Participants in the Hangzhou Yang Xiaoguang Canon workshop experiment with the Canon 5DmkII
Any international visitor to a Chinese photography festival should come prepared with the best the camera market has to offer, as anything less will leave you feeling markedly underdressed. At the meeting of newspaper photographers in Dali this year it was the turn of the Canon 5DmkII, a camera that has taken the Chinese news industry by storm as newspapers introduce multimedia onto their websites. One Canon rep told me they were selling around 2,000 units a month in China, and I have heard rumours of double this number in peak months.
The Southern Metropolitan News in Guangzhou, like many of the 2,200 national and provincial newspapers in China, has invested heavily in the 5DmkII. They now have 12 photographers shooting both stills and video as well as a dedicated multimedia team working on longer term projects (see http://umedia.nddaily.com/#20090912-12 and click around). Technically the stories are well produced but creating compelling narratives is proving much harder. However The Southern Metropolitan is making progress and has invited Mediastorm founder Brian Storm twice now to run workshops with their staff which has made a noticeable difference.
Canon too has not missed the opportunity, offering free workshops and supporting a new £5,000 multimedia award for young Chinese photojournalists. Most newspapers have a mix of Canon and Nikon equipment making it much easier for them to buy into whichever camera system offers them the best product. Canon China have put aside twenty-four 5DmkIIs along with lenses, sound equipment and computers exclusively for training news photographers around the country and the results are starting to come through.
The video below (without the Chinese subtitles) was shot this summer by Changsha photographer Liu Zhe, who attended the first 5D workshop in April.
This is the best video I have seen by a Chinese newspaper photographer to date and there is still plenty of room for improvement, however given the Chinese newspaper market is yet to see the kinds of revenue drops now being experienced in the West, there is no doubt in my mind that we will see far greater investment in this kind of reporting in China over the next few years.
D J Clark is director of Visual Journalism at the Asia Center for Journalism and course leader for the University of Bolton – MA Photography (international photojournalism, travel and documentary) that runs in Dalian China.