Whether inscribed in physical media, projected on surfaces, or viewed on digital devices, we find ourselves constantly inundated with streams of visual data. Yet, we know surprisingly little about how these images are made, especially in journalistic contexts where representations are long-lasting and where repercussions can be dramatic.
To See and Be Seen considers some of the ideological, aesthetic, pragmatic, institutional, cultural, commercial, environmental, and psychological forces that consciously or otherwise shape the production of news images and subsequently influence their reception. T. J. Thomson examines the expectations, experiences, and reactions of those depicted by visual journalists and considers other relevant factors: how do everyday people perceive cameras and those who operate them? How are identities visually represented and presented to different audiences? And how does the physical and the socially constructed environment shape those depictions?
The results of Thomson’s research provide one of the first empirical and real-time glimpses into the experience of being in front of a journalist’s lens. To See and Be Seen enables us to understand the stories behind images by considering the environment in which such images are made, the exchange (if one occurred) between the camera-wielding observer and the observed, the identities of both parties, and how they react to the representations that are created.
To See and Be Seen is the winner of the National Communication Association’s 2020 Diane S. Hope Book of the Year Award. NCA reviewers called the book “a signature achievement in understanding the process of media production and the ethics of photojournalism.”
T.J. Thomson offers a rare look at the relationship between photojournalists and their subjects. Using a series of carefully crafted, grounded studies, To See and Be Seen covers terrain rich in theoretical and ethical significance. Brimming with detail and empathy, Thomson’s research is valuable to anyone wishing to understand the human impact of visual journalism in the digital era. — Mary Angela Bock, Associate Professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas at AustinVisual news has been part of our life arguably since the Stone Age. But until recently there has been relatively little empirical research into the production and consumption of visual journalism. To See and Be Seen: The Environments, Interactions and Identities Behind News Images by T.J. Thomson admirably fills a gap in exploring existing understanding of how journalists and audiences create images. As revealing and important in this era of instant “live-from-ground-zero” coverage, social media and reality-bending avatars is Thomson’s study of emotional dynamics of personality and location in news, from the point of view of both the industrial professional and independent creator. To See and Be Seen is that rare book that will satisfy scholars, students, and practitioners alike.— David D. Perlmutter, Dean and Professor of the College of Media & Communication, Texas Tech University, and author of Blogwars: The New Political BattlegroundT.J. Thomson writes a refreshing book about photography and how visual journalists’ mediated visuals are made. He focuses on the historical context of images, while more importantly giving voice to image creators through both context and case studies. As a former photo editor turned visual scholar, Thomson is sensitive to the aesthetics of photojournalism while aiming to help readers and viewers go beyond simple picture making. This book is worth the read!— Gabriel Tait, Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism, Ball State UniversityTo See and Be Seen: The Environments, Interactions and Identities behind News Images offers much-needed context to everyday journalism. Instructors would do well to read Thomson this summer while preparing their fall syllabi. The lessons here ring true for those who train future visual journalists and those who train future multimedia journalists—anyone who raises glass to capture an image needs to understand the implications of their actions. Thomson shows us just that. He draws on his own background in visual journalism as a photo editor, freelancer, and consultant to navigate the feelings, concerns, and issues of those on both sides of the lens. That perspective is what makes this book unique.— Matthew Haught, Assistant Chair and Associate Professor of Journalism and Strategic Media, University of Memphis; Newspaper Research Journal
A valuable resource not only for journalism students and researchers in the field of visual communication, but also for practitioners who are interested in a respectful and trustful interaction between photographers and their subjects.
Students and practitioners of photojournalism will find in To See And Be Seen many insights that disrupt conventional perspectives on subject interaction and ethics. Meanwhile, scholars will gain the most value from Thomson’s remarkably diverse and creative application of method, and his detailed descriptions of his research practice.
A highly engaging and informative read for the interested general reader, but also a thoughtful reflection on photojournalistic practices from the perspectives of both the photographer and the photographed that is steeped in cultural theories … Thomson’s book offers all of us a great opportunity to reflect on what it means to both see and be seen.
To See and Be Seen: The Environments, Interactions and Identities behind News Images is a much-needed contribution to all the disciplines it touches. When it comes to photojournalism, it offers an exceptionally rare take on human interaction and its consequence in the area which seems crowded with research into its creative, discursive and technical aspects. Thomson sets his considerations both in a historical and a contemporary context. The first helps understand the complexities of visual communication and realize how long and how much we have depended on the visual. The latter takes into account current organizational changes within the media, the democratization of their production and distribution, and the functions that they perform. All the above make the publication more than noteworthy.
To See and Be Seen is also available as an audiobook via Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.