Yes, The Photograph is about two Black people falling in love. But Stella Meghie’s film also centers on a journalist named Michael, played by Lakeith Stanfield, who travels to New Orleans to report on a late photographer. Through his dogged reporting, he ends up falling in love with his subject’s daughter, an art curator named Mae (Issa Rae).
As a journalist, Stanfield’s aspirational portrayal left us wanting. While he was afforded the budget to travel twice to New Orleans to report, it’s no secret that in newsrooms across the world, those types of opportunities for journalists are becoming slimmer through changes in the way we consume news, and the industry’s sluggish adaptation to a new business model. (Hint: Subscribe to ESSENCE!)
ESSENCE asked the stars of The Photograph, who are often the subject of celebrity interviews, what they want for journalists—entertainment journalists, specifically—since they are the ones documenting their lives and reviewing their art.
“If you’re transparent about what you’re seeking for your specific story, then all parties will be aware. And I think right now entertainment journalism especially is so salacious and it is about what will get people to click and what will drive attention,” Rae said. “Those aren’t legitimate objectives. You have to strive for truth and you have to strive for integrity in everything that you write and I don’t know if that’s [happening] across the board right now.”
Stanfield added that he hopes that journalists can “create the bridge” for celebrities often looking to communicate with the industry and their fans.
“Sometimes there’s a lot of misunderstanding and our jobs can sometimes converge and butt heads in weird ways that don’t make sense, but I think yeah, having an open and honest dialogue and discussion [would help,]” he added, before admitting that “it is a partnership.”
Find out what other strategies Stanfield has to create more substantial journalism in the video above. And don’t forget to check to The Photograph in theaters now.