Perspectives and preconceived notions shape our daily lives more than I usually reflect on. I know that I make many choices about my appearance based on how I would like others to perceive me. I wear glasses when I want to be taken seriously and I wear business casual to work even though it’s not required.
We consciously act based on the understanding that these choices send a message about who we are, but do we as journalists ever think that our perceptions shape how we choose to cover our subjects or represent a source?
This video by PetaPixel explores the idea that photographers influence the outcome of portraits more than the subjects themselves. I know for myself, I will usually have an idea of what looks visually appealing, what has worked for me in the past, and what I want for my project in my head before I ever photograph someone. Add in details such as profession or hometown and I have my shot list.
Trying to cover someone from preconceived angles can ultimately hurt the creative process, but I also think it helps us establish a message. All of the photographs had a very specific tone and staging that communicated a lot about who this person is. As the viewer, I immediately had clues as to his identity and the angle of the story.
This can be a powerful tool with the ability to portray someone in a positive or negative light. I think it gives us the power to tell more about someone without using precious column inches. It reinforces, with good reason, the cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words.