There has been a lot written about the images of Steve McCurry being altered – whether is was his staff, his staff under his direction or the man himself doesn’t really matter. The images were altered and a photographer who has been held highly for decades for his journalism work is not rebranding himself as a “visual storyteller.”
Which is fine, I actually have no problem with him going forward with that. I do have some issues with him repurposing older work, from an era when he branded himself as a photojournalist. It is his work, he can do with it as he sees fit, but I think it should be disclosed that these images have been altered.
That’s just my opinion.
Over at Reading the Pictures, Lewis Bush has his take on the situation.* In it, there’s this one line that really resonated with me that I think anyone working under the auspices of journalism should take to heart:
I’m mad because (as we now know) he’s forcing me to remain in the foreground, to track horizontally, and far worse, he’s communicating that I can’t be trusted with the details.
That last phrase … that hits hard. When we alter images (or quotes or data), we are essentially saying we don’t tryst our audience to come to the conclusion we want. And that is a phenomenally arrogant thought.
As journalists (I’m not going to deal with the newly self-applied “visual storyteller” monicker any further), it is imperative that we act as a conduit for information – perhaps a bit of a translator, but never as an interpreter. It is imperative that we present information as it is, not altered, not re-colored and not manipulated.
* I’m making an assumption this piece is by Lewis Bush. He is on their masthead and is listed as one of the tags below the piece but there is no formal byline on the site.
An interesting project by Chip Litherland – taking expired film to major events, just to see what happens.
Yeah, it’s art … but it’s sort of cool. And I’ve probably got 20 rolls of various film in the freezer or drawers around here …
James Estrin has a nice piece up at The New York Times’ Lens blog about the work of Mel Rosenthal who documented the South Bronx in New York from 1976 to 1982. The limited number of images here is frustrating – I really want to see more.
It’s the reasoning behind these images that has me interested:
For Mel Rosenthal, there’s no point in taking a picture if it isn’t going to do some good in this world. Photographs, he said, have to connect with the community where they’re made, not just to be exhibited there but to engage residents in discussions.
The quotes from his former students (he taught at SUNY Empire State College) are things I hope my kids take away from my classes.
The New York Times has an interesting piece up about photojournalist Maya Vidon-White who photographed a dying victim of the November terrorist attacks in Paris and is now being sued for doing so. The story talks about the ethical challenges of covering conflicts, but it’s really about the legal challenges – in France, you can’t photograph the victims of terrorism without their permission.
Congratulations to Jessica Rinaldi of the Boston Globe who won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography today.
Her story, about a young boy who survived being beaten nearly to death, is exactly the type of work that should be celebrated – it is heartbreaking and hopeful, it speaks to the need to slow down and spend time on a story, to find the little moments that help us understand.
This is a story to study and celebrate.
Congratulations also to Mauricio Lima, Sergey Ponomarev, Tyler Hicks and Daniel Etter of The New York Times who won for Breaking News Photography for their images of refugees in Europe.
One of my long-time favorites is Peter Turnley. Early on in my studies, I saw something in his work that resonated deeply with me, but I’m not sure I was able to articulate it then.
There was a warmth, a connection. The people in his images were never just subjects, there was something more in the relationship separated only by some shards of glass.
The below video was made to coincide with an exhibit in Cuba. It is full of gems, but there’s one line that, at last, explains his work to me:
… the only thing that empowers everyone is love.
And that, from the joys of his Parisian street scenes to the horrors of war, is what I’ve seen for decades. Every image, no matter the destruction it may show, is about that which empowers all of us.
This is well worth your time.
A Documentary film about Peter Turnley – MOMENTS OF THE HUMAN CONDITION from Peter Turnley on Vimeo.
It’s an interesting question, whether Henri Cariter-Bresson would convert from his Leica to a smartphone were he alive and working today. William Dalrymple believe he would have and, as much as I adore the craft of photography … I guess I agree HCB would be wielding an iPhone 6s. But definitely not a 6s Plus, that would be too big.
I do make images with my phone, but it still doesn’t give me the level of control and separation I want. It’s all about the sensor size – and not for the pixel count, but the focal length equivalents.
Om Malik has a wonderful piece up at the New Yorker, triggered by Google’s announcement it is making the Nik Collection of software tools free.
This idea that we are photographing everything, never seeing anything and, perhaps worse, not remembering anything is troubling to me. I have a very large collection of family photos, somewhere in excess of 20,000 images, made by myself, my father and my grandfather. And that may seem like a massive amount of images, but it dates back more than 60 years. Each one of those images is a trigger for actual memories – they bring back the emotions of the moment for those who were there. (Or, for me on the older ones, the emotions of having heard the stories behind them.)
My grandfather and I shared a concern for describing the images individually, he in notebooks and me with captions embedded in the files. My father, as methodical a man as ever wandered this earth, not so much … there are images that I don’t understand because the one who was there has been gone for nearly 30 years.
Now, you can accuse me of having this same insatiable desire to make images as I’m some 1,600 days into a photo-a-day project myself. But I’m not photographing everything, and I’m certainly not posting everything. To me, it’s a visual journal – but one that hits the highlights of a day, not every moment of it.
The Envision Kindness Student Photography and Film Contest is now accepting entries.
This is a pretty cool idea and not just because it involves one of my good friends. The idea is to celebrate work that celebrates kindness an compassion. A good news competition, if you will.
There’s been a bit of a storm brewing over a New York Times piece by Teju Cole about the work of Steve McCurry, one of the legendary National Geographic photojournalists.
I … don’t agree with his assessment but don’t feel qualified to take it on. Allen Murabayashi from PhotoShelter, though, has completely encapsulated my thoughts on the matter.
Having an obvious subject with tack sharp focus and proper exposure doesn’t mean a photo is devoid of layers of interest and interpretation.
Murabayashi’s sentiment aligns with my own here – the current fad of making low quality images to impart a gritty “realness” to them is ridiculous. We have spent nearly 200 years improving the quality of cameras through better lenses, better film stocks and now better sensors – why on earth do we apply “lo-fi” filters and strip out detail, accuracy and comprehension?
My student have heard this rant before – let the content of the image move your audience, don’t screw with their emotions with technique.