Paul Hansen Wins World Press Photo of the Year, and The Struggles of a Photojournalist

Photo and caption courtesy of British Journal of Photography, click the link to read the full article by Olivier Laurent

It’s worth a read. My comments are on an entirely different level. My comments are about humanity. 

I could never, EVER have become a photojournalist. But I desperately wanted to. I wanted to be in a place where just existing and capturing the world around you could change lives. It is a huge power and responsibility. One image has the ability to motivate the world. Remember this one?

One photo of something horrific can save lives and change the course of history. As I grew up, my family and the families around me were all sponsoring children in Africa. Change happened because someone turned their humanity off to help the world turn their humanity back on. But there is always another story beyond the frame. For Kevin Carter, the photographer of the above Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph, everyone wanted to know what happened next? Did he save the child? Did he chase away the vulture? When in truth, he took the picture and celebrated his outstanding image (there are books about Kevin’s life, personally The Bang Bang Club, written by his friends was hard to read, but provided an open eyed, honest account). Kevin Carter became  a story to change the world. His exposure and life through photojournalism and the dehumanization that came with it eventually lead him to take his own life in 1994.

“I am depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners … I have gone to join Ken [recently deceased colleague Ken Oosterbroek] if I am that lucky.”

Today we know what this is. We are starting to understand that when humans are exposed to enough horrors they mentally react. We call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. What we are beginning to understand is that not just soldiers suffer from it. There are some photographers who live their lives on the front lines, next to soldiers, shoot images, not guns, and have the same experiences. The guilt of pulling a trigger and pushing a shutter aren’t that different. And when you choose to take pictures of horrors instead of prevent them and tell yourself it is for the “greater good”, you still have to live with those choices.

I’ll be the first person to agree that Swedish photographer Paul Hansen deserves the World Press Photo of the Year. The image and the story of that shot haunt me. Which is what it is suppose to do. But, in my case, the image also reminds me that my community of photographers have a long way to go to support each other. Too many great photographers who make the choice to become photojournalists on the front lines, never get the chance to walk away. Those who do, often times remain haunted much longer by the images that they captured. As with soldiers, I would love to see our community get behind these people and give them the support that they undoubtedly will need when they finish shooting. I have no idea how we could do that. Let them talk about more than their images? Let them speak about themselves and what they go through? I’m all ears if anyone reading this post has ideas on it.

Maybe just bring attention to it is enough. Although unlike the photojournalists, I have no image to show the need for change. But I can point it out to people. Sometimes, looking into the lives of these photographers and learning how they struggle with the dehumanization of their subjects (which HAS to happen in order to get the shot) becomes a powerful story of humanity in itself.

Thanks for reading.

Fishing and shooting (also known as what did I take pictures of on my vacations)

It seems when I am going to travel somewhere my schedule fills up completely before and after the trip. This, I’m sure, has nothing to do with me calling and warning clients I’ll be going away and so if they want images before I travel to schedule asap (note my cyber sarcasm). So everything went on hold while I busted my butt photographing everything possible. Then off I went to Phoenix, Oregon, and Kentucky. It’s a really nice time of year to get away from Miami, where it is brutally hot. But, in true Miami style, I was welcomed back by Tropical Storm Isaac.
So I’ve got nothing to do but sit down and write. Actually write a blog post. I couldn’t leave the house if I wanted to and shooting from in here to out there would look about the same as shooting a grey card at the moment (get it, because of all the rain? It’s not a white out like in a snow storm, it’s a grey out… like in a rain storm…. oh never-mind).

Truth be told, I didn’t take too many pictures while I was traveling. But in Kentucky, I couldn’t resist documenting our “Fishing & Shooting” day. Yes, a day where you drink beer, fish and then drink more beer and shoot. It took a lot of convincing to make me stop shooting my camera and try my aim at the guns, I’m not really into firing guns. I have no problem personally with them but (and this is really girly of me) we had a wedding 3 days later and the last thing I wanted was a bruised shoulder with my pretty little dress. I know, such a girl. Alas, I did fire a few rounds, I believe hitting mark (clay pigeons, not anything alive) a few times. I actually re-applied some of the gun aiming technique to my camera shooting in low light and found it really worked. It was a pleasant surprise. Here are some of my favorite shots of the day.

