I should apologise for the recent lack of posts on this blog. For the past twelve months I have been on a sabbatical from work. This has given me a lot of time to reflect and also work on a book about Mojo skills, which will be published in the New Year.Over the past five years, more and more journalists have come to realise that their humble phone, is capable of producing serious news content. The limiting factor is not the technology they carry, but a lack of imagination on how to fully exploit its capabilities. At the same time, some news organisations have also woken up to the fact that they can substantially cut their overheads by equipping a single journalist in the field, with nothing more than a phone, a microphone and a tripod. With news organisations like the BBC and RTE the Irish broadcaster championing the format, it has quickly grown in popularity. Continue reading
I have had a few questions recently about why I haven’t been posting many blog posts about #Mojo (mobile journalism) kit. Well the answer is simple, I don’t think there is a need. For twelve months now we have known, that in the right hands we have the necessary kit and apps to produce very professional news packages. So you might argue that the future looks good! Unfortunately I am not sure that that is the case.
The tech heads have taken over, posts on the forums have become increasingly about the technology that drives the movement, but very little about the most important thing, storytelling.
One of the keys to mobile journalism is that, it is not only produced on mobiles, but also consumed on mobiles. This means we need to explore different ways of getting messages over. I wrote a blog post in January 2015 about how ‘Content Was Key’, but to a large extent this is the area that is being ignored. Recently at a journalism conference the organisers ran a competition asking people to post pictures of their kit, as though this is important. In what other creative industry would we be asked what kit are we using. ‘Hey Leonardo, great painting, but lets have a picture of your paints and brushes’! Another post on a forum featured ’10 Apps to make your Mojo better’. Again we are missing the point, apps will not improve your work, unless you have a compelling story to tell and you are able to engage your audience. In Ken Kobre’s seminal book Video Journalism, he talks about how the viewing habits of modern audiences have changed. He quotes research that shows the viewing habits of people consuming news:
Research shows that within 10 seconds you will have lost 10% of your audience. By 5 minutes you will only have 10% of your audience left! Time has become a valuable commodity, which as a producer of content you are competing for. It is these issues that need to addressed not what kit you are using.
12 months ago I was really excited about the opportunities that Mojo offers, I still am. It democratises news gathering. There is a huge potential audience. It allows people to tell their own stories. In the right hands it is a powerful tool. But if all we talk about is the technology, we will be guilty of missing an amazing opportunity.
“Panasonic will spend around 10 billion yen ($80.8 million) to develop next-generation image sensors, with plans to release them in fiscal 2018.” “The Japanese company aims to develop sensors that support 8K technology, which provides 16 times the resolution of conventional high-definition video, and feature fast image-processing speeds. Eliminating the boundary between videos and photos.”
So they will be producing images at 25/50 frames per second at a resolution of 8K (7680×4320 pixels). The decisive moment will be where ever you want it to be. Panasonic already have a focus stacking ability in 4K. At 25 frames per second it takes a stepped focus image, allowing you to choose after the event where you want your focal plane to be.
Anyone want to buy some Canon gear?
At the recent #Mojo Mobile Journalism Conference in Dublin, Michael Rosenblum gave a very thought provoking presentation, where he declared ‘The Job of Journalist is finished’. Here is my response:
It is ironic that the debate sparked by Michael Rosenblum’s statement that ‘The Job of Journalist is Finished’, really sums up how poor some modern journalism actually is. The pronouncement is a great headline grabber, but is simplistic in the extreme.
His argument is, that with modern technology and people carrying phones,capable of broadcast quality video….. there is no barrier to being a journalist. Whilst there maybe some merit to this argument, my riposte would be just because people can produce content, doesn’t mean it will be watchable. Kitten videos on Facebook may look better, but that doesn’t mean they are more compelling or less annoying! As a photojournalist with 30 years experience. I have met amateurs with better equipment, than me, but that doesn’t mean they can structure a feature or even get shots in focus!
What probably is dead, is the condescending top down model that has driven modern journalism ‘we pronounce – you listen’. People are tiring of this approach, you only have to read the comments section in a modern newspaper to see that people also want their voice to be heard.
So where does this leave the career journalist? I would argue that the future is bright. There are now more opportunities than ever before for journalists to tell stories and to really create engaging content. The challenge is to keep abreast of these emerging technologies and to exploit them to their full potential. The other skill that should set the ‘professional journalist’ apart is the ability to research and produced well informed content. Stories need to be contextualised. As more and more people try their hand at producing content, trust and authenticity will become increasingly more important commodities.
It is true that many traditional employment opportunities will probably dry up, largely because newspapers have been slow to respond to the challenges that the internet has thrown up. In Britain the traditional press has long supported the status quo, contributed much to spectacle, to voyeurism and been a law unto themselves. Anything that challenges this has to be for the positive. At the same time, new opportunities will arise.
