Thursday, 30 October 2008

New Photojournalism?

Martin Parr © Dreamscapes Ocean Dome [bath center] 1996

Following a recent post on Jörg Colberg "Some thoughts on the visual language of photojournalism" a debate has started with lots of posts on the Magnum Blog over this argument. It all started with a comment about creating awareness of drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) a project that photojournalist James Nachtwey had been working on. I personally see this debate as very interesting one, having had long discussions in the past with colleagues on this very subject.
For myself it all started when I attended a lecture in a theater college in Rochester England in 1996 and the topic of "new photojournalism" was behind the debate which saw a confrontation between the photographer Martin Parr, the then Photoeditor of the Guardian and a classic BW photojournalist which name unfortunately can`t remember. At that time many exhibition in London were petrol for this argument, infact may exhibition of people like Richard Billingham (previous post in Ph39) Nick Waplington Paul Graham were taking place. We could not call the photographers above photojournalism but certainly moved the border with the way photographer interpret society at least in the UK and Europe.

Alex Soth ©

At the time of the lecture Parr just joined Magnum and I remember asking him about what Magnum members thought of his his way of photographing and how the old school saw his way to photograph sometimes far from subjects traditionally associated with photojournalism.
To which he replyed along the line of that it was called hopefully because Magnum member appreciate his work and that we would wish to see in the future other photographers in Magnum with interst different from the traditional topic of photojournalism. Over ten years have passed and I think that great strides have been made in Magnum and in similar agencies around the world, although sometime it certainly remains an interest in preserving the fiction of emotions related to traditional subject.

James Nachtwey © Rwanda, 1994 - Survivor of Hutu death camp
Memorable photojournalist images are still linked to historical, emotional or dramatic event, but I personally hope to see more photographers who try with a different approach to defuse the situation even in front of less happy situation without necessarily emphasize the drama.
In a recent interview on PDN this summer "Why Photojournalism Must Get Modern" Martin Parr says: "I don’t regard myself particularly as a photojournalist. I’m a documentary photographer. The idea of my work is to try put my finger on the zeitgeist of what’s happening. That’s constantly changing and shifting. I’m not interested in photographing things that are disappearing, although I’ve engaged in a slight bit of nostalgia. I’m interested in things as they are now." and "in the end, it comes down to the personality and individuality of the photographer to express that."

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