INDIA: Just as a tourist is different from a traveler, a travel photojournalist differs from a travel photographer. A travel photographer shoots and shows the splendour of a place to promote a destination and encourage the viewer to want to go there. Most of the time, a photographer will try to capture the attractiveness of a travel destination.
Photojournalism covers a variety of storytelling and is often associated with hard news, quite often in conflict areas or difficult situations. They are not supposed to edit a story too much and also are not advised to manipulate photographs.
Some thirty years ago, after the publication of my first feature story on my just-concluded trip to Tibet that was supported by a few photographs, the editor told me that I could actually make a lot of money by doing that. I was thrilled as that meant traveling around the world, take photos and make money too. My editor explained what a travel photojournalist is, and from that moment on I have never looked back.
Travel photojournalism is the process of storytelling about a destination through the use of photographs. A photojournalist has to witness the best and the worst of the destination. He has to show the beauty of a place as well as its shadow side; for example, showing the exquisiteness of Amer Palace in Jaipur, and then do a story on cruelty with captive elephants being used to ferry tourists.
A photojournalist has to show humanity’s greatest artistic accomplishments and most horrific deeds, as the beauty of the colossal temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and also the brutal Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s and the civil war. He has to project the beauty of a resort, and also the lives of slum dwellers near that resort.
Today, the world knows me as a travel photojournalist because I do those kinds of stories but I also consider myself a photographer as I often return to the same place; spend a lot of time, at times weeks to get insights into my photographs that add substance to my stories.
Advice for budding photojournalists
The life of a travel photographer is becoming tough day by day with the advent and omnipresence of the smartphones and widespread use of DSLR cameras that enable even a novice to feel like a photographer. With digital photography, one can click hundreds of photographs, out of which at least one will surely be amazing, and can be sold off. This means fewer opportunities for a professional.
Photojournalism as a career is the next choice. Though the life of a photojournalist sounds glamorous, it’s a lot of hard work and it’s not for everybody. It certainly is an incredibly rewarding career and is a lifestyle choice. I’ve stayed in luxury resorts and also slept on the ground under open skies in rural schools. I am on the road for at least three quarters of the year. My bag and equipment are always packed and ready to go.
For budding photojournalists, my advice is to keep your eyes open while seeing the absolute beauty of nature to see the worst of destinations and that of humanity too. As a travel photojournalist, your job is to report all sides of life in today’s world full of chaos.