With audiences increasingly sourcing information from image-led digital channels over traditional print media, and opting for videos over the written word, how important to a photojournalist's career is video, versus stills? This was a question that ran throughout the Canon Student Programme at the festival of photojournalism Visa pour l'Image 2019 in Perpignan, France.
Canon continued to inspire and educate the next generation of photojournalists, inviting over 240 photography students from schools and universities across Europe and the Middle East to the event. There they gained access to the world's leading professionals, who offered guidance and advice in navigating this ever-evolving environment.
Throughout Professional Week (2-7 September), the students attended lectures, guided tours, portfolio reviews and screenings. They met with industry professionals including journalist, educator and former Head of Photography at AFP Francis Kohn; Photo Editor-in-Chief at Politiken in Denmark Thomas Borberg; and award-winning photojournalist and Canon Ambassador Ilvy Njiokiktjien.
"Visa is the best platform in the world to meet professionals. In Perpignan, young photographers can meet people from The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, Stern, Paris Match, the whole world," said Jean-François Leroy, Director of Visa pour l'mage. "As far as I’m concerned, there are less than 40 newspapers and magazines in the world that are giving time and money to produce great stories, and more than 30 of them attend Visa pour l’Image. Young people save money by coming here because they don’t have to travel to New York or LA, Berlin, Frankfurt or Rome – they can meet everybody in the same place."
Speaking about her long-term project, Born Free, Canon Ambassador Ilvy described how she felt compelled to shoot her first video upon arrival at a Kommandokorps camp for Afrikaner boys in South Africa. In 2011, Ilvy had never shot video before, but she and her journalist colleague Elles van Gelder felt that to capture the full story, they needed motion.
Since "Googling our way through" shooting that first video project on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (and winning a career-changing World Press Photo award for it), Ilvy has continued to use video. She showed students how she places video alongside her still images – with the two mediums complementing one another.
The idea of combining video and still images resonated with students. "I think my heart is more in stills photography, but I like being able to make videos as well," said Emma Egede Skafte from DMJX in Copenhagen, Denmark. "And I love being able to combine the two, such as if you make a series and you support it with a video.
"I think video adds an extra layer and it works well when you have the two things next to each other. You're so intrigued when you see a picture of someone and you think about their personality, and then in the moving image you actually get to meet them, hear their voice, look them in the eye and see their facial expressions changing."
Nadine Mabinda Kinzumba from Novia University of Applied Sciences in Jakobstad, Finland, said: "I've done a lot of video in the past, but now I'm more into stills. It's amazing to get to combine them. With stills, you capture a second of the moment but with video you get the whole moment, so depending on what you want to show, you can choose between the two of them.
"I studied media before photography, so we had a lot of video training incorporated within that. I think that learning video skills is really important for the next generation of photojournalists, because if you know both how to take video and still pictures then you can explore more, you can express yourself more and let other people express themselves more."
A common theme among the students was not only the creative and storytelling opportunities afforded by video, but also the benefit to their future careers of being able to offer video content alongside stills.
Anastasia Shvachko, a student at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Germany, said: "I have always been fascinated by how beautiful film is and how many things you can do with it. Plus, when someone comes to you wanting a film for a company, a small video for Facebook or YouTube, and then they want a couple of portraits and other shots – they don't want to pay two people because it's double the price."
Lando Hass, student at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts, added: "Learning video skills is essential. I've spoken to very experienced colleagues and if they're asked to bring back video, they have no idea how to do it. But with people just starting out, I don't think you can get to do this job without video."
DMJX student Emma Line Holm Sejersen said: "When I was interning, my employer tried to incorporate video more and more, using a lot of audio and a little bit of video, and then some stills going over the audio. I found that mixing audio over stills was an interesting way of storytelling because I didn't really notice that it wasn't a video. Audio was creating the atmosphere that video usually does."
However, not all of the students were of the same opinion. "Shooting video is a completely different job," said Nina Kinkade Gogny, a student at Gobelins, Paris. "What's beautiful about photography is capturing a moment, with video it becomes more like news. It's just not the same."
In terms of the ease of capturing stills versus video, Emma Egede Skafte said she felt confident in her video skills: "Where I'm studying [at DMJX], half of our education is video, because they see that video is everywhere and in such high demand. I hadn't done video a lot before, but now I've done it a lot in my studies. I like it."
Other students, such as Anastasia, have sought out opportunities to acquire video skills and experience: "To learn video skills I did an internship at a small multimedia agency in Hanover, set up by former photo students from my university. It was great, they showed me how to use everything and what you have to do. Video is a bit more complicated than stills so it's not so easy to teach yourself."
Emma Line Holm Sejersen agreed that shooting video is a learning curve for photographers accustomed to shooting stills: "It's very difficult to do video, and particularly to get good audio. And when audio is bad, the whole movie falls apart. Right now I'm jumping into it, using a Canon EOS 6D for video recording and trying to do my best. What's the worst that can happen? I'm not sure if my expectations of my own work are higher than the client's, but I really like the medium of video and I think it has so much potential."
Find all the Canon-related stories on the Visa pour l'Image event page.