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Kennerly: Chop Crop in the Lens

I apologize... there's been so much I've wanted to write here, and I just haven't had the time. I will however reprint this unbearably long comment I made on the New York Times Lens blog today.

I felt really compelled to try to answer a few questions on the David Hume Kennerly piece (controversy?) today.

Please click here to see the photos in question, the essay, the Newsweek response and all the comments on the Lens.

Here's my two cents that should appear on about the eighth page of the comments.

The Joe Rosenthal image wasn’t staged, at least by the photographer. The Capa image of the falling soldier…probably so.

Photojournalists are hired for their ability to make interesting, and relevant images of an event regardless of what kind of strings are being pulled. So yes, the picture of the president “pardoning” a Thanksgiving turkey each year is a staged event. That doesn’t mean that a talented photojournalist won’t somehow make a worthwhile image during that event.

Photojournalists are NOT hired to document any event staged or otherwise without somehow digging a kernel of truth out of the situation. If you want to document something, hire a crime scene photographer or go to the video tape from a surveillance camera. Then enjoy looking at the “truth” until someone else offers a second opinion.

It all comes down to intent. Photojournalists realize that the goodwill they enjoy with both their subjects and their viewers relies on their INTENT to show things as accurately as possible. That’s the real value that we (photojournalist) bring to any publication.

NEWSWEEK, with the silly statement by Frank De Maria above, has revealed their intent is to use journalistic content to manipulate their readers into accepting a political position that is held by them.

This is the opposite of journalistic integrity. Their intent was clearly to show things inaccurately.

I’m reminded of an image that TIME used on its cover, which I believe was made by Bob McNeely, during the Clinton years. The photo was used to illustrate that certain political players were operating together in a shady manner, but if I remember correctly, the image was made a year or so before any of the questioned events had taken place.

Just another example of editorial foolishness taking place at the highest level.

Of course, this is nothing new, it has just accelerated over the last few years. It seems that the newsmagazines are doing everything in their power to weaken their brand and make themselves irrelevant.

The idea that images are cropped on a regular basis is true. The only thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the fact that most of these images were much more powerful before the crop than after.

I’m not HCB, so if you LICENSE (we don’t sell images, the only images NEWSWEEK owns are those done years ago when they still had staff photographers) you can crop away, but you’ll likely cheat yourself. The only image I can remember of mine in the last thirty years having been improved with a crop was a horizontal that ended up on the cover of TIME. Still, the horizontal would have made an excellent double-truck.

Case in point, Kennerly’s original is infinitely better than the hackish crop job shown above. More importantly it captures a nuanced, view of the polarized character of Cheney that is reflected across our country.

The red states see a man standing in front of his family willing to protect and/or provide for them through whatever means needed.

The blue states see a man savagely tearing into bloodied flesh while an uninterested population ignores the carnage.

This is a perfect example of why the print media is failing. The editors think so little of their readers, they hold them in such contempt, that they simplify and try to spoon feed every little morsel they serve up. One thing that Cheney (judging by the portion sizes) doesn’t seem to be guilty of!

I’m reminded at this point of another photograph made by Kennerly. The image ran across two pages in NEWSWEEKS democratic convention issue of 2004. In it, we see then presidential candidate John Kerry supposedly working on his acceptance speech on the front porch of a house in Nantucket. The problem is that Kerry’s reading glasses are sitting on the table next to him as he’s “reading” his speech. There was no need to point this fact out to the astute viewer, or to explain that this, like in most political images, the politician always knows you, the photographer are there, just like the Cheney’s obviously knew Kennerly was there for this one.

This is what a seasoned photojournalist like Kennerly brings to the table. This is why magazines (at one point) hired people like him. In both cases, Kennerly made a lasting and telling image for anyone who really cared to look (barring bad cropping that destroys that opportunity).

We don’t know the exact circumstances under which the photograph was made, but I think some blame has to rest on the distributing agency, Getty. Photo agencies exist not to just distribute and license the work of a photographer, but also to protect that work. As the proverbial 800lbs. gorilla, Getty could certainly press Kennerly’s case with NEWSWEEK. I doubt very much that the magazine, now that it has basically done away with contract, staff, or even assignment photography would want to lose access to the work produced by Getty’s photographers. In my opinion.

Salmon people… it’s fricken salmon. Who cooks beef in a pan like that?

— Kenneth Jarecke


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Kurt Shoens

I read ten pages of comments at the NY Times Lens blog and found your comment the most insightful.

I certainly agree that the crop pretty much ruins Kennerly's original and I'm surprised that Newsweek couldn't find another photo that fit their needs better.

I thought Newsweek used the photo as an illustration for an editorial, but maybe I got the wrong impression. At any rate, regardless of one's opinion of Cheney, I think we can all agree that Cheney has presented a vigorous defense of Bush administration policies. If that's what Newsweek was trying to put across, then OK. I won't see the print edition until tomorrow.

And yeah, salmon. Did others commenting on the Lens blog look at the photo closely?


This sentence: "The editors think so little of their readers, they hold them in such contempt, that they simplify and try to spoon feed every little morsel they serve up. " sums up our problem perfectly.

thank you,

Kenneth Jarecke

Thank you both for your comments. It seemed so straight forward to me, I couldn't believe there were so many people that didn't seem to get it.

Oh well, this is a continuing and constant battle.

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