Recently in News - newspaper articles Category

The NYTimes has two great photography related articles:

  • Years Later, Lawsuit Seeks to Recreate a Wedding: A man who married in 2003 is suing a photographer, citing omissions and demanding the re-creation of his wedding, even though the marriage ended in divorce.
  • 15 Years That Changed Photography: Sixty years ago this week, the Photo League fell victim to Cold War witch hunts and blacklists, closing its doors after 15 intense years of trailblazing – and sometimes hell-raising – documentary photography. From unabashedly leftist roots, the group influenced a generation of photographers who transformed the documentary tradition, elevating it to heady aesthetic heights.

Makes me happy to have a digital subscription. Now if they'd only cover more of the OWS protests!

20th Japan Anthropology Workshop (JAWS) Conference

Call for Papers/Panels

14 – 16 March 2010, University of Texas at Austin

The organizing committee of the Japan Anthropology Workshop welcomes panel and paper proposals for the 2010 JAWS conference, which will be held in Austin, Texas. The conference theme is "Identity, Ritual, and Religion in Japan” although the organizers are open to all topics of anthropological interest related to Japan. The organizers call for panel and individual paper proposals that lay out Japanese contexts within the general scope of anthropological portrayal. Keynote speaker for the conference will be Satsuki Kawano, University of Guelph. Participation is open to scholars and students from all over the world. Please include the following items when submitting a proposal:

***Deadline for all abstracts: 1 December 2009***

The conference website is available at Registration information (including credit card payment options) will be available at the website after 1 May 2009. Information about accommodations and travel will also be available at the conference website. Early registration and hotel reservations are encouraged, as the conference will correspond with the early part of the South by Southwest Film and Music Festival in Austin.

An article in The Economist (Oct 17, 2008) on the author's grudging transition to digital photography from film mentions's take of the venerable Leica IIIf.

I'm sure somewhere in the universe, 10 msecs of fame have been debited from my account.

The NYTimes (registration required) has a nice article about a new practical emphasis at the USC film school (what a concept!):

Twenty-seven-year-old Rain Breaw is determined to become a movie director, so despite the prevailing wisdom, she is going to film school.

"The general opinion is if you want to be a filmmaker, you'd be better off taking a production assistant job, and learn by doing," Ms. Breaw said during a break from classes at the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television, where she is in the final year of the three-year master's program. "But if you're not a child with connections or have parents who can fund you, your only choice is film school."


Given the odds, Ms. Daley explained, it is unrealistic for the school to focus on training great filmmakers. Hollywood, just a half-dozen miles away, is eager for educated young people to fill the many needs of the entertainment machine — editors, cinematographers, producers, agents and executives.

"If you want to make the great American film — how long will that take any individual to get where they want to be?" she asked. "Who knows?"

Lawrence Turman, head of the school's producing track, is equally blunt. "I treat it a little like a trade school," said Mr. Turman, a producer of "The Graduate," "American History X" and a score of other films. "Because the school is located in Los Angeles, I try to make it practical. Where do you find material? How do you develop it? Where do you get the money? How do you make it? How do you sell it?"

When it rains, it pours.... Konica-Minolta has just announced its withdrawal from the camera and photography business -- including digital photography. They are transferring most of their camera assets (including their digital Maxxum SLR series) to Sony. It's not surprising given that they lost JPY7,300 million on revenue of JPY117,000 million in FY2005 in their camera business.

Cameras: In camera business, we have reached an agreement with Sony Corporation(Sony), having numerous image sensor technologies such as CCD and CMOS, to jointly develop digital SLR cameras in July 2005. In order to continue to have our customers use Maxxum/Dynax lenses, and to maximize possibilities of the optical, mechanical and electronics technologies accumulated through development of SLR cameras in the years to come, we came to the conclusion that it was best to transfer assets concerning camera business to Sony. Since then, we have been negotiating with Sony, and as a result, we have reached an agreement with Sony to transfer a portion of assets regarding digital SLR camera system to Sony*1. In this relation, we have decided to withdraw from camera business*2, such as film cameras and digital cameras, within Konica Minolta Group as of March 31, 2006.

Sony is planning to develop digital SLR cameras compatible with Maxxum/Dynax lens mount system, so that the current Maxxum/Dynax users will be able to continue to use them with Sony’s digital SLR cameras. In addition, we will consign camera service operations for Konica Minolta, Konica,Minolta brand cameras and related equipment to Sony.

