Category Photojournalism

What You Photograph Is a Reflection of Who You Are

A sarcastic Tweet reply set off Dan Ginn at The Phoblographer this week.

As it should have.

I’m forever thankful I work with students who care about their communities and want to use photographic tools to explore and explain issues within those communities. As a general rule, the see photography as a means, not an end – our classes, workshops, discussions and goals are not based on making a photo, they’re based on making a difference.

Because I am a camera geek (I know, you’re shocked), I do spend some time on sites focused on photography. There is a significant level of, “I love how this lens made this woman beautiful” types of posts and, well, every one of those gets me a little closer to leaving that group.

I’ll grant that my reason for carrying a camera is not the same reason as everyone else’s. I use photography to record, process and comprehend my world – and, once I’ve made some sense of it, to share that information with others. It is a documentary tool, an investigative tool, an exploratory tool. If I’m going to freeze a moment in time, there needs to be some societal value to that moment that adds to our understanding without minimizing or objectifying others.

If your photos don’t educate and illuminate, I’m just not that interested.

But, hey, that’s just me and sometimes I like to photograph my dogs, too. I don’t think they feel objectified by this.

One Step Closer to a Small Claims Copyright Court

The House of Representatives passed the CASE act yesterday on a 410-6 vote, which brings the bill one step closer to becoming a law.

Why do we care? This bill has been ten-years in the making, supported by the U.S. Copyright Office and trade organizations (including the National Press Photographers Association) and is designed to make sub-$30,000 copyright infringement claims much easier to pursue.

The Senate now needs to take this up.

Start Your Holiday Shopping with Photojournalist Barbie

On the one hand, I think the partnership between the Barbie brand and National Geographic is great – giving kids, especially girls, more role models and career views is fantastic. The growth of the Barbie line in my lifetime has been fun to watch (even if our own kid never played with one).

That said, the video released as part of the promo is … well … not what photojournalists actually do. The first half is what we call “spray and pray” – point the camera everywhere without any thought.

After that doesn’t work, NatGeo Barbie sulks off with Forest Conservationist Barbie until – Oh LOOK HOW LUCKY WE ARE – the mythical monkey appears and plays happily in front of them.

As the commercial says, that’s not how this works, that’s not how any of this works.

I suppose a video with NatGeo Barbie reading academic journals that explain the movements of monkeys through the forest is not going to be as exciting, but this is setting kids up with the (overly common) mistaken belief that great photos come from luck.

They don’t. They come from preparation.

The Pelosi-Trump Photo

Good discussion over at the Chatting the Picture podcast about the Nancy Pelosi – Donald Trump image that the White House released last week.

A lot of analysis in the first six minutes, but they didn’t go into the sourcing issue which raises all sorts of other ethical questions – do you treat this differently because it’s a hand out photo? Does that factor into the discussion?

Visualizing Change

A good behind the scenes look into how The Guardian is changing the way they use images in stories about climate change.

I think this is an incredibly important discussion to have for many of the reasons they denote – we all feel bad about the polar bear, but it doesn’t impact most of our daily lives and so, after a few moments of sadness, we move on. The emotional connection may be there but it doesn’t persist, we aren’t reminded of it as we go about our daily lives.

Images need to educate us about what is happening and resonate with us – that persistence idea is so critical. And the same applies to images in other stories – wars, man made disasters, natural disasters and even images of poverty. If the images don’t look like the things we deal with on a daily basis, then we are, effectively, othering the story which disconnects us from it.

This may be why I’m attracted to images of the vernacular, images of the everyday things in our lives. The work of photographers like Walker Evans and Fred Herzog intrigues me because it shows me the common things in life, the things I feel I may have or might still experience. It connects me, it shows something that is not other than what I am used to.

But this is incredibly hard to do. The impacts of climate change are both enormous and subtle. Massive storms are easy to visualize yet difficult to contextualize. The smaller, daily impacts can be easier to explain but harder to show. What does a 1.5 degree shift in average temperature look like? It is far too easy to get drawn into the extremist traps, leaving us with polar bears alone. We must do better.

Land is cleared in Athens, Georgia, to build a new gas station. Even as fuel economy increases, fueling locations are becoming more common. (Photo/Mark E. Johnson)

NPPF Scholarships

The National Press Photographers Foundation has opened applications for their annual scholarship programs. Deadline is on December 2, but why wait that long?

The Importance of Design in Cameras

The designed Luigi Colani died recently. While that New York Times obit deals with many things, it doesn’t do justice to the work he did with Canon in the 1980s – he is credited with the design of the T90, the first truly modern SLR camera.

Look at that camera – introduced in 1986, almost every DSLR of today owes a debt to its purposeful, organic and humanist design. That was the camera that truly moved manufacturers away from the dedicated dials and knobs and started to take full advantage of microprocessors.

In the mid-1980s, that was one of the cameras we all lusted after. A beautiful piece of kit that was truly revolutionary.

Over at The Online Photographer, Adam Richardson has a nice tribute to Colani.

Turning Dust Into Stories

I’m going to be ordering another book … photographer Jessica Wynne’s project on the chalkboards of professors was written up in The New York Times and I’m fascinated by this. There’s an evidentiary nature to this work, the residue of work … I just love this and have encouraged The Red & Black to think about this sort of a project on campus.

NPPA Student Quarterly Clip Contest

For all the students out there, the National Press Photographers Association Student Quarterly Clip Contest deadline is coming up on October 15. This is for images made in July, August and September.

She Learned to Hear by Seeing

I love this quote from The New York Times story on the late Ida Wyman:

Taking pictures enabled me to hear the stories of the people I photographed.

Listening is such an integral part of journalism – if we cannot listen it is incredibly difficult to see the stories unfolding in front of us. And listening is a very different act than hearing. Listening is an active state, it involves attention and intention. We listen when we are immersed in conversation, we hear without that sense of purpose.

In studying her work, that sense of purpose is there – her street photography/feature photos are nuanced and layered, they are not casual observations. They reveal something about a place. Look at the image of the men studying the newspaper in Hebrew, or the man looking into the garbage can on the pier. Those are not one-dimensional frames, they required her to actively see those scenes, to watch them evolve.

I’m pondering what the parallel phrases are for seeing now. Watching vs. seeing? Open to suggestions here.