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February 22, 2013

When Reality Isn’t Dramatic Enough: Misrepresentation in a World Press and Picture of the Year Winning Photo

This post was written by BagNews Publisher Michael Shaw with RIT Photojournalism professor Loret Steinberg and RIT photojournalism alumnus Shane Keller. (Full disclosure: Steinberg is a consultant to this site.)  Keller was the subject of a photo which was part of a series entitled “The Crescent” by Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin. The series was recently awarded second prize in the Stories category of the 2013 World Press Photo contest and a second place award in the Issue Reporting Picture Story category of the 2013 Picture of the Year International competition, with the individual photo earning Photographer of the Year — First Place in the Freelance/Agency category of the Picture of the Year awards – one of 50 images submitted for that category.

******

What happens when a World Press Photo and Picture of the Year International award-winning photograph doesn’t show what it purports to show? Not through a mistake of interpretation or subjective opinion, but when the facts show the photo wasn’t taken where it was claimed to be taken and when the subject of the photo isn’t who the photographer says he is. What happens when a city is represented through photographs bearing photographer-written descriptions almost wholly plagiarized from a 10 year old New York Times article?  Does it make it worse when the photos and the series in question, “The Crescent, Rochester USA 2012”, have won multiple awards and the photographer is Magnum’s Paolo Pellegrin?

First, a bit of background. Last April, eleven Magnum agency photographers set up camp in Rochester to archive an American city. It was the outgrowth of a project by a smaller group the previous year that documented a road trip in the western United States.

Choosing Rochester for the project was a romantic yet ironic notion. As Alec Soth writes in a project update on The New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog:

Initially we thought about Detroit, but it has already been so well covered by photographers. So we began thinking about other areas and Rochester came up. Given the demise of Kodak, the idea of a photographic archive in this place where so much photographic history was born made a lot of sense.

The photojournalism program at Rochester Institute of Technology was also an integral part of the project.  RIT space and resources were made available to the photographers; RIT students were used as production assistants.

I can’t say the month long project, as an agency-wide effort or a true archive, has achieved much note — with one exception. Paolo Pellegrin has earned a good deal of attention with his photo-essay centered around drugs, drug violence and decrepitude in an area of Rochester known as “The Crescent.” Pellegrin’s stark black-and-white photos dramatically portrayed cops on the beat, fleeing gang members, funerals for gunshot victims, arrests, crime scenes, fatherless families, and, notably, a young, white denizen of The Crescent solely identified as a former Marine Corps sniper.

RIT professor Jim Johnson commented on the photos on his blog, (Notes On) Politics, Theory & Photography, on January 12, 2013 in a post entitled: “Parachuting In To Rochester.” Johnson’s post was “inspired” by the initial appearance of Paolo Pellegin’s Rochester photo story in the German publication die Zeit.

“I have to say that while the photography, unsurprisingly, is striking in many ways, the overall story Pellegrin presents is rather shallow and moralistic. We get a cat and mouse interaction between drug dealing ghetto youth (mostly racial/ethnic minorities) and officers (mostly white residents of the suburbs) from the Rochester PD. That “game,” I suppose, is meant to stand in for the racial and economic segregation that characterizes the Rochester metro area. … In short, we get a narrow glimpse of how things are, but nearly no understanding of how things got this way or, god forbid, any insight into what might be done to remedy the current, dire situation. It makes me wonder what photojournalists do to prepare for assignments and what they think their work is for.”

Reading Johnson’s post now, it’s interesting –perhaps fateful—that one photograph, present in the World Press Award and Picture of the Year International galleries, wasn’t published in the die Ziet article. The omitted photo was that of Shane Keller, identified by Pellegrin as a former Marine sniper described as being located in “The Crescent.”

Shane Keller is a former marine but is not, and never has been a Marine Corps sniper. He does not, and never has lived in The Crescent section of Rochester. In fact, on the night the photo was taken, Keller was a student at RIT who, at the request of Pellegrin and a fellow student, posed for photos with his gun collection at his home close to Rochester’s Jewish Community Center.  The photo was taken in Keller’s garage. Keller’s concerns about the intentional misrepresentation, the content of Pellegrin’s caption, and plagiarism in the series’ extended description were communicated in an email message.

A colleague recently informed me I’m in a photograph on World Press Photo by Paolo Pellegrin. He photographed me when the Magnum photographers were in Rochester last year. Brett, a classmate and one of the student assistants to Magnum, was driving him around, looking for stories, and he wanted to photograph someone with firearms or at a shooting range. That’s where my name came up. I owned a number of firearms and had a membership to the Genesee Conservation League (shooting range). Brett called me and said Paolo wanted to photograph portraits of us, which I was fine with. He then wanted to photograph us at a shooting range, which I agreed to, but ethically I thought it was strange that he would ask us to do something for him.

Paolo had first photographed me in my apartment with a plain white wall. He made some photographs of just Brett holding one of my pistols, which he can’t legally own in NY since he doesn’t have a NY pistol permit. Technically, he wasn’t even legally allowed to hold mine. After we were both photographed in my apartment, we went to my garage to leave for the shooting range. That’s when Paolo wanted to shoot a few more portraits of us down there. I’m assuming it was because it looked scarier down there and would go better with his story of “abandoned houses prone to become centers of drug sales and use.” As I recall, the photograph used was from when I came downstairs with my shotgun, as requested, but I think it was before he started shooting the portraits of me.

The caption bothers me even more than the photo itself, which says, “A former US Marine corps sniper with his weapon.” First, I was never a sniper and I never would have said that.

For any Marine who knows me and sees that image, are they going to believe the photographer and assume that I lied about my Military Occupational Specialty. That makes me look really bad and hurts my integrity. Second, the one line caption makes it sound like the weapon I’m holding is my sniper rifle, which it’s not. It isn’t even a rifle; It’s only a pump-action 12 gauge. And as a minor detail, the word “Corps” should have been capitalized.

Shane goes on and talks about the location of the photo:

The background [description for] all of the photos [identifies the locale as] the Rochester Crescent. I’m not sure what parts of Rochester are considered the Crescent, but I’m sure I wasn’t part of that region. I lived in a very safe neighborhood next to the Jewish Community Center along the border of Brighton and Henrietta. I probably could even have left my doors unlocked without fear of someone breaking in while I was gone.

In general, I don’t feel the portrait of me belongs in this story at all. As I already mentioned, I didn’t live in the Rochester Crescent. I wasn’t part of the city’s homicides, violence, drug sales and use, or lagging economy as the story says. I’m not sure if the purpose of this image is to make me look like I’m a danger to other people or to make me look paranoid from living in a dangerous area, which I didn’t.

Finally, Shane talks about the fact he is not identified:

Why wouldn’t Paolo use my name? I remember asking him if he needed my full name or anything else for his caption information and he said no. Even for us as students, we were always required to have names. Why would a Magnum photographer, of all photojournalists, not want caption information when it is being offered to him? I understand sometimes you can’t always get caption information, but that’s a lot different from just blatantly not wanting it. I honestly don’t understand it.

Shane also addressed how Pellegrin appropriated copy for his photographer statement and extended caption of the project.

I would think all photojournalists understand plagiarism: HERE you can read an article by Michelle York for The New York Times, published in 2003.

Two of the sentences in Paolo’s caption are exact, word for word copies from this article. A third sentence in his caption is essentially identical to the article, only taking out the name of the person being quoted. I did not see any citations for Pellegrin using York’s article.

Of course, the information provided for the description of the photographs can’t be accurate coming from a ten year old article. (In the footnote below, we compare Pellegrin’s submitted captions with the language of the NYT article.)

As one of Keller’s professors in the photojournalism program, Loret Steinberg had a chance to discuss this experience in the lull before anyone, including the larger photography community and the prize organizations themselves, absorbed this accounting. As Steinberg wrote to Keller, who was a student in her Ethics and Photojournalism class:

“Some of these issues of representation (image prep for dark and moody, seeing things in front of the camera in the same way no matter what the subject, etc.) are part of an ongoing ethics discussion. I’m sure you recall Patrick Schneider’s NC POY awards being taken from him — I used that example in ethics to introduce the ways that people expect photographs to represent what the reasonable viewer in our democracy would have seen had he/she been there.

