See the post below, where I’ve just been introduced to a great blog (thanks, Lizane Louw!) at http://www.12thpress.com, where Nicholas Calcott summarises the predicament and our frustrations most articulately.
He references Colin Pantell’s blog (which in turn references Paul Lowe), but all base their discussion on a provocative speech by Stephen Mayes, who recently retired as secretary of World Press Photo. “Mayes questions why people photograph in a way that replicates – why do photojournalists photograph like ‘photojournalists’, why does 90% of their work come from 10% of the world?”
I’m writing from Cairo right now, where I’m involved in training for the Twenty Ten project, which ironically has World Press Photo as one of the main partners, and this issue of emulation is one that is bothering me today. On this particular training module (of which there are four across Africa), we have 24 radio and print journalists from 13 different African nations, and yet I am concerned about the lack of variety I am seeing in their assignment work. Is this because they lack professionalism, creativity or initiative? No, certainly not.
This is some of Africa’s brightest talent, with dinner conversations challenging and insightful. The issue I see is exactly what Mayes was referring to: journalists are producing the content that they think they should. They’re following the old rules. In trying to be as professional as possible, they’re adhering to a dated code.
I believe that this code needs to be brought in line with the realities of modern society, rather than our (we, the media) continually lamenting the unravelling of the edges, the blurring of the lines between citizen and professional journalism.
Mayes encouraged photographers to ‘photograph what really, really intrigues you’, commenting that ‘In general what is really missing in photojournalism is work that is really intimate and personal’. I’ll second that. And I believe it applies to all types of journalism, as well as to most modes of photography.