Category Archives: Photography

‘I heard the mechanic click. I knew this is not good’: Joao Silva’s speech

The New York Times blog today published in full a speech given by photojournalist Joao Silva at the Bronx Documentary Center earlier this month. Silva was severely injured after stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan last year.

Silva lost both legs below the knee, with months of recovery ahead of him at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington. Just last month his work returned to the front pages, with an image accompanying a story about the closure of the very medical centre in which he was staying.

In his speech, published in full here, Silva describes that moment in October last year when “everything changed”.

I heard the mechanic click. I knew: this is not good. And I found myself lying face-down on the ground, engulfed in a cloud of dust, with the very clear knowledge that this has just happened and this is not good. I could see my legs were gone, and everybody around me was dazed. I was like: “Guys, I need help here.” And they turned around and saw me on the ground. They immediately sprang into action. I got dragged out of the kill zone, for safety reasons, to a patch of ground a few yards away.

Immediately, there were medics working on me. I picked up a camera, shot a few frames. The frames weren’t very good, quite frankly, but I was trying to record. I knew it wasn’t good, but I felt alive. Adrenaline kicked in. I was compos mentis; I was on top of things. So, I made some pictures. I dropped the camera, then I moved to Plan B, which was to pick up the satellite phone. I called my wife, Vivian, and told her: “My legs are gone, but I think I’m going to live.”

Silva also used his speech to offer advice to young photojournalists keen to enter the field. And the key is perseverance, he said.

It’s not an easy industry. It’s highly competitive. Every year there are literally thousands of young kids coming on the stage, a lot of them so talented. For freelancers, it’s a juggle every day. There’s only so much money going around. There’s only so many publications that will employ people. Even though demand for knowledge and content has grown, the market has shrunk. It’s really sad, but it’s a reality.

As for Silva’s own journey, he said it is likely to be another year before he is “fully functional”, but added that the ultimate goal is to get back to work.

Without a doubt, life is strange. Everything has changed. But I hope to pick up from where I left off, to a certain extent. In the meantime, I just take a little more courage and a little more perseverance and quite frankly, take as many drugs as I can.

Guardian and Citizenside team up for Tour de France photos

The Guardian is gathering spectators’ photographs from the 2011 Tour de France by partnering with citizen media agency Citizenside.

The Tour de France 2011 page of the Guardian’s website features a slideshow dedicated to sharing the experience of being a spectator.

Citizenside is paying the citizen photographers using fund from the Guardian, editor-in-chief of Citizenside Philip Trippenbach told

The slideshow includes shots from local eyewitnesses from every stage of the race and spectators are encouraged to post pictures by a series of geo-targetted campaigns.

The Guardian has so far used 645 spectator photos from Citizenside, averaging 38 photos per stage for the first 17 stages of the Tour de France.

In a release, Philippe Checinski, co-founder of Citizenside said:

We’re very excited to be providing our members with such a great opportunity to share their experiences of the Tour de France. It’s not every day that locals from those remote towns get their own photos published on the fifth most visited news site in the world.

Matt McAlister, director of digital Strategy at the Guardian, added:

Working with Citizenside has given us a chance to explore some new ways of partnering with other communities and platforms that share our approach to openness.

Other stories on Citizenside are at this link.

MEN journalists respond to news of arrested photographer

Journalists at the Manchester Evening News have responded to the news that photographer Sean Wilton was arrested after taking pictures of an incident near to the city’s magistrates’ court on Monday.

According to a report by MEN Wilton was later released, after being what the police termed “de-arrested”.

“I tried to explain I wasn’t obstructing and was just doing my job, but to no avail,” Wilton says in the report. “When I tried to speak to him about the situation, he arrested me for breach of the peace. As professional photographers, we do try to conduct ourselves as professionally as possible.”

In a statement (attributed to mother of the chapel Bethan Dorsett) his colleagues in the NUJ MEN chapel said its photographers always abide by industry codes of conduct.

To be treated in such a way by police is completely unacceptable and very worrying. Either police officers do not understand our rights and responsibilities or they sometimes choose to ignore them – either is disturbing and suggests some education would be useful. We are sure the NUJ and MENMedia would be more than happy to discuss and clarify these matters with the police.

