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Jun 6, 2012
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

You've probably seen the photograph.

A nine-year-old girl running naked down a street in Vietnam after a napalm attack.

But not many people know the relationship that was built between Associated Press photographer Nick Ut and the girl in the photo, Kim Phuc.

For the last four decades, the two have kept in touch and had many reunions. But what Ut didn't know after he drove the little girl to a hospital to save her life is that his famous photograph would take away Phuc's freedom for years to come.

Not often does a photograph bond the photographer and subject for decades and decide the fate of both people's lives.

To read the story of these two amazing individuals, please click here.

*Photo by Nick Ut*

Mar 12, 2012
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Yahoo recently posted old black and white photographs, shot on film, that were altered. The crazy thing about these photos is that they were altered (with some precision) without the digital technology that we have at our dispoal in 2012.

One of my favorites is a photograph of Adolf Hitler. I don't particulary care about it's content but the interesting detail about it is that it was only altered to appease Hitler's ego. He had a falling out with a man named Joseph Goebbels, so he simply had him removed from the photo.I'm sure it was a little more difficult in those days to remove someone from a photo without the help of Adobe Photoshop.

Now photographers are getting in trouble for altering photos digitally because they are doing so to make their photo better in some way. Most of the time this is done to photos in post-production that were shot during a war or covering a timely event - where the photographer has no second chance to reshoot the photo and make it right. Many photographers have been suspended or fired for committing this ethical violation while some are just "frowned upon" in the photojournalism community.

One of the more famous incidents was when Los Angeles Times photographer Brian Walski altered a photo he shot outside Basra of a British soldier directing Iraqi civilians to take cover. He merged elements of two different photos to create what he thought was a superior photo. And it cost his his job and his reputation. Most newspapers have strict rules about these kinds of violations.

The first two photos below are the originals and the bottom photo is the composite Brian Walski made.

Mar 7, 2012
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Pet Photographer Seth Casteel was already quite the talented freelance photographer before he started posting pictures of dogs he photographed underwater.

But now he has at least 1,000 new clients wanting him to photograph their special furry friend. He has been written about in several major newspapers, appeared on national television shows and publishing companies want to get their hands on his new book featuring the underwater photography.

It's amazing how one great, fun idea can change your career.

I sat for at least an hour looking through Seth's website. He has a gift. Whether he's on land or in a pool, he captures these pets in such a way that is unique and most of the time, hilarious. I sometimes photograph client's pets but mostly I shoot my own Brittany Spaniel, Lucia. She's an active little hunter and I know how long it takes to get the right moment, light and composition--all without getting slobber on your lens.

Well done Seth! I look forward to seeing where your career takes you!

To check out Seth's photos, please visit his website. And if you have a soft heart for animals too, please donate to his charity, Second Chance Photos

*All photos copyright Seth Casteel, Little Friends Photo.*

Feb 24, 2012
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica
Ten years ago, I was proud of a portrait I shot of William Joyce, an eccentric Shreveport, Louisiana native with an incredibly creative mind. Today, I’m proud to say he and his company, Moonbot Studios, are nominated for an Academy Award for the animated short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. This is Moonbot’s first Oscar nomination, although Joyce already has three Emmys on his shelf for his series Rolie Polie Olie. As people fill out their own Academy Award ballot online to follow along with the Oscars tonight, I thought I’d share a little insight I have the privilege to share from my time in newspaper photography.


I knew children’s author William Joyce was a little strange (and quite interesting) the moment I walked into his office at Centenary College in Shreveport nearly a decade ago.

Each brightly colored wall had a strange shape. To say the lighting was cool is an understatement. And bizarre chairs scattered around the rooms allowed the artistic juices to flow whenever and wherever possible.

My employer, The Times, assigned me to photograph Joyce for a feature story. He’s quite the celebrity in Shreveport and soon, everyone will know his name. Normally, when photojournalists are sent out on portrait assignments for a newspaper, they will shoot a “standard” portrait that every editor will approve for publication. Nice light. Simple composition. Done.

Then, we shoot what we want. Something just for us. It may never see the light of day but who cares? It’s what keeps us going when the not-so-fun photo assignments come rolling through the department.

And when someone like me has the pleasure of photographing a creative mind like William Joyce, you have to push the limits a little bit. You know artists won’t ask you “why” when you suggest they do something strange for the photograph. When I saw the beautifully colored walls of his office and how each strange shape led to another, I asked Joyce to stand between the walls. I was trying to create some layers in my photograph and add content to show the reader his unique office. Joyce ended up kneeling behind one wall so that all I could see was shapes, colors and his head (including his signature big box glasses).

So when you are filling out your Oscar ballot online, consider how a creative mind from Shreveport, Louisiana made his way into the minds of kids all over the country. William Joyce deserves recognition for his lifetime of hard work and creative spirit.

(Photo by Jessica Leigh/The Times)

Jul 28, 2011
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

The Obama White House is the first to use the photo website Flickr as a way to distribute pictures to news organizations and the public.

The problem that is created by using the popular photo website occurs when news photographers are excluded from meetings and events because an official White House photographer is there to shoot the photo (and distribute it via Flickr), keeping in mind the White House's image is number one priority. News photographers are essential in providing unbiased images from current events because the goal is to document a political event with no agenda.

For example, if there was an abortion rally with people for and against the controversial topic, it would only be fair to have someone document the event without giving preferential treatment to one side or the other. If someone from an abortion clinic or a pro-life organization was documenting the event, it would be almost impossible for them to provide an unbiased account of what happened.

So, when photographers that work for the White House are the only ones that get to document an event, it keeps the White House in control of what images get out to the press and to the public.

This controversy was reignited when Navy SEALs raided Osama Bin Laden’s compound in May and the most iconic image from the mission was taken by a White House staff photographer. The photo is of President Obama and his cabinet in the White House Situation Room watching the raid unfold via live video.

There’s obviously a need for White House staff photographers but I think news photographers are just asking for the same access so they can do their jobs well. Is that too much to ask?

*Photo by Pete Souza, The White House

Jul 27, 2011
Category:General In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

Lytro will unleash it's new light field camera this year that takes the guess work and technical decisions out of the photographer's hands. After taking a photo, the user can refocus the image to a different point in the photo. Like the photo above, in the first one the cat in the foreground is in focus and in the second, the small cat in the background is in focus.

Same photo, different focus.

To read more about the science behind the camera and information about how to reserve one, click here.

Jun 23, 2011
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Kia has released an advertisment for their vehicles with dual climate control that is meant to shock but I'm not sure they realized the underlying stench of pedophilia suggestions in the ad.

The ad shows a teacher flirting with an adolescent student and one one side she looks her age. On the other side she is a busty, beautiful teenager in a school girl outfit.

I'm not terribly offended by the ad. What's confusing is that Kia took a heavy risk with an ad that doesn't really explain the benefits of the vehicle very well.

What do you think, parents? Would you boycott Kia because of this one ad?

Jun 17, 2011
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

The movie, Rock of Ages, is causing quite a stir in south Florida.

Traditionally, if a movie is being shot in a public place and the general public is still allowed to walk through the area (an open set), then photographers are also free to shoot movie stars that descend upon their town.

Not so in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Police and city officials have banned photographers from taking photos of the movie stars but they say the public is welcome to walk the area and frequent the local businesses.

If you tell a photographer they can't shoot something, you better have a reason why. And because the city of Fort Lauderdale does not, photographers along with the Society of Professional Journalists, are staging a "lunch-in" today. Local shooters will buy lunch at a restaurant in the area while shooting photos of stars that might be in the area.

Norm Kent, publisher of the South Florida Gay News, filed a lawsuit (with SPJ) against the city, seeking an emergency injunction against the city's illegal action.

I applaud the efforts of my fellow shooters in south Florida to fight for the right to do their jobs.

When I was working for newspapers, I was never one to lead a rally or push back against the police to the point of an arrest, but it always angered me that those in power feel they can make up rules to suit their own needs. I always obeyed authorities if they told me to step back, stop shooting or leave the scene. But I always asked "Why?". Most of the time, they didn't have an answer.

They were probably thinking the same thing I was..."I'm just trying to do my job."

Jun 17, 2011
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Olympian photojournalist Tony Overman knows all too well how dangerous his job can be.

While covering an "anti-police brutality" rally in 2010, a participant spray painted his face and camera lens. This anger stems from incidents when police used photographs from The Olympian to identify anarchists who committed crimes at rallies and protests. The police were only allowed access to those photos published in the newspaper and online, the same ones that the general public view.

More recently, vandals painted "Overman Snitch" on the Olympian's building and tagged a company vehicle, Overman's truck and his home. Overman believes the vandals are trying to intimidate him so he won't cover certain stories.

