Tutti gli articoli di Allen Murabayashi

You Won’t Find the Trump White House on Flickr

In April 2009, the Obama Administration made the historic move of uploading 293 photos to a newly minted White House Flickr feed.

Although White House photographers had been capturing Presidents regularly since Kennedy, this was the first time that the public had access to a larger, regularly updated pool of images captured by Pete Souza and his staff. Prior to Flickr, the public was largely relegated to searching the terse interface of the National Archives and Records Administration.

The images also prompted Flickr to create a new designation of “United States Government Work” to augment the extant copyright and Creative Commons categorizations. By law, governmental works cannot be copyrighted since taxpayer money funds their creation (it’s the same reason NASA images aren’t copyrighted).

“The great thing about children is you just don’t know what they will do in the presence of the President. So when David Axelrod stopped by the Oval Office with one of his sons’ family, Axe’s granddaughter, Maelin, crawled onto the Vice President’s seat while the President continued his conversation with the adults. Then at one point, Maelin glanced over just as the President was looking back at her.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Obama images were more than “grip and grin” moments. They sought to humanize a President derided by the right and beloved by the left. Political affiliations aside, they were brilliant photos that illustrated a tremendous amount of trust between photographer and subject. And Souza and his staff made thousands of photos available via Flickr. For photo geeks, the EXIF data also provided some insight into the gear and settings used by the White House staff.

A week after the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, the White House announced the appointment of Shealah Craighead as Souza’s successor. The Obama Flickr feed was promptly moved to a new location to make room for the Trump administration, but two months later, not a single image has been uploaded. Not even the cover image has been changed from the default.

There is, of course, no obligation for any President to use Flickr or any other social media for that matter. Trump famously uses Twitter, but his use of photography so far has been limited.

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold a joint press conference on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Benjamin D. Applebaum)

On the POTUS Facebook feed, a single album entitled “The First 50 Days” with most images credited to Craighead have been available for a few weeks, and on Instagram, the administration has made 25 posts. But the images are standard in their depiction of the presidency.

With the exception of a moment with Ivanka Trump, the images are largely of the “grip and grin” variety.

Holding her youngest son Theodore, Ivanka Trump talks on the phone in the East Colonnade of the White House, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

There’s no conspiracy here, but it is curious that such a media-savvy person as Trump isn’t making more use of photography to enhance his image. It certainly isn’t for a lack of potential feel-good moments either.

As for the Flickr feed, I wouldn’t be surprised if it remains empty for his tenure. It seems Making America Great Again doesn’t require photography.


About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.

Don’t Mourn Popular Photography

After nearly 80 years, Popular Photography announced that the magazine would publish its final issue on March 10, 2017 while simultaneously ceasing updates to both PopPhoto.com and AmericanPhotoMag.com.

The end of an era will always be tinged with sadness, and of course, we can’t make light of people potentially losing their jobs. But like many print publications, Pop Photo suffered from being a generalist—an aggregator of content that could be widely found (often in more detail) through a casual Internet search.

Sites like DPReview offer more comprehensive buying information, Roger Cicala nerds it out with a level of detail that would flummox most photographers, and YouTube channels like Negative Feedback specialize in niche and DIY topics that Pop Photo simply couldn’t replicate.

And of course none of these channels can compete with the stream of vernacular images and video that one can find through Instagram and Snapchat. Taking better photos has always been a niche concern—and it has become even more so as photos have become a kind of slang communication.

Decades ago, I remember poring over the 42nd Street Camera ads in the back of Popular Photography—dreaming of owning a Nikon F3HP and some exotic lens—but the march of technological progress has been blindingly fast.

Dedicated camera sales have plunged amidst the increasing capabilities of the camera phone. Post-production techniques have become arguably as important as image capture. And even a resurgence in analog processes has fueled the creation of online video training directly from people practicing the techniques—not being reported on by a journalist with only a passing interest.

