I have photographs the aftermath of natural disasters such as floodings and an earthquake in the rural parts of Japan. It's not that I want to be a photojournalist of some kind concerning these tragic events, but it's just that I'm more aware of the environment that I live in, and I feel like I need to do something about it.
My best approach to photograph those scenes has always been that I become a volunteer worker and serve for a couple of weeks. That's just a way to be part of the communities that need outside help and create a sense of trust among the survivors/victims as well as the local authorities.
For the survivors/victims of the disasters, the last thing they need is someone who is just hanging out with a camera and staying all clean. They need a lot of help with a lot of privacy, and that's really the job that needs to be handled carefully. So you really need a strong belief and a reason to convince them that what you're doing is important and is unarguably beneficial to them.
I don't think in the case of hurricane katrina, the issues that were concerned during the aid operations are that different from what I've seen over here.
A lot of good thoughts in there. Perhaps the most important is the realization that what I shoot is for me, and the need isn't there. The reality as you wander through Point Zero is hell enough to enbed upon the consciouness, it need not be recorded for me. And no one else would be privy to my work.
"Originally Posted by bjorke
Location + camera != photojournalism
Purpose + camera == photojournalism
So well said. The difference between photojournalism and voyeurism perhaps? As one med tech advised me as I was discussing wandering through the 9the Ward, "Don't be a tourist." There is a difference.
I suspect when I go back to N.O. next week, I may shoot a bit more on the work my sister and her group of amazingly idealistic young volunteers are doing.
All take care and have a happy and safe New Years.
tim in Mobile AL
Where ever you are, there you be.
I don't regard myself as a callous person so I imagine that I was not alone in having a somewhat different problem with being a photojournalist. From the mid-60's to the mid-70's I covered virtually every demonstration and riot relating to anti-war and civil rights issues in the SF Bay Area, this for the underground press of the time. For a long time I would go where the action was likely to be and wait, with the rest of the media guys, for something to happen. Toward the end I found myself not just waiting for something to happen but actually hoping that something would happen so that I could get the shot--that demonstrators would begin to throw rocks or that the cops would assault demonstrators. Not comfortable with these feelings I couldn't continue shooting so I just stopped. njb
I think all of us have to maintain our own sense of balance in our work. Not everyone is cut out to be a James Nachtway or a Eugene Richards, and even those guys have to take a time out every once in a while to decompress. I know in my own work, I have developed over the years, certain comfort levels that I will not cross. It is true that the camera can be a great insulator from the reality happening in front of you. I just try never to lose sight of the reasons why I do what I do and always be aware of the line between telling a story and exploitation.
Just being able to desensitize oneself from the tragedy in front of the camera is only part of it. Being able to have compassion and empathy for your subjects is also necessary to make really powerful images. As Les pointed out earlier in this thread; sometimes we make images of difficult subjects in an effort to help where we might not otherwise be able to. One of the most rewarding things about my job, is being able to glimpse into the lives of others and tell their stories through my photographs.
I covered several stories in the aftermath of Katrina and all of them were focused on not just the tragedy, but also the compassion and selflessness of the people that were there to help. The photograph that still haunts me is of a man looking out the window of a an Air Force C-130 as we were taking off from New Orleans on a medical evacuation flight. As I composed the shot, I remember thinking "here is a guy who through a situation completely out of his control is now looking at his home for the last time". Picking up the camera and sticking it in someone's face in a time of tragedy is never easy but knowing that his story may have an effect on others makes it all worthwhile. Tim, if you do get a chance to back to your sister's clinic, do it. I think you'll be glad you did, and you may find that it's also nice for the people there to know that someone recognizes their effort enough to tell their story.
It is also interesting to note that along with the DSLR's hanging off my shoulders as we got off the plane, there was also a Rolleiflex 2.8F loaded with Tri-X hanging around my neck. Some of my favorite images from that story were from the Rollei. It was also funny to see that little gleam in the eye of other photogs as they noticed the Rollei.
-- If film is dead, then how come I can't buy a Leica for 20 bucks? --
Editorial & Commercial Photographer
What a person chooses to photograph and whether a person even photographs is a personal decision. My main thought has been, and is especially important now with the demise of film photography, that I am grateful for all of the amateurs who took photographs of events around the World since the invention of Cameras and film. How much visual history would have been lost in the last half of the 19th century and the 20th century if they had just looked and walked away?
Some times we need the raw truth and not a photoshop version of it.
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"Tourists" are the real disasters especially when they show up expecting to rely on others for food, water, and places to stay in times of emergency.
Originally Posted by k_jupiter
I've seen some ripping the relief packages open and grabbing blankets for themselves at night without asking for permisson, I've kicked them out of the camps.
What's worse is when the victims are in shock and cannot really comprehend their situations, some news reporters just show up at their places for their interviews but say something very inconsiderate up front: "Oh my god, your house is gone! But are you okay now?"
If these reporters have enough time to put makeup to look good in front of their cameras, you know they can perhaps do other things...
Ok, well let's be honest here. N.O. is not a city where you are going to wander upon someone clinging to a roof, calling for help and you have a choice, shoot the picture or help someone out. You are not going to wander into a situation where you can steal someone's MRE or space blanket for your own comfort. There is life in N.O. There is a strong sense of rebuilding the life that was there before, only better. To find the absolute hell in N.O., you need to go look for it.
Originally Posted by firecracker
What is on display (is that the right context?) is the pain of people wandering on back and finding their houses either gone or not enough left to consider rebuilding. What do they do? Go back to where they were relocated to and build a new life or look at the house they lived in and say... "I'm from N.O. and that's where i am going to stay".
Another issue in N.O. is the absolute lack of heath care. This is where my sister and her group of volunteers comes in. Free clinics have sprung up all over the city. Situated in barely damaged homes, community centers, churches and mosques, they are making the difference in the lives of people still in the city.
So the question is... Do I shoot dead buildings, sad people staring at their homes, photos of people hauling refridgerators out to the curb, or do I go shoot pictures of people helping out, building a new clinic, counselling others, rebuilding the infrastructure of a fine US institution?
I think I know the answer for me.
tim in Mobile Al
Where ever you are, there you be.
Good luck with your decison. But whatever you do, just try not to get caught in an emotional trap. But if you do get caught, just give yourself a break and come back later.
Originally Posted by k_jupiter
PTSD could drag for years, so you wouldn't want to make any casual visit to the scene. It's something you wouldn't know until sometime later.
The reconstruction part, without any doublt takes many years, and you cannot realy tell what the surviving local residents will do to choose and/or where they will end up. It's undeniably a long-term project to begin with.
I think things should be shown as they are. I am sick and tired of "washed" versions of events. I mean, familly sits to eat dinner, turn TV on, and there are pictures of mutulated bodies, dead people, destruction, etc... Not nice isn't it... So, to protect those good people who don't want those things over theire dinners, let us not show them real things. Little "make up" type of journalism, and everyone is happy. Blessed ignorance.
Life should be presented to everyone in all its beauty and horror, as it is.
Why would you photograph it? If you had a good reason i.e. to make a meaningful point to others or you wanted to keep a memory (albeit unpleasant), specific to you, of the event then you should have gone ahead. Otherwise forget it.
Originally Posted by Paul Sorensen