Words are mere grace notes. All my life I have dealt with words. They are adequate for many of our purposes, indispensable for most. They can be immeasurably beautiful and graceful. But they can’t do everything.

The power of a photograph, with its vivid communication of reality, is a tapestry which tells a story, through images of people and events — captured in the split second that it happened.  Pictures, whose story only needs a few words — they are mere grace notes. The photo delivers the complete message.

Words cannot  do that. They can tell us about people and events that shape one’s daily word. But the news photograph brings reality to life, in a very special way.

The skills of the photographer grabs for us the instant, spontaneous electricity. Photographers bring reality to life in a very special way. They capture images of people and events, which shape our daily world with anecdotal essays. They cap off a collection of vivid delights, nostalgia, history and drama.

The role of the newspaper, then and now, is essentially the same: to provide readers with vivid communication about the world they live in.

Photography, with its vivid communication of reality is ideally suited to the aims of journalism.

Today, photographers are different than before — they have visual sophistication. Their photographs are better composed, more artful, and less like poised tableaux.  They are better-educated and better-trained, not only in technique, but also in visual expression.

And the field has also become more competitive.

With a broader range of subjects, photojournalists have covered wars and wonders, entertainers and athletes, fads and fashion, presidents and their celebrations, disasters and discoveries.

With their skills and extraordinary versatility, they do not merely record an event; they convey a larger meaning — combining information with emotion, even comment.

Old timers have instinctive quality; the younger ones roar with new vigor — bred to the bone and polished by training. They call him Mr. G.

I’ve seen a lot of photographers on assignment. But in order to find Mr. G, you have to look in the shadows.

In the last 14 years, he was never where you could see him, because he was always where he could be: hovering in a corner, or taking photographs of dull stationary buildings or castles all over Europe — with no people, just nuanced around them.

All of a sudden, he’d pick and feel the real subject, the one you have not seen before.

He didn’t do them to win a prize. His pictures are often unrelated to news events or feature stories. They make a nice antidote to the hard, unhappy news of the day – setting the example to the rest of his press photographer colleagues, to simply enjoy the fun of pictures.

He recaptures the enthusiasm which leads one to become a photographer to begin with.

His photo of the talisain (a rare breed of the Philippine fighting cock) brought back the excitement of sabong (cockfighting) — a favorite sport back home, where the peasants and landed gentry sit side by side in shared joy, excitement — even loss.

The photo of the pea hen (with all its grandeur arrogance, splendor and vanity over its colorful plume) was captioned:  “Today a peacock, tomorrow a feather duster.”

The prize-winning photo of the kingfisher and the fish (in a silent romantic conversation, by a brook) was captioned:  “A bird may love a fish, but where will they live?”

Didn’t Thoreau say that?

What about the changes in the la la land of photographers of today?

We are scourged by blurry vertical photos taken with cellphones.

iPad users showed him photos of photojournalists in Chicago. The entire photography department of a big paper was eliminated.

Nothing could be sadder than photographers reading their pink slips on a day, which they thought was another working day.

Mr. G’s thoughts were gentle.

“When a thing like this happens, you can’t respond with anger. Jobs will be gone. Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle as an old hand said.  Everyday, we cover life, birth and death and what’s in between. Photography is something we love, something we do that gives us purpose, through a journey where there’s storm and pain. But [it is] always anchored on the service we give. Tomorrow is another day.”

Press photographers (regardless of their affiliations) with their cameras, will always be there to greet it.


E-mail Mylah at moonlightingmdl@aol.com

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