A few photo-related stories.

I've been wanting to post about a couple things now but haven't had all of my thoughts in the right place to do so. Here are a couple things I've been mulling over, in no particular order.

Journalistic Puberty
I heard someone use this term the other day at SND and couldn't think of a better way to phrase the changes in the industry right now.

Its been said but young journalists are entering the field at a really unique time because of the shift from traditional to non-traditional storytelling. Granted the writers aren't feeling the shift as much as the visual journalists, but the direction that the newspaper industry is heading is affecting everyone. On that note I sometimes feel frustrated that the younger writers I meet don't seem to be diversifying as much as the photographers, designers and other visual journalists.

For example, its hard to find a young photographer who DOESN'T have a website, blog, flickr, photobucket, etc etc etc. Its hard to find a young photographer who has never picked up a video camera or digital audio device (even harder to find one who has had training in it), or who is interested in HTML, Flash or multimedia outlets.

I don't see the same attitude in many young reporters. I have yet to meet a peer in reporting who collects or edits audio with a serious intent. Why should they, you may ask? Why SHOULDN'T they? Putting aside the fact that a professional recorder would allow them to go over interviews with greater clarity and control, cover their ass if (God forbid) they were accused of libel or fabrication and allow them to easily archive all of their work for a later date, recording audio professionally just makes sense.

Why?

The best reporters are (often) the best interviewers, if you can collect and conduct a fantastic interview then for God's sake do it! It distributes the load of a long-form multimedia piece more evenly, and only helps more if there is a print counterpart. And, while many photographers collect fantastic audio, they just plain don't think the same way that us visual people do, and could collect some really interesting stuff that photogs wouldn't think to ask about. Besides, with everything merging together lately they'll end up doing it in "the real world" anyway. At any rate, interviews brings me to my next topic. . .

"A good interview is like a therapy session"

Alex Blumberg (NPR, Transom) said that to our class the other day when we spoke to him via video iChat.

I thought it was genius when I heard it, but I hadn't really experienced its meaning until about a week after. The best way for me to share this is to give you this rough transcript of a discussion I had with a woman while researching my immigration story. I hung around the Syracuse Refugee Assistance program's building on the North Side of Syracuse for a couple weeks barely touching my camera, just leaving it on my shoulder so that people would get comfortable with it while I talked to them and asked them to tell me their stories.
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[halfway through a group interview with several refugees from China, the Ukraine, and Africa]
[a Ukranian woman begins to tear up while I am interviewing a Chinese woman who speaks very broken English]
me: are you OK?
woman: yes, it just makes me sad to see the camera
me: I'm sorry, would you like me to put it down while we talk
woman: no its just. . .
[another refugee interrupts]
woman two: why (does his) camera make you cry?
woman: it is the strap, the Nikon
me: why is that?
woman: my father, in Ukraine was photographer and I do not see him anymore
[another refugee leans in]
korean man: he used the nikon? nikon is good camera.
woman: he did use Nikon. My father, for forty year he use that camera to feed me!
[she begins to cry a little more as she continues]
woman: I do not see him anymore now that I come here. But the camera, it is making me to think of him and I cry. We did not have much money but my father, he would take his pictures for forty year so that we could eat and live and have warm house.
me: did he work for the newspaper, or was he an artist?
woman: artist, artist, he would sell them on the street when he was not working. he did a lot with that camera for us. . .
me: I can put the camera away if you would like. . . ?
woman: no! the tears. . . I am sorry. . . I cry, but they are. . .
[pauses, searching for word]
woman: I know I cry, but these are the happy tears. Is good memory.
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I was very moved by her story, as were the other refugees in our group who hugged her. It made me think of when I was very young, my father was a photographer, and then an editor for AP. He retired from that when I was young, I think to spend more time at home, but I still have memories from when I was very, very young, and he would come back after having been gone a couple months, with stubble on his face and camera bags hanging all off of him as he walked in the door. . . I've never asked him directly about it, but he did do some war photography, and I know he was in the Middle East around that time.

"You cannot make a good photo (of people) unless you are two feet or one foot away, you need to be close to them, physically and emotionally."

I'll keep this last one short. Pablo Corral Vega (NG, Geo, etc) was at SND this past weekend and I had the good fortune of working with him for two days, he looked over my current work (immigration project), and my portfolio. He told me that I have a very graphic eye, and am strongest at composition. When I asked him where I was worst he immediately responded with the above quote (and quite a bit more on the same topic). So thats my goal for the rest of this semester. I am physically very close in my recent photos from the immigration project, but very few have a strong emotion. I want to have that down (at least on a basic level, it will take years to get to the level he is at with making human connections) by the end of this semester. After all, its all about the story, and the story's no good without emotion.

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