at The Irish Times
What does your job entail day to day in a normal week?
As somebody said to me a very long time ago there is no such thing as normal in this business. I think that's what makes it interesting and in an ideal world keeps newspapers, and their online versions fresh. The clue I guess is in the New part of Newspaper. My role as picture editor is to make The Irish Times as visually interesting and relevant to our readers as possible. This involves commissioning photographers and sourcing pictures from around Ireland and the world via our staff photographers, local freelances and major agencies. We have contracts with the major news agencies such as Reuters, Getty etc to provide us with picture feeds daily. Typically we get about 5,000 plus new images a day and on our live system have about 120,000 pictures accessible to us for use at any one time. We have several million archived images also. It takes a fair bit of work to sift through all these images to find the good ones and in particular the ones relevant to each days mix of news. The trick is to find fresh images and avoid as far as possible repeating visual clichés.
How do you decide what's a good photograph/ story to publish?
Visual impact, relevance, emotional engagement with me/the reader, integrity of the image itself. Ideally I like to steer away from set-up or posed images as far as possible but that is not always possible. The really good pictures stand out and pick themselves.
Did you study photography or something else and how was it useful?
Yes I studied Commercial Photography at DIT or Kevin Street DIT as it was then. While my training was very technical and didn't seem very relevant at the time it is good now to have that background and it has been a great help over the years especially as technology has changed so fast and is still changing.
What was your first photography job and how did you get it?
Ha! A very long story; my first photography job was with one of the last of the "walkie" photographers called Con Keane who had a tiny studio on Talbot St. It was a very modest operation, Con shot walkies of couples etc on the street and hoped they would later view the pics on contact sheets and order copies. It was a business that was at the end of its time. I was very bad at it and lasted about 3 months before I went on to a job at The Irish Press where I got a job as a darkroom printer. I got the job with Con via some friend of a friend of my father's as far as I know.
What's the most interesting piece of work you have published recently?
I spend more than 80% of my time in the office running the picture desk in my role as picture editor but very recently was in Sicily on assignment with feature writer and colleague Rosita Boland via a grant from the Simon Cumbers Media fund for a story about African Migration into Europe via Sicily. It was very difficult for many reasons, mainly Italian bureaucracy, but I'm happy with the pics I eventually got at a landing. The work is due to be published next Saturday.
How do you choose your photographers?
By the quality of their work, their reputation and their reliability, all three are very important.
What advice would you have for someone at school (16-18 ) interested in working in your area of photography?
It's an increasingly difficult business to make a living in. Keep an open mind, do a very good course, do video and multimedia and not just stills and don't be afraid to experiment, nobody knows where the future of photojournalism is going. Remember that photojournalism is part of journalism and the ability to tell a story in different ways is the key skill. The camera is just a tool along the way.