Pellegrin’s photograph of you is only one aspect of a larger issue of authenticity, definitely makes anyone question other things he’s done and how he’s photographed people to show something he wants to show. Other photographers who leapt beyond the line forced us to re-examine their work more carefully (Bo Christensen, Schneider, Allen Deitrich, Edgar Martins, Brian Walski, et al). Yes, his work is powerful but he’s presenting it as photojournalism and documentary. That comes with a huge responsibility and expectation.

It is sad, really, that Pellegrin chose to do these things. Even without your photograph and its misrepresentation, there are people in Rochester (including me) who question his heavy-handed depiction of the real problems and issues that exist in the city. Our profession isn’t just about making pretty pictures that win awards but about making powerful photographs that may win awards because they reveal something authentic.”

The misidentification and plagiarism associated with Pellegrin’s photo series is a terrible thing to have to write about. At a time of turbulence in the world and a weakened press, the importance of the photojournalist — in the eyes of citizens, the media, the all-too-trusting award programs and particularly, in the admiring gaze of those who aspire to report with a camera — cannot be overstated.

Still, the need for integrity and authenticity cannot be overstated either.

UPDATE 1: Jim Johnson teaches at U. of Rochester, not RIT. Our apologies.

UPDATE 2: We welcome Paolo Pellegrin’s response to the postOur immediate reply here.

UPDATE 3: Our response to the World Press Photo Pellegrin review and our role five days later.

—————–

FOOTNOTE: Below are the Pellegrin submitted captions for WPP, POYi, and Sony World Photography Award. They are mostly the same. In each caption/description, the numbers refer to exactly or nearly exact text in the December 24, 2003 New York Times article about The Crescent.

Pellegrin’s description published with the series as it appeared in the 2013 WPP Award gallery:

The area of Rochester, New York, USA, where these pictures were taken is part of the so-called ‘Crescent’, a moon-shaped area that runs across several city neighborhoods. Crime rates here are significantly higher than the rest of Rochester. 1. The Crescent is home to 27 percent of the city’s residents and 80 percent of the city’s homicides. 2. The causes of the burst of violence include the lagging upstate economy, a steady migration of residents to the suburbs, and a growing number of abandoned houses prone to become centers of drug sales and use. Rochester also has a school system that performs poorly. 3. People inside the Crescent experience those problems in greater concentration.

Pellegrin’s description published with the series as it appeared in the 2013 POYI gallery:

The area of Rochester where these pictures have been taken is part of the so called ‘Crescent’, a moon shaped area that runs across several Rochester neighborhoods and where crime rates are significantly higher than the rest of the city.1. The Crescent is home to 27 percent of the city’s residents and 80 percent of the city’s homicides.2. The reasons behind the burst of violence include the lagging upstate economy, a steady migration of residents to the suburbs and a growing number of abandoned houses prone to become centers of drug sales and use. Rochester also has a school system that performs poorly. 3. People inside the Crescent experience those problems in greater concentration. ” 4. It’s an area of great poverty and high consumption rate of drugs which fuels an incredibly high number of homicides,” said the Rochester police chief.

Pellegrin’s description published with the series as it appeared in the 2013 Sony World Photography Award write-up (for different photo in series):

“A man is arrested by the Rochester police after having assaulted his father with a samurai sword” by Paolo Pellegrin, Italy, 2013 Sony World Photography Award (Finalist for Current Affairs)

Photographer’s description: A man is arrested by the Rochester, N.Y., police after having assaulted his father with a samurai sword. 1. The Crescent is home to 27 percent of the city’s residents and 80 percent of the city’s homicides.  2. The reasons behind the burst of violence include the lagging upstate economy, a steady migration of residents to the suburbs and a growing number of abandoned houses prone to become centers of drug sales and use. Rochester also has a school system that performs poorly. 3. People inside the Crescent experience those problems in greater concentration. ” 4. It’s an area of great poverty and high consumption rate of drugs which fuels an incredibly high number of homicides,” said the Rochester police chief.

Paragraph in question from The New York Times December 24, 2003 article,Mean Streets of New York? Increasingly, They’re Found in Rochester.

1. The crescent is home to 27 percent of the city’s residents and 80 percent of the city’s homicides. 2. The reasons behind the burst of violence, according to Professor Klofas, include the lagging upstate economy, a steady migration of residents to the suburbs and a growing number of abandoned houses prone to become centers of drug sales and use. Rochester also has a school system that performs poorly. 3. People inside the crescent experience those problems in greater concentration. 4. ”It’s an area of great poverty and high consumption rate of drugs which fuels an incredibly high number of homicides,” said the Rochester police chief, Robert J. Duffy.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/chinaportrait CHINA

    World Press Photo: a wasteland of HDR-manipulation and plagiarism. Magnum: a crumbling museum resting on its laurels from a different age.

    Anyone else agree that its time for the old guard of photographers, their agencies and their “contests” to retire?

    • Amit

      Why Photojournalism is in such a state, ask The New York Times (NYT).

      In 2004, NYT brought in a contract with its freelance photographers. It stated that NYT would syndicate the images to its subscribers without any compensation to the photographer. Usage in sister publication (IHT) would also be free.

      The argument was simple. It was just too hard to be ethical (in many ways than one) and survive if the copyrights were taken away.

      Those who resisted the contract, lost their assignments. Anyone who agreed to the terms of the contract, was hired. Background checks, it seems did not matter.

      Once NYT was able to muscle its contract through, rest of the media houses followed. Ethical Photojournalists found little work, opportunists took centre stage. Anyone with a camera, willing to work on ridiculous one sided contracts started calling themselves “Photojournalists”.

      More examples that I can cite:

      Bloomberg credits photographers who are not authors of those images they claim to be. When someone reports, they shoot the messenger.

      AP, hires photographer who are fired by competing agency for unethical work practices.

      Examples will go on…

      When the priority is cost cutting, what else would you have expected, if not thriving of unethical work practices of various kind?

      What is to be understood is that it is very easy to make pictures being unethical. After all, a war can be created in a hollywood studio.

      In order to pay respect to those who loose their life in order to produce that one honest image (and caption), publications and agencies need to understand that these people also need to survive.

      Just another perspective. Like it or not.

    • Ed Hamlin

      China – I think you are off base in your statement. There are a number of younger photojournalists who have forged their metal through the “Old Guard Contests” because they are inclusive of the new era of photojournalism.

      Magnum is quite diverse in their membership, if you have the metal and stock to show you can make it in the cooperative group. I wonder what you think about a couple of the worlds largest agencies (AP, AFP, UPI).

    • Bchalifour

      The problem is that it is not Magnum’s “Old Guard” as you call it but its New Guard that has lost a sense of direction since Magnum’s traditional market collapse.What thing they seem to lack is professional ethics.
      Postcards from America looks like a superficial advertising farce. Much ado about nor much.

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  • bjorn

    Talking about ethics: – It would be ethical to let Pellegrin have the opportunity to
    answer to these accusations in this article. Attacking unethical methods of journalism
    with other unethical methods of journalism…..its just not very clever….

    • http://www.facebook.com/vincent.tosto Vincent J Tosto

      Can you enumerate the unethical methods of journalism?

    • http://profiles.google.com/robshookphoto Rob Shook

      What “unethical methods of journalism” were used in this article? The subject of the photograph is the one laying the accusations, and they can be easily corroborated by a number of other students and faculty who were around when Magnum was working on this project.

      When I saw the photo, my first reaction was to question why Shane was part of the story. There are obvious problems with using him as part of a story about Rochester crime – he doesn’t and hasn’t ever lived in the part of Rochester being talked about, he is a student who was working with Magnum to find sources, he isn’t and never was a sniper, etc.

