Photojournalism and the New Visual Storyteller
Storytelling has always been a part of culture; from Native American cave paintings, to the first edition of the bible that Gutenberg pulled off his printing press, people have used the technology to their advantage. It allows man new ways to get ideas across. We also live in a visual culture; from the stained glass windows that depict biblical scenes, to the millions of billboards that line highways across America, we have always used pictures to express ideas. In 1937 Henry Luce started a magazine that utilized the technology of modern printing presses. He hired photographers who used small 35mm cameras, and so began Life magazine. It advanced a profession called photojournalism, telling stories with pictures. From that point on America fell in love with the picture. That was sixty years ago and many young people including myself still think that they will be photojournalists and take pictures for Life Magazine. The possibility still exists for visual storytellers to communicate, but it is a changing climate that is going to digital cameras and digital video. Those who embrace technology and learn they are limited only by their imagination will live; those who do not are doomed.
In Australia in the mid 18th century a strange new animal was discovered, the Platypus. Biologists had all their books written and all animals placed into their specific categories: mammals, reptiles, and fish, etc. This new Platypus crossed over into many categories. The zoological community was shocked; they had to change the way they thought because of this new beast.
To Dirck Halstead, a senior White House photographer for Time Magazine, this was the perfect analogy for the photojournalist. To survive this changing environment you must become the platypus; journalists who can do shoot stills, video, and make a new job in a changing market. “We are trying to look for a way to create leverage to make our storytelling appeal to an ever-changing marketplace.” Dirck said, “We are using some of these new tools and skills to give us a higher place to stand so that we can exert that leverage.”
The Platypus is the icon for a new breed of visual journalists; they gather video, stills, and audio. They are in control of their story all the way. The Platypus is someone who knows how to use the Internet as a marketplace for his work and will be the one to survive the digital revolution. The Platypus doesn’t make a distinction between still and video, he uses the right medium at the right time.
You might be asking, Why would a still photographer shoot video? There is almost no direct connection because a still photographer goes for the moment, that split second where the action is peak, when a man who is jumping across a puddle is just about to hit the water. The video shooter looks for the moment, and everything before and after it.
One morning while Dirck Halstead was in...