Impact – From Journalists to Paparazzi, We All Play a Role. Episode 21

We often talk about the role of photography in society but we haven’t said too much about the impact that the photographers themselves have on our society and in our culture. It’s a pretty important topic today! Rob treats this episode as his “experimental” stage in which he doesn’t swear and remains sober for the entire episode. Yeah, that kind of freaked out Rick and Tony, too.

Oh, and sorry about being a day late – Rob’s been traveling!

Today’s topic on the impact of photographers has an even more international flavor this week: Rick remains in the USA, Tony is still mired somewhere deep South in the land of kangaroos, Fosters Lager, and Paul Hogan while Rob joins in from Vancouver, BC. But don’t worry, all should be back to normal for the next show.

From The Impact of Photo Journalists…

We start off talking about the impact that photo journalists have in society, by their willingness (when necessary) to put themselves in harm’s way in order to bring truth to light. We can’t really over-emphasize just what an important role this is. To some degree, each of us has a slightly different take on what makes a person a photojournalist but, in the end, we all agree on how important their impact is in our society.

…To the Impact of Paparazzi…

Bottom-feeding scum suckers who thrive on the misery of others and provide a “service” to bat-shit-crazy cat ladies who are addicted to celebrity gossip. ‘Nuff said.

…To the Impact of the General Public

What? The general public with their cameras have a positive impact on our society and culture? Damned straight, skippy!

Our Artists:

Today’s photographer, courtesy of Tony, is Mat Marrash. All three of us love his barber shop set. Definitely worth checking out! Also, if  you’re anything like us and love alternate printing processes, Mat’s got some beautiful carbon and wet plate collodion printing techniques!

Our artist is someone who any lover of architecture should know, Antoni Gaudi. Most famous for his Sagrada Familia basillica in Spain, we have an artist whose impact on culture and society is without question. It’s been almost 90 years since his death but his beautiful basillica is still being constructed. As we’ve said in past shows, that is a legacy!

And please let us know what you think about all this – leave a comment!

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10 Comments

  1. Ivan July 6, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    How about making future podcasts into videos? Keep the same audio track, but run a series of stills in parallel. You might only need 20 images or so. I guess the copyright and fair use are something to be considered, but it sounds like fair use to me. You might even be able to create the slide show as you’re recording.


    • Rob July 6, 2012 at 11:45 am #

      Your timing on this is impeccable! THere’s a new version of the plug-in we use to serve up the show and it supports bookmarking the show to display stills.

      I’ve thought about it and now that someone else has suggested it, I’ll play with the idea.


  2. Ivan July 6, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    A question: telling a story in photojournalism. Is that more than making a shot artistic?

    Check out http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com

    I tend to think of artistic as inducing feeling, so storytelling and aesthetics are connected if telling the story means making the viewer empathize with the subjects.


    • Rob July 6, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

      I’d agree, Ivan. I guess the one thing for me though is that photojournalism requires a strict adherence to professional ethics. I am not saying that those shots can’t be artistic, but the photographer who creates an image just for artistic aesthetics has a lot more freedom in post-production and creativity.

      So, can photojournalism tell a story? Absolutely. But it can’t wander very far from the in-camera shot.


  3. Ivan July 6, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    As a non-professional, I have my own biases, but here are some rambling comments.

    If I listen between the lines, it sounds like the subtitle of the podcast is “The Search for the Professional Photography Value Proposition”. This is great, but there’s a lot of reference to bad photography/photographers in each show. There is some really bad photography out there, and I sometimes enjoy making fun of it myself. However, I have to watch myself because there is a thin line between making fun of the bad, and seeming bitter about the occasional good photo taken by the bad photographer. Maybe I should spend more time mocking my own bad photos…

    Professional photography has a lot of competitors these days, and I don’t just mean from camera-phones and point & shoots. Our middle class is shrinking, and most people who have $1000 to spend are more likely to go on vacation than buy an expensive portrait. Yes, $1000 is a lot of money for portraits. It’s really the province of the well-to-do.

    What kind of photography can low income people afford? Well, they can afford porn and tabloids, for starters. I’m not saying that’s the best use of their income, but I think poor people are entitled to some escapism. I have no intention of joining the paparazzi, and I do not condone their excesses, but there’s a place for them.

    There was a discussion in a previous podcast about, and I’m reformulating, how some subjects are so sexy that photographic technique doesn’t much matter. Well, what can ya do?! Kittehs are pretteh! This is why the Internet is made of cats. Even a close-up, low-quality picture of a kitten can be adorable. Well, if a non-expert photographer gets lucky and snaps the cutest kitteh photo ever, I’m not complaining. I work hard on my photography, but my best shots combine my skill and some good luck. (Watch for regression towards the mean. ;) ) Also, pr0n.

    As for Instagram, I’ll second Rick’s comment. Instagram is an inexpensive way for people to explore their artistic side. Instagram has found a good formula for making camera phone pictures look pretty. The Instagram pictures I see from friends are sometimes really good. This might be the impetus they need to really start to experiment with composition and photographic technique. So, it’s not merely a communications tool as Tony suggested. Facebook is a communications tool. Instagram is more.

