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No Blame
Ivan Pierre Aguirre, Student/Intern, Photographer
El Paso | TX | United States | Posted: 5:10 PM on 11.12.10
->> NOT sure why I do this and share my thoughts "out loud" but not many heads to talk to around here. So......

Was surfing around some of my favorite photo and newspaper sites today and started noticing a lot of the same moments. For obvious reasons, after all, it WAS Veterans Day yesterday. Let me start by saying these images are all great moments captured.


either I am now just noticing it, or it just seems like ever since Getty photographer John Moore shot that award winning photo ( ) every photographer that has a military base in their city dashes to the cemetery on Veterans Day and/or Memorial Day to capture the exact same moment as every other photog (it could be that their photo editor explicitly asked them to go there, and there was no choice.)

Seems like the exact same moment, different year. Not trivializing or by any means bashing the work and moments captured. Let me repeat for those that have trouble reading. NOT speaking in a negative light about the work. Just an observation.

When shooting these type of assignments, there is no blame really. I mean what else does the poor soul who has the night shift on the 4th of July shoot besides fireworks, right. What else are you suppose to shoot at a press conference besides the guy wearing an ugly tie in front of a mic, right. (Yes, obviously you can work those events differently to make different and interesting photos)

I am sure at one point or another most of us have been gathered around in a small, hot, cramped workroom and said, "that is one GREAT photo, BUT I've seen it before, a million times." E.g. behind the backboard shot, Lebron powder shot, space shuttle launch, just the persons eyes and forehead showing in the foreground shot etc. etc. etc.

That's just how I felt today in my one-person workroom, anybody else feel the same way?
It is what it is though, what else can you do, besides TRY to work and shoot an assignment differently than your colleagues.

Also, a few of these same images (same subject(s), different photog) in some of the first few photo links reminds me of the topic in this Lens post, Essay: Too Many Angles on Suffering?

Constructive thoughts? (Besides this post being too long.),0,5295809.story?page=1
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John Bowersmith, Photographer
Lubbock | Tx | USA | Posted: 6:04 PM on 11.12.10
->> You must just be noticing it. Because, while great, Moore's photo wasn't based on a original idea either.
Anthony Suau went to a military cemetery on Memorial Day 23 years before John Moore's photo was taken and won a Pulitzer for his effort.
Was it the fist time someone went to a cemetery on Memorial Day or Veterans Day and took a photo? No.
Some of the best advice I got from Miguel Gandert when I was in J-school was something to the effect of, "when you see a bunch of people and photographers looking one way, turn around."
His advice has served me very well, it has also served many other still and video shooters well because it seems like every time I go to work a unique angle with lots of media present there is always someone following me and trying not to make it look like they are.
Some days you have to shoot what everyone else does, ever been to a perp walk?
Learn from it.
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Israel Shirk, Photographer, Assistant
Boise | ID | US | Posted: 7:30 PM on 11.12.10
->> I'd kind of like to see a collage/compilation or some kind of presentation. I think sometimes it's hard to grasp the scale of war without that kind of repetition.
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G.J. McCarthy, Photographer
Dallas | TX | US | Posted: 7:39 PM on 11.12.10
->> Ivan:

I'm going to tell you the same thing that I was told years ago by a mentor and friend. It was in a totally different situation and for different reasons, but I still think it applies.

You're over-thinking. In this case, a lot.

Over-thinking is good ... And then is also bad. In this case, I think it's the latter, in a "can't see the forest for the trees" sort of way.

As it applies to the advancement of your craft and career, just make pictures -- steal moments. Do not give two shits what's come before you or what will come after; it's all been done, and it will all be done over and over, infinity.

Regardless of that seemingly stifling platitude, all these moments in life have to be documented. John Moore had to be there. Mary McHugh needed her story told.

Focus on stuff like that, at least as far as bigger picture stuff like this in concerned. Self-reflection -- like this post -- is a good thing, but just don't let it be that proverbial tree that blocks the forest. Make sense?


