When a picture is worth a thousand words
Photojournalism is something that is close to my heart, even though I don't practice it very much myself. It is a category of photography that doesn't get as much attention as fashion photography for instance. However, photojournalism is a very important part of our society, but also to the art and journalism world.
I recently learned that my grandfather was a photojournalist during the second world war and for some time after that. He documented some of the most gruesome scenes during the second world war in Holland and Germany, while trying to stay out of the hands of people who did not approve. But after the war, he got to capture some of the happiest faces he ever would.
Photojournalism is a form of photography and journalism that I think deserves more attention. This is why I hope to teach you something about it today, during our Photography Week at projecteducate.
- What is photojournalism?
- A brief history of photojournalism.
- Photojournalism on DeviantArt
- Photojournalism Today.
- The importance of photojournalism.
- Tips & Tricks from the photojournalism community
- Highlights from the photojournalism category.
What is photojournalism?Photojournalism is a unique and powerful form of storytelling that uses photographs in order to bring a story across to the viewer instead of words. Photojournalism was originally created for print magazines and newspapers, but has now become multimedia and even film making. Through the internet, a much bigger audience can be reached and impacted by the wonders of photojournalism.
You can find photojournalism all around you: in news broadcasts, in newspapers, magazines and so on. Photojournalism helps form visual stories and feature those that show the issues of our time with a depth and perspective few other mediums can create.
A brief history of photojournalismTime machine ready? All aboard? Let's go!
The term "photojournalism" was coined by Frank Luther Mott, a historian and dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He combined the words photography and journalism into the term we are familiar with today, photojournalism.
Photojournalists were documenting the news as early as the 1850s. Back then, the techniques we know now to print photographs did not yet exist, but photographs were "printed" through engravings. These engravings weren't really photographs, instead they were interpretations of the photographs as created by the engraver. The engraver would use a plate that looked somewhat like the photograph and engrave it. He'd scratch it out, load the plate with ink and pressed it on paper, to create the print. This engraving technique was used in the American Civil War as well, to print photographs of Matthew Brady in "Harpers Weekly". This printing technique was very laborious, this means there are very few prints left of this technique.
Carol Szathmari was one of the first photojournalists in 1853, a Romanian painter and photographer who has documented the Crimean War. Carol Szathmari used a box camera to capture images of the British soldiers in the fields.
When the first 35mm film camera from Leica came on the market in 1925, followed by the flash bulbs in 1927, this changed a lot for photojournalists. This is a period often referred to as the "Golden Age of Photojournalism", and it lasted between the 1930s and the 1960s. Photojournalists such as Robert Capa and Alfred Eistensteaed flourished during this Golden Age, magazines such as Life, Sports Illustrated and newspapers like the New York Times built their readership on their use of photography.
With the introduction of these cameras, they were suddenly light and small enough to carry into a lot of places and events, this gave the photojournalist an enormous freedom. The printing of these images was a lot less work, which launched photojournalism into a powerful way to capture news events all around the world.
Then, the great depression happened and it caused a lot of photographers to go out and document the lives of people who were hit by the great depression. These weren't news photographs, but they were still very important for the development of photojournalism then into what photojournalism is today.
Moving to 1970s, photojournalists began to receive recognition for their work, as photojournalism was becoming a part of the art world. When Life Magazine announced in 1972 they would stop their weekly publication, a lot of people were upset and called it the "end of photojournalism". However, photojournalism is still very much alive today, even though it has changed shape, and still is changing shape since it first appeared.
During the 1980s, photojournalism began to favour more artistic photographs for storytelling. And even though most photographers didn't start shooting in colour until the early 1990s, they had computers to scan their film and tailor it for the readers eye with captivating headlines and graphics.
Since the internet is in play, the audience for photojournalism has grown much. It's easy to access the news, people want to see images with their news articles, and so on. Despite that, traditional printing is still very much in play as well. Many people still read newspapers and magazines, myself included!
Photojournalism on DeviantArtI have been asking around in the photojournalism community about photojournalism. I have asked a series of questions, and here are some of the many great answers I have received!
Photojournalism TodayI talked to tanikel about how photojournalism has changed over the years.
I haven't seen much of a change since I joined photojournalism seven years ago. Then again, I operate within a very small and specific niche.
One thing I have noticed is that agencies and competitions are paying more attention to the ethics photojournalists need to uphold. More awareness is being brought to people trying to lie about what happened in front of their lenses by unethically enhancing their photographs - too much saturation making a desert-type area seem rain-drenched and removing seemingly insignificant parts of the photo to make it more aesthetically pleasing. The public is pushing hard for us to remain truthful to the integrity of the scene, and I think that's awesome.
I asked InayatShah the same question, this was his response:
Photojournalism, like journalism, is constantly on the change. One of the driving factors is technology and its resultant effects, like faster time to press, better more effective communication technology, the transition from printed to electronic media, the all-pervasive citizen journalist with his mobile phone camera and ready access to social media.
These have brought a multitude of changes, from how the “Press” (professional news centres) work and how the world has become wary of citizen reporting on social media. It has even brought revolutions in a few countries.
Most of this is a positive evolution and change. However, the change that bothers me the most, is the abuse of their public reach by the “Press” (I would include, professional printed, electronic and broadcast media). News has become Money, and this has led to the ever worsening trend of embellishing, hiding and exaggerating facts. Focus has shifted from presenting impartial and accurate facts, projecting a biased sensationalized version of reality. Where the primary aim is to get a higher viewer or reader base, to make money rather than to a complete and unprejudiced narrative. Sometimes even to present or propagate a political agenda under the guise of unpartizan reporting.
