Mr. Ademola Akinlabi, Chairman, Photojournalist Association of Nigeria (PJAN) has told Technology Times that advances in technology have fundamentally changed the face of photojournalism practice in the country.
According to him, the art and craft of photography has been impacted by advances in computing technology and the Internet that have changed also transformed photojournalism in Nigeria
Akinlabi took time to field questions Thursday in an exclusive interview with Technology Times when the PJAN executives paid a courtesy visit the Technology Times Corporate Headquarters in Lagos.
According to the PJAN President, photojournalists in the past experienced a long process of hard work in carrying out their duties.
In those days, Akinlabi says, “when there was no Internet, no computers, we were producing papers. Photographers would go out and bring photographs to fix into the papers.”
Recalling the day-to-day routine of the trade back then, he says that “in those days, it takes time to go out, get photographs. When you take photographs with analogue camera, wherever you are, you remove the unprocessed film, put it in a paper and take it to the airport to Lagos. When it gets to Lagos, another photographer will process the film. You can see the process involved.”
According to him, “but today, in Kaduna, Kano, wherever you are, when you take photographs, you go to your system and send the photograph. Then look at the camera we use today. You can attach your camera to the system. So the Internet today has changed a lot of phases in photojournalism, and we are enjoying it”, the PJAN President says.
[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”left” arrow=”yes”]Recalling the day-to-day routine of the trade back then, he says that “in those days, it takes time to go out, get photographs. When you take photographs with analogue camera, wherever you are, you remove the unprocessed film, put it in a paper and take it to the airport to Lagos. When it gets to Lagos, another photographer will process the film. You can see the process involved.”[/quote]Akinlabi tells Technology Times that there are also downsides as these technological advancements open the ability to manipulate and distort pictures, but the photojournalism profession does not allow for such practices which he describes as “unprofessional.”
“In photojournalism, we don’t manipulate photographs. Once you tamper with it, it is no more photojournalism. And as I am sitting down, a photojournalist will not tell you, your polo shirt is not right, or you are not putting cap or you are not putting powder. It is as it is. When you manipulate photographs is no more photojournalism”, he says.
“But technology has helped so much that when you find yourself in a difficult situation where you are not able to get good photographs in terms of lightning, you take it to Photoshop to adjust the light. And also, at times, you steal photographs. What I mean by stealing photographs is, you don’t want the person you are snapping to know that you are snapping.
“Like when you are on street photography, you don’t need to tell someone that you want to snap him, because if he knows, it can cause problem. So you steal photographs at times, and while you are stealing the photograph, it is either bent or turned. Because you are not looking through the viewfinder. So when you go to Photoshop, you can correct it, which is one way Photoshop has helped in photojournalism. But manipulation, we do not allow it in photojournalism,” according to the PJAN President.
According to him, PJAN as an association discourages any of its members from manipulating pictures, saying it is an offence as anyone doing such can be charged to court.
“Normally within Photojournalist Association of Nigeria (PJAN), we discourage our colleagues from going to such extent. And if you do it, your company knows the repercussion as such things end in the court. I will give you an example, I don’t want to mention the name of the paper, they put A’s body and B’s head with some Juju on his body and named the image with the name of the one on the head, and it ended up in court,” he adds.
“Something of that issue, we call it caricature. I can remember in Tell Magazine, we were trying to illustrate Sergeant Roger. Somebody described how Sergeant Roger prepares before he goes for killing. So the graphic artist used Chief Obasanjo’s body. We managed to get the photograph of Sergeant Roger, so they now put the head on Obasanjo’s body, just to describe. In that case, there would be a caption that follows that this is a caricature of how Sergeant Roger prepares before he goes for killing. But normally, no newspaper of today will ever do a such thing,” Akinlabi says.
On the issue of intellectual property that is often the subject of breaches on the Internet, Akinlabi says that PJAN frowns at any practice in the profession in which a photojournalist picks photographs without permission for publication, saying it is unprofessional.
“That is plagiarism. Like it is your photograph, normally I am supposed to reach an agreement with you before using it. I can go to your website and pick it, but I need to call you to get your permission. But in Nigeria, everything goes. Normally you are supposed to seek permission, but if you don’t seek that permission somewhere else, they will take you to court for plagiarism. That is stealing, real stealing,” the PJAN President says.
According to him, “we are trying to see the copyright organisations in Nigeria on how to protect our intellectual property. One other thing we do is to put watermarks on our photographs. Sometimes ago, one of our foreign reporter normally carried stories and photographs from AFP, and they wrote to him saying that ‘we are monitoring you. You are using our photographs without permission and you are not paying us, stop doing it’. He came to me to seek advice, and I told him ‘what you are doing is wrong, they are lenient to you by advising you to stop it. Under normal circumstances they will take you to court and you pay heavily.”
He says that PJAN is looking into such matters and “what we are trying to do is to find a way of protecting our images and the best way is to put watermarks. Because whatever you put on the Internet is there and without watermarks anybody can pick it and use it, though some people can even go ahead and clean the watermarks.”
On the case of professionalism, he said a picture used in story must be related to the story noting that it is unprofessional to use pictures that are not related to stories.
“It is unprofessional. But if you look at this way, we have magazine and we have tabloid daily newspapers. They can use any photograph to illustrate a story, probably the reporter went to get a story but couldn’t take photograph, he can get a photograph to illustrate the story, but the photograph must have relationship with the story,” he explains.
“For instance, when Mr. Osunkeye of The Sun went to Niger Republic to do a story. He confessed that it was the photograph that illustrated the story that made him win the CNN award in South Africa. So in a situation where you go to an event and you don’t have the photograph of that event, you can use any photograph that has relationship with the story, but the caption must follow.
“That is why when you go to BBC or CNN, you will see they write ‘file photograph’. That means that photograph may have been taken years back but it has relationship with the story. When you use photographs that do not go with the story, you put your readers in confusion, which is absolutely unprofessional” according to Akinlabi.
“In photojournalism, as at today, we have photographers and we have photojournalists. We call ourselves photojournalists because we tell stories with our cameras. Photographers are the ones at the studio, we have landscape photographers, we have entertainment photographers, we have culture photographers, sport photographers.”
According to the PJAN President, “what we are saying is that nowadays everybody can be a photographer, anybody that can click on phone. But in photojournalism, you must have had the training. It is not just look and snap. We take photographs that tell stories. But anybody can break in and be trained. You can have the training while working. There are schools that teach photojournalism. In Nigeria today, Lagos State University teaches photojournalism, and in the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, they have programmes for photojournalism.”