Photojournalism: The elements of an icon

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By Clara Boesch

On Thursday, Feb. 7, experienced photo editor Alison Morley spoke about the current Mandeville Gallery Exhibition, Art or Evidence: The Power of Photojournalism in the Nott Memorial.

Morley, who peered over her audience through her professorial glasses, has an extensive résumé.

She served as Chair of the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Program at the School of the International Center of Photography, where she also teaches and supervises an adjunct faculty of professors and photographers.

In addition, she has served as the Director of Photography for renowned publications such as The New York Times, Sophisticated Traveler, Audubon, Life, Civilization, Esquire, Mirabella, Elle, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

Her lecture, entitled The Paths to Iconic Photojournalism, dissected the elements of photography that create an iconic image.

Quoting photographer Luc Delahaye, she explained that the “power of photography comes from the competition between its subject and form.”

Clicking through her slideshow, Morley showed renowned images such as Richard Drew’s “Falling Man,” Kevin Carter’s Pulitzer-prize winning photo of the Sudan famine and Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Woman,” which demonstrated the enthralling and often depressing quality of iconic photographs.

Bringing some of her own personal experience to the lecture, Morley talked to the audience about her work with Gilles Peress, a photographer featured in the Nott exhibit.

“I kept telling him to shoot vertically,” she laughed, noting the fact that vertical photographs commonly make better book covers.

Together, Morley and Peress recently worked on Telex Iran, a photography book about the turmoil of Iran in 1979.

Images of curious women shrouded in their hijab and men with machine guns exemplify Peress’ evocative subject matter.

The photographs’ many layers and dropped faces are striking visual elements that Morley explained have been “emulated by photojournalists” ever since.

Morley attested that Peress, like any good photojournalist, creates iconographic images that “ask more questions than are answered.”

Also mentioned during the lecture were issues in the world of photojournalism and iconic photography.

“Editing and self-editing takes place,” Morley explained, which complicates the authenticity of the image and photographer.

Conversation arose during the lecture about crediting the subjects of well-known photos, which is an issue that plagued photojournalists such as Dorothea Lange with the spread of her famous depression-era photo, “Migrant Mother.”

Morley closed the talk with a provocative statement, arguing that the Internet now allows anyone to be a photojournalist.

With our increasing exposure to iconographic images, she argues that we encounter “some (as) art, some news, some commercial, some have a lasting impact on the world, some not, some are by journalists and some by ordinary citizens.”

The Mandeville Gallery Exhibition, Art or Evidence: The Power of Photojournalism, can be viewed on the third floor of the Nott Memorial until March 10.

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