The camera or the survey - it's a choice I had to make for the Women's March, the Betsy DeVos protest, the Tax March, and the March for Science. Unintentionally, my camera has sometimes become a tool used to draw attention to extreme, ironic, or jarring imagery seen at a march, whereas a survey is a tool used to define the average, and uncover the to logic behind a seemingly chaotic event.
Case in point: as I scroll through my photos from the Women's March, I see a picture of a young girl staring down at a crowd of protestors, a young Trump supporter screaming at a black girl, and police in full riot gear. I check through the Instagram of another photographer friend (karpov.karpov), who was compelled to document the anarchists Friday before the march. Both of our photography is fascinating, but it tells a story that is perhaps more extreme than the reality. I didn't photograph my cousin, quietly observing and making intelligent comments throughout the day, for example.
No doubt part of this bias is the product of a photographer's curiosity, but another factor is the underlying pressure to get my photos viewed on instagram, my website, and facebook. In short, the pursuit of personal gain affects the way I portray events around me-- and its affecting many other photographers, too. An increasing number of protestors and marchers carry DSLR cameras, in addition to smartphones. So much so, that sometimes I find myself wondering if there are more cameras present than people. With so much competition, telling the straightforward story won't get you noticed, so I believe there is an increasing pressure to seek out extreme situations to photograph.
Unlike being a photojournalst, surveying is thankless, anonymous, and often a large group effort-- it can't be used for personal gain if you are doing it correctly. Surveying requires a lengthier interaction with protestors as well, not only leading to candid conversation, but also asking confined questions in an attempt to boil the situation down to the fundamentals.
A lesson can be taken from this, I think. A good photographer will not simply photograph—- they will play the role of a surveyor by conversing with their subjects. I like to imagine that if I become an award-winning photojournalist someday, I won't let the pressure of social media dictate the photos and stories I post.