The photographers eye or the digital mirror?

The video survey got me thinking about what defines us in journalism. Is it our skills, our job description or where our desk is in the office? Or is it something more than that?

Have a read this meditation on why being ‘brain damaged’ separates the pro from the mo photographers.

I couldn’t understand why people were putting these pictures[pictures of friends and family] on flickr, because I have a particular type of brain damage which caused me to forget that the second picture exists. The type of brain damage I’m referring to is “the photographer’s eye”.

Is the guy talking out of his proverbial or is he right?

Now if you asked me to put a cross and touch the pen I’d be voting for the ‘out of his arse’ option here.

 I know that he isn’t talking about journalism and I’m certainly not saying that all photographers are imbued with such views. But (and this may just be me) a lot of the conversation about journalism seems perilously close to using the “brain damaged” defence.

What separates the pro from the amateur becomes almost metaphysical: Journalism can not exist outside of journalism and that is only defined within a newsroom.

As Gavin O’Reilly from Independent News & Media, told the Society of Editors meeting this week:

“The USP of the newspaper of the future [will be] built upon journalistic skills that are not simply a God-given right of someone with attitude sitting in a garage in front of a computer, but rather is a skill that is learned and earned.”

So it needs to be a God-given right and then sanctioned by an even higher power then!

The digital mirror

Digital, in all its forms, is becoming the tipping point. The internet, Bloggers , UGC, video, community and CJ’s have tested the definition of journalism and journalist to breaking point.  It’s put it out of reach of the paradigm repair approach journalism has got in to (and still indulges in)

There has never been a harsher mirror held up to the industry and rather than holding others up to it we need to bite the bullet and look in it ourselves

Thanks to the venerable Batman for the photogrpahy link

7 Replies to “The photographers eye or the digital mirror?”

  1. Andy,

    Tsk, tsk. An excessive literalism is (another) hobgoblin of small minds.

    The journalist should of course have some aspirations to telling the literal truth – or at least to lying in a particular cause. The artist, on the other hand, tells only figurative truth. If the criterion for a photograph is that it must show only what would have been seen by someone standing beside the photographer at the instant the shutter button was pressed, then photography must abandon any pretense of art.

    I photograph to communicate to you what I saw; I work without an editor and make no pretense that there is a connection between a photograph and a “fact”. A journalist – well, he communicates either the facts or the story his editor wishes to tell.

    Still, a journalist can take crappy pictures, and many do. Too bad. It makes readers turn the page. Capa wouldn’t have stood for this, and neither should we.

  2. Tsk, Tsk indeed.

    Go ahead and continue to snap whatever you like for whatever motivation. I’m sure what you do will give pleasure to you and others.

    My point wasn’t that you shouldn’t or couldn’t communicate your view of the world in whatever way you wanted. Go ahead and make beautiful pictures. I wasn’t saying that all photography had to be photojournalism. No, my point was that I thought that your reasoning of why was elitist.

    I was taking exception to the idea that you have something that sets you apart from the hundreds of other people who post snaps on Flickr. It was something that, you suggested, set you apart from them. In fact you went as far as to suggest that it made your pictures better. You had no good reason for that other than a mystical brain damage and your subjective view that your pictures where better.

    I was comparing that attitude to the attitude I see in my industry where a lack of objective difference is often glossed over with the same kind of subjective elitism.

    But this could very easily degenerate into an art vs. artefact debate so I will just say this.

    It’s nice to have a difference between life and art and I would hate it if all art where as literal as journalism – each has their place which both should strive to break free from. But I thought the point of art was that was how an artist communicated. Not telling others why their art was second rate.

  3. Your definition of elitism seems very broad. If a description of how to improve one’s results is elitist, then we ought to shut down the schools. If a discussion of whether one set of results is better than another is elitist even in the absence of recommendations for improvement, then we are left with no standards for quality whatsoever – even subjective ones. And if we are not permitted to discuss standards for quality without being elitists, then journalism becomes elitist (through judgment) or simply entertainment.

  4. Now who’s being literal.

    I would stand by my definition of the argument as elitist as the claim is presented on a clear (meta)physical difference. The presentation wasn’t built on the definition of what anyone could attain it was based on an “if you had what I had then your photos would be worthwhile”.

    To be fair. There is no insinuation that this brain damage is not obtainable to the amatuer. But perhaps when we are trying to set a standard we are should be more open to the possibility that those standards are set by more than our own limited experiences.

    So I agree that the discussion shouldn’t be elitist. And it isn’t.But your starting point was.

    As for the last point – erm! Not sure I get what you mean here. I think you may be confusing elitist with critical.

  5. This is like one of the embarrassing dinner party conversations – ‘Oh I thought you where being elitist…you thought I was…oh dear how dreadful.’

    I suppose we proved each others points there:

    The value is in the discussion.
    Art is in the eye (and the gift) of the beholder.
    Everyone has a view of what art should be.

  6. Indeed; that is, of course, the value of conversation (as opposed to mere argument), so thanks for conversing.

    I was really only using photos on flickr to illustrate a point about my own pictures, which was that they previously weren’t very good because I hadn’t (to borrow a similie from journalism) learned to edit before I pressed the button. I didn’t have any of my own bad photos to serve as illustrations because along the way I’ve disposed of them (the photographer’s greatest tool is his trash can) – and so I pointed to flickr as a source of photos similar to the ones I used to take (and still do often take, much to my annoyance) and be dissatisfied with.

    I do of course agree with your (our?) list of three points.

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