03 March 2009

Q & A with Jonathan Russell, Photojournalism Teacher

Q: Where do you call home and why?

A: A combination of places. I feel like my long-term home is in Paris, but, yet, the world is my home. I’ve not been at a consistent place for so long that I don’t have the convenient ability to think of one place as home. Plus, I have friends and family all over the world.

Q: How long have you been a photographer?

A: Professionally, about 10 years, starting with small projects. I began to be more serious 4-5 years ago.

Q: What is the most important thing about photojournalism?

A: That’s a semi-loaded question – I think it is a combination of factors. Our responsibility is accurate and honest reporting. Yet, also our responsibility is to care and not just be a bystander, but try to effect a change.

Q: What is the goal of photojournalism?

A: If you ask 10 different photojournalists, you will get 10 different answers. My goal is to make a difference in the lives of people and also to educate others about events happening in the rest of the world; to serve who I am photographing, and also serve those who the photos are distributed to.

Q: If the students this week were to take just one thing away from your teaching, what would you want it to be?

A: To make it more than just about the image.

Q: What is the hardest thing you have learned as a photographer?

A: I am a very technological person. My personal struggle has been to go beyond the technological side and be more personal – to take images that matter not in the technical sense, but affect people’s lives as I take and as I share them.

Q: How has God used photojournalism to speak to you?

A: A lot of ways! He has spoken to me through different photojournalist’s work and their approach. He has spoken to me through images of great hope and joy, but also images of great suffering and sadness. In my personal experience He has opened doors using photography to get me into places and give me things to do to interact with people and, in a sense, validate my presence there. In those times he has taught me about humanity and creation, his idea of perfect love and his idea of what things really matter.

Q: What question do you get the most when people find out you are a photographer?

A: Film or Digital? And my response is, “both.”

Q: What historical event do you wish you could go back and photograph?

A: Mary’s explanation to Joseph! Actually, there are just too many to narrow down and all across the spectrum: Milestones in technology, great miracles God did, portraits of individuals who have had a great influence in art or entertainment, or even a photo expose of the various processes the likes of DaVinci.

Q: Who are your favorite photographers?

A: Ansel Adams, James Nachtwey and Henri Cartier-Bresson

Q: Besides your camera, what is your most valuable tool?

A: My Swiss Army Knife!

Q: What is the future of photojournalism?

A: I am not sure because it will be a reflection of society. The things that need to be photographed will be directly related to where our society is and I don’t have an answer to that. As far as the technological side, it doesn’t matter.

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