Intro . . . .
This blog post is mainly about editorial, I will talk about specific skills which I will learn to help me when working in the editorial photography sector.
The first assignment we have been given in this module consist in producing single ‘everyday’ images which are specific editorially focused themes, as well as producing more complex multi-image photo-essays.
What is Editorial photography ? ? ? . . . .
The first question that comes to my mind about the subject is: What is ‘Editorial photography?’. By doing a bit of research and based on my own knowledge on the subject I can say that editorial photography is defined as telling stories through photographs like we see in newspapers and magazines like Time. They use photo essays of a scene or something that has happened to narrate what is going on.
We can say photojournalism and Press are part of the editorial sector, although they are more serious and more investigative, but they all fall into Documentary photography as their purpose is to document events, mainly of human interests. A photographer working in this sector is free to portray something he has seen objectively or subjectively and also think about ethical issues but he still needs to get the right message across, as many others from the audience can interpret things in different ways.
Although it could be such a challenging and fun sector to be working in Editorial Photography is competitive and poorly paid. But it is a key area of commercial practice and a good way to promote your work as many will notice your editing skills and photos.
Story behind . . . .
As we know photography became a way of surveying the unknown, at some point in the past everything that was photographed people believed it was true, as they thought photography couldn’t be manipulated until things started to change with the beginning of Photo Journalism.
Arthur Rotstein was one of the photographers who changed people’s views on the truth about photography when he took an image for the Resettlement Administration, documenting the conditions in South Dakota. People have been questioning the truthfulness of the photograph because it was found out that he moved the skull in order to get the final image.
“I had not taken the picture in the first place as an example of New Deal propaganda; I had taken a picture of something that existed, and may even exist today.”
Which makes me understand, that in his opinion he had done nothing wrong, but I think is a matter of point of view, everyone had his own understanding of photography at that time.
Taking sides when photographing . . . . .
Photography became a way to show everyone the plight of the poor, so people from an upper class or middle would understand how the lower class people lived and be touched by it. However, when taking photos they had to consider morals and ethical values, as people could have portrayed a photograph in a different way and think what the photographer did is wrong and offensive.
Eugene W. Smith who was known as the original hero of American photojournalism and the originator and the master of the photographic essay, started rearranging and setting up people in his photos, although they were pictures to document he wouldn’t change the entire scene but reposition a person’s hand or head to make the photo look much better and portray what he wants to say more objectively. His work raised some key points concerning narrative in photojournalism, the idea of the photographer being the one telling a real story by using photographs to say something and sequencing the images and structure of the essay.
The photographer as a narrator had the right to manipulate the reality and control every aspect of the story.
This is when photographers had power, not only to manipulate but also to take sides, narrate what they were thinking.
For example, back in the 60’s in America, when the blacks were fighting for civil rights to end racial segregation and discrimination, Charles Moore a Southern journalist, who was born and raised in Alabama was fighting against Jim Crow discrimination by taking pictures. From the pictures he took anyone can clearly see he was taking a side, which was defending the blacks.
In the picture below he is showing how the white men had power over this black man by using violence on him by using dogs. At that time that must have been a very controversial photo.
As a white man, Moore should not have been taking this kind of picture rather he should have shot something that would depict the white man as the good one, but instead he took pictures of the reality, in fact he doesn’t hide the fact that he was standing with the righteous part as he says: “I wanna fight with my camera”, this made me understand that he used his camera to fight for and defend what he thought it was right for him, he took photography very personal and not only as a job.
Today editorial and photojournalism are directed by lifestyle, fashion and music. In the 21st century, circulations have dropped significantly year on year. This is because of the television, rise of the Internet and new technologies; these were important factors as it was much easy and quick to publicise something through them.
Lynsey Addario . . . .
While researching ideas for the photo essay, we’ve been introduced to the interesting story of Lynsey Addario. I listened to the interview she had on Radiolab about the legalities and ethics concerning her work in Afghanistan “The Rescue Brigade” for Time magazine. ( http://www.radiolab.org/story/sight-unseen/ ).