A rally was held last weekend to show support for Overman. "The reason why it's so disturbing to me is that you'd think that in a free country, the people who use the First Amendment to express their right to free speech would also respect the First Amendment right of the free press," Overman told The Olympian.

What's ironic to me is that the anarchists in question are upset because someone is documenting them participating in criminal activity. Well, there's a simple solution to that: stop breaking the law.

For more info, click here.

*Photo by Cliff DesPeaux*

Apr 28, 2011
Category:Behind the Scenes In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Being a wedding photographer can be stressful.

A bride and groom’s wedding day is one of the most important days of their lives. They want it all documented, from start to finish, with no moment missed and no flaws.

It’s a ton of pressure to put on one photographer because if you screw it up, there is NO reshoot. There is NO second chance.

I can’t imagine how photographer Hugo Burnand is feeling right now.

In about 12 hours Burnand will be responsible for photographing the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, otherwise known as the “wedding of the century.”

No pressure whatsoever.

For William and Kate, I’m sure the process of choosing a wedding photographer for such an elaborate and publicized event was difficult. But I do not envy Burnand for the task that lies ahead. If he makes any mistakes, he has to answer to the Queen of England!

Burnand has his job cut out for him Friday—it’s a long day for any wedding photographer to shoot a full service and ceremony but for this, it may actually take him all day.

Photographer Mario Testino shot the engagement photos shown here that spread on the internet like wildfire. The whole world is watching and everyone wants to see the most up to date photos of the royal couple.

I’m interested to see how quickly Burnand’s photos make it online tomorrow.

And wedding photography is just ONE facet of this enormous event about to unfold—there are also chefs, cake designers, florists, musicians, printers, program designers and a slew of other vendors like most weddings.

But this one has a slightly bigger budget.

*Photos by Mario Testino*

Apr 27, 2011
Category:Behind the Scenes In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

From time to time I like to recognize my fellow photographers because so many people are shooting really cool work across the globe.

Photographer Nate Bolt had the patience and creativity to do a time-lapse video of his flight from San Francisco to Paris, capturing one of the coolest phenomenons on the planet: the Aurora Borealis. He said he didn't even know what he had captured until later. The camera took 2,400 images and pieced together, make for a fantastic video.

Bolt shoots strange photos and video that always seem to catch my eye. And that's really one of the best parts of being a photographer--seeing what your fellow shooter can do that takes your breath away.

I'll be posting some of my own photos from my recent trip to Norway soon. I chased the Northern Lights all the way to Finland but I don't dare say it's as cool as this video!

*Photo and video by Nate Bolt.*

Feb 24, 2011
Category:In the News Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

The words “thank you” said to a police officer must seem pale in comparison to what they do on a daily basis.

I can’t imagine putting my life in danger every day for complete strangers.

This isn’t a fear most officers have—they just know they have a job to do, at whatever cost.

After 31 years with no fatalities, the St. Petersburg Police Department has had three officers die in the line of duty in less than a month. To call this a tragedy is an understatement.

Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz and Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger were killed by Hydra Lacey as the officers were serving a warrant on Jan. 24. Officer David S. Crawford, a 25-year veteran, was shot by 16-year-old Nicholas Lindsey as he responded to a prowler call on Feb. 21.

What frustrates most of us who are merely by-standers is that we don’t know how to help. How do you help an officer’s wife or kids when you don’t know them? How do you offer support?

The Police Benevolent Association is selling t-shirts for Yaslowitz and Baitinger and will probably have one for Crawford shortly. This may seem like a simple idea—how can buying a $15 t-shirt really help these families in need? The original goal was to sell 500 shirts and they have now sold approximately 26,000! With 100% of the proceeds going to the wives of the fallen officers, that’s $195,000 for each family!

The next time you think a small gesture doesn’t count, remember how a t-shirt helped two distraught families stress a little less about finances during their time of mourning.

The only positive aspect of any atrocity like this is to see how a community responds. And I can tell you I’m proud to see how the Tampa Bay and St. Pete communities have stepped up in response to the deaths of Yaslowitz and Baitinger.

I’m sure we’ll do the same for Crawford.

All we need is a t-shirt and a few folks with big hearts.

Feb 1, 2011
Category:General In the News Tips and Tricks 
Posted by: Jessica

The website Gizmodo is featuring 175 images shot at nighttime that look as though they've been shot during the day. These images were simply shot with a very long exposure so the maximum amount of light would appear in the photo. An amateur photographer could try their hand at these shots by using a tripod (or a steady place to balance the camera), shooting with a camera with manual settings for long exposures and staking out a place that you think might be a good shot.

The photo above was taken by K.C. Alfred and he explains his technique below:

"I was camping with my son at San Elijo State Beach in San Diego, CA when I took this photo of a lifeguard stand in the middle of the night on Jan. 23rd, 2011. Since I did not have a tripod, I just leaned my camera against the staircase. When I was editing I noticed you can see the constellation Orion in the clouds at left. (Nikon D3 17mm, f2.8, 6 seconds, ASA 4000)"

To see the whole gallery, click here.

Jan 19, 2011
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

French Vogue has done it again.

It seems that most of the European Vogue magazines thrive on publishing questionable and controversial photographs, no matter what the price. They say it's the culture. They say it sells clothes. They say it's ok if the models are willing and able.

What if the models are five-year-olds?

The latest example of this kind of thinking is evident in the December 2010/January 2011 edition of Vogue Paris: Cadeaux. Photographer Sharif Hamza used three girls, ages five to seven, for the photo shoot, all posing as adult models do--sultry, sometimes sexy and with very serious expressions.

Like most bloggers I've read posts from, I just don't get it. It doesn't make me want to buy the clothes or jewelry or perfume. It makes me want to call their parents and ask them what they were thinking. How did this seem like a good idea? What's the end goal?

I guess if you're trying to boost your five-year-old's modeling career, Vogue isn't a bad name to have on your resume.

Looking at the photos, I can appreciate the lighting, the fashion, the colors and the composition. Then I see the cute, young faces and I wonder who's idea this was and why these kids aren't outside playing with their friends.

To view the rest of the photos, click here.

*Photo by Sharif Hamza*

Jan 16, 2011
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

As a photographer, one of the best feelings in the world is when you can teach a child about photography. Most of the time, they end up teaching you but regardless, seeing a child hold a camera and take it on is a beautiful thing.

The Goodlands is a program centered in a predominantly Latino community in Philadelphia that offers kids a chance to use a camera and understand the power of a single image. Kids are simply asked to take photos of what they see in their community. Some shoot the graffiti on the walls to show what needs to change and some shoot flowers and the beauty they find on the streets.

While working at The Shreveport Times in Louisiana, I had the pleasure of working with a group called YJMP (Young Journalist Mentoring Program). It was one of the best experiences of my career because I was able to reach students in middle school and high school and encourage those who wanted to pursue photography in college. Sometimes kids just need the opportunity and encouragement to pick up a camera and then their artistic vision does the rest.

Click here to see more photos by these young artists and read about the program.

Click here to view an interview with the kids and staff from The Today Show.

*Photo by Siani Lee Rodriguez*

Jan 10, 2011
Category:General In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

French model Isabelle Caro died in November at the age of 28.

When I first heard of Isabelle’s death, I had mixed feelings. Isabelle was an underweight, anorexic model and posed nude for an Italian campaign against anorexia in 2007. The campaign was launched just before Fashion Week in Milan, igniting controversy about how the fashion industry promotes unrealistic and unhealthy women.

Now that I’ve read more about her and seen several interviews with her side of the story, I see that she was honest, true and humble in her message. She understood she had an awful disease that stemmed from her childhood and she wanted others to be shocked and appalled by her images. I think her hope was to turn women off from going down the same path.

Isabelle struggled most of her life because of her disease. She led a short, rough life and dedicated the last part of it to helping other women.

She said she was never once questioned about her weight by a modeling agency. So, does the media and fashion industry have an effect on young models?

Isabelle was 85 pounds the year of her death.

*Photo by Oliviero Toscani*

Nov 21, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

French photographer Sacha Goldberger was concerned when his 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother, Frederika, said she was lonely and depressed. Thinking of how to help her with the gift God gave him, he decided to do a series of superhero portraits of her dressed in funny costumes in different situations.

He created a MySpace page for his grandmother and she now has 2,200 friends and more support that she ever imagined.

Goldberger said she is not depressed and is enjoying inspiring other people.

Check out more portraits here.

*Photo by Sacha Goldberger*

Nov 18, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Photographer Jeff Sheng is humanizing the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the United States Military.

And he’s doing it without showing a face and without identifying the subject.

Sheng’s photo story speaks on a number of levels but what struck me first after seeing his collection was how powerful his portraits are despite being shot mostly from the neck down. He shows their struggle through fists and covered faces and turned backs. It takes talent to show emotion without using eyes or a mouth.

