Women in Art: Press photography - then & now

By Liz Banks-Anderson Recently I attended ' Press Photography: then & now', where Photographer and Bowness Photography Prize People’s Choice Award Winner (2010) Melanie Faith Dove discussed with fellow photojournalist Bruce Postle their experiences of working as professional photographers for The Age and how photo journalism has changed in the last fifty to sixty years.

Photojournalists manage to capture in one image many things. These can include the subtleties of emotions and relationships between people, moments of grief and hardship or political statements. Moments in life that can define an era, in one single shot. In an age where anyone can take a camera or their smartphone and press 'capture', the mark of a true photo journalist is an image that is truthful in its spontaneity and resulting authenticity.

The images shared at the talk provided insight into a world past and shed light on issues we continue to confront in the present and will become all the more significant in the future.

Melanie’s work comprises press photography as well as feature work and portraiture, book and magazine covers, to photo essays and news features.. She says to be a photographer, “…you almost have to be a bit nuts.”

Charlie Lovick heads his cattle across the Howqua River in the Howqua Historic Hills Area in Mansfield State Forest Victoria on Fri 30th November.  Photo: Copyright Melanie Faith Dove

Throughout the talk, each photographer shared images from their portfolio that displayed different elements of artistry, be it theatrical, realistic, political or pure fun.

In additon, both Melanie and Bruce offered their perspective on a dynamically changing industry, transformed by new media, digital technologies and the advent of the 24/7 news cycle. They shared the view that in an age flooded by user-generated images, the role of the photojournalist is important “…in shining a light on issues that need to be explored, exposed or preserved for now and future generations. They assist in educating the broader public and perhaps bring about transparency and change,” says Melanie.

The impact of technological advancements on the industry and its work practices has been transformative. With the help of an iPad or the smart phone, press photography is now more accessible to the reader than ever before. But accompanying these new technologies is also the expectation for the professional photographer to be ‘jack of all trades.’ Press photographers can work remotely, with jobs being emailed to them, resulting in, to a degree, a loss of camaraderie and sharing and learning from each other. Melanie says that this has been addressed in part by developing networks elsewhere.

However, new technologies have meant new opportunities as well, producing a variety of images for different purposes, such as online galleries.

What became clear is that behind each photographer’s method, as well as obvious talent, is an element of serendipity. Stumbling upon the perfect shot was all in the timing with stories ‘coming out of left-field.’ There is also an element of self-determination in seeking the perfect image, by placing yourself in the right place at the right time, “I have often given myself jobs, because I want to see and experience things,” said Melanie.

More information about Melanie Faith Dove and her portfolio can be found at her website, and an exhibition of Bruce Postle's work entitled Image Maker is at the Monash Gallery of Art until June 30.

Liz is a communications professional and freelance writer from Melbourne. Liz’s own blog will be launched soon…In the meantime, she’s happy being a twit.