Art of Seeing"
The Best of Reuters Photography
observations and a few
rememberances by Horst Faas
The turn of
the millenium was a time for a retrospective of photo journalism
and put a heavy load of books a on my bookshelf.
Among the best
was the also must voluminous tome Phaidons "Century"
- conceived and edited by Bruce Bernard, who sadly died shortly
after the books publication. With a weight of about six pounds
and 1120 pages thick the book was sold with a handle to be carried
from the book stores.
There were photo
books about the Russian Century, the American Century, the Chinese
Century, the Century of Britain and many others, equally weighty
and all best sellers.
London-based Hulton Deutsch Library, now called the Hulton
Getty Picture Collection Ltd after being absorbed by the Getty organization,
knocked a whole series of low-cost, rather haphazardly edited tri-lingual
photo-books together, drawing from their vast treasures of late
19th and 20th century news photography.
Hal Buell s
book "Moments, a Visual Chronicle of Our Time" with all
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs , published in 1999, combines
the press photography which received the highest recognition since
the Pulitzer Prize for photography was established in 1942. His
anthology, just as the very similar catalogue and exhibition "The
Pulitzer Prize Photographs Capture the Moment" initiated
and edited by Cyma Rubin in co-operation with Eric Newton of the
Newseum, have been a continuing sales success.
Press celebrated its 150 year of passage from the days of the pony
express to digital and satellite delivered photography with "Flash
The Associated Press Covers the World." The APs
photographic service was initiated in 1927. The book still sells
While some pundits
in the business of news photos augur the demise of press photography
as we know it, business with the past achievements from the odd
hundred fifty years of photo journalism seems brisk.
Art of Seeing" Reuters Photography
And now we can
add a coffee table book presenting the "best of Reuters photography"
"The Art of Seeing", put together and edited by
Reuters 41-year old former world photo editor and now the
organizations Marketing Director, Pictures, Ulli Michel, a
may not have known that "The Art of Seeing" is a much
reprinted book by Aldous Huxley from 1942, in which Huxley tells
his personal story of recovering his vision. But then book titles
are, I am told, not copyrighted.
Although a mere
teenager among the venerable, long established photo agencies
the Reuters Picture Service commenced in 1985 Reuters has
maintained a competitive position among the top three international
news photo agencies, AP, Reuters and Agence France Press (AFP) since
the agency went back into the photo business.
Press International Photos and Reuters.
It is a disappointment
that the text does not even mention the other, once highly respected
parent of the Reuters Photo Service United Press International.
and managers at UPI headquarters in New York and later in Washington
struggled for years against each other and simultaneously to keep
the company afloat, often out of cash and many times on the brink
of financial collapse, Unipressers (as UPI staffers were called)
in the field were good soldiers and a rough and tough international
competition for The AP, right up to the last days of the companys
The former UPI
editors Gregory Gorden and Ronald E.Cohen wrote later, "for
decades its (UPIs) employees had been underpaid, uncomplaining
foot soldiers of the news industry, working anonymously in cramped
bureaus with old and creaky equipment
By sheer hard work
and ingenuity they often beat their giant rival on major stories.
To Unipressers their company always had been more than a business.
It was an institution, a crusade."
While this writer
served in Vietnam, United Press International Photos was the only
serious competition to AP in covering the war. We respected each
other and the picture play reports coming in from New York and London
were like the results of a never ending tennis match. We celebrated
together when one or the other agency won a Pulitzer for Photos
and at the end of the war the score was even: 3:3.
Horst Faas (AP)
Kyoishi Sawada (UPI)
Toshio Sakai (UPI)
Eddie Adams (AP)
David Hume Kennerly (UPI)
Nick Ut (AP).
yet to win a Pulitzer for Photography.
informs that Reuters today employ 130 fulltime staff photographers,
and many more contract and freelance photographers.
aggressive coverage from the troublespots and frontlines of theworld
came with the cost of talents lost forever: In the fifteen year
period, four Reuters photographers have paid the price of their
Hos Maina and
Dan Eldon were killed by a mob in Mogadishu, along with AP's photographer
was caught in an exchange of gunfire during the El Salvador civil
a (United Press International) war legend from Vietnam was killed
in an ambush by rebels in the Phillipine Islands.
If one considers
ACME Newspictures photo agency as the parent of UPI Photos, UPI
Photos were even older than AP Photos. ACME Newspictures had been
set up in 1925 by Scripps, then sold to United Press in January
1952. In 1954 the UP Photo Service joined forces with Hearsts
International News Service (INS) to compete with the mighty AP,
and UP became UPI.
dismemberment of UPI photos began when UPIs historic photo
library of 11 million photo negatives was sold in a joint venture
to the Bettmann Archives in a deal the then UPI newsphoto editor
Ted Majewski called "stupid" In 1984 the then owners of
UPI began to negotiate the sale of one of UPIs most prized
parts, the award winning newspicture service, to Reuters. There
were shouts of "goddamned rape", when it became known
that UPIs owners were ready to turn over the agencys
foreign photo staff and all overseas picture contracts to Reuters,
while providing Reuters with pictures of American news events. A
clause permitting Reuters to independently market their own pictures
in the United States to the big papers served to eventually knock
UPI out of the photo business all-together. The deal was announced
in June 1984 and UPI had been emasculated.
