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Confronting Choice in Your Photojournalism Career

Lesson 2 of 5

Learning the News Cycle in Bosnia

Gary Knight

Confronting Choice in Your Photojournalism Career

Gary Knight

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Lesson Info

2. Learning the News Cycle in Bosnia

Lessons

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1 Getting Started in Cambodia Duration:18:47
3 Gaining Control in Kosovo Duration:16:35
5 Truth and Finding Solutions Duration:21:36

Lesson Info

Learning the News Cycle in Bosnia

So here we're gonna go into Bosnia the second sort of phase of my life after I sort of began and I started to learn the ropes. So I'm gonna show you This is a little slideshow that's automatic. So I'm going to read out some stuff from here, and you should. Is this what? Yes. So this is a slideshow of images that represent, you know, pretty much the broadest life that I had as a photojournalist. So in Bosnia, I was represented by a fantastic new agent in New York or Marcel Sarvar on Bond. Marcel was an exceptionally talented guy, finding assignments and guarantees for me during this world wind period that you're looking at here between 1993 and when I was freelancing, or mostly on contract for Newsweek magazine. During this period, I traveled to what I think is about 80 countries on South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. I photographed over a dozen wars, epic violence and human agony, natural disasters, all manner, really of mayhem, murder and abuse. I worked for Engl...

