Shiho Fukada visits Elon University, speaks with reporting class about photojournalism and reporting ethics

By Connor Cavanaugh

The classroom went silent as her photos flashed upon the projector screen. The clicking of laptop keys ceased as images of poverty, destruction and sadness flicked by, one after another.

Freelance photojournalist Shiho Fukada spent time talking with professor Janna Anderson’s reporting class on Wednesday, Oct. 23, showcasing some of her work as well as engaging in discussion about reporting techniques and ethics.

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Fukada explains her process in the field.
Photo by Connor Cavanaugh

“I wish I had found what I wanted to do in university,” said Fukada. “I was mostly lost into my twenty’s.”

Fukada studied English literature in college, and then worked in the fashion and advertising industries before becoming a photojournalist. Since picking up a camera, Fukada’s work has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Time, New Yorker, Stern, Le Monde, New York Magazine, GEO and others. She has also won numerous awards for her work documenting impoverished parts of the world. She is currently based out of New York City, though her home is Tokyo, Japan.

“Originally I was more interested in cinematography, but I had very little money,” said Fukada. “Photography is more enjoyable for me because it allows me to slow down. It’s a very spiritual experience for me.”

Fukada spoke about the necessary skills reporters need to have.

“You have to have an ability to connect with people, “ said Fukada. “Good reporters have the Bill Clinton effect on those they talk to.”

Fukada’s work has taken her into extremely impoverished and disadvantaged places around the world, which has led to uncomfortable experiences for her.

“Taking photos of dead bodies is very uncomfortable and intrusive I feel,” said Fukada. “But it’s my job to take pictures, people need to know what has happened.”

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Photograph from Fukada’s portfolio.
Photo courtesy of Shiho Fukada.

“I’ve been spit on, yelled at, cursed at in some situations, but you can’t take it personally,” said Fukada. “You have to believe in yourself and what you do, and convey your passion in your work.”

Fukada’s reporting has required her to photograph people in very compromising situations, such as sex workers and child laborers.

“Some stories, I would set the camera down for at least the first day and just talk to the subjects first,” said Fukada. “Then I start taking photos once I am comfortable with them and they are more comfortable with me.”

“If you don’t know what makes you cry or laugh or smile, you cant capture that for other people to see,” said Fukada. “You have to believe in what you are doing, or no one else will.”

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