Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Photographer's World View ... needs both words and pictures

I always liked reading the Wall Street Journal, especially the feature story that ran on the right column, it still exists on the front page, but usually found at the bottom of the page. It was the Wall Street Journal that didn't see any need for photos. They used charts and the head shots of people quoted in the story were used as black & white engravings. Those were the days.

WSJ journal now runs photos. Color photos and today on page D-3 in Home & Digital they cover how a photographer travels the world to record women. Not glamour shots, not candid street shots, but environmental portraits. Polya Lesova's article, A Photographer's World View profiles 31 year old Romanian, Mihaela Noroc's Atlas of Beauty project.

Noroc is doing this all on her own. No assignment from a publication. No writer. She hopes to publish a book of photographs in 2017 and shares her work on Instagram where she has 178,000 followers!

Instead of selling the project to a book publisher, getting a grant or being hired by a publication, Noroc used crowdfunding to raise nearly $50,000! 

Thinking back to 1979 when Larry Eichel and I reported on refugees in Asia. A huge undertaking by the Philadelphia Inquirer that took Eichel six months traveling to nine countries. He then put in his photo assignment for me to go to four refugee camps and take photos. I covered the temporary housing, the rush for drinking water, portrait of on refugee showing how he used plastic bottles as a life jacket, etc. A terrific essay in words and pictures.

As a photojournalist I feel a story needs words and pictures to tell all the facts.

The story tells how she is focused on countries other than the United States and Europe where "in some conservative countries, women need to get permission from their husbands or another mail relative to be photographed."

In France they believe in the right to privacy you can't photograph anyone in public without their permission. Stock agencies needed a permission slip to go with any photo, this led to buying the same photo in Germany which doesn't have such strict laws.

It just strikes me that viewers should know more. How would Sharon Wohlmuth's Sister Sister book been received if it only had photos? Wohlmuth took some great portraits of the sisters together but the words helped tell the story and added meaning to the photos.

Times have changed, the Wall Street Journal reports on how Noroc travels with two backpacks. One for her cloths, another backpack with wheels for ONE DSLR camera, three lenses, laptop computer and a couple of external back-up hard-drives. I went to Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong with the Domke Bag that held 21mm, 35mm and two Leica cameras, then an 80-200mm zoom and 85mm F/1.8 for a non-motorized Nikon, plus a Minolta light-meter, Vivitar 285 strobe, lots of AA batteries, and 40 rolls of B&W film. Only the camera bag got x-rayed, so it was safe to pack the film in a suitcase. No cell phone, no computer.

I never got to see the photos till I returned to Philadelphia and developed the film.

This is covered in my new eBook, Professionally Branded, now available at Amazon.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Digital changed photojournalism, it forgot about the story.

This year, 2016, marks the 40th anniversary of the Domke Bag. Back then I wanted to make sure I had enough film for a couple of newspaper assignments. Always shot two rolls using two cameras, this was safe in case one camera malfunctioned and you didn't miss any shot stopping to change from wide-angle to telephoto lens. Often you never used up all the film, shooting less than 72 exposures.

Today the digital camera data cards hold many for exposures than the 36 exposure roll of film. Plus with film you had to develop it and that took time, loading onto stainless steel reels or waiting for two rolls to get pulled into an automatic developing machine.

The younger generation thought we got better shots with two cameras and filling up two rolls of film. The older 4x5 Speed Graphic generation got the picture taking simple four or five shots. The paper was only going to use one picture.

So watching the Photo Mechanic video on You Tube I'm shocked with how they start with renaming the files and making sure they have enough spaces for over 1000 images.

When I designed the Original Domke Bag in 1976, I wanted to make sure I had enough room for 15 of 20 rolls of film. 720 exposures! That was enough to cover several assignments, more than enough for one day! Enabled you to stop and rewind a partially exposed roll and load in a new one and expose at a different ISO, which would have to be developed separately.

Photo Mechanic is explaining how to keep track of thousands of images!  Promoting how it will save time. How about turning off the motor-drive and waiting for the key moment? Watch and think about the action. In sports my goal was to try to see how the game was going and look for photos that would show the record breaking run, tie-breaking touchdown. Not just take a photo on every play.

To tell the story we use to think a "picture page" was best with a large main photo and maybe 4 or 6 smaller shots to tell the beginning and end. Today with 60 images posted online they best shot is overlooked, nobody looks at all 60, they stop after looking at the first 3 or 4.

Has anyone done a study on how many photos people see in a "gallery."  Shooting still photos, I liked the challenge of trying to tell the story with one photo. ONE! The other shots published were secondary, showed details, or close-up. But front page photo told the story.

We desperately need photo editors to find the best shots, make the best shots load first, and make every picture different. Only one picture of the quarterback, one picture of the fans, etc.

No editing and you can't see what is unique and interesting, you have to read the story to find out and then maybe search for a picture that collaborates. Edit down and tell the story!