Ninjas – in text or pictures?

April 18, 2008

Ninja 1

Japan’s sleepy town of Iga offered an opportunity for me to write my first story for the news wire. Iga is known to many Japanese as one of the traditional home towns of the ninja. I was looking forward to seeing tens of thousands ninja clad enthusiasts, the ninja themed-train and a house with secret escape passages – the home of a real ninja.

 Ninja 3

The hardest part was knowing where to start – that and deciding on what the story’s ‘selling point’ would be in text terms rather than pictures. Would I be able to persuade people to give me both tantelising ninja tidbits and interesting quotes?

I first interviewed the self-proclaimed grandson of a real ninja who told me that his grandfather was always out on the lookout for ways to further his skills had even mastered the art of hypnotism. A museum curator  that the web of myth and mystery surrounding the world of the ninja fired people’s imaginations and for this reason the ninja lives on.

 Ninja 4

These were details that could only be related in words rather than pictures.

Shooting and writing have many things in common. Whether writer or photographer, one must think, “what would keep the viewer’s attention for at least one more second?” “Is it this angle? Should I crop the picture like this?” or, “which quote is more interesting? What headline is catchier?”

Needless to say both disciplines call for ethics and accuracy.

But shooting requires instantaneous reactions and concentration – the time it takes to make or break a picture. We can’t ask the subject to smile again, and goals and penalties on the soccer field cannot be replayed in real life. Writers can draft, rewrite and call sources back to check details again but they also need to have an overall view of an issue, information from all sides and different perspectives to balance their offerings, which is often something photographers cannot provide.

Ninja 2 

So, which is more difficult?

May I haven’t fully experienced the obstacles and challenges which face one of our text writers, but for me every photographic assignment is a battle because there are no real answers. There is no handbook for creativity.

We photographers need eyes in the back of our heads and although we may generate most of it ourselves we work under enormous pressure to distill the essence of the story and capture it in a moment.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Also, one of the major challenges you faced must have been dumping all that digital technology you are used to using and finding a pencil stub and cigerette box to write on now you have given up smoking.

Posted by Russell Boyce | Report as abusive

[…] Ninjas – in text or pictures?Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana killed in GazaItaly’s virtual electionThe World’s Worst Road……UPDATE 1!!!!!Five years on… Taras ProtsyukThe making of a PulitzerA toast to Adrees LatifThe story behind the Pulitzer pictureThey came… we saw… she conquered…Back on the Taiwan Killer media bus […]

Posted by » Blog Archive » Ninjas – in text or pictures? | Report as abusive

it is good for all .we are watching the world in our mail.

Posted by rangith | Report as abusive

The cultures and Tradition of Japan includes the Samurai’s and Ninja’s.These Japanese believes that disciplines,ethics and accuracy is needed to be succesful ninja.But for me these creatures are only in movies and televisions.

Posted by harold | Report as abusive