torsdag 17. april 2014

Drone Pilot

 am a drone pilot. No, I don’t sit in a bunker in Nevada. I am a photographer and fly my camera in the air to capture things from a slightly different angle. It is good fun, but also quite a challenge.

Amongst the general public, the word “drone” inevitably conjures images of spying and killing. So some photographers prefer to use the acronyms UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) or RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aerial System) to distance themselves from the sinister, military versions. Personally I don’t mind if you call them drones, in my case what we’re talking about are remotely controlled helicopters with four or six rotors (they come bigger too). And in terms of photography it is an amazing tool, with potential for imagery that was impossible or prohibitively expensive to shoot in the past. Leaps in technology, just within the last two years, has made aerial photography accessible for independent photographers too. I use my drones for both stills photography and video, but to my mind the flying camera lends itself particularly well to moving images. The recent flooding in England provided many good examples of drone-journalism both for TV and newspapers.

That said, flying a drone and getting good shots takes more than the $1000 entry level “quadcopter” used by many. As many find out the hard way, it takes quite a bit of practice to fly in a way that gives good pictures. And you soon realize why you could easily spend (if you had it) $20,000 on a system that performs as well as you expect from your regular camera gear. There are quite a few technical challenges to overcome to get steady shots. And then there is safety. Sadly these things fall out of the sky from time to time, and you want to make sure you fly in a manner that reduces risk to those on the ground to a minimum. Not only is there obvious danger in getting hit with something that may weigh a few kilos, but also the propellers spin at lethal speeds (mine hover at approx 4350 rpms). Think of it as a flying lawn mower with six blades, you really don’t want to be responsible for that ending up on someone’s head!
Last, but not least there is the LAW. This varies greatly from country to country, but in many countries you can fly quite freely, below 400 feet and away from people and airports, as a hobbyist. However, if you wish do do this as part of your work you must be certified with the Civil Aviation Authorities. As I found out, it can be quite a lengthy process, but there really isn’t an alternative if you are serious about this. Some will try to “fly under the radar” using these without the authorities’ knowledge. That is fine until you have an accident and are facing a manslaughter charge or a lawsuit… And having a
drone in your luggage at a Syrian checkpoint may not be very wise either. So keep that in mind. In the US, pending new legislation, the FAA  have tried to ban all commercial use of drones, grounding all photojournalists and filmmakers. However, they lost the first round in the courts so we'll see how that all plays out. 


Aerial showreel from Fredrik Naumann on Vimeo.

About the photographer:
Fredrik Naumann is a Norwegian photojournalist with a classic newspaper background. He’s been a member of Panos Pictures since 2005. Having photographed on land and under water for many years, aerial
photography seemed like the next natural step. Fredrik wrecked a number of toy helicopters on the way, and still struggles with volts vs. amps. He became CAA certified RPAS operator last year, as one of the first photojournalists in Norway.

torsdag 19. desember 2013

Fartsblind fotojournalistikk

De negative reaksjonene etter "Sørlandsgate", der et bilde med Photoshop-overdose ble premiert, var helt på sin plass.  Pressefotografenes Klubbs formann gikk ut og kallte bildet "juks", og reaksjonene fra kollegaene var ganske samstemt: dette er for drøyt. Og nå er Agderposten dømt i PFU. Da burde jo alt være greit, og vi kan sette en strek. Eller?

Nei, desverre er det ikke så enkelt. For dette handler ikke bare én, villfaren, enslig fotograf. Sørlandsgate var bare så elendig håndverk at det var umulig å overse. Jukset i norske redaksjoner og blant norske fotojournalister gjøres stort sett mye mer elegant og diskrét. Og slipper dermed som regel unna det kritiske blikket bildene i media fortjener. 

Den fotojournalistiske etikken forvitrer. Det skjer på mange plan, fra styrerommene i  mediene, via redaktører og reportasjeleder og ned (ja, ned)  til den enkelte fotograf. En kontinuerlig nedbygging av fotoavdelingene de siste årene har gitt mindre og fragmenterte fotojournalistmiljøer. Enkelte fotoavdelinger er blitt helt borte, erstattet av leserbilder, skrivende journalisters mobilknipserier, og 99 cents arkivbilder.  Stillfotografer  må lære seg video og lyd (egentlig noe vi burde kunne forlengst), og gjøre dobbelt så mye på halvparten så lang tid. 

