Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The myth of the detached photojournalist

There's a perception that photojournalists are emotionally detached, fly on the wall observers, taking their pictures, high on the adrenaline of the moment. All they care about is getting the image at any cost.

OK you can't heap everyone together in the same pile and yes there are photojournalists that seem detached, that would do virtually anything to get the shot. Paradoxically they're never really good in my experience.

The photographers that rise above the rest, that produce images which define our perception of a historical event, the really great photojournalists are people that care passionately about life, justice and human rights. They are not detached but they do know how to deal with their emotions in the heat of the moment so that they can continue photographing. Over riding almost everything else is the need to tell the important stories around the world.

The photojournalist holds a mirror up to our collective conscious and says with his/her images - this is our world today - are you prepared to accept it or are you going to do something to change it. Nothing confronts our psyche more powerfully than the still image because it is single moment frozen in time and almost infinite detail - unlike video which flashes past and is gone - it is there to look at again and again. Each time you see a powerful image it imprints itself on your brain and this imprint is reinforced every time you look at the image.

So what in my opinion makes a great photojournalist:

  • An eye for a great image - one that tells the story with power, emotion and clarity
  • The ability to get oneself in the right place at the right time
  • Being passionate about a cause and humanity
  • Being able to build a relationship with the people you are photographing because in many circumstances photojournalism requires the acceptance and co-operation of your subject
A few of the photojournalists that I admire most are Don McCullin, James Nachtwey, and Tom Stoddart .

More soon...

Paul
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