No matter what your stance is on the policy, I hope you’ll take the time to look at his images. Sheng has done a wonderful job telling the story through photos – and giving these soldiers hope that one day they can come out.

*Photo by Jeff Sheng*

Nov 10, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

It's refreshing to see Virginia-Pilot photographer Amanda Lucier cover what happens at home when soldiers are deployed to fight a war.

So many of the photo stories I see these days are focused in Afghanistan and Iraq while families are struggling back in the states while a mother or father is gone. I still believe in the importance of documenting history as United States soldiers fight for our country. But I also love the idea of covering life as it unfolds back home.

Lucier did a fantastic job of documenting everyday situations and milestones in these military families. From a mother grocery shopping with the kids to a father brushing a child's teeth before bedtime--these are daily tasks that we might take for granted. But with the help of Amanda Lucier, these moments won't be forgotten by anyone, home or abroad.

Check out her series here.

*Photo by Amanda Lucier*

Oct 22, 2010
Category:General In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

Today I’m reminded just how great it is to be an American.

A Uganda newspaper (Uganda Rolling Stone) ran a front-page story this month entitled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak.” Obviously, this kind of journalism (or lack thereof) would not happen in the United States but the newspaper did this to expose “evil in the Ugandan society,” according to Managing Editor Giles Muhame.

This story comes one year after a bill was introduced in Parliament that would make homosexuality (already illegal in Uganda), punishable by death.

According to gay rights activists, four people have been attacked since the article ran.

Rolling Stone also claimed that homosexuals were raiding schools, looking to recruit one million children by 2012. The difficulty with a foreign media story like this is that we don’t know the reality of what’s happening in Africa and who’s telling the truth.

I was having dinner with a friend last night and we were discussing her upcoming trip to Israel. As we were chatting, she commented on a blog series I did of what it was like to cover Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. We both agreed that no one know what’s really happening until you visit a place yourself and can say with 100% certainty, “This is what I saw.”

I can’t find peace when human rights are being trampled on, whether it’s in the United States or Africa. It doesn’t matter if you agree with someone’s sexual preference or not, they have a right to be who they are. My heart breaks for those Ugandans who are now in hiding in their native country because they are afraid of being attacked or killed on the street.

I’m sure this kind of hatred happens all over the world, whether it’s backed by a newspaper article or controversial bill, but it doesn’t make it right.

*Photo by AP*

Oct 20, 2010
Category:Behind the Scenes In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Mike Kamber is a photojournalist in the truest sense of the word.

He photographs what he sees with no agenda and doesn't stop until he's done his job.

Kamber created a video to show unpublished images from the war in Iraq and to expose the censorship he endured while embedded with the United States Military.

He said it was a difficult to find a balance between showing the reality of what he witnessed with what he was allowed to document. Car bomb photos were not allowed then wounded soldier photos. Well, maybe wounded soldiers but don’t show their face or identifying marks. And don’t show any of the faces of the other men in the soldier’s unit. Oh and don’t use photographs that show badges on the soldiers’ uniforms that could identify the unit.

You can see how that would get frustrating as a photographer. You’ve been sent there to do a job and you’re getting paid to do it well. Where’s the balance?

I try to be unbiased as possible even though I am a photojournalist and I feel for Kamber. I remember the struggle I had when covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Obviously, Iraq is completely different and a much more dangerous situation but I do get how upsetting that would be. It’s hard to get orders from your editor (“Go shoot evacuees at the Superdome. I want to see inside.”) and then get to the edge of the Superdome and hear from the National Guard (“There’s no way we’re letting you in—no photos.”). It’s heartbreaking.

From the perspective of the military, I think they believe it’s disrespectful to photograph wounded soldiers. I understand that too. They are there to do a job as well—to fight and protect their own unit. The last thing they need is someone documenting one of the worst moments of their time in Iraq.

I guess my response to them would be that when the war is really over, they might want a true, accurate account of what they happened in Iraq. If I was risking my life to fight for my country, I’d want people to get it right when it gets published in history books.

*Photo by Michael Kamber*

Oct 7, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

After writing numerous blogs about famous people doing crazy things for photographers, I’m convinced magazine covers are the best publicity tool in use today.

Just ask actor James Franco who decided to dress in drag for this month’s cover of Candy. Candy is “the first fashion magazine ever completely dedicated to celebrating transvestism, transexuality, cross dressing and androgyny, in all its manifestations.” So, it’s not a shock that someone is in drag on the cover, just that James Franco happens to be wearing the dress. This doesn’t help rumors that Franco is gay but he still denies them. I wonder why he decided to do this?

And ESPN the Magazine is unveiling their 2010 Body Issue—an issue dedicated to nude portraits of athletes. These portraits are stunning because of the light and strategic composition of the athletes, so they don’t expose anything more than their muscles. One of my favorite portraits from this year’s series is of PGA Tour golfer Camilo Villegas. His signature pose is balancing on one leg to see the best putt from the ground view. In this cover photo, he’s obviously naked but without showing too much, you can see every muscle in this avid-cyclist’s body. He’s only one of the multiple covers created—others include New York Knicks star Amar'e Stoudemire, 2009 WNBA MVP Diana Taurasi, wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer and the USA Women's Water Polo team.

Magazine covers are meant to stir up emotion and whether you like them or not, get you to open the magazine and buy it. ESPN has done an excellent job with this year’s Body Issue—showing just enough to be sexy and revealing but also showing the athletic prowess of these amazing stars.

*Photo by Darren Rovell*

Oct 6, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Photographers have rights.

We aren’t labeled as a group that usually needs help but we do. In the last week, I have read about two instances in which photographers are being censored and portrayed as something we’re not.

The first came to me from NPPA (National Press Photographers Association) and the article describes the reaction the NPPA had to TSA (Transportation Security Administration) using posters depicting photographers as suspected terrorists. TSA chose to distribute cards and posters in airports to alert people to suspicious activity. The posters show a person wearing dark, hooded clothing standing near an airport fence, pointing a camera at a runway with a plane in the background.

When I first saw it, my reaction was that it was insensitive and the photo insinuates that we should be aware and cautious with all people taking photos in or around an airport. I understand the need for authorities to watch people but do we need to alert the general public to this? I think it will create paranoia among travelers and more problems for professional photographers.

The second troublesome story I came across was from Arab News. Saudi photographers are being censored in so many different ways, it makes it almost impossible to do their jobs. Authorities and citizens become angry and question photographers in public whether the photos are of buildings, a sunset or people. They censor photos of obvious security threats like government buildings and homes of people of high-authority. Now they’re also prohibiting photos in shopping centers and restaurants.

Saudi photographer Bakri Omar says he’s forced to use Photoshop and alter images drastically just to avoid harassment on the street when he’s shooting.  Omar says police are mixing law and tradition to censor photographers. Saudi Arabia has always been conservative (to say the least) when it comes to photography but it’s getting out of hand in the digital age. Saudi tradition is about concealing women, including limiting photographs of them. With the ease of uploading photos to the internet, Saudi men are nervous about their women being displayed to the world.

All of this makes me so grateful I am an American photographer, who doesn’t take a ton of photos at airports.

Sep 9, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Usually the anniversary of September 11, 2001 brings out extreme religious zealots who curse others’ beliefs.

But those fanatics are usually in support of Al-Qaeda, not America.

When Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Church in Gainesville, Florida announced that he would burn several hundred Korans on September 11, religious and military leaders, politicians and Christians alike were outraged.  He named the event “International Burn-A-Koran Day”.

"We are simply burning a book," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "General [Petraeus] needs to point his finger to radical Islam and tell them to shut up, tell them to stop, tell them that we will not bow our knees to them."

Leaders including President Barack Obama urged Jones not to go through with the burning warning that any blatant, offensive act against Muslims would create violence overseas. Jones said he is not backing down.

In defense of anyone who wants to exercise their First Amendment right, this is what the Constitution states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So, I do defend Jones’ right to protest the Koran.

However, when a war is still going on and a four-star general warns you not to burn a religious book (no matter how much you may disagree with what’s in it), you might want to listen. The idea that this one pastor at a small church in a college town called Gainesville may incite violence against our troops infuriates me. These soldiers and military leaders have enough to deal with overseas without Americans creating more trouble and resistance for them. (In addition to violence abroad, Jones is creating a security risk for the 185,000 residents of Gainesville as well as the tens of thousands of visitors who will arrive on Saturday for the UF vs. USF football game.)

I agree Jones has a right to burn the Koran. But I don’t understand what he thinks he will accomplish by doing this. Has burning someone’s sacred religious books ever created peace and harmony? Doubtful. Most likley this is just another publicity stunt aimed at getting international attention that would otherwise not be available to such a church.

