David Burnett: Film in a Digital Age

Photojournalist David Burnett explains to The New Tork Times why he continues to rely on film cameras to get distinctive images.

"Everyone is using the same couple of Canon and Nikon digital cameras
and the same three or four lenses," Mr. Burnett said. "And it isn’t
that everyone is using them in exactly the same way, but I started to
notice a sameness in the look of most things I was seeing. Don’t get me
wrong: I think digital is incredible in a lot of ways. For me, digital
has pretty much totally replaced shooting 35-millimeter slides. But as
a photojournalist, you’re just trying to get someone turning the pages
of the magazine to stop for that extra second before they go on to the
jeans ad or whatever. So I started thinking about different looks."

Burnett was often found using a Graflex Speed Graphic during the last presidential campaign. I love the fact that he also uses a Holga. Joerg Colberg of Conscientious, who pointed me to the article, also  wraps up some interesting related links. Joerg also wonders about the difference between American and European photojournalism, but I think the Burnett image Joerg shows is more indicative of the influence of fashion journalism. (Check the latest issue of American Photo’s list of "The 100 Most Important People in Photography" to see what I mean. The list is much more laden with fashion photographers than photojournalists.)

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One response to “David Burnett: Film in a Digital Age

  1. I’ll have to disagree with you about what you said about the differences between American and European photography as far as that kind of portrait work is concerned. It seems to me that the heroic plays a much larger role in American photography than in European one. I mean it’s completely unthinkable for a European photographer to take a photo of soldiers, posing them like a mix between fashion models and Riefenstahlian Olympics competitors.

    I noticed this a lot lately when looking at what kind of imagery American newspapers print when they try to show the Iraq war. Given my German background and education I really don’t want to go into any details because they’re not too flattering.

    As for the list in American Photo, I bought the magazine, too, and I was disappointed. But then American Photo is just a glossy catalogue anyway where typically it is VERY hard to tell where the ads end and the articles begin. So in that sense, it’s not too surprising to see their list being heavily skewed towards commercial photography.

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