“There is a division in photo reportage” – Antonin Kratochvil

Antonin Kratochvil writes with Michael Persson an interesting and still-timely piece about modern photo documentary / photojournalism in a 2001 report from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University: “Photojournalism and Documentary Photography: They are identical mediums, sending different messages.”

There is a division in photo reportage. There is photojournalism and there are photo documentaries: Identical mediums, but conveying very different messages. Documentary photographers reveal the infinite number of situations, actions and results over a period of time. In short, they reveal life. Life isn’t a moment. It isn’t a single situation, since one situation is followed by another and another. Which one is life?

Photojournalism—in its instant shot and transmission—doesn’t show “life.” It neither has the time to understand it nor the space to display its complexity. The pictures we see in our newspapers show frozen instants taken out of context and put on a stage of the media’s making, then sold as truth. But if the Molotov cocktail-throwing Palestinian is shot in the next instant, how is that told? And what does that make him—a nationalist or terrorist? From the photojournalist, we’ll never know since time is of the essence, and a deadline always looms. Viewers can be left with a biased view, abandoned to make up their minds based on incomplete evidence.

Worth a Look: “Our World At War” by the photographers of VII and the International Committee of the Red Cross


VII and the International Committee of the Red Cross have just unveiled their globe-spanning project documenting current humanitarian crises, “Our World At War.” The work includes: Lebanon by Franco Pagetti, Afghanistan by James Nachtwey, Haiti by Ron Haviv, Caucasus by Antonin Kratochvil, Liberia by Christopher Morris, Colombia by Franco Pagetti, Philippines by James Nachtwey, and Congo by Ron Haviv.

The financial crisis: in pictures

Marcus Bleasdale / VII - Brokers are seen in the office in London, United Kingdom on Sept. 10, 2008.

You’ve probably already seen Sad Guys on Trading Floors, but there’s a lot more visual culture to be had with the 2008 financial crisis. I thought I’d waited too long to post this, but with new news about diving markets, now’s the time. Foreign Policy magazine’s excellent Passport blog asks photographers to please leave this woman alone (another sighting) and PDNPulse notices a trader who seems to be posing for the cameras. Der Spiegel has interviewed a few photographers about the difficulty of finding new photos of the financial crisis day after day. The magazine also has a gallery of what they think is the best and worst of bad economy visuals. Magnum’s Christopher Anderson and VII’s Antonin Kratochvil and Marcus Bleasdale have also recently produced work on the subject. Michael David Murphy’s 2point8 clued me into some work on the subject by Hin Chua, too. It’s surprisingly difficult to find solid documentary work on banking and wealth. I do think, however, that Martin Parr is right in thinking that “Wealth to me is as much to me the front line as poverty traditionally was,” as he said in an interview with PDN in July 2008. And over the past year, Redux has published a few tearsheets of portraits of investors on their blog.

What other work is out there of wealth, banking, and the stock markets?

(p.s. There’s been some great radio about the recent financial crisis. From This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money, the second half of Enforcers, and Another Frightening Show About the Economy. From Freshair: Our Confusing Economy, Explained, Was Adult Supervision Needed on Wall Street?, and a recent episode featuring an interview with new Nobel laureate and NYT columnist Paul Krugman. There’s also the daily Planet Money podcast, which is made by the producers of a couple of those This American Life pieces linked above.)