Category Good Work

Look Versus Feel

The New York Times’ Todd Heisler writes about covering tragic events like the church shooting in Texas.

Because of this, it is important to make images that go beyond grief and crime scenes. Step back. Give a sense of place. Show not just what a scene looks like but, more important, what it feels like. 

That last part – about making images that show what stories feel like … that’s the goal!, that’s always the goal. My friend Billy Weeks puts it this way: “Photos of something vs. photos about something.”

You can spend your career making photographs of things and, if you’re technically competent and reasonably personable, you can have a decent career I suspect. I’ll admit my early years fell into that category – I was a good photographer, always made a usable image and was easy to work with. I look back on some of those stories from the start of my career and I’m not always sure anyone would feel anything. They’d know what happened, but they might not care deeply about it. Lots of record shots, a recording of what was before me.

That’s where my students start because it’s where we all start. Master the mechanics, figure out the aesthetics, put it into practice in the field. Figure out what the story is, figure out who the story matters to, find the character that helps us understand and then make an image that will make an emotional connection, make someone who wasn’t there, who doesn’t know, feel something.

That’s the real challenge in photojournalism. It isn’t about getting sharp photos, it isn’t about getting proper exposures. It isn’t about having the right lens or the newer sensor or the better job at the bigger publication. Every time we raise a camera to our eye, regardless of who is before it or who will look at it, it is our responsibility to make an image that lets a viewer know what that moment feels like.

That’s when the power of photojournalism becomes ours,

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.)

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.

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.

Auto Photo Business

If you’ve spent more than four minutes with me, you know one of my passions lies deep in the automotive realm. Old cars, new cars, broken cars and the old, new and broken people that go with them – I love being a part of those stories.

So it should come as no surprise that I tend to look at a lot of car photos and read a lot about the people who also love cars. Amy Shore has been taking the automobile photo world by storm of late and she’s put together a very long, very detailed post on what you need to know to get into the business. Really, even if you never want to photograph a car, the processes she talks about apply to you, too.

You can have a crap photographer with the best camera on the market and they’ll create high-quality crap photos. Or you can have a fabulous photographer only shooting with their mobile phone and get more Instagram followers than you or I will ever have because their ‘eye’ for an image is amazing.

It is well worth a good chunk of your weekend.

She was also profiled on the Mercedes-Benz site, which concludes with a short video of her.

Finding Tereska

Tereska life magazine spreadOne of the somewhat lesser-known founders of the Magnum Photos collective is also one of my favorites, David Chim Seymour. Carole Naggar at Time takes a look at the search to find one of the kids from his 1948 story on how millions of children had survived World War II.

These follow-up stories (like the search for the Afghan girl years ago) are just fascinating to me. Intellectually, we know the people we document existed before and after the moment they were photographed. Emotionally, we tend to take that one moment in time as representative of their lives and that’s a dangerous thing.

Getting Found on Instagram

Is Instagram a viable way of getting found? Elisabeth Sulis Gear at FeaturesShoot talked with six photo editors to learn how they use the social media photo platform to research photographers.

Young Documentary Photographers

Screen Shot 2017 05 14 at 2 45 45 PM

Great piece at The New York Times’ Lens blog on a Bronx Documentary Center project that has kids telling stories about their own lives. Much for us, as journalists, to learn from looking at their work and listening to the way they talk about stories.

POSTPONED: Daniel Berehulak to Receive the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage

NOTE: This has been postponed, once we have updated info I’ll post it here.

Happy to announce that photojournalist Daniel Berehulak will receive the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage at a ceremony here in Athens on Monday, April 10.

Come join us if you can, reception to follow the presentation.

Looking Back, Look Ahead

This was posted last year, but it seems like a good time to review the story behind John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo of the deaths at Kent State in 1970. This is one of the most comprehensive looks at his actions and reactions, worth the time here.

It’s alarming to read some of this now, that Filo and others were afraid that people would deny the killings of students by National Guard soldiers had happened, that it would be, to use a modern phrase, sold as fake news.

Filo continued to photograph other people’s reactions to the body, angering some students. They yelled: “Why are you doing this?” and “What kind of pig are you, taking pictures of this?” Filo says he yelled back: “No one is going to believe this happened!”

The note he received after winning the Pulitzer Prize is an testament to the role of journalism, that story telling is not a singular goal but a lifetime effort. That note, from fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Eddie Adams, said simply, “Dear John, You have my deepest congratulations. Hold your head up high. Now, let’s see what you can do tomorrow.”

(Thanks to Katy Culver at the University of Wisconsin for the lead.)