Frequently Asked by Photojournalists #2.
In this series, Paula Gonzalez Lopez of Open University in Catalunya, Spain queried sources like Ed to create a picture of photojournalism today and where it stands financially, politically, and stylistically.
PGL: In relation to the framing in the picture, do you prefer working with telephoto or wide-angle lenses? Why? What you would use in a portrait? In a situation of action?
EK: I prefer wide-angle lenses, as I like to get close to my subjects physically, I try to create layered compositions and I find these focal lengths (28-50mm) create intimacy. For portraits, I prefer to be at least at 35mm but usually longer, so as not to distort my subjects body or face. For action it depends on the type of action and what I’m trying to achieve.
PGL: What topic would you like to develop but [because of] lack of funding or knowing that in today’s media [it will not be run] you cannot? What sense [does it make to cover a story] that due to business conditions will not be published?
EK: My current concerns are many and while I often am stymied in gaining funding for fieldwork, I am also often frustrated at the lack of funding for dissemination of my work for advocacy and educational purposes. I especially feel the latter with my important work on oil and the Niger Delta. As for new issues, I am keen to gain funding for projects about sustainable development, caring for our elderly and the misunderstanding of the Muslim world by the West. It absolutely makes sense to produce work that might not get published, especially if you’re passionate about the issue. We must believe in what we do and then others will follow.
PGL: Do you think social networks can help to give a voice to issues or situations that traditional media [chooses not cover]?
EK: I believe social networks play a significant role in gaining attention for many issues and galvanizing action, but the traditional media continues to play a vital role in sorting everything out, verifying and projecting news and information in a way that is actionable. […] Actually, the Arab Spring is a great example of how both modes of media, social and traditional, work hand in hand to announce, develop and track an important story.
PGL: For some time photo projects, from the preproduction phase on, were supported by magazines. Do you see the same [support structure in place] today or is it necessary to introduce a work already completed? If this is so, why do you think [the business has evolved this way]? What financial resources or institutional support [do you tap in order to sustain your work as a photojournalist]: magazines, NGO’s, businesses, foundations…?
EK: Photographic projects must be produced without the support of magazines, and we must find funding and support from other sources, such as foundations, grants, NGOs and crowd sourced funding. We must be aware of all the opportunities for support and see the magazines and newspapers as more of sources of publicity and distribution of our work and messages.
PGL: What do you think about the prizes?
EK: Some are essential to getting recognition and material support, some are just for the ego and some are only for the organizations to make money from photographers.
PGL: How do you see the ethics of photojournalism? Do you think that the work of the photojournalist is impartial or at least should try to be? How is this done? In conflict situations how [does one] live this partiality / impartiality? Do you know of armies or armed groups trying to control the photography and therefore controlling the message? What is your opinion of this video?
EK: I believe in impartiality for most stories, but there are some which require advocacy and resolution of spirit to make a point, reveal a truth and seek to change things. As for conflict situations, one must be careful to remain neutral and be aware of the sentiments of the side you might be covering. Your private opinions in these situations are essential to protect. The film clip is disturbing and while very Hollywood, reflects a real issue of reporting…when to intervene, how to deal with success from other people’s suffering and the complex realities of visual reporting. Sometimes there are no answers, other than to follow your conscience. And it must be made clear that in some situations you cannot intervene without risking your own life.
PGL: Have you stopped taking photographs during a time in your life? On what grounds?
EK: Yes, but only because of what the negative impact my actions would have had vs. the value of the work I would have produced (which has happened rarely) or due to the risk to my safety.
PGL: Do you think that the photograph is now, more than ever, a key player in the context of the world in which we live?
EK: Yes, although we are increasingly looking to video for our information. But the brain still is wired to remember still images.
PGL: [Do you feel that virtual or mutated imagery] is gaining more ground in the context of photographic / audio-visual storytelling? What do you think about works like “Waltz with Bashir” and “Persepolis?”
EK: I am open to all ways of using imagery to tell stories and communicate human issues, emotions and values.