Archive for January, 2010

The Future of Photojournalism (Part 2)

Posted in Features on 2010/01/26 by sturgeonmusic

It mainly began with the birth of the ‘Indymedia’ movement in 1999; activists at the WTO meeting in Seattle were caught blocking the roads as they realized this was the only way to get their views across in the mainstream media. The 60 seconds of footage that was broadcast only showed the group being escorted off by the police, and didn’t cover their motives or purpose. This style of coverage gave birth to a new media model by which news was gathered and broadcast – giving the public a chance to contribute. The photograph shown above is an example of citizen journalism today, the billboard created by CNN to gather news material from the general public. This is because they realize the power that is carried with such a notion, no editing, and no training down to earth news seems quite appealing these days. So why has it happened, and what does it mean for our future as photojournalists?

There is a positive side to its birth, everyone remembers the world trade towers destruction on 9/11 and it’s an important fact that nearly all of the early footage was sent it and broadcast from citizen journalists. Shocking images and video were sent into Sky News, CNN and many more showing the towers on fire – and without this live coverage would have been delayed by some time. So with this as an example, citizen journalism is a positive thing as it allows breaking news to be delivered and broadcast direct from the incident. Historical events like this show how the public respond to such incidents in an almost journalistic manner, thinking fast and quickly capturing what is occurring around them.

The idea is certainly a good one; the above factors discussed make it so. But does it have the same effects on us as professional photojournalists, or have a knock on effect that damages us? Well it could very well be a mixture of both, the image on the right carries with it a thousand emotions, expressions and questions as to why this event happened (similar to the images focused on earlier from the war). Conveying such feelings within a photograph is very much the heart of our job, so with more and more members of the public getting interested and doing the same this can only boost our influence. The competition between TV news and photography was something that we lost in some ways; however our profession is still going strong – even if it’s not in the mainstream. This brings in the biggest factor surrounding citizen journalism, the internet. Since it became a part of everyday life in the mid 1990’s, blogs and other such tools for expressing yourself and indeed your own work have boomed, making it very easy to keep our profession alive. ‘Flickr’ is just one of these sites – enabling us to share and promote our own photography, not to mention peoples individual websites that can be purchased from as little as £5 a year.

So with technology growing and more and more people becoming adapt with its usage, why isn’t their more interest in hard-hitting and truthful photography? This is where your own opinion comes into play; personally I think it’s down to our society and what is delivered to us by the mainstream media. Over the years we have become obsessed with celebrity and become more desensitised to real issues such as famine, war and poverty and this could be due to the way our profession has changed. Many implications such as the birth of TV news impacted the effect photography had on the world, but with independent sites being set up around the world, nothing is really hidden from the public. The fascination with the upper class way of life, entertainment and gossip means that photographers need to be more outgoing and extreme with their work, take this image as an example –

This is a photo by controversial photographer Toscani, and features an emotional scene of a man dying from aids. The bottom right houses the controversy, a fashion brand logo ‘United Colours of Benetton’ – used in this context it goes against every moral out there, but it does spread awareness of such a condition, one that is often overlooked by the mainstream media. So maybe this is the type of techniques we will need to employ to convey such heartfelt topics of suffering, within a modern popular context.

So to the future of photojournalism, where are we heading and how will our careers shape out? It’s certainly incredibly tough to call as hindsight is a useful tool; but I do see bright prospects at the end of the tunnel. Whether Citizen Journalism will boom further and become the only way for us to view news-related and topical photography remains to be seen, but this may not be a bad thing. At the end of the day, having the public supplying photograph’s for headline stories enhances the coverage we are given. In my opinion, the original trait laid out by Magnum, the decisive moment will eventually circle back around – and with more and more people becoming technically adept at using cameras photography will still have a life. Whether this will be a life censored by the media or not, either way photography is still the most powerful way to capture life’s moments, so if Citizen Journalist’s are keeping it alive, then it’s surely worth it.