The police issued the following statement:

A photographer was arrested to prevent a breach of the peace and on suspicion of obstructing a police officer. Officers brought the situation under control and the photographer was de-arrested and subsequently released.

2011 Rory Peck Awards open for entries

The Rory Peck Awards, which recognises the work of freelance cameramen and women in news and current affairs, are now open for entries.

The awards consist of three categories:

  • The Rory Peck Award for News
    Honours the work of freelance cameramen and women in the coverage of a news event where the focus is on the immediacy of the story.  Rushes / un-voiced pieces are accepted in this category.  Maximum duration: 10 minutes.
  • The Rory Peck Award for Features
    Honours the work of freelance cameramen and women in news and current affairs features: in-depth pieces which look beyond the immediacy of a news story.
    Maximum duration: 60 minutes.
  • The Sony Professional Impact Award
    Honours the work of freelance cameramen and women in news or current affairs that examine humanitarian or social issues. Judges will be looking for entries that have had a tangible impact in one or more of the following areas: audience, press, policy or public awareness. Maximum duration: 60 minutes.

According to a release from the Rory Peck Trust, “the awards recognise quality of camerawork, but also take into account individual endeavour, initiative and journalistic ability”.

“We welcome self-funded work and entries from local freelancers, especially those working in regions where it is difficult to operate.”

Last year’s winner was Arturo Perez, who spoke to after winning the award about the struggle to report Mexico’s violent drug wars.

The award is named after freelance cameraman Rory Peck (pictured), who was killed in 1993 while filming in Moscow. In 1995 the Rory Peck Trust, which organises the award, was established in his memory to help provide support for freelancers and their families.

All entries must have been first broadcast between 1 August 2010 and 31 May 2011. Closing date for Entries is Monday 6 June.

Five of the best Tumblr news blogs

Blogging site Tumblr is growing at an incredible speed. There are now 32 million people in the US 4.5 million people in the UK visiting the site.

News organisations are engaging with the community by setting up their own Tumblr blogs. The Guardian set up a Tumblr account in January and started posting stories in February.

We have been taking a look at the Tumblr blogs of news organisations from around the world and have compiled a list of our favourite five.

1. Canada’s National Post

Why? For its use of photographs, front pages and graphics.


2. Washington Post’s Innovations

Why? For its linking of third party content, integration into its main site and the superb technology content (minus the deluge of royal wedding posts)

Washington Post Innovations

3. The Guardian

Why? For its design. It looks just like the Guardian. It includes a well-thought out layout, quantity and type of stories.

Guardian on Tumblr

3. LA Times

Why? For it tone and fabulous collection of photos.

LA Times on Tumblr

5. Newsweek

Why? For being very social and introducing us to their Tumblr person, linking multimedia content such as SoundCloud and for handy tabs within their layout theme

Newsweek Tumblr

Follow our how to guide to creating a Tumblr blog for a news organisation.

How to: Create a Tumblr blog for your news organisation

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is a very visual way of blogging. One of the many beauties of Tumblr is its simplicity and easy interface. You can create an account, choose a URL, select a design theme and create your first post in under five minutes.

It is free and it is social: users can reblog, flag up things they like and engage by asking questions and commenting. Since each Tumblr blog has its own URL, you don’t need to be a member to view posts.

Although it has been around since 2007, over the past year it has been growing at an incredible rate.

“Right now Tumblr serves up 5.7 billion pages each month; this is growing by 400 million more pages every week,” Mark Coatney from Tumblr told

Almost half the Tumblr pages viewed are from the US, but the UK Tumblr community is growing fast and it now has 4.5 million unique users and 8 per cent of page views making it the third largest country on Tumblr.

The US is first, with 32 million people visiting the site; Brazil second with 5.6 million.

News organisations are joining Tumblr.

.Guardian on Tumblr

Five of the best Tumblr news blogs are at this link.

Tumblr, which was started in New York in 2007, by David Karp when he was just 20, almost became too popular for its own good. In December, rapid expansion led to it being down for eight hours. It has since opened another data centre to cope with capacity.

How does it work?

Tumblr posting options

There are seven post types: text, photo, quote, link, chat, video, plus you can ask or answer questions.

