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March 24th, 2009

Ed Kashi: Travels in India 6

Posted by Ed Kashi

During his trip to India in January, Ed pondered a few pressing questions he faces as a photojournalist: how to balance work and family, the danger of exploiting your subjects, and how to connect across cultural divides. In this final post from that trip, he asks hard questions about who will support documentary photography in the future. Don’t miss his upcoming posts about teaching workshops and the pitfalls of perpetual motion.
©Ed Kashi

An image from Ed's "Curse of the Black Gold" project, which leverages years worth of multimedia content to raise awareness about the tragic effects of the oil companies in the area. ©Ed Kashi


Photojournalism and the documentary tradition is alive and well, but like Frank Zappa once said about jazz, “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.” The question I constantly confront is, how do we move this medium forward into the new millennium, keeping it fresh, alive, relevant and growing? We cannot let the digital revolution destroy the magical powers of still photography. I firmly believe we are in a period of transcendent growth and opportunity. How do we reinvent still photography in the digital age and prove the naysayers wrong?

Having the patience and time to produce in-depth, meaningful work is of utmost importance — but now without the support of magazines, how do we continue? We cannot allow the economic and political shifts in media to destroy our ability to get out into the world to tell stories people want to hear and see. We’ve never been at a more challenging crossroads for photojournalism, and finding alternative sources of funding and dissemination are essential. What will those look like and who will they come from? My guess is from a variety of places: NGOs and other foundations with specific interest in the issues our work deals with, the editorial world both in print and online (with online providing the bulk of new opportunities over time), grants from both the arts and photography, but also direct partnerships with non-media sources such as universities.

In the face of all this uncertainty, it’s especially important to keep it real for yourself and true to your passions, causes, joys, and inquisitions. What drives me is the compulsion to seek a kind of truth, to find out what certain realities feel and look like as they relate to issues and themes that matter to me personally. Now when I translate those situations into stories, they are no longer only visual — instead they include all the elements of storytelling. Still images are the basis for these stories and the structure for my explorations. But utilizing more of the senses, with sound that incorporates the voices of my subjects, the ambient sounds of the situations my images are made in, moving imagery to give more visual dimension to the subjects and place, and finally music…that most universal of languages. Today we inhabit a playland of creative opportunities unrivaled from the past. Yet for me still photographs form the emotional core, visual feel, and personal approach to my work as firmly as ever.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: What do you think? Where is support for long-term, in-depth documentary work going to come from? Is it sustainable for photographers to have to come up with their own funding for that work?


  1. March 24th, 2009 at 4:33 am

    RESOLVE — the liveBooks photo blog » Ed Kashi: Travels in India 6 | The Click

    […] Check it out here. […]

  2. March 24th, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Arturo Vera

    Photojournalism is failing to inspire. And inspiration is what the human spirit is in need of in these times. Inspirational work will more likely get support over the next couple of years.

  3. March 24th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    ed kashi

    Arturo, you are correct in your comment and I look forward to seeing your idea become a reality.

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