Opportunity Manifest: Make Film Great Again
Anyone else got qualms with the state of photography coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? An opportunity to do something about it has manifested; The New York Times has posted a job listing seeking a staff photographer who will primarily cover the White House and Capitol Hill and be based in Washington D.C.
The ideal candidate is “a versatile visual journalist who is technically adept and open to working in a wide array of visual approaches and formats. This position requires diplomacy, ingenuity, and the ability to convey the world of Washington to our readers with images that go beyond press briefings and photo sprays. The ideal candidate will excel under deadline pressure and will also possess excellent reporting and writing skills, as he or she will be expected to provide not only imagery, but accurate and thorough captions and accompanying reporting.”
Taking a look over at the official White house flickr page and one can’t help but be underwhelmed. Politics aside and with all due respect, the level of photography coming out of this administration thus far has been objectively subpar to prior campaigns. Clinical staleness, poor framing, exorbitant wide angles, meaningless bokeh and clipped limbs abound.
Without a single shred of doubt someone amongst us out there can do a better job than this. Compare these to some of Pete Souza’s work from Obama’s administration and the difference is not insignificant.
Regardless of your political views and opinions of the current POTUS it’s an opportunity to document history, period. Is the main objective of journalism not to portray issues and events in a neutral and unbiased manner, regardless of the writers/photographers opinion or personal beliefs?
Of course in this instant gratification generation shooting digital is a must in some time-sensitive situations but why not shoot film as well? The job description does call for “working in a wide array of visual approaches and formats”; for occasions that don’t have a pressing time constraint, shooting film for documentation is not only more archival but distinctive from the masses of images on Reuters, AP, etc. There’s always the local Costco but I’m sure in a large city like D.C. there’s more one hour developing options which alleviates the need to get images as soon as possible.
Let’s take a quick gander at some images taken on film from previous administrations. Clock-wise from top left: Yoichi Okamoto for LBJ, Pete Souza for Reagan, Eric Draper for Bush II, and Robert Mcneeley for Clinton.
It’d be interesting to bring film back into the journalistic mix and compare how the images would be compared to their digital counterparts. Of course non-stabilized, high ISO tele shots on film won’t be able to hang but for normal to wide focal lengths in good light, I’d argue that the film look has its benefits. A great piece in the New York Times all shot on film could go a long ways to rekindle that silver halide flame.
So here’s an opportunity to Make Film Great Again. Useless drivel or viable experiment? As always, your comments are welcome below.