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Photographer Jes Aznar on the State of His Craft

By CREATE Philippines
November 29, 2021

The photography blog Writing Foto has published a piece by Jes Aznar, photojournalist contributor to The New York Times, and the man behind the Instagram account Everyday Impunity, which serves as an informal archive of some of the powerful images of the drug war. Titled ‘Changing Paradigms,” the piece gets into his thoughts on the ever-evolving nature of photography, and what photographers need to do to stay relevant in industries that seem to value them less and less.

Aznar starts by putting it all into context, talking about photography’s place in history, and how it changed the way people engaged with the world.

“The political nature of photography led to changes in perspectives. The world of visual communications changed forever after its invention. Before, people travelled to see visual arts; the camera has made it possible for people to see everything without leaving their homes. The meaning of an image, which people used to interpret and appreciate in the context of its immediate surroundings, changed to the context of what it means to its beholder, with his own experiences. Suddenly, an explosion of perspectives and thoughts was soon realized.”

It is from this perspective that Aznar then makes the case for leaving behind the old paradigms of photography. He writes that historically, the limited access to camera equipment and publishing meant that the discipline developed an inherent elitism, and would end up clinging to old models that propped up limited perspectives from a white male hegemony. But the digital revolution has democratized photojournalism in a way that the traditional media has yet to really adapt to.

“The digital phenomenon is still at its tender stage. As we slowly realize its better ideas and possibilities, it is a fact that we are still in a world that is still very much clinging on to the “tried and tested” old ways. The more the phenomenon evolves, the more we stumble upon realizations of old paradigms that are no longer applicable to our present practice, especially those in contradiction to current evolved values.”

Aznar points to several projects that have expanded the discourse of photography, the openness of social media allowing a greater diversity of perspectives. He points to the Everyday Project as an example of photography being used to reclaim local narratives. HIs own contribution to this project, Everyday Impunity, posted images from the drug war, matched with stories that directly contradicted the messaging of the police and the national government. Aznar implies that this is the future of photojournalism: less beholden to the demands of traditional media, and built more on the belief that an image can help shape our understanding of the world at large.

Jes Aznar’s work will be exhibited alongside the photographs of Neil Oshima and Veejay VIllafranca as part of the Fotomoto 21 Invitational: Portraits at The Spirits Library in Poblacion, Makati, starting Novermber 25. For more information, visit the Instagram.

READ: Changing Paradigms

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