Kenneth Irby

Kenny founded Poynter's photojournalism program in 1995. He teaches in seminars and consults in areas of photojournalism, leadership, ethics and diversity.


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Advice on publishing graphic photos from Iraq

It’s just a matter of time.

That’s what I told a Kalish Visual Editing workshop on the campus of Ball State University just last week. I told the group that it was a matter of time before they were forced to make a decision on a graphic photograph and they needed to be prepared to defend their decision.… Read more

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33 young writers graduate from Poynter’s The Write Field program

Graduates of Poynter’s The Write Field program pose for a photo with their mentors, sponsors, instructors and supporters. (Boyzell Hosey, Tampa Bay Times)

The Mahaffey Theater was the scene of honored accomplishment on Friday night as 33 Write Field graduates shared a rite of passage before a packed house of family members, mentors, educators, sponsors and friends.

The middle school and high school students, all male minority graduates, donned tuxedos, marched in to an African drum line and were honored for their meritorious work following a nine-month academic enrichment and mentoring program.

Keynote speaker Jay Harris, ESPN’s SportsCenter anchor, challenged the group to consider the importance of their life choices both over the summer and throughout their young lives.

The graduates are the latest class to complete The Write Field, a program that has its beginnings in 2011. In that year, the nation turned its attention to St. Petersburg and the murders of three police officers, one of them by a 16-year-old boy. At about the same time, a report found Pinellas County, Florida, had one of the nation’s highest dropout rates among black male students.

Poynter and several community partners, including the Tampa Bay Rays Foundation, Wells Fargo and Blue Cross Blue Shield, responded with an innovative new program focusing on minority boys.… Read more

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Sochi photo coverage takes ‘patience, planning, logistics’

Harry Walker, photo director at McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, has a unique vantage point overseeing MCT’s visual coverage of the Olympic Games.

Raised in Savannah, Ga., Walker graduated from Morehouse College in 1980. He started his photojournalism career at The Columbus Dispatch, where he worked from 1988 until 1992. Before joining MCT, he worked as features and weekend photo editor at the Kansas City Star. He has served numerous organizations, with stints as a member of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Visual Task Force and as chairperson of the National Press Photographers Association’s Best of Photojournalism contest.

What follows is an edited version of our conversation about MCT’s ongoing Olympics photo coverage:

Me: So, Harry, you are nine hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. How is that an advantage or disadvantage for your MCT photographic reports?

Walker: Having the nine-hour time advantage allows you to cover more events than in the past. For example, a hockey game that starts at 9 p.m. in Sochi can be covered and you can still deliver photos to clients in plenty of time for publication. Each of our photographers covers three events daily, or two events that consume a lot of time.

On the other hand, communication with people at the Washington office and with loved ones has been a challenge.… Read more

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Martin Luther King Jr. under shepherd’s watch: debunking urban legend

St. Petersburg Times photographer Bob Moreland took this photo in June 1964 after Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested during a St. Augustine, Fla., sit-in and was being transported to Duval County jail. The caption read: “Dr. King Sits in Patrol Car with Police Dog.”

As the country marks the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s day of celebration, I recall one photograph I have most often heard described as “eerie.”

It is one of those iconic images that, in almost every instance I have heard it described, the explanation provided is almost always wrong.

Most recently, during the MLK Heritage Lecture series at Poynter, two attendees asked me what I knew about the photograph. That conversation reminded me of a very similar one I had this summer with actor Forest Steven Whitaker at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Orlando, during the Visual Task Force Scholarship Auction.

When Whitaker asked, “what’s going on in this picture?” someone quickly quipped: “Dr. King is being protected by the German shepherd in a friend’s vehicle.”

This is like one of many legendary photographs in which people remember the image but not the headline or the authentic context.

On June 13, 1964, The St.Read more

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Why the Knoxville News Sentinel ran photos from a deadly bus crash

On Oct. 2, a bus heading to Statesville, N.C., collided with an SUV and a tractor-trailer on Interstate 40 in Tennessee, killing eight people. The Knoxville News Sentinel ran photos from the accident on its Oct. 3 front page and on its website. News Sentinel visuals editor Kevin Martin spoke with Poynter’s Kenny Irby about the paper’s decision to run the photos of the accident’s grisly aftermath.

How did you and the newsroom learn about the accident? What were your first response steps?
We heard about the accident on the police scanner. It occurred about 30 minutes east of Knoxville where we normally don’t hear scanner traffic. However, emergency response units from Knoxville were needed, so that’s how we found out.

Our first step was to listen more. But once we heard it was a bus we sent a photographer and reporter to the scene and assigned other reporters to work various emergency contacts. Shortly after that we decided to rent a helicopter from a nearby town for additional aerial coverage.

When did you begin to feel that you had an ethical decision-making dilemma and what was it?
We started getting reports via social media that several people were dead.… Read more

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John White on Sun-Times layoffs: ‘It was as if they pushed a button and deleted a whole culture’

John White’s 44-year career at The Chicago Sun-Times has been rooted in faith and professionalism. It’s a career he refers to as “an assignment from God.”

John White

Earlier this week, that career came to an end on what some photographers have called the darkest day in Sun-Times photojournalism history. The paper announced Thursday that it had laid off its entire photojournalism staff and would rely on freelance photographers and reporters instead.

White — who has seen the paper go through many owners and changes — says he never imagined that his and his colleagues’ careers would end so abruptly.

In a phone interview, the 1982 Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist and teacher recalled a day that he is still “trying to make sense of.”

“This is what I remember hearing: ‘As you know we are going forward into multimedia and video, and that is going to be our focus. So we are eliminating the photography department.’ Then they turned it over to HR,” recounted White, who had already been doing video at the paper.

