Here we go, my last semester in the photojournalism program at Loyalist College started this week. Yesterday was our first assignment of the semester where we had to go out in the community and capture an image of a small business owner, outside in front of their business and wearing a mask. These restrictions were given to us to make sure that we are well within the provincial guidelines imposed by the pandemic but also to more closely represent the current reality. My submission below is of a very friendly and positive David Dossett, owner of Martello Alley, a small shop in downtown Kingston that sells local art.
But yesterday was also when the Government of Ontario announced a state of emergency and more strict restrictions due to the spread of COVID-19. These new restrictions include orders from the government to stay at home for any non-essential activities. This brings the question of what is considered essential. I am sure this debate will start raging in all corners of the province.
We had a chance to discuss this briefly in a class yesterday (virtually of course as most of our classes have been since last March) about what is considered essential. Apparently the college has made the distinction of the programs they offer by dividing them into trade and art in order to differentiate between the programs that are essential (trade) or non-essential (art). Some programs such as nursing and carpentry are clearly classified as trades while others like graphic arts are clearly art. What about photojournalism? Should it be considered a trade or an art? Although photography includes some technical aspects, I would consider it mostly art. But I would certainly consider journalism as a trade, or a profession. Photojournalism blends those two. In my view, the photography skills used in photojournalism are for the purpose of telling a story, much like a journalist uses words to describe news and events. While a fiction writer would be considered an artist, journalists are not as they use their words to inform rather than entertain. So in that sense, I would argue that photojournalism is closer to the definition of a trade, as the images created are meant to inform, not just entertain or please the senses. That does not prevent photojournalistic images from pleasing the senses of course, but their main purpose is to inform.
I would welcome anyone’s comments on this, especially from those working in the photojournalism or the journalism professions. Let me know what you think.