Photojournalist Greg Marinovich
“I attempt to show people’s lives and situations and do my best”
Interview: Nezih Tavlas / August 4, 2021
(Credit: Joao Silva)
Photojournalism News: What drew you to photojournalism?
Greg Marinovich: Politics, curiosity, unease with my society.
Photojournalism News: What equipment do you use? Do you have a favourite lens/camera?
Greg Marinovich: I use a wide variety of gear. In digital I use a Nikon D4s and Canon 5D Mark III with a variety of lenses, including some vintage ones with adapters. But I shoot a lot of film on cameras, from view cameras to medium format and 35mm.
I prefer standard lenses, but I am also happy to go a 35mm lens in 35mm format. And sometimes 24mm, even rarely a 135mm … it all depends on the shoot and my mood.
In the larger formats, I definitely prefer the standard lens for the format. If I ever had to choose just one camera and one lens it would be a Rolleiflex with its fixed standard lens… so I guess that is the short answer.
Photojournalism News: What social media platforms do you use?
Photojournalism News: How do you prepare yourself before any assignment? What would you put in your camera bag for a typical task?
Greg Marinovich: On a professional shoot of longer than a couple of days, I would take a minimum of two bodies, three to four primes (24mm, 35mm, 50mm and a 135mm) or a 70 to 200mm zoom if it was needed, tripod, extra cards and batteries, chamois cloths, notebook, pencil/pen, hat, water bottle, ID or passport, cash, handkerchiefs. If I was brave, I would take one body with a 50mm – do a Leonard Freed.
Photojournalism News: How would you best describe your style of work? What are you trying to say with your photography?
Greg Marinovich: I am a work within the documentary photography and photojournalism genres, though I do not really do the latter anymore. I attempt to show people’s lives and situations and do my best to get below or beyond that which I am being shown. I think societies and individuals do reveal themselves during the in-between moments and like many photographers, I try out there long enough and to stay alert enough to get a handful of these.
Photojournalism News: How many photos do you take for one story?
Greg Marinovich: It depends. Anything from a couple of dozen to thousands on longer projects.
(All images © Courtesy of Greg Marinovich)
Photojournalism News: What is the last trip you made?
Greg Marinovich: Lol. I am not shooting seriously at the moment – I am working on scanning and sorting my archive while teaching. Come the Apocalypse, I will get serious about shooting again.
Photojournalism News: What projects will you be working on next?
Greg Marinovich: I am editing towards a series of photographic book projects based on my historic work.
Photojournalism News: Which of your photographs would you describe as your favourite? What makes them so special to you?
Greg Marinovich: Mmmm, not many of my well-known journalistic images at all and certainly not the violent ones, though I do recognise these as important historic documents. I like images I shot as a response to my interactions with people of places. Most of these are either very simple or very complex, or have strange light and shadow interplays.
Photojournalism News: What message do you want your photos to convey?
Greg Marinovich: I don’t think I have an overt message in general, except that humans are pretty wild. In my political and news work, it is to try to show injustice and just how complex truth can be.
Photojournalism News: What does a photo need to be a great in your eyes?
Greg Marinovich: It must remain in your mind’s eye for a long time afterward in addition to have a powerful emotional or psychological kick. Can it make a viewer think about an issue or the human condition? Then it is a success, however small.
Photojournalism News: In the digital age people consume billions of photos every single day, under the circumstances what could make a photo memorable?
Greg Marinovich: Context. The story. Aesthetics are of course important, but they are the just part of the whole. On its own, beauty is empty.
(All images © Courtesy of Greg Marinovich)
Photojournalism News: What was the biggest professional risk you have taken and what was the outcome?
Greg Marinovich: I guess whenever I left a regular gig or photographic relationship when I felt I was either not content or being compromised in some way.
Photojournalism News: What would be your dream assignment?
Greg Marinovich: Large format in the mountains of Ethiopia (Tigray) and Eritrea. Sadly, this seems increasingly unlikely.
Photojournalism News: What are the essential skills/ qualities a photojournalist should have?
Greg Marinovich: Other than the technical skills, they should have curiosity, scepticism, empathy, imagination, patience. Humour helps too.
Photojournalism News: What do you think about the digital manipulation of images?
Greg Marinovich: A big no-no.
Photojournalism News: What does it mean to be an ethical photojournalist?
Greg Marinovich: There are many stages at which one can fail ethically:
1) choosing a story and the physical approach or access (think embedding or police ride-alongs or working with criminals).
2) Using technical approaches that are disingenuous or even deceptive.
3) Stage-managing situations (this to me is the worst of all ethical failings).
4) Misrepresenting what your images mean – captions or the way you frame and then do not explain properly in caption.
5) Post production – the usual evils of cloning, cropping unethically, over-toning: we all know this stuff by now and the over dramatization of images in toning should be called out but instead it is rewarded in many of the photojournalism competitions and publications. It is pathetic.
6) Using images/work out of the context it was shot in. This can be subtle and often not the fault of the photographer.
Photojournalism News: How do you see the role of photojournalism evolving in the world? Do you think photojournalism is losing its importance?
Greg Marinovich: I think it is the opposite, because there is so much fakery or ignorance, we need a public archive of ethically and honestly captured images as a historical record for future generations.
Photojournalism News: Do you have any advice for aspiring photojournalists?
Greg Marinovich: Have a plan B and then a plan C for your career. Try and do work to satisfy yourself, even if just one day a week, no matter what else you do to earn a living. Think long: long form, long term, long time.
Greg Marinovich spent 25 years covering conflict around the globe, with his writing and photographs appearing in magazines and newspapers worldwide. He is co-author of The Bang-Bang Club, a nonfiction book on South Africa’s transition to democracy that has been translated into six languages. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and documentary filmmaker. Marinovich was Editor-In-Chief of the Twenty Ten project, tutoring and managing over 100 African journalists’ work in all forms of media. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2013/14 and currently teaches visual journalism and filmmaking at Boston University’s Journalism school, as well as teaching photography at Harvard. He has an MS in Journalism (Boston University 2020). He gives occasional lectures and workshops on human rights, justice photography, film-making and storytelling.