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Public Media 2.0 and the Future of Photojournalism

Magnum Photographer Christopher Anderson spoke to a packed audience of students and industry professionals as part of The Center for Social Media’s Camera as Catalyst Series. Anderson’s list of awards and recognition includes POYi Magazine Photographer of the Year, The Robert Capa Gold Medal, Kodak Young Photographer of the Year, and the Visa d’Or Daily Press Award.

Since the early nineties, Anderson has photographed a wide range of subjects including Afghan refugees in Pakistan, the economic crisis in Russia, the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Haitian migration to the United States, and the war between Hezbollah and Israel. During his presentation, Anderson shared his past work and showed images from his most recent book, Capitolio, which explores the complex and often contradictory world of contemporary Caracas, Venezuela.

Anderson has chosen to omit text from his latest book, exploring a largely cinematic layout. Response to his latest work has been mixed. Some critics claim that the images are overtly pro-Chavez, while others feel Anderson is pushing a conservative agenda. Anderson, however, rejects both critiques of his work stating, “Emotion or feeling is really the only thing about pictures I find interesting. Beyond that it is just a trick."

Anderson’s statement gave the audience a glimpse into the controversy he has sparked with recent commentary on photojournalism. In past interviews Anderson has argued: “The industry has been a fraud for some time. We created an industry where photography is like big-game hunting. We created an industry of contests that reinforce a hyper-dramatic view of the world. Hyperbole is what makes the double spread (sells) and is also the picture that wins the contest” (Conscientious, October 1, 2009).

Anderson claims he is an editorialist who does not believe in fact but is obsessed with truth. His work deals with his own experience, his truth. Photojournalism has historically been considered an unbiased method of documenting events. However, the recent shift in content production has put creation and distribution of user-generated photography in the spotlight, raising questions about objectiveness in photography. Public media 2.0 is changing the terms of photojournalism, as the public is now questioning its authenticity. Anderson’s work provides an analytical framework to understand this emerging paradigm shift.

Photo by Nisa Hanphanich