ish, French, German, American, Italian clients, many of whom I've never met and whose publications I could not read. I chipped my film in envelopes with all the caption information written on the back to New York or Paris every week. Once a ship filled by horseback from a war zone, two regional airport where then was sent to Paris and put on Concorde to New York. I really saw my process film, and some of it I haven't opened. In fact, to this day, many of the stories that I worked on were assigned something like this. You know, situation is anticipated or happens. I get on a plane, always making sure that you have valid visas in hand in multiple passports, which made assiduously processing information. So you could anticipate what was gonna happen over the coming weeks. I'd arrive in the foreign country, make my way to the epicenter of the situation photograph it, shipped the film to New York and then repeat that until I went home and wait, Then for the next situation. Now, you know, this may sound tremendously exhilarating and frankly, it waas. It was an extraordinary situation for me to find myself in. I never imagined for a moment when I was growing up that a life like that was even possible, and I certainly didn't think it would be within my reach. But one of the challenges off this period was that I started to lose myself in that sort of photo agency magazine, news event matrix. And as I matured and became less engaged in my own needs and mawr thoughtful Mawr engaged and committed to the experience of the people whose stories I was telling, I felt increasingly alienated and distance from the stories, which is a theme that you'll see throughout this presentation and ironically, is I moved closer to the life I'd fantasized about as a young man, the further away, in fact, Hawass from fulfilling what I needed now then, you know, 10 years after it had ALS started. And, um, my question is, you I mean, we haven't even gotten into it. But you've clearly seen so much horror at that mankind has done to mankind. How do you keep a sense of hope in the world? And how do you maintain Ah, full heart? It's a good question. And, you know, I think I don't. I think May man is, you know, the most dangerous animal on the planet. and I have seen many terrible things that man has done to other men women have done to other women. But, you know, in all of these places, you know, I've also had on scene and given to me examples of incredible generosity on humor, actually, and when I look back on all of these things, the further away I get from them, the more pain I have personally. But when I think about these stories in this audio cold light of day, I don't sink so much about the violence. What I think about now, Orel, the sort of beautiful things that happened, and many, many incredible things happen. If we get time later, I'll share some of those things with you. But when I was experiencing the violence, it became very, very painful and intolerable. And I'll talk about that a little bit later. But I have. I think, you know, I have great hope in mankind. On some of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced have bean in the darkest, darkest places. Without question. In fact, the most beautiful thing I really experience was in the darkest place. So here we're in in Bosnia about and I think it was in and in Bosnia, I I was very fortunate. I met a lot of wonderful journalists, actually, really incredible through my career. I mean really, really gratefully the grateful for the sort of acceptance that my colleagues have had of me when I moved around the world. Both local journalists and international journalists have really embraced me, and I'm really grateful for that. But in Bosnia I met two men who had a really incredible impact on my life. One was Rod Nordland, who was then the correspondent at large on. I was always the large photographer, and he was the correspondent at large for Newsweek, and he now works for The New York Times. And we developed a really affinity for each other and developed a creative relationship that really allowed me to develop stories with him for Newsweek, who then put me on contract in 1999 and I started to slow down pitch longer form stories and ideas at the magazine with Rod. Now, Rod was there leading correspondent, and without him, the ideas really would have fallen on fallow ground. The photo department didn't have the ability really inside political news magazine to push stories in the same way that a correspondent did. So you're many of the ideas that I had would never flourished. If it wasn't for him, I learned how the politics of a news organization works, and that's critical. Whether you're going to work for a fashion magazine or news magazine or aid agency, you need to know how those places function. What is the hierarchy inside? You know what's the language that you should use? So I met, I met Rod, and we have many years working together, says Rod and I in Dar for I'm gonna take you a little bit away from Bosnia for a moment Teoh Africa to here too dark for give you an example of how this collaboration could work so rotten I planned going to Dar for for nine months, which is a very, very long time on at this time, no journalists were getting visas to Sudan or getting permission to go to dark, for Rod was incredibly wiling. And after months of waiting for promised visas that never arrived, he arranged to interview the foreign minister off Sudan at their embassy in Paris, promising him two pages in Newsweek to promote his ideas, which was very important for him domestically as well as international. After a couple of weeks passed once we've done the interview, Foreign Minister emails broad hey, wins this thing gonna get published, writes like I am terribly sorry usually can't gonna publish this unless Gary and I are able to get on the ground for ourselves and see what's going on. So you know, all of a sudden you have this very high level politician really piqued that he is not getting inside Newsweek. He's vain, like many politicians, ours we'll see this evening and he wanted his interview published really, really badly. So he got his visas to Sudan so rotten I fly into Sudan, really pleased as punch first journalist in there for a very long time. We rated in Khartoum in the capital for a few days for permits to Dar for, but nothing materialized. So we jumped on a really sketchy plane may be the worst I think I've ever flown on and flew into Dar for soon as we were landed, we were arrested by a secret policemen right out of central casting. Who put us under house arrest at an NGO house in in the city, and we were going to be deported back to Khartoum and then out of the country the following morning. So obviously way had no choice. But we escaped the dawn and went to the African Union base military base on the African Union like the U. N. Comprised of African countries. Explained situation. They were very sympathetic and they wanted this story publicised to on. They took us out to a forward operating base in a helicopter eso, and at that point, you know, the Sudanese just lost track of us completely. Usually get this time in their great wisdom, decided if Gary and Ryder got into dark for anybody else, could on the two week deadline that they had given us was now shrunk to 24 hours because they didn't want after investing all this time in getting visas on all the money and getting is there, they didn't want to get trumped by Time magazine, particularly now. I had no photos at this point, right on Newsweek. We're expecting a sort of five page story andare for an exclusive from the only two correspondents who have bean in this place with nine months. So a lot of pressure and no images. That evening we went to see the colonel of the African Union. Onda asked him, you know what was going on? And he said, Oh, you know nothing really. Tomorrow morning, we've got a donkey patrol donkey patrol. What am I gonna do with a donkey control? Anyway? That's all that I had. But this was what came out of the donkey patrol, right? Um, very beautiful image. I think of, you know, 2 women actually who were being escorted to and from the refugee Campbell, the displaced persons camp that was staying at so they wouldn't get raped or everything stolen. This is how Newsweek around the story. We managed to pick up a few pictures on their way out of the country, and they made in their spread without Rod, I would never have got too dark for really not. And if I had, I certainly wouldn't have got out. So you know these kinds of collaborations working with somebody with this sophistication? This experience and this incredible network was in shrewdness were really, really essential At the same time. I'm NGO Perez. This is you'll hear on the right with his hands together, standing next to my great friend Alexandra Bulla, who died in 2007 and was one of the co founders of seven. And Jill approach me, you know, one day at the Holiday Inn in