Some suggested that the media not cover Jones’ book burning but we know that won’t happen. Unfortunately, this is a story and it will be told. I just hope it’s not at a soldier’s expense.

*Photo by John Raoux/AP*

Sep 8, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Once again, Lady Gaga is proving that it doesn't matter if people like you or hate you, as long as they are talking about you.

I don't care for Lady Gaga's music but I finally get why she does the crazy stuff she does--it attracts attention from fans and haters alike. Her outlandish costumes, bizarre performances and unusual cover photos all create a "buzz" that makes her the latest water cooler conversation.

This month Lady Gaga is Japan's Vogue magazine cover girl. She is wearing raw meat and nothing else. As one would expect, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is furious with her. "Oh, Lady Gaga's job is to do outlandish things, and this certainly qualifies as outlandish because meat is something you want to avoid putting on or in your body," PETA's President, Ingrid Newkirk, told The Daily News.

Personally, I am not a vegetarian so this doesn't really offend me but I can see why it would others. I just think it's another Lady Gaga stunt aimed at gaining publicity.

Well done, Lady Gaga, well done.

Aug 31, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

Thanks to the great people at The Publicity Agency, specifically Director of Publicity and News Justin Herndon, I was able to share my story of Hurricane Katrina coverage with Tampa Bay.

I was interview by 10 News reporter Kathryn Bursch, ABC Action News reporter Jeff Butera and Fox 13 anchor Ann Dwyer. It was an honor to be interviewed and I hope I gave some insight into how covering a major hurricane looks from a photojournalist’s point of view.

If you missed the blog series and would to like read personal journal entries, see unpublished photos or leave a comment, please click here.


(CBS) 10 News interview:




Fox 13 Good Day interview:



ABC Action News interview:




Aug 29, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

There’s always a time during a disaster when feelings start to switch from desperation and chaos to generosity and normalcy.

I drove to a huge fire on Royal Street a week after Katrina hit and found that firefighters from New York were helping their NOLA brothers in need. They were all working harmoniously, even without standard fire hydrants available. Helicopters dropped tons of water on top of the blaze to keep it from spreading. No one was panicked—everyone knew they had a job to do and it didn’t matter that they weren’t on duty or that they weren’t in their home town. That’s a sign of good things to come.

Then I met Ed Garcia from Port St. Lucie, Florida. He rented a U-Haul with two friends, gathered $8,000 of their personal money and bought as much food and water as they could. They drove to Lacombe, Louisiana where no government help had arrived yet. The sight of a U-Haul truck filled with supplies was a sign that maybe someone did care about them. Maybe someone was trying to help, even if that help was offered by strangers from south Florida.

September 4, 2005 journal entry:

“I was sent out on a mission today to go to the shelter at LSU to see seven kids (coincidentally named the Love family) who are being flown to San Antonio, Texas to be reunited with their parents. There’s a mile of red tape getting into this shelter because there are medical patients and kids involved. A guard escorts us to the parking lot where the volunteers are saying goodbye to the kids as they load into a van. I’m so glad I caught them when I did! The volunteers were having a hard time letting go, as were the children. They were together for a week while the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tried to locate their parents. What amazed me about the Love family was that there were seven children under ten years old and they stuck together, found shelter, told an adult what happened and got out alive. That’s perseverance.”

The best sign of normalcy I found was when I stumbled upon Johnny White’s Sports Bar and Grill on Bourbon Street a week after Katrina made landfall. I walked in to find the bar buzzing with activity and a bartender behind the bar taking drink orders. Francis (the Times reporter) and I looked at each other like “Really?” We started talking to patrons with bandages on their hands and head who were ordering shots of Southern Comfort like it was a Friday night happy hour. And a 14-year-old cardboard sign was still taped behind the bar that read "Never Closed."

Even though I couldn’t imagine drinking alcohol at a time like that when I had lost everything, I understood the need for normalcy. Only two bars were open on Bourbon Street by then but locals were flocking to them, just to get a taste of what they knew to be real. If ordering a round of shots for your friends helps you heal, I’m all for it.

Throughout this Hurricane Katrina blog series, I’ve tried to remember the good, the bad and the ugly. I wrote this blog so people don’t forget. Just like journalists that covered 9-11 or the Tennessee floods or the BP oil spill want to bring awareness, so do I. I hope that by reading this blog, you’ve gained a new perspective on the victims, the journalists and the recovery process.

If you feel moved to help but cannot make it out to New Orleans personally, you can always make a monetary donation. I believe in donating to well-established organizations and doing your homework first before giving away your hard-earned money. The Red Cross and The Salvation Army are always accepting donations and if you want to check on a charity before donating, look them up here.

But of course, the best way to give back is to go visit "Nawlins"...grab a coffee at Cafe Du Monde, watch a Saints game at the Superdome or join in on the Mardi Gras fun.

Aug 28, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

The success of a disaster aftermath is usually determined by the response of rescue crews, volunteers and the government.

Seeing locals standing in the rain for hours on Interstate 10 at a temporary staging area was difficult. They waited for hours, sometimes all day to catch a ride on a bus headed to a shelter. They didn’t know where they were going but they knew any other place had to be better than here.

One of the uplifting parts of covering a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina is seeing all the good that comes out of a community. Rescue crews were organized and determined to get to help to as many people as possible. Most were also kind to the media by allowing reporters and photographers to do “ride-alongs” in helicopters and boats to assess the damage and talk with victims.

Volunteer Reggie Seals is a man I’ll never forget. Not only did he take me out on a boat (that I was technically not supposed to be on) but he also gave me a level of protection I didn’t know I needed. He said he would treat me like one of his daughters and make sure I got back safely.

September 5, 2005 journal entry:

“I’m not quite sure I’m going to make it through this week without losing my mind. I’m out on a boat in the middle of nowhere, breathing exhaust fumes, waiting for a rescue crew to take us out to see the damage in the worst areas. I’m hungry and I’m tired but at least I’m safe. Reggie is our boat driver and as we head out, he tells Francis [the Times reporter], ‘Don’t worry, I’ll protect Jessica’. Reggie brought gloves, masks and a gun. Fantastic! I feel a little fearful that he thinks we need that.”

“As Reggie [a rescue volunteer] drives our boat towards the Ninth Ward, we meet up with another rescue crew that just is leaving the area. They said they searched for people stranded on their roofs but only found bodies floating in the water and angry, desperate people. I immediately said I wanted to go in and take some shots. One of the men in the boat took me aside and said he could not, in good conscience, let me go. He said if I went in, I’d come out a changed person. I was a little surprised by his chivalrous speech so I asked him to explain. He said people left in the Ninth Ward are armed and attempting to take over any boats that come into their neighborhood. He was afraid for me, being a young woman, that I may not make it back out…

…I have no clue what I would have found if I got to enter the Ninth Ward. I do know I have that man to thank for talking sense into me and reminding me that no photograph is worth my life.”

Aug 27, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

The only flooding I’ve ever witnessed was about knee-deep.

When I saw some people wading through waist-deep water with bags of belongings thrown on their backs, I wondered what they brought with them. What was important enough to carry all that way?

When I went out on rescue boats, I was amazed to see that the water levels came up to street signs and the top of homes. I finally understood why residents were cutting holes in their roofs to escape.

As I was shooting photos of people wading through water looking for dry land, I saw two men pulling a canoe with an elderly man inside. I met Leroy, 78, who was being helped by two relatives. They were desperately seeking medical attention for his Diabetes. He had no insulin and needed his dosage. I felt so sorry for the weak man who wasn’t even asking for water or food but insulin. He eventually found a volunteer who was using his personal truck to give rides to refugees. And he was on his way to a medical shelter.

Businesses and homes alike were damaged, some destroyed beyond recognition. Some places had items taken by wind and rain clear across a neighborhood. Barstools and tires from who knows where were strewn across what was once a busy trolley track.

Homemade signs about surviving Katrina or needing help were hung up anywhere they would stick.

Approximately $80 billion in damage was done to 200,000 homes in New Orleans leaving 800,000 people displaced at some point. Those numbers are staggering.

Two days after Katrina hit, 80% of New Orleans was flooded and some places were 15 feet under water. The storm supposedly caused 50 breaches in levees, built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

September 1, 2005 journal entry:

“We heard the ‘N Word’ for the first time today and it probably won’t be the last. Some residents are upset because they think black looters are taking over the city. Racial tensions are definitely higher than normal because minorities in low-income neighborhoods think residents in wealthier areas are receiving help faster.”

“One of the strangest feelings I’ve had this week is having to relieve myself outside, probably in what used to be someone’s yard. As a woman, I enjoy privacy for these situations but when there are no stores open and people have either abandoned their homes or they remain but have no water or electricity, what do you do? It just felt wrong…”

September 2, 2005 journal entry:

“Greg [a Times photographer] arrived today and it helps to see a friendly face. I’m supposed to leave on Tuesday, which would be my 12th day of work. The plan is to switch people out so we don’t get too burned out.”

