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Paul Taggart, whose work has appeared in publications such the New York Times and National Geographic, has photographed dozens of photo essays—from stories of civil unrest in faraway lands to a kid's first camping trip. Here, he discusses the key concepts behind great photojournalism: the types of photos that make up a photo essay, the research and planning that goes into shooting one, and the art of sequencing the final shots in a way that tells the story. He also talks about the prospects for storytellers in the Internet age, and shows examples of photo essays that he has shot for major magazines and for his own personal projects.
So, after you go make some really great pictures or you shoot a photo story. The next obvious question is, what do I do with these pictures? And depending on, if you're doing this as a career or if you're doing this just for your personal enjoyment. you've got, you know, a shoebox full of photographs and now you've gotta go do something with it. When I first started out in this job I was working for newspapers. I had a a photography agency, or a couple photo agencies that would represent me, and my images would be used for newspapers or magazines.
That's not the case anymore somewhere around 2007, 2008, the industry completely changed. Which was really disappointing, I mean I love doing newspaper work and I love doing newspaper work the way that I did it. It's like, kind of got to pick the stories that I want to shoot and I'd go shoot them, and then like, an agency would figure out how to sell it, I didn't have to mess with that. and it's not that way anymore, and for about two years, I really struggled with that trying to sort of hold on to this job that I used to have that didn't exist.
But now I've sort of embraced a new, a new thing which is just, you know, getting away from just being this photojournalist from 2002 that doesn't exist anymore, and being a storyteller. And now it's about the story and sometimes I'm going to find a client that will let me do it with video and sometimes I'm going to find a client that will let me do it with stills or sometimes I'll find a client that will let me do it with both. and you just embrace that and it's going to change again. The industry is always changing and the great thing now is I can I can take a bunch of pictures, and I can take a bunch of video, and I can record a bunch of audio, and I can put it all together and I can, you know, work and collaborate with other people to make a meaningful piece.
And then, in about 10 minutes I can throw it up on the internet and I can link it to a bunch of stuff and people can see it, and that, that didn't exist when I started out. When I started out, like I barely used email, and now I can send a feature length film to somebody to watch, and they can click a button and it's there. So, I mean, this is probably, it's too late in the 2000s to talk about how cool the internet is, but it really is the most amazing distribution tool. And it's something that I think everybody really should embrace. that said, I still love it, if when you get to see one of your images on the front page of a major newspaper, and it's a story that you really care about, it doesn't just get any better than that, and I miss that. But again, like as story teller, we shouldn't get upset about the, the final format changing, we should embrace the new thing. And there's some photographers now that I'm, I'm, looking at that are distributing images in small batch book publications and I love it, it's amazing. They spend a lot of time you know, making really beautiful prints in small batch books of like 20 to 100.
I don't think that's the right format for maybe something like conflict photography, obviously. I think that makes the image too precious and it shouldn't be a precious image. But I think there's other stories and that's the perfect format for it. I'm looking for the right story to do something like that. I would love to do a small batch of photo books. So, I think there's just a lot of opportunities right now. that if you think outside the box and embrace them, it's a really, really cool time to be a storyteller.
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