Inside Story: News photojournalism

In the savagely competitive world of news photojournalism, which photographers do the professionals themselves most admire?
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Ben Curtis works for Associated Press in Africa and he's won the World Press Awards this year with his picture essay on the elections in Togo.

He works all over Africa and was very badly beaten up a year ago but bounced back from it. Africa suits him down to the ground. He's gung-ho but not in a brazen or an aggressive way, he's just indifferent to risk - and always gets his picture.

In any big story you try to encapsulate the whole story in one picture if you can. Ben's good at that, he has a good eye and he'll graft at it until he gets what he needs. He's young but he's going to do really well.

CHRIS HARRIS, THE TIMES

When I started on The Times 25 years ago, Brian Harris was very inspirational. He mastered the use of the wide-angle lens, looked at things laterally, and gave a different perspective on news photography. I did the miners strike with him, one of my first big stories for The Times, and he taught me a lot. I remember one of his photos in particular, of a prison riot maybe 20 years ago. There was a line of policemen with riot shields behind a bus stop made of corrugated plastic, which altered the shapes of the policemen, and it looked incredible. It was a surreal image, within a tense, very real situation. He saw that and no one else did.

Brian went to The Independent when it started in 1987, and was a major force in how fantastic the paper looked when it first came out.

PETE NICHOLLS, THE TIMES

Fleet Street is very formulaic now but there's always a nice surprise with Sean Smith. It's become hard to get something new in Iraq and he did an embed with the Americans last year and got a terrific set of pictures. They had taken some prisoners and cuffed them and marched them across the desert and Sean's recalling of that was awesome.

Awesome is an over-used word, but in the truest sense of the word it was great stuff. He should be a role model for young photographers and I certainly look at him in that way. He makes me think I should be doing a milk round rather than taking pictures.

IAN JONES, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

There are a number of news photographers producing very high quality work today. We are very lucky in Britain; we consistently produce excellent photographers who take top quality images. This is a very competitive industry, which helps to push the creative boundaries of the photographer not just looking for the obvious, but for something different and inventive.

Tom Stoddart is probably the best news and reportage photographer of recent years. His work in areas such as famine-struck Africa, Bosnia and Iraq is sensational, and few photographers around the world can come close to his standard.

TOM PILSTON, THE INDEPENDENT

"These days there is lot of clever trickery but there's nothing like that with Sean Smith. There's intelligence about the situation behind the picture and I think that's rarer than it was. In conflict areas you've got to be sensitive to how things work on the ground and also to who you are photographing.

There are two different communities in areas like Iraq and Kosovo, and you've got to be wise in how you deal with people and get to the pictures. Other photographers do very stylised pictures which are good, but Sean has the edge because he conveys more about the people he's photographing. With people like Sean, Andrew Chester on the New York Times and Martin Godwin on The Guardian there's a line you can trace back to great photographers like Don McCullin.

ADRIAN DENNIS, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

There are a lot of so-called press photographers who shout and bawl at their subject while pressing the button. Some of these buffoons get a lot more media attention than the genuine photographers.

I work with Odd Andersen, one of AFP's chief photographers. He has won much acclaim for his work during the wars in Iraq and Bosnia and from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But what amazes me is his motivation to photograph any assignment, from working at film premieres and football matches to political features. He has dedication for the job.

JEREMY SELWYN, LONDON EVENING STANDARD

After about 37 years on the Daily Mirror Alisdair MacDonald was made redundant a couple of years ago but since then he's made a name for himself as a freelance, photographing things in London. He's a "thinking photographer" and that's why I like him.

He travels around London by bus and Tube and appears everywhere at the drop of a hat. He's proved that being a freelance doesn't mean going on an assignment from a picture desk - he goes out himself and whether it's the Thames drying up or Big Ben looking dirty, he finds his own stories.

He's over 60 but his enthusiasm never tires which is amazing after all these years.

TOBY MELVILLE, REUTERS

Murdo's MacLeod's got a lovely eye and he can get his subjects to do things others can't. He's very good at covering politicians and party conferences and always comes out with nicely lit and composed pictures. He's got a strong news sense, but I like him because his news portraits and news features are so strong, rather than just being a good doorstep merchant as some news photographers are.

I'll always remember a portrait he did of Roy Keane shortly after he had quit playing for Ireland - a lovely lit portrait of Keane looking menacing as he does, but he had used a crow's skull with Roy Keane looking through the beak of the skull. It was a very arresting picture.

