Bulletin photo by Alastair Pike
‘If you’re not in front and in the action, then you’re in the wrong damn place. You can’t shoot from across the street.’
Photojournalists today might think that they are no longer important in the newsroom with the rise of citizen journalism, but veteran photojournalist Bob Holt thinks otherwise.
The most recent entries in the New England Newspaper and Press Association’s annual photo awards competition represent why newsrooms still value skilled photojournalists, according to Holt, former director of photography at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The submissions ranged from classic New England cranberry bogs to the Ebola crisis in Liberia.
“Don’t be embarrassed to be a photojournalist,” Holt said.
Holt led a workshop Saturday, Feb. 20, titled “Critique of New England’s photojournalism – the good, the bad and some ugly” at NENPA’s winter convention. Joining Holt in the critique and advice session was J.B. Forbes, chief photographer at the Post-Dispatch, who won a Pulitzer Prize for photography at the Ferguson, Mo., protests in 2014.
Forbes shared 40 of his favorite photos. Many of the photos were spot news shots of tumultuous storms or of firefighters in action. Forbes said he has two police scanners in his car that he uses to chase stories.
It’s not just news photos he’s pursuing. Every morning before work, Forbes visits an eagle’s nest to practice his nature photography. Holt said he looks forward to Forbes’ eagle photos, which he shares daily on Facebook.
Holt and Forbes discussed what goes into being a good photojournalist and a good editor. Both agreed that the most important thing for a photographer to do is to get as close as possible.
“If you’re not in front and in the action, then you’re in the wrong damn place,” Holt said. “You can’t shoot from across the street.”
One New England photographer Holt thought exemplified that quality was Peter Pereira of The Standard-Times of New Bedford, Mass., who won the photographer of the year award for daily newspaper and other photo awards at the convention’s newsroom awards ceremony.
Pereira’s award-winning spot news photo for a daily newspaper with less than 30,000 circulation shows that he can get close to the action and add fresh new perspective, according to Holt. He particularly liked how Pereira framed a bicycle in a photo of an accident and took it from an unexpected, lower angle.
As demonstrated by some of the NENPA contest entries, patience is another key to taking good photos.
Holt used the example of Glenn Callahan’s photo for The Stowe (Vt.) Reporter of a human hand holding the minute hand of a clock. Holt knows the photographer had to have waited for that perfect moment, and he sees that as a crucial part of the job. That photo was awarded best feature photo for a weekly newspaper with less than 6,000 circulation.
On various occasions, the judges of the NENPA photo contest thought that cropping tight would have significantly increased the chance of a photo being a contender. Holt and Forbes agreed that a good news photo focuses in on the real point of the story, with minimal background.
“Lose the gibberish and keep it tight,” Holt said. “I call this the picture in the picture.”
An audience member asked how much of the improvement in photography in the past decade can be attributed to the improvement of cameras when any “GWC (guy with camera) can get a good photo.”
“Digital photography has made your job immensely easier from the way it was with film,” Holt said. Film was incredibly unforgiving.”
But, he said: “The argument that if I had a better camera I would be a better shooter goes … as far as I can throw this computer.”
Holt described the role of a photojournalist as not only being a photographer, but also being an editor.
“If you’re name is on it, you get the credit or the blame,” Holt said. “If it ain’t good, don’t turn it in.”
A member of the
audience at the photojournalism workshop and critique session poses
Alastair Pike is an undergraduate student in the Northeastern University School of Journalism.
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