The other morning I gave a talk and slideshow on photojournalism and photography at the Yakima Herald-Republic to the Yakima Sunrise Rotary Club.
I enjoy speaking to civic groups because it’s always nice to de-mystify the news business for the layperson. Equally important, it’s a chance for me to hear the ideas and opinions of “regular” folks on our photography, picture selection and photo content. It’s a good reminder how we, as professional photojournalists, sometimes lose touch with the visual needs and wants of our readers (i.e. our “customers”).
I had one particularly interesting exchange with a gentlemen representing a local youth golf instruction program. He disliked a photo I shot during one of the program’s instructional sessions.
A little background on this photo. I had about an hour one morning to find a standalone photo for the front page of the next day’s local section. It was a lazy, warm sort of summer day here in Yakima and I was hoping to capture an image which reflected this (though, truth be told, I was ready to take just about any photo as my available time began to dwindle).
Coming upon a group of youngsters and several supervising adults giving golf instruction I got the photo opportunity I had been looking for and I shot the photo of the girl reclining in the sunshine. I thought it captured the weather and mood of the day.
However, the Rotarian who’s one of the program’s principals, thought the photo did the program a disservice and did not accurately portray the mentorship nature of the program.
I explained to him my motivation and visual needs that morning and that we had done a photo and story on his program the previous year.
Still, the Rotarian wasn’t satisfied with my explanations.
I respect his viewpoint though I don’t agree with it.
But with this conversation I was reminded how some readers and viewers don’t always agree with the photos we choose and don’t understand why we do what we do. And I’m not saying our visual decisions should be guided solely by what one reader says. However, we should at least respect our readers’ and viewers’ opinions and remember for whom we’re working.