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What We Learned This Week: Should Journalists Help Identify D.C. Rioters?

By David Schonauer   Friday January 15, 2021


On Jan. 6, a mob attempted to overthrow the US government.

Urged on by President Donald Trump and others, the crowd stormed the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., to prevent the official certification of Joseph Biden as president. America looked on in shock at what happened next. In the following days, journalists, including a number of photojournalists who were  at the scene, told harrowing tales about their experiences. We featured their recollections on Monday.

At The New Republic, veteran photographer Ron Haviv told of his experience. He noted that one of his first assignments was covering the 1989 coup attempt in Panama. So when he watched President Trump order his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol” last Wednesday in order to correct the “egregious assault on our democracy” involved in counting and certifying votes, he had an idea might happen next.

Poynter, a media research organization, noted that news organizations should soon expect to hear from federal law enforcement agencies. National Press Photographers Association General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher told Poynter that such agencies will ask or demand that news organizations and individual journalists who documented the siege of the U.S. Capitol turn over their unpublished images and videos. “Since these actions involve federal crimes, journalists will quickly realize that we have no federal shield law,” he said.

As a result, Osterricher told Poynter, news organizations may have an unpopular fight holding on to images they did not publish, images that law enforcement may want to prosecute the rioters

“Without a doubt, the general public will not understand why a journalist would not be willing to turn over any and all evidence that might identify the rioters,” noted Poynter. Photos and video captured by journalists — as well as imagery posted to social media by rioters — are being used to to identify suspects. USA Today is using images from various sources to identify the rioters and urged members of the public to contact the news organization to help.

But it’s a tricky area for journalists. As a general guideline, Osterreicher noted, police and prosecutors do not get to see journalists’ notes or our unpublished work. “We do not want to be seen as an arm of law enforcement,” he told Poynter. “It puts journalists in a dangerous position when police wanted to see photos of protestors. It puts journalists in an even more dangerous position than just covering a dangerous story. If protestors think the journalists are creating evidence for the police, protestors target the journalist.”  

The NPPA offered advice on requests from law enforcement officials.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:
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1. Vogue Cover Creates an Uproar Over Kamala Harris

A leaked Vogue magazine cover photo of Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris set off another uproar in the capital this week, noted The New York Times. Shot by Tyler Mitchell, who in 2018 became the first Black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover, the cover of Vogue’s Feb. issue shows Harris in skinny pants, sneakers and her trademark pearls. The picture is, notes the NYT, “unfancy" and “unflattering.” Some say it is also disrespectful. As controversy swirled, Vogue released a more formal “digital” cover.


2. Bonhams to Auction Ruth Orkin Photography

Photographer Ruth Orkin, known for her intimate portraits shot in New York and abroad, would have turned 100 in September. To celebrate her centennial, Bonhams is presenting a diverse collection of her work, including some images that have never been seen before, in an online auction beginning Jan. 22 and culminating in a live event on Feb. 2.  “We're representing her from the earliest pictures right through to the end of her career,” noted Laura Paterson, Bonhams Head of Photographs. See our related article on the famous Orkin photo above.


3. Kennedi Carter Photographs the Black American Cowboy...and 2020

"Kennedi Carter is only 21 and she's already made history." So noted Interview magazine recently, after Carter photographed Beyonce for British Vogue (becoming the youngest person to ever photograph the cover), Erykah Badu and Summer Walker for Rolling Stone, and Dan Levy for Bustle. Currently, Carter is a student at North Carolina A&T. Her latest project, we noted, looks at Black cowboys in the south. "I've grown up in the South my whole life, so those are the stories that I gravitate towards," she said. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair asked Carter to look back at her work from 2020


4. Exploring the Effects of Female Genital Mutilation

In December, the international nonprofit Too Young to Wed, along with Canon USA, presented its first Emerging Photographers Fellowship Award to Egyptian photographer Somaya Abdelrahman for her work on female genital mutilation. Abdelrahman’s series “A Permanent Wound” explores her own experience with the practice, along with those of other women and girls who have experienced it, noted The Washington Post. “I was circumcised at 10. I remember the day as the worst of my life,” Abdelrahman said.


5.  Gerd Ludwig Storytelling Workshop, Online, Jan. 17-28

As the coronavirus swept across the world, schools and workshops were forced to curtail programs and expeditions, but other solutions emerged. One was an initiative called "Evenings with the Masters: Inspiration from Photographers," the brainchild of George Nobechi, a Tokyo-based photographer and creative director of Nobechi Creative. The series of 18 weekly online gatherings featured master photographers including Stephen Wilkes, Amy Toensing, Sam Abell, Greg Gorman and Gerd Ludwig. Now, we noted, Nobechi Creative is offering a unique online workshop with Ludwig called "The Art of Storytelling," January 17 to 28.
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At top: From Kennedi Carter

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