Photojournalism to many may be a strange, and maybe even a foreign concept. Telling a story though means of visual content, and not written or vocalised content.. The face of photojournalism has changed many times in the 90 something years since it’s conception and the modern, digital era has allowed for even more evolution of this. Was photojournalism better before the internet age, or after? I plan to discover the answer.
In the above article, David Campbell compares photjournalism to paintings. This comparison works for so many intelligent reasons. Both are artwork, both are open to interpretation, and both have been depopularized by technology. I would add that the death of paintings occured with the rise of photojournalism, and photojournalism has died with the popularity, and ease of access to technology such as digital cameras and camera phones. In order for a photojournalist 60 years ago to share their work, they had to travel, find a subject to photograph, photograph them, travel home, develop the photographs and then either sell, or publish their work. Not any more. In order to share work now, in the digiatl age, a photographer (or 12 year old with a mobile device) has to take a photograph, and with a click of a button, that photograph will be on the internet forever, for the whole world to see.
Long gone are the days of ‘traditional photojournalism’. Gone are the days of men and women putting themselves on the front line of world battle in order to document death, suffering and destruction. Gone are the days of these same brave men and women coming face to face with poverty and disease. Gone are the days where being called a photojournalist made you stand out from the crowd, made you renouned, and made you proud of your achievements. All of these have died down in the ‘Technology Era’ for one simple reason… Camera phones. Camera phones have opened up the gates, so that every Tom, Dick and Harry can now take photos and boldy (and more often than not, wrongly) call themselves a photojournalist. The golden age of photojournalism spanned years, decades even, with the likes of Robert Capa, capturing The Falling Man in 1936, and W. Eugene Smith, iconically documenting 3 weeks in the life of a Country Doctor in 1948
W Eugene Smith. Often refered to as the Father of Photojournalism, Smith was one of the men responsible for bringing death, destruction and demise to the masses. He would travel the world in search of conflict, conflict that he would photograph and document for all to see. Someof the images that he captured are recognised some of the best to ever be published. He had the ability to open the eyes of governments, world leaders, and most importantly the public. He brought to our attention the true damage that war has on people around the world. He is quoted as saying – “Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes – just sometimes – one photograph, or a group of them can lure our senses into awareness. Much depends on the viewer; in some, photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought”
Timothy Alistair Telemachus “Tim” Hetherington, was a British photojournalistw who, like W Eugene Smith, focussed on War and conflict. However, instead of focussing on the war zones, he focussed on the human element of war, and how war can destroy a person mentally, and not just physically. He documented this from 1996 until he was killed in a war zone in 2011, often photographing soldiers who were suffering with PTSD, or soldiers who were sleeping in war zones.
While Smith and Hetherington both held the same job title, they did their jobs very differently. Smith was a revolutionary, he did things that very few had done before, and he documented things that virtually nobody had ever documented before. Hetherington on the otherhand, went out and documented breathtaking footage, most of which ha already been covered by Smith. However, as previously mentioned, Hetherington fixed his gaze, and untimately the audiences gaze upon the human aspect of the situations he placed himself in, something that had been done by Smith, but Hetherington took it to a whole new level in terms of deep, gripping emotion.
I interviewed a good friend and occasional collegue of mine, Ellie Hopcroft, who, along with many other young people, is trying to make a breakhrough in the world of photojournalism. I posed the question “Compared to 60 years ago, do you think that the quality of photography and photojournalism as an industry has decreased or increased?” She had replied with a very reasonable answer, one that I am sure we are all thinking, she stated, “I personally believe that it has done both, I think that in terms of original photographic content, work from 60 years ago cannot be replicated, it just cant. These people were pioneers, they had no idea what they were getting themselves in to, they had no idea about the people they were going to meet, and they had no idea, most of the time, about the countries they were visiting. Now, the world, for the most part, is documented fairly well, so anyone venturing abroad in order to capture that “Perfect Image” have it alot easier. In terms of photographic quality and understanding of the world, photojournalists of today have it much, much easier. Its alot harder for someone to break down those walls, and make it in photojournalism today simply for the fact that cameras, and camera equipment is more readily availible, and technololgy is so much more advanced. Real photographic content nowadays, is a diluted version of what it was 60 years ago. I think that the quality of photojournalism had definitely decreased.”
Modern photojournalism focussed more on written content, than photographic content, which is a sharp contrast to the photojournalism of old. 60 years ago, photojounalism focussed on the Image, the image told the story, therfore there was no need for an accompanying written article. However, modern photojournalism prefers to back up a story with a good photograph or two.
Citizen photojournalism is one of the main reasons for the decline in ‘Real photjournalism’. The fact that anyone can now call themselves a photojournalist and upload creative, artistic imaged to the internet is causing a major problem for the professionals. However, citizen photojournalism can be extremely effective in telling personal stories. Humans of New York, often stylised as HONY, is one of the best and biggest examples of citizen photojournalism. It started out as on online blog, and later branched out into social media, and print, by publishing their own book by the same title. The premise of HONY is simple, but effective. A group of photojournalists walk around New York City talking to people and finding out their stories, and taking a collection fo dramatic pictures of this individual and publishing the story and photographs online. The official Facebook page of HONY has over 16,500,000 likes, and more than 1,000,000 people are talking about their pictures at any one time. As well as their amazing Facebook following they also boast an impressive 4,600,000 followers on popular social media platform Instagram. Their is no doubt that this is the most successful citizen photojournalism campaign ever launched. The popularity of this concept has triggered many other people from other cities to start their own websites, and social media pages devoted to the people of their cities and their stories. There are pages dedicated to people of Amsterdam, Paris, London, Greater London, Nottingam, Turkey; and that is to name but a few. Howvever, it would seem that the people interested in this form of photjournalism, still enjoy the photojournlism of old. The most liked photograph on their Facebook page is a photograph of a young girl smiling, and the caption is just 4 words. 4 simples words that grab the readers attention… “You’re Taking My Picture!”. If ever a picture actually told a thousand words… It’s this one.