Sunday, July 7, 2013

Photojournalism started when?

Excuse me, but I think you're wrong when you give Mathew Brady credit for founding photojournalism on the CBS Sunday Morning show (7-7-2013). But photography was the cutting edge, must have item in the 1860s. Like the smart phone today. Still photos are still here, but have been replaced, or have they?

My old clan around 1900, archiving the family
Running over to my bookcase filled with books on photography I find that the first photojournalists, or reporter photographers, go way back to the 1850s with the invention of the photogravure and get photos published! That's photojournalism.

Readers got to see what's happening rather than just read about it. Real pictures showing what the land was really like. (It does take a lot of effort and type setting is also all done by hand. A large publication had 15 pages.) Slow shutter, slow film speed, meant that people moving disappeared.

Today with the cellphone we always have a camera with us, back then it took hours to shoot and develop a print. Now only seconds to share it with the world.

But the still photo isn't totally useless, or obsolete,  with all the wonderful detail, they are preserved. Historical images of the past that we still take today.

Roger Fenton in 1853 photographed the Crimean War for the London Illustrated News and Il Fotografo in Milan.

Photography was a real big deal from the start, it showed what words couldn't describe, and for many in the mid-1800's it was a way to stay close to family. People carried the photos with them, like the cell phone today. But today it rarely is a big deal. We are flooded with photos.

Editors saw how they had instant impact for publications, and the still photo by itself let people stay close to their loved ones.

It also immortalized time, preserved the moment for history. Looking at old movies and I'm left want to know more, the images just fly by, there's no time to study what people in the videos are wearing, hairdos, or what the buildings looked like.

I read in my old Photojournalism textbook, by professor Clif Edom, that photojournalism came with the invention of the halftone screen and the ability to stop action. Edom claims, photos of Lincoln had to then be converted by hand to wood plates if a publication wanted an illustration to go along with the words. He doesn't see Mathew Brady as a photojournalist.

Engraving photos was discovered in the late 1870's and the first halftone with "graded lines" was created by Stephen Horgan but didn't get into wide use till the 1920's.

In The Techique of the Picture Story by LOOK magazine editor Daniel Mich  and art director Edwin Eberman published in 1945 they nail down "four basic uses of pictures." Something that still applies in the digital age.

1.) Illustration for text. This is what I see too often in many web stories. The photo is simply an illustration to show there is a story. Clip-art or photos used as illustration  "dress up the printed page . . .they increase readership, But, so used they are merely adjuncts to words."  Too much of the photography on the web is simply "adjuncts to words." (They show a posed photo of a couple in front of a fireplace to illustrate teenage sex.)

2.) Picture-text combination. This is where the storytelling is done by related pictures, which in the case of LOOK magazine a team worked on the story using several pictures, lengthy captions and a designer to layout the pages. Today the slide show has replaced the picture page. In the page layout they combined "related photos." Grouping a couple of photos together that showed a detail or overall view of the main photo. Doesn't work in an online slide show. (They're example shows how blood Plasma saves an airman's life.)

3.) Pure Picture Stories. Requiring no text. "They are seldom obtained by chance; the photographer and his subjects almost always owe their fortunate relationship to the planning and arranging" of the assignment editor or writer. (Illustration? Example shows dancers doing "shine steps.")

4.) Picture stories within text stories. Combines a combination of item #1 with #2 "For the role of the text is to help the pictures tell their story with utmost effectiveness and to blend with them into integrated narrative containing as many facts as space permits."  Now with the Internet there is no space restriction! (Shows an article 25 years of growth in Russia!? They go on and define continuity as "a scenario for a motion picture."

They had to take into consideration how it took time to layout and print the magazine. A news photo wouldn't be news a month later. The picture story had to have interest that transcends spot news, picture impact, sharp focus, focus on people (opposed to things) and universal interest.

Technology has evolved and the still photo no longer shows us what we've never seen before, the video camera shows the fire, the approaching tornado, the winning touchdown better than a still photo. But the still photo keeps the memory alive.