When the line blurs between sport photography and photojournalism

please note this post is not by Jay Clapp Photography but from the photography news at the guardian for your viewing pleasure please feel free to use the share buttons at the bottom.

Like Hillsborough before it, the Boston Marathon bombing has highlighted how sports stories can quickly turn into breaking news events. When this happens, photographers have to decide whether to help or keep on shooting

“I was covering the finish line at ground level at the marathon. Everything was going on as usual. It was jovial – people were happy, clapping – and getting to a point where it gets a little boring as a photographer. And then we heard this explosion.” These words are from Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki, who has covered more than 20 marathons in his home city. The joyous, celebratory, almost party-like finish area was suddenly transformed into a scene of devastation and destruction. This made me think: for more than 20 years I have been photographing the London Marathon finish; how would I react to a similar scenario?

The Boston bombings happened exactly 24 years to the day after another sporting occasion was transformed into a scene of death and carnage – the Hillsborough disaster on 15 April 1989. At the time I was about to leave college; a year later, and I may have been covering that match. At the time I was about to leave college – a year later and I may have been at that match. But, ever since that day, I have wondered what I would have done as a photographer when the match was stopped and the horror in the Leppings Lane End unfolded.

I have revisited some of the pictures taken at Hillsborough. They are shocking. Time hasn’t lessened their impact, especially the images of dying fans pinned up against the fencing. At the time there was quite a debate over these pictures and whether they should have been taken and eventually seen in public. Some photographers were heavily criticised for taking pictures there. But later some of the images were used in the Taylor Report that brought an end to terracing and the fencing-in of supporters. The FBI have asked for photos taken in the aftermath of the bombs on Monday to help in their investigation. If the photographers can’t actually help in some way, be it first-aid or similar, then shouldn’t they document the scenes and then pass the decision of whether to publish them on to their editors?

I am mainly a sports photographer and I go to events with a predetermined mindset. Even though I don’t know exactly what is going to happen, I have a rough idea. Just as a war or news photographer should be mentally attuned to what they are likely to see, I am similarly prepared. I am certainly not ready for bombs and violence to erupt in the arenas where I work. I don’t go to work in a bulletproof vest and helmet, I go with a fishing stool and a 500m lens (not the best lens in a riot).

But I am employed by a newspaper and I realise that I have to be adaptable, so there has been the odd time when I have stepped over the line and into hard news. In 1996 I was called away from snooker at Wembley to get to the IRA Canary Wharf bombing – quite a mood shift there. In Marseille at the World Cup of 1998, I found myself, regrettably without an anti-teargas mask, in the middle of a full-scale riot between French police, local Tunisians and visiting England fans. On the day Princess Diana died, my football match was cancelled and I was sent down to Harrods to see people laying flowers, where I was spat at and blamed for her death: possession of a large pro camera marked me down as “paparazzi scum”. But with all these examples I had some time to prepare for what I was going to see. With Boston and Hillsborough that would not have been the case.

I suppose it may come down to instinct. As Tlumacki said on Monday: “My instinct was: no matter what it is, you’re a photographer first; that’s what you are doing.” In a similar vein, another photographer at the Boston marathon, Bill Hoenk, mentioned going “into a zone”. He continued: “I was horrified by what I was seeing, but there was some sort of instinct that said: ‘Don’t worry about that, just keep shooting.'”

So, what would my instinct be in such a situation? I feel it’s a fine dividing line, achieving a delicate balance between helping someone in need but also recording the situation without exploiting it. Under extreme pressure that sort of call is very hard to make. I sincerely hope I never have to.

guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

via Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/photography-blog/2013/apr/19/sport-photography-photojournalism-boston-bombing Tom Jenkins Thanks for reading Jay

About jayclappphotography

Professional photographer running http://www.jayclappphotography.co.uk Feel free to comment and discuss photos

Posted on April 19, 2013, in Photography News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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