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Wednesday, 27 April 2011


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Mike, keep publishing and posting anything you find interesting...anyone who's read the "internets" for any length of time understands it's 'reader-beware' and should take everything they read with that proverbial 'grain-of-salt'. I can't read everything everywhere all the time, so it's important for me to get as much information as quickly as possible, and I do this by going to your site as well as a few others. I would have never known about that neat little Pinwide lens, and I may never even buy it or have a need for it, but I need to know it's out there! Keep it up!

Hi Mike,

Is the link working? It clicks thru' to a site called gizmodo.


"what I choose to link to"
"for the comments I choose to 'feature'."
"bear responsibility for"

Huh??? Its your blog. I like it. Use your filter. Get a grip people. Its the Interweb.

Thanks Mike!

Interesting. I've never thought about if you endorse something when you feature it (either a product or a comment). I've tended to take it more as a look inside your mind as to what you find interesting or noteworthy.

The fact is, I usually find myself mulling over products, opinions and comments to see how they fit with the world as I know it. The results are mixed: sometimes I agree, sometimes I disagree and sometimes I just don't 'get it.'

But I keep coming back, thinking of my visits to your site as having a coffee and a chat with a good friend - one that I respect enough to listen to what he has to say, even if I don't agree with it. You may not know it, but we've had some lively discussions! And tomorrow, we'll meet again over a fresh cup.

"And tomorrow, we'll meet again over a fresh cup."

I'll be there. Thanks for the kind words.


As you all know, the process that Teru Kuwayama describes has been standard practice in other industries for decades: cutting cost by outsourcing labour to low-cost business environments.
If you’d want to see an improvement in the treatment of local labour in the “war/conflict reporting business”, you’d advocate for protocols within the industry aiming at the introduction of minimum standards. This said, with so many willing and able freelancers/independent actors on the scene –a perfect environment for cutting cost, I’d wonder whether any improvement can be expected in this regard. You could always contemplate paying more for your news and hope that the news corporations would treat their staff and freelancers better...
All this said, Teru Kuwayama goes off-track when mixing the business process with his references to the reporting in the Western media on the violent death of the two non-local reporters: these reactions had nothing to do with present business practice and the international media attention given to their deaths was not immoral.

The "first to die" was Marla Ruzicka. If one clicked through from the article to her obituary, one would find out that hers was a soul which worked to help the victims, the "Achilles Heel" mentioned.
As the obit put it, "Though only 28 when she died, she was an unusual mixture of charm, ebullience, adventure-seeking and tireless dedication to helping ordinary people whose lives had been shattered."

Somewhere or other --possibly here -- I've published a rant about local reporter/photographers in war zones. Their employment IMHO is one of the most unconscionable things that major news organizations do. They are rarely, if ever, paid the same rates that western photographers get. Further, they're often paid on a piece-work basis, rather than a salary -- you get the firefight, you get the money. Of course, getting the firefight means that you only get paid when you've put your life in jeopardy.

I think my previous rant came on the occasion of the killing of an Iraqi photographer by an American helicopter doorgunner. The situation involved on-going combat. The photographer arrived in an unmarked car, jumped out, put a video camera on his shoulder, and was shot down. He looked virtually no different than an insurgent arriving with a an RPG or shoulder-launched missile. Of course, if you're standing on the ground, a few feet away, looking at him, you can easily tell the difference between an RPG and a TV camera -- but if you're a couple hundred yards away in a firefight, looking at a frontal down angle at a guy who's tracking you (as a cameraman does) and you have only seconds to decide, you may pull the trigger. If you don't, you and all your friends may die. I, personally, in the doorgunner's situation, would have pulled the trigger.

In that incident, I put almost all the "blame" on neither the doorgunner or the photographer, but on the news organization that hired him. They are paying him a small amount (by western standards), but a life-changing amount (by Iraqi standards) to repeatedly risk his life. Sooner or later, the odds catch up, and the guy gets killed. The news organizations know this: that they're paying people who will get killed because of them.