This interview was about her mission in Afghanistan, when she worked with a medevac team and one night they got the call which was a marine who was gravely wounded. So they had to rush to see if they could save him and of course Lynsey Addario took her camera and snapped everything that happen. She was trying to be invisible while taking the photos, because it was a critical moment and to have someone who was continuously taking pictures could have seemed very disrespectful and also some were saying she should have continued taking the pictures to document every last moment of the poor soldier, whereas other people thought she should have stopped as she did not have any authorization from the soldier who was dying and wouldn’t know whether he was okay or not with it. As we know, the soldier did not make it, he died. Now, Lynsey had to decide what to do with those pictures. Give them to Time magazine directly without consulting the family of the man or consult the family before publishing them. Lynsey decided to get in touch with the father of the soldier and show him the pictures, but of course after seeing the photos the father did not want the pictures of the son dying to be published, because he did not want these photos to affect the future of the granddaughters. In fact, after years one of the daughter does not want to see the photos whereas the other one desperately want to see the photos. If I was Lynsey Addario and had to take such a decision I would have done the same, although I see two side of the entire situation. Those pictures could have shown everyone what it really means to be a soldier, who can die at anytime during a war and it would have been a way to convince others that war is really a serious and sorrowful matter that should be stopped. On the other side, though these pictures could have brutally ruined the future of the family as it would be really hard for me to live knowing that I could see the pictures of my father dying, at any time and anywhere, and especially if that’s the few memories you’ve got of your father, it wouldn’t be nice. However, I also think about the Vietnam war and how photos were published without any authorization and I think it was unfair not to ask for authorisation of some brutal images but at the same time that was a way to show the brutalities that were really happening, those photos were a way to shout help for them.
Knowing about this Linsey Addario experience has helped me to have few ideas on how a photo essay could be and what I could include. However, we’ve been given many other tips on how we could create a good photo essay.
Between the many tips we’ve been given I thought the most important thing to remember is that a good photo story has to be something little known but interesting or something well-known and also the interesting quote by Maitland Edey in Life magazine which states: “Great photo essays have to do with people: with human dilemmas, with human challenges, with human suffering.”
Interesting photo stories . . . .
At this point I did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to do or subjects I could look at but I had three key points in mind which were: human problems, something interesting and something well-known, but I had to explore them and find other elements that could help me get to an idea. So I looked at different photo stories.
The photo story of the ‘Casanova at 85’ by Mary Calvert (Washington Times) , was really enthralling as it’s something little known but interesting and representative. What interested me about this photo story, is that she did not document the 85 years old man’s life in general, instead she found something interesting about the man, who at such an old age still enjoyed life and women as a young man. No matter how normal it could be for some people, others would think is not normal or rather interesting to see. That’s because in today’s society, people expect an 80-year-old man to be lonely, only talk about politics or go to the laundry, do the same boring activities or to be left in a care home, but as we can see is not like that for everyone. In fact, Mary Calvert quotes “The images help demonstrate everyone’s need for love and companionship, regardless of age ”. So, people should not expect you not to do certain things because of your age especially when it’s about love and I really agree with the statement.
I then looked at the photo essay ‘Motel Dad’ by Kari Rene Hall (Los Angeles Times), and it really did touch me. I did not need to r
ead about it to understand what was going on at all, but those 5 or 6 pictures made me understand immediately. Nevertheless, reading how the narrative changed with time made me appreciate the whole story even more. Talking about narrative this is an example of true narrative, because the photographer had a completely different idea at the beginning of what the stories was going to be about and she could not predict the future, until things changed. The story had to be about a mum’s life but suddenly the main character, which was the mother, had to be cut off from the scene as she was sent to jail. Consequently, this changed everything, the dad became the mum of the family and Hall, the photographer did not stop there but instead she adapted herself to how the narrative was changing and stayed over five years to record all the changes.
When creating a photo essay the images need to work together, have something in common and they need to flow when looking at them. This could be achieved by using the same person in all the photos, the same place or objects, using a specific technique or visual styles, like all black and white or all the photos with a cold, warm or very bright or dull colours.
As a matter of fact, Hall used the same people in the family for five years, this makes it more interesting as we see how they have changed throughout the years. Also, all the photos are very colourful and saturated and this keeps each photo in the photo story connected.
Interestingly, John Franklin suggested that all stories should revolve on two key elements Complication and Resolution and Tzvetan Todorov theory suggests that every narrative is structured with: a state of equilibrium, which inspires tranquility, then a state of disequilibrium, when there’s a form of disruption and then back to tranquility in a new state of equilibrium.
This theory fits in very well with Hall’s photo story as it starts with an equilibrium of the whole family together with the mum. Then the disequilibrium comes in when the mum goes to jail and the father is now in charge and has to take on a new role; he struggles as he needs to be a dad and a mum, these are times of distress. Then it ends with him finally adapting himself to his new role, no matter how hard it is, in his own way he finds a way to keep the family happy and together, so they return to a state of equilibrium but the mum not being there makes it a NEW state of equilibrium.
More photo stories . . . .
At this point, I found two other interesting photo stories online, which are more related to news and things that are going on in the world.
The first one was about the earthquake in Haiti and how the place looked five years later, by the photographer Gael Turine. He has spent 10 years photographing the country and what interests me is what he tells TIME magazines:
“[…] The wounds are still here, and everyone says that they’re living in worse conditions than before.”