      Not to mention Paolo has as much ability to respond as you do.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eriknnelson Erik Nelson

      He had his chance, and his response was pathetic; more damning than redeeming. Journalism already had too many dramatists. It needs people who can be trusted.

    • bchalifour

      Talking about work ethics: have you read the link above to Pellegrin’s reply.
      In that case it has nothing with ethics as the facts already come from several sources that confirm each other. So the ethics are safe. Interesting yes, and this has been provided (unfortunately Pellegrin is not very convincing to say the least). Reading a whole text before commenting on it might be a good start for work ethics. ;o)

      UPDATE 2: We welcome Paolo Pellegrin’s response to the post. Our immediate reply here.
      – See more at:
      http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2013/02/when-reality-isn%E2%80%99t-dramatic-enough-misrepresention-in-a-world-press-and-picture-of-the-year-winning-photo/#sthash.APqFjImw.dpuf
      UPDATE 2: We welcome Paolo Pellegrin’s response to the post. Our immediate reply here.
      – See more at:
      http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2013/02/when-reality-isn%E2%80%99t-dramatic-enough-misrepresention-in-a-world-press-and-picture-of-the-year-winning-photo/#sthash.APqFjImw.dpuf

  • Youngblood

    As an ‘emerging photographer’, it’s incredibly discouraging to see the standards of ethics set(in the field and in post) to be worthy of admiration and praise. These contests are presented with such prestige, it’s difficult for the new generation of pjs, caught in the bloodbath of trying to get your name on the map, to not conform to the expectation. I wish WPP/POYI/etc would realize the repercussions their own ethics could have on the future of the industry.

  • Mikey

    Please note that Jim Johnson is a professor at The University of Rochester not R.I.T.

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  • filbertdee

    Wow, that is shocking. He is a photographer whose work I greatly respected/

  • John Boal

    Basically this calls into question everything Pellegrin has done. It obviously begs the questions, “Has he done this before [misrepresent a person in a photo]?” and “If someone as ‘esteemed’ as Pellegrin is doing this, are other photographers doing this, as well?” How many “Award-winning” images and stories are built on lies and deceit? This is a sad day for documentary photography. Real bummer to read this.

    • mickey

      Seriously? OK, I’ll take the bait. Yes, photographers have been making portraits of people and including them in documentary projects for a long, long time. Take a deep breath, it’ll seem less dramatic in a few days.

  • Jay F.

    This makes me rethink all of Pellegrin’s work.

  • Scarabus

    I can’t help wondering why a person would do the sort of thing alleged here. What’s Pellegrin’s general reputation and track record? When he makes a statement, please give us an update.

  • Manuello Paganelli

    My first reaction to this loaded missile is, “In fairness, was Magnum or Paolo P reached out before writing this article and going public?” No knowing what their response would be and If all of these things are true then the revelations here are very disturbing and viciously damaging including the article mentioned here and credited to Pellegrin which is similar to the one that appeared 10 yrs earlier in the NYT.

    Again, if all of these writings are in fact accurate then Shane Keller is asking the right questions as to why a well known photographer representing such a distinguish photo agency with a long standing pedigree would stoop to that level for the sake of raking up awards. No to mention the negative repercussion in so many ramifications that could come knocking on Mr. Keller’s door for years to come.

    I too would love to hear the other version from Paolo & Magnum and if Keller is right then why those steps where taken which clearly violates and goes beyond the proper moral conduct of photojournalist all across the globe.

    Manuello Paganelli
    Los Angeles California
    http://www.ManuelloPaganelli.com

    • Mickey

      “why a well known photographer representing such a distinguish photo
      agency with a long standing pedigree would stoop to that level”

      Stoop to what level? One of the students who was working with him was a gun enthusiast. Pellegrin included him in a photo essay about a city with lots of gun violence. The subject of the photo agreed to be photographed in that context — it is hard to imagine that he didn’t know how his picture might be used — he was a friend of the other student who was Pellegrin’s guide.

      Maybe some of the drama in the responses to this story should be redirected…is it not a problem that so many students have personal arsenals? Are their weapons somehow not capable of killing? How is it that you and so many others cannot see the connection?

  • http://www.pelicancards.com/ David Bennett

    Maybe I missed it, – did you ask Pellegrin for his comments before you published? If not, what led you to not ask him?

    • Craig Beyers

      Well, let’s ask that question from the other direction: did Mr. Pellegrin ask Mr. Keller or the professors permission to inaccurately caption the photos and misrepresent Mr. Keller’s background before he submitted the pictures and accompanying text–publishing them, in effect–for WPP/POY? If not, why not? Doesn’t a documentary photographer have the responsibility to ensure the facts are correct?

      The ethical problems I have with this photo are 1) that the picture wasn’t taken in the area the caption states; 2) the subject isn’t as described by the photographer’s description; 3) the subject isn’t related or involved in the crime in the area that is the context for the photographic series; 4) the gun isn’t a sniper rifle, it’s a shotgun; 5) the photographer refused to accept the subject’s personal information. It’s an interesting photograph (IMHO), but nothing about the photograph represents the documentation of the series.

    • DenCoyle

      Did Pellegrin ask Shane for his comments before he published ? If not why not, other than he knew Shane knew the truth already and he had a Lie to market !

  • Robert

    Pellegrin’s response throws the cat among the pigeons, don’t you think?https://nppa.org/node/36604 And isn’t there a lot of testimony that should be tested in thew article, or at least challenged, perhaps by the photographer himself if we are espousing journalistic standards? Such as: “That’s when Paolo wanted to shoot a few more portraits of us down there. I’m assuming it was because it looked scarier down there and would go better with his story of “abandoned houses prone to become centers of drug sales and use.”

  • Jay F.

    Pellegrin’s response: https://nppa.org/node/36604

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.steinberg3 Michael Steinberg

      With respect to the image, he argues for
      the legitimacy of portraits, which is reasonable but beside the point.
      Beyond that he has two major points: (1) He wasn’t sure where he was in
      Rochester, whether he was in the Crescent or not; and (2) he believes
      that gun aficionados and gun culture are part of the problem that
      manifests itself in the Crescent. As for the first, he is a journalist
      and he could easily have found out where he was; no fluidity in the
      description of the Crescent would ever encompass the location where he photographed Shane, so I simply can’t buy this excuse at all. Whatever he captioned the image, it was part of a series about the Crescent, so there has to be some connection. That brings up his other point. The idea that unrelated people who own or like guns has a connection to the drug-related violence in inner city neighborhoods seems like a stretch to me, but it’s an arguable position. The problem is that sticking in a picture like this doesn’t show us that position or do anything to back it up. It’s justified only by the idea, which happens to be undisclosed in the body of work itself. If he thought that inner city poverty was connected with capitalism–another, perhaps more justifiable analysis–would it be proper to do an environmental portrait of some CEO and drop it into the middle of this work? Pellegrin’s reply does an incredibly good job of muddying the waters. This image cannot be reasonably be read as anything other than a documentation of life in a particular neighborhood in Rochester, and it’s demonstrably not that at all.

    • Sascha

      What an outright arrogant reply. He doesn’t even understand the criticism.

      “I’m sorry that Michael Shaw, Loret Steinberg and Shane Keller don’t like my pictures from Rochester. It’s not uncommon for people living in a community to disagree with an outsider’s take. We all know that.”

      “I think his portrait, and even his reaction to it, add an interesting dimension to the story. Shane thinks he and his guns have nothing to do with the violence in the Crescent; I disagree.”

  • R Downes

    Pellegrin’s response: https://nppa.org/node/36604

  • Hasi

    I wonder if he has ever created any ‘true’ documents of the Palestinians’ conflict with the Zionist invaders. Would be interesting to see how he distorts the story to satisfy the Jewish Money behind hi agency.

    • http://profiles.google.com/robshookphoto Rob Shook

      While I worry now about their veracity, Pellegrin’s photos of Gazans published in National Geographic do not seem to cater to Israeli sentiments and offer some of the best and only evidence of understanding of the Gazan plight I’ve seen.

