Tag Archives: photojournalism

Bending the Frame by Fred Ritchin

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I have just finished reading this book which is a critical look at the current challenges facing photojournalism and documentary photography.  Ritchin looks at how the rise of the digital media through the internet is threatening and changing photojournalism and traditional documentary photography.  He points out that less funding is available to documentary photographers from the traditional sources and that the day of the front page is coming to an end with a predicted total disappearance of the printed newspaper by 2040, beginning with the USA by 2017.  Ritchen suggests that the news media is going through a transition and new ways to grab and hold the readers attention has to be found.  This he acknowledges will be difficult as news images now have to compete right next to an attention grabbing advertising image, something that just was not done in print.  Moreover, with digital webpages images are constantly being replaced or slide-showed in order to maximise display space whilst the viewers attention spans diminish faster than the slide shows.  In a shrinking market for newspaper and magazine publishers Ritchin observes that it is tougher for new photographers to get their work published as publishers / editors are more interested in the fame of the photographer than the work he produces, suggesting that modern editors are more influenced and controlled by capitalistic ideas of celebrating the celebrity in order to sell.

An interesting and useful book for anyone looking to work in  photojournalism / editorial world.

I purchased it and read it as I thought that it might have relevant information for my course on Context and Narrative; but although it was an interesting read providing background to this industry I am not sure how useful I will find it in the future.  I will keep it on my shelf in case I need to refer back at a later date.

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Reflections of part one

I began this course not ever having thought much of what documentary photography was, in fact if asked I would have guessed and suggested that it was a form of photojournalism and probably a title given to a number of images pertaining to a news of magazine story.  I now understand that documentary photography has a much broader meaning and is very much linked to the Art photographer as describing their project work and I look forward to my next section.

I also learned that street photography / photojournalism is not that easy or straightforward, as I learned when I went out and about with my DSLR to take street style photographs.  Planning is always essential even if it is just arming yourself with some compositional ideas to find and photograph.

Working Log for Assignment One – Two sides of the story

The Report

The Statement

For this assignment I was tasked to create two sets of photographs telling different versions of the same story to explore the convincing nature of documentary photography.

The aim of this assignment was to demonstrate that images and ideas about truth have problematic relationships.

Planning

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I began this project by first scribbling down some ideas on note paper, considering the key points and learning aims before brainstorming for some ideas. I then made lists headed ‘Context’ and ‘Narrative’ and began to formulate ideas with a mind-mapping / tree graphs that helped filter ideas which led me to the idea of witnessing an incident that can be interpreted either as an attack or a rescue.

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To try to make these two sets of images look authentic, I decided that a camera-phone was the best and most appropriate choice of camera for this particular narrative. Therefore, I hope that by using this method of recording the ‘incident’, I will have created both an implied appearance of truth for a citizen-journalistic story and an evidence style narrative.

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I then considered the photographs that I required to tell the two versions of the same story by making a list and then sketching out some ideas as a storyboard. I then approached my friends and parents with my idea and obtained their helpful co-operation.

Next I reconnoitred the proposed location taking notes of light, traffic, and the bus time table and made some test shots.

Putting the plan into action.

I first wrote my two narratives one I headed “The Statement” and the other I headed “The Report” and briefed my models and driver of the car using it.

Due to the bright sun I chose to photograph from the opposite side the road from my original test shots and the Church helped with the background. Normally this road is very quiet but (typically) was busy which reduced the time I had to make the pictures and limited the opportunities to re-shoot. I found the camera-phone’s response time to be slow and difficult to review properly a further complication was my father didn’t understand that I needed him to stop the car almost on the zebra-crossing for a more dramatic picture and the busy traffic prevented me from being able to either re-position the car or I before a queue began to form. Therefore, I was only partially successful with obtaining all the photos that I was happy with. As I could not re-shoot, I had to use Photoshop to manipulate two images to make them more dramatic. I have re-used three images in both narratives as they work for both, one I have cropped out the bus to emphasise the assailants escape.  I then hand wrote labels for each photo that I attached and downloaded a Met Police witness statement that I had wrote for ‘The Statement’ and typed ‘The Report’ as a covering letter to a newspaper to help support the ‘context’ for both stories.  I used an online printing service for my photos but on receiving them and physically examining them, I made a couple of editing decisions by removing a couple of chosen pictures from the original choice and ordering two additional duplicates. Finally before sending, I made one final editorial decision requiring getting a single photo from the photo lab at Tesco’s, hence why one image ‘the escaping attacker’ is of a different size and crop.  Clearly this is the downside of not having your own printing facilities.