Aug 26, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

Merriam-Webster defines martial law as the law administered by military forces that is invoked by a government in an emergency when the civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety.

While the local, state and federal governments were arguing over how to handle the crisis, who should handle it and who should get credit, The National Guard stepped in and took control.

Thank God.

Working in a tense, unpredictable situation is hard enough without worrying about whether or not YOU as a journalist will become a victim. When people are desperate, they turn to anyone who can help. Some plead, some steal.

Rumors started that the New Orleans Police Department was basically disabled—officers had taken to looting or fleeing the city all together. I have no idea if that was true. I do know that as many local people as there were volunteering (police, firefighters, etc), there were just as many members of the National Guard.

I never felt 100% safe when I was in New Orleans for Katrina but then again, I didn’t feel completely safe while attending Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street either.

As we drove near the French Market, we came upon a profane epitaph spray painted on a wall above a dead body wrapped in a sheet. It was a surreal experience to see a dead body in the open with no immediate need to remove it or investigate. We asked some local police officers later if they knew what body we were talking about. They did and they said it appeared the man was strangled to death.

So, this man didn’t die from drowning or starvation after Hurricane Katrina, but instead someone strangled him? This blew my mind.

When I asked why they didn’t move the body to a morgue, the officer answered with a “What’s the point?” kind of attitude. He said there were so many bodies piling up, it was hard to find places to store them. 1300 bodies total were found in Mississippi and Louisiana, not counting those who are still missing. A makeshift morgue was set up at St. Gabriel to house nearly 900 bodies while family members tried to identify and claim their loved ones.

We also visited a cemetery and saw that the few caskets that were buried underground were no longer in their original resting place. Most of the graves in New Orleans have above-ground tombs because once you dig a few feet under the surface, you’ve hit water. When it floods, everything becomes an above-ground cemetery.

After a few days of complete chaos in the city, The National Guard took over and did so very well. They camped out at the Riverwalk and Convention Center and brought order to a situation that seemed completely out of control. They were kind enough to share water and MREs with us and I will never forget how they handled the aftermath of Katrina.

September 1, 2005 journal entry:

“The most uneasy feeling was driving around the French Quarter, seeing no one except refugees trying to leave and looters. It finally hit me that there is no law. If something happened to us, no one would know and there’s no police to call. Even if there were, our cell phones don’t work within miles of New Orleans.”

“Francis [a Times reporter] didn’t do anything I didn’t want to but I definitely pushed my personal limits—with my car and my safety. It’s a bad situation when I don’t feel safe, even when police and military are sometimes standing near me on a street corner. There is no guarantee they can protect me.”

A special thank you goes out to Louisiana State Trooper Doug Pierrelee of Bossier City, Louisiana who watched over me while I was in New Orleans. He did his job well while still giving me access to important information and photo opportunities. I appreciate his time and felt completely safe knowing he and other troopers had my back. Thank you!

*Last two photos by Bart Boatwright/The Greenville News*

Aug 25, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

If you’re anything like me, my heart aches for people in pain. But when it comes to the defenseless, the small and the furry, I weep.

Hurricane Katrina not only destroyed the homes and lives of New Orleans residents but in some cases, it took from them important members of the family...their pets.

I adore my dog and can’t imagine leaving her during a disaster but that shows how desperate some folks became. Some left animals stranded in homes to drown, some let them out but then had to fend for themselves in flood waters and others tried to make it to a shelter that would take care of their beloved pets.

That’s love—swimming or walking through miles of water to reach dry land or a shelter, with a dog or cat in your arms and all of your belongings in a bag on your back.

One of the most organized and wonderful things that happened the week of Katrina was the mission to save these abandoned animals. It started with buses taking locals with their animals to a shelter so they could drop off their pets while they looked for loved ones lost in the storm. Some made it back to get them, some didn’t.

Louisiana State University allowed volunteers to use Parker Coliseum to house the animals and organize adoptions. With so many pets, it can be difficult to give each a little attention every day. Volunteers worried how to feed them on a daily basis but knew they also need love and attention. They had lost their owners and were stuck in crates and stables waiting to be processed.

Setting up a dog walking area was a hopeful stage of getting everyone’s lives repaired. A little normalcy did everyone some good.

I was so tempted to adopt a dog or two or three. I knew it wouldn’t end. I had an apartment in Shreveport, Louisiana, worked full-time and went out of town a lot so I knew it wasn’t the right decision.

I met Joyce and Clement who carried their dog, Tootsie, through flood waters to dry land to wait for a ride to a shelter. Joyce broke down when she finally sat and Clement tried to console her. Tootsie seemed unaffected, just a little thirsty.

I told them how sorry I was that they had to go through this. I felt awful for them and all I could offer was bottled water. But I admired their dedication and their committment to each other and Tootsie.

Aug 24, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

Walking into chaos as a female journalist with expensive gear dangling from my arms was one of the most uneasy feelings I have ever had.

The adrenaline I get from being in a newsworthy situation, not sure of what’s to come, helps. But knowing there’s not much that can be done if someone attacks me is a level of fear I realized I am not comfortable with.

The first big shooting day I had was arriving at the Superdome in the heart of New Orleans. The last time I was there I attended a Saints game with some friends and had a wonderful time—drinking, cheering, joking about crazy fans.

This time was so very different.

Getting there was a task in itself. Driving through flooded streets and passing refugees walking aimlessly, we made it to a dry spot where the National Guard promised us my car was safe. We strapped on our knee-high rubber boots (my best investment of the trip) and headed on foot to the Superdome. I went on this adventure with two male journalists from other papers that had already been there to assess the damage.

Experience is everything.

First we had to walk through a Hyatt that smelled so much like urine, we gagged as we opened the door. I’m sure it was once considered a prime spot to stay, being so close to the Superdome. Now, it was just a shell, housing lost people and lost hope.

When we first walked up to the entrance of the Superdome, I got all the dirty looks I was accustomed to getting at fires, car accidents and other tragedies. But the difference was these people were not just depressed and angry—they were starving, thirsty, tired and homeless. Not a good combination.

Then I found that half the people were more than willing to talk to me, let me photograph them and tell me their story. They wanted media coverage. They wanted to find their families. And they wanted to get home.

This was one of the times I felt truly honored to be a member of the media. If just one of my photos helped lost relatives find each other or created awareness about the desperate situation, it was worth every frame I shot.

Then a member of the National Guard told me I was not allowed inside the Superdome. (Journalists don’t like hearing “no” even if it’s from a man with a large gun.) I asked why, of course, and he said it was simply too dangerous. Not because I was a woman, but because I wasn’t a refugee, just a journalist. At this point there were rumors of rape and murder from inside the Superdome. The National Guardsman confirmed it was pretty awful inside but wouldn’t go into specifics.

Later when I saw the news that night, I saw how the media embellished the rumors. It made me mad to know that there was no proof so rumors were turned into facts. That happened quite a bit that week. I would be shooting something and see or read a completely different (and sensationalized) account of the event. We all want great photographs and great quotes from an event like this, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the subjects. It shouldn’t be worth telling lies.

At the Superdome I witnessed some ridiculous and awful things. My first strange encounter was when I saw two National Guardsmen standing watch over two men on the ground with assault rifles. Blood was running down one man’s face as he tried to explain what happened. I heard from the Guard that the two men got into a fight over a cigarette and one of them pulled a knife. Over a cigarette!!! This proved to me that no one was in their right mind. How could they be?

I also met Gale, a hysterical woman who was weeping and babbling. No one could understand her. I told the Guard watching her that I wanted to talk to her. I asked her to calm down and tell me her story. She said she got separated from her mother (her only living relative) when her mom passed out and was taken to a shelter for care. She had been waiting in line for hours and hours to get on a bus to go to a shelter. After the Guard heard her story, he said if she calmed down, he would let her get on the bus now to find her mother.

So good to know there are people out there who still listen in times of chaos.

As I looked around, I saw a man tied to a chair, in urine-soaked jeans, surrounded by Guardsmen. They weren’t being aggressive towards him, just trying to calm him. But again, no one had listened to his story so he continued to yell. He told me he was tied down because he pulled some scissors on guys who were threatening his family. He said he was trying to defend himself and his family. I felt awful for him, knowing if I was in his situation, I would defend my family no matter what it took.

September 3, 2005 journal entry:

“I am disgusted by the living conditions at the Superdome. There are still hundreds and hundreds of people outside lying in filth—trash, urine, feces, food, liquor. It’s like the smell of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras times a hundred….

