Photojournalism in a Digital Age
Photographer Q & A
In this age of digital media, how do you get your images in front of the people who can affect change?
The medium is changing and video is now playing a much bigger role in what we do. Cameras like the one I carry can shoot high-definition video and this can enhance our abilities as storytellers. This is already playing a big role in my future, so I'm grateful I made the jump into learning a new skill as a filmmaker. In a time when media is struggling and searching for a new path, I'm finding that I am busier than ever telling meaningful stories in new ways for a variety of outlets. It's an exciting time to be a photographer and journalist and this new skill can create more opportunity for all of us. The old models of business are in crisis, but opportunities lie ahead if we redefine ourselves and embrace the new technologies.
You often travel to countries impacted by extreme climate changes. Share an example how you approach this kind of issue as a photojournalist.
On one trip I traveled to Bangladesh, where every year more than a half a million people are forced to migrate because of this coastal country's vulnerability to increasingly erratic weather patterns. For such a densely populated country, the effects of rising sea levels and floods from the Himalayas are disastrous. After covering many different kinds of issues and conflicts for years, it has become obvious that the issue of climate change is perhaps one of biggest challenges ahead. It is also deeply connected to so many other problems like poverty, dwindling resources, and conflicts across the planet.
How do the people you meet influence your work?
I met a family who had not eaten for days because their rice fields and food stocks had been submerged. They were sleeping inside homes on top of beds on stilts. Outside the water was up to their chests. And when they had food, they would cook it on the roofs or on top of their beds. It is the ultimate struggle to stay alive there. I felt a responsibility to them, to tell their story with the dignity and grace that they shared with me. My job is not about making beautiful images, it's about promoting understanding. I believe that we have a strong interest in better understanding one another and must seek solutions for our seemingly intractable global problems.
What gear do you carry on your travels to remote or challenging locations?
Mainly, I like to travel lightly and bring two Nikon® D3 bodies, 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses, two SB800 flashes, a microphone, and a tripod. And I like to carry gifts. It's the minimal that I can do, to share small tokens of thanks for the countless people who give so much to make sure that I am safe and travel well.
"I often travel in challenging terrain, from the subarctic to the high-altitude Himalayas. For years, it was difficult to find the right bags to carry my equipment safely—they were too bulky or too small for my gear. I use the Pro Roller x200—which fits in overhead baggage compartments in even the smallest planes. And I use the Pro Runner 300 AW—which allows me to carry my gear in a compact way during tough assignments. They help me deal with travel-size restrictions and help disguise the fact that I'm a photographer carrying a lot of expensive gear."
Thelon Expedition site
Photojournalist and filmmaker Ami Vitale has traveled to more than 75 countries to document people, cultures and landscapes for prestigious international magazines including National Geographic, among many others. She has garnered multiple awards from World Press Photos, earned the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting, won Magazine Photographer of the Year award, and been recognized as one of 30 image makers of the future. Her images are currently exhibited by museums and organizations such as United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and the Nature Conservancy..