  • Forest McMullin

    It seems to me that Pellegrin’s explanation of the photo and its caption are murky, but his explanation for plagiarizing the 2003 NYT article is unacceptable. Am I off-base?

    • Jason Keller

      I think you’re pretty keen on that. It doesn’t explain why his background info(never meant to be published) was from 2003, though. That’s sloppy and lazy in itself.

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  • Simon

    who cares.

  • stanco55

    “I also realized that to tell more fully the story of gun violence in
    Rochester, as exemplified by what I was seeing in the Crescent, I wanted
    to make some portraits of gun aficionados.”

    Wow! Uhmmmm…. why didn’t he snap a few more photos of all that gun violence he was personally witnessing in the Crescent- instead of taking “portraits” of gun aficionados on its periphery?

  • bks3bks

    If only we’d paid this much attention to Colin Powell’s bullsh*t UN pictures.

    –bks

    • kd

      thanks for the laugh.

  • http://www.petercalvin.com Peter A. Calvin

    “While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph.” Lewis Wickes Hine

    At a time when people argue about the ease of altering digital images, it only takes a few words to change the meaning of a photograph.

  • carl frederick

    Folks, this is not rocket science. Barring some cognitive disorder that prevented Mr. Pellegrin from understanding what he was doing, it’s a bald faced lie and he got caught. This is not a court of law, we do not, should not, be required to offer the offender an opportunity to explain the lie when the facts are so clearly not in dispute. This is not an accusation begging for an explanation (unless, of course, someone else was responsible and Mr. Pellegrin had nothing to do with the deception). Who cares WHY he did it. I don’t care. He did it. Have we lost the guts to call it as it is? If you play the political correctness game with the liar, believe me, he will find a way to spin the truth to his advantage. The best Mr. Pellegrin can do is apologize, then hope we’re all dumb enough to believe that an “apology” makes everything hunky dory again.
    carl frederick

  • Scarabus

    I’m glad we got Pellegrin’s response. But I think it makes him look worse, not better. Experienced teachers here will find it familiar. it’s a common response from students who have been caught plagiarizing.

    • Sudipto

      Exactly. If he says he is not responsible for the caption or even the entry then he should return the award. It is not an award for just a photograph with impact. It is an award for a news photo. Both the news and the photo in this case are fake. So is the award, it seems. The person who called the bluff should be awarded.

    • bchalifour

      Could not have said it better (ans more gently ;o) ).

  • stifledgenius

    Hey Michael:

    Great pice. I do wish, as Bjorn stated earlier, that you would have reached out to Pelligrin to see if he’d like to comment on the facts coming out. We can all look down our noses at someone who lies, but who are we kidding, we’ve all done it at one time or another to some degree. I’d love your next article to delve into why the photography culture is evolving the way it is. PJ’s lying, NYT refusing to print pics from Syria, etc. The last decade has seen a huge shift in our industry that needs to be explored.

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  • Cactus

    I did read
    Pellegrin’s response and found it disingenuous. As Michael Steinberg pointed
    out, he did make a couple of points, but they were weak defensive moves. I
    suppose it’s hard to defend yourself with eggs all over your face.

    If he is so unsure
    of his landscape, why is he there in the first place? At best one could say
    they are the photos of a tourist; and one with an agenda at that. I could go to
    Venice, Italy, and take a portrait of an old woman sweeping down her steps, but
    it wouldn’t be photo-journalism. Especially if I went there with the intent of
    photographing poor old women living in poverty among the ruins of a once-great
    city. I suspect the best one could say about Pellegrin is that he was lazy —
    in the planning, execution and ultimately the submission for consideration by
    award committees. And here is where Michael’s earlier question about using the
    USA as the current whipping boy for the world comes into play. (http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2013/02/world-press-photo-13-flagging-america/)

    As for the
    responsibility of BagNewsNotes in publishing this criticism, if every movie
    reviewer had to contact the director of said movie for comment before publishing
    the review, the industry would come to a stand-still. I see a lot of unfamiliar
    names on this particular post and wonder what brought them here. I also detect
    a bit of high dudgeon in some of the comments. Sides have been taken and the
    war must go on.

    In years past on the
    Bag, some photographers and some subjects of the photos have dropped in to
    comment — and not always favorably. Michael always welcomes them and prints
    their comments. As far as I know he has not asked any of them to reply to one
    of his posts. And I don’t really see any reason for him to do so this time.
    Mr. Pellegrin is a big boy and I’m sure this isn’t the first criticism of his
    work he has ever come across.

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  • Frank Cost

    Pellegrin’s mistake was to use someone who is a follower of
    the media in which he operates as a prop for one of his staged photographs. His
    normal props are people who will never see their images in published formats
    because they do not consume information from those media.

    • bchalifour

      I am not sure this is really the mistake. ;o)

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  • M
  • kgelner

    I’m not sure why things like this would surprise anyone when the overall decline in ethics in journalisms continues unchecked – why should we assume that photojournalists are any more ethical than the people that write the stories?

    In a group of photos like “journalism photos of the year” I pretty much assume 90% of the content is outright lies and staged photos. It’s a shame for the few people left that are still honest…

  • stevesailer

    Black drug dealers murder each other because white guys in Ed Hardy shirts legally own guns: i.e., it’s all the White Man’s fault.

  • ImaHeadaU

    Give me a break. You criticize Paolo Pellegrin for not telling the whole story and you neglect to tell the whole story yourself. You didn’t give Pellegrin the oportunity to give his side of the story.

    Pellegrin didn’t identify the photo in question as “The Crescent.” He copied data freely available from several sources without providing a source but his sources aren’t the original. Still, this information wasn’t intended for publication. If I’m not mistaken, photojournalists don’t normally write the published captions.

    I don’t see anyone hollering because the photo of the Police hoard of firearms, I assume, wasn’t in “The Crescent” either. “The Crescent” exists in the context of Rochester as well as in the context of a population that has a high rate of ownership of firearms.

    We can argue the validity of including these facts and probably we should but they are still facts.

  • YandMand

    Sounds liek a pretty solid plan to me dude.

    GoAnon.da.bz

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=614941453 Davin Ellicson

    I
    also find it kind of funny that the cover of David Alan Harvey’s book
    on Rio is his assistant. Candy was also on the cover of NatGeo Brazil.
    Candy is not from Brazil and was not just some passerby either. She
    works for Harvey. How is this different?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Todd-McDonald/100002318958748 Todd McDonald

    Jesus Christ! Get to the point!

  • Max

    It is clearly unethical. No argument. I’m actually surprised Paolo responded in the way he did. Very difficult to defend oneself against the indefensible.

    I admire all of Paolo’s work a great deal and the series that this image is from is very good in terms of lighting and composition but how much truth is there in any of the other images. As images they are excellent. As journalism they are suspect.

    A great photographer’s reputation is very badly tarnished in my view.

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  • Bella

    When journalism becomes cinema – a photography student turned into an actor to make belief dangerous lunatics with assault rifles roam the streets of their neighborhoods at night- this is wrong!

  • gudrun

    Dear Mr. Keller,

    You are talking about ethics. But how can You speak of these values, while posing with heavy guns in public. And where is the difference between a U. S. Marine Corps sergeant and a US Marine corp sniper, you want about claim to have killed no one.
    A soldier is a soldier. Where are no good soldiers and no bad soldiers

    A photojournalist, as you want to be don’t pose not in such a way.

    In my eyes, you only want to distinguished yourself at Mr. Pellegrin’s expense.

    You should be ashamed!

    • Shane Keller

      Dear Mr. Gudrun / Anonymous,

      While you’re entitled to your own opinion, I believe you may have a few of the facts mixed up. First, I was not posing in public, I was in my garage. Second, I’m not exactly sure what you mean by a heavy gun, but I’m going to assume you mean a very powerful firearm. What I’m holding is a 12 gauge shotgun, which I don’t think anyone would consider to be a “heavy gun”.

      The difference between being called a sergeant and a sniper is that I never was a sniper. Such a claim may lead people to believe that I lied about my job in the Marine Corps, which I did not. This could negatively effect my integrity.

