I seem to be into “defining” these days. My last post was on “truth and reality”, now I am addressing “journalism” – and “photojournalism” in particular. Those are big words and I am totally aware that some people might be offended by this.
It’s been a break in my writing for a couple of weeks – due mainly to a temporary single parenthood period with a three year old son and a five year old daughter requiring most of my attention at home. Man, talk about a full time job… my sincerest admiration to single parents who do this on a regular basis.
My previous post did generate quite a lot of discussion and one immediate consequence was that I was asked to make a small presentation in a meeting our National Press-photographers Association organized last week. I was happy and proud to accept and I made a small presentation plus took part in a panel discussion.
But as a result of this two week period of single parenthood, I felt I was not at my sharpest… and thus I want to continue just a bit.
Because: I felt something was wrong, there was something deeply disturbing in the whole, although I could not put my finger on it until couple of days later.
Yes, we talked and shared thoughts and opinions – lots of good commentary from different people working in the field. But, in retrospect, one thing was kind of weird: several comments mentioned “news-images” (uutiskuva in Finnish) as somehow a special case where we have to take extra precautions as not to deviate from the “truth” of the situation. After making the point on “news-images”, we went on and on what we could and what we could not to do for e.g. cover images of our glossy magazines. Removal of blemishes, highlighting eye-color, compositing, etc. – what should we allow?
In other words: as if there were the special case “uutiskuva/news-images” – and then all the rest.
I looked into Scott Rosenberg’s great talk delivered in Stanford couple of weeks back (I warmly recommend reading it) and his definition of journalism:
“You are doing journalism when you are delivering an accurate and timely account of some event to some public.”
“Accurate and timely” are the keywords in this context. What has an over-stylized image on a cover of e.g. MN got to do with “accurate and timely”- or with an “event”? Or any totally staged fashion shot in general for that matter? How about an “intimate” story of athlete at home wearing ten different pieces of sponsored clothing – doing his/hers daily stuff – maybe wearing full make-up – as if totally unaware of the photographer?
Fifty years from now – and even sooner – people looking at our images are looking for a truthful account of an era: places as they were then, the general look of the people, the clothes people really wore, buildings, artifacts, modes of transportation, etc. In short, they will be looking for a journalistic – or rather – for a photojournalistic account of how things were.
You can ask yourself, do majority of our images today reflect that kind of reality? Can they really be called journalistic – or photojournalistic – images in any true sense of the definition? Accurate and timely?
Instead of treating “news-images” as a special case, should we go totally radical and exclude all the others from the genre of journalism/photojournalism?
And thus, last week when we left our meeting, should the majority of us have left our press-credentials in a bucket by the door labeled “To Be Confiscated” – as lot of the work today has nothing to do with doing journalism?