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How I Learned Not to Be a Photojournalist Paperback – April 18, 1996
From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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." As she notes toward the end of the book, this is not "a new set of recipes for creating successful documentary photographs and projects." It is more. It is an invitation to learn not to know all sorts of places and professions in which we have been securely--often unreflectively--placed, and to read what is not contained in pictures or in words as well as what is contained. The book should be required reading for academics and practitioners concerned with documentary production in any medium, but it is also an invaluable and accessible account for general audiences seeking to become more critical readers and more creative composers of the worlds in which we live. Steve Schroeder --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.