Mourning the loss of publications like Pop Photo reminds me of recent columns on the NYT’s Lens blog. Long time editor/photographer Donald R. Winslow opined on the state of photography and how difficult the landscape had become for photojournalists, while 20-something Leslye Davis offered a retort unencumbered by historical baggage.

It was an exchange that has mirrored many conversations I’ve had with younger photographers. The young photographer doesn’t know how good or bad it was “back in the day,” she only knows how it is now. This isn’t willful ignorance of history, but rather the reality of making photos today. Perhaps the economics of Davis’ full-time position at the NYT isn’t representative of the struggle of most freelancers, but that doesn’t invalidate her experience as a 21st century documentarian.

I will always remember Pop Photo for infecting me with Gear Acquisition Syndrome from an early age. I will fondly recall being inspired by some of the photos and techniques I saw by flipping through its pages. But there are so many more incredible resources and outlets for photography than ever before. So thanks for helping lead the way Popular Photography. The road to the future is bright and wide open.


About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.

Fetishizing an Entire Culture Through Photography

In September 2016, Vogue España featured Kendall Jenner in a ballet-themed photo shoot. The ballet community was up in arms over the “ballet appropriation” and disregard for the years of training that goes into being a ballet dancer. Jenner responded by explaining that “ I didn’t even know I was going to be a ballerina until I went into hair and makeup.”

Spanish Vogue by @miguelreveriego

A post shared by Kendall (@kendalljenner) on

Fashion photography has always had an element of the fantastical and aspirational. Fashion itself tends to be very appropriative. Case in point: Kellyanne Conway’s Gucci-designed Inauguration outfit. No offense to professional dancers, but this was much ado about nothing.

Ado About Something

For Vogue’s March issue – ironically their “diversity” issue – model Karli Kloss was photographed by Swedish photographer Mikael Jansson in a piece called “Spirited Away,” an allusion to Hayao Miyazaki’s classic animation. My newsfeed was dotted with cries of cultural appropriation. I didn’t understand the fuss because the first image I saw looked lovely.


A white model wearing a kimono is no different than a non-Indian wearing a Nehru collar. They are pieces of clothing that have been adopted into individuals’ wardrobes.

But upon closer inspection of the essay, it was clear that Kloss was made up as a geisha (and referred to as a geisha in the essay) – a deeply misunderstood role in historical Japan that most westerners incorrectly equate with a prostitute.

So the blonde Chicagoan donned a black wig and was styled with make-up to make her appear asian while playing the role of a sexualized exotic. Let’s not forget using an asian man as a prop – it’s gotta be a sumo wrestler or a ninja, right? This isn’t the case where a model pretends to be a ballerina, mermaid, or construction worker. This is using photography to reinforce a detrimental narrative. And for what? To sell clothes and perfume. (Kloss did apologize.)

We can’t eschew nuance and claim that this is no different than the Jenner case. It’s a false equivalent because as a professor friend of mine pointed out, “We continue to reinforce the narrative of otherness (e.g., Asian women as exotic geisha dolls, black youths as overly sexual thugs) that then feeds into the systemic racial inequality that pervades US society. These are not isolated examples, but have a long and tenacious history.”

I’ve been traveling in Tokyo for the past two weeks. In a city of 13 million people, I’ve seen two women in kimonos and two sumo wrestlers on bicycles. Photographers wield the power to depict people and cultures in ways that either reinforce or dispel stereotypes. Use it wisely.

(If you really want to photograph geishas, then pursue the project on your dime, fight for access, and be one of the few people to ever photograph them behind the scenes.)


About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.

Jarob Ortiz, the Next ‘Ansel Adams’ of the National Park Service

In December 2015, the Internet was abuzz with a National Park Service (NPS) job listing that was considered the search for “the next Ansel Adams”: a position for a black-and-white large format photographer with a salary up to $100,000 per year.