I don't worry so much about people like Hetherington and Hondros. They made a knowing choice, and it was a free choice, and knew that the odds could easily catch up to them. When the odds do catch up, then you may grieve for them, but there's no sin involved, as there is when Western news organizations dangle money before desperate men.


Mike, please don't fret if you got any static or questions if you were schilling (shilling?) the Pinhole cap. Like others have said, it's perfectly acceptable that you mention it merely because it piques your interest. It will interest others as well, and most probably many of those will have never heard of it except for you.

That's why we visit your site - you talk about neat things, that usually have to do with photography. There are plenty of people who like to read about neat photographic things. Also, when you stray off that (photo-esque) path, it is also extremely interesting... I.E., we like reading your blog.

Keep doing what you do. Your readers will be here.

I think you're conflating two incidents--the attack from a helicopter on eight individuals on the ground in which photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, a 22-year-old Iraqi photographer working for Reuters, was killed alongside his driver, Saeed Chmagh; and the death of Mazen Dana. Dana was the one who got out of the car and pointed the video camera on his shoulder, later said to have been mistaken for an RPG; he was shot by an American soldier riding on an approaching tank. The journalists shot from the air were not using or pointing their cameras when they were killed. The audio from the helicopter identified the cameras as AK-47s, and it was asserted later that there was one AK-47 on the ground, but most of the men were apparently unarmed. The video is on YouTube.


Posted by: peter | Wednesday, 27 April 2011 at 07:05 PM
All this said, Teru Kuwayama goes off-track when mixing the business process with his references to the reporting in the Western media on the violent death of the two non-local reporters: these reactions had nothing to do with present business practice and the international media attention given to their deaths was not immoral.

Actually, Peter,

I believe these reactions have everything to do with present business practice. I don't begrudge the media attention given these two photojournalists, and I wouldn't ever call it immoral either. But let's be honest about the mainstream way of the world -- western is mainstream; all else is fringe.

And it shows in the way the international media reports news, their emphasis and their shrugs of the shoulder. If you're not white or not from the West, you are of little significance and often nameless. Collateral damage, as they say. Is anybody surprised by this? Really?

When I try the link it takes me to the front page of gizmodo, I needed to edit the link to http://uk.gizmodo.com/5795745/which-of-us-dies-first before I could see the article. The edit was to remove the #! before the number

I wrote something very similar to this called "The shadow of annihilation" when I returned from Yugoslavia, after my friend Gabriel Gruener from Stern was killed. I can't find it now.

It's little understood how much the photos we see in the media are influenced by who gets there, where those people are from, how experienced they are and how much support they have. This is not about outsourcing; when real strife emerges, locals often have an edge because they need very little of those external support mechanisms. There are great news photographers everywhere, but we don't hear as much about them because their fantastic photos, these days, are usually by-lined with the name of the service who picked up the photo - photographers increasingly get anonymised, and that is the real hazard, not outsourcing.

"And tomorrow, we'll meet again over a fresh cup."

I had arranged to meet Chris Hondros later this year, as we did when we managed to be in the same place. Not now.


There was a complaint against The British Journal Of Photography's decision to show the injured body of Chris Hondros. What was so surprising about it, was where it came from


Olivier Laurent, the online editor of BJP makes a response in the link to defend his reasons for using the image.

BJP were right to show it, not to do so would have illustrated what Teru Kuwayama is getting at. Some of the reactions to that decision do what very thing

Keep doing what you do & we'll keep coming back.

@ Mike and John Camp,

there was also an incident during the 2003 in which two journalists was killed on a hotel balcony in downtown Baghdad, shot again by an American tank. An account is here: http://www.cpj.org/reports/2003/05/palestine-hotel.php

I only want observe that the account, while comprehensive, appears to be slightly biased to me. There's also a couple of factual errors about HEAT rounds and RPG ranges, but they are of no matter. What I would like to offer is some counter-points to consider, from the perspective of someone who served in the military - and specifically in an armoured regiment, that may make you readers see a wider context.

The first point is that any soldier's primary response will be to his fellow soldiers. If he, or others nearby are in mortal danger, and the rules of engagement allow a lethal response, it will happen.

