Two months after CNN let go some of its photojournalists as it found out that "consumer and pro-sumer technologies [were] simpler and more accessible," and that "more of this technology [was] in the hands of more people," the network has hired a new director of photography for its Digital division.
Simon Barnett was appointed to the newly-created position, fresh off of his stint as director of photography for Life.com. In his career, he's served as picture editor at ESPN the Magazine, and was also director of photography for Newsweek, Esquire and Discover magazines.
"CNN represents the gold standard in journalism," Barnett tells BJP in an interview by email. "To be a part of an organisation with such reach, such impact on culture, such credibility, such ambition and momentum, well....for me, it was a no-brainer. I've been a 'CNNer' from the outside for as long as I can remember, as an admirer and consumer. To be a part of it, particularly at this time in the evolution of journalism, is nothing short of a privilege."
In his position, Barnett oversee how the network's photography is used across CNN's web, tablet, mobile, and emerging platforms, as well as, says a spokeswoman, "lead the vision for integrating photography into CNN's multimedia journalism efforts."
"I want to champion the power of the still image," Barnett explains. "The churn and upheaval in media of the past decade has not been particularly kind to photojournalism or its practitioners, but I think that's about to change." Perhaps in echo of CNN's senior vice president of domestic news operations Jack Womack's words, who explained that some of the network's photojournalists were no longer needed because of advances in technology, Barnett says: "The discussion has been about photographic technology and equipment, not on the work itself."
He continues: "I want to use my platform here to show the audience that great photojournalism explains our world in a way unlike any other medium. Professional photojournalists are front and center in my mission. I believe in authorship, a point of view, and placing trust in the talent behind the camera - they are literally the ones closest to the story, and I want to connect the wider public to that feeling of being there."
Barnett will concentrate a lot of his efforts on the mobile and tablet platforms, he tells BJP. "[These platforms] are becoming a bigger deal every day, as the adoption rates for these devices increase, though web and TV are certainly still important for us and our audiences. We embrace these new ways of consuming photography; there is a big opportunity with them, as they help us share the news in immensely personal and nuanced ways. I think we're at the beginning of a golden age for photography."
Barnett will also use the recently-launched CNN Photos blog to put the emphasis on photojournalists themselves. "CNN Photos is a place that celebrates the craft of the photographer," he says. "I am personally a fan of a very wide range of photography and photographers - and think photography helps us all see the events of our lives differently. So, I am looking forward to showcasing storytelling excellence both central to and beyond photojournalism. We're open to trying different assignments, approaches, and ideas, but what will be key is for the audience to feel the quality, come away nourished and moved, and also having learned something."
Barnett's appointment, he claims, is "a clear signal for photographers about how seriously [CNN] takes the medium. CNN looked at their evolution of Digital and made the decision to create a new department dedicated to still photography. So many online media outlets are going the way of non-specialisation, where art direction and video and audio are done by a single person who can do a little of each. There's a real focus here on doing the reverse, on working to understand how stories are told in each medium - and platform - and delivering the quality to tell the best stories possible."
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