My First Exploration: What is PhotoJournalism?

21 09 2010

Kevin CarterAccording to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary photojournalism is defined as the following: journalism in which written copy is subordinate to pictorial usually photographic presentation of news stories or in which a high proportion of pictorial presentation is used; broadly : news photography. “News Photography” … So does that mean that picture of Big Papi hitting a ball over the green monster is photojournalism? Yes. Does that also mean a picture of a dieing and starving Suddanese child being hunted by a vulture is also photojournalism? Yes. Photojournalism can range from at-a-glance photos in the morning paper, Big Papi and his homerun, to life changing and emotion provoking photos, the dieing African girl.

When looking at the photo of the starving African girl, most want to turn away at the horrific sight. Who wants to know that there are children in the world, famished and alone, being circled by hungry vultures? This type of image makes you wonder how far is too far for photojournalists? Carter was severely criticized for only making the vulture go away and not actually saving the girl. “That’s sick” was one of the reactions to Carter’s photo. The St. Petersburg Times compared Carter to the vulture saying “…[he] might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.” Others were presumably dismayed with themselves when they saw the picture in the New York Times. How could they look at themselves with happiness with knowledge of such horrors as the starving toddler. Hundreds of people called wondering what had happened to the poor girl. She did not have enough strength to make it to the feeding center but whether she lived or died is still unknown. The question of “how far is too far?” is commonly asked in the photojournalism world (I will go more into the response of that question in a later blog). For Carter, despite that fact that he won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo, it was too far. At only thirty three, Carter committed suicide leaving a note meant for the public: “I’m really, really sorry. The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist.” His lense had simultaneously made and destroyed him.

For pictures such as the earlier mentioned one of David Ortiz, photojournalists expect only a glance at the photo. Sports photos are typically accompanied by words, needing more of an explanation that just a visual. With photos such as Carter’s, no words are needed. In fact, if words were tagged along to this picture they would probably dull the searing pain it had initially created. I am about to embark on a journey through the history and controversies of photojournalism and attempt to put myself into that world as well.

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4 responses

23 09 2010
Mister Fischer

Great start on an important part of your project: defining your terms. I wonder: if we look at the picture Carter took and don’t know it’s showing us something about Sudan, does that matter? Journalism is ususally designed to inform us, to instruct us, to teach us. Some might look at Carter’s image and not know what it is. They might not know that it’s showing them something about Sudan, something they should act upon.

This all takes you to the question you are trying to answer here: what is the photographer’s responsibility? If the photographer wants to be considered a photojournalist, must she make it clear what her pictures are of?

Great work so far.

29 09 2010
Jackie P

This is such a sad image and a horrible one too. I think that the guy who took the photo should have saved the girl instead of taking a picture of her about to get eaten. But i don’t think he should have been criticized so much that he ended up killing himself.

I think your blog is awesome and you should put up some more photos because the two that you have up now are really cool.

1 10 2010
Corrina

I think this story is amazing, and it’s a shame that the photographer committed suicide, yet i do believe his photo took it too far. I mean it is important for others too see the world and photography is a unique method of doing so. However, i feel like taking this photo was very disrespectful to the girl. I know its meant to be a work of art, but did he ask her? She is a human being and i think should have been aware or known that her photo was being taken. So although it is a fascinating picture i feel like the methods the photographer used to get this photo were a bit inhumane.
On another note, i think this is a great blog and full of controversial topics 🙂

2 10 2010
jacquelinemerrill

This is a slap in the face to sports photojournalist, and a very powerful blog entry.
Fantastic choice for an image to write about.

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