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Forum features photojournalist’s social justice work

Published: March 27, 2014, 5:24 pm ET
Sports Assistant

Janet Jarman, an award-winning photojournalist from Richmond, spoke in the Jepson Alumni Center Wednesday night as part of the 2013-14 Jepson Leadership Forum. Jarman’s presentation included highlights and background of her work on several different social issues in Mexico and the United States and Jarman’s views on photojournalism in today’s society.

Jarman has covered a long list of issues including the drug war in Mexico where she currently lives and works, Mexican-U.S. immigration issues and her current project on the coffee industry and the struggles of growers and collectors of coffee beans. A common theme in all of Jarman’s work is each of her major projects have taken multiple weeks to fully capture, which Jarman said was less and less common in today’s journalism.

“Most of my traditional clients are facing financial challenges,” Jarman said. “They can no longer afford to send photographers out to work on in-depth stories, and even if they do, they face many difficulties in getting these stories noticed by the general public. The big question today for me and my colleagues is, ‘How can professional photojournalists continue to have an impact in framing social issues to promote understanding?’”

Because of the current state of flux in the world of journalism, Jarman said she had no simple answer. She said one solution she had found was to become known as an expert on a certain topic or issue, as she has done with immigration and other social challenges in Mexico.

Jarman’s in-depth photo stories that she developed over time were noted by students and faculty for having met her goals of spreading awareness and understanding of social issues.

Peter Kaufman, leadership studies professor and one of the people responsible for getting Jarman to campus, said in an email this year’s leadership forum focused on examining how cultural leaders created discussion about social issues and inspired change. Jarman fit that role, and showed through her presentation how her work did that, Kaufman said.

“If you want the bottom line,” Kaufman said, “her work is sensational, daring and brimming with goodwill.”

Laura DelPrato, a leadership studies student who also runs the photography club on campus, said Jarman’s photographs were powerful, evoked strong emotional responses and spoke for themselves overall.

“I think the most important idea in Jarman’s presentation was the idea of being a storyteller over a long period of time,” DelPrato said. “It seems most news articles today are focused on easily digestible short stories that don’t allow us to immerse ourselves in the depth that Jarman’s work provides.”

Contact staff writer Jeremy Day at jeremy.day@richmond.edu

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