I thought I’d tell you a bit today about how I do what I consider the most important work I do from a “meaning of life” perspective; in other words feeling I did something important, but maybe not paying the bills as much as some of the other stuff I do.
In photographing conservation work it pays to be as well informed about the issues as possible. Unfortunately, many of the places you might hear about issues would mean that the topic is already well covered by someone else. Thus, try to keep your ear to the ground locally as best you can, this is where you’re more likely to hear about something not thoroughly covered. Then, think about whether you can tell the story of this issue visually. This means you both need to think if you can determine what sort of image would tell the story and if you will be able to do it personally. In other words, will you have the time to do what is necessary, can you fund it or find funding.
Next comes the shooting part. Here I think its beneficial to learn a little something from National Geographic or other publications that pride themselves on great photojournalism. The two key points of this that I concentrate on are try to tell multiple elements to the story in one image, and to collect images that can be edited into a story with structure.
Finally, I’d like to mention an issue that may not seem too obvious, but is very important. Try to be as thorough in your communications with the folks you’re working with about what you’re doing as possible. Many don’t understand this business and that could prove to be a problem. For example, most don’t know the definition of commercial photography and will think that any photography you are paid for is commercial. Thus, they may not understand when a release is necessary and when it is not. Obviously, it will help to always get them, but there are times in this sort of work when it is impractical; there will often be too many people to get release from before they disperse and go home.
Finally, I’d like to link you to a gallery collection of a project I did. A subset of six of these images received an honorable mention in the photo essay category of the International Conservation Photography Awards. I also produced a video of this project; find the long version here, and the short version here.