Photojournalism Matters

Among the best articles on the merit and value of photojournalism is Michael Meyer’s recent piece in the March/April issue of Columbia Journalism Review.

Entitled “One Day in the War of Images,” Meyer discusses Khalid Mohammed’s now 10 year-old-image for the Associated Press of two charred American bodies hanging from a bridge and surrounded by a crowd of cheering Iraqis.

Additionally, as part of the essay, Meyer presents several other iconic news images. Eddie Adams’ 1968 photo of a South Vietnam police officer’s execution of a captured Vietcong soldier, for instance.

And Joe Rosenthal’s World War II shot of the U.S. flag being raised at Iwo Jima. The haunting Depression-era image of a migrant farm worker and her children by Dorothea Lange.

The Hindenburg at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in its final moments aloft, a Marine with bloodstained head bandage walking toward a wounded comrade dazed from battle in Vietnam and Alfred Eisenstaedt’s sailor on VJ-Day in Times Square kissing a nurse.

The Meyer article appears at the same time as the staff for daily newspapers become more slender; photojournalists are being let go in record numbers, and reporters are being tasked with “mojo” and “multimedia” responsibilities.

One suspects, as a result of such personnel “changes,” the notion of craftsmanship has gone by the wayside.

Each of the news images noted above is probably familiar to most readers. And, significantly, readers of virtually any age. The images are a “memory,” including those who could have no such thing.

One did not, in other words, have to experience (however vicariously) the event being depicted to have had the image seared into memory.

Indeed, memory IS the image. Sometimes at the expense of historical fact and textual context.

Words. Pictures. Reporting. Writing. Editing. Publishing. Reading. Seeing. Understanding. Discussing.

This stuff matters.

Here’s the link to Meyer’s article: http://www.cjr.org/feature/one_day_in_the_war_of_images.php?page=all

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