Every photographer searches for those decisive moments to make great photos. For crime photographers and people who cover other topics dealing with violence, this comes with an unseen emotional toll that Michael DeMocker, a photographer for The Times Picayune, addressed in today’s “Photographing Violence” session.
He began his session by asking a rhetorical question. “How do you cover violence?”
No one really knew if they were supposed to attempt an answer, so the question hung there for a few moments.
“You drink,” he said. He was met with nervous laughter, which he diffused by laughing and saying, “But actually.”
DeMocker then showcased some of his work with crime in New Orleans, and it became clear that he wasn’t exaggerating. He discussed a series of photos dealing with local murders, which he covered by capturing the various reaction to grief at the scene of each crime. DeMocker admits that this is the most difficult part of his job. More often than not, people at the scene of the crime will view the photojournalist as a villian for exploiting a family’s grief. He says that these photos are important for people to see because they show the value of the life that was lost. The photographs are proof that a person had value to someone.
DeMocker mostly spoke about the psychological effects of covering violence. He said that young journalists often become desensitized because they cover crimes so routinely. He shared a personal story about how this profession had affected him and his family (there is NO Grand Theft Auto in his house). A lot of his session dealt with how to remain emotionally stable when covering murders, fires, wars and other stories that deal with violence. He did a thorough job giving details and little-known facts about the field.