© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography

The 3 I’s of Good #Photojournalism, Part 3: Immediacy


News is a relentless taskmaster operating 24 hour per day, 7 days a week. It doesn’t stop for holidays or ask for a day off. It happens when we least expect it. It is ruthless in its endeavors to interrupt our regularly scheduled lives.

Back in the day of only TV news and newspapers, immediacy was utmost important.With the pervasiveness of the internet, it’s even more so. Now one can receive breaking news updates immediately from any newspaper or TV station.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography

Fly fisherman Tom Greenup of Wisconsin, watches flames explode along Highway 82 on Tuesday afternoon Apr. 15, 2008, near Carbondale, Colo. The photo has a strong sense of immediacy & urgency.

Immediacy |iˈmēdēəsē|  The quality of bringing one into direct and instant involvement with something, giving rise to a sense of urgency or excitement

It is not just a quality that relates to the need for it to be published right away, but it is also conveyed by emotion in the photograph.

Immediacy can also be translated as urgency. In breaking news photographs, the urgency in the photo is relayed by the subjects emotions. The photographs exude the emotions being felt by the subject.

Learning to read the scene, understand the intensity of the situation, and understanding basic human emotions involved is necessary to capture these moments. The good photojournalists are not just students of the camera or journalism, they are students of humanity.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography

Donned with a multitude of rosaries, A headless statue of the Virgin Mary rests on the steps that once led to the sanctuary of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Pearlington,Miss. The church was destroyed by the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina.

These photojournalists have learned how to read, and capture, emotions from the simplest smile of joy to the overwhelming anguish of loss.

They’ve learned that having patience is a virtue, that anticipation is the key, and that reading the scene to understand the story is imperative.

It is a quality not reserved for just breaking news events. Photos from the aftermath may have just as much of this quality as those images taken during. Examples include images from Hurricane Katrina or the devastating wildfires the west has experienced in recent years.

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Pearlington, Miss., resident George Ladner looks over the remains of his home of 30 years Wednesday afternoon September 28, 2005. His home was destroyed by the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina.

Adrian Rowberry of Carbondale walks in dismay after watching an encroaching wild fire threaten her Ranch at Roaring Fork neighborhood Tuesday afternoon Apr. 15, 2008, along Highway 82 in Carbondale, Colo.

As with impact, the intensity and size of an event can dictate the immediacy of a photograph. However, there are many photographs taken of smaller situations that have a lasting sense of immediacy.

The skill of the photographer in these situations allowed them to capture momentous events.

Annie Wells’ photograph of a flood water rescue that won her a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography in 1997 is a good example.

Many great photojournalists don’t work for the big wire services or national newspapers or magazines. Many work at dailies under 35K. These are folks who go about their daily lives capturing moments that may be of significance only to their coverage areas.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography.

A Colorado State trooper photographs the scene of an accident involving a bicycle and a dump truck in El Jebel, Colo. The truck took a corner too fast tipping over and dumping the load onto a passing cyclist. The cyclist was transported to Aspen Valley Hospital with minor injuries.

The better photographs tend to keep their immediacy long after the initial event is over. Take for instance the image of the man stopping the tanks during the Tiananmen Square student uprising and protest in 1989 by Associated Press photojournalist Jeff Widener. Or of David C. Turnley‘s Pulitzer Prize winning images of the fall of the Ceaucescu regime in 1989. Or of Oded Bailty‘s Pulitzer Prize winning image of a lone Jewish settler pushing against a platoon of Israeli security officers.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography

Ana Weidie of Pearlington, Miss., prays during Sunday morning mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Pearlington October 2, 2005. Weidie's home was heavily damaged by the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina.

Stronger images from a breaking news event hold their immediacy value long after the event is over. Some strong images that fit this bill are:


–  Frames from the 2002 Colorado Wildfires that won the Rocky Mountain News their Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
–  Anthony Suau’s World Press Photo of the Year of a police officer searching a home during a foreclosure eviction in 2008.

These photographs stand the test of time, and hence, the immediacy retains its strength.

And with this greater the sense of immediacy or urgency, the longer that photograph remains in the public’s conscience.

The 3 I’s of Good Photojournalism, Part 1: News Value

The 3 I’s of Good Photojournalism, Part 2: Impact

The 3 I’s of Good Photojournalism, Part 4: Intimacy

Thank you for stopping by and reading. All comments are appreciated.

Paul Conrad

Pablo Conrad Photography

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4 comments

  1. i have to say this is the best of the 3. most insightful leaving a lot to think about ..its about keeping on your toes being ready at the drop of a hat.. i guess a photographer never sleeps . thanks again! i learn more here than class !

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