This one’s for you daddy

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Newspaper readers know how important pictures accompanying articles are. The responsibility of providing these visuals falls on the photojournalist. This is why photojournalism is considered as a particular form of journalism. In addition to taking photos, some photojournalists are also responsible for editing and developing the pictures and preparing them for publication. To provide the most suitable picture for an article, a photojournalist requires a high level of skill and proficiency.

Young photojournalist, Sanka Vidanagama, who is organizing his maiden exhibition with a collection of pictures, captured during his 10-year-career as a photojournalist, said that it is important for a photojournalist to acquire knowledge about various subjects including politics and current affairs.

Sanka studied at Asoka Vidyalaya, Colombo. He said that as a child he dreamt of becoming an engineer. Later his dreams shifted from engineering to designing. Yet, by the time he finished schooling, his ambition was to follow in his father’s footsteps (his father too is a photojournalist). “Only my sister backed me when I told my family that I wanted to become a photojournalist,” he said. When asked why his father wasn’t happy about his son following in his footsteps, Sanka said that he objected because his father had firsthand experience of the obstacles faced by photojournalists.

Although his father wasn’t completely agreeable with his choice of career, he said that the inspiration to work with the camera came from his father. He recalled how enthusiastic he was to observe his father’s work as well as the work of foreign photojournalists at the time his father was working for Agence France-Presse (AFP). Sanka’s father, Sena Vidanagama, a renowned photojournalist, is best known for capturing the Rajiv Gandhi riffle assault in a split second.

However in 2002, Sanka was certain about the career choice he made and followed a Professional Mass Media Photography course at National Vocation Institute to gain theoretical knowledge. After completing the courses he joined Lakbima Newspaper as a photojournalist in May 2005.   In December 2005, he received the opportunity to join AFP. In 2008, he joined Sunday Times and continued his journalism career there for three years. Currently, he works as the Chief Photojournalist in Ceylon Newspapers (Pvt) Ltd.

Speaking about experiences he has gained over the ten years in the field, he said that it is difficult to master just one branch of photography being a photojournalist. “A photojournalist can’t limit himself to one area. He or she should always develop skills in all areas. You don’t know what you’ll have to capture when you are on an assignment,” he said. “However it is difficult to become a skilled photojournalist without a basic knowledge of arts, culture, politics and current affairs. A photojournalist must always update himself with knowledge if he wants to capture the best picture,” he added.

Like writers and editors, photojournalists also have to follow a standard of ethics. These can be written or unwritten, yet ethics is the element which maintains professionalism in any field. Ethics must cover a wide range of topics such as how a photographer should act while taking pictures, what he or she can and can’t photograph, and whether and how an image can be altered on the computer. Sanka lamented that ethics are not given much priority in photojournalism. He added that there are no set rules or guidelines which should be followed by a photojournalist.

“In Western countries publishing or capturing pictures of unclothed children is illegal. A photograph of a person cannot be published without his or her consent. Likewise there are many ethical principles in photography which we don’t follow here in Sri Lanka,” he pointed out.

He also mentioned that the use of photographs without the original photographer’s consent is a common offense in the country. “I am a victim of this although I always upload the photographs with a watermark,” he lamented. “There were instances where pictures I took were used for political campaigns without my knowledge,” he said recalling a recent incident. “There is no use of taking action against them. Even if I am to take legal action against them, it will take years to get a decision,” he stressed. He opined that the legal system must be strengthened regarding the copyright issues.

Sanka’s maiden photography exhibition, ‘Retrospect’, featuring work done during the ten years of his professional career as a photojournalist and a photographer will be held at National Art Gallery Colombo on March 14 and 15 from 9 am to 6pm. The exhibition will present photographs in four categories; General, Naked Truth, Sports and Wildlife. During the exhibition more than 200 carefully selected photographs will be exhibited.

He specifically mentioned that ‘Naked Truth’ will be mostly prominent since it includes his photographs which were censored during his career. “Photos included in this section are story-telling pictures which connect past, present and future,” he reiterated.

Speaking further about ‘Retrospect’, Sanka said that he organized this photo exhibition as a felicitation to his father, Sena. “He has been there for me since the beginning of my career. Even now, he advisces me on developing my skills in photography, tells me what I did right and what I did wrong. That is why this exhibition is dedicated to him,” Sanka said. He believes this is the best time to have this felicitation ceremony.

He also said that his father will be the chief guest at the event. “I haven’t told him this yet. He is yet to know that this exhibition is for him and he will be the chief guest,” Sanka declared his intentions to surprise his father.

Last modified on Saturday, 07 March 2015 11:08

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