Master vs. Jack… Who am I?


And why is that title not SEO optimized?

The photo is from the third story in my next La Tercera series. The story is about living conditions or housing. This was taken in a small campamento in an area of Santiago called Renca.  I will discuss the campamento and the story in a later post. Today I am interested in discussing titles and work.

I get asked frequently here whether I am a journalist or a photographer. This distinction unfailingly confuses me. It’s like I’ve been suddenly transported back to photojournalism’s predawn, with all those camera chimps running around, creating illustrations for articles. I always say that my degree is in journalism (true) and that I tell the stories with images – whether still and moving (also true).

Often this question is posed by fellow journalists. I can’t fault them. It’s a different way of conceiving of the use and creator of the image.  My understanding is that in Chile photographers are trained as photographers, and they may find their livelihood in newspapers, or elsewhere. If anyone has any further information on this, I would love to hear it.

Clifton Edom coined the term photojournalism. It was meant to describe the marriage of words and images that could tell a story in itself, in the same way written journalists used text. He held the pursuit of truth to be the absolute goal and rule of photojournalism. Even through the 70’s, photojournalists in the US were still battling to be called photojournalists, a name they felt was more accurate and gave them and their mission greater respect. I think it’s an important term, that I plan to work on importing.

But, I’m not just a photojournalist either. It’s rare that I take only still images. I use video. I use audio. Both of which add a world of additional technical details from levels to compression. I am expected to know some programming. These days I am reading mashable and copyblogger like they’re going out of style. I want my work to be seen and social media promotion is an added value Nacho and I can offer to work we produce. Facebook is the second most checked site in Chile. Youtube is the fourth. I’m aware that I’m not an expert, but I know more than most people in general industry, I know where to find information, and I have more time than many.

My portfolio stills need to be updated and videos as well. This means compression, basic html, and wordpress. I need to change the name of this blog – domain purchase, registration and possibly migration. I worked on another set of stories for La Tercera. While I had a great deal of help with the programming of the first collection, the woman I worked with is quite busy and I am going to try this week to manipulate menus and make clean html – Dreamweaver and Flash.

To call myself a multimedia journalist brings in the trouble with the definition multimedia. Is it just video or photo or is it graphics and design too? Sometimes I use visual journalist, but it’s not exactly a common term and I doubt the translation would be recognized in Spanish as an entity.

I need to know heaps of things, and as I learn these new things, I start to feel spread thin. I went into UNC wanting to study photojournalism. I was quickly introduced to the world of multimedia narrative storytelling, which I love. I love the way a narrative (when edited properly and tightly) makes visuals come alive. A few weeks ago, I was watching a series by the LA Times about gang violence. The first few stories had audio tracks. Then I entered slideshow land – no audio. It was just so terribly flat, after having heard initially the voices of the community. I love multimedia storytelling. (I do not love multimedia storytelling with a narrator, a trend I am going to discuss in a further post.)

Everything I learn, seems to require that I learn something else. Early on in my Master’s career, I had to make a choice between programming and storytelling. I chose storytelling because I like being in the field and telling stories. I’ve heard stories of people who only shoot video and others edit it for them. I don’t know that I would want that but I don’t feel like I know enough now. Maybe what I want is 2 more years of university so I can do and understand absolutely everything. Or maybe I just wish I was a glorified chimp with a camera shooting on film.