Author Mark E. Johnson

Poynter-ONA Leadership Academy

This looks pretty cool … and free.

The four-and-a-half day program for 25 promising women leaders will include guidance on the business of journalism, individual leadership style, navigating newsroom culture, entrepreneurship and one-on-one coaching. Poynter and ONA will collaborate to build an agile, interactive curriculum led by prominent women faculty in the startup, tech, media and academic fields. Applicants will be screened for potential, need and diversity across ethnicity, age, geography, technology platforms and skill sets. Applications will open in early January 2015.

Photos With Words

One of my favorites, Peter Turnley, posted a small piece to one of my favorite web sites, The Online Photographer. It’s a simple set of photos – a train ride through New York on Halloween. Elegant and evocative and, for all my intro kids, with IDs …

Love this comment from a gentleman called Paul:

His apparent lack of interest in gear, mixed with his full concentration on the image are a healthy respite from the usual gear-driven chat on the web. Personally what he’s probably taught me most is the grace and respect towards his subjects and I find this is one of the key reasons he manages to capture such beautiful and compelling street photography.

Couldn’t agree more.

Gordon Parks Show in Atlanta

This opened last week and should be a spectacular show: Gordon Parks at the High Museum in Atlanta. Many of these images have never been seen before, including some color images three families in the south.

Hours are available on the High Museum’s site. And November is college month – $5 with your college ID to get in.

The Language of Photography

We talk about the language of the photograph in my classes quite a bit, whether the kids recognize it or not. There’s a parallel language, spoken by photographers, and there’s a dictionary for it … who knew?

Future students may have to study this … lots of quiz possibilities there.

Stolen: Where and What

PetaPixel’s DL Cade has a post up about the most stolen camera equipment as tracked by Lenstag. The results are surprising to me – I would have assumed some consumer level camera was the most commonly lost piece of kit, not the high end pieces from Canon that make up the top three.

Digging deeper, the data source – Lenstag – is a company that allows you to record serial numbers in advance and then, if gear goes missing, quickly list them as gone. Who is going to do this? Well, mostly advanced amateurs and professionals (more than 10,000 of them, according to their web site).

So, is the Canon EOS 5D Mark III the most stolen piece of equipment in the world? Or is it the most commonly recorded one? The data is inconclusively (and my statistics expert neighbor Prof. Barry Hollander would probably have a field day with the data), but it’s entertaining.

Regardless, keep track of your stuff – 9% of all gear goes missing on public transportation and, worse, 27% disappears from cars.

Get a Grip

We don’t deal much with grip equipment in our visual journalism sequence, but some of my kids wander off into commercial/corporate/advertising work where they’ll suddenly have to know what a C-stand is or how to load V-flats for transport. Cinescopophilia has a collection of three videos on what goes into a grip truck.

Every photographer who ever leaves their office should watch the third video – the thought processes in it are extremely useful.

(Thanks to John Harrington for the link.)

Seeing What Others Have Not

To me, the great photojournalists are not the ones who have recorded the great moments in history. To me, the great photojournalists are the ones who have helped us understand the everyday moments of life.

And near the top for those is Marc Riboud, who has a new show opening in New York City. There’s a simple elegance to the everyday and Riboud finds it, a lyrical moment of movement in every frame … study the gallery, there are stories of understanding everywhere.

What Comes After School

Poking around the web today I found this two year old post by Steve Giralt about being in business and, since I’m talking about business with my kids these days, it seems really relevant.

In Search of a Processing Boundary

Scott Alexander at American Photo has a post up on how far is too far when it comes to processing images, including a set of before-and-after images to study. The images, at the top of the page, are … startling.

The toning on two of them is, to me, completely reasonable. The other two … well … what do you think?

I do like how the article differentiates between manipulation – the altering of content – and processing – the toning of the image. Though I do feel that over-processing can lead to the same effect as manipulation.

Stanley Greene, a photojournalist and one of the founders of the NOOR collective, put it clearly, saying that photomanipulation takes photojournalists “down a dark road,” and that “we are the messengers, we are the seekers of the truths, we must be the ones that show the light in the darkest corners of the world. When viewers can no longer trust the picture or the photographer taking it, we are nothing but tricksters.”

My concern is with, say, the included images out of South Sudan or Turkey – if I were there, is that what I would see? If a reporter wrote about the dark skies and deep shadows on a milky, overcast day, would we be offended? If they wrote about ominous clouds when there were none, would we trust them?

Do we leave images alone, displaying them exactly as they came out of the camera, trusting that the white balance and tone compression algorithms created by the camera manufacturers are accurate? Do we process the image to bring it in line with what we saw while on the scene? Do we alter it to evoke the mood we felt as we covered the story?

That latter thought is where I see a lot of photographers going and that troubles me – as photojournalists, our job is to capture what happened, not to evoke a mood. Our job is to report so others can understand, not to persuade them through the photographic process to feel something. That feeling, that emotional connection, that resonance, must come from the content, not our interpretation of the content.

How to Recognize When the Problem Is You

Don Giannatti has a great rant over at Lighting Essentials about photographers who suck but don’t yet know it. He runs through 10 clear reasons why you aren’t successful and he’s on target with all of them.

As we approach the end of the semester, I’m starting to get the gear questions*. Most of my kids get that it’s not the kit that matters but the person operating it, but this still resonated with me:

Owning a fancy camera with all the bells and whistles only requires a good credit score, not a quality image score. Using all your money to acquire the newest pixel machine may make you a hit on G+, but it will do nothing but suck your assets from doing something important to help your business. Gear Acquisiton Syndrome will suck the viability out of any emerging shooter.

The rest of his list is about the quality of your work, the quality of your portfolio, the quality of your work ethic, the quality of your marketing, the quality of your brand … it’s a comprehensive list of the reasons photographers generally, well, suck.

* Every year I do a series of posts on gear to help my kids sort through all of the choices out there. Usually, I update it around the Thanksgiving break so these are about a year old, but the core ideas are still relevant.