Uncategorized # 16 – Finding Photojournalism

April 20, 2020 in Uncategorized

This is a tough one. I should have written it yesterday or the day before when I was feeling much, much better, but I was feeling much, much better and consumed with feeling that way instead of sitting down to write anything. So here I am, sitting down to write something, not at my best, just following a long and rough day of ordinary things. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the years it’s that I know when I’m feeling things, and I know that eventually those feelings will pass and I’ll be able to reflect a little and make sense of the world. This whole isolation thing has just compressed all that into a daily routine of anxiety, stress, relief, joy, and contemplation—over and over and over.

So let’s breathe and push on through.

Lately I’ve been thinking hard about photojournalism. This is where the record screeches to a halt, and everyone turns to the saloon doors and watches my every move. I was a photojournalist for a short while. Sort of a self-proclaimed photojournalist, but I did work for a bunch of paying news outlets, and I did have an agency representing my work for a little while. So there. Between late 2002 and late 2004 I was a guy running around the world with a camera, laptop and card reader. I spent a year in Israel— a card carrying member of the foreign press, and another year in Washington D.C. with a Capitol Hill press credential. I worked for The New York Times, TIME, Getty Images, Reuters, the AFP and Gannett and even had a pretty nice photo essay and article published in a magazine as well as a cover photo of some guy named Jack Abramoff who wound up being someone important. 

Anyway, photojournalism. It’s been on my mind. It’s really important to me, especially now. Even though I don’t consider myself a photojournalist anymore, it’s still very near and dear to my heart. 

This past week I decided to start following all my old friends, and also looking for photojournalism that’s new to me. I decided to post what I found to my Instagram Stories feed, because who the hell really knows what to use Instagram Stories for anyways, and I felt like it was the one place I could just post the images I thought were good and maybe one or two people would care. 

It’s been super fun. The topic isn’t fun, but that’s ok, and that’s what photojournalism is for. There’s a world out there, outside your window, outside your quarantine bubble. The amazing thing about photojournalism is its power to bring that world into your home. So, I figured I’d just look for the images by photojournalists who are covering the pandemic around the world and post them to my IG. 

There is such power in the medium of photojournalism. It can be hard to look at and provocative without the right context, but that’s kind of the point. The world, our world, is hard to look at and beautiful at the same time. There’s nothing more provocative. 

I follow twin brothers Peter and David Turnley, because they are two of the best photographers on the planet. I have one of Peter’s books on my shelf which is full of love and hope and human spirit. Right now he is taking to the streets of New York City and photographing everything he sees. His work is (as usual) incredible, sensitive, and brilliantly wide open. He sees the breaking news story and pulls it back to his own home life, or that of the random guy on the street. 

I’ve bee following all the major news outlets, and photo agencies and their staff, but I’ve also been really interested in the freelancers and the photographers who are stuck at home, documenting their tiny worlds, like the ones we are all living in right now.

There’s some kind of hope I feel when I look at even the most disturbing of photojournalism. It’s as if the fact that someone was there, with enough compassion to be a witness means that I know that at least one person cares—just enough to brighten it up, just for a tiny fraction of a second.

I miss photojournalism. I miss it hard. I often wonder what I could do, in the work I do, and in the life I live, to find my way back to photojournalism, help other photojournalists and keep the light burning, even just a little. Maybe this IG feed is one of those ways. 

Lately I’ve been leaving the house without the “real” camera—the one that takes “real” pictures. I kept finding myself walking out the door, passing where it hangs from its hook on the wall. Yesterday I grabbed it on the way out, slung it across my chest, and took a few pictures of the lake. There are ways back to the things you’ve lost, the things you think you’ve abandoned or are no good at. There are always ways toward discovery of something new or something that was always just hanging there, right by the door all along.

Have a great week!

Micah


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