(2018 Edit: I took this gallery down because looking back on it years later, it was a little bit embarrassing! Luckily, my photography skills have significantly improved!)

The Clatter about Klamar

For those of you who aren’t big into the photo world, lately a particular group of pictures has created quite a buzz. Joe Klamar, a photographer with an incredibly successful 20 year career may have just taken the worst pictures of his life. So who cares, right? Photographers have off days and take bad shots every now and again. But when the job on the table is photographing the US Olympic Athletes, you don’t screw it up.
So I’ve been reading all the comments (and making plenty of my own) about the images. If you go to the guys website you can see, he doesn’t suck. But it looks like he sent an intern in to this gig, photographing some of the most accomplished Americans. What is blowing everyone’s minds is how could this photographer shoot people who have worked so hard their entire lives for this moment like bad senior portraits?

Here is the Kate Take: This is not what he shoots. If you go to Klamar’s website to view his award winning, internationally published, work you don’t see ANYTHING like this. To be well rounded in photography you have to shoot everything all the time. That is just not the way this industry works. What we are taught to do, conditioned by art buyers, agents, producers, etc, is to master one look. Make it synonymous with our names and success will come. So if you call a photographer at the top of his or her game, make sure you are calling because what you need is a shot that they take.

The AFP decided to send in one of their top guys to this. They thought, “hey! Let’s send Joe! He’s amazing!” they didn’t think, “which of our photographers is going to roll with the punches and be prepared for anything” since they clearly didn’t have the right idea of what this event was (as was made clear by Joe’s statements post-shoot, “I was under the impression that I was going to be photographing athletes on a stage or during press conference where I would take their head shots for our archives,” he explained. “I really had no idea that there would be a possibility for setting up a studio.” It was the first time AFP had been invited to participate in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Media Summit) this is a miscommunication that destroyed a photographers reputation.

The article the AFP put out for their damage control made it even more clear, using the pitch “we love these photos…. they are just what we wanted… yup! We’re very happy!!” I hate to be Debbie Downer here but no, I’m sure the AFP isn’t happy. But I’m sure Joe is even more upset. As a photographer, we know when we take crap pictures. Joe is the one who has to live with this. I didn’t know who he was until I saw these shots, many others are in the same boat. We only know him as the photographer who took the worst portraits of Olympians ever. He knows that is what we are all thinking.

Joe is a master of his shot, which now, I have to wonder, is he just getting lucky? Because of these images, a photographer I otherwise would have thought had a great eye I know think gets lucky. I think he puts the biggest CF card he has in that camera and holds the shutter down taking as many pictures as he can before the camera has to process it. One must be good, right? How else can we excuse the way he doesn’t look through the lens and see how horrid the angles he is shooting are? That there is ZERO connection between subject and photographer?

In my imagination, I see a photographer showing up unprepared and trying to fake it till he makes it. Jumping around, making a big production about how he is shooting and paying no attention to what he is shooting. Bravo for taking risks but if the angles don’t work, try another!

So form your own thoughts… take a look at these images and let me know, do you think this is just breaking the mold brilliance or are they crap pictures? This is the first page Google Images search…

Retouching for news, a big no-no

Looks like you still can’t get away with post production on news images. NPR published an article about a retouched image from Kim Jong Il’s funeral which had been retouched. Personally I think it’s a small edit on the image, not like they were trying to make the masses of mourners bigger for North Korea’s recently passed leader Kim Jong Il or anything… just straightening them up in a more orderly way. We all know how those North Koreans like to have things straight and orderly after all….
Check out the article and pictures here.

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