Here's two really super pieces that are worth a look.
Bill Eppridge, one of the most talented people to ever pick up a camera, talks about his experience covering Woodstock for Life on the New York Times' Lens blog.
Photographer Andrew Hetherington, of WTJ gets an insider's look at producing a big shoot from Wired's creative director Scott Dadich.
I learned a little something from both.
Kenneth Jarecke/Contact Press Images
I did a commercial job a few months back that's just been released. You can see the online campaign on Conde Net right here.
My job was to make behind-the-scene images of the restaurant and of the portrait session of Nobu Matsuhisa, which was done by Jonas Karlson.
It was a pretty big production from my point of view. Two photographers, two video crews, lots of busy people running around, and probably the best craft services in the history of craft services.
Below is my contribution to the effort.
You can find some of my favorites (I could only get it down to 48, sorry for that) on my website here.
Kenneth Jarecke, Contact Press Images
Ultimately, there is no "new" language when it comes to communicating visually. It's taken humanity, I don't know, around the time of the first cave drawings until now to develop what we are using today. To throw away that collective eye, the way humans see and interpret two dimensional images, is the written word equivalent of trying to decipher hieroglyphics without using the Rosetta Stone.
What you are doing as a photographer, when you venture to far beyond the subconscious visual guidelines that are embedded into humans (from birth) is the verbal equivalent of speaking in Atlantean.
Not only will you fail to get your message across, people will think you're crazy.
Richard Avedon, Dovima with Elephants
This visual language is learned by exposure to images, in the same way a spoken language is learned by hearing it.
If you're growing up in Mexico, you don't need to know you're speaking Spanish, you just know that you are communicating, sharing ideas with people around you.
Note: Just as there's a difference in the Spanish spoken in Mexico and the Spanish spoken in Spain, there are differences in regional visual languages also. Obviously I speak a more "western" dialect. Thankfully, people are people, and the visual language is a lot more universal then other types.
It doesn't matter if you know you speak the (visual) language or not. You're still using it everyday. When a photographer goes too far, people think they're either crazy or lying.
Which is a big concern when working in the photojournalistic tradition.
Sandro Botechelli, Venus Rising
Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't push the envelope now and then. There might be a time to use the digital version of cross-processing, but it's a slippery slope, and you run the very real risk of cheapening your work.
Like right now, I can say WTF's up with the Botechelli, and everyone gets it. But if I were to write a whole post in texting-speak it wouldn't take long for it to become meaningless.
So that's where we are at. The folks in charge largely get the problem when it comes to words (you wouldn't see TIME publish a whole issue without using any vowels), but somehow they are clueless when it comes to the image.
Which is ironic. At some point I realized...yeah, yeah, back in the dinosaur days, that the reason TIME (just one example, not throwing too many stones here) spent so much money on photography was not to get the absolute best image possible, but to get the absolutely best image possible that supported what the words were saying.
Yes, the editors (at least the word guys) believed on some level that the camera didn't lie, so if the words and photos matched, then the words must be true.
Not that this knowledge made it any easier when the wrong images were used... but I'm getting sidetracked.
It comes down to content. Real images of real events, and I'm not overly a stickler on this either. A hand with a cigarette hanging out of a truck window is enough to communicate to me that the big bossman is in town, even if it is holga(ed) up a little bit.
Just don't turn the woman living in a Haitian slum into a cartoon character. That's when I, and everyone else (whether they admit it or not) tune out.
I don't have anything in common with a cartoon. OK, maybe Jonny Quest, but even then just the original adventures. Oh dear...fricken Zac Efron might be playing Jonny in a new movie? That's exactly what I'm talking about here!
We've all been good soldiers, foolishly or blinding delivering to those higher on the editorial food chain exactly what they want. In return, they fired or shooed away the best of us, and have worked very hard to destroy, through various forms of gimmickry , the essence of photography.
Oh, the essence of photography is;
"I saw this. I found it interesting. What do you think?"