Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Newsphotographer or Photojournalist: Is there a difference?

Thinking back to how I once viewed the power of visual images. It was the Sixties and "new journalism" was the fad. Long stories in Esquire, Rolling Stone, New Yorker Magazine, etc., thought it was something Tom Wolf called "New Journalism." When writers told what the subject was wearing, color of their socks, what they were doing, how they were sitting, etc. etc. 
News Photo

Wouldn't it be easier to simply show it? I thought this was photojournalism. Words nd pictures working together to show what was happening. 

Stumbled upon reference to Newsday's Director of Photography, Harvey Weber, viewing journalism as showing the beginning, middle and end. The newspaper photographer showing up and simply captured a moment. Didn't tell the whole story.

But with words and photos work together to tell the story. What is photojournalism? I see it as a part, you can't tell the whole story with just words or just with photos. You need to combine both.

For many this is still strange. They only see photos as decoration to the word story. Rather than imagine, see it. Look at a picture and have the words fill in the gaps. Tell about what happened before and who the people are in the photo. This means the photo editor needs to pick a photo that fits with the story, not the most beautiful photo or most eye-catching shot.

Speaking at a Photo Expo in New York with John Durniak I thought photojournalism was dead as color photography made the photo simply a tool to attract readers to read the story. In black and white you could study the face of the people, see where they were, freeze the moment. Not distracted by COLOR

With color, photos were decoration. Posed with fill-in flash so the blue sky was darker. Editors didn't mind, they saw it as a way to pull readers into reading the story. Not telling the story. 

I could say the newsphotographer was someone who covered events:Auto accidents, fires, press conference, demonstrations, events, but the photojournalist was someone getting a photo of people doing things. One photo or several photos that tied in with the words to tell the whole story. 

''John Durniak was one of the first to realize the potential of the 35-millimeter camera,'' said Carl Mydans, one of the first photographers hired by Life, who later worked for Time, ''and he affected most of us who were photojournalists in how we looked upon reporting with a camera. We were storytellers with a camera, and that was his continual direction to us: 'Don't forget what you are. You are reporters, telling stories in pictures.' ' 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Freelance writer/photographer 2015

Writer/photographer? Is this what I once called a photojournalist? No a photojournalist simply tells the story visually and writes captions. This is an advertisement in U.S. News and World Report looking for help creating content for a "Best Places to Live" by the "digital products, real estate department.?
Reporter Jim Wood interviews Jimmy Breslin - 1973/SF Examiner

I immediately thought, or hoped, they were going to do a series, show real estate, the homes for sale like the Wall Street Journal. Thinking it may be like the stories I did for the Inquirer Sunday magazine showing the homes and how they reflect on the people that live in them. Using words and pictures.

With Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex coming in after New York for number of Fortune 500 corporations, it has three of the top ten fastest growing communities in the country.

For just $250, U.S. News and World Report wants "strong writers who feel comfortable and confident with a camera."

Back in 1969, I spent the summer in my home state of Colorado attending seminars at the Creative Eye in Aspen, Colorado. They gave me free tuition in trade for managing the darkroom, but to get money for room and board I walked into the local weekly newspaper office. The Aspen Times publisher said reporters took photos, but they didn't like developing the film and printing. He'd pay be $40/week to be a darkroom tech AND print any photos I wanted to submit.

After the summer I returned to the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, and the Aspen Times won first place at the Colorado Press Association's yearly competition, the two reporters refused to take photos, forcing the Aspen Times to hire a photographer.

Working at the San Francisco Examiner I was upset with the Newspaper Guild prevented me as a staff photographer from writing stories to go with my photos. They were out to save jobs, but I had to sell the reporter on doing the story. (A story I thought would make great photos, and never interested the writer.) News photographers usually simply wait for reporters to write the story then turn in a photo assignment.

Fran Ortiz had freelanced for Life magazine, and one of the photographers I admired most on the staff. He later helped the Guild negotiate a contract with the paper and in his 2007 obit was remembered by colleagues for having been "held down from jumping over the table" when the Examiner wanted to let reporters also take photos.

So I was struck when I read Paul Theroux's interview in the Wall Street Journal promoting his new travel book, Deep South. They asked him why he didn't take the photos. Instead getting award-winning professional photojournalist, Steve McCurry, to take pictures for the book.

