Over the last 2 weeks, I filled in for my mentor and former photojournalism professor, Kenn Bisio, at Metro State College of Denver. It was an entry level class into photojournalism. I think I taught as much as I learned from the students.
Photojournalism is a learning career. Almost everyday I am presented with a new photographic problem that I need to solve. Being in the classroom again was definitely a learning experience. I learned a lot from looking through the PJ 2600 students’ work. I saw the beginnings of great story telling opportunities. I saw the frustration of trying to come up with a unique story idea. “Everything has already been shot,” a student (you know who you are) said last night during a critique. I replied, “yes, but not by you.” And the student who said that will probably have one of the most interesting stories of the class.
I think something that we all learned in class last night was how to feel, how to identify with our subjects and build a relationship that allows us to make great pictures with them. We learned that we need to convey with pictures to our audience what our subjects feel and experience. Some of the students have experienced things personally that I will only ever read about or see in the news. They will be more successful at story telling because of this. When they say, “I know how that feels,” they really will.
We looked at 2 great photo stories. Both were Pulitzer prize winners and both were from photographers that worked at great papers in Colorado. I probably should not have set the bar so high and perhaps it should have been something a little less serious. But the point I was trying to make was that these stories all contained an opening shot, a closing shot and supporting images in between. They also could stand alone without words. The pictures tell the story.
I think one of the most surprising things was how many students were actually in the class and how many students turned in the work. From what I understand there are more journalism majors at Metro State than there ever have been. How is it that a career that is in transition right now, that is so unstable has attracted so many people? It gives me a little bit of hope for the future that the tradition of story telling will prevail from these trying times. I’m not really sure what form that might be but the important part is that it will still be there. People will still crave information, stories will still need to be told and we will still produce that content.
Will I ever teach again? At this point I am not sure. There is a lot I want to accomplish before I can give a definitive answer. It’s a question that will be in the back of my mind. I’m not sure anyone will be able to sit through a critique from me for a while.