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How I Learned Not to Be a Photojournalist

Overview

A photojournalist bored with daily newspaper work, Dianne Hagaman set out to do a project that would be freer and more complete. She began by photographing alcoholics on the Seattle streets, then moved to the missions where they seek food and shelter and to the churches whose members volunteer to work in the missions. Hagaman's understanding of her subjects grew more complicated as she started to reconsider the nature of religion in America more generally - including the role of the media, hierarchy, sexism, and ...
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Overview

A photojournalist bored with daily newspaper work, Dianne Hagaman set out to do a project that would be freer and more complete. She began by photographing alcoholics on the Seattle streets, then moved to the missions where they seek food and shelter and to the churches whose members volunteer to work in the missions. Hagaman's understanding of her subjects grew more complicated as she started to reconsider the nature of religion in America more generally - including the role of the media, hierarchy, sexism, and evangelism. She found that she had to change the way she photographed and, more important, her conception of what constituted a "good photo." Hagaman begins by describing the practices of contemporary photojournalism. Then, through these fifty-nine photographs, she tells how she painfully unlearned the professional skills that had served her as a journalist but prevented a full visual analysis of social reality. This engaging photographic essay combines an intimate knowledge of photography with a critical view of the organizational basis for its practice. Hagaman's progressive liberation from professional constraints will have meaning for anyone who analyzes society: social scientists, journalists, writers, and, most of all, photographers.
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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
Packed with compelling pictures and words full of insight into two of the most pervasive cultural processes -- religion and photojournalism -- this is a brilliant example of reflective action; Hagaman eloquently demonstrates 'how work is shaped by the process of doing it, the process of discovering what the result will be, the process as an ongoing analysis.
— Booklist
From the Publisher
"Packed with compelling pictures and words full of insight into two of the most pervasive cultural processes — religion and photojournalism — this is a brilliant example of reflective action; Hagaman eloquently demonstrates 'how work is shaped by the process of doing it, the process of discovering what the result will be, the process as an ongoing analysis.'" — Booklist
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hagaman's story is one of reeducation. When she began this MFA project in photography, her training had been in photojournalism. There were certain rules: focus on a peg that will immediately signal "human interest" and will draw people to read the text. It was, she found, often formulaic. "A picture of two people hugging is generally useful as a sign of emotion... When you are assigned to a funeral, for example, you know that everyone at the paper will be pleased if you make a photograph of people hugging at the side of the coffin." Having gotten her job at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer through photographs she took at a reservation in Idaho, she turned to Native Americans again, this time in Seattle's alcohol treatment programs, many run by Christian missions. She gradually realized that her approach to the subject, like her early photographs, was too closely cropped and that she needed to step back to get the context. One breakthrough moment is when she takes a picture of the blessing of the new tabernacle in a Catholic day center. Rather than cropping tightly around the clergy, she enlarges the frame to include the spare furnishings and a homeless man sitting, excluded, off to the side. Her interests likewise expanded to include religion and, often, the obedience demanded of believers. Here, her response can become the emotional one of a lapsed Catholic, as when she describes a girl competing in a game based on Bible verses: "These are concrete and real influences in the creation of her self-image," she says. "She won't simply decide what the real her is going to be and then become her"as if autarchy were the other option. At its best, the text truly illuminates Hagaman's 59 b&w photographs and works with them to show her artistic evolution. (June)
Booknews
Hagaman begins this account of her personal odyssey by describing the practices of contemporary photojournalism. Then, using photographs (b&w) she took at missions and churches as she began to explore other dimensions of photography, she examines the processes by which she unlearned the skills that had served her as a journalist in favor of approaches that allowed fuller expression. Paper edition (unseen), $17.95. 10.5x9.75" Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813108704
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 9.49 (w) x 9.99 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
I Photojournalism
"Out of the darkroom and into the newsroom" 3
The Missouri Crusade and the Struggle for Autonomy 5
The Switch to 35mm and Its Consequences 8
Religion 12
II How I Learned Not To Be a Photojournalist
Getting Started 16
Finding a "Home" 19
Making a New Kind of Photograph 20
Stepping Back 28
Getting Rid of the "Holy Aura" 36
Organizing Information Visually 43
Making Each Photograph Part of a Larger Whole 54
Expanding Boundaries 82
Mass Communications 84
Secular Space 92
Normal Photography 94
Televangelism 96
Shaping Children 100
The White Dress 106
Women and Children 111
Contradictions 112
Faith Healing 124
"Easy" Targets 134
III What Am I Looking At?
"I intended the photographs to embody the analysis" 138
Finding the Vocabulary 139
Notes 148
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