Click! Photojournalism comes of age in Nepal
by RISHI AMATYA
photojournalist is a visual reporter of facts. The public places trust in its reporters to tell the truth. The same trust is extended to photojournalists as visual reporters."Mark Hancock
Snapping eternity A photojournalist goes beyond being a reporter. He is also an artist who tells stories through a visual medium. Hence, the old adage, pictures speaks a thousand words. Photojournalists (PJs) capture, select and present that particular frame of time to complement the text and complete it as a story. In other words, photojournalism is not just about snapping pictures but is the presentation of truth.
More often than not, people find it easy to relate to pictures and images than just words. "Photojournalism is all about news through a visual narrative," says Gopal Chitrakar. Chitrakar currently heads the Reuters Nepal bureau and is the photo editor at Kantipur Publications. "Photojournalism is,' as Kunda Dixit believes, "going beyond the headlines. It's all about showing the human face behind the news." An avid photographer himself, Dixit is best known for his book A People War, a picture book on the effect of the insurgency.
Photographer vs. Photojournalist:
As the tools of the trade and the fundamentals are the same , there's much debate about the differences between photographers and photojournalists. True, both of them tend to gravitate towards the same disposition: taking pictures, but the difference between them boils down to two words–timeliness and newsworthiness. A photographer takes anything under the sun, even manipulate the subject, to present the message he wants to convey, while a photojournalist captures up-to-date, factual happenings that are important enough to be in the news. "Every photojournalist is a good photographer—they have to be—but the same cannot be applied to every photographer," says Prakash Mathema, who clicks for Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"Learning the basics of photography is the first step to becoming a photojournalist," says Shruti Shrestha, PJ for Kantipur Publications and Reuters. "After the basics, the learning curve becomes a little steep, hence we see more photographers than photojournalists."
Here comes the age-old notion of what is better: Learning by doing or learning by studying. Both are equally important they say but are quick to add that one can learn only so much, after that the progress rests on the zeal of the individual. "True, you need sound technical knowledge to be on par with the best in the field," says Bikash Rauniyar, a prominent PJ and president of NFPJ (National Forum of Photo Journalists). "But currently, we don't have any dedicated academic course structure available. Most of us have to rely on trial and error."
Although schools here have tried including photojournalism modules in their academic curricula–most of the colleges that teach journalism have a course dedicated to the incumbents about photojournalism–these classes have focused on elementary photography while leaving the students clueless about photojournalism concepts. And such modules are only available for journalism students, effectively excluding the others. NFPJ, to solve this problem, has organised seminars and training workshops.
If anything has created more upheavals in the field of photojournalism than the new media, it has to be the invention of digital camera. "With the whole process digitised, our productivity has seen a welcoming growth," says Min Ratna Bajracharya, PJ for Himalmedia. "Now we are constantly in the field filing news rather than developing pictures all day in the darkroom." Some would say that with the easy access of digital cameras, the challenges to the already practicing photojournalist are immense. The term "citizen journalism" has been coined to illustrate the fact that anyone with a digital camera can take on the role of a photojournalist. However, Chitrakar is unimpressed with this logic. "Anyone with a camera isn't a PJ by default; it's like saying anyone with a decent quill is Shakespeare. Only through rigorous training and through constant learning process can one acquire the skills of photojournalist." Ravi Manandhar nods in agreement. "A photojournalist should be sensitive towards the suffix, journalist, added in their job-description and work accordingly. They've more responsibility riding on their shoulders. They are telling the news through their lens."
Digitisation has enabled easy transmission and sharing of images and news. "Now, it's easy to get news-worthy images from every corner of the world," says Rauniyar.
PJ as a career :
With the arrival of new media (both print and online based), the scope for the interested are abundant. That being said, there are still challenges despite these growing opportunities. There are plenty of other enthusiasts vying for the same spot but if you are sincere enough and don't mind putting in extra hours of hard work, the sky's there for you to grasp.
Things you should know1. Photojournalism is not easy.Simply wishing and day-dreaming won't take you anywhere. Be ready to work your behind off.
2. Update. Technology changes in a matter of seconds, if you rely purely on digital format, it makes a lot of sense to be regularly updated with current technology.
3. PR. You're not just a photographer; you're a journalist as well. And nobody's going to tip you on newsworthy material if you act superior. Take time to develop your contacts who can give you a leg up on events that really matter.
4. Take lessons. Learning to use the camera is one thing, taking news-worthy pictures is a whole different ball game. Don't hesitate to ask for tips and techniques from the senior photojournalists. They are a huge inventory of knowledge.
5. Online resources. Use the potential of Google to the max.
6. Invest. If you're serious enough, it makes sense to spend on a good set of equipments, maybe an entry level DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera for starters.
7. Join forums like photo.circle to know more about the works of like-minded individuals and support them in their journey.
8. Discipline. Follow the journalists' code of conduct.
9. Photo exhibitions. Make it a point to go to as many as you can. Inspiration can strike anywhere.
10. Be creative, and open to ideas. Try to take a snap that is uniquely yours. Find different angles to best portray your shots.
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