It was with an overwhelming sadness that I have read of the remarkable photojournalist Penny Tweedies passing.
And it was with especial sadness I read that it was by her own hand. I send my utmost condolences to her family and friends. Of course I do not know the circumstances which led her to her decision but I feel enormous empathy for her family.
The Guardian obituary attributed her inability to continue making a living out of her art as one of the contributing factors. And whilst perhaps there is a grain of truth in this, I think it was a very dangerous thing to write.
The truth is suicide is NOT painless. It is the grief of the people who are left wondering if they perhaps could have done more, the vacuum left where once was a living breathing mother, sister, friend can be unbearable, the always unanswered question. Why?
Photojournalism has never been an easy choice of career for anyone, let alone a woman, let alone a woman of Penny Tweedies vintage. I certainly hope that no-one else believes that the so called ‘death’ of photojournalism is a good enough reason to give up living. Of course the ‘game of life is hard to play…’ but if you look at the opportunities that are available to photojournalists now, if they are willing to use their heads as well as their eyes then there can be a future.
I personally never want to hear again the rather pompous pronouncement that ‘Photojournalism is Dead’. It has already mutated into other forms that are ideally suited to web distribution. Like the new multi-media formats, add good pictures to words and music and you have an entertaining four minute piece that with the advent of apps and paywalls in the immediate future will eventually combat the problem of money leaving the industry.
While a lot of old timers (David forgive me for that) like David Alan Harvey, have used the internet to create niches for themselves and distribute books and create exhibitions and grants there is definitely a future to be had for all those brave and dedicated souls who would venture into places where stories that need to be told should be told.
As a community we should also be looking after one another in more personal terms. I know I have often felt isolated and lost in a world that is entirely focused on money and where few people understand a woman wandering around alone with just a camera. Not thinking about the electricity bill that remains unpaid. seems to most people an incomparable act of stupidity. But if I spent my life worried about that then I wouldn’t have any time to think about what is really important.
Instead of photojournalists competing with one another on an endless level, which was taken to the point where a rather well known photojournalist ‘allegedly’ dug up the body of a young girl in Africa so he could get some great B/W shots to impress the judges at World Press Photos, we could be offering one another much more inspiration.
Sadly it appears that Penny Tweedie was unable to access that inspiration to continue…rest in peace.