Most photojournalists have trained on hard news pictures. This is very valuable experience. It teaches the photographer to handle human situations and to reach the stage where he can predict the picture that is coming. The good photographer unconsciously studies people's movements, attitudes, expressions. He watches and waits for the significant moment. I do not like pictures where the subject is reacting to you, the photographer. The best pictures result when the subjects react to each other. The photographer is a witness, not a participant. Many people imagine this leads to cold, impersonal pictures. Not at all. Framing, focusing, moment of shooting; all these controls give the photographer the opportunity of creating a very personal statement.
This attitude to photography, I know, is basically non-commercial. But I do believe it produces the only photography which is timeless. Wherever there are humanitarian campaigns, wherever there are controversial situations, there is a place for the photojournalist, to produce exhibitions, magazines and books. Of course, no one would enter photojournalism as a means of earning money, big money. All a photojournalist can expect is to make a reasonable living. If you want money from photography you need to enter fashion or advertising.
A pregnant situation is simply an event— like a group of people, a character or a happening— that holds the possibility of a picture. But you must not force the subjects into a picture. The situation must give birth naturally. All the photographer can hope to do is capture the moment when the picture arrives. What I do is this: latch on to a pregnant situation and walk around it shooting pictures, improving on each previous shot by slight shift of viewpoint, moving closer and so on. Occasionally the situation builds up to a natural climax— and that's the birth of a picture! So the contact sheet shows a lot of little bursts, occasionally shooting up to a picture that I will print.
I know, at the moment of exposure, that rare moment when I have taken a good picture. There's no worry. I can describe the picture without developing the film. All factors have fused together—for a very short time everything is working on a very high plane. Experience is running the show, by itself. The photographer is carried along on the thrill of the moment.
Television has taken over the type of journalism that Fleet Street and news magazines once covered. So magazines must change their attitudes and concentrate on in-depth reporting, probing behind the news for human stories. This new role of the picture press will demand more intellectual, more specialised photography. Another completely virgin territory for the photojournalist is the world of books. Not a collection of single pictures, more a set of pictures in the form of a novel. In other words the book will comprise a major photo-essay conceived and produced as a complete self-contained unit. Sam Haskins achieved this in a way with Cowboy Kate. Although I am not impressed with his type of work, I am impressed by his idea, his picture-book style. It is in this area that I feel the photojournalist has most to offer. A new generation is being educated on comic strip styles. People have less time to read. They are becoming increasingly sophisticated visually. All these factors will make the picture story in greater and greater demand. Television, too, is an untouched market for photo-reportage, particularly in the impact that can be achieved by using still pictures from which to create a movie. All these new and as yet unexploited markets make me very optimistic for the future of fine photojournalism.
A lot of pictures you see in magazines rely on visual techniques, such as fisheye lenses, zooming through the exposure, deliberate blur. These gimmicks may draw a viewer's attention to the picture, but they do not result in good photographs. One photographer hits on a new way to create instant eye-catching pictures, others copy, and the result is a cliché. The idea has been quickly smothered to death. Van Gogh's greatness was that he came first. It's the same with the old photographers—their work is interesting because, at the time, they were breaking new ground. Any contemporary photographer could do better now. Every photographer is remembered for what he does best, and first.