Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In the line of fire

His presentation was an eye openor. It helped that the presenter was such a humble man with amazing talent and the willingness to share his experience.

They say let your photos do the talking – and oh my did they tell stories!

Last week I had the privilege to meet and introduce Zainal Halim from Reuters at a presentation on Photojournalism.

“Photojournalism is regarded as the most difficult genre in photography.
The job involves high risks, yet the expected quality of the pictures are
very high. Photojournalists are supposed to present not only documentary
photographs that depict the reality of any given circumstance, but also
photographs that appeal to, and move, people's emotion with an artistic

As quoted by him “Photojournalism is not a glamorous job - if you want glamour
this is not the job for you”

He loved getting questions and was ever willing to answer them and give us pointers on whats the best practices. Even when I asked him which comes first the photo or helping a person in need?

He’s climbed on top of buildings, trucks, hid in drains, got shots and how he would ran back into his car and drive away, waited for hours (the longest was 48 hours), returned back to areas to get the right shots, braved traffic, dodged bullets, jailed, been in the thick of war, stomped on his camera (whole room gasped when we heard that since none of us will do that), slept on the ground (one of the best angles for photos), met and photographed such beautiful women (none who are filmstars).

One of the things he pointed out to us (which I truly believe was) you have to understand what, who, where and why you’re shooting something. If it’s a sport you have to understand the game, the concept of the game, the characteristics of its players, their victory celebrations and at the same time try to frame the event into it.

I asked him did it help being a muslim while traveling in Afghanistan? He told us an interesting story. He was traveling through the desserts of Afghan when a sandstorm wipes out their tracks and his guide tells him there were lost in a high risk land mine area and all they can do is pray for help. Having no where to go and not knowing where danger was that’s what they did and miraculously they found their tracks some hours later. They made their way to a tent perched in the dessert only to face the end of a rifle. The man demanded if he was muslim when he said yes he asked him to recite one of the quranic verses. Only after he did so did the man embrace him and invite him for tea. While they were chatting (with the help of his guide) suddenly the man picks up his gun n shoots barely missing zainal by cms. He turned back to look and there lay a dead dessert snake.

After leaving the man, deeper into their journey towards the city their jeep stalled and just when they were contemplating what to do a man drives by and helps them restart the car. Miracles do happen I guess, only if you look closely.
The same applies to shooting different cultures and countries, find out more about them before you decide to photograph so that you’ll know what to expect and yet expect the unexpected.

Most times people say photographers are behind the scene but like Zainal pointed out yesterday its actually the other way round, shyness will not get you your shots. You have to walk up to people and ask them for information, you have to be creative in getting that shot you imagined. The more approachable you are the less hostile the situation.

Simple, basic information but definitely an inspiring presentation.

Check his website here – his photos are amazing.


Art said...

thats very exciting.. this shurely shows.. photography is not just fun.. it includes a lot of dedication and courage too..

visithra said...

thanks - definetly