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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brenda Manookin: Master Of The New Visual Journalism

An emerging professional challenges the notion of a traditional photojournalist

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The world is filled with talented photographers who use their work to aid worthy causes. Few of them put a humanitarian agenda ahead of their own photographic goals, however. Brooks Institute 2008 graduate and independent photographer Brenda Manookin does this. As a new breed of photojournalist, her main purpose is working for change.

As an undergrad, Manookin was charged with photographing someone from her community. She chose a dentist operating a nonprofit in Afghanistan. The project led her to the war-torn country after graduation, in hopes of putting her skills to further use. She ultimately produced a documentary to raise funds for the Afghan Relief Project. That experience led her, along with two other Brooks alumni, to form New Sky Productions, a company built to create positive change through the use of visual journalism.

“We went to Afghanistan and made this documentary,” Manookin says. “I realized doing that was actually what I really cared about and what I was really passionate about. Why go work for a news organization doing all these assignments—which is great, I don’t want to put down newspapers—but why not just take control over our work and our own pictures, and do what we actually care about?

“I’m never satisfied with that idea of being a journalist,” she continues. “It’s just not enough for me. And who knows, this could all fail. But I’m just following my heart. I want to do more with my pictures than just put them out there and leave it up to the 0.1% of the population that’s going to do anything about it.”


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