Photojournalism has been an integral part of journalism since the earliest days of the camera. Today, most events that are covered by the media can be viewed through pictures on the internet. Simply typing the words “photojournalism images” into a Google search bar will yield millions of results.
In order to see the true importance of photojournalism today, it is necessary to have a small amount of knowledge about the history of the profession. The American Civil War was one of the most controversial and emotionally-charged events taking place during the early days of photography. During the war, photos were taken of battlefields, soldiers, and weaponry in an effort to create a lasting visual documentation of the war. However, the camera technology of the day was barely portable, and it required that the subjects remain perfectly still for a while, making photography useless in actual battle. Still, since then very few wars have escaped being captured on film.
With the invention of the 35 millimeter camera, photojournalists were suddenly able to go where the action was happening to capture the story in pictorial form. For example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights crusade was captured on film from beginning to end. The second World War has an archive of photos that were taken on the ground, in the middle of the action. These images give viewers a broader perspective and clearer understanding of events than mere words are able to convey.
Today it is difficult to find a story in the media that is not directly associated with at least one image. This is simply how news is presented in modern media. It is necessary, however, to examine these images critically. Technology has progressed to the point that it has become easy to alter an image to fit the agenda of the media outlet which produces it. It is also important to recognize the difference between photojournalism and art photography. Artistic license will allow photographers to alter settings, pose subjects, and even alter images in the production process, all to enhance the final photograph. Jon Levy of the Open College of the Arts has an interesting series of interviews in which he points out some of the differences and similarities between photojournalism and art photography.
It is important to appreciate all aspects of journalism. They work to compliment each other.