Photography: In today’s shrinking photographic market represented by color film and color paper, we have been considering to scale back and to continue photo business at an appropriate size; however, when we foresee the photographic market, it is quite difficult to maintain profitability in this field, and we have decided to withdraw from photo business. As schemed below, we will, as much as possible, avoid causing any inconvenience in providing products to our worldwide customers in the course of withdrawal.

Konica was Japan's oldest camera and photographic supply company. Minolta was one of the stars of the postwar camera boom. It will be sad to see both leave the market.

In other news, Pentax is merging with Samsung.

AlterNet posts a disturbing story about a quadriplegic man who died in a Washington DC jail after a minor drug conviction. Sadly to say, this isn't news to any of us who study disability issues:
Thirteen months ago, Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin sentenced Jonathan Magbie, a 27-year-old quadriplegic, to a 10-day Washington D.C. jail sentence for marijuana possession, assuring attorneys she had checked with the jail and that it could handle someone in his condition. By the fourth day of Magbie's sentence, he was locked in a cell with no ability to communicate or call for help. His breathing tube had been improperly placed; his weight had plummeted since his arrival; his apparent pneumonia had gone untreated. That night, Sept. 24, 2004, he was taken to Greater Southeast Community Hospital, where he died. (Read the rest of the story).

In the continuing criminalization of photography, MSNBC reports on a man who was imprisoned for 24 hours and had his name and mug shot broadcast on local news reports for..... taking "artistic photographs" of a balloon and a table at a state fair in Texas.

The buzz on Slashdot and other blogs is that all four major digital camera manufacturers are releasing service advisories that the Sony-made CCDs on their cameras are subject to failure due to a faulty design that lets moisture in. See the info here: Canon, Fuji, Konica-Minolta, and Sony.

Destitute peapickers in California; a 32 year old mother of seven children. February 1936. Dorothea Lange.

Mississippi Delta Negro* children.
July 1936. Dorothea Lange.
Label titles are by Dorothea Lange

I'm still too blisteringly angry to blog about Katrina, but this is photography related, so let me rant. The Wall Street Journal today (2005.05.07 pB1) has an article titled "Americans who fled drought in the 1930s found little sympathy" about the Okies and Arkies who left the dustbowls of the Great Plains. The last paragraph of the article reads:
The Resettlement Administration, under the leadership of Rexford Tugwell, did something else for the Dust Bowl refugees. It hired photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Walker Evans to produce a pictorial record of the Depression's effect on the rural poor. In a 1965 interview, Mr. Tugwell explained why: "Because this was so dramatic, and because it meant misery and tragedy for so many families, and because we hoped it would never happen again, at least not in the same way, we thought we ought to have a record of it for future generations ... and also to show people who weren't involved in it how extremely serious it was."

Scroll forward to September 7th, 2005. The National Press Photographers Association had filed an official complaint based on reports (such as this one by Reuters and the Washington Post) that photographers have been systematically prevented by DHS and FEMA from taking photographs in New Orleans and other refugee sites -- even after securing permission from the people they are shooting:

NPPA Opposes Any Suggestion Of Photography Restrictions In Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath

NEW ORLEANS, LA (September 7, 2005) The National Press Photographers Association opposes any attempt whatsoever to prohibit or restrict photography and videotaping of any events, including the recovery of bodies, following Hurricane Katrina.

Photography, both still and video, is an essential form of speech and a fundamental part of the Constitutional right to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

It is entirely inappropriate for a federal agency to make demands on what journalists can and cannot shoot and publish, NPPA president Alicia Wagner Calzada said today from the scene of the hurricanes aftermath in New Orleans. Calzada is a staff photojournalist for Rumbo in San Antonio, TX, and is on assignment covering Katrinas aftermath, which now includes the effort to recover bodies from homes, buildings, and outdoor areas as flood waters are pumped out of the damaged region.

How have we gone from a government that was so ashamed of how it handled the 1930s Depression that it commissioned photographers to forever sear those images into our collective memories, to one in 2005 that is so ashamed of its response that it wants to forever prevent those images from ever being made?