He responded, "people who take pictures lose their capacity for close observation...taking a picture is a way of forgetting."

What? You often remember the photo of a family event and forget the event. Seeing a photo brings back memories.

But I think while a photographer concentrates on capturing the moment, they miss the smell and sounds, words help. Words can record what people say, confirm when and were the event took place. Words fill in the gaps. Together they tell the whole story.

Publishers and word people often see the photo as functioning like a headline, to pull viewers into reading their prose. A decoration, not the story.

Many think their words need to create the scene in the readers head and the photo is too literal, dampens the readers imagination! This is what Tom Wolfs "new journalism," wanted the writer to describe what they saw, what the people were wearing, what they were thinking, etc.

In the 21st Century the reader doesn't have time to read about John Doe's uncombed hair and worn jeans, when he can see it.

I'm a journalist. I grew up with LIFE magazine and felt reporting advanced when words and pictures told the whole story.

Words and pictures go together. Done right they tell the entire story so the reader knows what it was like to be there and understand how it effected the people who were there and how it affects the community.

Certainly when the reporter is taking photos, they are unable to take notes or ask questions. If they are asking questions they might be missing a picture.

I like coming up with my own story ideas. Having owned a business I enjoyed doing profiles on successful business owners for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. At first I thought I'd take a photo first and help the business owner relax before sitting down and interviewing them. But in talking they'd  tell me something I thought I could use for the story. So I'd stop shooting and start taking notes. It didn't work.

At the Star-Telegram covering a story with Barry Schlacter I listened to the interview and thought he missed following up on one angle. I asked if I could ask a question, then after the interview Barry told me how much he appreciated be asking the question because it gave him time to review his notes.

The best way I found was to do the interview first, then after all the questions have been asked. Try to get the owner to pose for a picture. This worked better, but we were both in a hurry to get it done. I took fewer photos, usually only one setting, just trying to get a good happy expression.

But as a photographer, a photojournalist, I look around for different angles, left, right, looking up, looking down, tight shots, change lenses, get them thinking, gesturing, smiling, etc. Then editing my "notes" down to find the best shot that tells the story:what, where and who was in the story.

For best results you can't do both.

# # #

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

100th Anniversary of the National Parks

President Theodore Roosevelt went West and wanted to preserve what he saw. Maybe seeing how the Niagara Falls in New York had been exploited. He wanted to preserve nature. Keep it unchanged.

So on the 100th anniversary of the National Parks I think of Edward Abbey who wrote Desert Solitaire about working at the Arches National Park and how happy he felt that few people came to visit. Let nature stay the way it is. Abbey thought the National Park Service should preserve and that meant fewer people. Dirt roads, two-lane roads, no electricity, just let things be the way they are.

Colorado view from I-25 of  E. Spanish Peak by JGDomke

Texas scene at Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg, TX by JG Domke
There are lots of other great views, so why bring people to the National Parks, make roads, pave trails, restrooms, and trash. Shouldn't they be closed off instead and preserved?

With the coming 100th anniversary in 2016, CBS highlighted federal parks with a profile on a Colorado photographer, John Fielder, who came out with a collection of photos duplicating scenes taken in in the 19th century by W. H. Jackson.
Having been raised in Colorado I took the Rockies for granted. I liked camping, but saw the damage mining had done and was outraged by the growing cloud of pollution rising over Denver. 

Agreeing with James Michener in his Centenial novel in 1976 concluded that Colorado had too little water, so the state needed to limit their population.

Colorado is a nice place to visit, but there is more water in Texas and I moved out of Colorado to save it.

Growing up in Colorado made me love the west, nature and be an environmentalist. I remember driving around Leadville, Colo., in the Fifties and seeing all the abandon mining equipment. The dredge sitting in the creek where they had crushed all the rocks looking for gold. It was an industrial construction site. NOT BEAUTIFUL. 

Returning today it is amazing how they have restored, the stream, Landscaped it to look natural. Thanks to tourists and skiers. They removed the rotting mining equipment. I was amazed how Colorado is focused on restricting the size of buildings, limiting their size and trying to keep the 100 year old shops that are now gift shops and boutiques. 

