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Online Journalism

reflections on a changing medium

Tag Archives: photos

This is a combined response to Sides of the Wire: America in Afghanistan, The Long Haul, and How I cover the Afghanistan war with the 5DmkII.

These three stories, taken together, show the increasing availability of war photos from overseas, particularly in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. It is easy to find these photos in print and broadcast media, on the internet and, increasingly, through the blogs and Web sites of independent journalists and journalists from smaller news outlets. With such coverage, it’s becoming harder to ignore the reality of the situations–and that’s a positive thing, in my opinion. Making such media available can serve as a strong form of activism, forcing American citizens to be aware of our conuty’s foreign affairs. These photos give a human face to war. It can also be extremely historically significant. These images are reminiscent of photos and documentary work exposing the horrors of the Vietnam War (BBC, Hearts and Minds).

The lengths that journalist Danfung Dennis goes to in order to capture images, sound and video are extraordinary. He mentions 120 degree heat, lack of light, issues with stabilization, the need to wear safety equipment and other various circumstantial and environmental forces that he must overcome. His story also highlights the improvements in portable camera equipment and the ways in which they enable things like war overseas to be covered by journalists in new and efficient ways. Newer versions of compact DSLRs are more impressive than ever, enabling journalists to make multiple media projects (like Dennis’s photo sets and documentary footage) and to stray further from the confining roles of a traditional journalists and photographers.

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I have chosen to do my course project on bingo players. As I said in my original “story ideas” post, churches, firehalls and community centers frequently host bingo games, sometimes even several times per day. Although I’m not sure how it compares with other cities, I do know that Buffalo has no shortage of bingo events. After some online research, I’ve come to find that it’s possible to play bingo somewhere within the city at almost any given time virtually any day of the week (see for yourself! bingoplanner.com is a Buffalo bingo site that has a great calendar of events). In order for these games to survive economically, bingo must be pretty popular. Enough people must be playing and spending money to sustain the jackpots that are offered at every game.

To me, this is interesting, and I’m speculating that Buffalo’s bingo scene is widely overlooked and unconsidered by the general non-bingoing public. I think that other people, like me, who don’t frequently play bingo might also be curious about the bingo scene.

Who plays bingo? What’s the draw? How seriously do people take the game? Do they treat it more as harmless entertainent, or as a form of gambling?

After two nights dabbing away at bingo boards in church basements, I’ve found that there is a wide audience of bingo players. Most bingo players that I have encountered have been elderly, but it isn’t too unusual to see a few young people playing as well, or to see young mothers with children playing bingo. Many of the players that I have spoken to exhibit a sort of “this is my chance!” mentality, counting more on “the law of averages” than the statistics of the matter, forgetting that thirty people also need B9 to cover all four corners of their board. At the bingo games that I have been to there has been a good mix of bingo fanatics and casual players. Some of the bingo fanatics have bingo dabber caddys, bingo t-shirts and even “lucky” objects like stuffed animals or plastic dolls. Most of them purchase four or more boards and tape them together before the games begin in order to form one larger, more manageable board. These visual aspects of the scene along with the tension inherent the gaming environment makes this a good topic for my project.

Although I faced a bit of a challenge getting my first pictures (I was asked not to take pictures at the first bingo game that I attended), I do look forward to trying news ways of interacting with the players and those who organize the games in order to get better material for my project. I am also quite excited to start talking to the players more “on the record.” Many of them seem like very interesting people and I can’t wait to hear their stories and ideas about what bingo is all about.

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Chapter 1 of Kenneth Kobre’s Photojournalism explains how the key to being a good photojournalist involves equal parts being at the right place at the right time and technique.

While the act of being at the right place at the right time can involve a bit of luck, it’s also about stacking the deck in your favor and strategizing in order to get the best opportunities as a photographer. One example of such strategizing involves the active emergence of oneself in the world of news. To be a photographer is not to be isolated from the reporting and writing end of things. It is important to remain up-to-date on current events and to actively monitor the news in anticipation of the kind of potential assignments that may be in store for you. In chapter 1, many of the journalists mentioned use elaborate setups of multiple radios and scanners in their homes and cars in order to get the news first. It is important to remember that, while a reporter can generally still write a story after an incident, a photographer must be immediately present to capture the action (what Kobre sees as the most interesting and instrumental part of photojournalism).  Certain online technologies can be used in the same way as these scanners, TVs and radios. Specifically, Twitter can be very useful for this sort of thing, as many people tweet at the scene of important events or to spread the news as it is happening.

Another thing that Kobre strongly suggests that photojournalists do is create a network of contacts, both professional and casual. Other journalists can keep you up-to-date on the new being reported and others influential or everyday people in the community (In the chapter, photojournalist Bruce Chambers cites his mom as a useful source) can inform you of a whole host of interesting things that perhaps you wouldn’t otherwise happen upon yourself. With a wide range of perspectives suggesting to you what might be newsworthy, the greater the chances of you photographing interesting happenings in unique ways.

Advising the reader of the more technical aspects of photojournalism, Kobre suggests using a wide variety of shots and considering the choices of your angle and positioning relative to the subject.

These include:

overall shots” – high angle shot that captures as much of the scene as possible.

Medium shots – tells a story showing most of the subject. Can capture action. Shows the subject in the environment.

Close-ups – shows detail and texture.  

It is also suggested that you take your photos at different levels to add interest to a subject. Today, you don’t have to be a photographer to take adequate photographs. With equipment like our Kodak flipcams and simple editing software like Piknik, it is easy to capture interesting moments if you’re creative, persistent and focused. With new these technologies along with cell phones, smaller camera for increased mobility and simple interfaces, and simple photo sharing and hosting software, amateurs can become photojournalists over night.

image from Kodak.com

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