Framing The World Through My Photographs

#Phonar – Stephen Mayes in conversation with Fred Ritchin

In yesterdays session I listened to a conversation with Fred Ritchin, Stephen Mayes and Jonathan Worth. At the beginning of the talk Jonathan posed the following questions for Mayes and Ritchin to answer:

  •  Who should be in charge of the information?
  • Who should teach the skills of technology and photojournalism?
  • Can the photojournalist let the view down by not providing an outlet of way for people to help?

Who is Stephan Mayes?

 Stephen Mayes is the CEO of VII photo agency, which is an agency for photojournalists. He has also established himself in the fashion and commercial field. Mayes now describes himself as a visual entrepreneur.

Who is Fred Ritchin?

 Ritchin is currently a professor at New York University. Previously he has been the editor at New York Times Sunday magazine. Ritchin has published three books called:

  • In our own image.
  • After Photography
  • Bending the frame


  •  Ritchin states that we think of the photographer as a reactive individual in particular when we think of the photojournalist. Ritchin has the view that the visual journalist is so much more, someone that can be a ‘meta-photographer’ (define meta data – in reference to the concept of capturing images of what’s“beyond”the physical scene and/or image. You could also interpret it as capturing the elements “adjacent” to the physical reality of the scene, as in the spirit or energy of the subject – A visual journalist can be seen more as a peace photographer rather to someone that just responds to what the see. In todays digital age the journalist should consider using a wider range of the tools available to them, work that can be more non-linear interactive technology such as sound and video. Journalist using these tools can be considered as a hyper-photographer. The problem is that there is now a diminishing sense that the new media is telling us things of importance, and the public are less willing to pay for it meaning that older models of mainstream conventional media in imploding.


  • With the rise of camera phone everyone has the possibility of becoming a citizen journalist, if they’re in the right place at the right time. For example in the 7/7 bombings in London, the most powerful images to come from that day were not the images from the professionals, it was the content from the citizens who were trapped in the underground that were most powerful. However Ritchin says we need the professionals to prioritise and filter the most important content and put it all together. ( the editors role )The notion of citizen journalism is that people have the need to know information in timely matter. With new platforms such as twitter, news can quickly be shared across different audiences because of the inquisitive nature of the human being. An example of this in my own life, was the news that Fabrice Muamba had had a cardiac arrest on the pitch in a football game. I am in no way a football fan however I heard of this via twitter before my father who is a keen football fan and watches match of the day for example. I found out these events as they happened.


  • News is to be read and understood, with older media such as the newspapers journalists were to get people interested in six to eight pages, with the front page being the entry point. Ritchins experience he knew that if he had seen an image it is likely that the public have seen it too, which meant people could talk about it collectively. Today there isn’t necessarily a fro page anymore, with most people discovering news stories online. Ritchin gave the example on Nick Ut’s Napalm girl, if the image was released today it may be ‘trending’ on the internet for an hour or so, it wouldn’t have been the same image that we know it as if it had been on the internet, and wouldn’t have made the change it did.


  • It seems that Ritchin feels that there is no entry point to the media anymore with the lack of the front page. New media has a sense of the talking point Ritchin referred to about discussing the front page on the subway however social media can be a misinformed platform, as information can be false or ill informed. The tools of sharing on social media can cause confusion between opinion and truth.

Steven Mayes thoughts.

  •  What we buy has shaped the form of documentary and news that we see, the structures of the magazines and what we see on tv has shaped the styles that we are used to seeing. There has been an issue of generating commercial constraints against how new is now gathered and contextualised and distributed. We can now reinvent how news work as everything is free of commerce. This could be a massive problem YET a big opportunity. Structure of magazines and the photo essay was born through technology, part of the commercial process. This is not to say that its always the most effective tool to use. The traditional form of storytelling has been watered down.
  • Ritchin talks about the loss of the front page and how it has out us at a disadvantage where as Mayes sees the front page as risky tool as you have to exclude everything else that is going on in the world. There was no way to tell if people were reading and engaging in the front-page story.
  • The chances are that the people who are wanting to make change are already engaged in such topics. Journalism is never ending in the new form of media; we have been liberated from the restrictions of print.
  • Ritchin makes the comment that news gets lost on the internet, Mayes disagrees. Although content moves through the internet quickly it is still easy to follow and track developments. Websites will always be there, print can disappear. The internet allows us to do more for the wider community, such as donate/share/volunteer.
  • We are starting to move past the idea that the photograph can only be interpreted as fact, photography can be a thought provoking medium.


Although Ritchin appears pessimistic toward the future of photography and Mayes incredible positive. Both make valid points, Ritchin has made me think about how I may approach something rather that just reacting camera to face.




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This entry was posted on October 16, 2014 by in #Phonar and tagged , , .
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