Fighting fire with fire



Although they sometimes conflict, my art photography has been greatly influenced by journalism.

Not only because journalism is the center of my career, but because so many of the photographers who have influenced me are photojournalists. Mostly, that’s been a good thing.

In the days when I shot black-and-white film with a Pentax K1000 and did the developing and printing myself, I learned from my visual colleagues the importance of telling a story – simply, clearly, in a single image.


The principles they taught me about composition and lighting are still in my head and my trigger finger.

This sequence of photos was shot in the Chattahoochee National Forest during a prescribed burn earlier this month.

What I tried to capture, besides the basic visuals of the fire, was the calmness with which it happened. Thousands of acres burned without unintended loss to life or property.




Training the Watchdogs

Campaign signs abounded in Indonesia, 1999

The National Endowment for Democracy, a US government agency, funds a wide range of projects around the world – including, of course, media development. One of its offices is the Center for International Media Assistance, which examines the issues in media development and presents reports and roundtables on these issues.

Recently they published a report, “Covering Elections: The Challenges of Training the Watchdogs,” by Rosemary Armao. She interviewed many journalism trainers, including several sessions with me about my experiences in elections training since 1999.

Her report is a thorough examination of this important element of media development. Among the eight recommendations that conclude the report are some that apply to all media development, not only elections training:

+Coordination between donors and organizations to avoid duplication

+Follow up and ongoing training is essential, rather than one-off workshops

+Screen would-be participants and select carefully rather than just rounding up warm bodies

+Standardize content – not by forcing trainers to all teach the same workshops, but by establishing common terms and standards.

A subtext here is that trainers themselves need to know something about how to conduct skill-based training for adult learners. That requires its own skill set. Being a good reporter or editor doesn’t automatically make you a good trainer.

The report can be downloaded from here.