    Another anecdote: when I first got into art photography, I really enjoyed the work of a particular artist on deviantArt. Later, I came across a comment by someone who said the artist took poor photos, but had great skills in photoshop. I was, like, huh?! Then I looked at the artist’s retouching portfolio, and I discovered the commenter was right! The original images were nothing special, but the edited images were fantastic. What if Instagram is basically doing the same? This is another way that artists like myself are getting squeezed by software developers who can render my skills with a camera (or with retouching tool) somewhat less special. Nevertheless, in a way, I think the important factor is the ability to consistently create the artistic impact, not the particular technical aspects.


    • Anthony Moran July 6, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      Ivan I actually agree with what you are saying about instagram, but you were talking to the masses, I was answering the question as it related to Rob. The winning package that is instagram is the mix of easy to use filters and an active social network. The filters are fun, but there are 100′s of apps that either produce better results or are more fun to use than instagram. And the social network side of instagram is very much preaching to the choir of fellow photographers, so it is limited as a business tool. I love instagram, but for me it is still just a fun toy, for others it may be very useful.


    • Anthony Moran July 6, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      I know I should have done this all in one post, but the more I read your post the more I get out of it.

      Your last anecdote is a good one and I struggle with this all the time. At the most basic level a photographers job is to take photographers, but we all know this is just a small part of what the word photographer means. We are retouchers, we are editors, we are publishers… Some of these jobs I love and other jobs I wish there was an easier way. If a tool comes along an makes my life easier I’ll be the first to praise it, but when a tool comes along that supersedes a technic a love performing I’m not sure my reaction would be the same. Artistic impact is all that should ever matter in a photograph.

      I would say that I spend too much time both on this podcast and in private looking at the bad in photography, rather than the good. This doesn’t just relate to other peoples work, but also to my own work. If I spent more time looking at the good, I’d be happier and probably a better photographer for it.

      I could add more, but it’s 2:30am and I need my sleep.

      Great comments Ivan


    • Rob July 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

      I am on a family vacation and I’ve been trying for days to get enough time to sit down and reply. My wife is out with our son and my daughter is lying down for a nap, so finally I can reply.

      First thing I want to address is the comment about referencing bad photography. I know that I try to be funny (“try” being the operative word) and, if I come across as complaining or disparaging the work of others, then let me apologize. Yes, I do rail against some forms of photography (like that of the paparazzi for which I make no apology [grin]) but I actually spend a lot of time surfing through 500px and 1x specifically to see great photography across all genres. So, let me set the record straight from my perspective and just say that I probably bitch about bad photography because A) I fear it is becoming more common AND acceptable, and B) those who are shooting good to great to awesome stuff don’t need me as an apologist. But, I really do spend all of my time looking at (and for) great photography and photographers.

      Besides, there is a difference between a bad photographer and a developing photographer who has yet to take great shots – or just isn’t doing so consistently.

      Second thing – I hope I wasn’t the one who suggested that a sexy kitteh can be so adorable that the photographer’s skill is irrelevant. But, considering my predilection for gin and tonic by the pint, it’s quite possible that I was the one to say it! LOL. We do work hard on our craft and that’s what is going to set us apart. I just think that the speed with which the industry and photography as an art form changes is getting faster and faster. So, what was an amazing technique four years ago in Photoshop is now a “tap” of a button in Instagram. Yeah, it can be frustrating but that just means the rest of us have to continually step up our game. That’s not a bad thing, I think.

      I am open to Instagram, but I am still figuring out how to use it (not the mechanics of it, but the “why”).

      As always, Ivan, your comments make me think and push my addled brain to justify what Tony and Rick often let me get away with. ;-)


  4. Grammar-Nazi July 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    This is a great episode, and not just because I was referenced a whole bunch. Rob invited me to Skype in for this episode, but alas, I was unable to do so.

    There is so much I could say about so many aspects of this podcast, but I’ll focus on just one for this particular comment, and that’s the roles of the photojournalist. Tony is absolutely correct that a photographer, and especially a photojournalist, is so much more than just someone who takes a picture. A photojournalist, in particular, is a storyteller. He or she has to capture just the right moment that tells a story either (a) independently of words or (b) in conjunction with words. He or she has to examine every aspect of the situation and anticipate the moment where that story will be best captured. And then, he or she has to sift through the images that were captured and pick the one or two images that BEST capture that moment. Sometimes, that image has to be cropped or touched up for publication, but in the process of doing so, the ethical photographer will have to ensure those alterations don’t in any way alter the meaning of the image, or change the story into something that didn’t happen. It’s a very complex, complicated system that requires a series of checks and balances by editors along the way. However, today’s media have been slowly eliminating those checks and balances, which means images by those whose ethics aren’t always impeccable sometimes make it through. And it’s why Tony’s comment about knowing where the photo came from is so important, and why that often today isn’t as reliable a gauge as to the authenticity of the photograph as it once was.

    Some cases in point: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/3716151.stm

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/photo/essays/vanRiper/030409.htm

    But, likewise, you can find some photographers whose work is always impeccable, and who have the talent to tell a story regardless of the subject matter presented. My favorite photojournalist? Lynn Johnson

    That’s my two cents on this topic.


    • Rob July 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

      There is so much I could say about so many aspects of this podcast

      No, please, go on! LOL

      Mr. Nazi (or Grammar to his friends), let me ask you this: assuming that newspapers don’t have a change of heart and suddenly start hiring photo journalists again, how do we, as a society or just as a group of concerned photographers, help reclaim that level of authority and authenticity?

      P.S. – next time, make sure your damned internet is working!


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