White said it all began with an email alert on Wednesday evening directing the staff to attend a 9:30 am meeting on Thursday — which White said was “only the second meeting with the new managers.” He called the meeting “intimidating” and said “there was a toxic and unkind spirit in the office.”

White said the 28 full-time photography department staffers who received the news seemed shocked: “It was as if they pushed a button and deleted a whole culture of photojournalism.”

Those being laid off were asked to return company equipment, White said, and their access badges were demagnetized while they were receiving their layoff packages.… Read more

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Globe’s Tlumacki: ‘I am dealing with trauma & trying to keep busy’ following Boston tragedy

On Monday, veteran photojournalist John Tlumacki captured the iconic image of the Boston Marathon bombing: runner Bill Iffrig knocked to the pavement on Boylston Street in front of a trio of police officers, each seemingly headed in a different direction.

On Friday, the 30-year veteran of the Boston Globe — who’s been a finalist for the Pulitzer prize and honored as the Boston Press Photographers Association’s Photographer of the Year — found that coming to terms with the week’s tragic events required him to complete one more assignment.

So Tlumacki returned to Boylston Street, to the finish line where weary runners had crossed before cheering fans, only to have jubilation turn in an instant to horror, chaos and carnage. During those hours on Patriots Day, Tlumacki’s memory card had captured a wide range of human emotions. On Friday, at a makeshift memorial near that finish line, his own emotions caught up with him.

Tlumacki told me that he found himself “a little emotional, and took the yellow still photographer’s marathon bib that I wore that day, and I knelt down in front of the cross and I placed it. And I went back to my car because this was too heavy.”

For Tlumacki, Friday began with a 4 a.m.… Read more

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Why do we blame the (visual) messenger for tragedies?

With the click of a shutter, in a dimly illuminated New York City subway tunnel, on the evening of December 3, it happened again.

Actually, it was more like several clicks of the shutter, and the “it” was another tragic act of human inhumanity.

Independent photographer R. Umar Abbasi was the authentic witness to a crime beyond our wildest imaginations. After a verbal altercation, 31-year-old Naeem Davis, now charged with second-degree murder, pushed 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han, of Queens, N.Y., into the path of an oncoming subway train.

Almost immediately after the New York Post published the photograph of Han’s last few living moments on the cover of their tabloid and their website, it seems like everyone — media and citizen alike — blamed the visual messenger for doing his journalistic duty.

In this modern era, with all of our personal digital assistants and the 24-hour news cycle, now more than ever in human history, viewers want — even expect — to see tragic and sometimes morbid reflections of life ASAP! The need for speed drives the habits of iPhone, Android, tablet scrolling users with an insatiable need for the latest.

For the better part of last week, journalists, media pundits, academics and average consumers with voracious appetites for images have debated the media moral of the New York Post’s decision to publish the photograph.… Read more

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This photo, taken by reporter Amy Scherzer for the Tampa Bay Times, shows (left to right) Jill Kelley's twin sister, Gen. David Petraeus, Scott Kelley, Jill Kelley, and Holly Petraeus.

How NY Daily News, Tampa Bay Times got those cover shots of Jill Kelley, David Petraeus

As journalists reported on Gen. David Petraeus’ resignation from the CIA, photos spread over the weekend of the women involved.

Petraeus resigned after the FBI learned he had an affair with biographer Paula Broadwell. The affair came to the FBI’s attention when another woman, Jill Kelley, complained to an FBI agent that Broadwell had sent her harassing emails.

All three people are married, and there have been no allegations that Kelley was romantically involved with Petraeus.

But in photographic coverage, context is king. And the images of Petraeus and Kelley appear to tell a different story.

This photo, taken by reporter Amy Scherzer for the Tampa Bay Times, shows (left to right) Jill Kelley’s twin sister, Gen. David Petraeus, Scott Kelley, Jill Kelley, and Holly Petraeus.

The Gasparilla photos

The photos that would define Jill Kelley started making their way to the world around 3:15 p.m. Sunday, when Tampa Bay Times Senior Photo Editor Patty Yablonski arrived at work. (Poynter owns the Tampa Bay Times.)

Yablonski “walked in the office and had Veterans Day to deal with and football. It was not a normal Sunday afternoon at all,” she told Poynter by phone.

Times staff writer Amy Scherzer had taken the photos of Jill Kelley with her husband, her twin sister and the Petraeuses nearly two years ago when Scherzer was covering Gasparilla, an annual Tampa social event.… Read more

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"My editors agreed that black and white got the readers to the heart and soul of the images without any distractions," said Davidson.

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer captures emotional, physical wounds from gang violence

Barbara Davidson‘s “Caught in the Crossfire” project, which won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in feature photography, features authentic images that tell untold stories, as they capture intimacy, depth and compassion.

The photographs in “Caught in the Crossfire” give people a reason to pause and reflect on how victims and their families have endured the effects of gang violence in Los Angeles. And they relay the seriousness of the issue in ways that words alone can’t.

I talked with the L.A. Times’ Davidson via email about her reporting process, why she chose the photos she did, and what advice she has for other journalists covering gang violence. You can read our Q&A, which has been edited for clarity, below.

Kenny Irby: Tell me about the “Caught in the Crossfire” project. How and why did you invest so much time, energy and staff resources into covering gang violence?

Barbara Davidson: We dug deep with this project so that our readers could get to know these families and have an understanding of the devastating impact of gang violence on innocent bystanders. Colin Crawford and Mary Cooney, my editors, decided at a certain point in the project that they would have to take me off the daily schedule so I could concentrate full-time on finding victims, doing video interviews, visiting with the families who were going to be a part of the story, going on police and fire ride-alongs, talking to gang interventionists, etc.… Read more

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