or

I sent this email to @StephenMayes (CEO of VII) today. No response.

You can help get an answer by tweeting this post. You can also @ in the other photographer/owners of VII photo agency. Then we might be able to find out how many of them, in one way or another, are working for the arms industry.

Thank you.

Dear Stephen.

I am writing an article in relation to VII’s work for the arms industry.

You’ve stated during many interviews (and most recently to my knowledge here) that working for VII ‘Quality journalism, photography and integrity are key’.

Good stuff, but how does that square with working on campaigns for the arms industry? I am aware of least two such companies that a VII photographer (according to the copyright notice) has provided imagery or produced images for.

How is it possible for a photographer to class themselves as a ‘journalist’ covering conflict and at the same time be involved in the sales marketing of bombs?

Article to follow.

Yours Sincerely

Benjamin

  • Ben

    Can you not name the arms industry companies here in this blog post? Can you provide links to the images with the copyrights to which you refer? Or if they’re not online can you give a description of where you came across them?

    Pete

  • Benjamin, you have been brewing this on Twitter for a while, but as you can see from comments tonight, myself, Pete Brook and Bryan Formhals are concerned about the way this is being pursued publicly without making the case. Those guys can speak for themselves, but I can’t see how you can speak in the name of responsible journalism while pursuing this so coyly and surreptitiously. Perhaps you have a great and serious point. If so, you should have made it first. And if it is serious you have damaged it by these tabloid baiting tactics. I expected better of this blog.

    • Hi David,

      When did I or anyone at duckrabbit ever claim to speak in the name of responsible journalism? Given the broad content and nature of this blog, mainly daft stuff, I think most people would agree that’s a silly suggestion.

      If VII photographers are working for the arms industry I really think you’ll be one of the few people who focuses on how that information came to light, as opposed to the contradictions it presents in terms of the agencies public face.

      I’m sure many readers of duckrabbit are capable (if/when answers are forthcoming) of their own conclusions, putting aside any feelings about how the questions are asked. To suggest otherwise seems to me to be a bit patronizing.

      As I say I am aware of two instances that are credited to VII of work for the arms industry. I’ll point to them but they are already a matter or record and in the public domain.

      In the meantime I am interested if there are more. That’s a legitimate question and I’m sorry if it offends you that I asked it publicly. I seem to remember you doing something not dissimilar on twitter in relation to Magnum’s use of the Libyan secret service archive?

      • I couldn’t disagree with you more about the relationship of your blog to journalism. Some of us are interested in challenging the idea that people who happen to write online do no more than shoot off opinions.

        To my mind, anyone who writes publicly, especially when you have a following, has a responsibility to put out arguments and cases with as much evidence as they can muster. You had the material, as your subsequent post shows, so why go about it in the manner you did? Especially as your case – which now we can finally see what it is, has some serious questions – is built on the idea that VII or a VII photographer has not lived up to the standards of responsible journalism. Journalism is a practice concerned with evidence and substation, and its not limited to people who call themselves professional journalists. We all have to practice what we preach.

        I think there will be a lot of us who find both the way you went about this disturbing, at the same time as we find the ad you uncovered very disturbing. Its not an either or choice.

        As for your final paragraph – you couldn’t mischaracterise my position more if you tried. People can go back to my post on Magnum and the Libyan archive to see my argument and your comments. Its all on my site. Of course I have no problem with people asking questions publicly. I just think those questions should be backed by evidence at the time of asking.

        • ‘I couldn’t disagree with you more about the relationship of your blog to journalism. Some of us are interested in challenging the idea that people who happen to write online do no more than shoot off opinions.’

          I think thats a defensive position to start from based on a stereotype that most readers of blogs, including this one, are well beyond.

          ‘To my mind, anyone who writes publicly, especially when you have a following, has a responsibility to put out arguments and cases with as much evidence as they can muster. You had the material, as your subsequent post shows, so why go about it in the manner you did? Especially as your case – which now we can finally see what it is, has some serious questions – is built on the idea that VII or a VII photographer has not lived up to the standards of responsible journalism. Journalism is a practice concerned with evidence and substation, and its not limited to people who call themselves professional journalists. We all have to practice what we preach.’

          David you’re an academic, so I think you can do a better analysis of your problem then ‘why go about it in the way that you did’, based on the fact that you seem to think asking a question without presenting the evidence is on some way irresponsible.

          I asked VII repeatedly in public how many of their photographers are shooting for the arms industry. I was hoping for a response to go in the article. Its a pretty straightforward question. Personally I’m glad the internet exists so we can ask those questions in public. I’m sorry if that upsets some of the people you know at VII. Maybe they should have a rule about not working for the arms trade if they don’t want the questions to be asked in public?

          ‘I think there will be a lot of us who find both the way you went about this disturbing, at the same time as we find the ad you uncovered very disturbing. Its not an either or choice.’

          Yes but you suggested audiences would conflate the two. That’s harder for you because of your relationship with members of VII. Maybe that explains why you are happy to tweet about your problems with duckrabbit’s approach but have failed to point to the article itself?

          Outside that small bubble of VII, Magnum, PANOS, FOTO8, photojournalism world people actually appreciate these questions being put out there front and centre (two senior members of the BBC’s foreign desk re-tweeted this post and I think we can agree they have a concept of journalism and would have ignored the post if they didn’t think there was merit to posing the questions).

          Honestly I don’t get this concept of ‘responsible journalism’? What do you actually mean. Are you really saying that a journalist who asks questions, based on prior knowledge, but doesn’t explain that knowledge in advance, is irresponsible? If thats the case lets shut down all BBC current affairs. Its standard practice to ask a question and then reveal the motivation for it afterwards.

