Henri Cartier Bresson photographs Mao… (note… no tripod…. )

I have been involved in a very interesting discussion on a Yahoo newsgroup for newspaper photographers moving into online video. You can find it at but you should probably be working at a newspaper in video to participate.

Over the past three days there has been a heated discussion about whether or not to use tripods when shooting video. (I am personally opposed). There is a lot of support for tripods because, besides holding the shot still, it is what the ‘pros’ use, and ‘we should not throw out the past’.

I must respectfully disagree, at least with respect to cramming television into the web.

Photographers come from a remarkable tradition. Photojournalism, when it emerged -purely as a function of a new technology, became more than just journalism – it became an art form.

This is an important distinction.

I have the great priviledge of living over the Museum of Modern Art in NY. Directly below me is one of the greatest collections of photography art in the world, much of it.. most if it in fact, journalistic in its foundation. And if you don’t like the MOMA, go uptown to the ICP, where you can see more.

It took a long time for photography in general, and photojournalism specifically to be accepted as an art form. It was a fight. But the pure power of the images of people like Cartier Bresson or David Douglas Duncan or Margaret Bourke White or Capa spoke for themselves. Just look at them. They are journalism, but they are also a powerful art in their own right. They do more than just record a moment – they capture and transmit an emotion.

Television has no such power.

Despite the fact that it is largely a visual medium, television has not entered the realm of art and power of image that photojournalism carved out for itself. Despite airing 24 hours a day on hundreds of channels globally for half a century, we have no Capa of television journalism, no Cartier Bresson, no Sebastao Salgado.

That is a tragedy.

As newspapers move into online video, they can embrace the traditions of photojournalism – or they can embrace the traditions of television.

Let us hope they move toward the former….

Because the latter is really a dead end.


11 responses to “Tripods?

  1. I started writing a book, so instead I just put my comment on my own blog…

  2. Why would you impose one method of videography (e.g., hand-held, shooting wide) on everyone and every situation? Let a thousand flowers bloom.

    Errol Morris turns out some pretty nice stuff using his own interview box, with fixed camera and tight head shots. Should he be discouraged from using that format? Of course not. Neither should someone who wants a fluid, cinema verite look.

    Rules are limiting and simplistic. If TV and online video is an emerging art form, give it the freedom to develop its own look and technique, and even then be open to departure from the standard when the subject and circumstances call for it.

    Judge the product on the beauty and power of what ends up on the screen, not the technique used to accomplish it.

  3. Icannot disagree with any of this.

  4. Yeah, that was a good point.

  5. “They do more than just record a moment – they capture and transmit an emotion.

    Television has no such power.”

    Michael..BEHAVE yourself!!

    That’s just plain silly. If you didn’t cry when you saw this on TV, check for a pulse.

    The tripod thing? There’s a time and place for everything. I’m opposed to them when I’ve been dragging a Sachtler hotpod with a Video 20 head all over creation. 😉

  6. Jim,
    There is no question that that is a powerful moment, but its power is really dependent upon the power of the event that is happening before the camera (if you catch my drift here). I wonder if it is not possible to capture ‘powerful moments’ in the far more mundane if they were shot differently, or if we paid far more attention to the visuals in TV. I am thinking of Salgado’s workers series – incredibly poigniant moments in the seeming banality of day to day work. I would be that if you went out on your own with a (small, for convenience sake) camera you could pull that one off.

  7. Pingback: “Tripod vs. No Tripod” and other “rules” of Video to Ignore | Verge New Media

  8. Pingback: Catch up post : Andy

  9. One of the problems you face carrying a tripod around as a solo performer is the bulk. Without doubt, what people in these comments have said is spot on that there is a time and a place for different visual styles, however practicality dictates that the professional tripods that seem to come with many kits get in the way of being able to shoot hard and fast. I would love to see a lightweight, collapsible stabiliser that can stand on its own three feet when necessary, can become a monopod when necessary, and folds under the camera for handheld work to act as a stabiliser by lowering the centre of balance.

    Miller? Sachtler? Manfrotto? I’m looking in your direction…

  10. Pingback: Ignore ‘no tripod’ advice | News Videographer

  11. Jim that clip just proves the Zapruder rule – nothing counts except pointing the camera in the right direction at the right time and pressing record. Understanding the implications of that in a society where every other person owns a video camera must surely make us all realize that we cannot rely on breaking content to make a living.

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