Sarajevo on, and I was so messy you he asked if he could rearrange my cameras and my clothing because he found it so offensive, which is kind of unusual that would had ever done that to me before. But I thought, OK, that's fine. I didn't know who he waas. He introduced himself when I was sort of floored you. This guy was one of my heroes, really extraordinary photographer. Those of you who have never seen these books go out and borrow them from the library or check them out now anyway. Jill's a profoundly gifted photographer and storyteller and who, you know, was really I think, almost it seemed to me entirely focused on exploring complex situations and not being afraid off their complexity. You he didn't try to simplify everything like everybody else seemed to be doing. He sort of reveled in their complexity, and he and I teamed up, we became great friends on. We spent several years working in the Balkans together, and he had a huge impact on the way. I thought, You know, I didn't have a classical education. Jill was one of the leaders of the steward of the student demos in Paris in 68. A political philosopher brilliant mind on. He really challenged me intellectually to sort of confront what I was looking at. Really rethink it on. I remember one day having this sort of existentialist conversation with zeal, and he said to me, Listen, man, you you've been in this business now long enough. You've got to make a decision. Are you going to be a utility photographer, somebody who can photograph anything for a client? Or are you going to be known as an author addressing issues that you find important and lending your voice, finding your voice to address those issues? And I think that waas the most transformative moment up to that point in my career since since Cambodia on I started to think off my role. This is a place where bodies that have been exhumed from mass graves is stored refrigerated in Bosnia in the New York Times Magazine. At that time, I started to think of my role very differently and started to think about how I could best use the experience in the skills that I heard accumulated in a more thoughtful way on change my relationship with photography and changed my relationship really with my with my clients and also try and understand further what I was really looking at. Kenner. How we doing any questions coming in? I do have a question. Aziz, you you talked a little bit about encouraging us Teoh to challenge the status quo. Always sort of as you're talking through what you did then. But if you were, what would you suggest to people to do now? To what does that mean today to always challenge the status quo? What is the status quo today? Status quo. Conventional wisdom. What are people? What is the narrative in America you know about race, about gender, about, you know, income inequality? What are what are the sort of generally accepted stories, right? And do they differ to what you experience? If so, how? And if you don't have that experience, go out, go up to the Bronx. Go out to, you know, wealthy communicate communities in Greenwich, Connecticut. Go ask people for yourself, Right? Going experience. Things bore yourself. Ask questions. Put yourself in front of people. You know. I actually believe it or not. Very shy. Getting up here in doing things like this is not something that I was born being able to do. You know, I had to learn how to do this. I had to learn how to put myself in front of people in their harem, in their village or in a refugee camp. I was embarrassed. I'm English. You don't go and ask people personal questions. So you know, I had to learn how to do that, and you will, too. But do it naturally. Do it in a way that's comfortable. Be open, be honest with people and go and ask them questions. Put yourself out there and find out what's going on. And if you find out that the narrative that you're experiencing or reading about or seeing on TV is challenged by what you're learning, then figure out well, how can I address that as a storyteller? Is a filmmaker as a photographer is a right how can I do that on? That's my mean by challenging the status quo. Don't believe what you read, you know, even if it's from me, you know, because it's my experience that speaking, go out and experience it for yourself. Witnesses any other? Hi, Um, I'm from Cyprus. My name's Inca, and I'm wondering if you had been challenged by the people that you're with in the field, Um, about you earning your living out of their travels, you coming with a camera in your hands, which they cannot afford to have and how we reacted to these and what your gift to them is, if any short, really great question. I have never actually being asked that question in the field, but I have asked myself that question pretty much every single time I go out and work every single time. It's very, very present in my mind, less so now because of the nature of the work that I'm doing now. But certainly at this at this time, photographing, you know, this violence on this hardship certainly, and there are lots of different ways to answer the question. But I would say this. I think I always felt that my motivation, waas good doesn't mean I got everything right at all and I would say many times I didn't. But I think I tried very hard to do the right thing. I tried very hard to understand what was going on with some new ones. I did ask the questions and I did the research and I tried to publicize what I thought was going on in the best way that I could at the time, whether I would do it the same way now or not, I don't know, but I tried, and I also figured that if not me, But if we, the media, weren't there, if people weren't telling these stories, then where would these stories live? Would they be for gotten? No. And although I think it's fair to say that most of the photographs I took didn't change anything, some of them along with all the work that my colleagues were producing everybody the totality of the media presence may be moved some things forward in some places, and I think that was that was a good thing in some of these places. We failed totally in Iraq, right? I would say deliberately in some cases, and I'll get on to that a little bit later. But, you know, I think generally I think that my motivation was good. I was trying to do do the right thing, but it's a really good question, and you need to ask yourself that all the time. You know, a long time. So you know what is your motivation? Ask yourself often like daily, you know, on there are times when you won't photograph things. I didn't photograph certain things because I just felt that they shouldn't be fatter craft. It wasn't necessary to photograph something because I could express what I needed to express to you the audience without photographing that particular person in that particular condition. So you know, your success is often defined by your own standards, not by others. Don't be afraid to do your own thing. Don't be afraid to make your own photographs in your own way. Seek out collaboration and mentorship absorbed criticism. Criticism makes you stronger. Hard questions make you stronger. If you didn't ask me that question, I would never have to think about it. Right? Necessarily happens. I did, but it wouldn't have to. Don't be afraid to learn, relearn and reimagine yourself constantly. Can I ask you a question about the collaboration that you were talking about in your last side? So you're out there, You're in the field. You're with all of these other journalists who Perhaps you're competing, perhaps for the same stories. How do you collaborate in that type of environment amongst the photographers? The level of collaboration was really incredible, actually. And I think it horrified Theo editors in New York, but they knew. But in these kinds of conditions, you know, you need to be working with other people. And very often the other people you need to work with have a level of experience. That means they're going to be working for competing publications in magazines. But we would share information. What's happening tomorrow? What do you feeding? What did you learn today? You know, where should we go? Tomorrow we ride in the same car, will sleep in the same hotel. We make decisions together, we could turn after we're gonna turn right, you know, Could be a big difference between life and death sometimes. And you'd share their decision. Some days you feel weak and not able to make that decision. You'd leave it to your colleague if you trusted them. Some days, it would be the other way around. But yeah, we would share everything. I mean everything, you know, I know these guys and girls intimately, and there would be nothing that I would hide from them. And nothing. I think they would hide from me. And to this day, even though many of them are people I see very often I know that if anything ever happened to me anywhere, the very first people who would go and help you out would be them, no question about it.

