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Friday, 30 May 2008

Are Things Easier Now?

On May 27th I went to an event at the National Theatre called “Magnum 68” where some work from 1968 was shown, compared to some more modern work and a short Q&A followed.

One of the modern day images shown was John Moore’s amazing shot from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The commentator claimed that compared to the earlier photographers like Robert Capa, Moore had it easy. He carried on saying that because modern cameras have automatic exposure, motor drives and AF, things are much easier and as a result perhaps don’t deserve the praise that the “classics” do.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I have the utmost respect for work done by Capa. However saying that we now have it easy is ridiculous. The fact that modern day cameras have all this stuff doesn’t mean that the photographer is protected from danger; neither does it mean that the camera will have any soul, or be in the right place at the right time. Neither does it guarantee the decisive moment will be captured.

Upon further thought, the Leicas used by Capa were revolutionary. I’m sure that photographers using 120 roll film and Rolleiflexes called the Leica 35mm brigade cheats. These small cameras with better and quicker handling, had 36 shots compared to 12, quick and accurate focus and the ability to fire off at least a frame a second. Does this mean that photographers like Capa and Cartier-Bresson don’t deserve the respect their work has? Were they cheating?!


  1. hey mate.

    very well put.
    there seems to be a massive market for non pictures in the small world of press photography, exacerbating the (my) feelings of futility..i care about the end result as i know do many, but find the moments gets trampled on by ham fisted camera carriers with a vengance usually reserved for shoppers on the first day of a sale.

    : )

  2. Edmond - Not easier but a new set of challenges. Who was the commentator ? Congratulations on your very nice blog. Keep it going because the industry needs more like this. Cheers

  3. Hi Kevin,
    I can't remember his name; he was a picture editor on National Geographic years ago.
    Thanks for the kind words on the blog :-)