Det holder ikke vente på øyeblikket, nå må du skape det! En fotograf blir ikke populær på jobben om han/hun venter i timesvis på det rette lyset, og at noen sovner på en buss i fart.  
Dette er 2013!  De av oss som helst vil vente til øyeblikket kommer naturlig og ekte passer ikke inn, det er egentling ikke tid og penger til oss.

Det er bekymringsfullt at én fotograf er blitt Photoshop-fartsblind, men det store bildet er at vi har vært på vei hit en stund. Lenge før mange fotografer ble hypnotisert av Instagram-filtre, og de tilsynelatende uendelige frie tøylene man fikk om bare bildene var fotografert med en iPhone. 

Og midt i forvitringen har Pressefotografenes Klubb sittet ganske så stille de siste årene. De har svart  på spørsmål når det har kommet noen. Men forøvrig en meget diskré fagorganisasjon. Foreningen kunne vært et samlingspunkt og debattarena i hverdagen, en kunnskaps-  og inspirasjonskilde.  PK kunne (og burde!) ha stått på barrikadene for fotojournalistikken og fotografene, men har valgt å overlate den delen til foto-impotente NJ. Det er reneste harakiri.  Senest i denne saken, hvor NJ's PFU representant er sitert på at reglene som skal verne om fotografiets troverdighet "er dumme", og at "litt skrøning" er helt OK. Dette er altså det nærmeste PK kommer å være representert i PFU: av en som synes debatten vi fotografer har fremmet har vært "pinlig".

Isteden har altså PK krympet til en festivalarrangør, der kritiske innspill ikke har vært spesielt velkomne. Festivaler er fint, men ett slikt arrangement i året fikser ikke denne biffen. Nå har PK fått en ny ledelse, og de har tatt noen grep som lover godt. Men om vi ser litt tilbake i tid, så er det kanskje ikke så rart at en Sørlandsfotograf føler seg litt forvirret og urettferdig behandlet:  PK har blant annet premiert Forsvarets faste PR-fotograf i Årets Bilde. Ganske tungt etterbehandlede bilde har sluppet igjennom uten at noen har ropt om å få se orginalfilene. Og hvilke koblinger de ulike fotografene har til ulike organisasjoner (NGO'er) snakker vi ikke så høyt om, så lenge det blir gode bilder (og penger spart i redaksjonene). 

Inntil nylig premierte PK "snille gutter og piker", som blant annet inkluderte et antall politikere. Pressefolk som gir premier til politikere, det gjorde en gjestende utenlandsk fotograf sjokkert. Det burde sjokkert flere her hjemme! Ikke minst når utviklingen er at det offentlige Norge lukker dørene for pressen, og bildene som publiseres kommer fra et Flickr-album fylt opp av PR-medarbeidere på innsiden av boblen.  Jeg har selv blitt utkonkurrert av fotograferende byråkrater og deres gratisbilder, selv i en stor avis der fotografene deres åpenbart (etter engasjementet i Sørlandsgate å dømme) er veldig opptatt av "troverdighet". 

I USA har dette nå boblet til overflaten, og man er lei av hvordan det Hvite Hus kontrollerer alle bildene av presidenten. Her ga vi premie til Jens Stoltenberg.


Her hjemme er redaksjonene nemlig takknemlige for alt stoff så leng det er gratis. Det inkluderer ikke bare "hjertegode saker" om barn i nød (som jeg kan sympatisere med), men direkte reklame. Som denne bilkampanjen, der reklamebyrået kan slå seg på brystet og si at de har fått omtale i over 50 lokalaviser (Er det forresten rart man sliter med å få inn annonsekroner, når man gir gratis reklame i avisa?)

