Photojournalism and Fred Larson

The fall 08 semester has ended at the Academy, and I can say that I had one hell of a fun time learning Final Cut Pro, exploring photo journalism through the direction of one of San Francisco’s most legendary photojournalists–Fred Larson. In Fred’s Photojournalism class he really pushed us to get out and shoot. One way he did this was by giving us assignments by e-mail, similar to how he receives them from the Chronicle. We were emailed the assignment earlier in the day. We had 2-3 hours to shoot, we had to then transmit the photos to his ftp site somewhere off campus via a laptop if we had one. We then met back at the classroom to discuss the assignment and the photographs. The following is an example:


Story Slug: holiday
Event Date: 11/21/08
Start Time: 3:30pm
Time Needed: 5:15pm (FIRM)

Story Description: Feature Wild Art
With the holidays madness upon us, A1 needs to illustrate a story about Thanksgiving week in a downturn ecomonic recession. Please stay close to the office because you will be under a tight deadline. Some idea’s is the scene at Union square, ice skating rink, a different angle of shoppers or non-shoppers, perhaps the tension of shoppers faces as they muddle through the holidays. Please don’t photograph (or transmit) the obvious. Think outside the box, be creative, take some risks photographically. The photograph(s) must have a identifiable person with caption information attached (file info), who, what and where. The A1 desk is looking for one shot that said it all or if your must a three picture package using the LIFE formula.

Return to the class room no later then 5:30pm.
You need to transmit some where away from 180 New Montgomery.
Transmit all material to your individual folder in the IDisk at a remote location, under TRANSMITTED PHOTOS.
Please keep you files smaller (jpeg), it will speed up the process of transmitting.

FYI: There is two Peet’s coffee houses that have wifi on Mission Street at 3rd and 2nd Street.

Contact: Frederic Larson 
Reporter: None
Needed by: Daily deadline
Requested by: Frederic Larson
Centerpiece: A1


This taught me a lot about working on a deadline and working with/approaching people on the street, probably one of the most difficult things for photographers to do. I hated these assignments yet I loved them. They really challenged me to look below the surface for something that is there right in front of me, yet invisible if I didn’t pay attention to my surroundings. I found these assignments very similar to my city “walkabouts” where I would walk around different neighborhoods of the city looking for interesting things to photograph. Except the assignments focus the thought down to one specific subject. Great learning experience. I have to admit that some of them I failed miserably, others I succeeded. Some were luck being in the right place at the right time, and others were approaching and talking to people. A few times I cursed photojournalism and told myself that I hated it, out of frustration, for not being able to accomplish the assignment satisfactorily. In the end the lesson was learned. Try harder, and keep a very open mind, and eye.

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