…We walked through the Hyatt to get to the Superdome. In the hotel, it’s pitch black with the smell of urine filling the building. It was frightening to walk through and hear the flopping of my rubber dairy boots on the wet floor. It was slimy and slippery, from God knows what…

…As I looked for some detail shots among the trash on the grounds outside the Superdome, I found an old framed family portrait. I thought it was so sad that someone saved it and brought it all this way through the evacuation but then left it, because they didn’t see value in it any more. It broke my heart…”

Aug 23, 2010
Category:News Hurricane Katrina - The Photos, The People, and The Stories Behind Them. Behind the Scenes In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

I’ve been torn as to how to start this series. It’s so close to my heart and is such a sensitive subject with some folks, I was afraid of what to say.

Then, I found journal entries in my reporter notebooks from that week.

I wrote my first entry when I arrived in Baton Rouge with a reporter named Francis. We stayed at a congressman’s house near the Capitol before we drove into New Orleans. We arrived on Sunday, August 30, 2005, the day after Katrina hit.

I remembered how irritated I was when I left Shreveport (five hours northwest of New Orleans), because my newspaper (The Times) was not willing to let me use a company car. I remembered hearing that a VIP needed it for something and I’d have to take my own. I had just purchased a brand new 2005 Chevy Trailblazer not two months before Katrina. (It still had that new car smell.) I was upset. I thought the least my paper could do was let me use a company car since I was covering a dangerous aftermath of the state’s worst natural disaster.

Then, I arrived in New Orleans and realized my anger and frustration was petty. I was alive. I had a car. And I didn’t live in New Orleans.

I had nothing to complain about.

Most of the images posted here are from Rouse’s Supermarket in Metairie, Louisiana (a suburb of New Orleans). This was one of the first times I saw the chaos of what Katrina had done to these people. Police called taking food and supplies from a supermarket “looting”.

Looting is defined as “anything taken by dishonesty, force, stealth, etc.” Those who were taking DVD players and top-notch Nike shoes are absolutely being dishonest but those who are taking food for their families, are simply trying to survive. FEMA was nowhere near reaching these people and if I was in that situation, I would have done the same thing.

But walking inside a pitch black supermarket where desperate people are fighting for food and water is a scary feeling. My only weapons were my cameras but even so, I was 120 pounds soaking wet. Could I defend myself if something happened? And what would keep them from stealing my gear?

I shot most of my photos outside the supermarket for safety reasons and for light. (It was awful inside--it smelled like bad fish and sour milk.) We met a woman named Hannah who sat and waited with her infant son while her husband went inside to gather whatever food was left. She seemed defeated. Her son was too young to understand, thank God.

Then we met Darmesha, a young girl was “standing guard” by her family’s stash of supplies while they went inside for more. She had a dazed look about her—her eyes were empty and she seemed numb. I’m sure this is the first tragedy of this kind that this little girl has ever experienced.

August 31, 2005 journal entry:

“We finally get out and go to LSU where there’s a special needs shelter set up. We talk to a few people but get kicked off campus fairly quickly by police. I talked to Arthur, a 59-year-old man sitting in a wheelchair outside the shelter. He told me he left his wife and kids in the 7t h Ward (of New Orleans) to go to the Superdome. He’s not sure if they’re alive or what’s left of their house. I can’t imagine what he’s going through and how uncertain he feels his future is…

…What I will remember are the smells, even on the first day. The smell of vomit outside the LSU shelter and the smell of spoiled, rotten food outside Rouse’s Supermarket in Metairie…

…Other journalists are talking about what people have seen as they get into the heart of New Orleans—dead bodies of adults and children floating in the floodwaters, people begging for rescue from their roofs, looting downtown with guns…”

Aug 19, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

There’s always a debate about how much access the White House Press Corps should have to the President of the United States.

The latest blunder occurred when the Obama family traveled to Panama City Beach, Florida last weekend. Only one member of the White House staff was allowed to accompany the family to the beach to shoot photos; the other photographers were kept at a hotel for a few hours while the President swam in the ocean.

The White House said the reason they did this was because it was easier to coordinate with a staffer than the press corps. The photographers know it was because showing a bare-chested President Obama in photographs is not a good idea. It happened once before and stirred lots of controversy for the President (see first photo).

The press corps wanted to document the event because seeing the President swim in the Gulf waters after the BP oil spill could be very symbolic. It could help calm the nation’s fears after what has been months of problems due to the spill.

So many interesting and intimate photos have surfaced that were shot because there was great access and a smart photographer captured the moment. I hope the White House sees the value in this and doesn’t keep the photographers at bay.

*Photo credits: (top) unknown; (bottom) Reuters*

Aug 17, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

An Israeli Reserve officer recently posted photos on her Facebook page of her smiling at blindfolded Palestinian prisoners.

There’s no violence or intention to humiliate anyone in the pictures,” Eden Abergil tells Army Radio. “I know I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.

The problem really isn't the photos--compared to the ones that surfaced from Abu Ghraib in 2006, these are in better taste, if that's what you want to call it.

The question is this: when will people stop posting career-damaging photos on social media websites and when will employers stop using personal profile pages as a way to punish them? In most instances, I have to side with the employers. If you're stupid enough to post tasteless photos of yourself abusing a prisoner, getting drunk or doing drugs or maybe just some photos that are a little too sexy, that's your own fault. That’s what privacy settings are for—to exclude those people who shouldn’t see your personal photos.

I don't have government secrets nor do I do drugs or have half-naked photos on my personal Facebook page. BUT, I do have a separate page for my business where clients can still connect with me but they don't have to read if I'm going for a drink with a friend on Friday night. I keep my personal page for my family and friends.

You never know what someone's opinions or prejudices are so I think it's better to be safe.

Another example of Facebook postings gone bad was when Israeli Defense Forces had to cancel a West Bank raid after a soldier posted detailed information on the upcoming mission on his wall.

This month in Cleveland, a woman typed in the name of the woman she thought her husband was having an affair with and photos of his wedding to the mistress at Disney World appeared! The husband claimed she already knew and was doing it as a publicity stunt. Who knows...

Some folks are using the social media for good—or at least to deter others from being bad. The Police Department of Evesham Township, New Jersey has decided to post names and mug shots (arrest photos) of DUI offenders on their Facebook page.

Have we gone too far?

Aug 7, 2010
Category:Behind the Scenes In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

When I read a story about six teenagers drowning in the Red River in Shreveport, La. on Monday, I felt such sadness for the families. None of the parents or children knew how to swim, yet they decided to have a barbeque by the river and wade in the water. It upsets me that parents would plan this outing knowing that if an accident happened, not one person there could help.

This story reminded me of my spot news days working at a paper. I worked as a photojournalist in Shreveport for four years before moving back to my hometown of Tampa, Florida to open my freelance business. One of the reasons I left the newspaper industry was because I wasn’t meant to shoot spot news.

I remember how the “subjects” used to look when I would come on scene with my cameras slung over my shoulders, ready to document the worst day in their lives.

No one really understands what it’s like to do a job until you are asked to do it. I loved my job as a newspaper photojournalist. There were good and bad days (and assignments) like any job but I really felt like some of the work I did made a difference.

Then there were the days like Monday. I know how the photographer might have felt; pulling up to the riverbanks and knowing that there would be intense, raw emotion pouring out of this family.

It’s hard to photograph days like these but it can be helpful. Many great photographs taken under stress and taken of awful situations have led to good things—legislation to prevent the same crime from happening, a fund set up for the victim’s family, awareness of a social issue, etc.

One of the last major events I photographed before leaving the newspaper world was Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, La. It was the hardest assignment I shot. I’d never truly documented the destruction a natural disaster like a Category 5 hurricane leaves behind. I’d covered car accidents, fires, murders, etc. but never something on that scale. So many people were affected and I felt that my personal safety was always in question.

I applaud those photographers who cover wars and disasters and manage to remove themselves from the chaos to photograph what’s happening and do their job. It takes a special person to do this and I hope others understand what sacrifices these journalists make to bring the news to you.

So, next time you see photos of a major tragedy like September 11, 2001, the Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, Iraq war or the Indonesian tsunami, think of the guts and strength it took for someone to snap the shutter. Some news photos are incredibly hard to view; imagine how hard it was to shoot.

*Photo by Jessica Leigh Photography*

Jul 28, 2010
Category:General In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

Astronomers have figured out how to photograph the entire universe using a telescope millions of miles from Earth. The end product is quite beautiful.

To learn what exactly it is that we see in this amazing photo, please take a look at this article. It will blow your mind!

*Photo by the European Space Agency.*

Jul 23, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

If I had a dollar for every time I encountered an article about a “Photoshop-altered image”, well, I’d have some extra spending cash which I would probably use to by the newest version of Photoshop.

BP has yet again become a big blog topic due to three photos that were released of their cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. The photos were clearly altered and whoever did it, used a cut and paste technique that did not make the new versions realistic.

