Photojournalism: Photography and Imaging Technologies

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Photojournalism has long been considered to have a tradition of reflecting the truth. It has been a major element in newspaper and magazine reporting since the early 20th century. It was probably only about a century ago when people believed that what they saw in photographs was factual. This impact of visual image as seen by the viewer was based on the old belief that "the camera never lies". Wheeler says that photojournalism has "acquired a special standing in the public mind, a confidence that photo can reflect reality in a uniquely compelling and credible way." (Wheeler T, 2002, p. 3) This acquisition is formed by a creation of a powerful picture, which is the combination of both truthfulness and visual impact. "In general, photojournalism is defined as a descriptive term for reporting visual information through various media such as newspapers and magazines." (Newton J, 2001, p. 3) The mid-20th century saw the rise in photojournalism. As Wheeler (Wheeler T, 2002, p. 3) mentioned, "by World War II, America had become a certifiably visual, predominantly photographic culture."

Photography is a form of visual representation of events to the public. It is traditionally defined as ‘writing with light'. Photography was more than factual recording of truthful observation. It could be an expression of emotional reaction to life. Although photography has always been thought of as the capturing and the reflection of truth, the discussion of ‘manipulated photography' is often brought up. However, before any debate of manipulated photography, one must begin with the "recognition that photography itself is an inherent manipulation." (Wheeler T, 2002) Ever since its beginnings, photography is subjective, it is not absolute reality and it is not entirely truthful. The subjectivity of photojournalism is based on various reasons that are often overlooked by many. Photos are just recorded information and how it is presented is actually based on individual interpretation by the photographers themselves. It is not absolute reality because the viewers themselves are not there to witness the event; therefore it is not entirely factual. The meaning of a photo illustration is also dependent on viewers' individual views and assumption. As the old metaphor says, "is the glass of milk half full or half empty?"

Gatekeepers such as publishers and the government play a role in photo manipulation. As Newton (Newton J, 2001, pg. 74) suggests that "those who tend the gates of reportage tend power". These people are the ones who decide what the public ‘needs to know', what is ‘appropriate', what is ‘news' and also what the public needs to ‘see'. Gatekeepers as such must answer questions like: "Will publishing a picture of the body of a drowning victim prevent others from drowning at the same spot, or will it only exploit a tragic situation to sell newspapers?" (Newton J, 2001)

Another significant reason that has played a vital role in photojournalism of recent times is the emergence of imaging technologies. Imaging technologies has undoubtedly played a major part in the works of a photojournalist today. Based on earlier accounts on how photography itself is an inherent manipulation, the question is no longer directed on ‘how has imaging technologies manipulate photojournalism' but ‘how much more has imaging technologies manipulate photojournalism'. This process of manipulation is thus further enhanced by the emergence of imaging technologies. Manipulations in photos have already been witness in the pre-digital era. "Photos were faked long before the development of imaging software." (Wheeler T, 2002) Early photographic history is filled with artists-turned-photographers who set up situations with models and backdrops and made elaborate compositions from several negatives. In fact, the first manipulated picture appeared within a year of the invention of photography itself. "A French photographer named Hippolyte Bayard made the first faked...
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