Too bad in Texas that the boom towns for drilling haven't become tourist locations. Chico the birthplace of the Hilton hotel chain, seems like a ghost town with huge buildings sitting empty. An early Hilton hotel in Marlin, Texas, was where Texans vacationed in the Twenties and Thirties. They came for the spring water. Business tried to profit from it. Today, nobody even knows it exists. They go to Colorado.
Leadville? No Thurber Texas
It was a rush for gold and silver in Colorado, but in Texas it was cattle and oil. Thurber alongside I-20 has a museum telling how it was the largest town west of Fort Worth and the first to have electric lights, an Opera House, etc. But it was a company town and the union shut it down. They wee making more money from oil in Ranger, it was cheaper not to give in to the union and close the coal mine down, and shut down the brick factory. Roads didn't need to be paved in brick. 

Old mining towns in Colorado now offer boutique beer, gourmet restaurants, craftsmen, and artist boutiques, along with great scenery. Do we thank National Parks?

All photos by J.G. Domke, photojournalist, covering life in America.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Is the DSLR dead?

Back in the Eighties we wondered if photojournalism was dead. With Life magazine shutting down and Time using fewer and smaller photos. Who was publishing picture stories? Picture pages?

Photojournalism didn't die, it just changed. National Geographic launched its own cable channel in 2001, Frontline on PBS in 1984, and television "cameramen" started calling themselves photojournalists. Associated Press led in moving from film to Kodak digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras with low 1.7 megapixel sensors in 1995. (No time taken up processing film.) Photographers could cover a baseball game, upload photos and then cover the winning run at the end of the game. And still make the 11:30 p.m. deadline for the morning papers!

Technology changes have changed journalism and the cell phone is replacing the DSLR!

This reminds me of the past, when press photographers covered events with the 4x5 Speed Graphic. Thinking they needed bigger film size to get better quality, more usable than small 35mm images. They could manipulate the sheet of film when they developed it, but a roll of film meant all the shots got developed the same. Smaller film meant more grainy images, less detail and less cropping in.

But, the 35mm camera and Kodak's Tri-X film enabled photojournalists to better capture the moment, it was faster and you didn't miss a shot. Telephoto lens were smaller and you could carry a couple of cameras with different lenses mounted to get a variety of shots. With reliability and versatility the single-lens reflex and Tri-X beat out the sharper Speed Graphic in the mid Sixties.

Polaroid camera introduced in the early Fifties, eliminated the darkroom. Photographers used it to check their exposure with strobe lights. And some small weekly papers gave them to reporters, who didn't know how to develop film or make prints. Polaroid got a head shot or group photo to go along with the story they were writing.

Today the digital phone can shoot photos. Is it playing the role of a Polaroid or is it a game changer like the 35mm camera? It's doing both.

In 1975, covering the Republican convention in Kansas City for The Philadelphia Inquirer, I had to get the photo in the morning, then drop the film off at the Associated Press darkroom, wait for it to be developed, pick one or two shots and wait for them to make a print. Then, type the caption that would get stuck along the side of the print, and finally, wait to get a go ahead from AP to start transmitting over the phone line. It took 20 minutes for it to scan the b&w photo. Hopefully the Inquirer got the photo before the 7 p.m. deadline for the first edition.

(Try for the first edition, because once the page was made it was difficult with the letterpress to add photos, the photo simply replaced one and fit the same size.)

Those were the good old days. Trying to scoop other papers and offer more coverage than TV.

But with the "smart phone" you can get the photo, add tags, caption and upload immediately.

The so many digital phones around we see live video coverage of riots, storms, concerts, etc. Uploaded to Facebook, TV stations, YouTube, etc.

Where has the DSLR gone? Has it gone the way of the Speed Graphic.

University of California Berkeley School of Communications offers a PDF Mobile Reporting Field Guide to show journalists what equipment then need for covering events with their cell phone. Motion not stills. Sound with visual. Edited on location and uploaded.

My mentors for photojournalism were W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Bruce Davidson, along with newspaper photographers like Gary Settle of the N.Y. Times and Brian Lanker in Eugene, Oregon.

Today I admire Bob Sacha, Anthony Suau and Bruce Dale who are embracing the changes in technology. Directing videos that tell a story.

For some the cell phone is like the Polaroid, but for others it is replacing the DSLR. Depends on how professional you are.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

5 Simple Video Production Pro Tips

List of tips for podcasters, photographers, filmmaker and visual story tellers. Basic things to carry around whenever and wherever. You never know, never stop shooting.

