On the drive over to Bethel College to attend a presentation by photojournalist John Moore, I prepared myself to be humbled. I have great appreciation for the talent, sacrifice and perseverance needed to establish a career and national reputation in any endeavor and more specifically — photojournalism.
His presentation was indeed humbling, but it was also inspiring, informative and reaffirming. Some of the fundamental practices Moore shared, including attaching clear and accurate captions to his photos before sending them out into the world, could be applied to all levels of journalism, including local community newspapers.
Not seeking to vilify anyone on either side of the southern border, Moore’s presentation and images illustrated an issue that is complicated and nuanced. He said that he tried not to pass judgment, but sought to humanize the issue. While documenting difficult situations, his photographs display a level of professionalism, beauty and human empathy I believe anyone practicing photojournalism would aspire to achieve. While talking with Press Publications editor and reporter Sara Moore (who also attended and wrote a story about the event), she commented on the breadth of knowledge Moore has gained through his years of experience documenting both immigrants and border patrol officials along the length of the border between the United States and Mexico. It made me think that he probably knows more than the vast majority of the politicians and pundits currently promoting their viewpoints and opinions on the issue.
With all of the factual information currently available to us with a minimum amount of effort, it seems unfortunate that the loudest and most shrill voices attracting the most attention about this and other important subjects appear to be strongly biased, at best, or willfully ignorant, at worst.
I personally don’t make a habit of seeking out overtly political discussions in social situations, but through purely anecdotal experience — when I have witnessed or been drawn into a debate — I’ve observed that it is often the most boisterous, opinionated participants who are the quickest to anger and also seem to have the thinnest skin when they are challenged. I’m speculating, but it must be kind of a shock to emerge from a broadcast or online experience that completely reaffirms preexisting bias and enter back into a world where differing opinions are expressed.
Over the past few years, I have been exposed to and sought out nonfiction books, articles and documentaries on a variety of subjects that recall the old adage that the truth is stranger than fiction. The authors and filmmakers I admire the most in this realm (now including photojournalist John Moore) are the ones who approach their subjects as a journey of discovery and take us along for the ride — as opposed to a way of reaffirming a preexisting point-of-view.
Speaking of journeys, a recently released documentary provides a vivid example of the power of a nonfiction account of a historical event from 50 years ago. I’m not a movie reviewer, but if you have even the slightest interest in the 1960’s NASA space program, the Apollo 11 documentary currently showing in local theaters is, in my opinion, definitely worth seeing. Showing much more than telling, the filmmakers have created a fresh and compelling experience from an often told story. After the movie, I couldn’t help but marvel at what was accomplished with just a tiny fraction of the computing power available today and could only trust that we’re using the exponential growth of this power to help solve urgent problems and maybe even do some things that have only been previously imagined.
Paul Dols is photojournalist/website editor for Press Publications. He can be reached at 651-407-1238 or email@example.com