In the 70’s I was a freelance PJ. Although only local and for the most part unsung I had dreams of covering the “big events”. People like Horst Faas, Larry Burrows, W. Eugene Smith, and of course Alfred Eisenstaedt were my heroes. Latter on David Burnett caught my attention with his images from Tehran during the uprising to overthrow the Shah.
In our busy world, spinning in all directions, we have lost sight of that old tradition – PHOTO JOURNALISM. “I was there” photos and staged scenarios for news media consumption have replaced real journalism done through photography.
I could go on and on about the dumbing down of news reporting both printed and visual. I could say that with the passing of Horst there is yet one less REAL photo journalist out there, but it’s not true. There are hundreds of great PJ’s risking life and limb to bring the news to us. The unfortunate part is that the news media for the most part ignores them. Rather than pay professionals who know how to interpret an event or compile a story, they would rather use free unverified cellphone pics and videos.
We live in a Walmart society. Sadly people seem to want the cheapest, fastest delivery of anything and everything they consume, be damned with quality. Corporate greed has devised a business model that has convinced us that we should have everything we want, NOW. The only way in which the average consumer can attain this ideal lifestyle is through the consumption of ever cheaper products. Nothing has value anymore. In the past we would save up for a new TV or 3 speed bike for Johnny. Today we have been conditioned that it’s our God given right to have everything we want when we want it. Easy credit and cheaper prices make this Utopian world achievable. To insure the consumer mill keeps churning, quality is reduced so products wear out quicker and need to be replaced with the latest and greatest.
A lot of those old 3 speed bikes are still very functional. Why? Because they had “value”. Work went into saving for them. Sometimes sacrifices were made in some areas to achieve financial goals. Once Johnny got his bike it was a big deal and he knew it. Johnny took care of his new or new to him bike because he knew what his parents had to go through to get it for him. It had value.
Why a photograph of a bridge you might ask. I first photographed this bridge in the late 60’s. It’s still standing and in use every day. This photograph and the next one were taken May 26th, 2012. I wonder if our make it cheaper and faster mentality will produce bridges today that will still be around and fully functional in 52+ years. The lens I used for the above shot is my beloved Nikkor AI modified 85mm f1.8. An oldie but goodie. To show I don’t scorn all things modern, the camera body is the Nikon D700. I am sure it will not last as long as my still working Nikkormat FTn or my Nikon F5, but for now I am holding pack with the digital Devil. The following image is made with the same body and a Tokina AT-X pro 17mm lens. Very minimal post was inflicted on the RAW files. Unfortunately the compression algorithm WordPress uses diminishes the colour somewhat. In the first shot the green leaves are vibrant having only revealed themselves to the sun mere days ago.
Read David’s blog. Do a photo search on the photographers mentioned. Experience what we have lost or at least allowed to be taken away from us. Demand better quality and after purchase support. Save for things. Take your life back from the banks and CEO’s who’s only concern is the bulge in their wallets.