I’ve ranted on my blog many a time about altering digital photos and what it can do to my profession and the credibility of all photographers. It cannot become the norm for anyone—photographers, editors, designers or even CEOs.

The reason this particular incident upsets me is because BP is in enough trouble already—they have tarnished their image this year, possibly forever. How would this kind of stunt help? Someone always finds out…thank God for the photo geeks who find these problems. Plus, BP’s reaction to it is that they are now blaming the contract photographer for altering the image and claiming no responsibility of their own.

The photographer may have done this on their own (and for that they should be punished) but BP is forgetting the one lesson they should have learned in the last three months: one mistake can take an entire company down.

View the before and after images here.

*Photo courtesy of BP via Flickr.*

Jul 2, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

One of the most powerful and in-depth photo stories I have ever viewed won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker received the award to bring the Post’s Pulitzer total to six.

For more than two years, Walker documented a “boy” named Ian Fisher as he graduated from high school, joined the Army and was deployed to Iraq. Walker’s access and creativity to make every frame different after years covering the same subject is inspiring. Through his images, you can see his passion to tell this story in particular. He didn’t have a model soldier as a subject. He didn’t just want the typical “war images” from Iraq that we have all become numb to after seeing so many of them.

The story is called “Ian Fisher: American Soldier” and I highly recommend you take time out of your day to see what really happens when young men are asked to take on more responsibility than they can handle.

There are so few storytellers left in photojournalism that are given the time and resources to pursue a story and finish it. My thanks go to the Denver Post for giving Walker what he needed to make this an award-winning piece of art.

*Photo by Craig F. Walker*

Jul 1, 2010
Category:General In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

A 25-year-old U.K. mother recently checked out the Google Street View and was surprised to find an image of her 3-year-old son naked, with only his shoes on. A license plate on a nearby car was blurred out but not the naked boy. The mother wants to know why the images aren’t reviewed well before being posted online.

Google later replaced the image with one that blurred out the child from the waist down.

When I first read this story, I thought that the mother was probably somewhere she shouldn’t have been, letting her son run wild with no pants on. (I’ve seen weirder things happen.) I assumed she would cry “invasion of privacy” and sue Google for millions. Then I read that this happened in her garden, I assume in the privacy of her own backyard.

Now I understand why she is so upset and why she feels sick to her stomach about finding this photo. I don’t have a child but if this happened to my husband or me, I would be outraged. I can’t think of a reason why we’d be naked in our garden but you never know!

Where do we draw the line when it comes to technology and our privacy?

Jun 30, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

This year’s recipient of the Pictures of the Year International (POYi) Emerging Vision Incentive award is truly exposing a way of life that is bizarre, intriguing and sad.

Photographer James Chance will continue to document his project called “Living with the Dead: Manila’s North Cemetery.” Through his project he is exposing a community of 2,000 people who have made their home the North Cemetery, among hundreds of thousands of Filipino presidents, celebrities and Catholics.

These families have literally built lives on top of tombs and graves. They live and work there instead of in the city slums, where many of the city’s poverty stricken people reside. Approximately 40 percent of Manila’s population lives below the poverty line.

According to Chance, 80 funerals can occur each day in the North Cemetery.

Chance’s goal is to explore the lives of the people that live among the dead. The most interesting aspect of his plan is to understand the cycle of life in this community—“babies are born as bodies are laid to rest.”

It’s rare these days to see classic storytellers receiving money to do what they do best. I’m excited to see the POYi grant awarded to Chance and I can’t wait to see what he does with the project.

*Photo by James Chance*

Jun 17, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Not even Lance Armstrong can avoid being “Photoshopped.”

His latest professional magazine photo graces the cover of Outside, a travel and fitness magazine. He wore a plain t-shirt for the photo session and Outside staff added “38. BFD.” (The numbers and letters refer to his age this year--38 years old--and that it’s not a “big f---ing deal”.)

Armstrong is pissed. He called it “weak” that they did it without his permission.

In the age of digital alterations, the only thing that upsets me is that there’s an easier solution—ask him to wear a shirt with the phrase on it in the first place. Maybe they did and he refused but no one has offered up that information yet.

The story is about his 38th year and how he’s overcome so much and what's in store for his future. I get it. It’s kind of funny to have a shirt on that expresses his attitude.

However, so many staffers are now looking to do post-production work on photos that they forget photographers can make most of it happen from behind the lens! It’s lazy and brings more scrutiny on all publications every time there’s a controversial magazine cover photo that’s rumored to be an altered image. Outside staff defended their actions by showing they have very small print on the cover that says, “Note: Not Armstrong’s Real T-shirt.”

Just because someone admits “I’m lazy” doesn’t make it ok.

Jun 2, 2010
Category:In the News Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

One of the reasons I love the new photo exhibition at the Tate Modern in London is that the photos are a wonderful mix of very literal imagery and some that are more suggestive and subtle.

The exhibit titled “Exposed” showcases photographs from various artists that focus on the idea of voyeurism. Some are more subtle like the Harry Callahan photo (1984) of the backside of a woman standing on a street corner. The way it’s shot, it seems as though maybe the photographer is a safe distance behind her, using a long lens and trying to fill the frame with her body.

A more obvious interpretation of the voyeurism theme is seen in Shizuka Yokomizo’s photos from her “Dear Stranger” body of work from 1999. She wrote to strangers asking them to stand in their window at a specific time and date so she could photograph them outside their homes. It sounds creepy to me but apparently enough people did it for her to make a series out of it.

I visited the Tate Modern in London in 2006 while traveling with a dear friend of mine through England and Ireland. I loved the museum and have always held a fascination with modern art. Even if I don’t understand it completely, I’ve always been drawn to it.

Photography exhibits catch my eye first, naturally. Seeing someone else’s work in exhibit form is a special privilege and I don’t take it lightly. I know how much time, effort and talent goes into one show so I’m grateful there are museums out there like the Tate Modern that allow for such artistic freedom.

*Top photo by Harry Callahan; Bottom photo by Shizuka Yokomizo.*

May 26, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Where does the “altering” end when it comes to digital photography?

When you’re trained to be a newspaper photojournalist, you are given certain rules to abide by. One of them is don’t alter your digital image so much that it looks nothing like the original. Many photographers and sometimes editors have made the news themselves by ignoring this rule for the sake of making a “better” photograph.

I will admit there is a huge gray area so it is sometimes hard to know what’s acceptable and what’s not. Removing people from photos is NOT.

The Dominion Post in Morgantown, West Virginia took it upon themselves to alter Martin Valent's photo (he works for the West Virginia Legislative Reference and Information Center). The editor of the paper, Geri Ferrara, is under fire for her decision that she continues to defend.

The photo in question is of Governor Joe Manchin seated with a pen signing “Erin’s Law”, named after a WVU student (Erin Keener) who died in a hit and run accident. The original photo includes two members of Keener’s family and three delegates with the Governor. The newspaper removed the delegates from the photo because of “the newspaper's policy not to publish pictures of candidates running for re-election during the political season."

Ferrara said her decision is just because she labeled the photo a “photo illustration”. She is truly stretching the definition of the word. Webopedia defines it as “a type of computer art that begins with a digitized photograph. Using special image enhancement software, the artist can then apply a variety of special effects to transform the photo into a work of art.” View the story here and decide if Ferrara has created a “work of art”.

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) keeps a watchful eye over all newspapers, journalists and editors. They wrote to Ferrara and stated their disappointment in her decision. "Find an alternative to lying," NPPA's letter to Ferrara said. "If the there are no other photos available of this event, then do not run any photo at all or run a head-shot of the governor if you have to run something. You must value your integrity above all else. All other considerations or excuses pale in comparison."

May 22, 2010
Category:General In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

Hitler is wearing a pink uniform with a heart on his sleeve instead of a swastika. Does this sound like a joke? Well, a fashion boutique in Sicily, Italy thinks it’s kind of funny.

The boutique called New Form has caused a controversy by using Adolf Hitler in its current advertising campaign. The photo has been enlarged to 18-feet high posters and shows Hitler in a pink uniform accompanied by the slogan, "Change Style--Don't Follow Your Leader."

I believe the point of the campaign is to poke fun at Hitler while urging their target market to stand out and be your own leader in the fashion world. Good idea but not sure it’s going to go over so well with the general public.

It doesn’t offend me personally and from a public relations standpoint, I can see why they did it. The internet is buzzing about this controversial advertisement and their next one won’t be politically correct either. It features Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse Tung.

Bad publicity is still publicity.

May 21, 2010
Category:General In the News 
Posted by: Jessica
Controversy surrounding a photo of Modern Family actress Julie Bowen breast-feeding is the latest talk of the blogosphere.

It brings up the question of most photos involving women exposing something—has it gone too far?