Merged photos – left image, lady looking the wrong way for the narrative to work but good pose of running man, right image lady looking the right way but not good pose for the running man, both images merged using Photoshop.

Merged photos – left good poses but car too far away, right car taken from this image and merged with left picture using Photoshop.

Three printed images edited from the final selection.   Reason – I did not consider them necessary to the narrative.

Images duplicated as they suited both narratives and the bus image re-used but cropped for ‘The Statement’ narrative to imply that the attacker was escaping.

Summing up

Key points –

  • Two sets of images 5-7 each total 10-14.
  • Suggest two alternative points of view.
  • Must tell a story.
  • Look convincing.  This is subjective but I feel I made fairly convincing.
  • Candid style.

Learning aims –

  • I believe that I met my learning aims exploring the nature of documentary photography by producing two contrasting points of view of the same incident.
  • I understood the power of imagery for both inside and outside the frame as demonstrated by my choice of framing / cropping, positioning for the view and editorial of the prints.
  • I understood context and putting it in to practice with my choice of images and use of text for the captions for each photo and the addition of the letter and police statement.

Safety in Numbness by David Campany

Safety in Numbness – I have just read this essay by David Campany that he has re-published on the internet.  http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=joel+meyerowitz+911&id=6FAC7DC1F327BF6E1C1A68054C31CFAB44445701&FORM=IQFRBA

He makes some interesting observations that modern still photography photojournalism has moved from the moment of action ‘hot-action’ to ‘cool-photography’ as Peter Wollen has named them or the late-photograph as Campany describes them.  Referring to the official photographs produced by Joel Meyerowitz who photographed the ruins soon after the tragic events of 911 and was the only photographer permitted full access to the site during the clean-up operation.  These types of images are intended to suggest to the viewer what has just happened and often show only empty buildings, rooms, the smoking reminisces, suggesting the past battle or tragic event.

He suggests that with the development of the video photographer the still photographer has had to move from covering the action to following up on the stories and recording recently past / post event.  He reasons that technology has dictated the pace of change and as video technology has become cheaper, smaller and portable and with higher picture definitions the images can be transmitted from source to consumer much faster cheaper and easier the video image can also now be frozen for quality still images as and when required.  This has also blurred the boundaries between still photography images and video images.  Hence why more and more still life photographers are specializing in the ‘cool-photography’ photojournalistic genre (and although Campany doesn’t comment on it, this type of photojournalism comes with fewer risks to life and limb).  Campany also points out that although the Vietnam war has been called the photographers war and to some the last photographers war he points out that Vietnam presented photographers with a lot of opportunities thanks to amongst many things American administration and army that kept changing its agenda.  In comparison the first Gulf War in 1991 presented photographers with very few ‘hot-action’ opportunities due to both the restrictions placed upon them and the focused and brief period that the war lasted.  As a result all the memorable images of the Gulf war were just that ‘memorable’ images taken days after the battle, burned-out tanks, burning oilfields, burnt skeletal remains of the Republican Guard.

Campany states that a thousand words can be said of a photograph rather that a photograph can say a thousand words.  By this he means that a photograph taken after an event can be examined and re-examined over and over and without the actual event recorded the post event can be re-interpreted and remembered differently from the actual event as time passes.

Campany points out that still photography by it’s very nature works well for cool-photography as it’s images can produce a real sense of stillness, quietness, like that experienced after the bombardment has stopped.  Video has to transmit images of still pictures often focusing in on a small detail or panning around in the frame to different elements in the picture in order for the viewer not to confuse the photograph with simply a static image.

Campany comments that although Meyerowitz said that he simply took the photos as he saw them and as they were presented to him, Campany recognized in one image a similarity with another picture that Meyerowitz took some 20 years before of an old torn down film set.  Campany suggests that photographers may carry a set of mental compositional templates around in their heads which can be unconsciously pulled out and used, he wanders if Meyerowitz had even thought of his earlier photograph when composing his picture at ground zero.

Campany ends his essay with a warning that, “The danger is that it can also foster an indifference and political withdrawal that masquerades as concern.”-” There is a sense in which the late photograph in all its silence, can easily flatter the ideological paralysis of those who gaze at it with a lack of social or political will to make sense of its circumstance. In its apparent finitude and muteness it can leave us in permanent limbo, obliterating even the need for analysis and bolstering a kind of liberal melancholy that shuns political explanation like a vampire shuns garlic.”