You would think that 5 years after the earthquake people would have restored and recovered from what happened, but that was not the case, things have worsened and in a series of photographs the photographer confirms his statement. In the photos you can see the bad conditions in which the country still is, this earthquake has also caused more poverty. He uses detail shots that make you see how bad the situation is, and just by looking at the photos you would think is something that happened recently but it is not. (http://time.com/3662225/haiti-earthquake-five-year-after/)
The second one I found really interesting is about chinese workers carrying mind-blowing amounts of goods around the city by bicycle: from chairs, to food to close anything you could think of. French photographer Alain Delorme, decided to focus on this workers and it’s about a reality although he changed it slightly by digitally increasing part of the photo for a photo project on the chinese economy and global consumerism. I personally think he did a great job and had a great idea on using Photoshop to exaggerate the loads that the subjects are carrying, because not only it will amaze you when you see the pictures or make you wonder but also makes you think. As we know China has grown and developed a lot economically, technologically etc. So many people today tend to accommodate and value homogenous group of people. Delorme rather focused on Shanghai’s migrants who carry the physical weight of the fast-paced economy by carrying goods on their bikes, like improvised trucks. Delorme says:”these migrants are even more impressive …… in the first place like a superhero able to carry around this kind of load.”
By his statement, I understand he wanted the audience to understand that these migrants are even more impressive than China’s economic growth and he makes these migrants look as the real superheroes of the photo story. ( https://www.fastcoexist.com/1681621/look-at-these-chinese-workers-carrying-mind-blowing-amounts-of-stuff/13 )
Finally had 2 ideas . . . . (research)
At this point I had two ideas that could have resulted as possible interesting photo essays. I thought about religion and dance. The two subjects have nothing to do with each other but are related to me. With Religion I wanted to show through a photo essay how this Christian organisation of Jehovah Witnesses interact between them, and show some interesting facts about them. This is quite personal to me because although my parents are Jehovah Witnesses, I never really had the chance to involve myself completely in the organisation. However, now that I’ve grown I took it as my own initiative to go to one of their meetings and learn more about them. I find this organisation really interesting. What amazed me is the little gestures they do which shows big signs of true brotherly love and I personally think this kind of love is what this world full of hatred needs. Also the work of the organisation is impressive in a good way. So I was thinking to document, some of their daily activities. The activities they do with their families, like family worship which helps the children to appreciate and know more about God and I think is something great. I think it helps the kids to grow with a much more sensible heart. This people also dedicate part of their lives trying to send a message they belive in across and they are sure it would benefit everyone, so they take part in this activity, which is the preaching work, where they go door to door to people house to tell them about their beliefs. I think this is amazing! Because if you think about it, it’s crazy to think that someone would just go out, waste time and energy just to go and talk about God to people they do not even know, you need to have courage and really believe in what you are saying to do such a thing and yet they do it everyday. Also despite the criticism they still live harmoniously and do what they think is right for them. I found this really interesting, so I wanted to show through a photo essay things that are actually going on within this organisation and this could be a revelation for those who think negative things about the organisation. This could be categorised as something little known but intersting as not many people have heard about them.
My second idea was based on dance, specifically on street dance. Dance has been a great part of my past, especially during part of my childhood and adolescence was focused on dancing, untill I had to give it up. At the age of 13 I was already in clubs performing with the crew. Back in italy, they do not have a law of not allowing children under 18 into clubs, even now in 2016 many boys and girls who have not reached the age of 18 still go to clubs as if is something normal. Well, it was normal for me too untill, I moved to U.K and everything was so restricted, but this made me realise that is not okay for a 13-year-old child to be in a club dancing, although that’s what I did. I think being so young and already meeting so many people much older than me going out the night started to change me bit by bit; that’s when relatives started to blame the dancing for the changing of my character, mainly because mine wasn’t ballet or contemporary, but street, hip hop and in the small town I used to live in that was seen as being too ghetto, also my parents were okay for me to have it as a hobby but I was taking it way too seriously. That’s when I was forced to leave my crew and my goal of becoming a well-known dancer became a dream. I think today people still see street dance as something aggressive or too ghetto and some think is a dance that makes people become aggressive. But it is not, is just an exciting way of dancing where you can pull out all your emotions with the energy that is within you and it’s like a medicine that make you feel better, you dance when you want to feel better. I think this is not just how I still feel about dance but also people who are still in it feel the same. So I was planing to look for a grown street dancer and create a photo story about the person and the dance, his feeling about dance. The reason I say grown street dancer is because, if he/she is an adult and still dancing then it means he did not give up to get where he is now, he or she believed in this street dance and was able to continue unlike me that I stopped completely. It could be hard to portray and narrate in few images but I think it could be a good idea.
Get in touch . . .