You can post from the web-based dashboard or by downloading the free iPhone, Android or BlackBerry app.

There are also other options including posting links from Bookmarklet, publishing via email and other third party applications (find out more via the Goodies tab on the dashboard).

You can decide to follow people or organisations, much as you do on Twitter. You can reblog (similar to retweet) and “like” a story. Followers can also ask questions or leave messages. You can create a group blog so several members of a team can contribute (go to the dashboard and members).

Who should consider Tumblr?

News organisations and individuals.

There are some great examples of news organisations getting to grips with Tumblr with the Guardian leading the way in the UK. There are some great examples from the worlds of fashion and art.

Tumblr’s Mark Coatney pointed us in the direction of this Short Form Blog, a really nice independent site that does news analysis and curation.

Why use Tumblr?

To engage with the 4.5 million UK Tumblr users.

“Our use of Tumblr is neither a marketing exercise nor a means by which to generate simple click-throughs,” Stephen Abbott, executive producer at told

“We launched the Tumblr because we wanted to engage with the Tumblr community and we’re always on the lookout for new communication tools which might help to improve or augment our editorial coverage.”

First things first

Get a feel for Tumblr and decide whether it is suitable for you or your news site.

“I would advise any journalists thinking about using Tumblr for their organisation to first get to grips with the nature of the platform and become familiar with the practices and tone used on Tumblr.

“Then they’ll be in a much better position to decide whether they could find a opening or niche on Tumblr which could be filled by their journalistic output,” Abbott explained.

Think about how you can engage without the Tumblr community and what you want to blog.

Perhaps you can use it for fashion and lifestyle, the best photography from your publication or as a way to connect readers with your newsroom. The Economist’s Tumblr blog includes its cartoons and front pages.

News organisations can use Tumblr “as a way into specific niches” of the organisations, Tumblr’s Mark Coatney advises.

“For instance, Washington Post does a very nice Tumblr blog just for their style section; this allows a specific kind of post reader another entry into the paper tailored just for them.”

The second piece of advice Coatney has is for organisations to use Tumblr “as a way to foster peer-to-peer communication between news organisation and reader”: GQ’s Tumblr, for instance, does an excellent job of using Tumblr’s “ask” feature (every Tumblr blog as an ask me a question page) to bring readers inside the GQ’s office.

His third piece of guidance is to use Tumblr “as a way to bring the intelligence of the newsroom to the public: CNN Money Tech has a group Tumblr that replicates the chatter that goes on in newsrooms every day; a cast of seven CNN reporters regularly dash off short notes and observations about stories they’re following throughout the day”.

Think visually. And also in terms of video and audio as Coatney explains.

Tumblr is a very visual platform; of the 25 million posts done every day on Tumblr, half of them are photos.

Posts with striking visuals tend to be reblogged more by other users as well, helping to spread the content quickly throughout Tumblr’s network.

The Guardian’s Stephen Abbott said: “We will often strive to post stories which have striking pictures or video to accompany the text of the post.

“But this doesn’t mean that we only post picture-led stories. As you can see from the variety of posts at, we like to try to post stories picked from a wide variety of sections on to showcase the breadth of content on our site.”

Along with receiving much attention for its use of Tumblr at SXSW, the Guardian has carried out two other experiments as part of its editorial coverage: this Glastonbury 2010 scrapbook and this one on untangling the web.

Think about who will manage it. Large news organisations use community editors.

“The Guardian Tumblr account is managed by our news community coordinators Laura Oliver and James Walsh,” Abbot explained.

“Laura and James work closely with our news desk editors on a wide variety of our coverage – from breaking news to long-form features – and they pick a variety of stories that they feel will be appropriate for Tumblr.”


Now you have got a feel for Tumblr blogs you can create your account, which takes a few minutes. All you need is an email address, a password and a username, which will become part of your URL (

Upload a picture/avatar. This is probably going to be your logo, perhaps the same as your Twitter thumbnail.

Tumblr themes

Now choose a design. You can opt for a free theme, pay for a premium one (costing between $9 and $49) or you can customise your own (perhaps with the help of a developer).

Look around at other examples and see what is most effective.

