Here’s a screen grab of my latest blog post for ANIMAL New York. Over the last several weeks, I’ve been doing a series experimenting with Getty Images’ revolutionary new embed function as a tool to cultivate a new, likely younger audience for stunning photojournalism being made in conflict regions and breaking news spots around the world.
This fifth post in the series, looking at the powerful ‘daily life’ photos of Getty staffer Mario Tama stationed in Brazil in the months leading up to the World Cup, is the first to have gone really viral. Up to a week after publication it consistently held on its own over 900 concurrent viewers — mostly share traffic coming from Facebook and Twitter. From my experience, I can say that for a publication like TIME LightBox, this would be big. For ANIMAL New York, it has been huge, setting the monthly traffic record — with serious photojournalism, not clickbait — by a wide margin.
This kind of imagery is the ‘bread and butter’ of the international pages of publications like the Times and TIME, which pay huge subscription rates to be able to publish it. When Getty announced early March that it would be unleashing watermark-free access to their 35 million+ image archive through the embed feature, it was met with much industry anxiety.
As a creative worker, I saw tremendous potential. I wanted to know what use this could have for a blogger or visual storyteller working with virtually no budget, keeping a close eye on the wires. I was sure that there was a large audience online that craved thoughtfully-curated world class conflict photography, balancing qualities of form and newsworthiness, but one that wasn’t necessarily reaching for those legacy publications to find it. Having to deal with large, repetitive embedded credits turned out to be a small price to pay for the privilege of engaging with this content.
For each of these posts, I’ve been curating a selection of 10-30 images made by a single photojournalist in the days, weeks or months leading up to major news event (when possible pegged to something breaking or developing the morning of publication). I would add a few graphs of context on the news event touching on why I thought the photographs stood out as a set, a graph of background on the photographer and links out to their website and social media. Images appeared in a single column below, which would make the post quick and easy to scroll through, but also forced me to adopt a different approach to editing than if I were working with a click-through slideshow.
Could I see what other editors weren’t? Could I find the photos and turn an edit around faster, with more of a unique context and spin than if I was working under half-a-dozen top editors? Could I cobble together headlines that would be engaging to the millennial audience of a website not particularly known for its coverage of photojournalism or world news, that would nonetheless dignify the subject and the work of the photographer?
As far as I am aware, and several editors in New York I’ve asked agree, my series is likely the first such use of this embed feature for curating photojournalism. To date, in addition to Mario Tama, I have also featured the work of Brendan Hoffman, Dimitar Dilkoff and Scott Olson filing from Eastern Ukraine, and Kevin Frayer filing from India during the five-week general election. With future posts in mind, I was happy to hear last week that Lynsey Addario is joining Reportage for Getty and I’m really looking forward to start seeing her work from the Middle East.
My initial interest in the embed feature stemmed from what might be the creative (and disruptive) potential of taking this type of gut-busting international photography from its traditional context, and presenting it in a new one where it never existed before. Thus far that potential has proven to be great. What I’m less convinced of, however, is whether this is a sign of gatekeeping in news shifting from the mainstream few to the independent many, rather than just to the shrouded algorithm of the one and only Facebook.
Here’s the American photographer Joel Meyerowitz speaking from his Tuscany studio via Skype, seen with the subjects of his latest work, The Effect of France, on the shelf in the background. I had the opportunity recently to have a conversation with him about his road photography from his European trip (1966-7), then on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery for the first time in 46 years since debuting at MoMA.
At the time of the interview, I had been reading Mark Twain’s Innocence Abroad, a foundational text of travel literature which functions as a critique of the American ‘Grand Tour,’ a trip similar to what Meyerowitz had undertaken in the mid-60s. So I asked him about it.
JM: I certainly was aware the role that tourism plays and the kind of blindness that affects the short-term traveler where you see only the superficial, the surface of the place. The question for me was how do you get under?
Read the full interview at americanphotomag.com.
—Will Self, from The Quantity Theory of Insanity
I’m hoping to continue posting here on Tumblr more often with updates on new work and travel, reflections on past work, pull quotes, links and stand-alone images on my mind.
Drop me a line here and let me know what you think as I tweak the final edit.
—Anonymous epigraph that never made it here
—"How to Proceed in the Arts," Frank O’Hara and Larry Rivers