My new favorite word is disfluency.
The struggling school had a state technical assistance team brought in as an emergency measure due to poor academic results so the principal, Leland Hand challenged the students to achieve ‘exemplary’ status academically.
To encourage the students towards this target he bizarrely offered that he and his staff would swallow a live goldfish each if this was achieved. The students subsequently became the only school in the county area to achieve exemplary status and so on October 1, 2010 the bet was honoured in front of the cheering pupils and a local news camera team.
Without labouring the point, it was a pleasure to be taking pictures that weren’t simply showing people dying. I see so many photographers making work that purports to show an explanation of a subject but actually is little more than graphic cliche of a situation. That, at a time of crisis for visual journalism, isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to simply point a camera at someone and say ‘how terrible’. It says much that everybody has a camera and thinks that they have a right to call themselves a journalist by photographing the nearest horror without context or understanding. We earn a dubious and tenuous ‘right’ to report the world to itself by entering into a dialogue with it: an impossible covenant with a subject that tries not to perpetuate stereotype, easy answers or sloppy conclusions. It isn’t enough to go and photograph beggars on the streets of India for example to further our own purposes under the cover of journalism. We had better have a damn good reason to invade people’s spaces and lives. If you need an example of what is decent and committed about documentary practice look no further than that of my former Network Photographer colleague, Gideon Mendel who has spent more than a decade committed to the portrayal of HIV/AIDS in exactly the way I am talking about.
Today is the birthday of 80s wild psychobilly singer/songwriter, Mojo Nixon (b. Aug 2, 1957)…
Photo of Mojo and Cindy Lee Berryhill by Harold Gee, ‘85