Friday, April 13, 2012

Assertiveness is just one of many attributes of a photojournalist

PHO245 student Paul Murray works the room in the Sunshine Home. (Photos by Lori King)
Be assertive, yet respectful.
   While watching the students work during their team community project at Sunshine Home this week, I was struck by a single observation: BE ASSERTIVE PEOPLE!
   Being timid is a natural instinct in the beginning for most scholastic photojournalists. It seemed the students felt uncomfortable disrupting the working environment of the nurses and therapists working with the residents of the Sunshine Home, which serves people with developmental disabilities. There were several times I had to push and prod them to see and capture what was happening right in front of them, like when a resident was wheeling a laundry cart down the hall piled with folded clothes. Or when a therapist was holding hands with an energetic and social bed-ridden man in his 70s.
   “Shoot a close-up of their hands! Get in there!” I energetically instructed.
    There is no doubt photojournalists sometimes walk a fine line between shooting the need to know (news) and sensationalism (paparazzi). That’s a big reason why  photographer's rights, the First Amendment and the definition of news are covered during the first month, before they shoot a single photo.
   If you are there to tell a story, then you need to tell that story in the most truthful and thorough way. Sometimes that means getting close to your subjects. And sometimes that means being noticed.
    Learning to see everything around you and only shooting what is relevant is a learned skill that takes training (school) and experience (on-the-job). This team project satisfied both of those requirements.
   I’ve come up with a list of attributes I think the average photojournalist should possess:
  • Be assertive, yet respectful
  • Be curious
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Be ethical to a fault
  • Be cautious of being manipulated
  • Don’t be shy, yet don’t be disruptive, either
  • Develop a keen sense of news and what makes a good photo
  • Be well aware that there is always room to learn and grow
  • Have an attribute you think I’ve left out? Please comment!
   Obviously, I can’t follow around students during most of their assignments, though sometimes I wish I could. Heck, even I, an experienced photojournalist, would benefit from following around another experienced photojournalist because there is always room to learn and grow.

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