Click title for video link

By Jim Domke, 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties, made chair seat for shield
5 Simple Video Production TIPS Production Pro Tips

TexPix Publishers focus on web videos see samples on YouTube . . .

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Weather Art

Back in the good old days, there would be days when done of the stories picked for the front pages had any art to go with them. This was when the photo editor would tell everyone sitting around the photo to go out and don't come back till you got a picture. 

Picture of what? Anything!

Any newspaper photog will tell you of great photos they lucked into finding and times when a couple of them ended up in the same park, looking for a picture.

At the Philadelphia Inquirer they laughed about how one of the staff photographers had a stuffed squirrel in his car, and photograph it in various backgrounds. Always coming back with an original photo that tied in with the day. Like the cold wintry day when construction and and dock workers found steel drums to fill with scraps and burn. Then huddle around them to warm-up. As they story goes, this photographer put his stuffed squirrel on the rim of the drum.

This was before I worked for the paper in the 70's, but the old-timers loved to tell how the squirrel fell into the fire and was burned. The photographer lost his easy weather picture.

Another Inky photog, Akira Suwa, thought it was a waste of time to guess where to find the found art. He felt he just had to keep his eyes open and he'd bump into something. Best thing was to just run some errands. Maybe go to the stereo store and look at the newest receiver or look at new Cd's. And he'd find a weird scene of someone doing something or some funny graffiti.

Finding the photo is what I like best. The hunt. The challenge to come back and make the deadline. Just keeping your eye open as you drive to an assignment, taking time to stop and capture the moment. Like covering a weird accident on Christmas Day for the San Francisco Examiner, I walked back to the car and was struck by the fog and light going over the mountains. Grabbed the shot and then printed in on the contrasty #6 Agfa paper. Ran the next day on page 12.

Or the time I was driving to work and saw an hot air balloon coming from the west and floating towards downtown Fort Worth. I took the first exit, turned left and drove till I could get downtown under the Energizer rabbit. Ended up as the main art for the metro section. 
Found weather art. No assignment and it makes the paper more interesting. 

But as everything goes online, things are going to motion and galleries.

As the skies darken and TV stations started telling everyone to stay indoors as radar tracked sever weather, I started recording the weather station announcements.  Then had to see it myself and took my Olympus Pen with normal lens and stereo mic. The skies were dark and sirens started sounding. Then the rain poured down as the storm quickly passed over. Blowing a trash can down the road and darkening the skies even caused the street lights to come on. It quickly passed, street lights went out and looking down the street there was a sunset. 

Weather art today. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Daily Special - making a meal of it.

Analogies are interesting, Americas founders thought the United States should be similar to the Roman Empire. Author Michael Crichton in State of Fear thought the move from horse and buggy to the automobile was how we needed to be motivated before moving from fossil fuel to sustainable/renewable energy. He also compares photography to fossils, citing how they tell only part of the story, captures just a moment not the whole event.

This started me started thinking how newspapers are like restaurants. The chef is the executive editor, the tables are advertisers and customers are the readers. The kitchen is editorial and a meal is created by journalists. More tables means more dollars.

Headlines and photos are used to pull readers into buying the paper and reading the stories. So the drinks are like the headlines and the bread is the photo. But the main dish is the written story. Words.

Full course dinner comes with a fine wine, good bread and main dish. Takes time to eat, but you are full and satisfied when you finish. Like reading a good story in the newspaper.

I realize how bread alone doesn't fill you up, it helps clean the palate and better enjoy the whole meal. And that is how photos are used in newspapers. To learn all the facts you need to read the story.

But with the Internet is changing the way we feed ourselves, communicating is changing, it's more like the grocery store. The Internet offers lots of data, like produce in the grocery store, but also has a delicatessen, bakery, frozen dinners, etc. Like websites!? Food is info.

I see family run restaurants falling to the chains, just like newspapers being bought out. Losing the regional feel.

Larry McMurtry in Texasville has residents in the small Texas town meet at the Dairy Queen to exchange ideas and share gossip. Not the best meal, but quick and easy. Like the Internet, or free pub?

Following the food analogy, I see video as a sandwich. A meal, but gone before you know it. Information pack between the bread, visual and audio. Fewer words needed, but filling.

Not a full meal.