More than often these days, we see published, mostly in photojournalism, stories about the story rather than the story itself. Maybe due to sites like Emphas.is or Kickstarter who are repositories of photojournalist exposing their storytelling process, or the advent of more and more websites about photography rather than on photography, we are seeing an overwhelming amount of videos, multimedia or plane old text and pictures about how a photographer worked on a story rather than the story itself. Well, we do see the story, as a side narrative to the “making of” main story, but just as building blocks and not the finished building.
There is nothing wrong about writing about the how, the challenges, the hardships, the successes and the ever lasting friendships made along the way. However, it destroys the story. It is like a movie studio releasing the behind the scenes before the movie itself. It is counter productive. Of course, everyone likes to tell how hard they have worked and most people like to know. But really, that only works after the work itself has gain some notoriety and success. First the finished product and then the behind the scenes. Not the opposite.
High traffic photojournalism sites like Time.com (others are guilty too) have taken this into a regular habit in presenting the work of a photojournalist along with the how and why ? They never do the same for a reporter. They never ask a reporter how they got and wrote their story. Why so in photojournalism ?And why do photojournalist actually play along ?
Ironically, most photographers will explain , in their narrative of how they shot their story, that the only thing that matters is the story itself. So why destroy it by exposing the strings behind it? The story becomes the photojournalist’s journey instead of his subject.
It is not necessary for anyone to know how a photo essay was created for people to enjoy it. In fact, a little mystery can sometimes makes it even more powerful. The creation process should not be exposed, unless, of course, you are a teacher or instructor.
Of course, vanity plays a big role in this. For the photojournalist that is used to spending long days alone, it is appealing to tell his story. But it should be away and apart from the story itself. In another place, environment and time. A long time after the images themselves have finished speaking, after they have ceased their effects on viewers and when telling the story on how they were captured could give them another life. But certainly neither at the same time or before.
Because of this trend, we now see pseudo photojournalism essay that would never had been published if it wasn’t for the captivating story behind. The pictures are really not that good but boy, the story on how the photographers got them is epic. It’s not photojournalism anymore, it’s another form of photography. The “about me as a photojournalist” photography.
So let’s take a breather. Let’s no longer published stories about the stories. Just the stories, themselves the photo essays. Let’s keep the behind the scenes for the friends and family, the girls met a bar, the grandchildren at a summer barbecue. Let’s not tell us how the pieces were put together but rather why this story matters. Let’s keep our focus on great photojournalism and leave the speaking to the images.