DYLAN MARTINEZ, REUTERS

Jeremy Selwyn is one of the best news photographers in the country. He has an uncanny knack of always being in the right place at the right time and I guess his art is capturing the essence of a story in a single image.

He pretends to be very silly sometimes, bumbling along, but he's always there for the picture. He just has a knowledge of the story and what is needed for a newspaper.

The picture that stands out is Lord Heath and Margaret Thatcher at the Tory conference a couple of years ago looking at their watches. They were seen together for the first time in years and it's a very amusing picture of people who obviously hate each other. It seems to tell the whole story in that one picture."

SEAN SMITH, THE GUARDIAN

Jeremy Selwyn always seems to get a good picture effortlessly. He's like a duck with his legs going mad under water, but you can't see anything moving. He's very laid back.

There's one of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown having a walk. It was very unusual, a wide picture, and you got a sense of where they were. It sounds like something that could make a nice picture but doesn't, but he just got something that worked very well.

Jeff Moore used to work for National news agency but now he's taking everyone on and winning. He'll take a picture that maybe 40 people are waiting for that seems deceptively simple, but his will stand out.

FIONA HANSON, PRESS ASSOCIATION

It's hard to pick someone out, but John Giles, who works up north, is fantastic and everybody admires him. He's always got the right lens in the right place at the right time. He is very skilled, and can point his camera at anything and come out with a belter. He has that perfect synthesis of technical skill and empathy with the subject. He's just an excellent photographer.

ANDREW PARSONS, PRESS ASSOCIATION

Peter Macdiarmid always looks for anything different. Some of his pictures make you think, 'Wow, how did he get to that?' The stuff he can get from hard news stories, some of which last only a few minutes picture-wise, is an inspiration. His technical knowledge astounds me. You quietly observe and learn from him.

DAVID SANDISON, THE INDEPENDENT

It's difficult to choose, but Adrian Dennis who works for Agence France Presse is a fine photographer. He goes to assignments and comes away with a picture that's very different to everyone else almost every time.

I saw a picture of his on the wires of the opening of Parliament, of one of the cavalry guards before the event started. He's standing, leaning against the wall and it's a lovely, simple moment. He's got a very soft take on things, and in many cases humorous, which in my opinion is the hardest photography to do.

JEFF MITCHELL, GETTY IMAGES

Ian Rutherford works for the Scotsman and has consistently produced great pictures for 10 or 15 years. He's inspired lots of guys up here in Scotland and probably across the UK. He takes pictures the way I would hope to take pictures: very long lens, three-dimensional and very graphic.

He has this great sense of timing - you can be standing beside him, maybe a foot away, but he's caught an instant maybe a fraction before you or a fraction after you and it just seems better, which is infuriating.

DAN CHUNG, THE GUARDIAN

Although he is one of my colleagues, Sean Smith has consistently been one of my favourite photographers.

He gets himself into places that a lot of photographers wouldn't dare go and his recent picture from Iraq - a line of detainees being escorted through the desert by American soldiers - had a very painterly look to it. In its strange way, it's very beautiful.

Justin Sutcliffe used to work in the US and works primarily for The Sunday Telegraph. He travels extensively and his best photo so far was one from the Moscow theatre hostage siege - a picture of a woman being taken away, dazed and semi-naked. It was the only one I saw that showed the effect on the victims and it was quite moving. They are different from ordinary news pictures. That partly comes from working elsewhere.

LEFTERIS PITARAKIS, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Based in Vietnam and Cambodia during the war and later in the Middle East for 19 years, all for Associated Press, Max Nash produced an amazing body of work. He retired last year from the agency but continues to work full time with the same pace and unbeatable passion he had throughout his career. I can only hope I'll last so long.

PETER MACDIARMID, GETTY IMAGES

Tom Pilston of The Independent, is one of those brilliant photographers who is very unassuming, but you know he's going to come up with something you hadn't thought of that looks stunning.

He's a real thinker and I love the way he works, you'd hardly know he's there. He gets to the heart of the story and illustrates it beautifully.

ALISDAIR MACDONALD, FREELANCE

Dan Chung and Peter Macdiarmid are both just thinking photographers. If I go on a job and these two turn up I know I'm dead in the water. With Dan Chung it's originality - you think you've got it and you see his pics and you think, "Oh, I wish I'd done that."

The finest thing in my career is when the opposition guy comes up to you and says, "How did you do that?"

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