Dictionary Definition

photojournalism n : journalism that presents a story primarily through the use of pictures

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. A form of journalism in which a story is told primarily through photographs and other images

Translations

Extensive Definition

Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that creates images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, and in some cases to video used in broadcast journalism. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography (such as documentary photography, street photography or celebrity photography) by the qualities of:
  • Timeliness — the images have meaning in the context of a recently published record of events.
  • Objectivity — the situation implied by the images is a fair and accurate representation of the events they depict in both content and tone.
  • Narrative — the images combine with other news elements to make facts relatable to the viewer or reader on a cultural level.
Like a writer, a photojournalist is a reporter but he or she must often make decisions instantly and carry photographic equipment, often while exposed to significant obstacles (physical danger, weather, crowds).

History

Foundations

The practice of illustrating news stories with photographs was made possible by printing and photography innovations that occurred between 1880 and 1897. While newsworthy events were photographed as early as the 1850s, printing presses could only publish from engravings until the 1880s. Early news photographs required that photos be re-interpreted by an engraver before they could be published.
The first photojournalist was Carol Szathmari who did pictures in the Crimean War(1853 to 1856). His albums were sent to European royals housesReference required. Just a few of his photography survived. The next ones were British press reporters,in the same war. William Simpson of the Illustrated London News and Roger Fenton were published as engravings. Similarly, the American Civil War photographs of Mathew Brady were engraved before publication in Harper's Weekly. Because the public craved more realistic representations of news stories, it was common for newsworthy photographs to be exhibited in galleries or to be copied photographically in limited numbers.
On March 4, 1880, The Daily Graphic (New York) published the first halftone (rather than engraved) reproduction of a news photograph. Further innovations followed. In 1887, flash powder was invented, enabling journalists such as Jacob Riis to photograph informal subjects indoors, which led to the landmark work How the Other Half Lives. By 1897, it became possible to reproduce halftone photographs on printing presses running at full speed.
Despite these innovations, limitations remained, and many of the sensational newspaper and magazine stories in the period from 1897 to 1927 (see Yellow Journalism) were illustrated with engravings. In 1921, the wirephoto made it possible to transmit pictures almost as quickly as news itself could travel. However, it was not until development of the commercial 35mm Leica camera in 1925, and the first flash bulbs between 1927 and 1930 that all the elements were in place for a "golden age" of photojournalism.

Golden age

In the "golden age" of photojournalism (1930s1950s), some magazines (Picture Post (London), Paris Match (Paris), Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (Berlin), Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung (Berlin), Life (USA), Sports Illustrated (USA)) and newspapers (The Daily Mirror (London), The New York Daily News (New York)) built their huge readerships and reputations largely on their use of photography, and photographers such as Robert Capa, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White and W. Eugene Smith became well-known names.
Henri Cartier-Bresson is held by some to be the father of modern photojournalism, although this appellation has been applied to various other photographers, such as Erich Salomon, whose candid pictures of political figures were novel in the 1930s
Soldier Tony Vaccaro is also recognized as one of the pre-eminent photographers of World War II. His images taken with the modest Argus C3 captured horrific moments in war, similar to Capa's soldier being shot. Capa himself was on Omaha beach on D-Day and captured pivotal images of the conflict on that occasion. Vaccaro is also known for having developed his own images in soldier's helmets, and using chemicals found in the ruins of a camera store in 1944.
Until the 1980s, most large newspapers were printed with turn-of-the-century “letterpress” technology using easily smudged oil-based ink, off-white, low-quality “newsprint” paper, and coarse engraving screens. While letterpresses produced legible text, the photoengraving dots that formed pictures often bled or smeared and became fuzzy and indistinct. In this way, even when newspapers used photographs well — a good crop, a respectable size — murky reproduction often left readers re-reading the caption to see what the photo was all about. The Wall Street Journal adopted stippled hedcuts in 1979 to publish portraits and avoid the limitations of letterpress printing. Not until the 1980s had a majority of newspapers switched to “offset” presses that reproduce photos with fidelity on better, whiter paper.
By contrast Life, one of America’s most popular weekly magazines from 1936 through the early 1970s, was filled with photographs reproduced beautifully on oversize 11×14-inch pages, using fine engraving screens, high-quality inks, and glossy paper. Life often published a United Press International (UPI) or Associated Press (AP) photo that had been first reproduced in newspapers, but the quality magazine version appeared to be a different photo altogether.
In large part because their pictures were clear enough to be appreciated, and because their name always appeared with their work, magazine photographers achieved near-celebrity status. Life became a standard by which the public judged photography, and many of today’s photo books celebrate “photojournalism” as if it had been the exclusive province of near-celebrity magazine photographers.
The Best of Life (1973), for example, opens with a two-page (1960) group shot of 39 justly famous Life photographers. But 300 pages later, photo credits reveal that scores of the photos among Life’s “best” were taken by anonymous UPI and AP photographers.
Thus even during the golden age, because of printing limitations and the UPI and AP syndication systems, many newspaper photographers labored in relative obscurity.