Class Description

There is a common moral dilemma in a photojournalistic career based around the idea of the person you want to be and the photographer you are being paid to be. In this class, Gary Knight will walk you through his journey as a photojournalist and the choices he’s made when confronted with ethical dilemmas that changed the course of his career. For budding photojournalists or the ones who are re-evaluating their careers, this class will cover: 

  • How to build and adapt your career as your interests change over time 
  • How to deal with the darkest and lightest moments you are sent to capture 
  • How to stay true to yourself when hired for work in complex environments 
Gary Knight’s career spans over three decades, he’ll discuss some of his first assignments photographing Khmer Rouge in Cambodia through his time with the hills tribes of Zomia in 2016.  

Reviews

a Creativelive Student
 

Honest advice and insight about being a photojournalist, presented in a straight forward, no nonsense fashion. I worked as a staffer on a daily newspaper for 12 years, met many creatives over the years. You might not like what Gary says or how he says it, but he tells it like it is. Photojournalism is not glamorous. I have seen many horrific things stateside. My photography did not change the world, but it defiantly touched many people, both for the good and also on the worst day of their life. If its in your blood, the need to tell the story, you will appreciate this class. It was great! For the average creative live student, I suspect they may find this class boring or offensive? So if you want to be a photojournalist, load up some film in your backpack, grab your gear and hop on a train, plane or bus and go make images and not excuses! Yes film! It will set you apart from the others!