Can photojournalism stay relevant?
In the darkened highway illuminated by the headlights of cars, a bystander was quietly documenting on his smartphone two young men confronting each other over a traffic issue. After some heated exchange of words, one took a gun and fired at the other person. Pandemonium ensued. In a matter of seconds, the video was downloaded on Facebook. And before the night was over, the video had gone viral.
Welcome to the brave new world of instantaneous sharing of information! And as a photographer, you can’t help but ask, can photography keep pace with the new media world order?
Photography, as we knew it, has recently gone through a dramatic and decidedly major makeover. The shift from film to digital is earth-shaking. The transition is ushered in by the entry of a brand-new technology which redefined how photographs are produced and shared. The new technology attracted a younger and more numerous band of practitioners who are in a mad dash to take over the castle. As in any revolution, there are casualties. Kodak, the iconic company whose name is synonymous to photography, is its biggest victim. Then there are the smaller and largely unaccounted photo entities that folded shop. And in the vast wasteland are older photographers who stubbornly refuse to follow the beat of the new drum, preferring to stick around in the old terminal and dreaming of the past.
Since its inception in 1839, photography has always been in a state of flux. A product of the Industrial Revolution, the camera started as a technical curiosity. It gradually metamorphosed into a commercially viable medium for recording the fleeting moments of history, both communal and personal. And in the hands of artists, photography regaled the unbelievers with creative output many thought could not be brought out from a mechanical toy.
Among the giants in photography is Andre Kertesz, a Hungarian-born photographer who elevates photography into an art medium. His striking composition of stand-alone still photographs dazzled his viewers and inspired succeeding photographers. He also went into photo essay, a multi-photo presentation that tells a story. The photo essay reached its zenith in the work of photographers such as W. Eugene Smith of Life Magazine.
Even early on, the desire to introduce motion has pushed photo engineers to the invention of the motion cameras in the 1890s. The moving pictures, or the movies, took on a life of its own. Because of its advancement in the field of art and science, movies eventually earned the moniker as the seventh art. Farther down the road, television was born, a telecommunication marvel that approximates the movement of movies but has the advantage of being broadcast.
Through all these developments, still photography has continued to blossom as a medium for art and commerce. But in the new age of the social media, can photography stay relevant? Stay tuned for more developments. Robert Pableo Lim
Amid glut of images, which will endure
News photographers have not been marginalized by the onset of digital media. Far from it.
Their audience has not been shrunk; it has expanded. Still images are used not just in newspapers; they’re on TV. And they’re online: in “layering” of content, they help seize and hold attention.
Increase in the number of platforms, as vital component of news and features, came with, or was preceded by, the shift to digital equipment and new photo techniques. Which enable them to shoot and store as many images as they need and want. Which provide a necessary component of media content, in whatever form or device they are presented.
CJJ has tried to help promote photojournalism as crucial to information-giving as the words from reporters and opinion-makers. Recording these select photos, in print and digital form, from the past year’s work of Cebu news publications, may remind news photographers their work or some of it, used in several news cycles, may survive time and stand out in the welter of images the current “mass of media” brings. Pachico A. Seares
Comment on photos by Robert Pableo Lim
(CJJ12 was published in hardcopy in September 2017.)