Motivation of Photojournalism

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What is photojournalism

Photography is regarded in many quarters as an art science and practice. Photography happens when images are created by recording radiation on a radiation sensitive medium. Light emitted or reflected off of objects is captured and transmitted to a light sensitive film or plate where the image is formed (Campbell,1987). In digital photography, a focal plane array sensor is used which converts the light into pixels which then electronically developed and stored as a computer file.

Photography has been used in many instances to communicate ideas, feelings, news and to tell stories. Photography has been put categorically in groups that include but not entirely, advertising, fashion, crime scene, still life, food, editorial, portrait landscape and paparazzi (Spencer, 1973). The image is much more powerful than the written word for the image is visually disturbing and thus more mentally stimulating than the words (Lester, 1991). Photojournalism caps as a much more effective medium of communicating change or the need for it thereof.

History of photojournalism

News stories had gone without illustrations since the inception of the printing press until the 1880’s when engravings were re-intepreted by engravers so as to be printed. Carol Szathmari- a Romanian painter, lithographer and photographer was the first photojournalist. Due to the crave for more realistic illustrations in newspapers, it became common for exhibitions of a limited number of newsworthy photographs (Taft, 1964).

Ht first halftone image appeared in print in 1880 and 7 years later the flash powder was invented which made it possible to take photographs indoors. As time progressed, so did photography and in the 1930’s, most news publications drew their numbers by the photographs that they used. Sometime readers had to re-read captions to understand what the picture tried to communicate. This is because some of the images appeared smudged, and on poor print paper.

It was not until 1980’s that offset printing was adopted which produced beter quality photographs on white photographic paper. It was in this period that photojournalism was accepted as an art and images by photojournalists could be found exhibited in art galleries.

Ethical considerations

Photojournalism is bound by almost the same ethical standards in journalism. What to frame, shoot and even edit are questions that photojournalists need to ask themselves every time. In the digital age, photojournalists usually have no control over the images they have snapped once they get into the hands on the photo editor. Further digital images are prone to manipulation, reproduction and can easily be sent from one individual to the next with the click of a button (L P. Gross, J S Katz, J Ruby, 2003)

Although there is a degree of manipulation that is required, it is hard to determine what level is acceptable. Most ethical issues have been put into law in some countries and one may not be able to publish certain images in a certain country but the challenge is that those same images may be published in another county without contravening the law. (L P. Gross, J S Katz, J Ruby, 2003)

Technology has also had a huge impact on photojournalism. Camera phones have essentially turned every individual capable of purchasing one a photojournalist in their own right. The internet has changed the scene such that transmission of images can occur within minutes of snapping. Armed with a phone or modem, digital camera and a laptop computer, occurrences can be communicated in a very short while(New York Times, 2009). But this alone will not define the future of photography. Content is still king and it is those photographs that are content-full that will advance photography. The advent of cheap cameras has also made it easy to acquire them and inadvertently turn persons into a photojournalist. This has lead to torrential amounts of amateur images being sent into news websites.

In the 1930s another form of photography came up called pure photography came up and was spread. This type of photography was characterized by non manipulation, sharper focus, high contrast and lack of cropping. This is regarded as the purist form of photography (VAM).

There are basic principles that differentiate photojournalism from other forms of photography. Chief among these are objectivity which aims at seeing to it that the images are fair and accurate in the tone and content of the events that they represent, timely which tries to show that the images have meaning in the context of a recent event and narrative which aims at supporting a story and making it relatable at a cultural level (kobre, 2008).

In photojournalism, it is a form of photography that includes the capturing, editing and final presentation of material either for broadcast or publication purposes. A photojournalist is tasked with the visual reportage of facts. A photographer and a photojournalist are two different people. While a photographer shoots to capture the ‘noun’ in his image the photojournalist shoots to capture the ‘verb’ (Kobre, 2008).

