Investigation and Discovery: Beb C. Reynol on Documentary Photography

Beb C. Reynol

Workers shovel coal dust, Karkar, Afghanistan

A picture is worth a thousand words. Documentary photographer and photojournalist, Beb C. Reynol, understands the power of storytelling through photographs. We interviewed Beb to find out more about his experiences in the field of photojournalism and what students will learn in the upcoming Photo Storytelling Workshop.

Why did you decide to become a photojournalist?

It wasn't a decision but a series of event and self-determinations that guided me to this career. Inspiration can only come from within ourselves. One day, I came upon a photo I took while in French Guyana of a fisherman from Brazil. It became a realization that the content of the black and white photo of a man using a paint bucket to wash his body was revealing a person's identity and it sort of spoke to me just like a language.

What first inspired you to visit Afghanistan?

I have very strong interests in conflicts and environmental issues and the impact it has on people living in those type of situations. What I learned about Afghanistan through various media didn't satisfy my curiosity and I knew I could do something different. I had strong experience in working in Pakistan prior to my first mission across the border. I started focusing on the most controversial ethnic group that bears a lot of influence in the social politics of both Pakistan and Afghanistan: the Pashtuns. It enabled me to have a better understanding of different cultural norms that constituted the core identity of the people living in that land.

Your documentary projects have also taken you places such as Pakistan and China. What stories are you trying to capture when you visit foreign countries?

Every story has an angle and that's what makes them interesting and perhaps unique. I spend a lot of time observing people and interacting with them. The story of the last bamboo harvesters in China was very unique because of the migration of men to larger cities in quest for work, [while] women remained behind harvesting a plant from which income they relied on to live. However, I was commissioned to do something very different. But what I observed from the field quickly changed my vision and I decided to follow my instinct.

How is documentary photography different from other types of photography?

The documentary is a sort of investigation, which requires some research and a direction. It communicates about people's lives and it draws us to be close to the people we meet to tell their story. On the opposite, street photography does not address any particular issues on any level, nor does it necessitate us to engage with anyone.

What kind of opportunities do you see for photo storytelling in Seattle for someone who can’t travel to faraway places?

There are many opportunities. I have worked on long-term projects in Seattle, including a story on heroin addiction among teenage runaways, which was a six-month commitment in the field and at unusual hours. You have to be passionate about the people you meet, and you have to be curious enough to know more of them.

What can students expect to do and learn in your upcoming workshop?

The workshop is an arena where everyone participates in sharing ideas and opinions. It allows us to have a broader vision on how we perceive our own urban landscape, making it a richer experience. A very good start for any reportage is certainly good knowledge about anything we plan to investigate with an objective eye. The assignments that are provided permit us to see how we visualize any particular topic, how we visually articulate. Skills are taught along the way to make us better within our personal style.





Posted on: October 15th, 2014 at 12:52:39

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