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James Estrin & Josh Haner, Photo Editors of The NY Times Lens Blog

April, 2010

by Adriana Teresa

Damon Winter

Photo by Damon Winter/The New York Times

Josh Haner is a Staff Photographer for The New York Times and a co-editor of the Lens blog. He was an assistant photo editor at Fortune Magazine. He started at the New York Times in 2005 as a Picture Editor. In 2007 he became a staff photographer.

James Estrin is a Senior Staff Photographer for the New York Times and co-editor of the New York Times Lens blog. He started at the Times in 1987. He is also an adjunct professor at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

Lens is produced by David Dunlap, Josh and James. For this Interview, James and Josh answered the questions together.

Adriana Teresa: What is contemporary photography within your forum?

J&J: At Lens we try to show different kinds of photography. We mainly feature Photojournalism and Documentary photography but we try to offer other work as well. We like to feature work that isn’t easily categorized.

AT: What do you look for in a photographic series or a photographer today that you didn’t look for three years ago?

J&J: We’re always looking for stories that are different in subject, approach and visual language.

We see hundreds of projects a month. There are scores of stories on Gaza, African immigrants in Europe, and drug/gang violence in Latin America, Which doesn’t mean that these are not important subjects. It just means that to get attention it has to have a different approach or style. It’s exciting when we see a well-photographed story on a subject that we haven’t seen before.
When Marco Baroncini said he wanted to show us his black and white photographs of the Roma (gypsies) in Rome, we told him that the bar on black and white photos of gypsies was very high. It had to be at least half as good as Koudelka’s work. To our great surprise it was wonderful and Lens published it. 

We particularly want to encourage people to photograph their own communities rather than traveling abroad for professional recognition and legitimacy.

AT: What is the goal of your online Forum in regards to Photography? Why is this your focus?

J&J: We want to promote photojournalism and documentary photography. What photographers do is critically important for society. Photographers are often superior storytellers who can tell intimate stories more profoundly than anyone else. Great images come from great photographers. They’re rarely accidental.

In addition we want to help amateurs to better understand and appreciate strong photography.

AT: What would you say is the most significant progression in photography today?

J&J: The obvious answer is the ubiquity of digital cameras, followed a close second by the new video capabilities in professional and consumer DSLR’s. With the abundance of cameras come a greater visual literacy and potentially a larger audience for sophisticated photography.

AT: How important is having an online presence for photographers today as a resource to share their work?

J&J: Is there any freelance photographer who doesn’t have a website? It’s critical. While we face an uncertain future in our profession, young photographers can have their work seen by many people in ways that couldn’t have been imagined 30 years ago. Taking photographs is fun, promoting them is not.
 Having your work seen doesn’t solve all of the potential problems in our business, but it’s better than anonymity. With a simple email request with a link anyone, anywhere in the world can have us look at his or her work. We’ve developed many posts that way.
Good work rises to the top very quickly. We look at every link that’s sent to us and if the work is good, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you work, what awards 
you’ve won, we’ll feature it.

AT: What parameters would you like to transcend?

J&J: In a printed newspaper communication flows mainly in one direction. On the web of course, it flows two or more directions. But, often it is is still impersonal. We would like to foster deeper and more profound interactions with our readers.

We’re hoping that our Moment in Time project is a first step in that process.


Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Originally published on the New York Photo Festival blog

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