Category Thoughts & Theory

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 …

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.

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.

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.

Stock Photos … Why?

It’s been a while, but here we go again … my local publication, the Athens Banner-Herald, had a nice piece looking at our local YMCA. It’s 160 years old and, according to the story, was the third YMCA opened in the country – that’s a pretty cool fact.

They have a gallery of images from to go with the story – some historical photos, a current one of the building. A nice package overall.

And then I get to the last photo in the gallery …

… and it seems odd. Why is there a fade bar around it? Why no faces? Why no logos?

Why? Because it’s a stock photo, that’s why. It appears on other YMCA web sites, it appears on PlaySportsTV and it appears on the Starkville Soccer Association site, too.

In fact, a reverse image search has the same image appearing on dozens of web sites.

Why? It’s a stock photo. A generic image associated with no story. It doesn’t belong on a news web site.

This is the consequence of not having photo editors.