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The Future of Photojournalism (Part 1)

Posted in Features on 2010/01/25 by sturgeonmusic

‘Vietnam Syndrome’ and Citizen Journalists

“A curiosity about what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to transcribe it visually.” – Bresson

Photojournalism is one of the most influential forces in media history, where one image can change the world’s opinion and make us question ourselves as viewers. Pictures can certainly tell a thousand words, though with this in mind why has there been such a downfall to this old and well regarded art form? Gone are the days where everyone in the industry would look up to the Magnum society and the ‘decisive moment’ theory laid out by Henri Cartier Bresson. But why is this? Is it down to new media technologies, our audience changing between passive and active? Or is it down to ‘Vietnam Syndrome’?

It could be a mix of all three, but first – let’s look at the history, focusing on Magnum and how the practise of Photojournalism has changed over time. Magnum was founded in 1947 by four of the legendary photojournalists – Bresson, Capa, Seymour and Rodger, and aimed to show the public what was really going on around the world. Magnum was owned by its members, meaning they had freedom to express their views and opinions in their photography without much regulation. Whilst this was the case, many of their images have received much controversy. Take Capa’s image of the ‘Falling Soldier’ –

The soldier is neither dead or alive – he is dying and it’s all caught on camera. The raw power and emotion captured by Capa was in some cases overlooked and morality was brought into play, some people believed it to be plain wrong. Others however (like myself), believe it to be powerful and inspirational – this is what Magnum was all about.

Things got rocky at the time of the Vietnam War, the first ever conflict to be so widely reported in the media. The public were for the first time able to see the devastation war causes at the time of conflict, not after it had happened. This provided the prime opportunity for Photojournalists to shine, and additionally the perfect scenario to use the ‘decisive moment’ practise. Out of this conflict came some of the most stunning and shocking images in photographic history –

though it also produced the phenomenon of ‘Vietnam Syndrome’. This had nothing to do with the soldier’s mental state after the war, but the public’s. Many people believed the images to be too controversial and shocking, in a way blocking out the events of the war itself. Ever since these images, there has been very little in the way of war photography and it’s all because of this syndrome.

Since then, Photojournalism has evolved and changed in various different ways, and it’s also due to the way culture, technology and society itself shifts. The basic idea behind Photojournalism practise is to display a snapshot of a moment that can tell a story, or more precisely the real story. Though this can only be done if the audience is hooked, and it’s an important factor that is often overlooked, so firstly let’s look at what the audience and society wants. In the modern age, celebrity in some ways rules the news – tabloids and paparazzi lead the way in feeding the audiences requests.

It could be a form of escapism for the public, a release from our everyday lives – or is it what we are forced to digest? If so, have the audience become desensitized to the real, hard hitting stories originally portrayed by photojournalists? As stated earlier targeting your audience correctly is vital to getting your work viewed, though with such questions floating around as the ones just raised, our job as photojournalists has become distinctly harder.

(Continued tomorrow in Part 2!)

Comic Genius

Posted in Features on 2010/01/09 by sturgeonmusic

With the release of its long awaited sequel, I thought I’d take a look back at one of the most hilarious comedy parodies in a very long time, the day Family Guy took the legendary Star Wars saga and turned it completely on its head. Yes, its Blue Harvest!

Family Guy is without a doubt one of the most popular TV shows around, now in its eighth season, its hilarious characters combined with controversial flashbacks was the perfect blend to create a comedy sensation. Combining all of these factors with the classic Star Wars story and icons is certainly perfect.

The first chapter can be picked up fairly cheaply now, with its sequel ‘something…. something… dark side’ being slightly more pricey. As you’ve probably guessed they follow the original saga, poking fun at George Lucas’s plan to start the story at chapter 4 – whilst using a typical Peter Griffin style speech for the opening titles. They compact the original film into around 40 minutes, and those extreme fans that know the story inside out will realize that no key points have been left out.

That’s one of my favorite scenes from the first installment, showing how their famous cut scenes with famous and cult figures are not left out in the Star Wars universe. Its a great laugh, fairly cheap and a perfect piss take to a series loved by so many people, combining such popular entertainment is a perfect mix for hilarity!