Best. Audience. Ever. / by Bill Frakes

Best. Audience. Ever. One hundred third graders at United World College in Singapore.

Dave Caleb, a terrific friend, teacher and photographer invited Laura and me to talk with several groups of students at the school about creativity, my favorite topic. We always enjoy interacting with classes. We always learn more than we teach. But these kids were special.

The first video we showed was a highlight reel of my work for Sports Illustrated. I have shown this collection of images in various iterations at least 100 times through the years to audiences of all ages and interests. This group got it like no other. Oohs, and ahhs. Smiles, gasps, and giggles.

Normally in an hour-long presentation, we will show four or five video pieces, and a gallery of still images.  Normally, we take a dozen questions from the crowd. This time was different.

I turned the room open to questions.  Eighty hands shot up.

The first question stopped me cold.

Eliot.  A precocious 8-year-old with a winning smile underneath mischievous eyes asked me a simple question that cuts to the core of everything we do as photojournalists.

"Your photographs are impossibly good. Do you build them in Photoshop?"

In an instant it came clear to me how pervasive the credibility issue has become for my profession.

Photoshop is a tool.  It’s a great one.  It’s wonderful for all kinds of images.  It just can’t be used by photojournalists to alter the content of a picture.

Now more than ever the world needs accurate, fair, powerful photographic storytelling.  The challenge for us is to establish veracity with our work.

Once I explained that credibility is the most important part of a photojournalist’s work they really got excited, and the questions moved to feelings, life and the world at-large.

The kids were totally engaged and intrigued.  They wanted to understand everything.

I could have stayed there all day.