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Guerilla photojourno killed the pro?

Technology, certainly good technology enables people to do things they would or couldn’t ordinarily do.h3

A good example would be the home video recorder. These portable video cameras have been around for decades, but are only recently starting to make sense from cost point of view.

However, stills cameras have been around much longer, and have long since proliferated and infiltrated the homes of hundreds of millions of people.

The same then can be said of pianos, and then more recently electric synthesizers, and computers armed with sophisticated music creation software.

Some of you will have guessed when I’m going with this. For the rest of you, I’m going to give you a clue:

“The professional paparazzi have for years had a lock on the market for celebrity photos. However, now that we’re all armed with camera phones and tools like Flickr and Twitter, the game is changing. They face a lot of competition. Just wait until the image quality starts to get more sophisticated.”

Would it surprise you if I disagreed with Steve Rubel? Popular though the man is, he’s on the outside of creativity looking in.

You see, unless the eye of the average person touting a camera-equipped mobile phone suddenly becomes as sophisticated as the camera itself, then no matter how close you are to the celebrity in question, you’ve got nothing but an out-of-focus, blurred shot that has nothing to say.

Case in point being the alleged photo of Steve Jobs in the article itself. If we’re to assume it is an attempt to take a picture of Steve Jobs, then why the hell is he almost out of the shot?

Similarly, photography isn’t the only area where I and other creatives have little to worry about. Take music, for example, or even web design. There is lots of software out there to let people do some amazing things, and I’m all for it, I really am. Technology should enable, which is a mantra of mine.

So despite home movie cameras and relatively inexpensive ‘prosumer’ digital stills cameras selling well these days, unless you have some knowledge of composition, lighting and generally keeping in focus and thumbs out of the way of the lens, then the photojournalist has little to worry about.

Or have they?

“Maybe then the art-like Pulitzer Prize winning photographs of old are a thing of the past, and instead the visceral, roughly-hewn photography of the layman and laywoman is the future?”

Certainly, the celebrity photographs that we all see in those awful, invasive gossip magazines are the ones where celeb’ A is emerging from a nightclub at 3am, very much tired & emotional. Or where celeb’ B is scratching their arse while carrying the shopping back to the car. Better yet, where celeb’ C is punching someone in the head.

You get the idea.

This kind of photography benefits from the obviously voyeuristic jaunty angle, the at-times slightly out of focus shot. That’s what makes the image more real.

So maybe I’m wrong? Maybe the photo of Steve Jobs is the future of guerilla photojournalism at its very best?

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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