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Photojournalism uses photography to help to tell a news story, about a specific event or a general trend, no matter how large or small, and although photojournalism is usually associated with war and conflict zones there are also many different types.
Photojournalism is a highly effective method of news gathering and in many ways can be seen as the forerunner of modern documentary film making. A single image, as the saying goes, can say a thousand words and so the use of photography in journalism has become a centerpiece of the modern news business.
Just one picture, or several, can transmit the tragedy of a famine to people across the world with no loss of clarity due to language barriers, describe life on the ground in an active war zone or even portray the thrills of a big sporting event.
Photojournalism therefore, uses still images to convey the news, as opposed to broadcast journalism which employs video footage.
Types of Photojournalism.
There are several main categories of photojournalism that help us, as a society, to record major events and tell the stories of the people and places all over the world.
- Contemporary Issues: These photographs capture key cultural events and movements that are happening in our world. This is an extremely broad category that covers any subject which affects society or individuals in a cultural, political or sociological way.
- General News Stories: This could be local or international stories that make the news anywhere in the world. This is a huge field of photography that includes everything from war and conflict zones, elections, economic issues right down to a local news story about the work of a charity group!
- Environmental Photojournalism: This is an increasingly important and popular type of photojournalism that records the impacts that humans and society has on the living environment, including plants, animals and waterways.
- Sports news: Large world wide events such as the Olympics and Paralympics, sporting events and leagues are all documented by photojournalists. There is no shortage of powerful human interest stories in this category and sports ability to bring people together makes this is a valuable addition to our societies.
- The Natural World: This field of photojournalism focuses on telling the stories of animals and the natural world. With the massive leaps forward in camera technology natural world photojournalism can record the lives of animals in a less intrusive way while also helping people to learn about the natural world.
The World Press Photo Foundation.
One of the most prestigious awards in the field of photojournalism is awarded by The World Press Photo Foundation. The World Press Photo Foundation holds a complete archive of the past winners of its contests from the 1950’s to the present day making it a fantastic resource for inspiration, study or research.
Photojournalism, by its very nature, is a rapidly evolving field of photography that serves an extremely valuable function for society. By recording the major incidents that make up the tapestry of our shared histories it helps us to learn not only from the past but from events that are taking place in our own times.
Examples of Powerful Photojournalism.
The Vietnam War (1955-75). The Vietnam War became extremely unpopular among the people in the United States and this was largely due to the efforts of the photojournalists who exposed the futility and suffering of the war, to both the native Vietnamese as well as the American soldiers. There are many photographs from this era that are tragic while others that show the small kindnesses that occurred during the war years. In this image, a blind folded Viet-Cong Prisoner awaits interrogation. The photo was taken in 1967, at the height of the war, by David Epstein.
Kevin Carter’s infamous photograph titled ‘The Vulture and the Little Girl’, 1993. This heartbreaking image shows a starving child in the famine of the early 1990’s in Sudan, Africa. Behind the child who is crouched face down on the floor, a vulture watches and waits. This image went around the world and helped to motivate massive efforts in the West to deliver Food Aid to the starving populations not only of Sudan, but also Ethiopia and other countries. Thankfully, the young girl survived the encounter with the vulture, and was saved by a nearby United Nations Food Station. Kevin Carter went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for this photograph however, torn apart by guilt and remorse Kevin Carter committed suicide only four years later.
Not all Photojournalism portrays the harsh realities of suffering in the world, and some is extremely positive.
Partly due to the nature of journalism itself, which does tend to focus on the more negative aspects of life in an attempt to help resolve these situations, photojournalism can often be harrowing, thought provoking and emotive. This can really help to create positive change though which is usually why the photographers take the pictures.
There are however other very positive examples of excellent photojournalism that celebrates the great achievements of society, including for example the famous images of the Moon Landing in 1969 or the empowered communities of the Civil Rights Movements and their eventual success in over turning outdated segregation laws in the USA.
Sports photojournalism often showcases the best of human achievement and photojournalism that focuses on the natural world helps people relate to the animals and ecosystems around them. This greater awareness of the natural world has meant that societies are taking their responsibilities to the planet far more seriously and will lead to the cleaning up of the oceans, reductions in pollution world wide and a more respectful attitude towards Mother Earth.
Photojournalism and the Citizen Journalist.
Photojournalism is an exciting field and with the recent rise of the citizen journalist the scope of it is only set to grow! With so many people having a high quality camera on their phones they are often on the scene of major events immediately and are able to quickly snap a few pictures! This has revolutionized the news business and allowed the public to see first hand pictures of almost every event that takes place anywhere in the world!
Photojournalism has been a mainstay of news reporting and the creation of our shared culture for over a century now and as we look forward in the future it doesn’t look like it will be going away any time soon!
The powerful medium is a great way to convey a news story while incorporating the emotions, human feelings and perspectives in ways that the written word cannot do. Photojournalism is an amazing field to work in as a professional photographer and a valuable part of the information that viewers are able to access through the news.