This is one for the students in my fall Japanimation and Manga class. A movie theatre just outside of Tokyo is offering discounts to customers who declare themselves 'otaku' or nerds (well, nerd isn't quite the right translation). From the Mainichi Daily News:

Theater offers otaku cheap tickets

Declaring you're an otaku might get you strange looks in some places. But a Japanese movie theater is offering outspoken nerds something positive: a discount....

Otaku culture has become a legitimate field of research in Japan, and a study last year estimated that sales generated by goods targeted at the country's 2.8 million nerds totaled 258 billion yen.

"Densha Otoko" takes so-called geeks into a genre they're not usually associated with: romantic love. The 22-year-old otaku hero turns to a favorite geek refuge in search of girlfriend advice -- the Internet.

From the August 26th MSN-Mainichi Daily News:

"A woman with gender identity disorder, a man suffering serious muscle atrophy, and a woman belonging to a minority ethnic group are set to run in the upcoming House of Representatives election in a bid to represent their fellows in the highest organ of state power."

Japanese Internet apparel retailer ImageNet has come up with a unique way to select new employees. It is granting interviews at a height of 12,388 ft at the summit of Japan's highest, Mount Fuji.

The National Council on Independent Living had their annual meeting in Washington in July. They voted affirmative on the following resolution:


Adopted at the
NCIL Annual Council Meeting
July 14,2005

WHEREAS, the right to food and water is a basic human right; and

WHEREAS, the past few years have seen highly publicized legal battles
seeking to remove restrictions on starvation and dehydration of people
with cognitive disabilities; and

WHEREAS, numerous states have enacted statutes removing restrictions
on the starvation and dehydration of people with cognitive disabilities; and

The New York Daily News reports that the MTA has a secret film file on photographers:

"MTA investigators are keeping a secret database of people stopped and questioned for filming or photographing bridges and tunnels as part of the agency's efforts to thwart terror, the Daily News has learned.

The information is used to try to determine whether shutterbugs are simply putting together vacation slide shows - or gathering intelligence to plot mayhem, law enforcement sources said."

If this is true, this is very disturbing. Both amateur and professional photographers are being turned into modern day boogeypeople. And when a terrorist incident happens, what do the authorities want? They want people to send them their tourist snapshots so that they can try to see if they can spot the bad guys before the act. Argh!!

Some excellent news for students and connoisseurs of photography. The International Center for Photography in New York City and the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY are joining their collections together to create a publicly accessible database of iconic photographs of the past century. From the NYTimes article:

[O]fficials at the Eastman House - the world's oldest photography museum, with more than 400,000 photos and negatives, dating back to the invention of the medium - felt that they needed a New York City presence. And the International Center, a younger institution with a smaller collection, wanted access to Eastman's vast holdings, which include work by Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy.

... both institutions are at work on an ambitious project to create one of the largest freely accessible databases of masterwork photography anywhere on the Web, a venture that will bring their collections to much greater public notice and provide an immense resource for photography aficionados, both scholars and amateurs.

NPR has an online audio story on "Photographers as Security Concerns:"

Morning Edition, June 16, 2005 · Photographers across the country have complained of getting harassed by law enforcement officials citing security concerns since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

There are good links to information and resources on photographer's rights on the right hand side of the article page.

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Leads In Mental Illness, Lags in Treatment:

"One-quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a 'serious' disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function day to day, according to the largest and most detailed survey of the nation's mental health, published yesterday.

Although parallel studies in 27 other countries are not yet complete, the new numbers suggest that the United States is poised to rank No. 1 globally for mental illness, researchers said."


Less than half of those in need get treated. Those who seek treatment typically do so after a decade or more of delays, during which time they are likely to develop additional problems. And the treatment they receive is usually inadequate.

Younger sufferers are especially overlooked, the survey found, even though mental illness is very much a disease of youth. Half of those who will ever be diagnosed with a mental disorder show signs of the disease by age 14, and three-quarters by age 24. But few get help.


The has a fascinating online radio interview with photographer Mary Ellen Mark. From the program notes:

The photographer Mary Ellen Mark insists that "reality is always extraordinary." For more than forty years, she has been focusing her lens on the gritty, and often unattractive reality of people who inhabit the seamier side of society. Her first in-depth project took her to the Oregon State Mental Hospital where she spent more than a month living with female inmates.

