Monday, March 01, 2004

Find a new word

Photojournalism shares many qualities with our writing partners. I've already discussed the need for complete visual sentences containing a noun, verb and direct object. However, a journalist must have a certain flare for the language to challenge readers. So must the photojournalist.

When I'm reading a news story, I'm occasionally stopped by a new word. I'll try to reason the meaning of the word from the story context and surrounding words. I'll also consider similar English and Latin words. If this still does not work, I'll finally break out Webster's Dictionary and get the meaning. I enjoy this process and see each new word as a personal challenge.

The same holds true for photography. While readers are scanning the pages or browsing the Web site, we need to stop them with a new visual word. The image still contains all the storytelling elements previously discussed, but it must somehow be new and interesting. We want a normal reader to think, "What the heck is that?"

We want to force the reader to look at the image for supporting information as to the meaning of the image.

If the viewer still cannot understand the meaning of the image, they can read the cutline as a definition for the image. Then, being fully informed, the image has more meaning for the viewer. The image suddenly makes sense.

This is the goal. It is not easy to achieve this kind of image. David Leeson, Smiley Pool and Nathan Hunsinger are extremely good at it.

To make these images, the photojournalist must look hard to find the image. Just as the great writers struggle for the exact word, photojournalists torture themselves to find the right combination of framing, lenses, light, emotion and action for the right image.

When the right word comes to mind, it is a "Eureka!" moment for the writer and photojournalist alike.

I wish you all many new words and eureka moments.

Enough for now,

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