David Burnett


Contemporary Photographers


David Burnett is a very successful photo journalist whose work you will have seen someplace (like, for example, this photo). What’s interesting about him is that he sometimes uses a Holga plastic camera (see above).

He also uses an old speed graphic camera - check out this article where he explains how he got assigned to cover the 2004 primaries with it. On a related note, there’s an article in PDN that talks about how some photo journalists seem to become pretty tired of digital cameras. I’m tempted to think that blaming the camera isn’t excatly what will lead you to the source of the problem but it’s interesting nevertheless.

When looking through David Burnett’s photos I also realized that there definitely is an American angle to photo journalism - it would be interesting to do a detailed comparison of American and various Europeans photo journalists. What I mean by American angle is this: If you look at this photo, say, that looks very American. There is no way a German or French photographer would have portrayed a group of soldiers like that.

Update (8 June 2005): There’s a feature in The New York Times about David Burnett and about using different cameras. The criticism leveled at digital photography is not entirely fair but, I think it touches one of the main points: “[T]he old-fashioned photograph communicates a rich sense of meaning that the digital file does not.” Of course, you could use a digital camera and create a Speed-Graphic look, but people simply don’t do that. As David Brunett notes “Everyone is using the same couple of Canon and Nikon digital cameras and the same three or four lenses. And it isn’t that everyone is using them in exactly the same way, but I started to notice a sameness in the look of most things I was seeing.”