Sunday, April 05, 2009

Ryan Pyle Blog: Photographer or Photojournalist


A few weeks back I was in Toronto where I spent a lot of time lecturing at the University of Toronto, which was a wonderful opportunity to intermingle with the academic world and discuss China and some of the challenges it is confronting at the moment. My blog today revolves around my interaction with the students and professors, and the labels that were affixed to me during my stay.

Throughout the week I grew increasingly uncomfortable with the label of "photojournalist" that everyone seemed to associate me with. Now, I can understand how a label like this evolves over time when your images appear in publications like the New York Times, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. But I am not a fan of the term "Photojournalist". Perhaps I'm being over sensitive but let me try to work through my feelings in this space.

I don't like the term photojournalist because that implies that I only make images for journalism usage. So therefore I am a journalist who takes pictures. But I don't really like that definition at all. I much prefer to be called a photographer; an image maker who occasionally lends his images for use in journalism publications.

Above all else I am a photographer. My goal is to go out every day and make compelling images, whether they have journalistic merit or not. I prefer a term like documentary photographer much more than photojournalist, indicating that I document life whether it be news/journalism worthy or not.

Why am I so sensitive about this issue? Well, I wasn't too sensitive about it until the lectures and the conference. Furthermore, I think for me it is important to differentiate my work from news wires and staff photographers for magazines and newspapers that constantly produce very strong journalism images. My work, my motive, my reasoning is all different, and part of the reason I keep this blog is to share my ideas behind my images. I hope readers find it insightful and interesting. I clearly find it therapeutic, so I'll be sure to continue on.

Ryan Pyle

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This is Ryan Pyle. I appreciate you adding a comment to my blog and I hope that this space has offered you something useful and interesting. I look forward to staying in touch and I'm glad you took the time to comment.

Ryan Pyle