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Monday, 9 July 2018

Photojournalism is dead. Long live Photojournalism!

This is my final post for the year and it is from a really great interview I did with Anastasia Taylor-Lind for World Press Photo on Witness.

Ostensibly the interview was about the eyewitness for Atrocities app - an app that ensures Smartphone images can't be tampered with and are time and place verified in a way that  goes beyond simple raw file data.

So it's about the verification of images, it's about truth values in the most fundamental sense; the when and where pictures are taken and whether those pictures have been tampered with. Are they indexically accurate in the sense that the data that shows corresponds to what was in front of the camera.

But there are more than one set of truth values in photography and we do sometimes get stuck in pointless circularities about what is true or authentic and what isn't.

And this corresponds to the ideas  of what photography is and can be, and the ways in which we (photographers, editors, readers, everybody) get stuck in genre and limited ways of working with photography. We close ourselves down rather than opening up.

Truth in photography is not just about indexicality, it's about how images fit together, how they tie into a sequence, how they work within a particular publication or website, it's about the ownership of that publication or website. It's about what came before and what comes after, it's about the voice, the mode, the narrative structure. And that narrative structure might be borrowing something from the language of film, or literature, or art, or advertising. It's about emotions and empathy, and about newworthiness and addressing an audience. It's about telling a story and telling it well.

It's tremendously complex in other words. In the article, Taylor-Lind talks about 'photojournalism' as well as photojournalism, the former being the rather limited and cliched ways we sometimes understand photojournalism - a fantasy of a mass magazine golden age in black and white, wide angle, with broken windows, and smoke and mirrors. It's still the way that most people talk about and understand photojournalism (in the same way that if you talk to most people about art photography they think you're talking about the kind of picture that appears on a jigsaw puzzle. Or when you ask them if they know who Martin Parr or Robert Capa is, they almost never do - they might recognise the pictures though). And that 'most people' are the people that matter.

Against that, there are all the new ways of photographing, communicating, collaborating, and creating work that is both challenging and accessible and meets the basic informative and emotional needs of storytelling and newsworthiness. It's work that where the story is what matters and the truth values of those stories go beyond what the app is all about.

It's about challenging lazy photography that exists in an echo chamber and really reaching deep into the heart of the matter and reaching the absolutely massive audience that does exist for photography, but which the really important, life-changing and life-affirming practices are not quite reaching yet.  Some examples of this are Anastasia Taylor-Lind's  Postcards from Donetsk, Kazuma Obara's work on the Second World War,  Chien Chi-Chang's continuing Escape from North Korea,  Laura El-Tantawy's In the Shadow of the Pyramids, Laia Abril's On Abortion, or Mathieu Asselin's Monsanto.

And that's interesting.

More of that come september. Have a lovely summer (or winter, or whatever time of year it is where you are).

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