The full-time photography opening called for large format experience to document both features within the National Parks as well as “outside in the communities around the parks, sites that aren’t under the umbrella of the National Park Service but are still significant in American history,” according to Dr. Richard J. O’Connor, Chief of the Heritage Documentation Program.

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) – all parts of the NPS’s Heritage Documentation Programs – require large format photography for inclusion in their respective collections in the Library of Congress. In addition to providing much higher resolution than 35mm photography, large format allows the photographer to use shift and tilt controls to control the rendering of perspective, and the polyester-based large format film is more durable than the acetate used in 35mm roll film.

In July 2016, NPS announced that Milwaukee native Jarob Ortiz edged out nearly 5,000 applicants for the position, and Ortiz soon drove to the Washington, D.C. area to begin work.

Photographer Jarob Ortiz.

After spending time getting his darkroom in order, Ortiz went to work. He traveled around the country documenting landmarks like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Schwartz House in Two Rivers, WI, the Bloede Dam in Maryland, and the Baggage and Dormitory Building on Ellis Island, which led to a profile on CBS This Morning.

We spoke to Ortiz via e-mail.

There was a lot of buzz on social media when the Parks Service posted the job opening. I suspect a lot of people were interested but deterred by the large format photography requirement. What background did you have with this increasingly rare analog format?

My background in large format photography started at my photography program at the Milwaukee Area Technical College. There I was formally trained on how to use the view camera. I was taught what each camera movement is responsible for and how they can be utilized effectively to solve different photographic problems. I instantly fell in love with the system because I recognized how versatile the camera was for photographing architecture and landscapes; my two favorite photographic subject matters going into the photography program.

After graduating in 2013, I continued to regularly use the view camera for personal work and for a few commercial architectural jobs. During this period I was shooting a lot more color transparency film than black and white. I did this because I found color transparency to be much more challenging to work with than both b&w and color negative film. The limited exposure latitude constantly keeps me on my game and forced me to find a creative approach when capturing scenes with extreme contrast (deep shadows and bright highlights). It taught me how utilizing fill flash in a number of different situations – including some of my landscape shots.

Photo by Jarob Ortiz/National Park Service

While most of the world has gone digital, what are the reasons for the Parks Service to continue shooting film? Have there been any discussions about using equipment like the Phase 100MP system?

Here at the National Park Service we are still shooting film because the Library of Congress likes to have a tangible record of each documentary photograph. The negative serves as this tangible, unaltered record. If properly processed and stored, a negative will outlast a print by a few hundred years. It’s quite remarkable.

With that said, we have begun discussions with the Library of Congress to move the Heritage Documentation Programs into the digital era. I’m currently giving the 100MP Phase One system the most consideration for our transition, but before that can happen, we need to iron out the guidelines and standards for born digital photography as they relate to documentation photography. We are currently working hand in hand with the Library of Congress to have these ready by the end of 2017.

Photo by Jarob Ortiz/National Park Service

What type of gear are you using?

The cameras I use are a 5×7 Linhoff camera and a 4×5 Arca-Swiss F-Field C View camera.

The lenses I use are Schneider, Nikkor, or Rodenstock lenses. 72 mm; 90 mm; 121 mm; 150 mm; 240 mm; 300 mm; and 480 mm on the 5×7 camera. 65 mm; 72mm; 90 mm; 150 mm; and 210 mm on the 4×5. I always fit the lens with a b+w contrast filter (typically yellow).

For lighting I use two 1000ws Profoto D1 Air heads and two 500ws Profoto D1 Air heads fitted with various different sized Profoto softboxes and umbrellas.

The tripod I use is a set of Gitzo Moutaineer Series 3 Carbon Fiber Legs with an extra industrial head made just for the 5×7 Linhoff. To be honest, I have no idea where the NPS got this head. I think it may be an older, more robust version of the Manfrotto Deluxe 400 head, but not 100 percent sure on that. There’s no label on this thing anywhere. For the 4×5, I use a Manfrotto 410 Junior Gear head that’s been modified for exclusive use with the Arca-Swiss rail system.

