Category Good Work

On Creativity

This piece from Photo District News on Claire Rosen’s book Imaginarium is worth some time, even if just for this one quote:

Our culture has shifted in such a way that it’s easier to be a consumer of content rather than having individual experiences.

Think about that as you work on your stories – what can you show that can’t be seen elsewhere? There is no point in making images like everyone else, the distribution model is such that you can’t compete with obvious imagery, you have to go where others are not.

Seeing Color in the Positive

My friend David LaBelle writes about meeting a shared hero, Gordon Parks, and one of his students who shares his vision.

Since my youth, I’ve always seen award winning photos that contained a person of color suffering. The positives are rarely shown. That has inspired me to attempt to change the narrative by photographing people of color in a positive light, via celebration or any other time their suffering is not being exploited.

The Value of Photo Editors

Nice piece over at National Geographic on the relationship between photo editors and photojournalists. This is a relationship we all need to understand, need to take advantage of and/or need to find for ourselves.

China’s 79-Year-Old Sports Photographer

Hong Nanli is my new sports photography hero and will be yours, too.

(Thanks to Mark Hertzberg for the link.)

The Year in Pictures, Then and Now

Allen Murabayashi compares The New York Times’ 2008 and 2017 Year in Pictures presentations over at the PhotoShelter blog.

The differences in technical quality and how images are toned are substantial. The evolution of digital cameras I seen through greater resolution, dynamic range and low light sensitivity, but the way photographers are handling post-processing is really evident. Tools that were not available a decade ago now have a significant impact on the look of news photographs.

Visuals for Radio

My friend Regina McCombs posted a gallery of the work her staff and stringers did this year for Minnesota Public Radio – a gallery of stunning visuals.

Think about that – great visuals made for radio. What a wonderful world we live in.

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.