An interview with Angela Catlin, Photojournalist15th October 2018 // Bronya Bouchia
Since the emergence of photojournalism during the Crimean War, this powerful photography niche has helped to convey news stories of situations occurring across the globe. Whilst these effective images were once used as an addition to the latest news report, they are now often the focal point of what we see in the news.
Find out more about photojournalism at the Peli UK Photography Hub
As the importance of photojournalism grew, so too did the need for skilled photographers in the field. Photojournalists travel to the heart of issues around the world, to deliver key information to the people all over the world.
This is something that UK photojournalist, Angela Catlin, has spent many years of her career being involved with. We reached out to Angela, to find out more about her time and experiences as a photojournalist, as well as what others could learn from her if they are hoping to become a photojournalist themselves.
Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the work that you do?
I’m a freelance photojournalist, based in Glasgow, with a focus on humanitarian and social issues. I’ve covered news stories worldwide from Iraq, Pakistan, Rwanda, Gaza and Guatemala to Haiti, Columbia and many in between.
I’m also interested in environmental portraiture and have had two books of portraits published, made thirty years apart - Natural Light (1985) and Natural Light II (2016), a photo collection of Scottish writers.
I was awarded a 3-month fellowship with the British School at Rome. Whilst there, I was inspired to shoot some street photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson was an influence on me and I was very fortunate because there was an exhibition of his on while I was there.
Why did you choose to become a photographer?
I’m the original accidental photographer! I didn’t choose to become a photographer.
I was diverted from my painting and decorating job in a community group, to an arts team project where I learned from a professional. We documented life in Craigmillar (a housing estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh), as well as passing on skills to local youngsters.
What drew you to focus on photojournalism as your niche?
I fell in love with documenting real lives - being privileged to have a window into people’s lives that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. With my work, I hope to raise awareness and turn the spotlight to under reported stories.
What equipment do you typically take with you on a shoot?
- 2 x Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR cameras
- A 24mm lens
- A 85-200mm lens
- A small flash gun, which I rarely use
We have a range of protective memory card cases available that provide waterproof protection for your photography.
Other than a good eye for photography, what else plays a key role in succeeding as a photojournalist?
An interest in people, empathy towards your subject and a desire to bring stories alive visually.
What words of wisdom would you give to budding photographers looking to focus on photojournalism?
Choose stories that you are interested in or have a passion for. This will be reflected in your work.
Why should photographers choose a career in photojournalism?
It’s not an easy world to break into, finding a home for your work in an ever-shrinking market, where newspapers and magazines seem more interested in fashion and celebrity. I work with journalist, Billy Briggs, and we mostly finance our own stories in the hope that we can sell the story on return.
It can be difficult, but if you feel strongly about raising awareness and highlighting certain issues, then it’s the most challenging and rewarding career you could hope to have.
Are there any common myths surrounding photojournalism that you can dispel?
That’s it’s a jet set lifestyle, roaming from country to country, story to story. It rarely is - in my case, anyway. There’s a lot of slack time when there are no projects on the horizon, so you have to find other ways of creating revenue through marketing or commercial work, which then enables your next assignment.
What finishing touches do you tend to make to your shots? Are there any specific tools you would recommend?
Although I use Photoshop to edit my photographs, I only use basic tools like exposure and contrast, for example. I usually crop when I compose, by eye.
Which trends do you see growing in photojournalism over the next 10 years?
Online media has created the opportunity to add more depth to the telling of your visual story, by adding video, sound and by creating a multimedia platform. Social media is also another growth area to look into.
What’s the most important part of telling a story through photography?
That you reflect the story honestly and accurately.
Many thanks to Angela for taking the time to speak with us about her photojournalism career. Head over to Angela’s website, for more information about her work, including her time in Haiti and details of her latest book.
If you would like to find out more about other areas of photography, visit the Peli UK Photography Hub for information on some of the growing photography niches in the UK.
Whilst you’re here, why not discover Peli’s hard camera cases - the perfect home for storing and protecting your camera equipment.