One could argue it’s no different than a Victoria’s Secret ad showing women in lingerie covering only what would be blurred by the FCC.

But is it the maternal act of breast-feeding that offends people? Or is it the pride Bowen showed by trying to unveil the photo on The View and then being able to do so on George Lopez’s late-night show.

I asked my husband what he thought when he saw the story and after he joked a bit, he said he didn’t see the point in her showing the photo on national television. I guess that’s how I felt too.

She said she was proud of her “double football” pose because she holds both boys at the same time while breast-feeding. I guess I’m proud of some things I do in the privacy of my own home but I haven’t photographed them and released them to a talk show host.

My question to you is, “What’s the point?”

View the story and photo here. (Photo by REUTERS.)

May 14, 2010
Category:General In the News 
Posted by: Jessica

The New York Times maintains a creative and newsworthy blog filled with impactful photos and stories.

This week the staff unveiled a project they’ve spent countless hours working on called A Moment in Time. They asked blog readers to submit photos taken from all over the world at exactly 15:00 U.T.C. on Sunday, May 2, 2010. The project was an ambitious one and the results are pretty cool.

Professionals and amateurs submitted more than 10,000 photos for the interactive globe gallery. You can click on any stack of photos from around the world and see the submissions from that region.

Projects like these keep the passion of photography alive for so many shooters.

May 11, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

The most recent chatter about the Miss USA Pageant has nothing to do with the actual pageant.

All 51 contestants participated in a very sexy lingerie photo shoot with photographer Fadil Berisha called “Waking up in Las Vegas.”

The photo shoot has drawn some controversy because of its contemporary, sexual nature but personally, I am all for it. Controversy still draws attention the pageant, which has been less than exciting the last few years. I have never been interested in the pageant myself but seeing that they choose to go this route with a great photographer and some edgy photos, draws my interest.

A good point was made that in this photo shoot, no more skin is shown than during the swimsuit competition. It’s just different clothes to cover up X-rated areas. The women look sexual, beautiful and current but isn’t that what some of the pageant is about any way? I have never seen an unattractive woman compete in Miss USA.

What do you think? Is this too much for the traditional Miss USA Pageant or is this just what the pageant needs to bring viewers back?

Click here to view a video of the shoot.

May 10, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

John Kaplan.

To most people who are not in the world of professional photography, that name means nothing.

He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

He teaches photojournalism at the University of Florida.

And he has cancer.

John is not your ordinary cancer patient. He has documented his struggle through chemotherapy and numerous other painful procedures and treatments in hopes of bringing some light to the world of cancer.

He said it started off when he took a photo of himself in his bathroom mirror on a whim. Now he’s created a documentary about the entire ordeal.

To call this brave and selfless is not enough. It’s difficult for photojournalists to document someone else’s struggle with a disease. We do it when we have to or when we think a story needs to be told. But to photograph your own story about cancer is nothing less than inspiring.

“As my doctor says, with some cancers you never know,” Kaplan said. “I don’t spend time dwelling on that. (I’m) just glad I’m here to be there for my family, there for my students and know this film project will help other people.”

I was fortunate enough to earn my degree in journalism at UF under the tutelage of John Kaplan. He has made me cry, laugh and work so hard to be a better photographer. When others couldn’t find the time to help, John pushed me and didn’t let me fail. I will never forget that about him. I hope his current students know how lucky they are.

Click here to watch a video of John discussing the film.

May 3, 2010
Category:General In the News 
Posted by: Jessica
POYi launched a new program that will help aspiring documentary photographers make their dreams come true.

The basic requirements are to propose a new project focused on documentary work, be an emerging photographer (not a full-time professional) and be willing to work on the project for a full year.

The part I love the most about this program is that there are no age limitations. So, this grant of $10,000 could go to an 18-year-old enrolled in college or a 65-year-old retiree. As long as you have a strong proposal and a passion for the subject you want to document, you can apply.

POYi Director Rick Shaw explained how this could change someone’s life, "So if someone is a security guard, and their whole hope was to become a documentary photographer, but they're not able to get a foothold because of the current publishing climate and economic realities, this incentive would do it."

The University of Missouri and Pictures of the Year International have a long history of being synonymous with photographic excellence. The Missouri School of Journalism was founded on 1908 as the “world’s first school of journalism.” They produce award-winning photojournalists year after year, most of which enter and sometimes win the POYi contest. The contest is in its 67th year and is still going strong.

If you’ve ever had a desire to explore and document a social issue but didn’t have the time or money, this program is your chance to make it happen.

The application fee is only $20 and the deadline is May 31, 2010.

To read about the details of the program, click here.

To apply, click here.

May 1, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

One of my favorite charities to shoot for is Flashes of Hope.

The goal of this organization is to photograph kids with life-threatening illnesses like cancer and give those photos to their families as a gift.

The best part is seeing how the kids light up once they realize this is about pampering them, making them feel special and helping them to forget about their illness, if only for an hour. Being in a hospital for days on end and having to receive treatment that makes you feel worse can be exhausting.

Because the shoots are done monthly and I've only been volunteering for two years, I've done two shoots, both of which were extremely fulfilling. During the first one, we set up the studio in a break room at the hospital. A father came in to escape and get a little distraction. He told me had a 16-year-old daughter at the hospital that had cancer and was not doing well. I stopped what I was doing and sat next to him, just to listen. He went on about how he couldn't believe he had to watch his "baby girl" go through this. And he started sobbing. I couldn't help but hug him and after about ten minutes of talking and crying, he said he felt so much better. All he needed was someone to listen who wasn't a doctor or family member. He needed a shoulder to cry on and I was so touched he chose mine.

All of the people involved are volunteers and the families don't pay a dime for any of it. They receive a print package and a CD with the high-resolution photos after the photographer edits the images.

The entire shoot is coordinated by All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay Chapter Directors Dana Hudepohl and Marc Silbiger. Aveda provides make up and styling services and local photographers rotate monthly.

So far, 185 children have been photographed in Tampa Bay.

If this charity interests you, I urge you to donate your services or money to keep it going. It means a great deal to me and I hope after seeing some of the photos, you’ll feel touched too.

Watch the FOX 13 story here.

Apr 30, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Once again, Lindsay Lohan is making waves by doing a crazy photo shoot.

This seems to be her way to get attention when she's not doing her job, which in case you forgot is acting. The last time she shocked the world was for a photo shoot for the cover of Purple. She was dressed in a white robe with a crown of thorns on her head and her arms outstretched. She was trying to look "Christ-like."

This time, celebrity photographer Tyler Shields photographed Lohan in little clothing with a gun pointed in her mouth, with her legs above her head and with blood on her hands and all over the walls behind her. She calls it "art" and has defended it on her Twitter page.

The photos are provocative and as I've said before, most photos are shot to get a reaction. It doesn't have to be a favorable one, it just has to be an honest reaction when you see it. Shields is doing what any photographer would do--making images that people will talk about, blog about and want to see.

The shoot is called "The Dirty Side of Glamour." Check it out and see if it evokes a reaction in you.

Apr 27, 2010
Category:In the News General 
Posted by: Jessica

WARNING: The video discussed in this blog is violently graphic and contains nudity. Please be aware of this before viewing it. Thank you!

Singer and rapper M.I.A. debuted the graphic video “Born Free” on Monday and the cyber chatter hasn’t stopped since.

No one is quite sure what the underlying message is but that probably is the message: think for yourself.

The 9-minute video shows SWAT-like men rounding up red-headed boys from a neighborhood and forcing them on a bus. The boys are then taken to a desert and lined up, execution style, then told to run into the desert. One boy stands there, paralyzed by fear. He is shot in the head in a scene not unlike that of Eddie Adams’ Pulitzer Prize winning photo of a suspected Viet Cong being executed.

The other boys run through the desert only to be surprised by land mines, one of which blows a boy to pieces.

Now, most people might ask, “What’s the point?” Well, you may not know her message but just like I am blogging about the video that made my mouth drop, you’ll probably have an opinion on it too. She’s hoping for a reaction, a discussion, an argument, a feeling.

While this is supposed to be a “music video”, I do understand the point of shooting something to elicit a reaction. Some still photographers don’t care if you like their photo, as long as you feel something about. We’ve all seen graphic images from war that make us cringe and turn away but we still felt something when we looked at it.

You Tube decided to pull the video from their site due to its graphic nature. I understand the need to protect others from viewing such graphic violence if they think they’re just viewing a hip hop music video. But I don’t see this being any worse than photos or videos that document reality.

Try looking at photos from the earthquake in Haiti or the West Virginia mine explosion or even Hurricane Katrina. I still think about the people I photographed in New Orleans after Katrina hit and I hope someone saw my photos and paused to think about the people in them.

Apr 22, 2010