Category Advice & Learning

Dispsables

The Washington Post sent disposable camera to 25 women and asked them to document their life.

The set of images are at times refreshingly nostalgic and also annoyingly modern. The current fascination with photographing oneself is present, in either out-of-focus selfies (the minimum focusing distance on these cameras is larger than the average arm length) or they handed to camera to others and asked them to photograph themselves.

But there are also some comments about the surprises, about the value of the waiting. Not knowing what you have immediately caused some folks to be more intentional with that moment and, with some others, caused them to not make very good images.

Images With Value

What is the purpose of a photograph? In our field, we have several standard answers – to tell a story, to inform our community, to evoke a response.

To me, I use a camera not to make pictures but to share ideas, to raise questions and, hopefully, to answer some. I make pictures of things I don’t understand or haven’t seen before. I try not to make photos of things that others have photographed often, but that doesn’t mean I don’t photograph what is around everyone – as a trained observer of the human condition, I try to photograph things that are present but not necessarily known.

Over at The Online Photographer, Mike Johnston writes about the types of images he wants to look at – which is sometimes different than the types of images he makes.

I suppose the most telling question I would ask of a photograph is, why should I look at this? Why should this picture interest me? Or, to put it the correct way ’round: why should anyone else look at this? Why should this picture interest someone else?

Stocking Canadians

There are days I am so proud of my Canadian heritage. (Even if it’s phenomenally flimsy heritage.)

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)

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.

Building a Sense of Place at Woodstock

The New York Times takes a look at the (ahem) three rolls of film Roger Ballen exposed at Woodstock, 50 years ago.

This exchange alone makes it worh a read:

You’ve said that so much of photography is actually rooted in having experiences and not just sitting behind a camera or computer.

Yeah, this is the truth of the matter. When I grew up in photography, it was about getting on the street, experiencing events, getting in the middle of things, coming back with the goods and the experience to talk about.

It is very easy to think so much about where photographs go, so much so that we can lose sight of the magic needed during the process. If we are not immersed in the moment, we can’t fully understand and appreciate the event and that will lessen our understanding.

Pop Stars and Copyright Theft

Seems like we’ve been down this road before … The National Press Photographers Association and 15 others organizations have sent a letter of protest to Ariana Grande’s management company over a copyright grad that’s inserted into their press coverage agreement.

Putting a Box Around the World

Ted Koppel did a piece centered on the Bronx Documentary Center that really looks at the lives of Chris Hondros, Tim Hetherington and other photojournalists who have been killed while cover the world’s wars. Worth ten minutes of your time.

How Salt and Silver Bind Us

Well now I want to go to the Yale Center for British Art to see an exhibition

That BBC video has me thinking thoughts too deep for a pre-coffee Sunday morning, about how to change the way I teach photojournalism and, perhaps, who I teach it to. My classes are not about photography, they are about community, understanding, compassion and helping others build knowledge. That same approach could work in a larger class aimed at other disciplines – using the tool of photography to help better understand science, archeology, history, economics.

It’s truly a small shift in perspective.

I should go make some coffee …

“I wanted to stop her crying”

It’s an image everyone is talking about, a little girl crying as her mother is searched by U.S. Border Patrol agents. It’s an image that took John Moore a decade to make.

“I have no way of knowing if things will be okay.”

Journalism matters.