A compelling anthology of photojournalism from the nineteenth century to the present, profiling fifty–four masters of the field and reproducing their most stirring images. Featuring well over 200 memorable photographs!
Ever since Roger Fenton inaugurated the genre by photographing the Crimean War in 1855, the worlds great photojournalists have used a variety of approaches to bear witness to their times. At one end of the photojournalistic spectrum are war photographers like Robert Capa and Larry Burrows, who capture the most extreme events of human existence as they happen; at the other are social documentarians like Lewis Hine and Sebastião Salgado, who step back from the single dramatic incident to cover in depth such economic and cultural issues as labor and migration. By compiling 250 of the most memorable images from photojournalism’s 150 year history, Photojournalism 1855 to the Present: Editor’s Choice provides a fascinating introduction to the entire range of the field.
Author Reuel Golden, a noted authority on photojournalism, selected the fifty–four photographers featured in this book based on their critical reputations and historical importance. For each photographer, Golden provides a portfolio of representative images many reproduced at full-page size as well as a brief biography and an insightful critical commentary on his or her career. In these commentaries and in his informative introduction, Golden discusses the particular challenges of photojournalism, such as the relationship between photographer and subject, and the moral ramifications of aestheticizing human suffering. Yet perhaps most importantly, his text also encourages the reader to look closer and discover how well the photographs speak for themselves. From Frank Hurley’s groundbreaking World War I battlefield shots to Mary Ellen Mark’s stark portraits of American poverty and James Nachtwey’s haunting pictures of the September 11 attacks, the images in this book prove that even in our era of twenty four hour video on demand, the still photograph remains as powerful as ever.
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Reuel Golden is a senior editor of the world’s biggest magazine for professional photographers, the New York based Photo District News. He is the author of Twentieth Century Photography.
Excerpt from: Photojournalism 1855 to the Present: Editor's Choice
The war in Iraq and its aftermath were relentlessly covered by thousands of television channels from all over the world. Journalists filed reports from burn out rooftops, from inside American tanks making their way toward Baghdad, from refugee camps. It was a big story, as war always is, and the 24 hour news channels were anxious not to miss anything yet invariably they did. From all the hours, days and weeks of moving footage, there is nothing that really lingers in the memory from this strange time. The television coverage was immediate, dramatic and neverending. It showed us a lot, but taught us very little. It is the still photographs of the conflict that are memorable. The famous image of a statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled over by a jubilant crowd was a powerful symbol of repression and subsequent liberation. On the flip side of that, there were the chilling images taken by an anonymous American soldier with a cheap digital camera of Iraqi prisoners being abused by their US captors in the hellhole of Abu Ghraib. When historians look back at this period and try to make sense of what happened, it is these images, as well as photographs taken by people such as Luc Delahaye, Tom Stoddart, Jerry Lampen, James Nachtwey and dozens of others, that will be used as evidence.
These photojournalists and all the others featured in this book where the key witnesses to a series of events that together make up recent history. They are our eyes on the world. Great photojournalism witnesses events that we wouldn't necessarily see or be allowed to see, or even want to think about. At its most basic definition, photojournalism is the presentation of stories through photographs photojournalists are journalists with cameras. Since the inception of the medium, when Roger Fenton photographed the Crimean War in the mid nineteenth century, photojournalists have been preoccupied with photographing humanity at the extreme edge of existence. War, civil unrest, famine, disease, natural disasters, poverty, homelessness: these are the grim stories told by photojournalists for more than 150 years.
Some critics resent this narrow, bleak viewpoint and continually question why photojournalists focus only on the negative. These are valid criticisms, but they can be rebutted. First, photojournalists are working in a commercial environment where there has always been a demand for this kind of image and story. Sadly, good news has never helped sell newspapers. Second, photographing a harrowing or dangerous event presents the photojournalist with a series of logistical, aesthetic and moral challenges. By challenging themselves, they in turn challenge the viewer on an emotional and intellectual level. The best photojournalism gets us to see and feel what is happening and more importantly forces us to ask Why?”.
The logistical challenge is to get the photograph in the first place; the aesthetic challenge is to make the image as compelling as possible. Often this means beautifying misery and suffering, and the more enlightened photojournalists are conscious of this dilemma. Yet they also realize that a well composed, attractively toned and perfectly lit print is the most effective way of connecting and engaging an often indifferent audience.