Photo by Jarob Ortiz/National Park Service

I think many people think you spend your days shooting Yosemite or Yellowstone, but what has the reality of the first six months been like?

The reality of the first 6 months has been nothing but architecture. It’s what I shoot the most and it’s why I was hired for this job – because I was the only candidate in the pool that submitted a strong architectural portfolio comprised solely of large format images.

Photo by Jarob Ortiz/National Park Service

The average photographer traveling to a National Park or monument is probably thinking of taking a photo that will get the most “likes.” How do you conceive of an image, and what do you want your images to accomplish?

When I approach an area to photograph the first thing I consider is the most important historic element that needs to be recorded. I typically walk around the subject matter and analyze it from every visible side. I like to see how the natural light interacts with it and then determine whether or not that subject matter is fit to shoot at that moment or if I can complete another task while I wait for the light to shift.

Not every photograph is an eye-catcher. Sometimes the end photo can be quite mundane, but not any less important. The photo still serves as a historic record and must showcase all relevant information to help supplement the rest of the historic report (i.e. measured drawings, written history, laser scan, etc.).

Photo by Jarob Ortiz/National Park Service

Your career path didn’t include attending “name brand” schools with renown photography departments, yet you have scored what most photographers would consider a dream job. With all the discussion around the affordability of college, the demise of for-profit schools like the Brooks Institute, etc, why do you think you have been successful?

I think I’ve been successful because I knew exactly what I wanted from my school and from photography in general. Before I just jumped into a program, I researched all the photography programs in Wisconsin and the Chicago area. I wanted an affordable program that taught large format camera techniques in conjunction with the application of a working analog zone system. Thankfully that program was located right there in my hometown of Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Also, I definitely give my instructors a lot of credit for instilling an enormous amount of discipline into my everyday workflow. I really think that is the ultimate key to my success – the patience and discipline I need to exercise in order to execute large format film photography properly. Everything is very process[-oriented] with these kinds of cameras. The way you set up the camera, focus an image, set up lights, measure light, take notes, develop film, printing – every step has its own rules and they must be addressed in a certain order. It’s really all about patience and discipline.

Photo by Jarob Ortiz/National Park Service

You’re obviously still new to the job and relatively early in your career, but what sort of legacy do you want to establish with your photography with the National Park Service?

As far as my legacy is concerned – I’ve never really given it much though other than I want history to show that I did this job the best I could and with all of my heart day in and day out. Words cannot express how absolutely grateful I am to have been given this opportunity to work for the National Park Service. This is a dream come true.


About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.

The Problem of Fake Photos in Fake News

The New York Times just reported an incredible story of how a 23-year old recent college graduate created a fake news story about fraudulent Clinton votes in Ohio and netted $22,000 on a fake news website from ads.

Desperate for cash to pay for living expenses, Cameron Harris concocted the piece, which was quickly picked up by pro-Trump websites:

Embedded within Harris’ story was an image he stole (“With a quick Google image search for ‘ballot boxes’”) that allegedly showed “Randall Prince, a Columbus-area electrical worker,” who had discovered the fake ballots. The image was actually from the Birmingham Mail, a UK-based news site and showed a worker delivering ballot boxes to a district community center in Sheldon.

The original, undoctored image. Photo by Birmingham Mail

According to Snopes, Harris flipped the image and blacked out some of the lettering on the boxes in “an apparent attempt to make it difficult to find the original image.”

History is littered with allegations of staged photography in news settings, but the decentralization of the news media and the rise of hyper-partisan sites has led to something else: image theft and fraudulent captions.

And with the potential for virality, individuals are using social media as springboards for fraudulent imagery like this image from circa 2013 that was promoted by @YoungDems4Trump as evidence of a mass of bikers making their way to Trump’s inauguration.