Nylig tipset jeg en av Norges største redaksjoner om en sak. Interessen var lunken. Helt til jeg ga utfyllende informasjon: de kunne få filmen jeg hadde laget, gratis. Den var nemlig reklame for et forlag. Da slo de til! Noen  av opptakene gikk på TV også, da riktignok som et underholdningssegment. Lokalaviser og radio var også på plass for det som for meg var et ganske åpenbart "reklamejippo". Da synes jeg ikke det er rart om en Sørlandsfotograf smaker på ordet "hyklere" i denne debatten.

Nå sitter  selvsagt jeg også i glasshus og kaster stein. Jeg fotograferer nemlig både for media, organisasjoner og tilogmed for staten i blant. Og jeg gjør også feil. Men: jeg liker å tro at jeg stort sett klarer å skille både kunder og sjangere fra hverandre. Men, det finnes åpenbart både fotografer, redaktører og andre som sliter med å gjøre det. Selv etter klare signaler fra kollegaer. 

Jeg tror det beste for den norske fotojournalistikken er om hver enkelt fotograf kan være våken nok til å tenke igjennom hvilken sjanger man egentlig fotograferer til enhver tid, og løse hvert oppdrag ærlig deretter.Og er ikke bildene fra virkeligheten så spennende som man hadde tenkt, så er det likevel virkeligheten. Og det er den fotojournalistikken skal formidle. Og som skrivende journalister kan vi fotograferende tolke og formidle den personlig.   Men nei, det er ikke OK å "skrøne" med reportasjebilder.

onsdag 25. september 2013

See this film




Recently I got the opportunity to see the film " A Thousand Times Good Night" (before you can even see the trailer!).  It is the latest from Norwegian film director Erik Poppe, and the film stars stars Juliette Binoche as a war photographer. Many films on the subject of war photography and photojournalism have something that will make anyone in the business cringe, be it unrealistic behavior, poor camera handling or a silly love story. Not so in this case.  Erik Poppe himself has done his fair share of conflict reporting, and a number of current photographers have contributed to make it authentic.

For me, having been to many of the places and experienced some situations similar to those in the film, I almost felt  like brushing the Kabul dust off my clothes afterwards. The opening scene, with an Afghan, female suicide bomber made me feel quite uneasy. Personally I photographed the aftermath and the mock funeral of the first female Palestinian suicide bomber (You can see some images here , warning: graphic). So that certainly hit close to home. 

But this isn't a story on photojournalism as such. But rather a story about realationships and  how "She must weather a major emotional storm when her husband refuses to put up with her dangerous life any longer." 

Thank God this "emotional storm" doesn't turn the film into a mushy-soppy-escapeism drama only fit for women hell bent on shedding tears in their red wine! 

Well, you risk getting misty eyed for sure, but the film very believably explores the emotions involved in having an extreme drive and passion for your work, exposure to danger and what it can do to family life. While photojournalism is the vehicle to tell a relationship story, and a number of professions could be used for that, I think the film is also able to shed some light on the passion that drives some people to grab their camera and run towards danger, rather than away from it. 

The film also features Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. if you care about that kind of stuff. 

UPDATE: you can now see the trailer here: http://vimeo.com/76213467

mandag 10. desember 2012

Police, Guns, Cameras & The Truth

Lately the Norwegian police union has pushed for all police officers to be armed at all times. Today, as one of few remaining forces in the world, they are only armed when ordered to do so in high risk situations. Fortunately, most senior commanders and politicians have not jumped on the band wagon.

But what has this got to do with photojournalism?

Well there is a case study where armed police, the public and documentary photography/filming meets. On June 15th 2001, during anti EU protests, Swedish police shot three people, nearly killing one of them. As it happened I was there, a young man was shot in the abdomen just a few meters to my right. You can see us in the red circle, Hannes Westberg (protester/victim in grey jacket,black hood) and me (white helmet). Westberg very narrowly escaped death.


It is obviously shocking to see someone get shot under any circumstances, but this incident was shocking on many more levels:
 It was the first time Swedish police had used live ammunition against protesters since 1931. Shot were fired randomly into the crowd. Two of the victims where no where near the police at the time. No police man (or anyone else for that matter) were in such danger that lethal force was required. And the police and prosecution lied about the events.