The other moral challenge facing photojournalists is the notion of conveying an objective truth. As bystanders, they a're supposed to merely record events and not influence them in any way. In this book there are controversial examples where the photographer supposedly set up” the shot the more extreme cases of a photojournalist tampering with the truth. Yet the notion of objectivity is ambiguous, and every time the photojournalist takes a photograph subjective judgments are being made, starting with the fundamental decision about what to photograph and equally importantly what to leave alone. Many factors will influence how the image is perceived and interpreted: how the image is composed and cropped; whether it is shot in colour or black and white; the detail that is included; whether the photograph is shot in close up or the camera is pulled back; the accompanying caption. This doesn't mean the photographer is not telling the truth; it is just one version of the truth. Click the shutter again and the viewer is confronted with a new version.
The evolution of the genre
There were some remarkable photojournalists the nineteenth century: the pioneering Roger Fenton, the enigmatic Felice Beato, and Alexander Gardner, who photographed the American Civil War. (He, rather than the more famous Matthew Brady, makes it into this book, since there has always been some controversy over Brady, who claimed sole copyright from all the photographers who worked under him.) Yet overall two factors hindered the development of the medium. Firstly, cameras were extremely bulky and unwieldy contraptions involving glass plates and long exposure times, fine for formal portraiture, but not suited to the spontaneous nature of photojournalism. Secondly, there was no demand for journalistic images, apart from private collectors and museums.
This was the change in the first 20 years of the twentieth century. In 1910 the rotary printing cylinder was invented, which meant that text could now be combined with photographs. Following on from that was the development of the small hand held camera, the Leica, which was to change the genre forever. Armed with a Leica, a photojournalist could get close to the action, taking photographs in quick succession, as the camera follow the movements of the human eye. These twin developments propelled photojournalism into the people's consciousness and homes with a spate of photo led publications.
This golden age of photojournalism”, as it became known, was roughly to last from the mid 1930s, when Life magazine started, to the mid 1950s, with the advent of television. At one point, Life was selling by the millions and even by today's standards photographers were being paid a lot of money to shoot stories, $20,000 in the case of the legendary Robert Capa. Life magazine loyally served its readers with its use of extended photo essays, where the photographer was given sufficient space to develop a coherent narrative over page after page.
Photojournalism was perceived as glamorous and the photographers, led by those such as Capa and Cartier Bresson, had a high self regard. What they lacked, however, was power. This was to change with the formation of the Magnum photo cooperative in the late 1940s. Magnum established the principle that the copyright of the photograph belong to the creator. Since one of its founders was Cartier Bresson, Magnum also played a significant role in elevating the genre from a craft into an art form, and in time photojournalism would be displayed in galleries and reproduced and glossy books. Magnum also created an infrastructure that allowed its members to spend a long time on stories, to reflect, rather than just react to news.
The Second World War shaped the careers of a generation of legendary photographers, such as Robert Capa and W. Eugene Smith. Similarly, the Vietnam War around 20 years later established a new kind of photojournalism, which produced its own legends photographers such as Larry Burrows, Don McCullin, Gilles Caron and Philip Jones Griffiths. These (sometimes colour) images were brutal in their depiction of war. They are graphic and technically very sharp, since the quality of film and cameras had improved significantly. While Capa saw war and heroic terms, these men clearly identified with the victims of war, rather than with the occupying force. They wanted their photographs to bring about change and to a large extent they succeeded.
Their sensibility, dedication and moral responsibility was adopted by the third generation of war photographers who covered the conflicts in the Middle East in the 1970s and 1980s and in particular the Civil War in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Photographers such as Gilles Peress, Luc Delahaye, Roger Hutchings, James Nachtwey, Tom Stoddart, Carol Guzy, Eli Reed and many others were committed, brave and passionate, but less idealistic than their 1960s counterparts. Sceptical and at times distrustful of both their role and the media in general, these photographers also now had digital technology at their fingertips, which revolutionized the taking and transmission of photographs. Images could be taken in a war zone, transmitted down the wire in a matter of just a few seconds and, make it on to the front pages of a newspaper within minutes.
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