Images from Beijing: Inside and Outside the Bubble

As a photographer, I enjoyed tracking coverage of the Beijing Olympics by following the blogs of three photojournalists who covered the games: Vincent Laforet, on assignment for Newsweek; Kevin German, who covered the event despite having no tickets or access to the games; and David Burnett. What I learned from them was fascinating.

Vincent Laforet

Photographer Vincent Laforet kept two blogs — his own and one on the Newsweek site. Newsweek Director of Photography Simon Barnett assigned Laforet and two other photographers to look for good pictures, with these instructions: “Go make great photographs first, worry less about recording every medal.” (You can read more about Laforet’s assignment in this interview with Barnett.)

Laforet filed regularly from inside the “bubble” that the Chinese government had carefully created around the games. His blog posts offered great insight into what it’s like to be a photographer covering Olympic events. But it often lacked the context of where the games were being held — which really, was as much the story as the event itself.

When Laforet tried to photograph China outside the bubble he was frustrated in his efforts,
as he recounts here

Kevin German

This is where photographer Kevin German’s blog comes in. He didn’t have any tickets or access to the Olympic Games. Instead, he went to Beijing and focused his lens on the world just outside the pristine venues.

German’s work outside the bubble sometimes contrasted starkly with Laforet’s on the inside. For example, check out German’s post on the arrest of a ticket scalper.

David Burnett

Photographer David Burnett also kept a blog. He produced some wonderful posts during the games, writing of the difficulties of photographing the games and of his own struggle to re-imagine his photography. Burnett struggled as well with being inside the “bubble.” He documents his difficulty getting outside of the bubble in this very funny video.

As I followed these three photographers, as well as others, keeping a journal of their experiences in Beijing, it really showcased for me how news consumption is changing. Consumers are checking online with a variety of sources. Some of them may be major news outlets, like Newsweek. But more and more, we are placing a higher value on personal insight and vision that isn’t controlled by the event or its managers.

The result, for me, is that we are seeing the end of the “one-sided story;” now we have many to choose from. Reactions like “Gee whiz, that’s neat!” will always be balanced by the “Can you believe that’s really going on?”

And that’s good for the future of journalism.

[tags]photojournalism, Beijing Olympics[/tags]

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