“We looked at many Tumblr accounts before creating the Guardian Tumblr in order to survey the enormous variety of designs and layouts available – but we didn’t copy any of these.

“Our designers came up with a look and feel for the Tumblr which was distinct to the Guardian but which capitalises on the strengths of Tumblr,” Abbott said.

Download the free smartphone app if you want to post from away from your desk/laptop.

Connect with Facebook and/or Twitter if you want your posts to be automatically added to your Facebook and Twitter news feeds (via customise on the dashboard). Bear in mind it will indicate that the post is via Tumblr.


Consider other add ons. Tumblr supports short comments but you can also add your Disqus account you can also take advantage of Tumblr’s own back up tool. You can decide whether or not you want to embed the blog into your own website (via Goodies).

Get ready to analyse. Paste your Google Analytics code into your site description in the customize menu.

You’ll also be checking the notes section to see what has been reblogged.

You don’t necessarily have to heavily promote your Tumblr blog.

“We have alerted Guardian readers to the presence of the Guardian Tumblr via our main @Guardian Twitter account but, at present, we don’t promote the Guardian on Tumblr across our other platforms.” Abbott told us.


Start posting.

  • Go visual
  • Be conversational
  • Keep it short. One, two or three paragraphs and link additional background content
  • Don’t just promote your own content. For example, the LA Times has linked to an Economist article on California; Al Jazeera has posted third party content of a time lapse map of uprisings and protests
  • Tag tag tag. Tumblr is powered by tags
  • Reblog
  • Ask and answer

How did you get on? Let us know when your news organisation has set up a Tumblr account.

Tributes to a fallen journalist Tim Hetherington

Last night news broke that a Western journalist was believed to have been killed in Libya.

It wasn’t too long before more details emerged from within the country and the UK Foreign Office was able to confirm the death of Tim Hetherington, a British born photojournalist – the first British journalist known to have been killed since conflict broke out in Libya earlier this year.

When news of his death came out three other photographers were also reported as being injured, and it was later confirmed by Getty Images that one of the trio, its staff reporter Chris Hondros, had died from his injuries late on Wednesday.

Hetherington, who was born in Liverpool but lived in the US, contributing to titles such as Vanity Fair.

He was said by his family to be in Libya as part of a multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict.

Since his death, tributes have been flooding in across British and international press.

We have collected together just some of the examples of his work being celebrated, and the messages being given in his memory.

Vanity Fair's homepage featuring the slideshow

Vanity Fair, which also published a statement which it claimed to be from Hetherington’s family last night, has produced a slideshow portfolio of the photojournalist’s work produced for the magazine. This includes images from Afghanistan, the setting for his Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo.

Panos Pictures, which also published work by Hetherington, also offered its condolences as news broke yesterday, saying he was “an irreplaceable friend and contributor to our agency since the earliest days”.

He combined a fierce intelligence with a deeply creative approach to photography and filmmaking that marked him apart from his peers.

He knew what path he wanted to follow, his work was direct and purposeful and stood as an example to many of his proteges.

We are still trying to come to terms with how someone so full of life could be stopped so cruelly in his tracks.

Speaking on Newsnight last night friend and fellow journalist James Brabazon called Tim, who had previously also worked with the BBC, as “a leading light of his generation”.

It really is not an exaggeration to say that his eye and his ability for what he did was unique, and his reportage really defined a generation of covering conflict.

The main thing about Tim to understand is that he was fundamentally a humanitarian.

A lot of the work that he did wasn’t just for the news or for magazines but was for human rights organisations as well.

He was a really passionate and an incredibly talented storyteller.

The Guardian has also produced a slideshow of Hetherington’s work, showcasing his coverage of conflict across the world and on a Facebook page for Hetherington tributes continue to be left.

Below is a video preview of his documentary Restrepo:

#ijf11: Playing at engagement and verification with Citizenside

Journalists, a lot of journalists in this room probably, recoil at the G word. “Oh you want to turn my really serious story into a game…

This was Citizenside editor-in-chief Philip Trippenbach speaking in an #ijf11 session earlier today called Beyond the Article.

