A pic­ture per­fect re­porter

The Bulletin - - News Photographers Of Year -

SI­MON Maude is not a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher, and has worked as a re­porter only for two years – yet he was named in a tie for PANPA News Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year.

While com­plet­ing a post­grad­u­ate jour­nal­ism diploma at Auck­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Maude in­terned at New Zealand’s North Shore Times and was later of­fered a job.

Pho­tog­ra­phy was taught in his jour­nal­ism course, and he took an in­ter­est in it. He spent a lot of time pe­rus­ing on­line fo­rums, dis­cussing ways to im­prove his tech­nique. “It’s a hugely en­joy­ing part of my job, this pho­tog­ra­phy. I con­sider it just as im­por­tant as the words on the page,” he says.

Yet de­spite Maude’s train­ing, his prize-win­ning im­age came down to be­ing at the right spot at the right time.

While tak­ing pho­tos of the Auck­land bridge over Waitem­atã Har­bour for a story he was cov­er­ing, Maude heard screams com­ing from a wharf that he thought were from chil­dren jump­ing into the wa­ter.

“I kept walk­ing about, tak­ing pho­tos, and as I was do­ing that I went out of earshot,” he says. “But when I re­turned, I could still hear the shouts, and they seemed ur­gent.

“I found a gap in the trees, and I saw this car in the wa­ter, and at that point I raced down to help.”

There were four peo­ple in the wa­ter; two were po­lice of­fi­cers and the other two civil­ians at­tempt­ing to res­cue a woman trapped in­side. “At that point I thought, ‘there’s four peo­ple there, there’s not much I can do’, but it turns out the po­lice couldn’t break the car win­dow, and one of them headed back to shore,” Maude says.

He looked around for a rock, and handed it to the po­lice of­fi­cer. “They took it back to the car, and man­aged to use it to break the win­dow, and get the poor woman out,” he says.

Maude took a num­ber of pho­tos of the res­cue, around 40 in to­tal, and later won two PANPA awards for the photo se­ries, in­clud­ing PANPA News Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year (na­tional/metropoli­tan), in a tie with Toby Zerna, from News Corp Aus­tralia.

His pho­tos also brought about change in New Zealand. Po­lice of­fi­cers will now be equipped with spe­cial win­dow-break­ing de­vices. “The pho­tos tell the story, and the story is that the po­lice are try­ing to use their re­tractable ba­tons to break the win­dows, and they were not work­ing,” Maude says.

Look­ing back on the res­cue, he is happy to have pro­vided some as­sis­tance. “As some­one put it to me, I was able to be a hu­man and a re­porter,” he says.

Pho­tog­ra­phers are some­times crit­i­cised for choos­ing to take pho­tos in dire sit­u­a­tions, rather than ex­tend­ing help to those in need. How­ever, Maude be­lieves that pho­tog­ra­phers of­ten pro­vide more help than they let on.

Af­ter win­ning his PANPA award, stuff.co.nz posted his pho­tos on Face­book, along with a con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sage. The post re­ceived a few neg­a­tive com­ments, with sev­eral Face­book users com­ment­ing that the pho­tog­ra­pher should have helped in­stead of tak­ing the pho­tos.

Maude chose not to re­ply. “At that point I said to my­self, no, you don’t have to re­ply. You have to stay away from things some­times when you know they’re not right, but you know your­self that you’ve done the right thing,” he says.

“It wouldn’t sur­prise me at all if there are plenty of pho­tog­ra­phers or re­porters who get into that sit­u­a­tion but are just re­luc­tant to ac­tu­ally say how they helped.”

It all comes down to good re­port­ing, say Maude. “It’s not about be­ing in the story. It’s about telling some­body else’s story, and… pho­tog­ra­phers and re­porters don’t want to put them­selves into the story.”

To jour­nal­ists look­ing to take up pho­tog­ra­phy, Maude would like to ad­vise them to take a num­ber of shots of their sub­ject. “I think prob­a­bly the big­gest mis­take re­porters make is that they stop tak­ing pho­tos af­ter about four or five shots.”

Maude looks to in­spi­ra­tion from fa­mous pho­tog­ra­phers, such as Henri Cartier-Bres­son, who took huge vol­umes of pho­tos and did a lot of post-pro­duc­tion work on them.

“Don’t be fooled at first ap­pear­ance that a photo is just a photo; that it’s just been taken and it’s been put up. Most pho­tos ben­e­fit from some post pro­duc­tion work,” he says.

“There’s some eth­i­cal chal­lenges, but as long as you’re not putting in, or tak­ing away, things from the photo, there shouldn’t be a prob­lem with that.”

Right now, Maude is con­tent with be­ing a re­porter, how­ever if he is ever of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to be­come a pho­to­jour­nal­ist, he would not refuse that. “I be­came a re­porter be­cause I want to be a writer; I want to tell sto­ries, and pho­tog­ra­phy is part of that. The sum to­tal out­weighs the part when you com­bine words and im­ages.”

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