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Matinee: 'Why Photojournalism Matters' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

11 September 2021

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 413th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Why Photojournalism Matters.

This two-minute clip from the National Press Photographers Association is an edited interview with Austin photojournalist Julia Robinson from nine months ago. We thought it particularly timely in thinking about what kind of people Americans have become in the 20 years since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Because, you know, we have to be honest with ourselves. Looking in the American mirror does not make for a pretty picture.

In wondering how we got here, we listened to Robinson talk about seeing the things around us we avoid looking at and the people we demonize. Photojournalism asks us to look at what's actually happening in our communities. Not to drive by it, not to characterize it by some rant on talk radio or social media, not to dismiss it.

But to look at it. Good or bad.

She talks about how actually looking at what we are in the habit of looking past engenders empathy. We begin to understand it. We can move beyond the problem to the solution.

Photojournalists can't phone it in. They can't fake it. They don't do stock photography. They hold the gaze of those we do not see, she says. And they show that face to us.

There's no mirror if they're not there. And without a mirror we don't know what we look like.

Robinson began her career as a staff photographer covering everything from fires to sports. In 2009 she returned to Austin where she has been covering Texas for the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, among others.

She is also the Southern regional chair for the National Press Photographer's Association and founder of Austin Photo Night and the ATXSquared project.

She knows what she's talking about when she talks about the importance of photojournalism. And today is as good as any other to listen to what she has to say.

Who we are as a people depends on it.

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