The second is that warfare is a very confusing business. Those soldiers had started a rolling fight through Baghdad suburbs some hours before. You don't move directly between A and B in warfare, you take a wandering route. It is entirely possible that the tank commander of the firing tank did not know his specific position, or the relationship between where he was and what he expected to see.

Look at the physics involved. Neither standard military binoculars nor the gunsight are particularly brilliant optics, and in any event were probably filthy. Look at the frontal profile of someone holding a shoulder-held video camera, and someone holding a shoulder-held rocket or missile launcher. Very, very similar, especially from 3/4 of a mile away. In research for this post, I have looked at a building I know to be the same distance away, through my civilian binoculars, and it would have been very hard to distinguish the two. There's no heat haze in Britain today either, and I'm not sweating into my eyes or under attack from an unknown location.

Look at the best places for an enemy spotter to occupy. 15 floors up is good.

The individual tank commander may well not have known about the Palestine Hotel, and to say that because the Pentagon did, or even his CO did does not guarantee that he did.

Obviously, I cannot know all of the circumstances, and it may very well be that someone in this case deserves a court martial.

But to any journalists out there, some simple facts:

Do not assume that you are clearly a innocent and impartial presence, particularly when hefting equipment that could appear to be a weapon.

Do not assume that because "someone" in the military knows of your presence, "everyone" does. Why not hang out the white sheet with "Press" before the battle starts?

Consider whether it is really a smart thing to do to heft onto your shoulder a video camera and point it at someone 3/4 of a mile away, watching you through probably filthy optics, while that soldier is tired, confused, feeling threatened, and allowed to shoot.

Soldiers in Western Armies do have heavy legal responsibilities in terms of using lethal force, rules of engagement and so on. They do not have a responsibility to continue to put themselves or their colleagues in danger by trying to second guess the appearance, location and motivation of journalists who are not embedded into their unit, but who "might" be somewhere out in front of them.

Certainly a tragedy, but understandable.

"Do not assume that you are clearly a innocent and impartial presence, particularly when hefting equipment that could appear to be a weapon."

Watching the video of Namir's death again, I was struck that the reason he looked like he was carrying a weapon was because of the wide black STRAP his camera was hanging from. I wonder if the chopper would have thought it was a weapon if the strap color had matched his shirt.

I was also musing how cameras could be made to look less like guns. I wonder if this is one possible application for Ctein's tablet camera idea--a photojournalist holding up a flat panel would look different from a soldier holding up a weapon.



You're right. I conflated the two incidents. They are now far enough back they they sort of congealed in my memory. However, the point remains the same.

Another point that I forgot to make. Do you know why TV likes shoot-'em-up footage? It really doesn't teach you anything -- you can hardly ever see much. The violence of war is almost always driven home better by after-action shots of bodies, of wounded soldiers and civilians, of home-town funerals; and by written reports and even maps and charts. What you get from action footage is *thrills.* It's *entertainment.* Or it may simply be propaganda for one point of view or another.

But from my point of view, most of it is simply done for entertainment purposes. Even from a violently partisan, propagandistic viewpoint, action is hardly ever necessary. But it's the action shots (and also, confusion) that gets people killed.

Reuters, by the way, is IMHO the worst offender. I hate that news service. It's worse than CNN.

I also would second everything that James said. For an idea of how contemporary warfare works, you could do worse than take a look at the movie Black Hawk Down. It's estimated that more than a thousand people died in that battle, pretty much because of mistakes, stupidity, errors in judgment and confusion. Those same things are the real killers of news people.


Kuwayama's comments about Western media being biased to report about Westerners extend to far more than just war photojournalism. Just domestically in the USA, there's the phenomenon of Missing White Woman Syndrome:


Another similar phenomenon I read about some weeks ago (and sorry, I can't find the link, but I think it was in the Givewell blog) is the bias in Western reporting of disasters abroad in favor of Western charities, and the usual failure to even acknowledge the existence (much less the work) of local charities and their response to the disasters. The claim is that this then paints the disaster-stricken countries as being completely helpless and dependent on the West.

I'm sure we can find more of these easily.

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