You must have an expensive drone, it makes excellent pictures.
You get one chance to make an impact on your viewer. Sometimes this doesn’t matter. Other times, like in the aftermath of a natural disaster, it’s crucial.
People react to the suffering of others, but only if they feel that suffering. Overhead shots from your drone of a flooded coastline, overflowing riverbanks, impassable roads are good to set the scene, but after that, as a photographer, you need to get your feet wet.
If you don’t put a human face on it, people donate less, they don’t volunteer, they don’t engage. You get one chance before the news cycle moves along to make touching images of real people who are hurting. The kind of images that create empathy in the viewer… which moves them to help. The kind of pictures that people won’t forget.
Seen any of those lately?
As a photographer, if you’re not there to do this, you’re taking up space, valuable resources and creating added strain to an infrastructure that’s already overwhelmed. Meanwhile you’re giving nothing in return.
Put the joystick down, pickup your cameras and get muddy. You’d be surprised at how much you can contribute. What you’ll discover. What you’ll see.
Okay. I’m frustrated. I feel like I say this same thing every time we suffer through an event which causes widespread damage.
It seems the media has forgotten how to publish good images and in response, many photographers have forgotten how to make them.
Maybe it’s just too easy. We used to have to rent a plane or beg for room on a helicopter to make the establishing pictures, right? The scene setting images that showed the level and spread of the devastation. Whether we paid for the ride or were given it, the time spent aloft was limited.
After the overhead was done we’d hit the flooded streets to make the real pictures. It was expected of us and we had the time to do it. It seems these days that those real pictures have become increasingly rare. Something to be hastily done after the drone work. Instead of being the shots that stop you in your tracks, they’re afterthoughts treated like filler, padding.
Maybe it’s the editors working off a script… pulling from the disaster photography look-book.
Maybe it’s the photographers they send. Who rely on technology that allows anyone to get a picture instead of using their eyes (and heart) to see a picture.
Either way, the job isn’t getting done. The majority of photographs I’ve seen from Hurricane Ian, mostly sterile overheads made from drones, serve to dehumanize the event. Nothing more than shots of broken objects made by sophisticated flying machines. Images which are forgotten as soon as they’re seen.
We need to be more excellent than that.
At The Curious Society we’re working to make documentary photography excellent again. Please take a look. And yes, we could use the help of concerned viewers like you.