      I never wanted to distinguish myself in any way at anyone’s expense. My former ethics professor emailed me, asking if I could explain to her how it came to be that I was in Pellegrin’s photograph. My original response was initially only meant for my former professor, nothing else.

    • Gus

      Gudrun,

      I know it is hard for a civilian that sees everything military as evil while still enjoying freedom of speech without knowing who hooked you up with that, and who makes sure you can safely stroll around with blue eyes and have a sweet naive perspective on all things in life, to understand how someone different from you thinks, but I will try to explain since you do not understand.

      You see….there are people that are not exactly like you. The people that wear uniform actually look at the semantic difference of a sniper and a marine in a serious way, and it is in that world Shane Keller has friends and people he interacts with, so I can confirm that it is a real issue to be described as something you are not, and he should not be ashamed for bringing up all the issues with this image. There are some good and important discussion going on just because he dared to do it!

      Still, to most journos, as soon as you look cool, and do something special you are in the high risk of being called Special Forces. There has been times where I have been with units that has been described as Special Forces soldiers by journos I highly respect while the more accurate description would have been “special needs soldiers” :)

      “A photojournalist, as you want to be don’t pose not in such a way.”

      Ohhh….my. I agree with the total stupidness to do such a thing when you are a PJ working in a conflict area, and that is why I am genuine sad to say that I have seen posing pics exactly like that from conflict areas.

      How ever, thank you for telling exactly HOW a PJ should be acting in his own garage.

      I see that in your world there are only a certain activities that are OK….wearing black clothes and zipping redwine at a vernissage is OK, holding hands and singing Cumbaya…all OK.

      When asked by annother PJ to show his gun, and Shane does that…then in your world Shane is no longer a welcome member of the PJ community?

      For me. I love diversity. The more different people with different perspective the better. In my book, naive blue eyed intellectual cubayasingning woman are just as welcome to be a PJ as a former man-soldier that legaly owns a gun or two.

      Will sign this with my real name since you are anonymous….

      Nicklas Gustafsson
      ex Combat Camera, Swedish Armed Foreces
      now a freelance PJ….(wheather you like it or not)

  • Scott B.

    Hmmm. I think this is an extremely important debate to have, as the public we serve, as journalists, needs to have a much clearer understanding of what makes information credible. For years now, the NPPA has tried to frame ethical debate using the terms “fair” and “accurate” as benchmarks, and I like this approach. These terms demand a bit of debate in order to clarify their meaning, but I think they are strong springboards for beginning any ethical debate.

    However, I’m always concerned whenever debate turns into self-righteous indignation. I think examining journalistic practice is more useful to society than personal attacks.

    These are what I see as the core issues that should be examined:

    1) The importance of captions and background information. Photographs have an incredibly powerful ability to move us, and those emotional impressions stay with us, as memory is largely visual. However, images must be placed in their proper context in order for the audience to fully understand the significance of those images. As journalists, we have to help connect the dots. Captions including a name and a place and a date, whenever possible, lend substantial credibility to visual journalism. In fact, it’s necessary for the “journalism” part of photojournalism.

    2) Generational and cultural divide. “Old school” elitism vs. “Contemporary”… what? I think we need to be careful here, and historical context needs to be a part of the discussion. Journalistic practice and standards can be seen differently, not only between generations, but can vary from continent-to-continent, country-to-country – by both practitioners and audiences. Paolo Pellegrin is Italian, comes from a different journalistic tradition, and shoots largely for an audience with different expectations for journalism. That, by no means, makes him beyond reproach. But that HAS to be part of the discussion. Much has been written recently about the methods of iconic photographer W. Eugene Smith, particularly the extent to which many of his photographs were staged and his defense of that practice. Does that negate his efforts and the impact his photographs had on his audience? It’s worth discussion, but I wouldn’t be too hasty in condemnation without first examining the practice within the context of his time. And without considering how those methods are STILL widely practiced in television photojournalism and documentary filmmaking.

    3) The role of “advocacy” journalism. While many are unsatisfied with Pellegrin’s responses, I think his pointing out that sometimes folks are upset by an outsider’s point-of-view is something valid to consider. I personally believe that no one source of information should or can be taken as definitive. Period. I believe that the best way to understand issues is when a consensus of facts begins to emerge from a variety of sources. And different points-of-view should be considered. Again, personally, I think it’s okay for journalists to present a point-of-view. In fact, that’s how most meaningful journalism springs into being. A simple, objective recitation of facts rarely resonates with an audience. The value of a journalistic work is most often determined in its ability to convey a message and be persuasive. That said, if a journalist has a distinctive point-of-view, that point-of-view should be disclosed – not only to the audience but to the subjects of a story, as well. Just as good science starts with a rational hypothesis, good journalism should start with a sound and clear premise. In the case of the story at hand, I think it is perfectly rational for a journalist to explore the role gun enthusiasts have in a society where gun violence is such a prominent issue. And I think it’s a debate that gun enthusiasts should want to be represented in. But that point-of-view should have been disclosed to the subject. And I think the debate on whether or not the portrait of Mr. Keller should have been used in the story is less important than the debate about whether or not the photographer and his agency helped connect the dots for the audience. The caption and the background info were inadequate, in my opinion.

    4) Where do we go from here? For the next generation of photojournalists or “emerging photographers,” I would say, don’t be discouraged. This is a topic worthy of discussion. In fact, it’s imperative to make these debates as public as possible because in today’s world, with infinite sources of information, credibility is how you will establish your value to society and allow you to actually make a living being a journalist. Ultimately, the goal is to connect with our audiences. To persuade them that what our photographs depict is important so they may make informed choices about their lives and about how they are governed.

    Hope this doesn’t sound too “preachy,” but I like to see spirited and constructive debate.

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  • Lincoln Bagwell

    aads

  • Timothy colwell

    fdsasd

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  • http://twitter.com/briansmithphoto Brian Smith

    I did not want to comment on this until I’d had the opportunity to hear from Paolo Pellegrin. Having read his explanation on the NPPA blog, I am still bothered by that this photograph is not what it purports to be.

    Yes, the photograph is a portrait – but it’s a portrait in the context of reportage – so any rational viewer would expect it to be true.

    When Anton Corbijn put a gun in George Clooney’s hands in “The American,” he is an actor playing a role. If Annie Leibovitz were to put a gun in George Clooney’s hands on the cover Vanity Fair, no one would mistake Clooney for a crazed lone gunman.

    Pellegrin’s photograph is not an actor playing a role nor a portrait of a celebrity in an overtly outrageous situation.

    The photograph purports to be real. It is not.

    The description of the subject is not accurate. The location is not where Pellegrin claims it to be. The caption is lifted straight out 2003. It’s lazy, shoddy reporting to assume facts reported a decade ago are still the facts today. Odds are that crime statistics in the area are much more likely to have increased or decreased than to remained constant for the last decade.

    The fuss over post-processing is misplaced. Post-processing is no more the lie here than it is in iconic photographs by Gene Smith or Sebastião Salgado. It’s not the “look” that should be the issue. It’s their truth.

    The take-away lesson is that reporting should be honest and true.

    That’s Journalism 101.

  • Amit

    Why Photojournalism is in such a state, ask The New York Times (NYT).

    In 2004, NYT brought in a contract with its freelance photographers. It stated that NYT would syndicate the images to its subscribers without any compensation to the photographer. Usage in sister publication (IHT) would also be free.

    The argument was simple. It was just too hard to be ethical (in many ways than one) and survive if the copyrights were taken away.

    Those who resisted the contract, lost their assignments. Anyone who agreed to the terms of the contract, was hired. Background checks, it seems did not matter.

    Once NYT was able to muscle its contract through, rest of the media houses followed. Ethical Photojournalists found little work, opportunists took centre stage. Anyone with a camera, willing to work on ridiculous one sided contracts started calling themselves “Photojournalists”.

    More examples that I can cite:

    Bloomberg credits photographers who are not authors of those images they claim to be. When someone reports, they shoot the messenger.

