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kikuchi_ef2013

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by the Magnum Foundation (MF) and asked to nominate six photographers who were pursuing projects of social importance. The MF was readying itself to disperse the 2013 Emergency Fund grants.

Today, in conjunction with TIME LightBox, the Magnum Foundation announced the 10 chosen photographers and their bodies of work:

Adam Nadel, Getting the Water Right
Alex Welsh, Home of the Brave
Giulio Piscitelli, From There to Here
Jehad Nga, Unmasking the Unthinkable
Mari Bastashevski, State Business
Olga Kravets, Radicalization
Rafal Milach, The Winners
Tanya Habjouqa, Occupied Pleasures
Philippe Dudouit, The Dynamics of Dust
Tomoko Kikuchi, The River

Two of my nominations won support. That’s a one-in-three strike rate; better than the current form of Blazers’ guard Wesley Matthews.

Nominations by myself and 14 others resulted in a pool of 100 photographers. From that 100, a three-person editorial committee – Philip Gourevitch, contributing writer for the New Yorker and former editor of Paris Review; Marc Kusnetz, former Senior Producer of NBC news and Consultant for Human Rights First; and Bob Dannin, former Editorial Director of Magnum Photos, and professor of history at Suffolk University – chose 10 projects.

10 grants have been dispersed. Regional photographers who live and work near their homes each received between $4,000 and $7,000, while the photographers working internationally secured grants between $7,500 and $12,000.

The EF 2013 grantees are a group of talented photographers, working internationally and within their home regions. All of the projects anticipate emerging issues that are underreported and show great promise to reveal new perspectives through a range of visual styles and approaches. [...] The selected projects address a range of pressing issues including human impact on one of the world’s most delicate ecosystems, systemic roots of violence in vulnerable communities, investigation of human rights abuses, and post-arab spring immigration flows,” says the Magnum Foundation.

Due to the sensitive nature of many of these projects, MF is being careful about the amount of information it shares publicly about the projects’ details and geography. We’ll just have to follow the photographers’ output closely.

Congratulations to all grantees.

See the work at TIME LightBox.

Above image: Tomoko Kikuchi, from the series The River.

With the PG&E power plant in the background, from left, Terry Phillips, Jusuw a May-Loto, Meritiana Loto and Justice Phillips relax on their porch on Harbor Row in Hunters Point. Residents successfully lobbied to shut down the pollution power plant in 2005, the single largest stationary source of air pollution in the city at the time. © Alex Welsh

THE DOCUMENTS OF A PHOTOJOURNALIST

Last April, San Francisco’s Superior Court played host to legal wrangling between the San Francisco Police Department and a young aspiring photojournalist. The ignition to court battle was the gang murder of Norris Bennett in the marginalized Hunter’s Point neighbourhood.

A young (then unnamed) photojournalism student had photographed at the murder scene of Bennett. The SFPD issued a warrant for the images and seized them during a search of Welsh’s domicile.

The photojournalist invoked California’s shield law to regain possession of his images and have them withdrawn as evidence. In July, at the time of the ruling, my colleague, Brendan Seibel, wrote a splendid piece about it for Wired’s Raw File.

THE DEFINITION OF JOURNALIST

A shield law is legislation designed to provide a news reporter with the right to refuse to testify as to information and/or sources of information obtained during the newsgathering and dissemination process.

What is interesting is that the ruling soon became involved in determining whether or not the young photojournalist was “a journalist”. Seibel explains:

Supporters of the student, including professors and professional journalists, highlighted several instances of publication in sworn statements. According to testimony filed in the motion to quash, photographs taken by the student have appeared, both in print and online, in San Francisco State University’s magazine, the Wall Street Journal and the Oakland Tribune. These articles have not been publicly connected to the photographer to protect his identity. The student had also approached the Wall Street Journal about publishing his current project, although the paper had not committed to purchasing the series.

The warrant was overturned and the student won the case. First amendment activists and free press advocates celebrated the ruling.

THE COMPETITION OUTING OF A PHOTOJOURNALIST

Fast forward to November 2009 and Alex Welsh (San Francisco State University) wins Gold in the Documentary category at CPoY for the portfolio Hunters Point, ‘We Out Here’.

Welsh is the anonymous photographer.

The final photograph of Welsh’s winning portfolio is of an SFPD officer administering CPR to Norris Bennett’s body, with the added tragic caption that Norris was the second brother of the same family to be murdered.

I must say I was well aware of Welsh’s work at the time of its win. I posted it on my auxiliary blog Photography Prison, linked to Dvafoto’s respect and noted Welsh’s interview with NPPA … but I never put the pieces together.

That was until this week when I read The SF Weekly’s S.F. State student who invoked Shield Law reveals murder scene photo in national contest by Peter Jamison:

Alex Welsh, lowered the shield some time ago. His name was not revealed by police, the judge, or even the San Francisco Chronicle in its coverage of the case, but he did choose to announce it himself — in the country’s foremost student photojournalism contest.

Legally, this is a very interesting story and ethically it is quite troublesome. Obviously, we don’t know the exact nature of Welsh’s digital files from Friday April 17th. We don’t know if his images held information pertinent to the case. Whether he did or not is of no consequence if you look at this case from only a legal argument position.

NORRIS BENNETT

If one searches Norris Bennett’s name on the internet, the returns are hundreds of articles about the shield law case, none about him, his murder or the investigation since. I don’t know if his murderers have been identified or how his family has coped in the aftermath.

To discuss this case without a curiosity for news on how his community and family fares would not be right. So while we may mull and judge the behaviour of Welsh, the SFPD and San Francisco’s Superior Court we should also think about the behaviour of mainstream media to forsake the emotional and familial stories following Norris Bennett’s murder.

Bennett was young. Welsh wanted to document the “strength, perseverance and hope of youth”. You can decide through Welsh’s images if he does them – and Bennett – justice.

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prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

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