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Freelance photog Nick Stern calls out news orgs that use Hipstamatic and Instagram

by John Rabe | Off-Ramp®

Nick Stern and dog Ziggy, photographed with the Hipstamatic i-Phone camera app, which Stern says should not be used for news photos. Note the lower-res quality, saturated colors, and the photo album-esque frame.

UPDATE: I wrote the blog item below last week, in defense of Hipstamatic (which I have used for years) and Instagram. Nick immediately agreed to an in-depth interview, which you can hear here, and noted that the edit of his CNN column removed a lot of context, and made him seem a bit grumpier than he really was. (And c'mon, look at his dog, and the cool tattoo.) I also took a black and white film photo of Nick, which I'll post if it turned out. In the interview, Nick also gives us some good insight into the economic perils of war photography, and tells a story about Robert Capa's D-Day photos that many of you probably haven't heard. -- John

Nick Stern may be a great photographer, but today he wins the Old Man on the Front Porch Award for his column on Instagram and Hipstamatic images, in which he says, "Every time a news organization uses a Hipstamatic or Instagram-style picture in a news report, they are cheating us all."

It's not as easy as he makes it out to be to make moving, beautiful pictures with them. Stern implies the camera does all the work. Foo. Just look at the 1-billion awful Instagram and Hipstamatic photos posted on the web. Good photographers make good pictures. I know my settings and my setup and I work hard to make my pics come out the way I want them to. Most of them don't, and get deleted. I like this one:

(Credit: John Rabe)

The only "fakery" perpetrated is if someone posts a photo and pretends it's an old Polaroid or pinhole shot when it's not.

News organizations manipulate photos all the time, and thank God they do. Nick writes, "Any news photographer worth his or her salt will tell you that the best camera is one that lets you take the photo unencumbered by the technicalities of the process. A camera that lets you record the scene with the light and shadows as it lies before you, and to produce an image that brings the emotion of the scene to the viewer -- one that lets you take the photograph naked."

Nick, you mean you never change the depth of field or use a wide angle or telephoto lens, and never print anything but the full frame of the negative? You don't use Photoshop to adjust your colors or increase the contrast? All of those techniques clothe a naked photo in the garments you choose for it. I wouldn't expect you ignore these options in the name of purity any more than I'd insist you should use glass plates or tintype technology. There were plenty of .200 hitters in 1927, and plenty of old guys who smelled like hypo and were also lousy photographers. You go with the new tech and you make it work - as you do - and I trust you and your colleagues to manipulate the photo - before or after you take it - just enough to clarify what I need to see, without crossing the boundaries of journalistic integrity.

(The photo. AP/Nick Ut.)

And in case you're wondering ... I don't know if I respect any journalists more than photojournalists. It's damn hard work. I grew up amidst some of the best photographers in the world. Joe Clark and his son Junebug Clark, Snuffy McGill, Tony Spina, Joe Polomini, Roy Bash. I love Gary Leonard, the Watsons, Boris Yaro, Nick Ut, Ted Soqui, and Heidi Bradner. And my dad was a pro who lugged around a Mamiya double lens reflex, but bought a compact 35mm as soon as it came out and left the DLR at home. He'd have gone digital in a second if he'd have lived long enough, and would have loved the Hipstamatic app.

So, come on off the front porch and let me buy you a beer.

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