The Emergence of Photojournalism and its Effect on Society

The curatorial statement will demonstrate how photojournalism has opened up a new field that became extremely influential in conveying social issues to the general public, accompanied by a discussion of the photographer W. Eugene Smith. It will also identify the impact photojournalism has had on advertising and promotion, especially focusing on celebrities and the fashion industry, in addition to utilizing such manipulations as color and digital imaging.


The emergence of photojournalism created new opportunities for photographers. These individuals were now able to travel virtually anywhere to document objects and events because camera equipment was now faster and portable. The most significant benefit of photojournalism was its ability to push for social change by illustrating the problems associated with the society. In other words, photojournalism was the first medium to convey social issues to mass audiences through the use of news magazines and other publications. Many of these magazines focused on the victimization that war creates. One of the most influential photographers during this period was W. Eugene Smith. His photograph entitled Marines Under Fire, (Photograph 1), depicts the harsh reality of war and the toll it takes on soldiers. Choosing to show the gun and the men looking in opposite directions suggests a sense of confusion and a threat of approaching opposition. Smith was able to portray a strong sense of compassion through his social documentation of war.

In addition to war reportage, W. Eugene Smith also experimented with a new technique linked to photojournalism: the photographic essay. Since news magazines and other publications finally had the capacity to include photographs, many of them featured photographic essays. These essays are photographic documentaries that are accompanied by captions in order to tell the readers a story. One of Smith most memorable works is entitled Spanish Village (Photographs 2a-2e). This particular essay documents the lives of a poverty stricken Spanish community who still retain a strong sense of faith. Through sharp tonal contrast and dramatic detail, Smith was able to show the struggles of these people in a humanistic way. The prevalent underlying element in most journalistic photos is the undertone of humanistic ideals.

Developments in photojournalism were also beneficial to advertising and promotion. In fact, advertising and promotion were created by photojournalism. Before this time, there was no way for a company to show customers what they are selling. This type of photography was especially useful in showcasing products in magazines as an attempt to attract buyers. An example of such an advertisement is the photograph entitled The Veiled Reds, by Richard Avedon, (Photograph 3). This photograph is an advertisement for a new line of makeup. Through an innovative combination of text and photo, in addition to careful word choice, the reader becomes drawn to the photograph. The photographer’s ability to utilize color so effectively reinforces the connection between the vibrant color red and their makeup line. If color was not utilized, the viewer may not associate the photograph or the words with the company’s make up line. Photojournalism is evidently the best way to convey a message to the general public.


Photojournalism also had an astounding affect on the fashion industry and the photographing of celebrities. The commercialization of such interesting new subjects provided vast opportunities for individuals who were trying to break out into the field of photography. Photographers were able to hold true to their traditional strive for aesthetic quality, while enjoying the freedom of more creativity. These photographs were also highly visible because virtually any magazine would contain them. Photographs such as Donyale Luna in Dress by Paco Rabanne, by Richard Avedon (Photograph 4) depict the beauty and craftsmanship concerning a piece of clothing. It concentrates on both form and elegance. In addition, this medium also depicted celebrities such as famous actors and actresses of the time. This allowed people to read about their favorite celebrities and finally enjoy photos of these individuals. It also enabled agencies to promote celebrities in order for them to achieve higher statuses. In other words, photojournalism ultimately created a way for photographs such as these to have an impact on shaping the attitudes of individuals viewing these photographs. Before this time, these photographs would have not even been considered as an art form. However, through the popularity of photojournalism these photographs have had the chance to show that they document society and retain public interest.

Finally, the latest development of photojournalism as described in the textbook is the innovation of digital photography. The textbook states, “By the end of the 1980’s, digital imaging has emerged as a transformative technology, welcomed in the fields of product advertising, cinema, journalism. The ability to manipulate images through the use of computers enabled photographers to explore their creativity. It gives them more freedom to customize their photographs in order to look more visually appealing, thus more enticing to the prospective buyer. Digital imaging also assisted other techniques utilized in photojournalism, such as Montage. This process works well with montage pieces of work because it allows for easier manipulation on behalf of the photographer. This type of imaging ultimately helps the photographer stick to their journalistic roots, while allowing them to express themselves on a more personal level as well.

In conclusion, the emergence and development of photojournalism has proved to be extremely beneficial in a number of ways. Photojournalism was the first medium to depict social problems throughout the world to mass audiences. In fact, many people’s attitudes about society changed through the widespread commercialization of journalism. Also, Photojournalism provided advertising and promotion companies with new ways to attract buyers. Celebrities and industries such as fashion also thrived with the emergence of photojournalism, because it gave individuals and industries a way to become highly visible. Finally, photojournalism has utilized newer techniques such as color and digital imaging in order to display current technology and the benefits associated with such technology. Photojournalism evidently shows how the camera is an important means of illustrating life.

Works Cited

Rosenblum, Naomi. A World History of Photography. Abbeville Press Publishers. 1997. 695 pages.


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