Category Journalism

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,

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.

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.

The Scent of Nostalgia

I’ll admit to suffering from nostalgia. I like old cars – on the weekend, when I don’t need to be anywhere. I like old cameras – for the mechanical precision and the engineering sensibilities. I like old houses – for they have stood the test of time and adapted.

And I still read print, on the weekends, when I have the time to peruse and then wash my hands.

But, on all other days, I like my digital cameras that don’t force me to be exposed to toxic chemicals. I like my reliable, safe modern car. And I like my news delivered in the most appropriate medium, and that isn’t always text and still photos on a printed page.

Still, this is kind of cool … I remember touring the Globe and seeing the presses as a kid. I remember my few meetings on Morrissey Boulevard when I was looking for work or buying a lens from one of the staff photojournalists there.

The scent of ink will always be a little sweet to me, in the same way the smell of my 51 year old Mustang is nice on a Saturday morning … but not on a Monday commute.

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.)

The Lost Rolls

In my home office, there are filing cabinets and boxes full of processed film. Tens of thousands of frames, made over a span of 20 years, waiting to be seen again. But that pales in comparison to the volume of images stored on hard drives, to those stored in the cloud and burned to DVDs and CDs over the last decade and a half.

Rattling around in the back of my mind is the same question every photojournalist asks themselves – will anyone ever see this work again?

But my situation is different from what Ron Haviv found himself in – with a couple hundred rolls of film that he had never even gotten around to processing, shot around the world. Now, he’s turned those images into The Lost Rolls book.

Photojournalist Ron Haviv in “The Lost Rolls” – NOWNESS from NOWNESS on Vimeo.

I can’t order this … I have too many books and too many pictures to look through … damn it.

Kandahar Journals Showing in Athens

As part of our McGill Symposium on Wednesday, October 5, we will be showing Louie Palu’s documentary on his time in Afghanistan here at the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Kandahar Journals looks at his time covering the war and its effects on his psychological transformation.

Doors will open at 7:30 and we will start at 8 a.m. in Studio 100 of the Grady College building. Free parking is available in the N09 and N08 lots at the corner of Hooper Street and East Campus Drive. To enter the building, use the entrance next to the exterior stairs on the Sanford Drive side of the building.

No admission charge and Mr. Palu will do a Q&A after the showing.