    AP, hires photographer who are fired by competing agency for unethical work practices.

    Examples will go on…

    When the priority is cost cutting, what else would you have expected, if not thriving of unethical work practices of various kind?

    What is to be understood is that it is very easy to make pictures being unethical. After all, a war can be created in a hollywood studio.

    In order to pay respect to those who loose their life in order to produce that one honest image (and caption), publications and agencies need to understand that these people also need to survive.

    Just another perspective. Like it or not.

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  • Davin Ellicson

    Everyone who is criticizing Pellegrin should watch the video here
    (scroll down). He seems to be all about research, hard work and quality.
    I think part of the issue is the difference between American style
    newspaper photojournalism and the much more artistic and interpretive
    European style long espoused by the likes of Gilles Peress and other
    Magnum photographers:

    http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/ambassadors/paolo_pellegrin.do

  • Ed Hamlin

    Extremely disappointing, I think he should return the award and try again next year with the ethics required as a photojournalist. Times are tough but you don’t create the news you have to look for it and that is where hard work with a bunch of sweat equity brings the credibility to a story that is needed.

    There are many who believe this is the reason for the decline of photojournalism, they apparently don’t read enough and are not keeping up with how technology and production costs are true reasons for the demise of outlets and the small number of actual staff positions.

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  • Melissa
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  • Wolfenotes

    I come to this debate 10 months late, reading your end of year top stories.

    My question is this:

    suppose the point of that staged garage photo was not to display gun violence in the central city, but to show the paranoid racist weaponizing of scared white people on the periphery?

    Would that change anything?

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  • bjorn

    that Pellegrin not has had the opportunity to respond to the accusations… its a basic principle of journalism that if someone is criticised in one way or another, they should be offered the possibility to argue their side of the story….

  • bjorn

    ….beeing able to respond to critics in the “comments” under the article is not enough. Seriously!

    I don’t argue that the article might have valid information.. but these are very serious accusations – threatening the most important tool a photojournalist has: his trustworthiness. So presenting this article without giving Paolo an opportunity to respond, is in my view, unethical.

  • Michael Steinberg

    Bjorn, this isn’t a situation where there are a number of possible explanations for the event, some of which might be innocent; if that were the situation I could see your point. this is different. We have the subject of the photograph clearly recalling the circumstances under which it was made, and it’s unquestionably true that the he has no connection with the subject of the story and the image was not made in that part of Rochester. This isn’t a subjective criticism. It’s as close as anything gets to pure objectivity, and can be set out on its own. I think Michael was completely within his rights to run the story without talking to Pellegrin first, and that this was ethical too. I must disclose that I’m Loret’s husband, but my opinion on this is based on my own thinking and not as a brief in her defense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.steinberg3 Michael Steinberg

    Bjorn, this isn’t a situation where
    there are a number of possible
    explanations for the event, some of
    which might be innocent; if that
    were the situation I could see your
    point. this is different. We have
    the subject of the photograph
    clearly recalling the circumstances
    under which it was made, and it’s
    unquestionably true that the he has
    no connection with the subject of
    the story and the image was not made
    in that part of Rochester. This
    isn’t a subjective criticism. It’s
    as close as anything gets to pure
    objectivity, and can be set out on
    its own. I think Michael was
    completely within his rights to run
    the story without talking to
    Pellegrin first, and that this was
    ethical too. I must disclose that
    I’m Loret’s husband, but my opinion
    on this is based on my own thinking
    and not as a brief in her defense.

  • http://profiles.google.com/robshookphoto Rob Shook

    The question is whether or not the accusations are false. Bagnewsnotes is under no obligation to withold posts until an opportunity to respond is presented just as Pellegrin has no obligation to withold a World Press Entry until all of his subjects have been confirmed by a third party.

    Both simply have the responsibility, within the context of journalism, to report as accurately as possible.

    What, exactly, are you suggesting Bagnewsnotes should have done beyond what they already did? They already researched extensively. The issue was raised by the subject, and there are numerous corroborators – of which, I am one.

    Are you saying they have the responsibility to withold the story until they get a response?

  • bjorn

    An article based solely on one source (an important one, I agree, but still just one) can clearly not be viewed upon as “as close as anything gets to pure objectivity”, it is indeed a subjective criticism. Its based on Kellers memory and interpretation of the situation, and what do we really know about his motives?

    and yes, its probably true that he wasn’t a sniper, even though this is stated in the caption of the photograph – that’s a mistake, and should be corrected…
    but mistakes like this happens in journalism every day, and can not be considered a huge thing.

    and yes, it might be that its taken a bit outside the area called “the
    crecent”, but even Keller admit to not knowing what parts of Rochester is considered the Crecent, so this might be a question of interpretation…(and the caption of the photo only says Rochester)

    The whole article is build on the assumption that Pablo deliberately have lied to make the story more dramatic, and that is what I would call a “professional homicide” from the writers side.. and not letting Pablo respond to this is, still in my view, extremely unethical.

  • Mickey

    “and it’s unquestionably true that the he has no connection with the subject of the story” — NOT true. The “story” was feature length which REQUIRES subjectivity on the part of the photographer. The individual photos are momentary glimpses that add up to a whole. If Pellegrin saw Shane’s affection for guns as part of the problem, and Shane agreed to be photographed as part of the project, then Shane is ABSOLUTELY a legitimate part of the story.

    Furthermore, if you think that guns and gun owners in rough neighborhoods have no connection to guns and gun owners in ’safe’ neighborhoods, perhaps you should lay off the cool aid.

  • Melissa

    Michael – Oh my, you really believe what you are writing. ?

    You are speaking of objectivity with ONE SIDE OF THE STORY!? You are calling Shane’s account objective (you weren’t even there) and didn’t give Pellegrin’s response even a wink of a care BEFORE airing this. And now? Are you seriously blinded? And an Ethics teacher? My god, I had already lost my interest in photojournalism (thou not photography) but this really reinforces why.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.steinberg3 Michael Steinberg

    No, there is no ambiguity about where the photograph was made. It was in the basement garage of a suburban apartment complex many miles from the Crescent area, and Pellegrin knew that Shane had nothing to do with what was going on in the Crescent because Shane was a student in the department which was working closely with him and the other Magnum photographers. I can assure you that there is not a single person in the Rochester metropolitan region who would ever think that this location was in the Crescent. It’s more suburban and quiet than the outskirts of Rochester which Pellegrin showed as context when some of these images (not the present one) were published in Die Zeit. Pellegrin was not ignorant of the geography of Rochester, and the question is not Shane’s idea of the Crescent’s location but what Pellegrin knew or claimed to know. If I were to say that Oslo is in Denmark I can’t pass that off as an innocent error in interpretation, especially if I’m doing a story about Denmark. There is simply no wiggle room here, no possibility of innocent mistake or misunderstanding. There is no way that Pellegrin could have thought that this was taken in the Crescent or had anything to do with the issues there. There’s no way that he could have thought that Shane had any connection with that area. As for your other point, the caption may say only “Rochester,” but this was part of a WPP story specifically on the Crescent, so there too the conclusion is inescapable that Pellegrin used an unrelated photograph taken outside the area he was supposedly documenting and included it as part of that documentation. That’s not an assumption. It’s a conclusion based on first hand information–that of Shane and that of Loret, who was his professor.

  • Stan B.

    I don’t understand. Exactly who is “not letting Pablo respond?” The guy is a working media professional or Chrissakes! If anyone has the access and opportunity to respond (and/or spin this) wherever and however they want- it’s him. This is a place where the formerly voiceless go to get heard.

    The question is more- why has he chosen not to respond as of yet?

  • bjorn

    hmmm…the expression “professional homicide” might not make sense in english…;) it means that it would be a very hard attack on Pablos profession, because it would destroy his credebility, hence a killing of his profession… sorry if it could be interpreted different!

  • Derin Korman

    That is not necessarily a basic principle of journalism, but a concession made to politicos and corporate big-wigs by media in the neoliberal world, to the threat of cutting future access to information.
    It would be true if we were publishing hear-say or opinion, but this is a fairly documented account of an event as told by one of those involved.

