Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Ed Kashi - In The Thick Of It All
Amidst a revolution in the fundamental nature of photojournalism, Ed Kashi stands as the quintessential next-generation storyteller
Exploiting digital tools to capture images and disseminate them to a network of more than 40 million people has changed the kind of journalism Kashi practices: “My projects on the wounded vets in Iraq and the Aging in America project are examples of an aspect of my work that's very important to me, and that's advocacy journalism, in that there's no objectivity. I might be advocating solutions or pointing out problems and even sometimes a political point of view, but there's an ever-increasing proportion of my work that simply has no objectivity. I absolutely have an agenda that I'm trying to talk about, preach about, and I want to use my photographs, video and audio to wake people up and to teach them.
“Increasingly, my work is about trying to make change, to impact and to influence people, not to just create beautiful photographs. Hopefully, along the way, I create beautiful or aesthetic pieces of work, but it's much more about making a story that has powerful meaning that will impact people.”
The Internet Revolution
Websites such as MediaStorm, The Digital Journalist, MSNBC.com and National Geographic serve as focal points for individuals and communities across the globe to connect with Kashi's stories. Despite this global reach, there's a piece of Kashi that harkens back to the old days of shooting film.
Says Kashi, “In spite of all of the tools and technology and Websites that distribute my images and my projects, there's still this piece of me that wants to be the still photographer working in the shadows with his Leica and his Tri-X. There's the part of me that wants to be the great still photographer, that seeks that satisfaction.”
As technology evolves, however, so must the artist who utilizes them. Adds Kashi, “I can't escape the fact that the new digital tools—along with the Internet as a distribution system for images, video and multimedia stories—has the potential to overshadow traditional print media because of its potential to reach more people and have a more powerfully engaging message. This is to take nothing away from still pictures, but in today's world, things are changing very rapidly.”
Kashi readily acknowledges that such changes can't be slowed or stopped; he must adapt or die. “I can't change the digital revolution,” he says. “I can't tell Steve Jobs to stop doing what he's doing. We can't tell Microsoft to stop creating new products nor expect Google or any other technology company to stop innovating and changing the world. What I've come to understand and accept over the past seven years is that rather than being resistant to that change, I've embraced it and realized that this is the key to the future for me, not only to survive in this shrinking market of still photography and photojournalism, but to actually flourish and reach places I never conceived of.”
For example, by embracing such changes, his Iraqi Kurdistan Flipbook, a beautiful piece on Iraqi Kurds told by nothing more than a series of pictures set to traditional music, has been shown in five major film festivals. Furthermore, his Aging in America project has been aired more than 200 times on PBS. “All of these projects are predicated on still photography, which is the key,” he says.
Advances in motion image technology have created a new problem for consumers: image pollution. Whether via billboards, cable or satellite TV, video on our iPods or iPhones, we're surrounded by a 24/7 cacophony of visual and auditory stimulus. Society is overstimulated and numb to new imagery, regardless of how it's generated. This naturally begs the question: How can photography serve to inform? Does the static image still carry any weight?
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