Farm Security Administration

From 1935 to 1942, the Farm Security Administration and its predecessor the Resettlement Administration were part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, and were designed to address agricultural problems and rural poverty associated with the Great Depression. A special photographic section of the agency, headed by Roy Stryker, was intended merely to provide public relations for its programs, but instead produced what some consider one of the greatest collections of documentary photographs ever created in the U.S. Whether this effort can be called "photojournalism" is debatable, since the FSA photographers had more time and resources to create their work than most photojournalists usually have.

Acceptance by the art world

Since the late 1970s, photojournalism and documentary photography have increasingly been accorded a place in art galleries alongside fine art photography. Luc Delahaye, VII Photo Agency and Chien-Chi Chang are among many who regularly exhibit in galleries.

Professional organizations

The Danish Union of Press Photographers (Pressefotografforbundet) was the first national organization for newspaper photographers in the world. It was founded in 1912 in Denmark by six press photographers in Copenhagen. Today it has over 800 members.
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) was founded in 1946 in the U.S., and has about 10,000 members. Others around the world include the British Press Photographers Association (BPPA) founded in 1984, then relaunched in 2003, and now has around 450 members. Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (1989), Northern Ireland Press Photographers Association (2000), Pressfotografernas Klubb (Sweden, 1930), and PK — Pressefotografenes Klubb (Norway).
News organisations and journalism schools run many different awards for photojournalists. Since 1968, Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded for the following categories of photojournalism: 'Feature Photography', 'Spot News Photography'. Other awards are World Press Photo, Best of Photojournalism, and Pictures of the Year as well as the UK based The Press Photographer's Year

Ethical and legal considerations

Photojournalism works within the same ethical approaches to objectivity that are applied by other journalists. What to shoot, how to frame and how to edit are constant considerations. Often, ethical conflicts can be mitigated or enhanced by the actions of a sub-editor or picture editor, who takes control of the images once they have been delivered to the news organization. The photojournalist often has no control as to how images are ultimately used.
The emergence of digital photography offers whole new realms of opportunity for the manipulation, reproduction, and transmission of images. It has inevitably complicated many of the ethical issues involved.
The U.S. National Press Photographers Association, and other professional organizations, maintain codes of ethics to specify approaches to these issues.
Major ethical issues are often inscribed with more or less success into law. Laws regarding photography can vary significantly from nation to nation. The legal situation is further complicated when one considers that photojournalism made in one country will often be published in many other countries.

The impact of new technologies

Smaller, lighter cameras greatly enhanced the role of the photojournalist. Since the 1960s, motor drives, electronic flash, auto-focus, better lenses and other camera enhancements have made picture taking easier. New digital cameras free photojournalists from the limitation of film roll length, as thousands of images can be stored on a single microdrive or memory card.
Content remains the most important element of photojournalism, but the ability to extend deadlines with rapid gathering and editing of images has brought significant changes. As recently as 15 years ago, nearly 30 minutes were needed to scan and transmit a single color photograph from a remote location to a news office for printing. Now, equipped with a digital camera, a mobile phone and a laptop computer, a photojournalist can send a high-quality image in minutes, even seconds after an event occurs. Video phones and portable satellite links increasingly allow for the mobile transmission of images from almost any point on the earth.
There is some concern by news photographers that the profession of photojournalism as it is known today could change to such a degree that it is unrecognizable as image-capturing technology naturally progresses. There is also concern that fewer print publications are commissioning serious photojournalism on timely issues.

References

Further reading

photojournalism in German: Reportagefotografie
photojournalism in Spanish: Periodismo fotográfico
photojournalism in Basque: Fotokazetaritza
photojournalism in French: Photojournalisme
photojournalism in Galician: Periodismo fotográfico
photojournalism in Japanese: 報道写真
photojournalism in Norwegian: Fotografi i pressen
photojournalism in Polish: Fotoreportaż
photojournalism in Portuguese: Fotojornalismo
photojournalism in Russian: Фотожурналистика
photojournalism in Swedish: Bildjournalistik
photojournalism in Chinese: 攝影記者
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