Category Advice & Learning

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 …

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

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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.

Train Track Tragedies

Watch this. NOW.

And stop taking stupid photos on train tracks.

Only thing I disagree with is his statement about “trains plowing through without warning.” The train belongs there, the photographers and models are the ones there without warning.

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.)

Women in Photojournalism

This is an important read from Anastasia Taylor-Lind – it’s a question I wrestle with often. My program is 85% women, yet the industry is almost the opposite of that. Finding ways to support everyone, to ensure that everyone’s voice has a chance to be seen … that’s what I spend a lot of time trying to figure out.

Destruction of Public Property

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As a general rule, I’m a big fan of the work Roy Stryker and the Farm Security Administration did during the Great Depression. I’ll be the first to say it IS NOT journalism, but as a documentary record of where we were as a country, it’s tough to beat.

But Mr. Stryker, for all his visionary tendencies, had a bad habit of destroying negatives he did not think were worthy of publishing – by punching a hole in them. Still, they were preserved because they belonged to the American people.

Finding Your Tribe

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Photojournalists Susan Walsh, Mike Haskey and Robin Nathan discuss an image made by Sara Corse during the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication Weekend Workshop in Habersham, Georgia, in 2011. (Photo/Mark E. Johnson)

One of the things I love about our program here at the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication is the sense of community that each cohort creates. And it is something they create – I can’t make them like each other, they just do.

It’s something that I felt at various points in my career, as well. Working in Virginia in the early 1990s, I met Scott Bryant and Adam Traum and we’ve remained friends ever since. As a stringer for the Associated Press, I fell in with the likes of Susan Walsh and C.J. Gunther, people who guided me, coached me and occasionally cajoled me into being a better journalist. As a teacher now, I still have that community, both here in the building and scattered across the country, from Massachusetts to Wisconsin, Michigan to Florida (via West Virginia).

Having peers you can relate to, who can listen and offer ideas, or even just commiserate is critical. The emotional toll of the work visual journalists do is enormous, you need to find support.

It’s also one of the things that is disappearing from the realm of visual journalism. No longer do we stand in dark rooms, under the glow of a safelight, and grumble about deadlines. No longer do we pull laser prints off a stack and sort through them, searching for our own and wondering how a colleague did that.

Online communities are not the same to me, they don’t give us that physical, tactile and human sense of community. At least, they don’t for me – I need to see my teaching friends, to see their smile as they tell me I’m an idiot.

Grant Scott has a post up lamenting the same issues, about how it’s a hard time to make it and that you need to find your tribe to support you. I love ideas like photo nights and weekend gatherings. A friend and I are tossing around the idea of hopping in a car and driving to nowhere for a week of semi-random storytelling.

How will you find your tribe?

Photojournalism’s Future

Two interviews that James Estrin did this week at The New York Times Lens blog have had me pondering the future of photojournalism.

Up first was an interview with Donald Winslow, the editor emeritus of the National Press Photographers Association’s News Photographer magazine and a long-time supporter of photojournalism.

A few days later, Leslye Davis, a staffer at the Times, stopped in to talk with Estrin about her views and they were almost the polar opposite.

I’ve known Mr. Winslow for a long time and have had many wonderful discussions with him – his encyclopedic knowledge of our craft’s history and the characters within it is unmatched, his passion and commitment unquestionable.

But Leslye Davis is my new hero:

Before pens and paper were accessible people were carving their ideas into stone tablets. I bet when pen and paper came along the writers were skulking around grumpy like, “now everybody thinks they’re a writer.”

I was part of that golden age, at least the very end of it. It was thrilling and important, helping my communities better understand themselves.

It was also staggeringly limiting – sometimes you needed to hear someone’s voice to understand, sometimes you needed to see how someone moved within their realm to understand. We can do that now.

For many years, we took the easy route, covering the obvious events for our daily deadlines. Every now and then, we’d get to do the deep dive story and really be a full fledged Storyteller.

Today, social media feeds fill the need of the instantaneous this-is-happening void. We, who are devoted to the craft, can now focus on the Why, not just the What, the How that explains the Where and the When. We get to deal with the Who as a complete portrait, not just a two-dimensional series of inked dots.

The golden age of photojournalism, limited to and by those who had access to the gold, has passed. In its place we get to build an organic, comprehensive and democratically necessary era of visual storytelling.

And that phrasing is specific – we need to Build this. There are many challenges, but isn’t that what photojournalist deal with everyday?