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How I Learned Not to Be a Photojournalist
Title | How I Learned Not to Be a Photojournalist
Author | Dianne Hagaman
Type | Book
Rating | 10
Notes | Hagaman's story is one of reeducation. When she began this MFA project in photography, her training had been in photojournalism. There were certain rules: focus on a peg that will immediately signal "human interest" and will draw people to read the text. It was, she found, often formulaic. "A picture of two people hugging is generally useful as a sign of emotion... When you are assigned to a funeral, for example, you know that everyone at the paper will be pleased if you make a photograph of people hugging at the side of the coffin." Having gotten her job at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer through photographs she took at a reservation in Idaho, she turned to Native Americans again, this time in Seattle's alcohol treatment programs, many run by Christian missions. She gradually realized that her approach to the subject, like her early photographs, was too closely cropped and that she needed to step back to get the context. One breakthrough moment is when she takes a picture of the blessing of the new tabernacle in a Catholic day center. Rather than cropping tightly around the clergy, she enlarges the frame to include the spare furnishings and a homeless man sitting, excluded, off to the side. Her interests likewise expanded to include religion and, often, the obedience demanded of believers. Here, her response can become the emotional one of a lapsed Catholic, as when she describes a girl competing in a game based on Bible verses: "These are concrete and real influences in the creation of her self-image," she says. "She won't simply decide what the real her is going to be and then become her" as if autarchy were the other option. At its best, the text truly illuminates Hagaman's 59 b&w photographs and works with them to show her artistic evolution.
Purchase/Additonal Info |

|| Member Feedback   [add your comments]
Chris Jordan Photographer
Whitefish | MT | USA
Comments | [10/03/04] Chris Hankins at the Daily Herald told me to read this book, and it changed the way I think about newspaper photography. Her work is inspiring and important and her views on the role of photographers and their work is invaluable. A must read for anyone interested in the past and present of photojournalism and how to find your own voice in the future of the field.
Rating | 10

Larry Clark Photographer / Photo Editor
Falls Church | VA | USA
Comments | [10/02/04] Something made me pause at this book’s description, and then I realized that the author and I had been classmates in San Jose State’s PJ program in the early ‘70s. Read this book. Then read it again. I was glad I came across the book at a time when I was doing a lot of thinking about what photojournalism has turned into, and why I believe it has evolved into something more craft than art. (And the craft v. art argument is something that is probably purely personal…) For sports shooters in particular, I also recommend that you see Dianne’s analysis of our stereotype and cliché ridden world at:
Rating | 10

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