Trippenbach has been trumpeting the benefits of gaming for journalism for some time now. He made a convincing case for gaming at a recent news:rewired event called, coincidentally enough, Beyond the Story.

Trippenbach has worked on interactive projects for the BBC and a host of other outlets. But clearly the “G word” is still a long way from taking root with most journalists.

He made a convincing case again today. This time – having joined citizen press agency Citizenside in January – for the power of gaming for citizen journalism initiatives.

The most powerful interactive form is gaming, in terms of interactive journalism, that is where the win is. When you talk about gaming baked right into the heart of a package, that is very profound.

With the addition of Trippenbach to its staff, Citizenside is certainly baking gaming right into the heart of its operation, and he outlined how it is using the form for two key purposes.

Citizenside users are encouraged to progress from level to level by accomplishing certain tasks, or “missions”, just like you did when you played computer games as a kid (or maybe as an adult too – according to Trippenbach more people in Western Europe and North America play computer games than don’t, although I forgot to ask where he got the data for that one).

And just like those computer games, the missions at Citizenside get harder as you go along, with the early stages requiring you to capture a relatively easy-to-obtain image, and the latter requiring, say, a good image of a state leader or an important newsworthy event.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Trippenbach talked about was how the agency uses that points-based gaming system not just for engaging users, but to help  with assessment and verification of user-generated content, always a thorny issue for citizen press agencies.

If we get a picture from a level 35 user, well, it takes a long time to get to level 35 or 45, and the Citizenside editorial team know that that user has demonstrated commitment to our values.

So not only does the gaming element of the operation help engage users by breaking down their involvement into a series of incremental tasks and levels, it also is a huge advantage to Citizenside for an indication of the reliability of the content it is receiving.

If its someone who has submitted five packages and five of them have been refused, well, we know what that is, but if it’s someone with a 100 per cent record, well, fine.

We have a trust system that allows some users to post directly to the homepage and be post moderated.

As well as information about the user, Citizenside uses software to access data about the package itself.

This technical side of the verification process can potentially allows the agency to see whether an image has been edited in PhotoShop or uploaded to Flickr, and reveal when and where it was taken and uploaded.

I want to return to the issue of gaming and engagement quickly before I finish. However many journalists Trippenbach has seen turn their noses up at gaming, I have seen examples at this festival of gaming creeping in to some of the best and most popular mainstream journalism taking place.

Citizenside’s example of breaking the user engagement down into small, incremental stages has echoes in the Guardian’s MPs expenses app, which aimed to crowdsource the examination of the 458,000 documents published.

The app had two million hits in the first two days but, as the Guardian’s Martin Belam explained recently, users were unenthusiastic because the process hadn’t been broken down into achievable-seeming stages.

When a second batch of documents were released, the team working on the app broke them down into much smaller assignments. That meant it was easier for a small contribution to push the totals along, and we didn’t get bogged down with the inertia of visibly seeing that there was a lot of documents still to process.

So gaming doesn’t necessarily mean the fully-fledged computer games we play on a PlayStation, it can be the simple interactive engagement of the Guardian app, or the New York Times’ Budget Puzzle interactive in which you attempt to solve the deficit.

As Trippenbach acknowledged after the session, gaming is not yet taken seriously as a medium. But at Citizenside it may be the solution to the two key problems facing any citizen agency, engagement and verification, and for that reason you can bet that they take it very seriously.

See more from #ijf11 on the Editor’s Blog.

Press Photographer’s Year Award 2011 opens for entries

The Press Photographer’s Year Award 2011 is now open for entries from photographers working for UK media organisations.

With 14 categories, including a Multimedia category and an overall Photograph of the Year prize open to submissions in all other categories.

The competition closes for entries on 17 April, and an exhibition of the winning images will be held at the National Theatre.

Last year David Bebber of the Times was named Photographer of the Year for his image of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi standing behind protective glass during a military parade to celebrate his 40 years as head of state.

See all the winning photographs from 2010 at this link.

The award was one of two major photography awards to open for entries at the weekend, with the AOP Photographers Awards also inviting submissions.

All photographs entered must have been taken between 1 January 2010 and 31 March 2011 inclusive, but they do not need to have been published.

