the name itself sounds regal, awe-inspiring even. Even those who do not know what it actually involves are entranced by the idea of a brave hero of a photographer, standing in the middle of a battle-field, his camera being his weapon of choice. He is someone who risks his life to show the world the truth. He is gallant, brave and honourable…or, is he?
Firstly, what is photojournalism?
It happens to be a particular type of journalism. Difference is, you click photographs and present them to the world to tell your story. It involves clicking, collecting, editing and then, after much thinking and brainstorming, publishing or broadcasting it. Recently, photojournalism has only come to include still photography but originally, it involved shooting videos too. The journalist’s job is to objectively capture a situation without letting his personal emotions affect the work. The work should be impartial and tell only the truth.
Like a normal journalist, a photojournalist is also a reporter. But his job is to take various factors into consideration while taking the shots. His work prohibits him from being stuck in a room and typing away tediously in S(model) typewriter. Instead, his job is in the field, where all the action is taking place. He needs to take into consideration the light, the crowds, the weather and the danger to his life and of having to work in the open.
The idea of enhancing stories by use of photographs came into play in the middle of the 19th century. The ILN gave birth to what we know as modern photojournalism during the Crimean war. The legend named Roger Fenton took the world by a storm with his amazing shots captured in the open battle field. He worked with troops and captured the true effect of war. That is how photojournalism really started. It later expanded to include photographs of disasters and calamities.
Too many young-hearts, driven by ideas of honour and courage, jump at the chance of being a photojournalist. They are the elites, they are the true heroes. But is that what they would have us think? Concepts like ethics and morals come into play when we consider what they really do. And, accept it or not, they might not be the heroes we worship them for being. In this article, we will discuss some things they don’t tell you about what photojournalism really involves.
· Many types of photojournalism involve risking one’s neck to click the masterpiece. But do the so-called ‘heroes’ really do it to show the world the truth and hence, make it a better place? Umm… no. Sorry to burst your bubble but most do it for fame and…wait for it…money. No, dear child, sometimes honour just isn’t involved. Honour does not pay our bills; money does. Many young photographers are disillusioned early in the career when they realise just that.
· Ethics. Debates have raged on about the ethics behind what photojournalists really do. Combat photography basically urges you to stand by and watch as people are slaughtered. You are just there to click the perfect shot, not to save the world. This, of course, ends up horrifying the civilised society. This may seem inhumane, but it’s what they are paid to do. Interrupting someone while they are about to slaughter a man is not always a good idea, unless you are looking for an early entry into heaven.
· It is way hard to be really appreciated for what you do, which is basically risk your neck just to get a better angle to the photo. Initially, and till you come to everyone’s attention, the meagre amount of money they pay you for your work might just end up starving you and your family. Believe it or not, a lot of people are ready to do whatever they have to do to grab big bucks and fat money. You are not the only one who figured out that this could be a way of achieving fame and money at the same time. So, the road’s gonna be hard, to say the least.
· In case you really end up becoming a professional photojournalist of name and fame, you might just have to say goodbye to your humanity and sell your soul to the devil.
· Kevin Carter, a legend in the field, armed with a Pulitzer, committed suicide after he could see only the faces of the dead. His family was starving. He was deprived of love and comfort and blamed of having lost all humanity after he clicked a photograph of a starving child being followed by a vulture which was clearly waiting for her to die. He had clicked the photograph and walked away. The rest of his life he was haunted by the question “What happened to the little girl?”
· Another thing you don’t know about the dangerous categories of photojournalism is that, before you walk into the fields with only your gear, the company shall make you sign documents saying if you are harmed during work, it’s not their fault. Your family usually gets no insurance, no pension.
Photojournalism, thus, was never and will never be for the weak-spirited and faint-hearted. It involves years of tedious work, stinky jobs you will despise, mean bosses and very little money to keep body and soul together, just to end up offering that same soul to the devil. Some say the story is more important. If one must be sacrificed for the good of a thousand, so be it. But is that the only option? Why not help the suffering after you have your picture? Why didn’t Kevin go ahead and feed the child? Is money so important? Is fame enough to overshadow the guilt that haunted Kevin carter to his grave? Who knows? But one thing we do know is that these things they never will tell you and for those who do not know better, photojournalist are the true knights in shining armour. If only.