Sunday, October 14, 2012

If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough

Photographer Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Capa wasn’t advocating the use of longer lenses; he was telling us to physically get closer — to become more involved and intimate with our subjects. In fact, a wide-angle lens is often a better choice than a telephoto lens when you want to “zoom in” on your subject.

I took this shot in the coastal city of Gonaives, Haiti while covering the aftermath of hurricane Jeanne in 2004. At the time, I was still shooting (Tri-X) film and an old, fully manual Canon AE-1, which to this day remains my favorite camera.

The people in this particular village hadn't eaten in over a week. Food distribution from CARE agency hadn't made it to this village due to blocked roads. On the day I was there, the food truck had finally arrived. And when it did, all hell broke loose. In an act of desperation, this Haitian man along with many others attempted to "car-jack" a food truck. UN peace-keeping troops attempted to control the chaotic scene. A group of troops ran after this man in particular and I followed, running through the hot and dusty village to capture what would happen as a result of this chase. The troops finally caught the man, and in a split second moment, I crouched down and positioned myself as close as I could with my Canon AE-1 affixed with a 28mm lens, and with this single frame, captured the arrest which told the story of desperation and the consequences Haitians met as a result of their actions.

To this day, though I shoot digitally, I almost never use a telephoto lens. My personal style is to get as close as possible to my subjects. If I can feel their energy or hear them breathe, I know I'm close enough and more often than not will result in a more intimate and emotional image with great impact to the viewer.