October 15th, 2009
Photography is a hidden art. Everyone thinks they are an artist with a camera, but it is only the true photographers who can make an image speak mountains. Take for instance, the 1994 image of the starving child in Sudan crawling toward a food camp as a vulture looks on, or the image of tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square in 1989. So many photographers captured major world events like these, essentially turning their job into a photography career overnight. However, most photographers are not able to intervene with their images and have come under a lot of criticism for this reason, but it is essential to keep in mind that photography careers are about spreading the image on to thousands of people when you are not always able to change the path you are witnessing.
Photographers are known for their ability to blend into the disaster that is occurring around them, simply chronicling the events that are unfolding. However, this is not always the case. The photographer of the starving child, for instance, Kevin Carter, came under much criticism for taking the photograph of the child and not offering to help her, essentially making him into a vulture himself. Carter later ended up killing himself in Africa only a year later. While photographers attempt to pride themselves on being merely a fly on the wall, there is no way they can remain oblivious of the horrors society has wreaked before them.
It is therefore essential that students looking to pursue photography careers understand that they cannot change everything they photograph. What they can do is bring to light the dangers they are witnessing and the atrocities of the world. This in turn can be more helpful than anything they may be able to immediately do, as it presents a forum for discussion on how to rid the world of famine or how to end an era of tyranny and oppression. While Kevin Carter came under immense criticism by the public, the fact that he took this picture garnered so much discussion about the situation in Sudan that it helped spawn more UN efforts at ending the famine in the area.
Photography careers are not all about the bad part of life, but can also capture other images that most people would not usually see, such as the image by Charles C. Ebbets of the construction workers eating lunch atop a skyscraper they are working on in the 30s. This is one of the most famous images in modern history because it represents so many things at once: the evolution of man and the end of an industrial age, on toward modernity and technology. Photography careers help many understand the different parts of life that they are not able to see without having to delve into a different part of society.