Interview with Ross Taylor, creator of "The Image, Deconstructed"

A few weeks ago a photographer friend asked me if I’d seen this website, called The Image, Deconstructed. I’d never heard of it, but it happened that she sent me link while I was on a train from New York to DC, with pretty decent internet connection, and I spent half the ride devouring the site. It’s a collection of interviews with photographers about a single image they’ve made, and what went into the crafting of that image. In many cases, the central image is part of a series in a longer-term project, which especially appealed to me given the nature of the work I most want to feature in Confluence. The site is almost like a series of informal lectures by working photojournalists on the nature of their work and the investment the make in their craft. On the About page of the site, co-creator Russ Taylor writes,

“When I see an image that moves me, the first question that I want to know is: How was that picture made? Early in my career, I didn't know how much thought was put into making images that have impact. I had little idea of the psychology of photojournalism.

I was speaking with Logan Mock-Bunting, who suggested I start this blog as a venue for this type of discussion. After bouncing around names with other friends, we came up with the title of: The Image, Deconstructed.

The purpose of this blog is to create a greater understanding of the psychological approach to photojournalism. As a reader, you're invited to ask the organizers of this blog about a certain image you'd like to know more about."

This quote inspired me to get in touch with Ross, and ask some questions that came to mind about the site and the stories he has featured. Here’s our interview.

Katie: Do you feature strictly working photojournalists, or is your pool of photographers wider than that?

Ross: We began at first interviewing photojournalists, since it's the field to which I was most connected. But, over time that's shifted into broader photography.

There's extensive interdisciplinary approaches to the field and it's helpful to share as much knowledge as possible to each other.

Katie: How often do you have a reader request an image or photographer for you to interview?

Ross: On occasion we do. In fact, if someone wanted to interview someone we have the option of a guest interviewer. If anyone is ever interested, feel free to contact me. 

Mostly, though, it begins with me reaching out to photographers. With this, I've found it often helps to begin with an introduction from a fellow photographer who may know the person I'm contacting.

Katie: Have you ever had any big surprises in any interview or project you featured? 

Ross: I think the biggest surprise was seeing some consistency of trends and themes that emerge from the responses over time. Even with different projects, and vastly different photographers, one can find universal themes that we all experience. That's been fascinating to see, and it helps to feel less alone in ones' approach.

Katie: What interview would you consider to be the very best one? 

Ross: I don't know if there's a "best one" per se, but one of the ones that stood out to me was with Tom Franklin, who took the iconic 9/11 photo:

Sometimes, I feel we think iconic images just unfold in front of someone's eyes. However, it often takes dogged, intense work on a photographer's end to document it.

Tom's response in the interview was fascinating. It lent a lot of insight on how one of the most important recent images of our time was made. 

This also gave me the opportunity to get to know him better as a person. From resulting communications with him, I've developed a deeper respect from him as a person. He's humble and a symbol of the best of our craft. 

When I hear the president saying "Fake News, Enemy of the People," he's wrong. I think of people like Tom, and so many others photojournalists I have met along the way, who are working diligently to serve as a record of the human condition. Many carry with them the highest level of respect and work ethic, and Tom was emblematic of this.

Katie: I could not agree with you more. Ross, thank you so much for talking to me about The Image, Deconstructed. I think Confluence readers will find it a wealth of insight into crafting a good image and meaningful projects.