Thoughts on Reporting: Texas Floods 2016 Photojournalism

One of the most effective mediums in reporting is photography. Since the dawn of cameras, people want to visually see the news that they read about. Visuals can completely define a moment more than words can. For example, photos of firefighters on 9/11 or of John F. Kennedy’s son after the tragic death of his father have completely defined the emotions of an event taking place in time. Photojournalism has further extended the power of the pen. It has allowed a better understanding of the world because anybody can look at a picture to feel emotion.

In terms of this post, I’ve recently been taking a look at many different photos from the recent flooding down in Texas. Some of these photos have given me a complete understanding of feelings down there. The photojournalism work done by reporters have been great for this event and I’d like to discuss that. These photos are fantastic in terms of defining the situation.

http://www.nbcnews.com/slideshow/record-high-floods-leave-thousands-displaced-texas-n585451

Clicking on this link, you’ll see 17 photos from the Texas floods. You’ll see rescue teams, victims, destroyed roads, destroyed homes, animals, and lots of water. In the 17 photos, a lot of them are scene-setters to sort of display the magnitude of the floods. As I said, there are really some brilliant photographs here. The colors and lighting are all worked with effectively. To take effective daytime photos, the ISO on the camera was low and the aperture was high which creates a vibrant effect on nature. Nighttime photos are the opposite.

But if I wanted to get picky, which I’m about to do, I’d say that there is a lack of portrait photos. Now, there can be an explanation for why that is, so let’s explore that.

A reason why there isn’t a portrait photo here is due to the fact that the story tellers decided not to focus on one person. Some of the shots of families or of rescue workers could be considered portraits, but there are no tight-faced shots. This story by NBC News from the link I posted above seems to focus moreover upon the overarching deal rather than one person’s matters.

This is still an effective form of telling this story. I really can’t get over some of the details in these photos. My absolute favorite photo out of the 17 is definitely number 6. You see two men outlined by the back-lighting of a car’s headlights. They are standing in the rain and are looking at another car that was stranded out in the water. This photo is quite powerful and intriguing to look at. You understand the magnitude of the flood and can feel what these men are feeling. Really, the only thing we don’t know, is who they are.

I think this article could have been more effective maybe if it had some portrait photography. When we’re hammered with photos of the flood, it’d be nice to hear from a victim and see them personally. I’m not saying that the article needs to feature somebody, but in my opinion, it could use it.

When talking about photos from 9/11, we’ll see ash, rubble, firefighters, and the American flag. Which are great photos at the times of the attack and even now. But here we are nearly 15 years after the attacks and it’s like we want more from what already happened. This is where the portraits can become important. Somebody’s 9/11 story 15 years later is a very effective story now because you’re taking a memory and bringing it back to the mind. Her story becomes a bridge off of the photos from stories 15 years earlier.

So what I’m saying, once this story ages like a fine wine, the portrait photos will become a much more effective way of telling the stories of victims individually.

For now, I think this story is told effectively through scene-setters and detail shots. You’re putting focus on the overall emotions of people and the overall situation rather than individuals.

Again, photojournalism can display so much more than words can. We learned that portrait photos and scene-setters are almost necessary to tell a story about disaster. Story telling goes a long way and has many different branches. Photojournalism’s branch has grown thick with some incredible shots of our world. Pictures last forever and that’s an important aspect to take away from photojournalism.

~DS

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