Power of Photojournalism

6 Jun

So, I haven’t posted for quite a while. I’ve been busy moving into a new house in Lawrence, getting ready to travel to Spain and fighting a mid-summer cold.

The other day, however, I finally managed to plug myself back into the online world. I was surfing around, when I began to see some truly devastating images of oil-covered birds in Louisiana. The link to the pictures is here, if you can stomach looking at them. Be warned, it’s pretty heartwrenching.

If this doesn't upset you, you might re-evaluate your humanity.

The more I started researching, the more I saw these photos all over the Internet. On a NY Times blog, on Boston.com (where they’ve gotten almost 3,000 comments in three days), on NPR’s website and on Yahoo News. They also ran on front pages across the country. I became even more interested when I saw that the photos were taken by Charlie Riedel, an AP photographer and the father of a friend from high school.

Now, photojournalism definitely isn’t something that I know a lot about. In fact, I really don’t know much about it at all. But for me, these pictures, as devastating as they are, also offer some hope. Journalism, especially good journalism, still makes a difference. Sure, anybody can go out and take pictures of what they see and post them online. The NY Times is encouraging residents of the Gulf Coast to send in photos of the devastation they’re witnessing. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But Charlie Riedel has something these people don’t – training and experience, both of which he used to produce this amazing photojournalism.

We still need professionals like Mr. Riedel, to go places most of us can’t and to be a witness to history. His pictures really bring the tragedy of the ongoing oil spill home in a way nothing else has. Just by skimming the comments at Boston.com you can see that. It’s exciting to see how the Internet in this case has helped, not hindered, journalism. The web’s capabilities have allowed these photos to be seen by far more people and in far more venues than they would have 15 or 20 years ago. And good news venues have seized on their popularity by exploring other ways to talk about them – interviews with Mr. Riedel, the uploading of raw footage he shot while out photographing, discussions of ways BP might be restricting the access of photographers. All in all, these pictures represent for me a bright spot in the midst of a murky situation.


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