Finding the true focus(Read article summary)
In an age of all-too-easy digital manipulation, there are good reasons to suspect the veracity of a visual image. But there's another kind of photographic truth-telling needed: focusing beyond dramatic scenes of conflict and suffering and fairly showing the people of the world without stereotypes.
¬†Anyone can be a photographer, but it takes a trained eye and intellect to use photography to make sense of the world. Filmmakers are masters of the captured image. So are photojournalists. Each works a different field, but each has essentially the same problem to navigate: truth.
¬†Though most movies are fiction, they seek to be true in their own way. World War II veterans, for instance, have said the harrowing assault on the Normandy beaches in ‚ÄúSaving Private Ryan‚ÄĚ felt disturbingly real. Was ‚ÄúZero Dark Thirty‚ÄĚ truthful about torture? Did ‚ÄúLincoln‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúArgo‚ÄĚ get it essentially right, or was history subordinated to drama? As Peter Rainer notes in his review of the Chilean film ‚ÄúNo‚ÄĚ (page 38), factual accuracy has become a hot cinematic issue.¬†
¬†Photojournalism is supposed to be all about factual accuracy. We think of a camera as an objective collector of reality. But as with reporting, history writing, and any form of documentary, subjectivity is unavoidable.
¬†Monitor photo editor Alfredo Sosa and his team pore over dozens of images each day from photographers and agencies, looking for interesting but also fair depictions of the world. This requires honesty about stereotypes and biases.¬†
¬†The photos that flow into the Monitor, Alfredo says, too often show a sprawling culture like India as a place of snake charmers and poverty. ‚ÄúWhat you never see,‚ÄĚ Alfredo says, ‚Äúis the middle-class couple going to the movies or having dinner.‚ÄĚ Images from China usually show masses of people, and across the Middle East the cliche is angry crowds. But what about people just taking their kids to school or sharing a laugh?¬†
¬†Can normal be interesting? The answer is yes, but it takes a sensitive photographer and a careful editor.
¬†Monitor photojournalism aims to counteracts visual stereotypes. In recent weeks, we‚Äôve shown you a cowboy-themed park in Lebanon, an Indian religious festival, Cairo‚Äôs ancient al Azhar University, and the streets of Northern Ireland.
A interesting image, carefully captured, is the start of good photojournalism. Thoughtful editing tries to make the image both true and interesting.
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¬†The films Monitor readers like tend to be human-oriented/ I know this from e-mails and letters you‚Äôve sent over the past couple of years in response to an earlier column about movies. Explosions and violence aren‚Äôt absent from your top choices, but big bangs, car chases, and gore aren‚Äôt relished. Those who wrote to me favor pluck and originality. Than can range from quirky ( ‚ÄúHarold & Maude‚ÄĚ) to rousing (‚ÄúThe Music Man‚ÄĚ), mordant ( ‚ÄúBeing There‚ÄĚ), to romantic (‚ÄúMoonstruck‚ÄĚ). You enjoy epics (‚ÄúOut of Africa‚ÄĚ; ‚ÄúThe Godfather‚ÄĚ) and laughs (‚ÄúDumb and Dumber‚ÄĚ; ‚ÄúParenthood‚ÄĚ). But it probably comes as no surprise that you really love classics:¬† ‚ÄúRyan‚Äôs Daughter‚ÄĚ; ‚ÄúThey Shoot Horses, Don‚Äôt They?‚ÄĚ; ‚ÄúThe Scent of the Green Papaya‚ÄĚ; ‚ÄúThe Lives of Others.‚ÄĚ¬†
¬†There aren‚Äôt many alien invasions or space operas among your favorites. The one that comes closest is ‚ÄúThe Day the Earth Stood Still,‚ÄĚ which is really a parable about humanity.
¬†Here‚Äôs the takeaway, at least for me: I‚Äôd enjoy a bag of popcorn with any of these movies.
John Yemma is editor of the Monitor. He can be reached at email@example.com.