1pen told me the following:
It has absolutely changed. The biggest change? Newsrooms everywhere are slashing their photo budgets and letting go of photographers. Even Pulitzer prize winners have been forced into retirement. The cause of this change is the digital revolution. Few papers are surviving in print as more and more of their audience finds new ways to get more varied news on-line and for next to nothing cost-wise. Camera phones have turned regular bystanders into potential sources of photos and videos.
That said, I don't believe photojournalism is doomed. It's just evolving. A good example of this is an organization I photo for every year. They tried doing it cheap earlier this month, using their own friend for photos and he even had pretty decent gear. My husband asked me if I was upset to be squeezed out. Of course I was, but I wasn't too worried because sports photography is actually pretty damn hard to get right. Sure enough, by the end of the month they called me up again because good photojournalism is a skill you can't make up in one day with one good photo or with decent equipment and a friend. It's about knowing what shot matters, how to get it, how to tell the story, how to capture the story, how to earn the trust of the people in that story, how to process the photo, upload it, caption it correctly, accurately, and do it all in a few minutes. It's a skill. It's an evolving skill, but it's still a skill.
The Importance of PhotojournalismI asked around in the photojournalism community about what makes photojournalism important. Their answers are down below!
In my opinion, true photojournalism is a combination of words and images that fuse together to capture convey and preserve a particular worldly reality. One can never really isolate the images from the words.
The written or spoken word has many abstractions and relativity such as descriptive nouns, adjectives etc. which can never be absolutely definitive. Even simple words like “funny”, “horrific”, “green” will convey a different visual picture to different people. Words can convey a story a sequence of events. They can convey logic and reason and facts but a photograph anchors and defines the visual image with a clarity that escapes words. The ambiguity of the descriptive word is instantaneously given a clarity that defies any amount of text.
Good Photojournalism is about capturing the compelling and defining moment of the narrative and giving it clarity while it also embraces and chronicles the emotions, sentiments, reactions and visual consciousness of the narrative.
Having said this, its importance to the world in general is obvious. It is, in combination with linguistic communication to be an accurate, compelling and undeniable record of life.
I suppose that photojournalism to me has become a more important aspect of my photography over the past few years. I live in Pakistan, a country much in the news. There was a time not so far in the distant past when people had never heard of Pakistan. I do not deny that while it is country of great beauty, it is a much troubled land. I travel the world and sadly I find that people’s perceptions of my country are driven more by the media’s focus and hype on the exceptionally worse aspects. Which is vastly different from what normal life and normal people are like. One particular focus on my work, which makes it important for me, is that I am able to reach out to albeit a limited audience and show that average Pakistani in his average life. To show that while we are culturally and ethnically very different, but underneath we are the same, we have the same hopes and aspirations, the same fears, the same gamut of emotions and the same responses to our adversities and the same expressions of happiness in the little pleasures of life.
Photojournalism is important to me because without it, we wouldn't be able to see the news. It makes written communication more effective. It also pays my bills and allows me to see the world, haha.
As a combat cameraman, we operate as the eyes and ears of the battlefield commanders. We are documenting history and providing visual validation of jobs and actions.
Without photojournalism, people wouldn't be able to see what is going on in the far reaches of the world.
Showing off moments that happen in a time and place is what makes it important to me. I imagine taking my picture today, and what they will look like after 20 years.
Photojournalism to me is capturing moments in time that tell a story or give you information through photos. This is important to me, to show the real important events in life.
One day while we were driving together to a sporting event I was covering, my son explained it in a fun way. He, a Dr. Who fan, remarked (and I'll paraphrase as best I can recall): "You know, you're kind of like a Time Lord and your camera is like the Tardis. You see something unique happening and then you share it with anyone riding along with you. Sometimes it's a major event like the Olympics, and sometimes it's just regular life like the 22nd home hockey game of the 26th season. But whatever it is it'll never happen just that way ever ever again, but you got to be there and share it and make us ask questions about it." I could probably go into a long winded academic explanation for why photojournalism is important to me and to society in general, but I think he hit the nail on the head all on his own.
Tips & Tricks from the Photojournalism Community
Photojournalism will expose a photographer to a vast and very differing situations, environments and technical skill sets required. Technical tips and working on the street tips can be found in abundance on the net and in books. But if I were to give any advise to a budding photojournalist, I would have to choose my personal favourite quote by Robert Frank “Above all, life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference” For me it means choose a subject that you are passionate about, take time to learn and appreciate the situation. It is only with empathy and understanding that you will be able to anticipate, find, predict and eventually capture “The compelling and defining moment” because that is what photojournalism is all about. But remember in doing so keep your images unbiased and truthful representations.
Do not think the artistic way when shooting concerts. Taking portraits of performances won't give us anything, take a wide angle picture with more info in it, like scene, angle, audience atmosphere.
Understand the basics of photography, shoot a lot and know your gear, so you are ready in any situation. You also need to do research about the place and/or people that you want to be in your story. Also look at the works of other photojournalists, get a mentor if possible, request critiques and get inspired!
Grow a thick skin. Fellow photojournalists can be competitive, people indigenous to the lands you're visiting might now want you in their lands, and the public won't be kind if you photograph controversial images.
Find a mentor. They can show you the ropes, open you to a world of much needed connections, and be a pillar of support and encouragement when you need it.
Keep learning. Attend workshops, join the NPPA, take online courses at Creative Live or lynda.com. Enter competitions, get critiques, and try new techniques.
Write your dang captions. Photos might be worth a thousand words, but those images don't tell you who, what where, when or why you should give a damn about that photo. Photos pull people in, captions keep them there and make them think.