In 1985 Reuters
entered the news picture business.
of the new photo organizations staff were capable and toughened
Unipressers, enthusiastic and ready to rejoin the fight for dominance
of the international picture market against the AP.
then already a hardened UPI veteran, lead his bloodied troops into
a land of plenty: More pay, more investments in better equipment
and communications and an orderly management, something new for
the Unipressers who lived in chaos for decades.
The year of
1985 was a time of great optimism in the news photo business, the
best men from UPI Photos kept their jobs, and privately many at
AP were quite pleased that the old competitive challenge would be
preserved, leaving no chance for cost cutting staff reductions or
limitation in coverage at the AP, in absence of competition.
It was last-not-least
thanks to the Unipressers that the Reuters Photo Service started
off with a flying start.
later the rumour mill of Fleet Street had it that Reuters Management
were not fully satisfied with the bottom line of their photo service,
which has undergone many restructures to cut costs and red tape.
the book launch of "The Art of Seeing" it was made clear
that the books publication should be seen as a statement of
trust in the future of the Reuters photo service.
Reuters first venture as a photo company
It would not
have been the first time Reuters had added photos to their news
services portfolio only to get out of the photo business again.
In 1944 the American news agencies, especially AP, had developed
a photo service as a useful adjunct to their international news
contracts and Reuters thought it might be useful to enter the news
photo field. Reuters and the Press Association (of Britain) joined
forces to set up a new company, which was generally referred to
as "the photo company. But in the early sixties photos
had become almost exclusively a concern of the Press Association
and the initial hope that with Reuters participating the photo
company would become an international picture agency was never
realised. By 1965 Reuters dropped out all-together and the photo
company became a department of the Press Association. Soon
after, PA joined forces with AP, a photo marriage that lasts until
Stories of Reuters Photographers
The best in
"The Art of Seeing" are the accounts of Reuters
photographers about the conditions of their assignments and how
they managed to take their photographs.
Like in Hal
Buells and Cyma Rubins books on the Pulitzers, each
photograph in the Reuters book is accompanied by an account from
the photographer. Careful preparations and - often very modestly
admitted - a lot of luck were involved to take the right photograph.
through the book
Reuters photo service was borne into a time when black and white
photography was phased out and digital photography began. With few
exceptions more recent pictures are all electronic, and all are
in colour the mix of old black and white and recent colour
does not necessarily work well in the layout of the book. In other
books black and white gradually turns to colour and the years progress.
The book looks
like a wire service report, hard news pictures follow artful features,
sports, the silly photos right next to a tragic scene that will
be remembered for a long time, all mixed together.
It would be
quite right for the news photo wire to move a picture of a smug
Monica Lewinsky followed by a photograph of the Queenmother holding
a cross during a remembrance service. Or if a touching photo of
the Pope follows the transmission of an image of Princess Diana
posing with a child. But seeing these photos side by side in this
book is another matter. The book does not flow, has no rhyme or
reason except the expressed purpose to show off good news
photos which one by one gave the AP more or less grief, because
they were simply better.
During a Stammtisch
(a regular get-together over drinks) of young and old photographers
and photo editors in a Munich beer hall this week the book made
the rounds. Many photos were remembered because they made it into
the local papers.
Zettler, former photo editor at a major newspaper in East Germany
(after reunification) and editor at the Munich Abendzeitung - both
dailies are Reuters photo subscribers - said:
Photos were always important to us - and that alone justifies to
publish the photographers best picture again in book form. Unfortunately
the book has become only a book of good pictures - and browsing
through it, I think the editing was a bit uncaring. A chronological
sequence and a more caring layout would have done wonder. However,
I like to express my compliments to the Reuters photographers who
seem always keen to improve the routine press photo."
formerly photographer for major German magazines who writes for
photo magazines today, thinks similarly: "The book lacks a
clear direction. Excellent photographs are not presented to their
best advantage and confronted with others without consideration
of their graphic value and their content. The design does not profile
the often excellent texts of the photographers well enough, as they
should to put more emphasis on the photographs. Good journalism
has been presented very un-journalistically."
It is a book
to show off good wire service photos. What the photographers saw
has been skillfully documented. But art it isnt.
of Seeing the best of Reuters photography" by Ulli Michel
was published by Pearsons Education, worldwide. First published
in Britain, August 2000. All
Photos and quotes from the book copyrighted by Reuters 2000. ISBN
0 273 65011 4