Context. Layered information. Voice. Movement. Transparency. Photographer as "author." Subject as "storyteller." Image as "instigator."
Words and phrases that even a few years ago were not used to describe the practice of photojournalism surface today with hesitant certainty. Where the digital road is leading those whose livelihood relies on the visual portrayal of our contemporary lives might not be entirely clear. By adapting to technology in shooting their images and in how they publish and distribute their work, photojournalists are constructing roads that are already taking them in new and sometimes unanticipated directions.
It was more than half a century ago when an American publisher placed an abstract painting by Matisse and an unforgettable phrase onto the cover of a portfolio of 126 photographs taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson. That title--"The Decisive Moment'--defined for the last half of the 20th century what photographers set out to capture. That the book's French edition carried the words "Images a la Sauvette," which translated is closer to "images on the run" didn't seem to matter nor did the different treatment of images and words; his French edition had captions, while the U.S. one did not.
A few years later, in an interview with The Washington Post, Cartier-Bresson observed: "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever"
Today high-definition video cameras can create high-resolution images at a rate of 30 photographs a second, eliminating the need to know when to click the camera. With audio in the mix, the decisive moment yields to the visual voice. An image, still or moving when shot, will inevitably appear on a screen accompanied by the voices of the photographer and subject telling the story. This task was once left for a single immovable image to do.
In this Spring 2010 issue of Nieman Reports, photojournalists explore the new pathways that their images travel in the digital age. Those at photo agencies share ideas about online business strategies designed to give photographers the time and resources their work requires. Few photojournalists receive what David Burner refers to as "magic phone calls" from photo editors, the ones sending them with pay and expenses on lengthy assignments to distant lands. So the need to find new revenue streams in a marketplace saturated with images rests heavy on their minds. …