There are various ways in which a photographer can bring out the sense of journalism using his trade. Primary to these are the following considerations

What is the message that the photographer trying to put across- if a photographer is clear about what he wants to communicate then it becomes easier to shoot a subject that has matter concerning the same.

Second question to ask oneself is what value the picture adds to the report- an image is supposed to complete a report which means they should be related. If a photo completes a report by relation and goes on to make information clearer then it is a good image(B, Horton,2001) Further, the relationship should be obvious so as not to confuse the reader or person looking at the photo. In a photo story there should be a logical progression of images to create a sequence that tells a story.

There are many tips given on how to shoot a good photograph. One of the chief concerns is lighting. Usually for photographers natural lighting is most flattering in the morning and in the evening. Any other time is too dark or too unflattering (B, Horton,2001). It is advisable to play around with lighting if one has the time. For persons who shoot for news it is advisable to look for the best positioning that will give you the best lighting to shoot from.

Photographs that have things on their plane are more appealing than those out of plane- they appear to distract the person looking at them rather than informing him.

Photojournalists go to the ends of the earth to unearth unseen phenomena and bring to people’s knowledge activities and occurrences that had previously been little or totally unknown (Spencer, 1973). By doing so they inform the masses on what is happening in their own worlds. Photojournalism though needs to be as personal to the viewer as possible but still have a universal appeal. Photojournalism’s primary reason of existence is to document events but photojournalism has a higher calling to evoke change in society (cohen, 2008).

For any photojournalist, having their prints used to tell a story by pictures is probably the ultimate experience (Kobre & Brill, vol 1). Photojournalists comb the world for stories to tell and when they are able to communicate with their form of media then it is an accomplishment.

Photojournalists main interest is to tell stories with images that compel a people to take decisive action to bring change or to simply to make a problem known by showing a fellow human in a condition that would  arouse feelings of need for change. By concentrating on a single effect on a single human and the totality of the adversity then it is possible to arouse feelings of pain, pleasure, pity, anger and many others that may bring about change.

Photography has changed a lot since it begun in the 1830’s. while in the early stages of development had few technicians with the know how to record images, nowadays anyone with a camera phone can push a button and take a photograph though these are usually without critical content(cohen,2008). A good photograph usually tells a story without the need of using extra media- in this case words. A good photograph will give information on a subject and wake people from inaction to  a revolution. Usually, it is out of ignorance that inaction thrives but photography exposes the reality and causes a discomfort that asks for action by advancing a public discourse on the matter. This eventually leads to change.

Photojournalists know that a photograph may adopt a negatively construed meaning while it was initially meant for a good cause. Just like meaning is derived in paintings so it is with photography. The people involved are the ones who create the meaning for themselves depending on how they choose to interpret it-depending on their cultural context.

Apart from change another reason for photojournalism is development. Need for change leads to action which eventually can be interpreted as development.

Far from that, the very core reason for photography is to provide an all-inclusive and faithful portrayal of the matter at hand. This though has not been what has been happening as some veteran photojournalists tend to believe. Photojournalists have become detached from the human being and shoot only to capture those images that tend to depict a condition of self replication- there is a lack of originality (Paul Levinson. 1997).

The future of photojournalism

From an artistic, stylistic, and aesthetic perspective the future of photojournalism has never looked better.

The future of photojournalism both as an occupation as well as a means of personal expression necessitates a more humanistic and empathic style of visual practice and reportage. While markets for paparazzi pictures will continue to sustain our prurient interests, it is important to remember why people take images in the first place – to fix memories in time.

Photojournalism is an approach to photography that empowers people to record life as it happens, not just as people want it to happen. (J  H Newton.2001)

The photojournalist of the future will also know computerized pagination processes, web design, audio and video, and digital workflow systems. In many ways the future of photojournalism, through digital technologies, extends our capacity for seeing and making things seen in new and exciting ways. At the same time, we must be also take into consideration that digital technologies may represent an increased liability for photojournalists – one that continues to wrestle with issues of credibility, truthfulness, and sensitivity in a world hyper-saturated with images.