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.