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Photojournalist and Daily Telegraph photographer Jane Mingay's story

Photojournalist and Daily Telegraph photographer Jane Mingay's story - Press photographer James Vellacott chats with fellow press photographer Jane Mingay.

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Category : Professional Interviewed
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Photo by Jane Mingay
Photo by Jane Mingay.
Jane Mingay is a London based photojournalist currently working as a photographer for The Daily Telegraph. She specialises in news, features and portraits.

After completing an MA in Photojournalism at the University of Westmister in 2004, Jane freelanced regularly for international news agencies- the Associated Press, Agence France Press and the Press Association. She has also worked for various national newspapers including the Financial Times and the Daily Mail covering a multitude of assignments both in the UK and abroad. Her multi-award winning images have been published widely in the British and international press.

Jane has recently returned from an intensive 10-day trip around Georgia. She was there to photograph women far from political and ethnic disputes who were living in grim Soviet-style blocks and faded government buildings, trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. This is the human face of the Georgia conflicts and Jane was commissioned and sent by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) to document and reveal the suffering and sense of displacement that these disputes cause. The real victims are the resilient women attempting to hold fragile families together, looking after their children and struggling to rebuild their lives on the equivalent of £10 a month whilst living in appalling conditions.

There are approximately 275,000 internally displaced people in camps in Georgia following conflicts with Russia over the fate of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Many of the victims are the women attempting to hold war-torn families together. As they struggle to rebuild their lives, living with traumatised men means that alcohol abuse and forced sex are common occurrences and pregnancy is not an affordable option.

Jane Mingay
Photo by Jane Mingay.
Jane attended with sexual health consultants from the IPPF to visit the camps there.

"As a photographer working on such an assignment you feel that as you hold the camera you could be holding a key their future welfare…" Jane told me. "the ability to use imagery to deliver the plight on these women, levels much responsibility on the photographers shoulders. You concentrate on getting as many stories and images as possible in the short time that you have there."

Jane is a Canon user. Most of her images are taken on a Canon EOS 5D MkI. She also owns an EOS 1D MkIII but like many of us has had focusing issues with the camera and prefers to use the cheaper 5D for her reportage work. On this assignment her choice of lenses were mainly the outstanding Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM II, the EF 16-35mm f/2.8 and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8IS.

I personally also use a 85mm f/1.2 and coupled with the 5D MkII, gives an unbeatable stills, and lets not forget, video unit. The wide aperture allows very lowlight usage with the narrowest depth of field available at that focal length, great for losing the background and isolating the subject. It takes some careful focusing though.

The EF 16-35mm f/2.8 is also a good choice for the reportage photographer and many broadsheet photographers live behind it. If you need to show an interesting sky and landscape or a moody availably lit room scene with ‘arty’ converging parallels then accept no substitutes! Personally I like it for the media scrum outside the High Court on The Strand from time to time, it’s a fantastic news lens.

Jane Mingay photograph
Photograph by Jane Mingay.
The EF 70-200 f/2.8 is also a great all round portrait to mid-length lens. It allows you to shoot zoom-able clean portraits and gets you in a little closer on a news story.

Jane, though carrying a flash, opted to shoot most of the images with the available light. The higher ISO allowed lower light shooting to cope with the rooms inside the tower blocks, and the extra grain gave a more real and gritty feel adding to the emotion of the image. During the trip she found that many of the women had never been photographed before and were very nervous. The IPPF as part of their aid were handing out contraceptives in which she assisted, this turned out to be a great icebreaker with the women as it caused some amusement.

Jane said, "We had no issues with the government or any censorship. We were looked after by IPPF in Georgia, so maybe we were protected against any curiosity or questioning. The association has such strong links with the women they visit and provide for, that the access we got was amazing and the women we met were mostly happy to tell their stories, this is probably due to the support and closeness they feel with the Georgian IPPF association. We also had a fantastic translator, Medea who really connected with us and the women we met, she helped so much building a rapport between us."

When covering foreign assignments such as Jane’s Georgia trip, it’s very important to get a good driver, translator and fixer, preferably all in one person. Meeting someone on your arrival, who is familiar with the local bureaucracy and customs and knows their way around, saves so much time and work. They could also keep you out of trouble on more dangerous assignments. A little web surfing and a few phone calls to the local media at the destination often yields a journalist keen to meet you and assist you during the trip. The local English language school also is a good place to pick up a translator wanting experience in translating.
photograph Jne Mingay
Photograph by Jane Mingay.

I asked Jane how she dealt with the images each night after shooting and if there were any electrical power issues there, "The power was fine in Georgia. I charged my batteries every evening. I also download all images I had taken that day to my laptop and backed them up with a portable hard drive, this needs no power, just uses the laptop. I also tried to edit my images every evening, looking at the images taken and choose the best ones using PhotoMechanic. I also think it is extremely important to make sure my notes are correct, so that I have the names of all the women I have spoken to, can identify them, remember their stories and precise facts they have told me. So every night, I checked my notes against the pictures and liaised with the IPPF UK representative and writer, Fiona, who I was traveling with. I also recorded sounds using my Edirol recorder, and shot video with my Sony A1 when possible (when I had more time with people and it would not interfere with my photography). I enjoy working on multimedia packages incorporating images, video and conversations/interviews."

There are many Non Governmental Agencies and charities out there that use good reportage photographers to document their work. These stories and images can be packaged together to provide powerful feature articles for the British newspapers and magazines going on to help raise public awareness of world issues.

To see more of Jane’s award-winning images visit her website at http://www.janemingay.com.

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