A week and few days have passed and I explored both ideas in detail, considering pros and cons. I looked for a JW community and street dance classes here in Plymouth. Still haven’t been in contact with anyone from the JW community however, I was able to find their website which showed where I could find them here in Plymouth (https://www.jw.org/en/ ). I was lucky enough with the street dance classes as I found different companies I rang and emailed them. It wasn’t easy at all to find a street dance class, as it was difficult not knowing many places here in Plymouth. I did not know where to search or who to ask, so I googled it. Unfortunately all the classes that were coming up were salsa or ballet everything else but street dance, so I had to make my research much more specific. I did so and I started finding freestyle and street dance classes. The first one I found was at a Plymouth Dance Academy ( https://plymouth-dance-academy.dancenearyou.co.uk ) I tried ringing and emailing them few times with no response. So I moved on to the next one I found which was a street dance class within Plymouth university (https://www.upsu.com/sports/clubs/6329/ ) I was lucky to find their email address so I email them, hoping I would get a quick reply.
Time is flying . . . . Dropping one idea . . . .
Unfortunately after a week I still did not hear from them and time was flying. Considering time and trying to get everything done for the deadline I had to drop one of the ideas and focus on one subject. So I weighed the two situations and it was reasonable to drop the JW idea and focus on the street dance. As I still had a hope by looking for other classes around Plymouth. So I kept on looking for other dance classes although I was hoping the university would have contacted me, because it was much safe as an idea and I would have felt more confident in photographing students from university. But they did not answer so I found another company called Puttin’ On The Ritz (http://www.puttinontheritzdanceplymouth.com), I was finally able to talk to the boss but unfortunately the class was for children under 18 years and for some reasons I couldn’t have photographed them. Luckily, he suggested I should call a guy called Toby, he owns a street dance company and called Street Dance Studios. So I looked for his Facebook page and just by the look, it was just what I was looking for. I immediately called the guy. Fortunately he was happy to let me come in and document him and the others.
STATEMENT OF INTENT . . .
I’m planning to take shots trying to document what they are doing there, but to make it interesting I’m thinking of focusing more on Toby as he is the one teaching, therefore he will be more involved. I asked Toby if I could come to his classes for more than two times to be able to get more shots of different things on different days. So we decided I would attend the dance class on Tuesday coming and the next week Tuesday too. To know what I should be focusing on when taking the photographs I looked for inspiration and other ideas, hoping I could get other ideas. So I looked at different dance photographers like Richard Calmes, Lois Greenfield and Patrick Demarchelier. Unfortunately, I was not very inspired by them as most of their work is studio based and everything is set and very posed and that’s the opposite of how a photo essay should look like.
I then decided to look for more inspiration somewhere else like in movies such as Honey, Step Up and Save The Last Dance, I also watched a lot of music videos just to give me some ideas. In fact, I noticed how different types of shots and camera angle makes a scene looks much interesting, rather than having the camera pointed in one place always on a full shot and this led me to the power point they showed us during a lesson which was about different types of shots to make a successful photo story. I then started making sketches, creating a story board of six shots I had to have in the photo story.
- The Establishing Shot
- – The Medium Shot
- – The Detail Shot
- – The Portrait
- – The Moment
- – The Closer
SKETCH OF IDEA
PROBLEMS . . .
On the day of the shoot, I went down the place but couldn’t find anyone and then I noticed there was a board indicating where the dance class has been moved to, which was about 3 minutes away from the actual place. Surprisingly, I got there and it was a restaurant and Toby was there! When I got there he had just finished the children dance class and had to start the adults one. unfortunately, at this point they decided to cancel that evening class and the next week class too. Reason is because, someone booked the room where they usually do the class so they had to move in that restaurant and I understand that it wasn’t a right place to be dancing as they had to play loud music and people were there eating, so they were not at ease. So he politely excused himself and proposed to return another day after the holidays as by that time they would be back in their room. I did accept but sadly my formative assessment was less than two weeks away so I had to think of another idea. An idea easy to find as I had no more time. At this point I was really worried about the fact that I’m new to Plymouth and I don’t know a lot about interesting activities that could be going on.
Now, I had no choice but to tell one of my teachers my situation and I did so. Fortunately, she helped me find an event that was on its way that weekend.
Native Makers. It’s about different in Devon and they curate quality makers markets and workshops to support artisan craft in the South West. So I thought, It could be an interesting event to attend and there I could take some photos for my photo story.
Since the beginning, I knew it was not going to be easy an easy one. In fact, my final images did not come out as I expected. The reason is because I had to change my main idea several times. Initially, I wanted to base this photo story on something related to me, which was dance but unfortunately, I was not able to stick to that idea and I had to change it last-minute. The fact that I had to find another idea last minute, made me rush with everything, and this had a big negative impact on my final work.
Next time I will have to be more organised and manage my time well, it wasn’t easy to find what I wanted immediately.