Round-up: Journalists under threat in Libya

A British journalist has gone missing and two other reporters have apparently been taken into custody while reporting on the Libyan conflict.

The Press Association reports that Dave Clark, 38, last checked in with his editor at Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Friday evening.

His colleague Roberto Schmidt and Getty Images photographer Joe Raedle are understood to be being held by Gaddafi’s forces.

Denis Hiault, AFP’s London bureau chief, said:

“It’s now been three days so we are pretty worried. We have quite a few people on the ground trying to find anything about their whereabouts. We don’t know where they are, if they have been arrested or what.”

The trio are the latest in a worrying number of journalists who have been subjected to imprisonment or worse while reporting from what is now an international warzone.

Earlier on Monday, the New York Times announced that four of its staff had been released six days after their capture in the city of Ajdabiya.

Times’ Beirut bureau chief Anthony Shadid, photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario, and British born reporter and videographer Stephen Farrell were – like a lot of western journalists – operating without visas and had entered the country via neighbouring Egypt. From the Times:

“After the New York Times reported having lost contact with the journalists last Tuesday, officials with the Qaddafi government pledged that if they had been detained by the government’s military forces they would be located and released unharmed.”

In an emotional letter to the Times’ staff, editor Bill Keller said the paper was “indebted” to the Turkish government who played an instrumental part in getting the journalists out of Libya and into Tunisia.

Making reference to the Times’ recently-announced paywall, Keller said the capture and subsequent release was proof enough that “boots-on-the-ground journalism” is “worth paying for”:

We’re overjoyed to report that our four journalists missing in Libya since Tuesday morning are free and have arrived safely in Tunisia. The Libyan government informed us through various channels Thursday afternoon that Anthony, Tyler, Lynsey and Steve were in Tripoli, in the custody of the Libyan authorities, and would be freed soon. The four were allowed to speak to their families by phone Thursday night. Because of the volatile situation in Libya, we’ve kept our enthusiasm and comments in check until they were out of the country, but now feels like a moment for celebration. And before long we’ll all know the details of their experience. 

And, in a week when we have dared to declare that the work we do is worth paying for, this is a reminder that real, boots-on-the-ground journalism is hard and sometimes dangerous work. To the many colleagues who are deployed in hard places — the battleground streets of North Africa and the Middle East, the battered landscape of Japan — we implore you to be careful.

An Al Jazeera cameraman became the first journalist fatality of the conflict when he was killed while working near Benghazi on the 12th March. Al Jazeera correspondent Tony Birtley said:

“His is an extension of the campaign against Al Jazeera, and Al Jazeera Arabic particularly – because everyone here watches Al Jazeera Arabic. Their work has been heroic, and it has been a great shock to lose a colleague.”

Al Jazeera now say four more of their journalists are missing.

A team reporting for BBC Arabic were “beaten with fists, knees and rifles, hooded and subjected to mock executions by Libyan troops and secret police” before being released on the 10th March.

Chris Cobb-Smith, Feras Killani and Goktay Koraltan were all detained after being stopped at a roadblock. Describing the ordeal, Cobb-Smith said:

“We were lined up against the wall. I was the last in line – facing the wall. I looked and I saw a plainclothes guy with a small sub-machine gun. He put it to everyone’s neck. I saw him and he screamed at me. Then he walked up to me, put the gun to my neck and pulled the trigger twice. The bullets whisked past my ear. The soldiers just laughed.”

The BBC later received an apology from Libyan authorities.

On 2 March, the Guardian’s staff correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad was captured in the coastal town of Sabratha before being detained in a prison near the capital, Tripoli. He was released 14 days later. The highly-respected Iraqi-born journalist has worked for the Guardian since 2004, covering many conflicts around the world. Editor Alan Rusbridger said:

“We are delighted that Ghaith has been released and is safely out of Libya. We are grateful to all those who worked behind the scenes to help free him after his ordeal.”

Young Libyan web journalist Mohammed al-Nabbous was killed in an attack by pro-Gaddafi forces in Benghazi on Saturday. France24 report that the 28-year-old was reportedly hit by a sniper. His pregnant wife broadcast the news on al-Nabbous’ site Libya Al-Hurra (meaning Free Libya).