The well-known photojournalist T.S. SATYAN was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award for Freelance Photojournalism instituted by the Essel Group and the Zee Network, in Bangalore on Sunday. Another Mysorean, former Praja Vani editor M.B. SINGH, was also honoured similarly.
This is the full text of Satyan’s acceptance speech.
“Thank you for the honour done to me. I accept this award with great pleasure and much humility. It is very special for me because it is not a government award. It is an award conferred on a freelance photojournalist.
“I have worked for nearly sixty years and enjoyed both the ecstasy and agony of freelance photojournalism. In my own humble way, I have attempted to visually enrich the pages of many newspapers and magazines around the world, shunning the more profitable sector of commercial photography.
“My early years were difficult. I had to live on my wits and from money order to money order and later from cheque to cheque. Unable to earn enough from pictures alone, I was forced to take up temporary jobs to supplement my income. Not many of you know that my first job, after graduation, was that of an engine-cleaner-cum-inspector at the Hindustan Aircraft factory in Bangalore, in 1944. My boss, B.G. Karve, told me one day that I had a great future in the aeronautics industry! Thank God, I disproved his prophecy.
“I was greatly influenced and inspired by the pictures published in the Life magazine that was started in 1936. No other magazine at any period of time had such extraordinary impact on its readers. I had the wonderful opportunity of working for Life for some 15 long years. I was able to meet with and work alongside some great photographers of the world. I learnt a lot from them.
“Even today, for a large country like India, only a few photographers have made the grade and are big names. They are in demand. This is the tragedy of photojournalism in the country. It is confined to a limited circle of elite practitioners. This circle should expand as quickly as possible.
“There is a total absence of organized training facilities in photojournalism for those who want to specialize. Most of our successful photographers are self-made. There are institutions for pure photography, not photography for journalism. Even here, those who teach have not had much practical experience. In a society which cries for information, there are not enough men and women trained in the visual media to rise to the occasion. Also, there is not much appreciation of the photographer and his work by those connected with the media in the government.
“The amazing part of print journalism is that while some editors become celebrities and an occasional reporter becomes a hero or a heroine for a day, the regular photographer hardly ever commands the limelight. It is rare for a photographer ever to be discussed at the breakfast table. Usually he is taken for granted. Rarely is he taken note of. He may be sought after, but not socially. He is rarely to be found at a celebrity dinner in his personal capacity. He is a cog in the wheel, but he is not the wheel.
“I feel disillusioned on one important count. Even top printed media houses in the country are continuing to illegally access photographs and publish them without a credit or a courtesy. Requests for clarification and payment are ignored. To be indifferent to authorship hurts photographers. These very media houses endlessly publish columns and editorials on copyright, intellectual property rights and ethical practices, but banish them in their own dealings. These unprofessional and unethical situations are agonizing and traumatic for photographers. I ardently say this, as a personal victim, so that we wake up to building healthy professional milieus in the future. I pray that tall professional and ethical standards become common pursuit for everyone in the media.
“It is the prerogative of the photographer to record the present as a reliable witness in the court of history. This is what is going to make photography a witness to the past as well as the future.
“I thank you once again for the honour bestowed on me.”
Also read: T.S. SATYAN
Cross-posted on sans serif
Unfortunately, many artists are hurt by the lack of respect for crediting and paying creators.
Drew Lanza anticipates this getting worse (http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=489&doc_id=136717) as data storage becomes infinitely more powerful and people are lured by the ease at which they can own vast quantities of music and art for nothing.
I don’t think the answer lies in fighting technology, as Drew points out it’s inevitable. Rather, I think we have to simply set an ethical standard in society that stealing is wrong, no matter how easy it is.
Devil’s Advocate position taken here…(.ie. Food for thought …)
Many years ago I was roaming around Central America, lovely part of the world, and ‘naturally’ I had my camera with me. I was snapping everything and all that took my interest. One small mountain village we were in was celebrating some kind of archaic fertility rite with great fanfare and symbolism. The costumes and dance were intoxicating. I snapped away.
One particular ‘vignette’ caught my eye, two small children draped in luscious sparkling jewellry and brilliantly adorned material were leaning against an antique wooden door frame. I positioned myself for the best ‘shot’, was about to ‘shoot’, when the eldest of the two put out her little hand and said – “Pagar, por favor.” ( ‘Pay, please’.) I was shocked back to REALITY…..I was about to ‘steal’ their ‘look’ and they, quite rightly, wanted me to pay for that photo, and, by extension, the invasive intrusion into THEIR lives. I was not acting JUST as a ‘spectator’, I was actively ‘consuming’ them. No question.
Ever since then I have had a somewhat unease relationship with ‘the camera’ in general. Why must we ‘photograph’ everything in sight in order to understand or appreciate what we can SEE (and experience) with our own naked eye? We may THINK we are ‘witnesses’, documenting ‘our’ memories, but isn’t a ‘photographer’ , even a ‘professional photo-journalist’, REALLY just a hyper manifestation of the all pervasive ‘consuming culture’ that marks us as a species at this point in time?
Think what we are doing to the STRUCTURE of both our imaginations and our mythologies with these ‘auxiliary techno’ devises. They often usurp the healthy and natural development of our own neural-memory ‘tags’. I would suggest that cumulatively they actually negate LIFE more then they CELEBRATE it.
Yes, ‘ownership’ of ‘sight’ and ‘sound’ is our birthright, but to package it for consumption, in any form, in any ‘medium’, is just BUSINESS ‘trading’ AS USUAL. So, please, no more crocodile tears from the ‘professionals’….ok?