The latest 2005.03 data from Japan's CIPA (Camera and Imaging Products Association) shows that digital camera sales have clearly peaked and are stagnating. Overall, first quarter production units are up 5% but revenue as a whole is down 10.9% compared to the same period last year.

By category: The sub 4-megapixel category is the worst hit with total quarterly production of only 29.8% and sales of 20.4% of last year's figures. The strongest category was 4-6 megapixel cameras with 8.7 million units sold first quarter for a revenue of 165 billion yen. Only 2.5 million 6+ megapixel cameras were sold, for a revenue of 90.7 billion yen.

The Asahi Newspaper is reporting (2005.05.09) that the famous tuna auctions at the Tsukiji Metropolitan Fish Market in Tokyo is off limits to tourists because of the "bad behavior of foreigners." Speaking as a frequent photographer there -- I can agree: foreigners were getting in the way of the merchants who were there to make a living, but so were some Japanese, it's just that we blended in more. The foreign visitors that I saw when I visited were both in the way of traffic and using the flashes on their cameras during auctions, which is very distracting. Visitors to the tuna auction will now need to get a permit from their local city or merchant association. The outside stalls in the Fish Market remain open.'s blog is in the news! Wayne Yang of has written an article titled ASIAN POP: Blogging Asia (dated 2005.04.27). In it, he mentions this site by name:

Go to a Specialist
Another way to comprehend a region is to understand its icons, a particular slice of culture. Many bloggers incorporate snapshots of branded goods and cultural icons, as well as personal photographs (sometimes to the chagrin of their friends), but there are also bloggers who use more accomplished photography to make their points. Karen Nakamura, a cultural anthropologist who writes about classic cameras and photo-ethnography on her blog, includes her written and photographic observations from her current fieldwork in Japan.

Thanks for the props, Wayne!

May 5th is Children's Day (kodomo no hi) in Japan. The Japanese government according to an article by dated 2004.05.04 notes that there are 150,000 fewer children (defined here as under age 15) in Japan due to the falling birthrate. Japan is headed for a demographic nightmare -- too many old people and not enough young.

The CBC Radio One network in Canada has an interesting story online about a blind woman who can now "see". The story is accessible online in text, MP3, Ogg, and other formats. 2005.05.03: Additions to this story placed below.

Imagine being blind for 25 years, and suddenly being able to see again - using your ears. It sounds impossible, but that's exactly what happened to Pat Fletcher. For the past few years, she's been experimenting with a revolutionary new technology that allows her to see through sound. Using a simple computer program that she downloaded from the Internet, called "The vOICe", which translates visual images into soundscapes, Pat's brain is able to translate those sounds back into images.

As a Big Red alumna, I'm disappointed that the current Cornell administration: (1) decided to raze a 100 year old forest for a parking lot; (2) overrode the wishes of the town of Ithaca to preserve the area; and (3) arrested students protesting the creation of the parking lot. See story from the Ithaca Journal here or the AP newsfeed here. My own fond memories of student protests in the early 1990s did not include arrests, the new administration is using police force instead of the gentle art of conciliation and negotiation. I hope other alumnae and alumni consider writing to President Jeffrey Lehman.

From John Sypal on the Japan Photography list:

Last night I went to Onishi Mitsugu's slide talk at the Nikon salon in Shinjuku (Shinjuku L Tower, 28F) [Tokyo].

Onishi sensei is having an exhibition of his recent work there through this week, and I highly, Highly going there to see it. He works in the shitamachi districts of Tokyo with a D70, and the work is amazing...

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > The Saturday Profile: Born to Be a Foreigner in Her Motherland:

The New York Times has an article on a woman who was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Korean father, who was denied a supervisory position at her government job because she was not Japanese. This is a thorny issue in Japan because the issues surrounding naturalization are very complex, especially in regards to the resident Korean (在日コリアン) population.

The latest Economist reports that Japan's economy may again be in recession. Japan was in recession since the early 1990s for about a decade, but had picked up again in the new millennium. Now, it seems that those gains might have just been temporary.

On the positive side, housing prices have perhaps hit rock bottom. Interest rates have been close to 0% which means that although a small house in Osaka might still cost you US$500,000, the extremely low interest means your monthly mortgage payment on a 35 year loan may be only US$1300 or so.