          ‘As for your final paragraph – you couldn’t mischaracterise my position more if you tried. People can go back to my post on Magnum and the Libyan archive to see my argument and your comments. Its all on my site. Of course I have no problem with people asking questions publicly. I just think those questions should be backed by evidence at the time of asking.’

          David isn’t it true that some time before you posted the article on the Libyan Secret Service archive you asked a series of numbered questions quite publicly of MAGNUM on twitter? Only afterwards did you publish your post. If that’s the case, and I believe it is, then clearly I am not micharacterisezng your position.

          • You continue to wilfully misrepresent my points so I will make one last response, then I’m done with this part of the debate.

            1. Yes, I think when you are public writer with a sizeable following and considerable influence, asking teasing questions on Twitter days in advance of posting the material in question on line for people to see is not responsible. And – to go to your last paragraph – that’s the big difference between the questions I posed to Magnum about the Libyan archive (see http://storify.com/davidc7/the-libyan-secret-service-photo-archive for the record of those). The Magnum material was online for everyone to see, and the first tweet I wrote linked to that archive so we all knew what we were talking about from the outset. I wasn’t teasing Magnum or anyone else with a story to come, making people curious about what I could be referring to. That’s the big difference between us, I believe its an important difference, and failing to see that is one way you continue to mischaracterise my point.

            2. Your other persistent misrepresentation is that you are tweeting I am more concerned about your process than the issue of Haviv doing a Lockheed Martin and BAE ad. This thread is attached to your letter to Mayes, which came before your substantive post, so concerns the process. But I made clear in my first comment that “I think there will be a lot of us who find both the way you went about this disturbing, at the same time as we find the ad you uncovered very disturbing.” I find both disturbing and for you to continue to say publicly I am putting the process above the substance is incorrect.

            3. You always have to make it personal don’t you. So let me respond to your jibe – “That’s harder for you because of your relationship with members of VII.” I’ve never worked for VII nor received payment for services from VII. I count Stephen Mayes as a friend and the last time I was in NY we met, discussed the industry, and he paid for lunch. I also know Ash Gilbertson, Gary Knight and Ed Kashi and have no trouble saying I respect them as individuals and I respect their work. I’ve met Ron Haviv once and only in passing, literally, at Arles. None of that makes it difficult for me to review any of VII’s work critically. After a dozen years working in, on and around photojournalism, I know a large number of people at the agencies you mention, and at one time or another I have written critically about their photojournalism. You only have to trawl through the comments on my site to see equally critical responses from Stephen Mayes, Gary Knight, Marcus Bleasdale and others to appreciate we often disagree.

            4. A factual error – having made the personal attack, you then write: “Maybe that explains why you are happy to tweet about your problems with duckrabbit’s approach but have failed to point to the article itself.” You’re wrong. I retweeted Pete Brook’s tweet of 26 May, in which he wrote “@duckrabbitblog went about it arse-backwards but at last writes on VII Photos Ron Haviv Lockheed Martin assignment”, which then linked to your post. That tweet best sums up my perspective.

          • Hi David,

            thanks for your follow up comment and actually getting into some detail.

            On point one.

            I’m glad you finally agree that you did fire a series of questions at Magnum on twitter before writing your post. So now we come down to the difference being that you linked to the archive and I didn’t. Once again you raised your comments in relationship to the concept of ‘responsible journalism’. I maintain that the questions weren’t put as a journalist. I’m sure Mayes agrees with this or else he probably would have responded. I refer you back to the fact that it is standard for journalists to ask questions whilst withholding information. Some would argue this is unethical and unfair. BBC producer guidelines would to a certain extent agree with you on that point. What is practiced is a different matter.

            On point two.

            In your original comment, which I have been responding to you said, ‘if it is serious you have damaged it by these tabloid baiting tactics’. I think you can admit now, on the basis of evidence, that this is not the case. Hundreds of people have shared the post, thousands more have read it. The vast majority are now interested in VII’s response. There will always be a healthy minority of people who are critical of the way we do things.

            On point three

            I don’t think you need to be so defensive. People respect your work and opinion. But you seem to be suggesting that personal and professional relationships and networks do not influence the way you respond to events? I think one thing the Levenson inquiry has shown is how bankrupt for the vast majority of people an idea this is. So if you are going to be the judge of ‘responsible journalism’ you should at least recognize that personal relationships are a key factor in the reporting and response to events.

            On point four.

            A retweet is not an endorsement. The energy you’ve put into critiquing our approach has been different to asking questions of @VII. I’m delighted that you’ve now asked them to put out a statement. I’m sure we’ll be seeing one in BJP very soon.

            By the way there is always a small but healthy minority of people who criticise the way we operate and they have the same three complaints.

            One, that we’re ‘tabloid’. Fine (Its a pejorative term in the way you use it but we would recognize how important the tabloids have been in this country for breaking stories).

            Two, that its ‘personal’. Fine (I never met a decent journalist who doesn’t feel personal about the stuff they write).

            Three, ‘mob rule’ or ‘witch hunt’. This one is daft, although anyone in the spotlight is bound to feel this way, but I’m glad to say after raising points one and two, you’ve held back on three.

  • Wow! I hope there’s a “logical” explanation for this- copyright infringement, some lame “bureacratic oversight,” etc. Otherwise this would be a new low- lower even than Gary Knight’s beyond pitiful excuse(s) for not finding a suitable photographer of color worthy of integrating their prized institution.

  • warmonger

    American Lockheed Martin and British BAE Systems do not give a shit about this.

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White. We specialize in digital storytelling.

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