Interview with Fred Richin

Today we listened to a recorded interview of Fred Richin about ‘What matters now’ in photography. One of the key topics he discussed was the difference between professional and amateur photographers. He proposes that it is not such a technical question anymore now that almost everyone has camera phones, so instead it is a question of what we do with those images. Both amateurs and professionals capture raw material but it is the addition of a narrative that captures the reader. Similarly it is not more media that allows us to create good narrative, but multimedia. He explained how this new technology when used professionally can allow the reader to be engaged in the witnessing process, get a real sense of the issues, and in this way act as a mesh between what’s within and outside of their environment.

Fred highlighted to us that all mediation is subjective from the author’s point of view; that authors of media to a certain extent diarize their lives through media. Multimedia enables us to give our readers the choice to explore pathways of the story that are most interesting to them, also helping them to identify with the author who has to make choices about how to present the story. Another way in which a photographic author can empower the reader is by adding narrative prose, thus giving the reader the choice to ‘hear’ the author or not after they have formed their unique interpretation of the image. Whilst amateurs can do this, the reader of amateur work may have to work a little harder to understand the narrative or meaning of the image.

Multimedia for both amateurs and professionals is allowing them to edit without loosing complexity, after all simplified narrative is not always what readers want. It has been said “the internet provides us with an infinite number of pages but no front cover”. Although traditionally print media has a front page, new media has the capacity to have several front pages and a rhythm of pathways to guide your audience. When considering new media’s audience compared with newspapers, Fred said that we should make the effort to deliver the news in different ways because audiences need to be engaged in a story not just told how it ends (like some newspapers do).

When Fred was asked who’s job he thought it was to reflect on film, having said that a film should take a hundred times longer to make than to view, he said all of us together now voice reflection through networks such as social media.

Next he discussed the statement that ‘subject and authors become co-authors, but we have enough curators’ and said that he would love for all images produced to be relevant to the curators. He shared the example of a student from Libya who taught him more about the narrative of her amateur images than he could possibly have got from journalism alone. Her photo’s showed a completely different narrative within Libya i.e. her grandfather smiling for the first time in forty years.

Jonathan summarized the ideas discussed, and added that as part of the current paradigm shift in photography, photographers might now be referred to as mediators. Also that amateur citizen journalists may have the collateral knowledge needed to bring contextual understanding to a narrative. Therefore we have a lot to learn from them and must realize the importance of research and our responsibility as authors. This point feeds directly into Richard Stacy’s prediction that people will soon no longer trust journalists, but they will trust journalism. We can keep readers interested in our images by using transmedia to involve our audience and avoid using esoteric language which restricts our audiences engagement.

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