Renowned New York photojournalist Ed Kashi believes the point of his work is to make the world a better place.
“Strong reporting, strong imagery can inspire people and change their minds about a situation,” Kashi said.
Kashi was invited to CMU in October as part of the Hearst Visiting Professionals program.
A visual journalist for more than 30 years, Kashi spoke to journalism students and shared his photographs and multimedia work. His biggest client is National Geographic.
“Ultimately, I’m a storyteller; a visual storyteller,” Kashi said.
He works with various organizations, like the Open Society Foundation in New York, to draw attention to the subjects he covers. He hopes his efforts help bring change.
“I feel like people kind of tune out if all they see is bad news,” Kashi said. “I try to point to solutions to help with the problem.”
In Lori Brost’s JRN 340 class, one student asked Kashi why he wanted to be a photojournalist.
He told her he started out wanting to be a writer, and he applied to the University of Michigan. He didn’t get in there, but got accepted at Syracuse University. While there, it became clear to him that he did not have the skills to be a writer. He decided to try photography.
“I found my calling,” he said. “After three months, I was hooked – hook, line and sinker.”
Kashi also shared how he got hired by National Geographic. He started showing them his work in 1983, just four years after he graduated from college. He went back two or three times after that.
“In 1991, I had completed a project in Northern Ireland and was able to prove to them that I could tell a story,” Kashi said. “You need to be able to create a visual narrative.”
Kashi told students composition is the most important element in still photography. He also said you always have to be looking for moments to create a great photograph.
“I view images as a road map,” he said. “I create a road map of where I want the viewer’s eye to go.”
Kashi said students have it easy when it comes to research. They can use e-mail, the Internet and Skype to gather information and talk to sources.
“It is awesome how much better we can communicate with each other,” he said.
Kashi shared stories of being pinned down by crossfire between U.S. forces and insurgents in Iraq, and how he was detained illegally for four days in Nigeria. He said sometimes you just need to take risks to get the pictures you need.
“As journalists we have to push those boundaries and go beyond our comfort zone,” he said.