Jeff Widener: At the heart of the news
Best known for his photo taken of the man in front of the tank during Beijing’s Tian’anmen uprising in 1989, “Tank Man”, –an image that made the front pages of many newspapers and magazines at the time and made him one of the finalists nameés for the Pulitzer 1990-, Jeff Widener is a highly respected and award-winning photojournalist (Columbia University DART Award, Harry Chapin Media Award, Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, Scoop Award in France, etc)…
Widener grew up in Southern California where he attended Reseda High School, Los Angeles Pierce College, and Moorpark College majoring in photojournalism. In 1974, he won the Kodak Scholastic National Photography Fellowship, in front of 8,000 students from all over the United States. The prize included a study trip to East Africa.
In 1978, Widener began his career as a press photographer in California and later moved to Nevada and then Indiana. At 25, he accepted a job in Brussels with United Press International. His first mission abroad was the Solidarity riots in Poland.
Over the years, he has covered assignments in over 100 countries involving civil unrest and wars to social issues. He was the first photojournalist to deposit digital images of the South Pole. In 1987, he was hired as the Associated Press Picture’s Southeast Asia editor, where he covered major stories in the region, from the Gulf War to the Olympics. Other postings included East Timor, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Burma, Syria, Jordan, India, Laos, Vietnam, Pakistan and many more.
Your first photographic trigger?
Jeff Widener : I still have the photo. That of my grandfather walking towards our house in Canoga Park in 1967, California. The camera was a Kodak Flashfun Hawkeye offered by my parents, I was 10 years old.
The image man or woman who inspires you?
Jeff Widener : There are several, including: Josef Koudelka, Eliott Erwitt, W. Eugene Smith, Larry Burrows.
The image you would have liked to make?
Jeff Widener : I’ve already done it… “Tank Man”.
The one you regret not having done?
Jeff Widener : I would have liked to make more images of the uprising in Tiananmen Square. I hurt my head the night of the massacre and I had the flu. And then, I was also just too scared.
The one that appealed to you the mostmu?
Jeff Widener : The image of an American girl on the street in Italy in 1951 by Ruth Orkin. A fantastic image of street photography.
And the one who put you in the collarèD ?
Jeff Widener : I’ve never taken a picture that made me angry, but during an Air Vietnam crash in Bangkok in the 1980s, I saw a group of Thai photographers ask a rescuer to hold up the a passenger’s severed leg for a photo. I couldn’t bear it.
If you had to choose just one of your images?
Jeff Widener : “Tank Man”, because this image will always confirm my presence on this planet.
A key image in your personal pantheon?
Jeff Widener : I have to go back to “Tank Man”.
The qualitynecessary to be a good photographer?
Jeff Widener : It’s not so much about quality as about being able to feel an emotional response to your surroundings and being able to anticipate the decisive moment before it happens.
The secret of the perfect image, if it exists?
Jeff Widener : A perfect image is an image that instantly tells a story and stays in your brain for weeks or years. It may remind you of a song, an old lover, or a time in your life. An American Girl in Italy 1951 by Ruth Orkin is a classic example.
The person you would dream of photographing?
Jeff Widener : I’ve photographed just about every head of state, royalty and celebrity, but if I could have ever… I would have loved to follow The Beatles in their heyday, with full access and complete. The momentum and global coverage and repercussion would have been phenomenal.
An essential photo book?
Jeff Widener : Josef Koudelka – Exile.
The camera of your debut?
Jeff Widener : Nikon FTN, Nikon F2.
Which one do you use today?
Jeff Widener : Leica M7, Leica R8, Nikon D810.
your favorite druge?
Jeff Widener : Approval.
The best way to disconnect for you?
Jeff Widener : Some of my favorite moments have been nights spent alone in a Third World guesthouse with no electricity. It is in these moments, sitting in the dark, that one loses oneself in personal reflection. Then, when things get depressing, you step outside and are greeted by swaying palm trees and a star-filled night sky. It’s times like these that I really feel alive.
Your greatest quality
Jeff Widener : Forgiveness.
An image to illustrate a new banknote?
Jeff Widener :Charles Lindbergh.
The job that you would not have liked to do ?
Jeff Widener: Culinary photographer.
Your biggest extravaganza as a photographer?
Jeff Widener : Cost is not an object for self-assigned stories.
The values you want to share through your images?
Jeff Widener : I appreciate honesty. Journalism is a noble, neutral and impartial profession. Any deviation is a sacrilege for the profession.
The city, country or culture you dream ofyou duncover?
Jeff Widener : The North Pole. I went to the South Pole. After covering assignments in over 100 countries, I have found that most cultures have pretty much the same desires, especially when it comes to family.
Your biggest regret?
Jeff Widener : Too many things to list.
Instagram, Tik Tok or Snapchat?
Jeff Widener : Instagram.
Color or B&W?
Jeff Widener : It depends on what you need. But I have a weakness for the Tri-X 400.
Lightre of the day or lightère artificial?
Jeff Widener : Depending on the needs, but I prefer natural light.
The most photogenic city according to you?
Jeff Widener : New York City. A blind monkey could find a picture to take.
If God existed, would you ask him to pose for you, or would you take a selfie with him?
Jeff Widener : Neither. I would just thank him.
The image that represents for you the current state of the world?
Jeff Widener : Shopping malls in flames.
What is missing in today’s world?
Jeff Widener : Mental health.
What if everything had to be redone?
Jeff Widener : I would like to remember everything.
We would like to say thanks to the author of this write-up for this incredible content
The Questionnaire: Jeff Widener by Carole Schmitz – The Eye of Photography Magazine