August 17, 2022

Event Coverage Highlight

Panelists Inspire Student Photographers at Bronx Center

Pancho Bernasconi, on left, and Robert Nickelsberg talk to students at the Bronx Documentary Center as OPC executive director Patricia Kranz looks on. Photo: Chad Bouchard

Pancho Bernasconi, on left, and Robert Nickelsberg talk to students at the Bronx Documentary Center as OPC executive director Patricia Kranz looks on. Photo: Chad Bouchard

By Chad Bouchard

Though new image publishing platforms like Instagram have changed the business of photojournalism, students must still hone traditional skills of reporting and storytelling.

That was one of the key lessons presented to the Bronx Documentary Center’s high school and adult photography students during a Dec. 12 talk and slideshow to discuss winning photos from the OPC’s annual awards competitiong this year.

Panelists were Pancho Bernasconi, the OPC’s third vice president who serves as vice president/news for Getty Images, and Robert Nickelsberg, an OPC governor who has worked as a freelance photojournalist for nearly 30 years.

Nickelsberg told the students that photos presented as an essay or slide show must connect from one to the other “to have sort of a score, as in music that works from the beginning to the end.”

He demonstrated using photos from “Exodus,” the 2015 John Faber Award-winning series from four New York Times photographers; Mauricio Lima, Sergey Ponomarev, Tyler Hicks and Daniel Etter. The series followed the plight of refugees pouring into Europe from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq during the migrant crisis in 2015.

“Sequencing is incredibly important in this particular essay,” he said. “Arriving, moving, sleeping, moving, running, struggling – and the perfect thoughtful ending frame,” which showed piles of abandoned life jackets in Greece.

Nickelsberg’s book, Afghanistan – A Distant War, was awarded the OPC’s Olivier Rebbot Award for best photographic reporting from abroad in magazines or books in 2013. Bernasconi encouraged the students to sharpen skills at home on familiar subjects.

“One of the first things about being a good global photojournalist is being a good local photojournalist,” he said, noting that most experienced photojournalists begin by shooting “in their neighborhood, in their building, on their block, down the street. That’s how all great photography starts. You do what you know.”

“The world we live in is a visual world. Whatever we think of the platforms and what they’re doing to the business, you share and receive and feel affected by the visuals around you, and I think the dynamic of words and pictures together will continue to evolve and change.”

“Photography gives you the permission to be curious about your world,” he added. “So focus on that, whether it’s a difficult world or a calm world, but there is also a responsibility to tell that story correctly.”

Nickelsberg encouraged students to find creative ways to publish and share photographs. “As corporations in journalism are letting people loose, it’s compressing and it’s become more and more difficult to find these outlets, so a lot of it is based on your own enterprise and technology that we didn’t have.”

The OPC donated more than 100 photo books to the center, including many that were submitted for award consideration and some sent for OPC archives over the decades. The books will be added to the center’s library.

Michael Kamber opened the center after spending a decade photographing conflict and war for The New York Times.