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Friday, 20 July 2007

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That's among the most uninformative pictures I've ever seen. It does not tell a story. It does not ask a question (except why in the world would it get published?)

I don't see why this picture is any more or less informative than any other news photograph. As reportage, it requires a caption. This is an alternate to the somewhat more dramatic version of this picture that appears on the slide show on the TIMES website, with this caption: "Debris from the geyser pelted some of the city’s most famous skyscrapers. Then it rained on the streets like a sudden hail storm, striking some pedestrians." The hurt woman is being helped to waiting ambulances. To see the original picture in its original context, you will need to go to the New York Times Website, look for a story titled "Steam Blast Jolts Midtown, Killing One" and then click on "Slide Show." (I can't link to it directly.)

Mike

There's no reason for him to get steamed up over the story.

Hoo, boy, Herman!

Mike

Wilhelm said: That's among the most uninformative pictures I've ever seen. It does not tell a story. It does not ask a question (except why in the world would it get published?)

Er....how many single news images (without caption/context) are informative?

Heck, how many single images of anything are "informative", and do they need to be?

I know this isn't a forum Mike. So feel free not to post....

Nice one. Kieran Beer has quite a name no?

Maybe Mr. Beer feels that this would interfere with his own reporting in the future. If he needs to be low-key when working on a story, having his face become famous would be a problem for him.

The photograph that the story is about in not the one in the story. This is the photo that is being discussed.
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/07/18/nyregion/19explode09.jpg

Somewhat different than the one shown.

There is something about why the NYT chose one for the news section , and the other for the blog here

"The dimensions of our blog page (and display standards for posts) required us to use a different shot — vetted by a Times picture editor — than the one that was published in the paper and used in the slide show. Those formats allow greater flexibility than this blog. We would have had to crop that image in an unacceptable manner to fit it within the constraints of the blog page. (It would have been far too deep or far too tiny.)

In any event, picture editing is an art, not a science, and reasonable people will disagree. And, as you note, the image you liked is available in the slide show and in print.

— Posted by Patrick LaForge, City Room editor"

That said , I had to switch computers to see the "slide show"

-Hugh

Notice the police officer to the left. If Kieran was so upset about having his picture taken, he should have deposited the poor lady with the police officer, whose job is to help people in that state, and gone on with doing his job, which is to document the news.

I'm not bashing him for helping the lady - I think I'd have a terrible time taking pictures of people suffering famine instead of helping them for an example - but the "story" this picture tells (seeing as we're grasping for one) is that two professionals are helping out a person in distress. A noble calling indeed, but each of the two professions do it in a different manner: which profession was Kieran emulating when this picture was taken? Whose job was he doing?

Bottom line is if, as a photog covering an event, you don't want to be photographed, then don't become part of the story. Objectivity in journalism is important, and that involves removing yourself from the event going on. A pretty tough distinction to make in the case of covering a disaster, but one a journalist does need to make.

Just my two cents, though.

I'm also a little mystified as to why he would not want to be "part of the story," but maybe he's just reporting the way he felt when the picture was being taken, a feeling which might not have been entirely rational. I assume his response to the wounded woman was to some degree a gut response, a human reaction, and not entirely a reasoned action.

Mike

I find it refreshing and wonderful that a photojournalist (I assume he is) would stop to help rather than stand back and photograph. Maybe that happens more frequently than I realize, though. I know that journalists as a rule do not like to become the story, though at times I am sure that can be a difficult line to walk. Finally, is there a right and wrong side of the camera to be on? As a photographer, I am much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. I think he should enjoy his 15 minutes, reflect on being in front of the camera rather than behind it, and carry-on.

Well, that explains it. The one that Hugh linked to is appropiate -- the one on the blog isn't.

I guess Mr Beer just does not like to be publicly shown - like most people. There's not much to interpret into his distress, it's simply the same medicine we usually hand out; he feels like our objects*. And who like to be an object.

*Note that we often speak of 'object' even if they are people, originally always 'subjects', a term which we now use interchangeably to genre. Actually German makes a difference between 'Subjekt' and 'Sujet', where the former is the main [living] object of a photo and the latter the genre or scene per se.

My understanding is that Kieran Beer is a financial journalist, not a photojournalist.

Another interesting note, if you hunt down the video that the NYT posted about the event on the NYT website, there is an interview with a man on the street who seems to be describing this woman, so even on the scene, she must have stood out.

There's a new piece this morning where she tells her version briefly--

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/21/nyregion/21lady.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

From the pure photo geek perspective, it's worth noting that if Beer is correct in identifying the photographer he saw on the street as the one who took the photo, McDermid was covering spot news in the midst of a chaotic situation in midtown Manhattan with a tripod, and it didn't seem to prevent him from getting the best shot of the day. I'll keep that in mind the next time I think that a tripod is too cumbersome.

David,
Curious about the tripod--I interpreted Beer's comments to mean the photographer was CARRYING the tripod, not using it. Like many photogs carry a collapsed tripod on top of their camera bags, that sort of thing. I.e., that it was just an identifying feature. I wonder which it was? I can hardly see covering a situation like that one with a wide-angle lens and a tripod, but maybe.

Mike

When he wrote that the photographer "took two, moving the camera twice to keep it a respectful distance in front of us" I took that to mean that the camera was on the tripod, otherwise he would have written something like "stepping back to keep a respectful distance..."

I'd guess the lens was a short tele-wide zoom, like a 24-135mm or equivalent.

I notice no one has raised the question, which seems obvious to me, as to whether the woman in the photos who is covered with mud wanted to be part of the story. I would imagine she didn't.

It's as if we care more about the journalist because he is more like one of us than the mud-covered woman.

But where would we be as photojournalists if we had to consider the feelings of the subjects who are featured in our news photos? The fact is, we depend on the acquiescence of subjects like this woman, with them putting up with the unwanted publicity in situations like this.

And so it seems, in some sense, fitting, for a journalist to have to unwillingly share in the experience caused by journalists to ordinary people everyday in the course of their newsgathering.

I'm not sure why we should care if the guy who happens to be a journalist wanted to be "part of the story" or not. He's a random person in public who happened to be at a newsworthy event. And like hundreds of other people who were in the same place he got his picture taken. Not exactly a unique experience.

In all fairness it doesn't sound like Kieran Beer's making a big deal out of it in his statement. But the blog post needed a hook of some kind and that that one has obvious appeal. Especially to other reporters.

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