Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 17, 2013

BagNewsSalon – Photoville ’13: Photojournalism in Flux (with Video Highlights)

The past year or so has been filled with controversy about particular news images, as well as wide discussion and debate about the practice of photojournalism. As part of the Photoville photography festival, this live edition of the BagNews Salon explored the images below in terms of ethical standards, the rapid shifts in aesthetics and technology, and the continuing evolution of social media and the online news/media market.

This discussion was held Saturday, September 28, 2013 at One Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, NY.

The BagNewsSalon brings together the eyes and voices of the world’s leading photojournalists, editors, visual academics and other informed observers to analyze select edits of news photographs in a 90 minute on-line discussion format. Below you’ll find video highlights from the hangout as well the full broadcast, the accompanying slideshow and the list of panelists.

Video Highlights and Full Broadcast

The Use of Graphic Photographs: The Boston Marathon Bombing

Rather than asking the usual question of how much gore is too much, we’re wondering why the visual coverage of the marathon bombings was so graphic and what compelled the Daily News to photoshop the foot back onto this woman’s body? Panelists Jamie Wellford and Stephen Mayes respond.

Representing the Context of Images: The Russian Athlete’s “Protest” Kiss

Based on an instant in time, the Western photo media turned a routine moment of congratulation into a lesbian demonstration allegedly protesting Russia’s anti-gay laws. What does this say about fact checking, sensationalizing, cultural bias and other visual media tendencies today? Meg Handler, Jamie Wellford and Stephen Mayes break it down.

Is Irony Dead?: The Boston Marathon Bomber on the Rolling Stone Cover

Citizens and media critics far and wide criticized this cover (featuring Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s own Facebook selfie) after it previously appeared, without controversy, on the front page of the NY Times. Is it his fault or Rolling Stones’ fault that Tsarnaev looked so young, handsome and typical when he was supposed to be a monster? And how much did the backlash have to say about Rolling Stone as opposed to and the politics of terrorism and stereotypical ideals about American identity? The panel responds.

Beauty in Tragedy: Taslima Akhter’s “Final Embrace”

Time Lightbox characterized Taslima Akhter’s image as the most powerful photo to emerge from the devastating collapse of a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. To what extent does the beauty of the photo support awareness and social change? Our panel is joined by Ms. Akhter to discuss the photo.

Representing Cities and Urban Decay: Spencer Platt in Utica

This is a cautionary example of the effect of news photos in the age of social media. Not hours after Getty photographer Spencer Platt’s photo-story about the urban plight of downtown Utica was published, angry residents and officials in the city took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their discontent. If the question of how to visually depict depressed cities was an issue before, social media only raised the bar. Michael Shaw and Spencer Platt discuss the feedback and the intricacies of depicting poverty.

The meaning and benefit of general news photo galleries: Lightbox “Pictures of the Week”

(video link)

Large news photo slideshows have become common on online media sites. Often times, the arrangement of photos appear largely random. In other cases, editors seem drawn to arranging photographs based on visual composition rather than subject matter — sometimes to awkward editorial effect. Is there a benefit to the news slideshow that we’re not appreciating? For example, Is it possible they communicate information and meaning to us in a new and emotional visual language, more like music or dance? Or, are they more problematic than that, forsaking context and sensitivity in the name of aesthetics, entertainment and user clicks?

BagNewsSalon: Photojournalism in Flux, Photoville NYC 2013 (Full Broadcast)

Video segments include: The Use of Graphic Photographs: the Boston Marathon Bombing. Representing the Context of Images: The Russian Athlete’s “Protest” Kiss. Is Irony Dead? The Boston Marathon Bomber on the Rolling Stone Cover. Beauty in Tragedy: Taslima Akhter’s “Final Embrace”. Representing Cities and Urban Decay: Spencer Platt in Utica. The Meaning and Benefit of General News Photo Galleries: Lightbox “Pictures of the Week”.

The Salon was produced by Teresa Mahoney and video editing was provided by Sandra Roa.


illustration: Sean McCabe. from the August 2013 cover of Rolling Stone featuring Instagram “selfie” of Boston Marathon Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with an in depth story about him.

photo: John Tlumacki / Globe Staff caption (from This photo of Nicole Gross, taken by the Boston Globe, was among the iconic images of the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings in April. It was used by countless publications, including the Star-Ledger on its April 16, 2013 front page.

photo: Grigory Dukor / Reuters caption: Gold medalists team Russia kiss and celebrate at the women’s 4×400 metres relay victory ceremony during the IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow August 17, 2013. From left: Yulia Gushchina, Kseniya Ryzhova, Tatyana Firova and Antonina Krivoshapka.

photo: Taslima Akhter caption: Two victims amid the rubble of a garment factory building collapse in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh.

photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images caption: A man rests inside Union Station. Utica, NY.

photo-illustration: Crisis Relief Singapore. Agency: Publicis Singapore: press photos are surrounded by hands outside the frame giving a “thumbs up,” symbolizing the Facebook “like.”

photo: Mukhtar Khan / AP caption: A Kashmiri government employee is sprayed colored water as police use it to disperses people during a protest in Srinagar, India.

photo: Arne Svenson “Neighbors #5, 2012 via Julie Saul Gallery caption: For his project “The Neighbors,” Svenson pointed his camera at a luxury apartment building across the street and secretly photographed his neighbors through open windows.

  • Panelists
  • Nina Berman Photographer at NOOR images and Associate Professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
  • Meg Handler Photo Editor, Editor at Large for BagNews
  • Stephen Mayes Visual Entrepreneur
  • Spencer Platt Staff Photographer/Getty Images
  • Michael Shaw Host/Moderator, Publisher, BagNewsNotes
  • Jamie Wellford Photo Editor/Curator

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