The 0% interest has had a disproportionately negative impact on elderly citizens who live on a fixed income. Unlike the United States, most people do not have any retirement funds in 401K type programs or other investments. Most retirees survive on their government or corporate pensions and savings. With interest rates so low, most pensioners are trying to live as leanly as possibly -- which in turn drags down the economy because their are more elderly than youth in aging Japan.

Of course the central government is worried that raising interest rates would kibosh any hopes of recovering from the recession. It's a deadly negative feedback loop.

The British Journal of Photography reports that Kyocera is ceasing production of Contax branded 35mm film cameras. Digital cameras under the Contax brand are also slated to end by the end of the year. Thus ends one of the most famous camera brands of the 20th century -- albeit, in its resucitated Japanese form.

(Of course the optmist in me hopes that this means that Zeiss will be able to relicense the Contax brand to Cosina, so the the new Zeiss Ikon rangefinder can properly be called the Contax V).

Leica AG in Germany is also in very poor financial straits. They've made plans for an emergency stockholder meeting and have worked out some contingency plans with their banks, but things do not look good.

The February issue of Nippon Camera lists the top five cameras in various sales categories as calculated by Bic Camera, one of the largest camera retail chains in Japan, for the period 2004.12.20-2004.12.31:

Digital SLRs

  1. Konica Minolta alpha-7 (aka Maxxum 7D)
  2. Pentax *ist DS
  3. Canon EOS 20D
  4. Nikon D70
  5. Pentax *ist DS lens set

Discussion: This was surprising to me. Among the circles I travel, the Canon EOS digital cameras have been the most popular, but the 20D only ranks third in sales. The Japanese camera press has been giving the new KM alpha-7 very high reviews, especially for its built in body anti-shake feature. The same issue of Nippon Camera shows the KM body's anti-shake is right up there with Nikon's VR and Canon's IS, even besting them in some areas. My guess is that all of the people who had Minolta alpha lenses have gone out and bought the digital alpha-7. Canon's own share of the SLR market is diluted by its D60, 10D, 20D, and Kiss Digital (Digital Rebel) -- which interestingly did not make the top five. Canon may have greater market share as a whole, but the alpha-7 is the best selling camera.

Film SLRs

  1. Nikon F6
  2. Canon EOS Kiss 7 (aka Rebel)
  3. Canon EOS 7 double-zoom kit
  4. Pentax *ist
  5. Konica Minolta alpha-70

Discussion: I was also surprised that the F6 made the top despite my report on it last year. It's an expensive camera ($3000~) and many analysts couldn't figure out why Nikon was putting out another pro-level film camera when Canon has intimated that we won't see any more professional EOS film cameras being developed. But obviously they made the right decision.

Digital Compact Cameras

  1. Canon IXY Digital 50
  2. Pentax Optio S50
  3. Konica Minolta DiMage X50
  4. Sony Cybershot DSC-T3
  5. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7

Discussion: Nothing particularly surprising here. Market analysts are saying in Japan that in two or three years, the number of digital point and shoot manufacturers will be cut in half. There is just no profit in the market, despite good sales (see my earlier CPIA analysis for details).

Medium Format Film Cameras
  1. Mamiya 645 Pro TL
  2. Mamiya RZ67 Pro IID
  3. Mamiya 7 II
  4. Contax 645
  5. Bronica RF645
Discussion: Interestingly, the Pentax 67 did not make the top five. Nor did Hasselblad (which is terribly overpriced in Japan). The new Mamiya RZ is selling well and I think people are excited by their announcement of the Mamiya ZD digital camera as well as the ZD back for the RZ.

As always, comments and feedback always welcome. Images of cameras used here are copyright the respective manufacturers.

On page one, above the fold, Asahi Shinbun reports that Prime Minister's Jun'ichiro Koizumi's approval rating has dropped to an all-time low of 33%. Disapproval is at 46%. If you recall, when he became prime minister in 2001, his approval was in the mid-80s. This plummetted by the end of the year and never fully recovered.

The only problem is that that, like British PM Tony Blair, there is no one with enough support who could take over the reins if Koizumi were to stand down.

On page two, Asahi notes that approval for the idea of a female emperor is currently at 86%. With no male heir emerging from the line of Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, we could expect the reign of Empress Aiko in several decades.

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