- gerry -
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 7:48 PM on 11.12.10
->> Ivan, Photogs have been making similar images for decades.

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Brian Blanco, Photographer
Tampa / Sarasota | FL | USA | Posted: 7:56 PM on 11.12.10
->> I hear what you're saying Ivan and you're right. It has been done many, many times before. We know that because we're in the industry and we monitor each other's work so to us, the photos may lose some impact regardless of how well they're executed or how powerful the moment is.

However, to the general public (our readers) these images may still be very moving and, in their eyes, unique. For the most part our readers don't search through the Newseum site the way we do. Nor do they check out the POY winners annually, or look through Sportsshooter galleries.

I remember judging a state press association's annual photo contest one year and one of the other judges kept dismissing photo stories simply because she had "seen it before", "been done", "over it", etc... Well, I finally had to ask her, "Has the shooter's readers seen it in their town?

A good photo story or a good stand alone photo doesn't stop being good simply because *we* have seen it before... it's not about *us*.

This is just one of the many reasons why we have to make it a point to remind ourselves that we don't shoot to impress each other.

That being said... looking for something unique every time you head out on a shoot is always your best bet.
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Alex Menendez, Photographer
Orlando | FL | USA | Posted: 10:26 PM on 11.12.10
->> Well said Brian!
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Bradly J. Boner, Photographer, Photo Editor
Jackson | WY | USA | Posted: 12:00 AM on 11.13.10
->> Brian - I'm with you. I would be disappointed to think that a single reader didn't see any one of any of the images Ivan linked to because the photographer who took it may have though "this has been done before."
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Corey Perrine, Photographer
Augusta | GA | USA | Posted: 12:34 AM on 11.13.10
->> What I felt with all the examples you linked was something emotional.

The living mourning those who passed on.

Each of the photographers were feeling something when they captured their moments. I doubt any were thinking about John Moore or Anthony Suau.

They were probably thinking about that instant. Feeling and light. Moment and emotion. Pain and loss. Honor and glory.

At least that is how I felt when I captured a similar moment.

I was very humbled after the frame. I think moreso after talking with Sheri. I just about lost it when she said, "I told him all my secrets, the ones I didn't even tell my parents." The scene was emotional enough but the real "ah ha" kicked me in the gut when I recorded her words.

I'm reminded by this frame of those who sacraficed so much. And I'm humbled by the courage of Sheri to continue to honor that friendship.

These photographic examples are less about visual redundacy and more about people showing something and someone they care about.

If we stop shooting the things we care about, it's time to set down the camera.
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Alan Herzberg, Photographer
Elm Grove | WI | USA | Posted: 8:50 AM on 11.13.10
->> Ivan, you may or may not be over-thinking this stuff, but at least you're thinking. Plus, you're post has prompted others to make some insightful posts here. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 10:05 AM on 11.13.10
->> After a long time of doing this I just try and approach everything like it's the first time I've seen it. I don't really care what anyone else has shot or had published. I find that most of the time if you go to an assignment with "fresh" eyes you will often come back with something that will make your editor happy, the reader pleased and something you can be proud to say you shot. I stopped shooting for contests a while ago, I only enter them when the boss tells us to, so that doesn't really factor in to the way I approach an assignment. this might be veering off topic on the post but if you're out there shooting to win contest you're doing this for the wrong reasons. some great insight here by other folks.
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Steven E. Frischling, Photographer
| | | Posted: 2:35 PM on 11.13.10
->> Brian

Once again ... well said.

A few years ago a major paper sent me out on Veterans Day to a Veterans Cemetery to find 'something.' I ended up photographing to older women sitting in lawn chairs laughing and drinking champagne at the side of a grave. The grave was one woman's brother, the other woman's husband. He had been killed in Vietnam ... before the Military was in Vietnam in a role other than as "advisors."

Anyway ... I liked the way it looked and shot them from a distance, progressively getting closer (started with 400mm finished at 17mm).

