The NPA Team would like to introduce members of our hardworking professional jury! We asked them several questions about their craft and how it is changing amidst Covid-19.
First, meet Richard Ellis, an American news photographer, three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, who created the first digital online news photo agency Newsmakers, which was later bought by Getty Images in 1999.
What is the first thing you notice when you look at a contestant’s photo? What type of criteria do you follow when selecting a winner?
When judging a contest, I start with the basics - is the photo technically sufficient - is it in focus as required according to the style, is it properly exposed, properly composed etc. The basics must be met. After the basics I ask if I know what the photo shows: does the photo tell me what it is or do I have to read a caption to understand it? A good photo should always be easy to understand the content and context. If I have to read a caption to understand the photo the photographer has probably failed. A caption is there to enhance the photo, but the photo is there to tell a story. That is the next question I ask myself. Does the photograph tell me a story? Photojournalism is about communicating stories about people, things, places and ideas. If the photo does not tell a story it is probably not successful. I also ask if the photographer put effort into the image creation. Too many photos are simply snapshots, the photographer just clicked the button without thinking or without creating. To tell a story you also need to tell your story through composition, exposure, etc. A photograph is the world seen through your eyes. When you push the button make sure it is such. The final question I ask is does the picture wow me? This is a contest and photos submitted to a contest should be the best of the best. Does the picture jump out of the screen or off the page? Do I look at it and marvel? Do I know the photograph did everything right or do I question what I see?
What genres of professional photography are in the greatest demand and interest among the general public right now?
In demand is a vague term. In demand from publishers or agencies? Cheap and easy is what most media ask for now as they don't want to invest in good photography. Viewers on the other hand are always interested in subjects that call them into the photograph. A photo that stops the viewer and makes them pause and wonder - they ask questions; who are these people in the photo, what are they doing, why are they doing it etc. When the viewer wants or asks to know more, that is a photograph that is always in demand.
Do you think that a professional photographer these days has a mission? Is there a mission to be had?
I don't believe the mission ever changes. Which is to show the world what you see and communicate what they don't see with truth and honesty. Photojournalism is the voice of the invisible brought to light. It is the window to a world that few know or maybe even wanted to know about. It needs and should always hold a mirror up to the world and say, "this is our world look at it as never before". As nations become more conscious of diversity and diverse issues I believe there is an opportunity to show even more about the world around us through different eyes.
Has photojournalism changed in 2021? If so, what emerging trends do you see?
The global pandemic has placed unheard of restrictions on everyone and the media has often been subjected to enhanced restrictions in the name of pandemic safety. It is becoming more and more challenging for photojournalists to gain access to stories and to find outlets that want to tell them.