I am not a Visual Storyteller

Miscellaneous | 0 comments

Samburu Warriors celebrate their new status in the community in Northern Kenya, 2013 (uncropped / unretouched)

I am not a visual storyteller.

Let me type that again: I am not a Visual Storyteller.

I am a photographer, a photojournalist, a fine-art photographer, a documentary filmmaker. All these things, but after this week’s tempest through the photo-world, I will never ever refer to myself as a Visual Storyteller.

And… my work just got better by virtue of the awful truth that world-famous Steve McCurry, the brilliant mind that shot one of the most iconic photographs ever to have been taken, Afghan Girl, was caught red-handed in a Photoshop disaster.  Read the whole kerfuffle here, it’s a doozy.

Having managed a studio for a photographer during the ‘shoot & ship’ days, I know full well the work-flow wherein the photographer is considered God and the staff spins around him (or in rare instances, her) processing, editing and retouching the film. This is the world Mr. McCurry is from. One in which he is on the road so much that he’s probably accostumed to never overseeing his images on a daily basis. HOWEVER…

“Today I would define my work as visual storytelling…” . This scandal calls into question his entire body of work and that of his contemporaries. As photography students measure themselves against greatness, as they stress themselves out to no end that they’ll never rise to the level of their so-called ‘Gods’, they can now relax.

Truth is, even McCurry isn’t on the level of greatness of his printed images. I have massive respect for his career, but if this is the path taken (& when did it start?), I ask that he re-categorize his work from that of documentary or travel photography.

So I will say it again, I am not a visual storyteller. I edit my own photos, yes I do crop on occasion but not often, and use the tools available to work on the exposure and color in a photograph. I have not, nor will ever add, subtract or move elements in a photograph. At that point it is visual storytelling, and I’m not interested in it.

Let us all try to be purists, elevate the art and nature of the photograph, do our best to tell things as they really are and perhaps we can articulate some Ecstatic Truth in this world.

Edit: If in 40 years I change my mind about my statement I’ll make that public before showing any work or will not declare it to be truthful photography at all.

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Currently I'm working on my new film, Chasing Cheetah, based in Namibia; a documentary road trip searching for the cheetah in the midst of human-wildlife conflict.