Photojournalism and the People Behind the Camera


Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that creates images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. [Source: Wikipedia]

Storytelling is an art. The practice of visual narrative is also increasingly the path to conveying a situation with less intermediation. Yes, a photojournalist does present a trained point of view filtered through a lens for the purpose of sharing something that/while it's happening.

In fact, there are three critical aspects of phorojournalism that make it valuable to you:

  • timeliness — part of the news context
  • objectivity — fair and accurate presentation
  • narrative — support facts to help people see them

However, there is an editorial process and photojournalists often have no control over how images end up being used.

The rise of sites where stock photography is available, as well as newsroom stock footage, has meant fewer jobs for skilles photojournalists — see for example, the recent coverage of the Japan earthquake and tsunami on mainstream media.

As Nieman Labs reported last September, there is a new platform that helps crowdfund visual journalism — As the site explains, photojournalists pitch their projects directly to the public, which decides whether a story is worth doing.

Why the site was launched

From the manifesto:

The interest in high quality photojournalism is at an all time high. Photojournalism depends on the willingness of newspapers and magazines to publish and finance it. In the digital age, many media have decided that photojournalism is no longer a priority. We think this is a mistake.

The concept is simple: your interest in a story funds it. I think in addition to how these skilled reporters get to the end product, meeting them in person, hearing their stories, seeing them at work, would make a difference in our understanding of the value of the content they produce.

The people behind the lens

The ultimate why is to meet the people behind the camera. The quality of an idea is communicated through execution. Who is shooting the image or film footage matters. They do important work, potentially life-changing and, sadly, life-ending.

Many of us know Jim Long from Twitter. If you met him at an event, chances are his warmth, passion, and stories have not gone lost on you. I'm planning to introduce you to the work of Jim MacMillan, and possibly that of other experienced photojournalists.

I'm encouraged to see initiatives like take off. I've seen pledges in the order of $150 each on the site. Meeting the person behind the lens makes a difference. What do you think of crowdfunding photo news reporting? Is it sustainable?

Are foundations like Ashoka, for example, helping save the future of journalism?


[image of LIFE magazine archives hosted by Google]

If you enjoyed this post from Conversation Agent, subscribe, share and like it.

0 responses to “Photojournalism and the People Behind the Camera”

  1. That Google Life Photo Archive looks like a really interesting site. Important history changing moments captured in photos will now be archived and accessible by everyone around the world. I am always impressed by Google as they are always coming out innovative products and services.
    John Gantz

  2. In 1955, a Swiss-born photographer by the name of Robert Frank took his Guggenheim grant and headed off on a two-year photo journey across the U.S. His finished work, The Americans, was so divergent in both style and subject matter that it was published in France before being accepted by a U.S. publisher.
    As a result of the work, Frank became the visual Jack Kerouac and sparked a generation of street photographers.
    Would he have received either funding or wisdom from the crowd? Doubtful.
    Sites like are important now because we’re still in a media transition period and need something to keep the fires burning. But, you ask the right question – is it sustainable?

  3. hence the saying “never a prophet”… I get that. Started a social network in Philadelphia more than 10 years ago, ran 100 *free* events all over the city and nobody knows about it… or me. Had to work in NYC area to get somewhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *