Anyone for Polo ?

I was covering The opening of The Field of Remembrance (the crosses with poppies laid every year by The British Legion) at Westminster Abbey, which this year was by Prince Harry, when I first heard about his trip to Oman and Dubai.The Telegraph’s Royal correspondent Gordon Rayner was down to go and I explained how happy I’d be to accompany him. A few forms later and I was on the list to go. Not a big list but a very manageable one for the Palace press office. John Stillwell from the Press Association, Chris Jackson from Getty, Time Rooke for Rex Features and Darren Fletcher from The Sun.
Harry was arriving on Tuesday night and I got there Tuesday morning having flown through the night. The arrival was pooled , covered by Tim and Chris but Darren and I still turned up at the rather plush hotel just in case we were allowed to crash the pool. We weren’t so we retired to the bar for a beer then met up with the others to travel back by minibus to the hotel we were staying in. It was “National Day” in Oman and the traffic was horrendous. All the locals seemed to be out in there cars wearing masks and hooting and beeping their way around Muscat. We ended up having to walk the last few hundred yards to our hotel which gave us the chance to take a few frames of the festivities. Everyone seemed really friendly, they were having a great time, though a few had had their exhausts adjusted to make a sound that was very similar to gunfire, which did throw one particular reporter to the floor of the bus when we heard it for the first time.

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The following morning was a 6am start for the minibus journey to Nizwa Fort. Charles and Camilla visited earlier this year and took part in some local tribal dancing involving swords so obviously we were crossing fingers for a repeat royal performance.

We retired for several coffees whilst we awaited Harry’s arrival and took the opportunity to take some pictures of some of the children and some of the locals who were waiting to meet the Prince.

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I did a combination of pictures on my iPhone 5S and my normal Nikon work cameras (D4S D3S and D3)

The picture of the man with the walking stick was then put through ‘Snapseed’ and ‘Instagram’…the version that looks warmer was not. I do like to use my iPhone for work pictures but I’d never have the guts to shoot an entire assignment on one….unless of course I was asked to.

A lot of photographers complain that filter Apps like ‘Snapseed’ and ‘Instagram’ make everyone capable of producing “great” photographs. I tend to disagree. If you haven’t got the right image there’s nothing an App can do for you. So far Apps can’t find a picture for you, yeah they can polish a turd but it’s still going to be a turd.

Apps are tools as is the camera on your iPhone. You still need to know how to use the tool to get the most out of it.

Anyway, Harry played ball. Not once but twice. He had a go on the sword then went for a tour , then had another go on the sword. Our local Omani embassy chap did a brilliant job of positioning the dancers in front of Harry twice. We all got what was required.

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The next day was going to be a long one. Harry was visiting The Grand Mosque in Muscat first thing then we were flying to Dubai followed by a bus-ride to Ghantoot Polo ground, Abu Dhabi, for Harry’s ‘Sentebale’ charity match. We were told all sorts of celebrities would be attending..in the end it was only Geri Halliwell and her new fiance that anybody recognised.

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We went home and Harry stayed to watch the Grand Prix…a few people cynically commented that that was in fact the reason for the visit.

Anyone for a pre-Christmas shopping trip to New York ?

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Commentating on the race to the bottom

Yet again The BPPA finds itself responding to a piece by Professor Roy Greenslade on The Guardian’s website. Yet again Professor Greenslade adds his influential voice to the drastically mistaken notion that anyone can take a picture good enough for a newspaper these days. Seriously? Have you looked at some of the utter rubbish that gets used in some of our newspapers? To assert that anyone with a camera can take a picture isn’t only an insult to the skilled photographers who make silk purses out of sows ears on a daily basis it also invites the bean-counters who are behind the decisions to axe photographers jobs to question the need for written journalists too.

I can just imagine the conversation between the accountants and the owners with an editor sitting there listening to the conversation;

Owner: We need to save some more money. Sales are still in decline and sacking the photographers hasn’t saved us enough.

Accountant: Well, members of the public are providing all of our visual content so maybe we can get them to supply the words too.

Editor: But…

Owner: Brilliant idea. Let’s start with all of the senior reporters who really know what they are doing. Editor – we need you to sell this to the staff.

Editor: But…

Owner: They’re all scared for their jobs anyway. Accountant – you are a genius and you will be rewarded for your work with a big pay rise.

Editor: But…

Accountant: Thanks Owner, maybe we should discuss a few other money-saving ideas that I have over a drink or two. Do we NEED editors?

How long will it be before expensive columnists get their marching orders in favour of a few blokes with word processing software who “can write a bit”? Who will those people actually be? Will they be honest and concerned citizens or will they be people with an agenda and an axe to grind?

We are already at the stage where a large percentage of the ‘supplied’ images being printed in some papers are not properly checked for honesty, accuracy or ownership (not to mention quality). Beyond that, nobody seems to care whether members of the public are putting their own or other people’s lives in danger to get the pictures that they are giving away for free. Even Professor Greenslade has to agree that journalism stands or falls on its honesty and accuracy even if he has already thrown the towel in on quality.

One of the numerous responses to his Media Guardian article points out that very few people remember the words after the event compared to the number who remember the images. You might think that newspaper owners would forget this at their peril – unfortunately they have forgotten and their newspapers are in peril. Another response points out that newspaper decline could well be a chicken and egg discussion. Which did come first – the fall in sales or the loss of photographers?

This is rapidly becoming a race to the bottom and it really doesn’t help the case for quality newspapers and quality journalism when one of the highest profile commentators on the industry has given up on any notion of defending the simple idea that quality products have longevity and cheap ones don’t. We’d wonder if The Guardian’s own Picture Desk team would agree with The Professor’s odd logic or if its own sub-editors would approve of his fact checking.

Losing reporters would be the largest and most recent nail in the coffin of local and regional journalism. National newspapers, radio and television get a lot of their best people from the superb training ground that is (or maybe was) local journalism.

If I were contemplating training as a journalist right now I think that I’d have second thoughts about it. If the learned Professor is right maybe those currently on his course should consider switching to accountancy before it’s too late.

Press Photographers Association of Ireland 2014

In a guest blog Mirror Staff Photographer Phil Coburn talks about his recent trip to Dublin:

Thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in Dublin judging The Press Photographers Association of Ireland’s annual awards with Lefteris Pitarakis of the The Associated Press and the esteemed former Irish Times photographer and picture editor, Dermot O’Shea. Great competition with superb photojournalism. Great support and sponsorship from the Allied Irish Bank, too, which puts a decent amount of money behind it and makes the whole thing run extremely smoothly and professionally. The winning photographs of this competition have toured all over the world in the past but more importantly this years winners will also be shown in all the main regional branches of the AIB, bringing really high-quality press  photography to thousands of people who aren’t necessarily photography buffs. It would be wonderful if we could have some similar support and sponsorship for the B.P.P.A. or the P.P.Y. competition on this side of the water.

© Colm Mahady/Fennells

© Colm Mahady/Fennells
Ray Mc Manus, President Press Photographers Association of Ireland (PPAI), with members of the judging panel, award wining photographer Lefteris Pitarakis, Associated Press Photographer, Tom Kinsella, Group Marketing Director AIB, (sponsor) Dermot O’ Shea, former Picture Editor, Chair of the judging panel and Philip Coburn award-winning photographer Daily Mirror / Sunday Mirror Photographer.

© Colm Mahady/Fennells

© Colm Mahady/Fennells

© Colm Mahady/Fennells

© Colm Mahady/Fennells

© Vicky Comerford

© Vicky Comerford

© Vicky Comerford

© Vicky Comerford

Mirror Staff Photographer Phil Coburn.

The Copyright Fight – David Bailey weighs in…

Today is the day when the UK Government could vote to include a seemingly innocuous clause in an otherwise largely uncontroversial piece of legislation that will not only harm our industry but also place this country at odds with a vital international treaty. It is upsetting, bizarre and unnecessary to the point of being farcical.

The BPPA has been trying very hard to get the Government to see sense and drop the copyright clause from the Enterprise Regulatory Reform Bill for a while now. In a world where the intervention of a celebrity can unclog jams and open doors we decided to ask UK Photography’s biggest celebrity, David Bailey, to write to cabinet members on behalf of all owners and creators of intellectual property. He decided to write to George Osborne MP, The Chancellor of the Exchequer personally and he has given us permission to circulate that letter as widely as we wish – and here it is…

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David Bailey’s letter to George Osborne MP

The text of the letter in full:

Dear George

I am writing because I am appalled at what the government is doing to our rights in the ERRB (Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill). Why the ERRB by the way? Why can’t copyright be dealt with properly in a proper Copyright Bill? I’m told everyone will be able to get their hands on our so-called “orphans” so libraries and museums can publish old photographs whose authors have long been forgotten. But never mind what’s lying around on dusty old shelves, what about the millions of “orphans” that are being created now every day!

Why? Because social media, and everyone else for that matter routinely strip our names and contact details from our digital files. They simply should not be allowed to get away with this. They can because our government refuses to give us the right to our names by our pictures (Moral rights). So now commercial organisations will be allowed to make money from our “orphans”, but not us, the creators.

This legislation should never have been even considered without first giving us our moral rights, and is contrary to our rights under the Berne Convention. Why the rush? A scheme, the Copyright Hub – a scheme backed by the government – is being developed to ensure that those who wish to find our pictures can not only do so quickly online, but also find the contact details of the pictures’ owners. You are about to put the cart before the horse.

I’m told the real reason for speed is that “releasing” orphans will create growth. We all understand the need for growth. But where’s the evidence? The seemingly impressive financial figures presented originally in the Hargreaves Review have mysteriously had to be revised – down by 97%! Which now apparently amount to no more than 80p per taxpayer per year. Given the damage this legislation will now cause to taxpaying creators, damage no-one has so far taken into account, the effect of this legislation on economic growth will in fact be negative.

It’s not too late to think again!

Best,

David Bailey

Another open letter to Professor Greenslade

An Open letter written by Chris Eades – a member of The BPPA’s Board in response to Professor Roy Greenslade’s inaccurate blog on The Media Guardian website:

Dear Mr Greenslade

I am writing on behalf of your photographic colleagues in the British Press Photographers’ Association to express our disappointment and frustration at your recent series of articles about “paparazzi” seeking to photograph Vicky Pryce while in prison.

I regret to say that the suppositions upon which you have based your article are for the most part untrue, with the result that your subsequent analysis and opinions are based on an ignorance of the facts.

When photographers sought to correct your mistakes and question your motivations in slurring your colleagues you responded not by seeking the truth, but by turning off comments on your blog to disable further criticism.

As someone who lectures in journalism, and presumes to lecture his peers on ethics, it is distressing that you have made no effort to substantiate the facts – but have chosen instead to rely on rumour, supposition and lazy stereotypes with the unfortunate result that you have thereby reinforced those stereotypes.

For your information we have laid out below the true events surrounding the taking of pictures of Pryce, and have sought to address the questions that you raise about the implication of these events.

In short – No laws were broken, the PCC code was adhered to and there is a strong case that a govt minister and his wife both being jailed for criminal offences is a valid news story, strengthened by the perception that Pryce is receiving preferential treatment by being transferred to open prison less than a week after being convicted.

You question the legitimacy of photographing convicted criminals in prison – but there is a long tradition of doing so. Myra Hindley, Jeffrey Archer, Sarah Tisdall, George Best, Rose West, Ernest Saunders, Maxine Carr, even Dr Crippen have all been photographed in prison.

If you think this is wrong then campaign to change the law, or the PCC code – but please don’t vilify your beleaguered photographic colleagues for legitimate news gathering.

We respectfully request a correction in full – with equal prominence to the original articles.

Yours

Chris Eades
On behalf of the BPPA Committee

THE TRUTH

The true events surrounding the pictures on Pryce at Sutton Park prison are as follows.

On sunday 17th The Sun ran a story that Pryce had been transferred to an open prison after less than a week in prison. This is unusually soon for a prisoner, even on a short sentence, to be moved – and raises the legitimate question is Pryce receiving preferential treatment?

Five newspapers dispatched staff / regular freelances to the prison to try to obtain pictures of Pryce in her new surroundings. All of the photographers were news photographers, not paps, on wages for the day and acting under instruction of their respective picture desks.

(For clarity I define news photographers as those who photograph individuals in the news, as opposed to paparazzi who concentrate on celebrities. These may overlap but it is a good general distinction).

There are several points where pictures could be taken at Sutton Park, without the need to trespass on private property. The easiest of these is from the grounds of the church which overlook the rear of the prison.

Security staff at the prison became aware of photographers presence fairly early on the sunday, and came over to ask who they were and what they were doing. They were asked to not enter the prison grounds and to be relatively open with their activity so as not to cause security concerns. No request was made for them to leave.

On the Monday they were joined by two more photographers from Fame/Flynet – who joined the existing crowd in the church yard and on a footpath that provides a view of the front drive.

Photographers also met a man wearing a dog collar, who they assume to be the vicar. He passed the time of day with them but again did not at any time express concerns at their presence or request that they leave.

The photographers were openly present in the church grounds, in full view, and with the knowledge of both prison and church authorities.

On Wednesday 20th photographers spotted Pryce being escorted to an outbuilding which they took to be a library or education centre, roughly a hundred yards from the church yard – and took pictures which subsequently appeared online and in the next days Sun, Mirror, Mail and Telegraph. All photographers present got images. Flynet were fortunate to get the best angle, and subsequently the majority of the publications.

These pictures were taken openly from from the churchyard, with the knowledge of church and prison authorities – neither newspaper or agency photographer used subterfuge or trespassed on prison property. Very long lenses were not used, the distance being relatively short.

After the first of these picture appeared online the PCC forwarded a letter from Pryces family asking that photographers withdraw. The photographers had infact already pulled back, having got their picture. To the best of my knowledge none has returned to the prison since.

I know this account to be true – as I was there. I understand that Jim Bennett has also explained much of this to you in person.

ADDRESSING THE CRITICISM

In your first article you publish a series of untruths and make a number of suppositions as well as posing a number of questions.

You state that prison officers “prison officers asked the paparazzi to go away and allow the woman to serve her eight-month sentence for perverting the course of justice in peace” – This is factually untrue, no such request was made at any stage, either by prison officers or by the prison officers press liaison officer who came over for a chat.

You state that – “There is, of course, no proof that any newspaper commissioned the photographers. It is highly likely that the snappers turned up on their own initiative.” This supposition is untrue, at the point when this article was written the ONLY photographers in attendance were in fact working directly for papers.

You also pose the questions:
Is it in the public interest to take pictures of a person in jail?
Is it against the editors’ code of practice?
Is there a law against it?

Photographers working for papers do not as a rule get asked for their views on ethics, these being generally reserved for greater minds in nice warm offices. We tend instead to deal with the practical application of the rules on the ground.

But in answer to your first question “Is it in the public interest to take pictures of a person in jail?” the consensus between those on the ground was that it was questionable whether Pryce was receiving preferential treatment – and as such was a valid news story. The majority of editors with access to the pictures agreed.

In answer to your second question “Is it against the editors’ code of practice?”
You yourself admit that you are unclear as to which part of the code this would breach. The PCC advisory draws newspapers attention to section 4 harassment which states “ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist.”
As I have explained nobody at any stage asked photographers to desist or leave – until the advisory was issued by the PCC, by which time the photographers had already got their pictures and departed.
SO in answer to your question – In our opinion the PCC code was studiously observed.

As to your third question “Is there a law against it?”
No there isn’t

So to sum up the pictures are arguably in the public interest, do not breach the PCC and are not against the law. You have every right to debate this view – but you should make clear that these decisions are made by our bosses, rather that choosing to stereotype and vilify your news gathering colleagues.

When your original article was published a number of photographers commented on your blog that you had the facts wrong which you chose to ignore – choosing instead to repeat your allegations a day or so later, but this time disabling comments to prevent anyone challenging your inaccurate and biassed account.

Furthermore, while we are debating journalism ethics, may I take the opportunity to deplore your decision to publish an unattributed and cowardly attack from an “anonymous” press photographer. An attack full of inaccuracies, from someone who wasn’t even there.
(we all know an anonymous source usually means “my mate in the office” or “I made up these quotes”).

How can you justify publishing a cowardly attack without verification while censoring responses from photographers who were there?

The Copyright Fight

As the song goes ‘There may be trouble ahead’…except this time there is no ‘maybe’ about it. For those that recall the less-than-wonderful “Clause 43” of Labour’s “Digital Economy Bill” which proposed to legalise the use of Orphan Works and Extended Collective Licensing – well, despite its defeat it’s back and this time it’s personal.

Hidden away in a completely unrelated Bill – namely the ERRB (the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill) – are pretty much the same clauses that got thrown out before. The IPO (Intellectual Property Office) – a bunch of Patent-based Civil Servants in the fashion of Sir Humphrey from “Yes Minister” – were so miffed at their attempt to undermine photographer’s copyright being defeated that they’ve snuck their insidious plans back into Parliament hidden in a bill that has absolutely nothing to do with copyright.

There are many reasons why every photographer should be up in arms about this and we’ll list them below summarized by people who know far more about this than myself. The really, really important thing is that we still have the opportunity to send Sir Humphrey back to his Gentleman’s club in Pall Mall with a flea in his ear. They think it’s all over but it bloody well isn’t.

We still have time to effect change to the bill and even get the clauses thrown out (they shouldn’t be there anyway) but we have to act fast. We have to lobby the Lords and then we need to start a firestorm on our MP’s.

Interestingly we have some strange bedfellows as allies on this one including The Associated Press, Getty Images, Reuters, British Pathe, The Press Association, and the Federation of Commercial and Audiovisual Libraries, who have formed the International Media & Archive Consortium. They are threatening a judicial review should the bill become law, but it would be in everyone’s interest if it didn’t get that far.

This affects everyone who works in this country with a camera in their hands.

You all have to take the time to read what it means for you. Even if you just read the summary we’ve provided you’ll garner enough information to include in a letter to your MP or one of the Lords listed.

But it really is in our/your hands to do something for the good of all photographers working in the United Kingdom whether they know it or not.

Eddie Mulholland.

The proposals hidden in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill would do very serious damage to the livelihoods of UK photographers if adopted. We believe that the clauses should be removed rather than amended because:

  1. They should be subject to full parliamentary debate, not buried in someone else’s bill and secondary legislation.
  2. They rob photographers of their rights.
  3. They would not create economic growth, they would damage it.
  4. They break international law.
  5. They would be subject to judicial review even as they are passing through the Commons.
  6. They allow no room for the new “Copyright Hub” concept which, given time to get working, would deal with most of the problems.
  7. They are no substitute for a dedicated and properly considered Copyright Bill – this is nothing more than a rights-damaging fudge proposed by the Intellectual Property Office.

At some point the IPO should learn to realize that the intellectual property that they are supposed to look after is not only that of big business, inventors but that of hundreds of thousands of small businesses and sole traders whose combined worth to the UK’s economy is substantial.

See a fuller explanation on The BPPA’s website

Follow Stop 43 the campaigning group who did most to stop the orphan works clauses in the Digital Economy Act