Andrea Rondeau column: Photographs in journalism capture the good times and the bad

Andrea Rondeau column: Photographs in journalism capture the good times and the bad

Capturing what is going on around us isn’t always controversy-free.

Everyone knows the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. In journalism this is something we take to heart and use to be able to both show and tell our readers about the things happening around them.

Wikipedia tells us that it was Henrik Ibsen that first coined something like this phrase, though he spoke of deeds, not pictures. The sentiment is the same, and I can see how his original phrase became the idiom we now use. Both speak of distilling a complex idea or situation and encasulating it in a single moment in time and place that conveys the entirety of the idea to the viewer, with an ease mere words could not — at least, not in brief.

For example, in our Wednesday special agriculture and food edition one of our pieces was a photo essay by Sarah Simpson that described through visual images the harvest process at Saison Market Vineyard. The stunning photos captured not just individual actions, but a whole picture of an event, complete with mood and feeling.

This ability to reach out to people visually is what makes photographs such an important part of the newspaper.

But capturing what is going on around us isn’t always controversy-free.

News photos aren’t always pretty or pleasant, the way a beautiful sunrise over a vineyard is. They can often show the gritty, messy side of life, sometimes even capturing a moment of tragedy.

Some people would like us not to show photos of car accidents, or fires, or people who are on trial for a crime. They will tell me that we are heartless, sick, and cruel. Indeed, I acknowledge that sometimes an image we use may be difficult for someone. But we can’t ignore the difficult things that happen in our community.

There are lines we draw, of course. We will not show you a dead body. But we will photograph the cars at an accident scene, or the fire raging out of control. And just so people know, if we are in a public place, we do not need permission to take photos. Reporters will do so. It is part of their job. I’ve had people complain about this on the most innocuous of occasions, while I’ve also had phone calls from people who want copies of the photos we took of their car crash.

As a news organization we cannot shy away from showing the difficult images as well, just as we also write about unpleasant subjects. Life is beautiful and heartbreaking and angering and sublime. To ignore any of the above would be to ignore vital pieces of our community life.

Journalism is a first draft of history. To present only a beautiful, sanitized version would be a disservice.

Just Posted

Sierra Acton, regional district director for Shawnigan Lake. (file photo)
New parkland in Shawnigan creating connections

Used to created parking for the popular Masons Beach Park

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Chris Wilkinson
Chris Wilkinson column: This could be the worst thing done to you during the pandemic

As a result, all of us will contend with more ‘scarcity’ thinking and mindset.

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Most Read