Mobile photography
Credit: By Das Fotoimaginarium on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Self-shooting, listicles, Instagram and news footage from smart phones – current technology has put reporting on the ground like never before.

From the recent images of shelling in Gaza, to the ongoing unrest in the Ukraine, photographers are capturing and communicating news in drastically different ways to how they operated 10 years ago.

These changes have created fundamental shifts in the relationship between photographer and media outlet, especially for on-location photojournalists.

"The older model of working entirely for mainstream media outlets is almost over," said Paul Lowe, course director of the Masters programme in photojournalism and documentary photography at London College of Communication (LCC).

"It has been replaced by a much more fluid and open model," he added, "where the traditional definitions of ‘photojournalist', 'documentary photographer’ and ‘artist’ are no longer as clear, nor in fact relevant."

Lowe's position at LCC, one he has held for nearly 10 years, has enabled him to observe the power-shift between media outlets and photographers.

Rather than receiving a commission or being held on a retainer by the BBC or the New York Times, photojournalists can now fund projects from a variety of sources, such as grants, humanitarian organisations, and crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter.

They can then disseminate their images immediately through social media, in self-published books and through pop-galleries and exhibitions.

These new and developing channels of funding and distribution mean photojournalists now find themselves in a unique position with which to communicate pressing issues.

Lowe, whose own award-winning work has covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, the massacre in Rwanda and the destruction of Grozny, sees this shift as one that has potential for humanitarian intervention. 

“Increasingly, photographers operate as the hub of a network of stakeholders who all have an interest in engaging with the subject matter under scrutiny," he said.

"Humanitarian organisations rely on the photographer's ability to get material into the mainstream press, and are therefore happy to help produce work, whether through direct funding or support in kind.

"Magazines are happy to take work that has already been produced, and are able to balance their increasingly limited funds for the buying in of work with their still significant and substantial market reach and share. Galleries and museums demonstrate a closer connection with immediate and pressing situations, and act as focal point for events and talks aimed at engaging audiences in the issues as well as in the photographer."

He added that it was essential for current and aspiring photojournalists to be aware of the challenges and opportunities bought by new technology and methods of working.

"The internet, and the rapid and targeted distribution it offers, is ideally suited to enhance the mobile nature of photography as a means of seeing across time and space," he said.

A new course taught in collaboration between LCC and Magnum Photo Agency aims to offer an opportunity to learn from some of the best photojournalists in the industry about how to navigate the complex and fast-changing terrain of independent photographic practice.

Led by an agency synonymous with international names and 'concerned' photography, The Magnum Photography Documentary Course runs for 21 days and will include access to the Magnum Print Room, book production and a graduation party. 

Stuart Franklin, lecturer and winner of a World Press Award for his 1989 photographs of Tiananmen Square, is delighted to be teaching on the course. 

"Documentary photography is enjoying something of a rebirth, a new energy," he said, "so it's a great time to be a part of this partnership with LCC."

LCC has long had a reputation for excellence in teaching photojournalism and documentary photography, and has produced many who are influential in the field today.

In 2012, MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography student Jordi Ruiz Cirera won the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize for his image of Margarita, a Mennonite from the Swift Current Colony in Bolivia.

Ruiz Cicera, who also won the Deutsche Bank Award in Photography, took this photo as part of his long term project portraying the daily life of the community.

Another growing name is Jessica Bishopp, an LCC student who taught the basics of photography to 18 students from The Gambia Senior Secondary School in Banjul.

Her main focus was to explore photography in relation to the students and their environment, and tell a story through an image. Jessica has been selected as a finalist for the Creative Conscience Awards 2014 for this project.

For more details on the Magnum Documentary Photography Course and other photography and journalism courses please visit: arts.ac.uk/lcc/courses/short-courses.

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