  • http://www.pelicancards.com/ David Bennett

    Sure, ask. But the one doesn’t affect the other. I asked a question of the author as to what he did or did not do, and why.

  • http://www.pelicancards.com/ David Bennett

    The one thing is not the other.

    The author is calling Pellegrin on what he is said to have done. Pellegrin may well have done what is being said of him. He may well be a cheat.

    Or maybe Pellegrin is doing a year-long expose of truth in photojournalism and he left a letter with his lawyer beforehand describing how he was going to ‘forge’ an event and then document all the bad things that were said about him by people.

    That’s probably far fetched – but it seems to me that when an author sits down to criticise a photojournalist (or anybody else) – then he would want to know what the man himself had to say on the subject.

    That’s why i asked the author whether he invited Pellegrin to respond, and if he didn’t then why not?

    Maybe Michael Shaw will respond, and then I’ll know.

  • bjorn

    I would say they have a responsability to at least present the information to Pellegrin and give him the opportunity to respond to the critics in the article, before it is published. And as you can se in Pellegrins respons (https://nppa.org/node/36604), they did not do that.

    And that is bad journalistic handcraft… as it was bad journalistic handcraft of Pellegrin to write that Keller was a sniper, when he was not. But I would say that Bagnewsnotes mistake was the worst of the two…

  • bjorn

    As you can see he has given a repons now, and with very valid arguments. This is my point exactly! This article has circulated on the web for many hours before Pellegrin has had the opportunity to give a respons. Many of those reading this article will probarbly never read Pellegrins respons, and therefor loose out on important information in this story…they will be stuck with the impression that Pellgrin is a liar and a fraud, and the reality is not so simple. So its just not fair journalism to bring this story without giving him the opportunity to respond to it first….

  • William Reeves

    With all due respect, the waters were muddied with this poorly reported story. What was presented was a clear-cut, black and white, story, which was in fact one side of a story that is more grey than it initially appeared. This is precisely the reason many comments questioned why Pellegrin was not contacted for his version of the events. The author assumed something nefarious and went with it.

    I actually find his response to be quite acceptable. Given that this was a self-initiated story looking at a broad issue, I see no issue with the inclusion of a portrait such as this. You can argue with the success or failure of this approach, but the article did something quite different, it openly attacked a journalist’s credibility, and did so without offering opportunity to rebut the allegations.

    At this point I am already over this popping up in my feed and am ready for it to die. Much has been made over something that I do not truly believe contains any legitimate ill intent. At worst it appears as though some miscommunication occurred but certainly nothing that deserves calling into question this man’s entire career as many are leaping to do.

  • Wolfenotes

    suppose the point was not to display gun violence in the city but the paranoid racist weaponizing of scared white people on the periphery?

  • bjorn

    I could not agree more with this comment.

    This whole thing should be put dead now, and if there should be any remark about it in future historybook, it should be that the most unethical part in this story is Bagnewsnotes – not Pellegrin.

  • stanco55

    Interesting- exactly what and how does that “portrait” add to the story at hand… a shot that is more disassociated action than portrait, a shot that can be easily misconstrued as: vigilante rounding up posse; family man protecting hearth and home amidst surging drug violence; former Marine, now crack enforcer guarding lab…

    Ridiculous!

  • DenCoyle

    Well I read Spin! If there is Merit, Libel will be fresh grease for the slick-back lawyers.

  • stanco55

    Response, yeah. Valid??? Seriously???

    The few people concerned enough to read this are more than anxious andwilling to hear his explanation- instead, we have to settle for his rather lame excuses.

  • Sascha

    Sorry, but “Those people just don’t like my photos” and “Everybody knows that” are not valid arguments.

  • William Reeves

    What the photo adds is debatable and gets to my point as to people being able to argue the success of his approach, which is irrelevant to this article in my opinion. This article clearly calls into question Pellegrin’s integrity, which I take issue with given the way the story was presented, as well as his response. As for the portrait being easily misconstrued, this would hardly be the first image to suffer that fate, although I did not read nearly as much into it as you did in this instance. Again, not saying he couldnt have handled this better, but i am saying I feel his integrity is not the issue here.

  • Mickey

    Of course Shane is part of what is going on in your city, regardless of what neighborhood he lives in. The guy owns several guns, and was proud enough of them to allow himself to be photographed with them.
    The fact that Shane is a photo student suggests that he knew A) something about the kinds of photos Pellegrin makes and B) at least a little bit about how he would ultimately be rendered. I understand wanting to protect your students from bad decisions, but there are holes in your bucket, my friend.

    In what parallel universe is it possible to say that guns owned by people like him have no connection to the broader community and to the culture of violence that we ALL have to deal with?

  • Melissa

    I don’t think that’s the point. I don’t think Pellegrin wanted to say: here’s Shane, he’s about to chase someone down in the Crescent.

    He’s European. They see gun control MUCH differently. As I’ve posted before, he isn’t an American-schooled photographer (and thank god, i must add… sorry to offend anyone, but its true). There is a European tradition of interpretation and symbolism and much less literal storytelling. Like it or not, that’s how it is.

    Now the sniper part is a mistake, and has to be corrected. But I think after reading Pellegrin’s responses (he sounded on guard for sure, and i wonder why) it seems he is trying to link issues, not people.
    This method is NOT accepted by the American school.

  • Stan B.

    or perhaps the original piece should bother to make mention of these “momentary glimpses,” and their relation to the whole. Perhaps he should make mention that this is a gun enthusiast AND a photo student actually involved in the project- NoOT some random “sniper” wandering the streets of Rochester…

    Far as I know, Paolo Pellegrin has produced some truly excellent work in his career- but this is lazy, shoddy, irresponsible journalism at best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.steinberg3 Michael Steinberg

    Whatever opinion I may have about the connection between gun culture and drug and domestic violence is not the issue. The edit as it went to WPP said nothing about gun culture as an element in the story and I can’t see it emerging from the images themselves, few of which actually show gun violence or its consequences. Nobody would know that this was Pellegrin’s connection unless he told them so. In a larger study of guns in the US the connection would be sensible–though the photos of the man arrested for hitting his father with a
    Samurai sword and the intoxicated man arrested for harassing passers by would not fit into that story. Here, though, it comes across as an after the fact excuse. Context is everything, and here the context was misleading and Pellegrin had to know that it was.

  • Shane Keller

    Mickey, you may find it hard to imagine that I didn’t know how this photograph was going to be used, but it is the truth. Although Brett is my friend and was working as Pellegrin’s guide, I did not know the details of what they were working on. At the time I was much too busy with my own school work, preparing to graduate, and looking for jobs to apply for. I knew that Pellegrin wanted to photograph someone with firearms, but I didn’t know exactly why, nor did I really question it. I thought it might have been because I was a Marine combat veteran and a college student with firearms. I certainly had no idea a portrait of me would have been linked to drug issues, gang violence, and homicides. Had I known that, I never would have agreed to be photographed because I don’t feel I represent any of those issues just because I own firearms.

    I also think it would be hard to argue how many students have personal “arsenals”. First, a majority of students live on campus and are not allowed to keep firearms on campus. Second, how would you define an arsenal? One firearm? Two? More than 10? More than 500? And third, does the number of students / citizens who own firearms even matter if they’re not using them illegally? Do you think it is a problem that some law abiding citizens, who happen to be students, have firearms? And of course all firearms are capable of being used to kill, no one is denying that, but that does not mean one is going to use those tools to commit crimes or to murder someone.

  • Manuello Paganelli

    Mickey if you would tell me who you are, and your background or who you represent then I may take you more seriously.

    “The subject of the photo agreed to be photographed in that context — it
    is hard to imagine that he didn’t know how his picture might be used” Just read Shane’s replied to you.

