Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that employs images in order to tell a news story.
The images have meaning in the context of a recently published record of events.
The situation implied by the images is a fair and accurate representation of the events they depict in both content and tone.
The images combine with other news elements to make facts relatable to the viewer or reader on a cultural level.
Like a writer, a photojournalist is a reporter but he or she must often make decisions instantly and carry photographic equipment, often while exposed to significant obstacles (e.g., physical danger, weather, crowds).
Origins in war photography
The practice of illustrating news stories with photographs was made possible by printing and photography innovations that occurred in the mid 19th century. Although early illustrations had appeared in newspapers, such as an illustration of the funeral of Lord Horatio Nelson in The Times (1806), the first weekly illustrated newspaper was the Illustrated London News, first printed in 1842. The illustrations were printed with the use of engravings.
During the Crimean War, the ILN pioneered the birth of early photojournalism by printing pictures of the war that had been taken by Roger Fenton. Fenton was the first official war photographer and his work documenting the effects of the war on the troops, laid the groundwork for modern photojournalism.Other photographers of the war included William Simpson and Carol Szathmari. Similarly, the American Civil War photographs of Rathew Brady were engraved before publication in Harper’s Weekly. Disaster, including train wrecks and city fires, were also a popular subject for illustrated newspapers in these early days.
The printing of images in newspapers remained an isolated occurrence in this period – photos were used to enhance the text rather than to act as a medium of information in its own right. This began to change with the work of one of the pioneers of photojournalism, John Thomson, in the late 1870s. In collaboration with the radical journalist Adolphe Smith, he began publishing a monthly magazine, Street Life in London, from 1876 to 1877. The project documented in photographs and text, the lives of the street people of London and established social documentary photography as a form of photojournalism.Instead of the images acting as a supplement to the text, he pioneered the use of printed photographs as the predominant medium for the imparting of information, successfully combining photography with the printed word.
On March 4, 1880, The Daily Graphic (New York) published the first halftone (rather than engraved) reproduction of a news photograph. In 1887, flash powder was invented, enabling journalists such as Jacob Riis to photograph informal subjects indoors, which led to the landmark work How the Other Half Lives. By 1897, it became possible to reproduce halftone photographs on printing presses running at full speed.
In France, agencies such as Rol, Branger and Chusseau-Flaviens (ca. 1880-1910) syndicated photographs from around the world to meet the need for timely new illustration. Despite these innovations, limitations remained, and many of the sensational newspaper and magazine stories in the period from 1897 to 1927 were illustrated with engravings. In 1921, the wirephoto made it possible to transmit pictures almost as quickly as news itself could travel.