Category Thoughts & Theory

The Image, Deconstructed Workshop

High on my list of events I want to get to is The Image, Deconstructed Workshop out in Colorado:

THE IMAGE, DECONSTRUCTED workshop is an immersive weekend photographic experience. Attendees are welcome from all skills levels. The workshop will be held at The Denver Post in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Our faculty is comprised of award-winning leaders in the field. They will help attendees become more aware of their purpose and vision. Importantly, they can help demonstrate how to express this more effectively.

Storytelling Lessons

My friend Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute has broken down a couple of Super Bowl commercials to help us become better storytellers.

Worth clicking through for the other ad breakdown.

LOOK3 Festival Shuttered

Photo District News is reporting that the LOOK3 photo festival, held for the last decade or so in Charlottesville, will not continue due to financial issues.

This was on my bucket list for a long time, the line up was always intriguing and the atmosphere, reportedly, amazing.

But I’ve also heard there was minimal, if any, discussion on the business of photography. Every venture has risks involved, markets move on from where you’ve staked your claim. The key is in making sure you’re able to survive those market moves.

Without a sound footing in the business of photography, you won’t succeed. I hope there’s something new that comes along, that the organizers take what they’ve learned and build a new program, one that will continue to be supported by the industry, that will draw in amazing storytellers and have them talk about how to both make the images and how to market the images in a sustainable way.

Maybe call it LOOK4Ward … to the rest of your career.

(Thanks to John Harrington for the lede.)

Getting the Big Picture, Leaving a Legacy

A wonderful piece by a gentleman whose work I admire and whose character I deeply respect – Billy Howard writes about making a group photo at a summer camp and becoming part of the camp’s legacy.

Too often we drop into people’s lives, quickly assess what makes them who they are and then dash off. If the photo succeeds, if it wins awards, maybe we get to stand on a platform in a darkened room before our peers and share our experience of how we made the image. But how often do we consider what it was like to have been on the other side of the image? What did that experience mean?

Mr. Howard knows for those he photographed last summer wrote a song about it.

Personal Boundaries

The Deer Center for Journalism and Trauma interviewed nine female journalists about the issues they have faced in the field and how to deal with them. This should be required viewing for everyone who is a member of the media or who interacts with the media.

So, essentially, everyone on the planet.

(Thanks to alum and friend of the program Minla Shields for the link.)

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,

Knowing Your Sources Matters

Every journalism course will teach you the same thing – know who your source is and why they are talking to you. In today’s wired world, that same lesson needs to apply to photo editors as Jan A. Nicolas reports at PetaPixel, a fake war photographer (using stolen and modified images) manages to get work published all over the world.

This photographer doesn’t exist, yet had a robust online portfolio and publication links.

So what do we learn from this? Know your sources. Don’t assume that the vetting process others have used is solid – the Wall Street Journal was duped here, as was the BBC. Because neither of them put the effort into verifying the images or the person allegedly behind them.

So who suffers here? The photographers whose work was stolen and the audience who viewed that work are at the ends of that list. But right in the middle, it’s the news organizations who published this work – it is their credibility that has been eroded.

And, at the end of the day, the only thing we as journalists have is credibility.

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.

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.)

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 …