Interview with Jonathan Bachman
PX3 Winner 2017 – Photographer of the year for Protestor’s Eyes
Your Baton Rouge protest photo has been regarded iconic. Did you realize it would be popular moments after capturing the frame?
I did not. The arrest happened so quickly I hardly remember taking the photo. I had it in the back of my mind and I knew if one of the frames was sharp I would definitely send it. But honestly, at the time I never would have believed the response it has received.
What are you primarily looking for when you cover a story?
I try my hardest to create photographs that capture the story of what is happening at that exact moment. For example, during the first days of Hurricane Harvey, all I saw was an endless number of residents fleeing their homes and neighbourhoods from the rising flood waters. For me, it was simply not enough to sit back and photograph with a long lens. I knew I had to go into the water to make an intimate portrait that truly represented the immediate survival taking place.
Take us back to the time you discovered your passion for photography.
I found my love for photography in the darkroom. It was very early in high school. I can still remember watching my first prints reveal themselves right in front of my eyes. I was absolutely fascinated. It wasn’t long before my fascination developed into an obsession. I would spend so many hours in there trying to perfect my process. At the time, I was really into landscapes. I actually hated photographing people. It wasn’t until college where I discovered my passion for photojournalism.
What kind of photography do you identify with?
I love photos that I can feel. Whether it is a minimalist image with perfect composition or a heartbreaking portrayal of conflict; if the image triggers an emotional response, I can identify with that photograph. It is like when someone asks me what music I am into. I will often say, whatever moves me.
Can you share with us your overall experience in photojournalism?
I am very fortunate. I have had incredible mentors and editors who have trusted me to deliver on big news and sports assignments. It is an amazing community of passionate professionals who are very serious about their craft but also enjoy having a good time. I am also privileged to have experienced things that I would never have been able to in another profession. For these reasons, my overall experiences in photojournalism have been wonderful.
What is the story behind your winning Px3 entry?
On July 9, 2016 I was sent to Baton Rouge to cover a demonstration protesting the death of Alton Sterling. As protestors blocked a lane of traffic in front of the Baton Rouge Police Headquarters, officers in riot gear responded herding most of them off of the road and into an adjacent park. In this process, the advancing officers made several arrests. This image is one of those arrests.
The photo left a big impact on me. The pavement was extremely hot, I remember it burning my knees. The man’s face was pressed on the pavement for such a long period of time I was able to check my exposure, adjust and continue photographing several frames. I don’t think I will ever forget those eyes.
Can you share your photography secrets?
I don’t really have a whole lot of secrets, just advice. My advice is to photograph every day. Challenge yourself and never be satisfied. Don’t have a favourite picture because tomorrow brings the opportunity to make a better one. Be prepared. Be aware. Be informed. If you want to be a photojournalist you must be a perfectionist. If you find yourself in the right place you will be surrounded by these perfectionists. Watch their every move. Try to figure out why they do things a specific way. Hidden in these observations are the true secrets of photography.
Who is your favourite photographer and why?
It may sound cliché, but my favorite photographer is Ansel Adams. I am in awe of his absolute passion and pure dedication to the photograph. His work is truly inspiring. I can sit and look at one of his pictures all day, knowing I will never make that perfect image. And I am just fine with that. It is humbling.
What advice were you missing when you started working in this field?
Staff positions are few and far between, and as a freelancer, you must learn how to run a business. This is advice I wish I had before I started my career. It definitely could have saved a few headaches. If you are a student it would be a good idea to take a few business classes.
How do you understand photography as a whole and how can you see it in the coming years?
Every day we are exposed to hundreds of images. We see them in advertisements, in news articles and even when scrolling through social media feeds. Photographs have the ability to express feelings words simply cannot describe. This is the true power of photography.