    Like Paolo P my background is Italian, in fact Sicilian, and I grew up in a loving and wonderful home with a brilliant attorney man as my father. We also had guns… hunting guns. Does that mean that a Life photographer could had taken my photo in my village when I was 16 yrs old then once the article came out it would read, “Paganelli’s arms strongly hold his gun close to his chest. And there is a reason for it since his home is near the heart of where the Mafia was born and where mistrust and greed gives rise to violence and death and not having protection can kill you fast. And like other Sicilians one day he too will be part of the hideous cycle and become a Don.” Now that would be a WHOOPER of a connection where only a fool or blind person would see.

    Me, no knowing Shane, by looking at that photo I would had thought that he was ready to go to war outside of his home and ready to shoot and kill whoever, be a child, woman or a man, came his way.

    Manuello Paganelli
    Los Angeles California
    http://www.ManuelloPaganelli.com

  • Shane Keller

    I am proud of my firearms? Pride had nothing to do with me agreeing to being photographed.

    I actually did not know what story Pellegrin was working on, nor did I know he was going to associate me with the violence and drugs in Rochester. I think it’s unfair to say that I’m the one that made a bad decision here.

    Could you please clarify what you mean by saying “people like him”? It sounds like you’re saying that because I’m a gun owner, you have to deal with gun violence. Me being a law-abiding gun owner does not effect the violence that other people commit, especially those living miles away from me.

  • Gus

    If I go for a story about doctors working the frontline in Homs, Syria, but at the end of my time there I feel that I still need a shoot of blood on the OR-floor…(obvious reason is that I seen so much of it after a week there, that I still need a shot of it ) I ask my fixer If he can get me in to an OR, and he says yes, and drives me back to Qoubayaat on the Lebanese side of the border where is brother in law work as a surgeon. At that location he is preforming a scheduled appendectomy on a refugee.
    Some blood spills over at the floor, and I get my shot and I include it in my story about frontline medics in Homs.

    Is this ok because:
    - It´s in the region (the both locations are actually no more than about 47km apart)
    - Everyone in the region is affected by whats going on.

    And I can freely:
    - choose to portray it as being in Homs by including it in a Homs story by just caption it with “Middle East”

    There is no problem that:
    - most people will think it is the blood of a rebel on the floor of a OR in Homs.

    Basically this is the most interesting part of this debate.
    Because with the conclusion of it, we set the rules and the borders for the next generation of PJ:s.

    If Magnum and WPF would line up and state that this is within what is acceptable and there nothing wrong, they are also telling everyone that If you want to be the best….work at Magnum…win WPF…then this is the way you must and should work to be competitive, and It is all OK.

    All you need to say to make it fly is:
    “We where driving all night, It was dark. I did not know if we went around Homs, or in a line away from it”

    For me it is not really black or white, but it is sure in the very dark shades of gray. That is my standing point now, but it might change during this discussion that I think is always good to have.

  • Jason Keller

    “People like him?” What is your open-ended statement trying to imply? People like veterans? Photojournalism students? Gun owners? People with beards? Shane’s role as a student does not predicate that he is aware of Pellegrin’s work, or how he ultimately renders his photos. If anything, he was in the process of learning responsible and ethical methods to be employed as a photojournalist. This is why he was able to raise the question

  • Sascha

    Shane, I think it is quite brave for a student to stand up an tell the world if he notices such questionable behavior from a well known photographer!

    We as journalists can’t afford to cover such things up. This is about the reputation of the whole trade!

    The way that he answers by claiming that you just didn’t like his photos speaks a very clear language.

  • William Reeves

    Shane,

    I think you just pointed out exactly why there is a link between gun owners and the issues you mentioned. It is of much debate in this country right now as to whether or not it is a problem that law abiding citizens have firearms, and what types of firearms they own (I being one of them). This is not the time nor the place, but there certainly is a question in the matter, and just because you disagree does not mean these questions do not exist. I would be willing to bet that a decent number of the “illegal” firearms wandering the Crescent streets killing people were at one point legally owned by a law abiding citizen who had it stolen, or otherwise taken from their possession.

    While I am sorry that you feel as though you were misrepresented, and I do feel that both Mr. Pellegrin and your friend could have done a better job explaining the nature of the project, I actually feel your portrait deserved inclusion, and is in fact a part of the story. You may not directly represent drugs, gangs, etc., but you do represent a part of the debate currently raging in this country.

  • Jason Keller

    After seeing NG’s documentary on Straightedge, I now have to question everything they have ever done. A better job could have been done by a team of high school newspaper kids.

  • Mikey

    Not the same thing at all… There were no borders in his essay, and his work was less about a particular conflict than it was about a particular condition. Pellegrin seems to have understood the ‘area’ he was working in as being loosely defined…at least that is what he wrote in his response.

    Another question…was his work a journalistic reportage? Well, sort of…and sort of not. After all, he was working with a group of photographers that included both artists and journalists, and his work seems to fall someplace in between. I mean really, does anything look like his photos in real life?

    Whether he should have entered them into a press photo competition is another question, but I simply do not see an ethical lapse in the work itself.

  • Mickey

    I meant people who own guns.

    Guns are produced to cause harm, and it seems reasonable to include pictures of gun owners in a piece about violence. Obviously owning a gun does not imply a desire to use it to harm people, but it surprises me that Pellegrin is taking it on the chin for drawing a connection between law abiding, proud gun owners in America, and the societal problem we have with violence…especially gun violence.

    I agree that you being a law-abiding gun owner does not affect the violence that others commit. However, I also agree with the perspective that the ease of access to weapons is a problem, and that if Pellegrin was trying to articulate a subjective perspective about violence, then it was fair to include a staged portrait of you…especially since the photos were made with your consent. It is unfortunate that you had no idea how he might use your image, what he was working on, and how a photo of you in a dark garage with noir lighting and a weapon might look as a final image.

    The fact that he was not interested in your full name suggests he was not interested in you, but what the image of you represented. Too bad things sound like they didn’t get communicated well….and it is definitely a bummer to be portrayed in a way you are unhappy about.

  • stifledgenius

    Which equates to tabloid journalism.

  • John Grover

    ie: if I agree with the goal of the propaganda, it is no longer propaganda

  • Sascha

    Yes of course there is a connection.

    But when Pellegrin mentioned this connection that was just a lame excuse and an attempt to blame Shane Keller for what is going on in the crescent, thus discrediting Shanes motives for making this public.

  • http://twitter.com/tomleininger Tom Leininger

    I think the last sentence speaks volumes. Once you emailed your former professor, whose idea was it go public?

  • http://www.facebook.com/eriknnelson Erik Nelson

    Ok, it’s been a few days. It’s dramatic for some people because journalists work hard and in some cases risk their lives to honestly report stories. Give laurels to this fabulist/plagairist like this and it degrades the good work of others. If there are any “higher truths” conveyed by the photo, they are negated by the big lies that come with it. It is this kind of journalism that gives impugnity to people who scoff at the message that there is a problem here that needs to be fixed. No, they’ll say, this is some sort of Fellini-esque fantasy, art for art’s sake. I’d be happy to see Pellegrin’s work in a gallery, so long as you didn’t pin a blue ribbon on it and call it journalism.

  • bchalifour

    Mickey, Have you read the facts? You seemed to have missed at least one finger of the story! ;o)

  • William Reeves

    I did not see him try to blame Shane…I saw him say that Shane may have misspoke, or that he (meaning Paolo) may not have understood correctly. I also saw him say that he disagreed with Shane in terms of whether or not Shane (and gun owners like him) are related to what is happening in the Crescent. As you agree, there is a connection, and I do not see any statement on his part to indicate that he wanted to blame Shane for anything, or even to discredit his motives, only that he disagreed with parts of his version of the story.

  • Melissa

    Why not raise the question with the photographer?

  • Melissa

    Maybe you should have talked to Pellegrin and asked him that before assuming he wasn’t working on a larger body of work on violence and guns in the USA, because he is. Oops. Yes, he is. Miami and others…

    Agreed that there was no info in the WPP or POYi entires. but I am not much hung up on awards, they mean nothing, really. And there’s no room to show real, long-term work.

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