a Pulitzer; the pretty boy on the right, Kurt Rogers, is one of the founders of Think Tank Photo. All worked for the “old” San Francisco Examiner.

* Burning, Man: Magnum shooter David Alan Harvey has started Burn Magazine, an online platform for emerging photographers.

Grab Shots: Zelman, Reputation and a Duck

* Inside Bill Zelman: Strobist David Hobby does an interview with photographer Bill Zelman. Among other pearls he lays before us swine is this one: “Shooting good portraits is equal parts psychology, trust and technical expertise — with the technical part probably being the least important.” Read the whole interview. Check out the video as well.

*Wish You Were There? So, you couldn’t make to Joe McNally’s lastest lighting workshop, heh? No worries. Click here. Plenty of good photos and explanations of how they were made.

* Word of Mouth, Word of Mouth: That’s what Tom Miles, a 16-year commercial photographer in England, tells a college student is the secret to his success. He adds: “Doing a good job, being reliable and professional will get you more repeat work than any other method.”

* What the Duck, Man? Economy dragging on you? Editors treating you bad? Need a laugh? Go here.

* No Wimpy Photos: That’s the new mantra of Santa Rosa newspaper photographer John Burgess (and not a bad slogan for the whole newspaper industry). Here’s a result of that outlook — a portrait of Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Winery — and the story behind it.

Grab Shots: Learn Something!

* Go Pro: Want to be a commercial photographer, making big money doing big shots? Here’s Chase Jarvis’ latest video on how to do it — step by step.

* Do Good Work: Another behind the scenes, this from Nikon shooter Joe McNally, who shows us his technique (and his good heart) in making a father’s photo dreams come true.

* Big Shots: The Sacramento Bee newspaper launches a photo blog (see Olympic prep picture at left). It’s cool, but not as oversized-cool as this one at

* Hip Hop: Take a strobe outdoors, get some well-dressed hip-hoppers and you make a photo essay, like this one in JPG magazine.

* Vacation Blues: If you freelance and take a vacation, do you tell your clients? Maybe you shouldn’t, suggests John Harrington on his blog about the business of photography.

Grab Shots: PJ Edition

* From Staffer to Freelance: John Harrington, who writes the Photo Business News blog, points out that all the layoffs in the newspaper business are going to swell the ranks of freelance photographers. He wrote it a while back, but still worth a read.

* More Cuts on the Way: Alan Mutter, former editor and now chronicler of a declining industry, sees more down-sizing ahead “if the industry is to sustain its traditional operating margin,” which, by the way, is still more than 18 percent.

* Silencing the Inner Curmudgeon: When your world is collapsing around you, as it is for many staff photojournalists, it’s easy to let the anger rise and the bile fly. But that doesn’t help you find more work, or learn new skills, or fuel the energy and creativity you’ll need to keep working as a photographer. (I know; I’ve been there on all sides.) If you feel the curmudgeon stirring inside, read Jay Rosen’s post on how to deal with the beast.

* Photoshop, Ethics and the PJ: In my magazine work, I set up a lot of pictures, meaning I arrange the people and control the light in a way pure photojournalists don’t. I also Photoshop the pixels out of an image if I think it makes it snap more. How much of this type or post-shot manipulation has been debated in the PJ community ever since someone first burned the edges of a print. Here’s a good discussion about the topic on SportsShooter, sparked by this original rant and this young photographer’s portfolio.

Grab Shots

* Bite Me, I’m an Art Director: Hey, if you’re going to rip off someone else’s cover concept, why not steal from among the best — the New York Times’ T Magazine? T chomped on Coast Magazine after the Orange County publication cloned one of its cover (see left). Cheesy, cheesy, cheesy –even for a food feature. Full story here.

* Quoted! “If I could tell a story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug a camera.” —Lewis Hine.

* Big Pixel Power:, the web presence of the Boston Globe newspaper, is serving up mega-size web images of powerful photojournalism. Check out this dramatic shot of the California fires, or this one of a starving Ethiopian woman.

* Shoot a Tornado: The new Nikon D700 apparently takes great weather pictures. (Via Nikon Watch.)

* In a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Brit photographer Steve Schofield crosses the bond to document life in the Queen’s former colony and finds — Americans cross-dressing as Star Wars characters.

Grab Shots

* Get Visual, Buy a Book: Here’s a good list of photo book publishers compiled by A Photo Editor. The cover on the left is from Once Upon a Time in Wales by photographer Robert Haines.

* Hope Amid the Flotsam: Another good read from A Photo Editor on the “endless stream of photography” and, with it, the proliferation of mediocrity. He connects through to a farewell post from photographer Liz Kuball in which she comments:

“It is so easy, when your Google Reader is always full of excellent photographs, to feel as though the rest of the world is producing constantly, consistently, at a level you’re simply incapable of.”

But cheer up, brave hearts, A Photo Editor also points to Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey’s more sanguine view:

“… but if you are “special” there are also way way more opportunities…and so so much room for invention….i swear, i have never seen so much room!!! “

* Get on the Grid: Sportsshooter Robert Hanashiro sings the praises of Dave Honl’s grids (and other gadgets) for speedlights. They work. I use them. Get some.

* Rumor Focus: Nikon Watch keeps the full-frame Nikon mill churning with word of 12mp D400 and a 24.8mp D3x.

* Sync & Swim: Check the Journey-to-the-Bottom-of-the-Sea rig Jill Greenberg used to shoot the U.S. synchronized swim team for a Radar magazine fashion spread.

Grab Shots

* Expanding or Contracting? Jim McNay, in a column at, tells us to do a Seriousness Gut-Check about our work. Am I “sending out portfolios, meeting with potential employers, pitching assignments to editors and the like?” Or am I “doing none of the above mentioned activities?” Me? I’m doing No. 1, but not as much as I should.

* Fair Use, Explained: Photo Attorney, aka Carolyn Wright, parses the “fuss about fair use.” After explaining the entitlements of copyright and the boundaries of fair use, she concludes:

“It is always a judgment call until a court gives a final ruling whether the use of a photograph is fair. But if you find your work has been used without your permission and the defense is “fair use,” don’t be too quick to accept that answer. “

* Don’t Shoot II: Hirlpoo points to more harassment of photographers for, ah, taking pictures. (Read: Don’t Shoot, I’m a Shooter.)

* Photojournalism and Passion: Self-taught photojournalist Colin Summers talks about his career at ProPhotoLife. He shot for more than a decade in places like India, Cambodia and Indonesia before gaining recognition. His mission: “I try … to convey the truth in a compassionate and inoffensive way”