Interview With Nancy Farese, Founder of Photophilanthropy

1 12 2010

Last night I had a conference call with founder of Photophilanthropy, Nancy Farese. The conversation started with me telling Nancy what type of research I was doing and why. I told her about this blog and the research I had been doing on photojournalism in general. Recently I narrowed my focus to photophilanthropy. I had some questions for Nancy that still had not been completely answered by my research. Please keep in mind that this conversation is not word for word and only roughly what we said. The main ideas that were conveyed are included but exact words are not:
LK: I have found in my research that there are different types of photojournalism: the type that merely provides information and leaves viewers to independently form opinions and the type that tries to inspire or provoke specific opinions. What category would you put the photographs representing nonprofits in?
NF: What you are talking about is the difference between editorial journalism and objective journalism. It is impossible for anyone to be truly objective because people are all naturally biased, but objective [photo] journalism tries to provide only information, void of opinions. Editorial journalism is basically an opinion page in which an author can simultaneously provide information and express their opinion on this information. Newspapers like the New York Times have distinctly different sections for both forms of Journalism. It used to be really clear which was which, but in today’s journalism world, it becomes very vague. Fox News was specifically the first type of news provider that started to exploit this distinction. Today there are so many blogs that are so easily accessible on the internet that claim to provide information but are in fact editorial journalism. The older generation is seemingly much more aware of the distinction between editorial and objective journalism as opposed to the younger generation filled with people like you, people who grew up in a world of blogs and biased news reports. So, to answer your question, the photos representing nonprofits fall into neither category. The photos are trying to make people learn more and about the nonprofit that the photo is representing which is more so something called advocacy. Advocacy is closer to marketing and our photos can kind of parallel with a radio or television ad. Photophilanthropy’s objective is to get skilled photographers to shoot photos that will draw people in and inspire them to find out more about the non-profit. Photographers shooting on behalf of a nonprofit are not journalists; they are just advocates using photojournalism techniques.
LK: I know you photograph for some non-profits and I was wondering what you think about when you are capturing the image that will represent them? What are you striving to achieve with your photograph and how are you setting yourself up to achieve this? What have you found, in your experience, to be the most powerful type of image? Why do you consider this image to be so powerful?
NF: When I am shooting I try to capture moments that would have otherwise been missed because they go by so quickly. A gesture of some sort is what I am talking about; things that flash by so quickly that there is not really time to think about it. Photography can freeze these beautiful and significant gestures that are hard to catch and actually understand with the naked eye. This frozen gesture will hopefully lure people and create an emotional connection. That is my major goal: to create an image that will be remembered and convey something emotional. Aesthetically I concentrate a lot on lighting and color.
LK: What about the feedback you have received from the nonprofits that have been aided by photographers affiliated with Photophilanthropy? Did the photographs make a difference? How did they make a difference?
NF: In the world of nonprofits, the truth is that while there are large and prominent ones making big differences in the world, most nonprofits are teeny tiny and are trying to do the same thing. They don’t really have enough money or resources to be able to adequately represent their organization. We have received a lot of positive feedback from both the large and small nonprofits. Both types use the photographs in various ways: books, marketing, etc. But it has made a difference in how the non-profits communicate with public.

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One response

5 12 2010
Mister Fischer

Wow! What a great interview. You asked excellent questions and the answers you got are rich and thought-provoking. The distinction she makes between objective photojournalism and editorial photojournalism–and then advocacy photojournalism are quite useful…though the photos of hers you include on the next post blur the lines a bit for me, depending on what you focus on in her images and how much of the context we know.

I hope you don’t drop this interest when we move on from this project. It’s clear over the course of the blogging that you have keen insights about photography and about the ways that photos work in the world. Keep writing about this (and thinking about it), even if it’s only now and then. Your blog deserves a wider readership, and we should think about how to make this possible. I’m glad you’ve stuck with it; what you’ve accomplished here is important, and I’ve enjoyed reading every entry.

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