Composing The Image To Tell The Tale

In essence, the key to successful photojournalism is to absorb the scene through your eyes and disengage your critical brain to fully experience the image. Don't let your attention be drawn to a single subject at the expense of others; but, instead, share it equally amongst all the scene's elements and move to a location in which their interplay can best be composed, and recorded.

The objective is to tell a story in as few photographs as possible - not to machine-gun the scene in the hope of capturing that elusive exhibition shot.

All successful photographs record four types of contrast: tone, colour, texture, and elements - and it is the way in which those different contrasts are composed upon the digital canvas that tell the tale...

Here's an example of applying photojournalism to record the demise of the church, using  St Nicholas Church, in Gloucester, which, despite its landmark location, was closed to the public in 1967.

St Nicholas Church, Gloucester (via Wikipedia)
I've stolen the above image, from Wikipedia, with which to contrast my personal take. It is a good stock photo, used to illustrate the factual article - but it is not photojournalism. It successfully draws the viewer's attention to the beauty of the architecture and the church's landmark location; but it says nothing of its closure - nor the changing society, witnessed by the structure, that has accompanied its demise.

In contrast: here is my personal photojournalistic take...

"Changing times"
My second image is the one that greets all visitors entering through the northern porch (having successfully obtained the key). It is the best representative of the building's dilapidated interior.

Judging by the light, the Wikipedia image was taken in the morning (mine was shot in the afternoon). Mine is also a 3-bracket HDR - forced upon me by the high contrast resulting from shooting into the sunlight, to achieve that halo effect.

Just two shots have been taken to record this particular story. There is no need for any more...

Two possible angles presented themselves for that exterior shot: to plant the church in a morning's foreground and wait until all the pedestrians were heading away from darkness 'to a bright new day' - or to plant it in the afternoon's background and capture 'the arrival of a new age' in which none were looking back. I chose the latter, from further up Westgate Street to include the scaffold and its hoist (indicative of reconstruction) - and then waited patiently for two representative foreground figures to arrive and complete the shot.

I don't expect everyone to like or appreciate those images - that is not what photojournalism is about. If you wish to take pretty images for chocolate boxes, or misrepresent reality in the belief that what is awkward is best ignored: that is your choice. The camera can be made to reflect only what you like - or it can simply record reality (from an angle) that others can interpret for themselves.

Photojournalism is not about producing images that others will 'like' - it is about producing images that, like a well written article, provoke their viewers to think.

'Are the foreground figures gay?' 'Has the church been abandoned in the wake of its approval for same-sex marriage?' 'Looking back, is the future heading away from the light of the church; or was its halo just an illusion?'

Who knows? I didn't pose the foreground figures, or inquire of their sexual persuasion. They were just visually representative of the now obligatory nod to minority lifestyles that Political Correctness has forced upon the media - providing their proponents, like those two figures, with far more attention than their numbers actually deserve.

It's just a snapshot - open to personal interpretation. Its viewers are invited to mentally replace the foreground figures with any others of their choosing, to seek a different explanation for themselves.

Just like a traditional magazine article, or a news story written-up by a journalist: there is always the author's chosen angle to be considered from what was, actually, carefully composed...

The back story

While I was examining the church's interior, a small band of tourists, led by a knowledgeable guide, were quickly joined by a noisy, loud-mouthed 'presenter' and his crew - who rapidly set about arranging a number of large speakers and an audio deck to accompany the large projection screen that they had seemingly erected the previous day (directly in front of the altar).

Why one should need a battery of large, ponderous, electronic speakers to address the interior of a small church, specifically built for the purpose of conducting natural acoustics, was unclear - but it soon became apparent that the equally ponderous and self-inflated ego of the crew's gesticulating leader probably needed the electronic features of the mixing deck to produce the dulcet tones required for his presentation. In a high-pitched, wailing, authoritarian voice (reminiscent of pretentious amateur theatrical producers) the queen bee demanded that the guide and his small band of tourists be gone while his workers set-up the equipment for an approaching 11 o'clock lecture.

Unapologetically, he explained that a large number of people were expected, in 15 minutes, to be blessed with the results of his own research into the building.

Strangely, I received no similar instructions (woe betide the bastard had he tried); but it was not until some moments later, as I was packing the Nikon back into my sling bag, that the obvious surprise upon the presenter's face indicated why...

I had been wearing a black photographer's vest and had the Nikon draped around my neck when he had first seen me - so what else could I be but a press photographer, duly despatched in answer to his PR release to glorify the importance of his public lecture for prosperity?

I couldn't help smiling as I left - and I couldn't help hanging around for another 20 minutes, outside, to see how many might turn-up to see his performance; but it was all in vain.

No one showed! No Press; and no audience to gratify the queen bee's expectations.

Just like the building he had apparently researched: no one was interested in the story he had to tell.

I had stayed-on for only one purpose: to capture the altar scene that the guide had been disrespectfully denied from showing to his followers. If you were one of those tourists, or a very late arrival to the pretentious presentation whose projection screen prevented you from seeing the most splendid part of the St Nicholas gloomy interior (that your guide was purposely leaving to last): this particular shot is for you. (Email me for a free high quality version)...

"In Memory"
Why on earth would a researcher choose to obscure such a view, if not to ensure that he, and not his subject, should receive all the attention?

Changing times, huh?

Different views...