why it’s so important to get it right when you can

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“This is also why poor photography, published poorly is so damaging. People are only going to look so many times. Once their quota on the subject is filled, they’ll stop looking. This past week has shown me very few memorable images. I’m afraid as photographers we’ve missed our window to make a lasting impact on our viewers with Haiti.”

via Mostly True.

There Are 12 Comments On This Article.

    • @D, Well said.
      When those terrible event happened on a land of mostly black, our media- I’ll welcome challenges on this one- get UNRESTRICTED ACCESS to show the “world” those TOO POOR AND TOO BLACK to even has some dignity.

      This guy did not say “…photographers we’ve missed our window to make a lasting impact on our viewers with… NEW ORLEANS AND HURRICANE KATRINA or on Sep. 11?. Did he? Did he took, showed or published photos of white folks dead on the ground on 9/11? NOT! No way.

      Sorry to bring this up, but white people die in from of the camera? Could somebody explain why on the earth a mother from Haiti will feels painless to the view of her daughter’s body carry by a tractor trailer?

      Are we making a different? Absolutely. Are we making a good’ one? I am not dude it. But I learned long time ago that a photo of a black or Latino kid will look ‘realistic’ if I cached him not smiling.

      Sadly Yes, “… photographers we’ve missed our window to make a lasting impact on our viewers with Haiti.”
      Just the next time a tragedy happen, take the photos but take not their dignity away. It is the best we can do for the one still alive.

  1. the impact photography can have under the best circumstances is so marginal that the whole discussion in itself is a bit hypocritical.

    most photojpurnalists really do it for the adventure – if change is your focus you shoudl really get into politics or maybe written jounralism, documentary film. Maybe a collaboration with NGO’s . Photography alone no matter who good or right on time doesnt have the power to change poverty, sorry.

    • @doktor,You correct a photo essay won’t eliminate poverty. Nor for that matter can we eliminate poverty worldwide. People wouldn’t know what to do in a world without poverty and if they we given an opportunity would all want to put for the effort to change their lives. However a juxtaposition, what if the Essay showed how to make changes and help those people living in poverty forward instead of just standing in it?
      The point is, TELL THE STORY! Maybe it will motivate those who need to be involved to reduce the amount of poverty, by their standards not ours. An income in some countries of just $15k is like a $100k elsewhere. Just a thought.

    • @doktor, I don’t know if you’re a photographer or not. But you obviously aren’t familiar with the works of Gordon Parks, W. Eugene Smith, Jacob Riis, Walker Evans, Eddie Adams, and I could go on and on. If you were familiar with these names, then you would know that they all captured image or did photo essays that were so powerful, that they sparked people to action. In many cases, lives were saved from poverty and disease, because of the actions that people took after viewing compelling and provoking images by these photographers.

      No, photography will not unilaterally cure poverty or other ills of society, but it has had, and I believe still does, have the power to spark people to movement toward positive change. You might want to do a little more research before claiming that it doesn’t.

  2. Harry Smith from the early show, did a report this week and it actually had some impact. The point is it actually started out liekeveryother peice but as he progressed it really wasn’t about hype of a disaster. He connected. It had impact.

    Now, I don’t work as a photojournalist nor a commercial Photographer,…., but what I see is a disconnect. It’s hurry get the shot and move on. It is the way I see the news media operate, hype this, hype that,…. where is the connection and emotion, the story!

    I don’t think it is always the fault of the photographer either, it has to be the hurried mentality of news media, they need to slow down, and produce the content that lasts and means something to people.

    Be the Ansel Adam’s of news media, give it some thought as things develop. People wont get inundated and the resultant wave of the hand; oh I’ve have seen it before,… where did that tidal wave hit out in the pacific? yeah that one; will slow down or stop. People will pay attention again. JMHO

  3. BBC Radio 4 talked briefly about this issue on the Today programme (last 5 minutes for those with iPlayer access).

    There seems to have been a fair few people upset by what’s being called ‘disaster pornography’, questioning it’s in good taste and respecting the humanity of those photographed. The Guardian’s photo editor commented that the good photojournalism is only just beginning as they document the aftermath and rebuilding of the nation and the real face of the Haitian people, not as victims but as survivors.

    Also an aid agency worker commented that the pictures that triggered donations were those that ‘inspired empathy’, not those of the most destruction. I think that’s quite an interesting point to remember as photojournalism should communicate on a deep and moving human level.

    • @Dominic, “The Guardian’s photo editor commented that the good photojournalism is only just beginning as they document the aftermath and rebuilding of the nation and the real face of the Haitian people, not as victims but as survivors.”

      Being a “survivor” might be the more commonly desired outcome for the subject of a journalistic story, but for Haiti’s future the bar must be set higher, they need to **overcome** and **succeed** as a nation.

      The Haitian people have been “survivors” for long enough. They’ve become expert at it. If journalism really wants to affect change in this country, photographers and journalists need to seek out those Haitians who demonstrate an active way to overcome all that has kept their people from their own success and bring their cause to the world’s attention. “That which you give light and food to grows.” Point your cameras in the right direction. This is an opportunity for the world to truly do something to lift an impoverished nation up. Journalists have the power to show what is happening.

      I speak as someone who has overcome many tough obstacles in her own life and who worked very hard to overcome them. I also worked professionally in TV news for 9 years and have been photographing for 17+ years. I understand the positive power the media can have if it so chooses, but corporations really hold the power. I won’t venture that deep. Journalism needs a new formula to work with, if change is what we want we have to actively do something about it.

      As photographers we have a choice as to where we direct our lenses. We all have the ability to shine a light on the good in any situation but yet all the focus is on the train wreck. Being a “survivor” is not the ultimate goal of anyone who’s experienced tragedy, overcoming it is and it requires much more energy from more sources than the initial damage took to create.

      What we show the world is as much or more a reflection of who we are and what we choose to see than it is a truth about the world. Use your ability to see and show your truth wisely.

  4. One of the most impacting uses of photography I’ve ever seen is by Jonas Bendiksen. In his exhibit, The Places we live, [ http://www.theplaceswelive.com/ ] Jonas uses powerful imagery, audio interviews, and a specifically designed space, so that a viewer actually feels as if he/she is standing inside the home of his subjects. You hear the sounds of the environment and see what it is like to live inside a 10×10 (or even smaller) home inside of several of the poorest slums in the world. It is moving and a great use of photography and excellent storytelling.