Author Mark E. Johnson

Why You Stick to Your Workflow

As soon as I can after a shoot, I download my cards and back up the images into at least two places. Why? I am paranoid.

When I travel, I download and email or upload the best images to an online service, just in case something goes wrong. I teach my students this same thing.

A New York City photographer may want to evaluate his backup system – keeping the original cards and the hard drive used to back them up together can cause you some severe problems.


Knowing Your Sources Matters

Every journalism course will teach you the same thing – know who your source is and why they are talking to you. In today’s wired world, that same lesson needs to apply to photo editors as Jan A. Nicolas reports at PetaPixel, a fake war photographer (using stolen and modified images) manages to get work published all over the world.

This photographer doesn’t exist, yet had a robust online portfolio and publication links.

So what do we learn from this? Know your sources. Don’t assume that the vetting process others have used is solid – the Wall Street Journal was duped here, as was the BBC. Because neither of them put the effort into verifying the images or the person allegedly behind them.

So who suffers here? The photographers whose work was stolen and the audience who viewed that work are at the ends of that list. But right in the middle, it’s the news organizations who published this work – it is their credibility that has been eroded.

And, at the end of the day, the only thing we as journalists have is credibility.

Reuters Launches Grant Program for Students

Reuters has developed a grant program to help photojournalists and photojournalism students advance their skills and tell stories that need to be told. There will be up to eight grants, each up to $5,000. The results of the projects will be distributed via Reuters’ photo service, as well.

Start writing. Deadline to apply is December 10.

Pieces of Advice

Independent photojournalist Yunghi Kim, who has put a lot of effort into help educate others on good business and copyright practices, has assembled a nice collection of comments from ten women photojournalists.

I love this from Jane Evelyn Atwood:

I don’t like to be called a “female photographer”. We don’t refer to Salgado or Cartier-Bresson as “male photographers”. I feel that calling us “female photographers” perpetuates the idea that we are “lesser than”, in some way. It defines us by gender rather than by the quality of our pictures.

The term “female photographer” is sexist.

All of the women in this piece are worth studying.

The Unthreatened Give

Buried in this nice piece by Eric Minton on photographer Stephen Green is this brilliant quote about mentoring:

The most talented are the most giving; they are unthreatened, and they want you to get it right.

It’s true. As an educator, I bring photojournalists and editors in to my classroom and workshop spaces all the time. How I choose them isn’t a mystery – I choose them because I trust they will give back.

Visual journalism is a continuum, it existed before we started and it will exist after we leave. I tell my kids that knowledge isn’t theirs and the pros who get to work with my kids understand that.

(Thanks to Mark Hertzberg for the link.)

Nerd Alert: Filter Testing

So how much light does your filter transmit? How much should it? What about the people who say they don’t use filters because it degrades the image?

Many answers in Roger Cicala’s giant test of lens filters.

And, of course, many more questions …

A Little Larceny

I love this idea from J. Scott Applewhite:

Little stolen moments, some of my best pictures have a little larceny in them.

Scott Applewhite: Lifetime Achievement Award from The Associated Press on Vimeo.

Women in Photojournalism

This, to me is a must- and first-read on the topic: Andrea Billups look at Women in Photojournalism, Opportunities and Independence.

Why we still have this conversation in 2017 is beyond me, but we will keep having it until there’s no longer a need.

Hops and Millimeters

I will admit, there is this internal conflict when it comes to one of my photographic heroes, Henry Cartier-Bresson. The work, the elegance of it, the preservation of a moment in time … it resonates with me deeply.

But then there are pieces I read, interviews and stories, and I’m left wondering whether he was a charlatan of sorts. He was, at times, so dismissive of the craft, of the effort.

Lines like this, excerpted from a 1973 interview with Sheila Turner-Seed:

I see different things, I presume. But not more, not less. The best pictures in The Decisive Moment were taken right away, after two weeks. [ . . . ] That’s why teaching and learning don’t make sense. You must live and look. All these photography schools are a gimmick. What are they teaching? Could you teach me how to walk?

So, I’ll put aside my defensiveness because of my occupation and say I agree there’s a certain level of innate vision the best have. But that vision needs to be developed, it needs to be explored and prodded and poked at, it needs to be put in context and critiqued. A photograph is not an isolated thing, it is an arc that connects moment and the witness and the viewer, bringing them back to the moment.

Maybe it’s more of a circle. Hmmm … maybe there’s something in there to teach …

The precision of his work and the way he talks about it, that has always resonated with me:

The difference between a good picture and a mediocre picture is a question of millimeters, a tiny difference. But it’s essential. I don’t think there’s so much difference between photographers, but it’s that tiny difference that counts, maybe.

And the way he talks about watching a great photographer work, the elegance with which they move, I get that, too. There’s a fluidity we should all be striving for, the insert ourselves into the ebb-and-flow of life, to be swept along but at just the right distance to be able to see not just this moment, but how it connects to all the others.

As I said, I have some inner conflict.

Tiny Docs Run Amok

I didn’t have the phrase “tiny doc” in my head until I saw a presentation by my friend Sara Quinn a year or two back. These are the videos you see all over Facebook with text overlaid on them.

The reasoning is obvious – 85% of Facebook videos are played without sound. Which makes sense, how many people a day do you see out in public scrolling through their social media feeds as they kill time? Sure, some have headphones plugged in, but not many – there are still some social norms being respected.

Sitting out on the back porch this morning, I was poking around looking to see if Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit had produced any videos to go with their new album, The Nashville Sound. (Great record, highly recommended.)

They have, for Hope the High Road.

And it is, effectively, a tiny doc – they put the lyrics on top of the visuals.

Which … well … why would you play a music video without sound?

It’s not like Isbell’s voice is cloudy, his delivery is crisp and heartfelt and, you know, sort of the point of a music video.

But I ain’t fighting with you down in the ditch.
I’ll fight with you up here on the road.

You can have your tiny docs, but not in a music video, okay? I’m listening, up here on the road.