Reflections on James Foley film
There is great Irony in the fact that Jim was so utterly restless at home after returning from Libya yet could fall asleep (his sleeping habits were compared to those of a cat by his colleagues) in the middle of a war zone. His family, friends, colleagues, and even Jim himself questioned how he could find profound peace amidst sheer chaos. I have a proposition. I, by no means, have any authority in making this assessment. This is merely how I have thought to make sense of it. I realize that as an outsider, with no relationship to Jim or any situation with much resemblance to Jim’s, this proposition has little validity; my apologies if this is remarkably inaccurate. Jim recognized his unique willingness to tell the story of those in the conflict at the expense of his own life. That willingness came with a sense of responsibility to be a steward of these stories and conduit between war zones and the Western world. He had already witnessed so much; to be at home felt like abandonment. Being a conflict journalist cultivated a sense of belonging and purpose that gave meaning and significance to Jim’s life, and who are we to be angry at him for pursuing such an end?
What is the place of photojournalism in a society where we all have cameras at our fingertips?
You can run in one of two directions with this response. One echoing the cry of Donald Winslow in “The Uncertain Future of Photojournalism.” The other heralding the optimism of Leslye Davis in “Photojournalism’s Uncertain Future? She Begs to Differ.”
David Winslow cites philosophical devaluation of photography as one of many grounds that is indicative of the inevitable decline of photojournalism. Philosophical devaluation suggests a lack of vision and a decay in the “caliber of journalism and the caliber of photography.” This philosophical devaluation is only expedited by the fact that we all have cameras at our fingertips. Furthermore, he notes the “advent of a global communications network” that does not endorse a photographer’s proper pay. Conversely, Leslye Davis understands these cameras as bringing more opportunity for each of us to “be the authors and tell our stories.” Historically, photojournalism has been inaccessible to minorities, women, and foreigners; however, phones (with their cameras, recording tools, online connections, and a constant stream of inspiration and information) give anyone the tools and resources to tell their story. There is great value in this empowerment. By employing people within their context, stories are more likely to be insightful and representative of actual reality. This belief is rooted in the sentiment conveyed by Ansel Adams in the following statement: “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
Going forward, what do you think will happen to photojournalism?
I honestly have no clue. But, I do think that it will continue to be an important component of journalism. We would all be wise to take Leslye Davis’s advice: “…things are always going to be changing. Change with them.” We can all find comfort in knowing that “there are always going to be stories to tell. Maybe right now more than ever before.”