 All this can perhaps be in part be explained (though not excused) by the events leading up to this, with two days of utter chaos and mayhem in the streets of Gothenburg. Police training and tactics left much to be desired. As the dust settled police and government Prosecutors office compiled video footage, cross cut it, manipulated sequencing and sound, then introduced it as evidence to justify the shootings. Not long after that, Swedish broadcaster SVT program Uppdrag Granskning was able to show the manipulations.

Yet, presumably angered by the wrecking of their town, the public and some of the media largely chose to ignore or forgive their law men for actually fabricating evidence in court. Very disturbing!
To this day the Gothenburg police have expressed no remorse for shooting blindly into the crowd, or the wilful shooting of an unarmed protester.


Later professor Göran du Rées did a research project "THE GUNSHOTS AT VASAPLATSEN", dvelving furter into the police spin and putting the (ab)use of images into a more academic perspective. His project shows in detail the many factors that needs to be taken into account for images to be used as proof, and how easily it can be manipulated. I recommend it for anyone remotely interested in the events in Gothenburg or images - still or moving - as evidence. I think most will agree photojournalism is personal interpretation of events, and one should be vary of its use when presented as 100% accurate facts.

Facts are also in short supply when many police discuss their desire to be armed at all times. Fortunately there are both more senior and more experienced voices, such as the leader of the Norwegian anti terror squad Delta, who says the police should not be armed at all times.

Having photographed demonstrations and troubles around the world for over 20 years I am in no doubt we are better off with an unarmed police force. I have seen fewer police face off and hold their own against more aggressive crowds, without using live ammunition.

There is no reason to think Norwegian police are any better than their Swedish counterparts. Which means they too WILL - without a shadow of doubt - lack training, they will panic, they will over react, they will make mistakes, they will lie about it. And they will fabricate evidence.

I've seen many over reactions by stressed out police officers in Norway over the years, I am so glad they did not have a gun to reach for.

If the images from Gothenburg prove anything, it is how easy access to guns can lead to disaster.  To that end the images serve an important purpose.




fredag 23. november 2012

Camera Beats Pen

Photojournalism has been pronounced dead many times (I may even have said it myself). But after a few years of doom and gloom I think we can feel a pulse, and it may be getting stronger. Traditional newspapers don't seem to be providing the cure, but healing powers may be coming from elsewhere.
I see signs of life, reading ever more stories on how important visual storytelling is becomming. And you need more than an Instagram account to stand out. You need professionals.

Granted, it is not all independent, editorial photojournalism. Some of it is cleary commercial, dressed up as editorial content. But it is a good sign, not only are the likes of Coca-Cola choosing reportage over classic advertising pictures (they new website is in the form of a magazine) , but the world is growing vary of free but fake hurricane pictures by "citizen journalists". Could this mean a new spring for photographers using the photojournalistic toolbox?

Here are some up beat stories to consider:

‘Content is king’ again: why Bill Gates may be right after all


Of course, for a serious photojournalist, doing "branded content" isn't without problems. Even when it pays for your "proper photojournalism", or is for a good cause:


When Interest Creates a Conflict

onsdag 7. november 2012




Today we got the new Felix Features logo from talented graphic designer Anna Maria Pirolt. And we are very happy with the result!

After quite some time of pondering what direction to go, we decided for a retro look which originates from our love of art deco design. We also decided it would be interesting to make it more personal, with wings eluding to my own interest in aviation photography.

Art Deco " is an influential visual arts design style which first appeared in France during the 1920s, flourished internationally during the 30s and 40s", as Wikipedia puts it.  Incidentally this is also the time period we associate with the birth of what is today called "classic photojournalism".

Felix Features is indeed a picture agency founded on classic photojournalism, we represent many great photographers who see themselvs - and photograph - in the light of that tradition. In a world overflowing with hype, -grams,filters and fakes, we don't mind holding firm with some old school photojournalism. And a retro logo.

We hope you like it too.