Sunday, February 27, 2005

Photo Journalism

Photo Journalism
Photography news reporting can be interesting when it is placed in context with a written story. Being able to take good pictures is certainly a desired skill for any journalist, whether it is writing for print or digital media. Photo journalism however can be very dangerous if taken out of context.

One of the myths about journalistic photography is the perception of 'seeing is believing'. We assume visual representation in photographs is the equivalent of seeing the actual event, hence genuine in every respect, capable of conveying the truth about the happening. Unfortunately, all these are just mere perceptions as photography only records what has been captured and do not interpret the meaning of the picture. A photograph is therefore not seen reality, thus cannot be true evidence of what had happened (Kuhn 1985, p.26). Furthermore, with digital editing capabilities, creative intervention can tamper the authenticity of what is actually 'seen' through the camera eye.

Another misrepresented truth is in the area of photography portrayal of people. In 1988, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented an exhibition of Nicholas Nixon's photographs called 'Pictures of People.' Among the people pictured by Nixon are people with AIDS (PWAs), each graphically portrayed as someone of colored skin and to be pitied or feared, often in a dehumanized state of deteriorated health. This pictorial message however is far from the truth, as many PWAs can continue to live a relatively long life after diagnosis through the use of experimental drug treatments. The real reason for the high death toll is in fact due to government inaction and the inaccessibility of affordable health care due to institutionalized neglect as a result of racism and sexism (Crimp 1992, pp.117-118).

Media representation of PWAs affects how viewers perceive the victims. Photography journalism can convey messages out of context when presented without the corresponding written story. Audiences can be manipulated if they fail to deconstruct media representations to understand the perceivable reality. Images from photography like the PWAs must be understood as simply representations, formulated not in relation to the 'truth' of the image, but in relation to a social governance and construct.

Crimp, D. (1992) "Portraits of People with AIDS" in L Grossberg, C. Nelson and P. Treicher (eds), Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge: 117-131.
Kuhn, A. (1985) "Lawless Seeing", The Power of the Image: Essays on Representation and Sexuality. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul: pp.19-47.


Kayla Nestor said...

hi, my name is kayla. im really interested in photojournalism, and going to college for journalism. your page was very interesting.

Writer n Journalist said...

Kayla ... It's a subject you'll like! Have fun studying and thanks for your comment.