After working closely with his legal team for more than three years, Alan Crotzer feels alone as he sits in the CNN spotlight for his first live solo television interview, days after his release. “The whole world is out there and I am all alone.” Photo Credit: Vance Jacobs

There’s a thorough Q&A with photojournalist Vance Jacobs at Photographers on Photography.

Vance covers his work in Medellin Prison with Colombian prisoners (which I’ve dissected before) and talks about his compulsion toward friendship with Alan Crotzer, a man who was exonerated after serving 25 years for a crime he did not commit, and the subject of Jacobs’ Exonerated: Alan Crotzer.

“From a purely journalistic standpoint, it was hugely fulfilling to be able to draw a line between a story about Alan that appeared on the front page of the Miami Herald and the car a local doctor decided to donate to him after reading about his plight or to see how one three-minute appearance on Wolf Blitzer’s show on CNN led a total stranger to give Alan a nice apartment in a safe neighborhood to live in at a very discounted rate.”

“But at the end of the day, I felt my responsibility was to help Alan in any way I could—not just to take pictures and I think that can be at odds with what some people think of as the journalistic oath not to intervene—just to witness and document. I ended up spending over 30 days with Alan and I spent a vast majority of that time just trying to help him set up his life. Whether it was his first cell phone, first bank account, first driver’s license, first apartment, first job and so on …”

I read this on the same day the New York Photography Festival opens and co-curator Elisabeth Biondi says:

“There are no more discoveries to be made. Anyone can take a picture now, so it’s forced documentary photographers to have a more personalized vision.”

Within the field of prison photography, it is my observation that the best projects incorporate elements of collaboration with prison inmates, staff and/or volunteers. Have we moved toward a norm where the photographers’ story is the story; that personal perspectives are what the audience wants?

If photojournalists are getting personally involved with the people in front of the lens – especially if they’re making positive contributions that no-one else provides – then so be it.

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