Michael Rosenblum has kick started a debate that is long overdue. So is modern journalism dead? I don’t believe it is, it’s evolving and with this evolution come new opportunities and challenges.
To misquote Mark Twain ‘Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated’.
The central theme of this years Format Photo Festival is ‘Evidence’. Having wondered around some of the exhibits my thoughts kept coming back to a quote from the book Photo Politics One. Allan Sekula, suggests that as photographers we should do more than just present evidence:
Documentary has amassed mountains of evidence, And yet, in this pictorial presentation of scientific and logistic “fact”, the genre has simultaneously contributed much to spectacle, to retinal excitation, to voyeurism, to terror, envy, nostalgia, and only a little to the critical understanding of the social world…. A truly social documentary will frame the crime, the trial, the system of justice and its official myths… Social truth is something other than a matter of convincing style. Sekula (1979) Photography Politics One. p. 173. Photography Workshop.
Birmingham City Council is proposing swingeing cuts at the recently opened Library of Birmingham reducing the whole library hours to 40 hours per week and staffing by just over 50 percent by April 2015.
When I, and other depositors, who include such renowned British photographic figures as Daniel Meadows, Martin Parr, John Blakemore, Brian Griffin, Vanley Burke, John Myers, Nick Hedges, Anna Fox, Max Kandhola, and Val Williams, agreed to the library acquiring our archives or collections we were assured that they would be accessible to the public as well as specialist researchers.
As the proposal currently stands there will be no Photography Collections Team. Indeed there may not be anyone left with any specialist knowledge of these nationally and internationally significant collections in the near future. There will be no conservation department to undertake the vital work of preserving these fragile treasures, there will be little if any cataloguing undertaken, and the exhibition programme will disappear entirely.
The emphasis in the new structure is on maintaining “counter transactions” to the exclusion of other activities. Continue reading
Guess what? Your audience probably isn’t interested in whether you are using an iPhone or a Red Epic to tell your story! If you have just saved up for a year to buy that camera you have always lusted over, that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. It seems obvious, but too many people that I teach, forget the importance of an engaging story line. Content is key!
It is easy to be seduced by equipment, especially for those of us who have been around for some time. Cameras available on the high street, costing five or six hundred pounds are now capable of producing broadcast quality footage. Ten years ago, the same quality would have cost tens of thousands of pounds. This puts the emphasis very much where it should be, on the content, not on production.
The fundamental way we tell stories hasn’t really changed for thousands of years. In his Poetics, the Greek philosopher Aristotle put forth the idea that “A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end”. This is sometimes referred to as the three-act play.
- Act One – Introduction: Introduce your story and characters. Engage us in some way. Give us a reason to care.
- Act Two – Development: The development phase. This is usually the longest part of the story. It is where you develop your story and/or characters. Impart information.
- Act Three – Resolution: If you have introduced a mystery or question, this is where it is answered. Conflict and crisis are resolved; the story is bought to a finish in a satisfying way.
Up to now, you will notice that the structure hasn’t changed; we are still using tried and tested methods. However there is one major difference, we live in the age of the butterfly surfer, fluttering from site to site, sampling the nectar and moving on. In the UK twenty years ago, your potential audience would have had a choice of five television channels, now with the Internet they have the equivalent of thousands. This means that we have to work harder to capture them and once we have, to keep them! The Introduction has to have a hook, big enough to catch a whale. Hook them and draw them in! Research shows that within 10 seconds you will have lost 10% of your audience. By 5 minutes you will only have 10% of your audience left! As a documentary maker, you are asking people to give you time and as we all know this is an extremely valuable commodity. Why should they give it to you, when there are so many other pressures and distractions available?
One practical solution to this is; use your best, most compelling images or sound first. If you don’t, people are not going to be around long enough to see it anyway! Use any trick you can, to convince people to stick around. Cajole, surprise, shock, ask a question, do whatever it takes to get their attention. If you don’t, there are thousands of cat videos available on YouTube, calling like a siren in the night 🙂 !
I will be teaching on three RPS (Royal Photographic Society) workshops next year in the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire.
The sessions will appeal to those who have gone beyond the beginners’ stage and want a chance to immerse themselves in photography and explore landscape photography from an aesthetic as well as from a technical point of view. Fellow tutors will include Dr Paul Hill and Nick Lockett.
18th April 2015 CROMFORD
13th June 2015 ILAM
18th July 2015 MONYASH
I will post more details as they are confirmed. Here is what some participants have said about our workshops with the RPS in 2014:
“Thanks guys! You have given me a completely different view of landscape photography.”
“Excellent workshop with three enthusiastic, generous and encouraging tutors.”
“Made me think ‘out of my comfort zone’.”
“Suddenly I am seeing differently. My images are now more of me, and less stereotypical.”
To celebrate 100 years of photographic education at Newport I recently made this video.
I have recently posted a short video to YouTube. This was created with the Panasonic GH2 and Hero GoPro cameras. I am currently working on a review of both of these cameras which will be posted soon.