So, I recently watched The Bang Bang Club. It is a film made in 2010 following a group - a Club if you will - of 4 young photojournalists in South Africa in the early 1990s. Between 1990 and 1994, the ANC under Nelson Mandela were making their way to power and the country was in a state of violence. There were any number of frustrations and factions, which led to the violence but suffice it to say there was plenty of fodder for pictures for newspapers, magazines and the nightly news.
At least two of the photojournalists won a Pulitzer for their work in these very short 4 years. And if I may, they won for two of the most graphic and heartbreaking pictures that I have ever seen. What makes a good photo? Ask 100 people and you might get 100 answers. Ask me and I will admit that a good photo - at least a good news photo - is reasonably in focus, framed nicely but, most important it is a reflection of what is going on at the time. In other words, the photo tells a complete story.
Although, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and have a new found respect for Canadian filmmaking, it left me questioning my own values. Questioning societies values as well. Are we only interested in these tragic stories because they are unusual for us. We are safe in our homes thousands of miles away so, somehow a war or flood or famine are intriguing because they are not commonplace?
I mostly shoot sports or travel photos and most if not all are of my family or friends. These are typically happy pictures. But, the majority of the pictures that I look at on a daily basis are from the news. These are typically not happy pictures. Rather than documenting my daughter or son scoring a goal, these are capturing people at their absolute lowest points.
A Photo of the Day from the Wall Street Journal today was of a young boy crying and the caption read: "A Syrian boy seems overcome with grief after his brother was killed during airstrikes..." No kidding, he was grieving. Anyone would. When will I see a photo of this same kid in triumph?
I love photos and love photojournalism and street photography most of all. I am simply wondering when the world wants to see triumph over defeat? Joy over tragedy? Something to think about.