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I just watched a great independent documentary about PsychOps and their widespread use in consumer propaganda. It is no surprise that empire is built on  mind-plays upon the populace with regard their daily choices as it is on the mind-plays upon the same populace to sell its military invasions and murder during time of war invasion & occupation in foreign lands.


It’s still too early in the new media game to see if power really can be wrenched from big media – partakers in the psych-ops – and put into hands of the little guys. (And, this is not to suggest that the little guys will make better decisions, but it’d be a shift for sure). But, in terms of media and the stories we want told, can we imagine a media landscape over which we have more control?

We can feed photojournalism directly, if we only imagine ourselves as being in power.

Two tools have come to light this past week which seem feasible.

The first, Flattr, is a web-app which allows the user/recipient (note, I shied from the term ‘consumer’!) to express instant gratitude and give money to the producer of content. Flattr is built into the infrastructure of the web and applies to any and all content, not just photographer and not just journalism.

The second,, pertains specifically to photojournalism. If we are sick of celebrity pap filling our screens should we not be chomping at the bit for a model of production/consumption that is advertisement free and hands us some agency?

WHERE TO PLACE THE EMPHAS.IS is well aware of the success of the crowd-funded model in other areas of journalism. It seems, in my opinion, to be modeling itself on Spot.Us, progressing the format and making specific its use. I know that the widespread incorporation of the platform – and even the code of the site! – were things that Spot.Us founder Dave Cohn had in mind from the start. Adopt and fine-tune for the benefit of crowd-funded media.

Spot.Us was open to photojournalist pitches, but the platform diluted the impact of PJ work amidst all its other journalistic efforts. It seems like the photo-community would be more secure if it knew it had a place to call its own. In it now does.

Also, in its early stages, Spot.Us necessarily focused regionally, sprouting steadily across US metropolitan regions. looks to have a more global view – which is only right; times and expectations of new media have changed, grown up.

Kickstarter too has served many photographers well, but its reach is even wider than Spot.Us serving mainly creatives.

So, for me at least, seems to fall between Spot.Us and Kickstarter has an impressive list of endorsements from photo-editors and photographers (Philip Blenkinsop, Carolyn Drake, Jan Grarup, Michael Kamber, Teru Kuwayama, Dominic Nahr, Jerome Sessini, Anthony Suau, Tomas van Houtryve, Kadir van Lohuizen). is the brainchild of photo editor Tina Ahrens and photojournalist Karim Ben Khelifa. is set to launch early 2011. I think we should start saving our pennies for the first round of pitches.

Spot us

I  filmed Dave Cohn‘s breakthrough Talking Heads jam sesh in 2005. The atmosphere was electric. It was also in our front room. I knew him when he was an intern at Wired.

I was really pleased therefore when he returned to San Francisco after grad school with a head full of ideas and pocket full of cash to launch Spot.Us


Spot.Us uses a crowd-funding model to support journalism. It is “an open source project, to pioneer ‘community funded reporting.’ Through Spot.Us the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories … All content is made available to all through a Creative Commons license. It’s a marketplace where independent reporters, community members and news organizations can come together and collaborate.

In the Spot.Us early days, I suggested a Tip to the community that it produced reporting on the impact of the economic downturn on California prisons. The speculation in the wording of my tip is now outdated – even laughable. We know that the CDCr has more than struggled – it has hit meltdown. The CDCr’s fiscal crisis can only turn inmates loose without sufficient re-entry support.

The function of ‘Tips’ seems to be simply to register interest; they are pithy when compared to the ‘Pitches‘ which are constantly promoted and on the search for supporters. Spot.Us not only empowers ordinary citizens through the $20 donations it also has established partnerships with big media – most recently the New York Times for Lindsay Hoshaw’s story on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Prison Health Reporting

Prison Photography would like to encourage you all to support Bernice Yeung’s Prison Health Reporting.

Yeung explains the need for journalism, “Parolees without proper access to drug treatment, mental health and medical care could have potentially serious public health and public safety ramifications. This issue has attracted the attention of policy makers, prisons, doctors and social service providers, who are increasingly trying to connect parolees with medical care and social services upon their release.”


While my position on the broken and punitive prison system of the US is well known, I have hardly commented on the need for expanded reentry support programs.

I think public safety is a notion too easily manipulated and reduced to rhetoric when legislation is created, but it is a reality that must be objectively measured when former prisoners are released.

Yeung’s focus on the drug and mental health programs, the practitioners and clients, and their testimony is the right inquiry. Yeung’s work will crystallize the life-changing, damaging, shocking and (occasionally) redemptive effects of prisons on folk in our society. Any one of the stories she tells will be more worthy than the electioneers’ tough on crime doublespeak.

Here’s the latest from Bernice Yeung on the Spot.Us blog.


Spot.Us is a fantastic experiment and is a part of the puzzle to all of those questioning what the future of news reporting will look like. See what all the fuss is about here.


Image: The image above originally appeared in the Spot.US blog post Prisons & Public Health: Why Should You Care? It is uncredited. I am curious about the image, because I am not even convinced it is from an actual prison. I would guess that a closely-cropped black & white image including bars, an obscured face and a blinding source of outside light ticks all the right boxes for a photo illustration. Our brain is fooled by these visual cues.

In this case, the writing and the appeal are more important than the image and, if my reading is right, I understand why this image was manufactured. However, I could be completely wrong. I’d like to know the photograph’s back-story….


prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com


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