Thursday, 2 October 2014

Up Close and Personal: Photo journalism on the MBA

The Royal Holloway MBA group were exposed to some out-of-the-box thinking during induction by guest speaker Jeff Widener, celebrated US photojournalist who covered numerous dangerous conflicts in South East Asia.  

MBA Director Justin O'Brien has sought to introduce a number of arts based interventions in the traditionally business minded management programme to stimulate creative thinking processes and imbibe students with a strong flavour of Royal Holloway's liberal arts pedigree.  

World Exclusive: breaking East Timor 1994

Challenging bean counting thinking by "the management", Jeff regaled the MBA students of the dangers of penny pinching, behaviour that nearly lost his then agency AP (Associated Press) a major news coup. Having ducked out of the carefully orchestrated press tour of troubled East Timor, Widener found himself literally between the battle lines of civil protestors and thousands of troops. A civil unrest situation the Indonesian regime was trying hard to deny existed. Looking to break a world exclusive that had major political ramifications, he found his New York based office was reluctant to accept his international collect call (reverse charges). A key message of 'perseverance' was landed pretty firmly with engaged students.


Salvador Movie Trailer

The trail of this James Woods movie 'Salvador' perhaps captures the essence of the thrills, very real mortal danger and adrenalin rush experienced by conflict photojournalists.  

A guest of Royal Holloway's economic historian Dr. Emmett Sullivan, Jeff used a stunning portfolio of his work link to share reflections of a 40 year long career that took him up close and personal to life threatening assignments in Tianamen square, East Timor and Cambodia.  His highly regarded professional reputation also gave him access to meet and photograph leading world figures that included Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher.  More conversation reportage with Jeff can be found here.

Iconic 'Tank Man' image in Tianamen Square

The iconic "Tank Man" photo that came to epitomise the failed attempt by the Chinese people to rise up against their Communist oppressors required Jeff to risk his life cycling through battle lines and perch in a dangerously exposed position.  The difficulty of obtaining film saw this image shot using speed exposure, that lacks the fine detail of Jeff's usual work.  Initially lambasted by his editors for sending grainy images 'down the line' (pre-internet telephone line data transfer) Jeff was later eulogised for placing an image that was literally plastered across the front pages around the world.  

If you ever wondered where the expression 'Up Close and Personal' came from - I would point you at this Hollywood blockbuster staring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer....  

Redford/Pfeiffer movie trailer 

'Up close and personal'