I filed 3 or 4 photos and the photo editor called upset. He was upset that I sent a series of photos without people weeping, or hugging a grave stone, or laying flowers, or laying on a grave.

These two women were celebrating the life of a Marine who they said loved to live and loved jokes ... so they sat there telling jokes and living it up. They said they had done it every year since since he was buried there.

I thought it was a great series ... the editor wanted something that "had been done before."

I know I am on a tangent ... but this thread just reminded me that photo editors sometimes call the shots and sometimes they aren't always right.
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Steven Mullensky, Photographer, Photo Editor
Port Townsend | WA. | USA | Posted: 4:32 PM on 11.13.10
->> So, Steve, did they run any of your photos or did you have to reshoot? If the photos were used what was the reaction from the public?
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Steven E. Frischling, Photographer
| | | Posted: 5:08 PM on 11.13.10
->> Steve

I sent a photo of a girl laying flowers at her father's grave. He had been killed in Afghanistan. That photo ran small...the ladies laughing ran large.

The paper is a major metro paper with a national presence idea what the reaction was. Never asked, moved on to the next assignment.
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Steven Mullensky, Photographer, Photo Editor
Port Townsend | WA. | USA | Posted: 7:54 PM on 11.13.10
->> Steve:

Thanks. Seems as though the PE had a change of heart or got overruled. And your photo got the play it deserved.
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Wesley Hitt, Photographer
Fayetteville | AR | USA | Posted: 7:53 AM on 11.14.10
->> Steven, your post reminds me that news is about negative things in life and negative news sells. My sister is the Managing Editor of a newspaper so I have a reference. Whenever my life ends, I want family and friends to have a party to celebrate my life, not mourn my death. We are all going to pass.

Ivan, thank you for starting the post. I had not seen most of the links you posted so it was wonderful to enjoy such great photography. It all has been done before. Our job is to do it better. File the images away in the back of your mind for reference and then go out and shoot what you see. I am reminded over and over again how much more impact a still image has over any video.
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Matthew Hinton, Photographer, Assistant
New Orleans | LA | USA | Posted: 11:56 AM on 11.14.10
->> I find this kind of a strange thread on a "sports" shooter group where just about every image has been shot a thousand times, and sometimes a thousand times on a single day of football, soccer, or baseball around the country.

As far as the too many angles on suffering, the way the business works one image by one photographer is not going to run everywhere in the world. Newspapers and media outlets don't all subscribe to the same wire service so they each have to send one of their own. By having many photographers you increase the odds that the world will react to a tragedy not just the part of the world that subscribes to a particular wire service.

Also some photographers are shooting for specific editors, or particular stories for specific magazines. These images they may only go to one media outlet but may reach a million or more people who subscribe to that magazine.

And it adds to "originality" as Damon Winter said in the article
"For two weeks [in Haiti], I looked over the shoulders of other photographers who would come back with images that were completely different than mine, that told different stories; stories that I would never have seen — even being there from the beginning — were it not for their work."

Compare and contrast the coverage of the drug cartels where you live and the Mexico media. I'm sure the coverage is from different perspectives.

If you travel to the rest of the world and look at media you'd would realize that the United States media doesn't really react to many world tragedies, and stories that may be huge in the rest of world barely are mentioned here because no one from a U.S. media outlet / wire service went to cover it.

Many Pulitzer prizes have been made because sometimes a single journalist or just a handful went to cover an event on the other side of the globe. If you look at the civil rights photography in the U.S. you see a lot of the same photographers names over and over, because there weren't that many covering it.

Do you really think there were enough journalists covering the genocide in Rwanda, apartheid in South Africa, enough at the Holocaust? Are there enough photographers covering the drug cartels and the drug addicts and "recreational users" that create the market for them?

First and foremost you are in the information business and not so much the originality business and it's often more important to get the information out and make people care about it than make an original picture.
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Thread Title: No Blame
Thread Started By: Ivan Pierre Aguirre
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