The BBC isn’t very popular with professional photographers these days. The corporation’s frequent invitations to the public to send in their own pictures has annoyed editorial photographers. And their call for stock photos to make up for their own poor library irritated stock photographers.
But take a look at the section on the BBC’s news site dedicated to stills, and you can almost forgive them. Not only is the fact that they’ve actually set aside a page just for the power of photography worth praising, but the images they show can provide great lessons for anyone who wants to move from creating single images to sequences that tell a story.
Skip quickly through the Day In Pictures, a daily selection of agency images, and look closely at the series called “In Pictures”.
A recent sequence, for example, showed the life of a roadside cook in Nigeria. The first shot introduced us to the subject with a portrait, before the remaining pictures showed how she worked, the food she sells, the people she knows and finally, her family.
Each picture also came with a long textual description. The result was a complete report that revealed the life of one person most people would never meet.
Or if they would meet them, wouldn’t think too much about.
And that’s the point. You don’t need to go to Lagos to create pictures like these. There’s no reason why you couldn’t ask to shadow a local panhandler for a day, a car park attendant or a day-laborer. As long as people who see the pictures would recognize their type and be interested in their lives, you’ll have a story that people will want to look at.
You can find a subject, shoot for a day and ask questions to create the textual description. Then follow the structure laid out by the BBC to make the story.
To put the images in front of people, you can either hawk them around galleries, or begin by putting them on dedicated websites and marketing them separately.
You don’t have to wait for a commission to become a photojournalist; you just have to take pictures.
[tags] bbc, citizen photojournalism [/tags]