Photography innovation is often discussed in terms of technol- ogy—digital overtaking film, the rise of mobile photography, com- pact and speedy storage—but innovation in the industry deserves a wider focus.
“In our field of photography, it’s about thinking
differently and then seeing differently and ex-
pressing differently,” says environmental pho-
tographer James Balog, who has spent 35 years
documenting the human-nature relationship. “I
think it’s really important that we think in ideas if
we’re genuinely pursuing innovation.”
There’s no magic blueprint for innovation, but
there’s a lot to learn from veteran photographers
who have each left a mark on the industry.
PDNedu uncovered some elements of the innovation formula by speaking with Balog and four
other Nikon Ambassadors: Deanne Fitzmaurice,
Sandro, Joe McNally and Ami Vitale.
Thinking Differently About the
Vitale, who is a contract photographer with National Geographic, was featured in the last
issue of PDNedu for her forward-looking wildlife conservation stories. She chooses long-term topics that she can dig into and capture the progress being made.
It’s a contrarian approach in today’s high-speed news cycle. “I have realized that only
covering news as it unfolds does not give us depth of understanding,” she says. “It’s react-
ing to events rather than giving us a way for ward.”
Sometimes what she uncovers goes against established narratives—like how China,
whose environmental protections are often viewed in a negative light in the United
States, is doing significant work to protect habitats for pandas and other species.
Photographers shouldn’t be afraid to challenge existing storylines, she says. “For a lot
of reasons people don’t want to hear the real story very often,” Vitale says. “The truth is,
[a story can be] so subjective, so you need to look at things from multiple viewpoints, and
THIS PAGE: McNally has used mirror tricks in a few shoots over the years, including this one from last March in the Nevada desert (left); Ami Vitale’s image of
young monks in Bhutan. The country, she mentions, measures progress through gross
national happiness (GNH) rather than GDP.