By Isabel Kenny
Quezon City, 23 November 2011. In 1999, two commentaries on the death of photojournalism appeared: one by Dick Kraus, who was then working for Newsdayand the other by Dirck Halstead, a former senior US White House photographer for Time Magazine. Halstead revisited this claim ten years later and cited the continuing decline of newsroom budgets for photo- and video journalists (or visual journalists).
Nevertheless, in Asia, (India in particular), Anisha Bhaduri, deputy news editor of The Statesman and a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University Masters in Journalism program, noted in a paper presented last August in an International Workshop in Beijing on “Responses to Issues in Asian Journalism” sponsored by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Media Programme Asia that the rise in literacy has increased newspaper readership.
Technologically, digital equipment (i.e., digital cameras, cell phones and laptop computers) has made shooting, editing and transmitting images for news stories easier and more efficient. Perhaps, as Mr. Halstead pointed out, the big budget days of “no less than 10 photographers covering” a major news story may be over but the passion and commitment of the young photojournalists currently enrolled in ACFJ’s Diploma in Photojournalism program have certainly not diminished. When asked why they became photojournalists, here are some of the responses they gave:
Mohammad Rakibul Hasan (Bangladesh): I graduated from film school and worked in [a] few TV dramas and documentary films in Bangladesh. But photography was always calling me like a soul mate. [The] first journalistic photograph I took [was]… in 2003 in Sydney. Two activists: Dr Will Saunders and David Burgess [were] convicted for painting the words “No War” in five-meter-high red letters on the highest sail of the Sydney Opera House…. The picture was very influential [and] made me think differently [of] “the power of visuals”.
Chhandak Pradham (India): As I graduated from a cub reporter, I discovered, images were quicker and more visceral [as a] medium of communication than text. Also it was about taking something artistic and then adding journalistic content to it, underlining its importance to readers. Most photographers are innately curious people and being one gave me an excuse to explore my curiosity. In today’s world of visual explosion, still images give the world something to concentrate on, something to think and ponder about, reflect on. I like making people contemplate.
Bobby Lagsa (Philippines): Photojournalism made me realize how important it is to be the eye of the public, for them to see what is going [on] and how the power of the image can form one’s opinion… the power and the responsibility I hold in my hand.
Sailendra Kharel (Nepal): It was totally by accident. In 2004, the Mayor of Birgunj (my home town 250 km south [of] Nepal’s capital close [to the] India border) Gopal Giri was assassinated during the Maoist insurgency… He was a close friend of my uncle’s… whom I knew from childhood, very inspiring and dedicated [and] who had always dreamt [of] develop[ing] our town… I was so touched [by] this news; I followed the whole funeral procession with an ordinary film and digital camera for my personal records. Later, a local correspondent of [the] leading national daily asked for the pictures of the event which was published on the… front page along with two other images on the inside page. I was surprised as the whole nation was curious to know this event and the pictures I took gave them the information. I was so impressed with the medium of photography… to inform people, which made me think that my simple effort can help people, community and nation. Then I came to capital and started covering different issues…
Hermitianta Putra (Indonesia): Photojournalism has its sophistication in its simplicity. News photos come out without manipulation. Events [are] photographed as [they] happen. But to make [a photograph] meaningful, informative, and attractive [they] need great effort and/or knowledge. Simply to tell, I live for that challenge. I love telling story. Spreading information and bringing knowledge to the people are my passion. According to my passion and journalism, I must pursue interesting stories that citizens need, to construct collective memory in our history. As James ?Nachtwey said: “I have been a witness, and this is my testimony”.