The changing image of photo journalism How the way we use pictures is changing

A picture Nick Dunlop took in burma

The year was 1992 and Burma was under the control of a military junta. Nick Dunlop a young photo-journalist comes to the country to document daily life under the military regime. He takes hundreds of pictures which showcase life under an autocratic military regime. From tea shops to streets, he prowls looking for places that tell a story. He leaves and his images get published by various publications. Over the next 20 years, he makes dozens of trips to the county to document life under the military regime there. He took pictures of people ranging from tea sellers to political dissidents. I was told this story by Nic Dunlop himself when he visited the school for writers fortnight during the first week of January. He told the story of his long career in photojournalism and his travels across South-east Asia to Audience of Grade 9 English students during their writers Fortnight. A time where numerous writers,activists and prisoners visited students at the UWCSEA east campus to talk about their experience.

The images that Nic Dunlop showcased during his time here contrast sharply with the types of images we take and share today on social media of ourselves and our surroundings. The difference between photojournalism that Nic Dunlop does and the pictures that we take is worth considering. Do the pictures that we take today have the same meaning they had in the past? They might tell a story about a party or social event but their purpose beyond that is questionable. The way think about pictures is changing thanks in part to the increasing spread of smartphones allowing us to look at photos taken by anyone in our social circle. We typically breeze through photos shared on social media taking only a brief pause to like it, with little thought beyond the surface of the photo, this doesn't suit the style of photos that Nic Dunlop takes which tell a story about a nation but require some contemplation to grasp.

A time-line of the various social media platforms that we use to share information today

The style of photojournalism that Nic Dunlop practices that attempt to tell a story about a large topic is becoming increasingly supplanted by Buzz-feed style lists of images with a shocking title and caption. These articles can be appreciated by more people and take less time to fully appreciate but they also lack the nuances and information conveyed by traditional photo-journals. This broad shift in our society away from telling large stories by pictures towards telling small stories by pictures has allowed them to be appreciated and enjoyed by far more people and given almost everyone an app reaction for pictures but it has also caused us to lose something. A single picture used to be able to change the world, now it only documents what you had for lunch.

An Article on the "New Site" buzz-feed that is popular with UWC students. This article showcases recreations of iconic pictures using lego without even mentioning why those pictures were important

The talk by Nic Dunlop was a nice reminder of the power that pictures still posses and their ability to tell stories far more consciscle than any other form of media. It showed how Images are not just something you share on social media and snapchat to tell people how you are doing but instead a medium to tell stories and show the world. As UWC students move into the future and face a new social media based reality this talk will offer an alternative perspective and show us that images are not just documents about a moment but stories that can go beyond himself and make us appreciate the images that we currently have access to more. Nic Dunlop gave us a peek into an older-world of journalism and photojournalism where people had to journey to far of countries and think about the story they were telling via the pictures they took and saw. Nick Dunlop displayed used less pictures to tell the story of a nation over 20 years then we use to tell our live over a month on social media. We as UWC students are living during a time of change, where traditional media is being supplanted by social media and the traditional way we gain information is changing.

The talk by Nic Dunlop provided us a peek into an older world before the changes of smart-phones and social media changed the way we viewed and consumed imaged. As we move into the future, we should keep this talk in mind and remember that our way of using images isn’t the only way and that they can be used to tell more than what is in them.

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