Narrative, Power and Responsibility

——– >These are my notes. You can help advance the discussion by reading them over and commenting.

David Campbell – Horrific Blindness: Images of Death in Contemporary Media


Marcus Bleasdale, “The Impact of Images: First, They Must Be Seen,” Nieman Reports, Spring 2010

“In my mind, the question arose: How could my work as a photojournalist be used to confront these problems with similar success? By now, it was apparent that trying to create awareness through having my photographs published by a news organization was no longer viable in an industry struggling with its own set of problems”

“Recently, in Europe I taught a group of young students. When I asked how many read a newspaper in print, two hands went up. “How many read your news online?” Every hand went up. We have to rethink our audiences because if we do not react to that show of hands we’re going to lose this generation. They’re game-centric and on Facebook and Twitter.”

“I find myself thinking about whether it would make sense for a photojournalist to team up with a software gaming company to create a trailer for the next big movie. Maybe in this way gamers could become aware of the exploitation of natural resources—and the effect it has on the people who live in these areas of the world—that go into producing the devices they use to play these games. ”

Bleasdale talks about using comics and perhaps interactive gaming. —–> Transmedia?

The Impact of Images: First, They Must Be Seen

Stuart Freedman, “The Ethics of Photojournalism,” March 2010

Stuart Freedman argues that the crisis of identity in photojournalism today can only be answered with a greater understanding of subject matter and context.

“These are difficult times for journalists and photographers: we live in a celebrity culture controlled by big business and advertisers who have a financial stake in selling things which requires constant banality and revision. George Orwell called it Prolefeed.”

“The question, in an increasingly Prolefed visual culture is how to make a new generation of photographers think before they lift a camera to their eye. The answer, I believe, lies in context.”

For a whole generation of photographers it appears that a wider understanding of ethics and cultural reference is now missing.

“We are all journalists now. And there is an ocean of mediocrity masquerading as the best photojournalism.
An army of young photographers treat the developing world as an extended gap year in which to launch their careers into a media that they have no understanding of.”

As Stephen Mayes, a World Press veteran and currently MD of the VII agency, commented last year, “Photojournalism is trying to be relevant by copying itself rather than by observing the world.”

—–> Many photographers shoot what they think they ought to be photographing, instead of what intrigues them.

Current techniques bear little relationship to what is being photographed. It is “stylistically derivative.” There is no attempt to explain and let ‘truth be any kind of prejudice’ (to paraphrase).
It is about the photographer who “never dignifies anyone as a fellow human being.”

“We might even try and formulate an ethical framework and in the process of creating such a code re-engage with why we became photographers in the first place”

The point seems to me to be that professional photographers have to set themselves apart from amateur citizen journalists. It may be that in the absence of a professional journalist, the amateur’s images may run first. But whose images will the public trust?

Our images should be the trusted ones – analogous to a journalist’s direct quotes.

Then and only then we will be judged not just on our photography but our humanity and approach.

Be close to people. Engage with the world. Be excited by it and want to make it a better place by your work.
As Robert Capa said:

“Like the people you shoot and let them know it.”

Brian Storm, “A Different Approach to Storytelling,” Nieman Reports, Spring 2010

‘… photographs require context to tell a more complete narrative. The best thing for photojournalists to do is to slow down, become a little more engaged, and spend a little more time on their projects in a much more intimate way.’

Relevant to #Phonar:

Storm: The biggest difference is slowing down and spending more time with the subject. It’s not just taking their picture; it’s giving them a voice. To do that, it’s not just using an audio recorder or a video camera to do interviews. It’s asking questions which allow the subject to give context to the story—to provide the rest of the information needed to truly understand the power of those moments.

Storm: Photographers are inherently technical so adding audio and video is not a huge leap for them. Yet audio and visual storytelling are crafts. To become a truly terrific radio reporter is hard work.

Ludtke: This is what photographers need. This is the reality today. To be a photojournalist means a level of engagement across so many different platforms in media. It’s not just the photograph that’s destined for a single publication or a contract with one magazine.

Ludtke: So the digital distribution lines accentuate this?

Storm: Yeah, very much. We’ve never been in a situation where one person could, say, watch “Intended Consequences” [about Rwanda] and then turn around and post it on Facebook for their 600 or so friends. We’ve never been in that situation before where people could spread things as quickly as they can now. And what are they going to spread? They’re going to spread quality.

——-> Ok, but is it really?

Do people understand or simply watch a video and so on to the next. Video desensitization?

I digress, but it reminds me of Twitter, where the majority tweet the same links in the same cliques. Most of the time they don’t even open the links, but do it to simply pay lip service, to be ‘part of the crowd’.
People become RSS feeds, not adding any real content simply delegating, distributing and recycling to intelligent fools. Too scared to say anything actually human that isn’t politically correct.
Is this really openness, and do people grow if not given room to make mistakes?

Anyway….. this brings us nicely to the next post:

Jay Rosen, “News Without the Narrative Needed to Make Sense of the News,” March 2010

Why are we serving people the news without the background narrative necessary to make sense of the news?

After watching a popular news article where he did not really understand all the terms, but enjoyed the story/learnt a lot nevertheless….

Jay Rosen says:

“I was not informable because I lacked the necessary background knowledge to grasp what was being sent to me as news. On the other hand there was no easy way for me to get that background and make myself informable because the way our news system works.”

Is there a point to using Transmedia to distribute formation without also the knowledge to decipher it.

This opens the debate to the Future of Context?.