Photojournalism, a brief history


What is photojournalism ?

A photographer taking wedding photos basically aims to satisfy the bride and groom, while a photojournalist has a role towards the public: to supply precise, honest and up-to-date information. A photojournalist reports via photos and will often work in more dangerous conditions than journalists working in other media.

Who took the first photo ?

The Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce managed to capture the image of a landscape in 1824 after an entire day of exposure. Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre simplified the operation, reducing the exposure time to 30 minutes. The technique was bought by the state in 1839 and Daguerre and the descendants of Niépce lived off the returns. Photography immediately enjoyed huge success.


The town of Durango, 1847 (Photo: Library of Congress)
The town of Durango, 1847 (Photo: Library of Congress)


Who was the first photojournalist ?

An American, whose name has been lost in history, who took daguerreotypes during the American-Mexican war (1846-47). In Europe the Romanian Carol Szathmari took photos of the Crimean War (1853-56). Armed conflicts were the first subjects for early photojournalists; prior to this the public had only had illustrations by painters and sketch artists.

Photos published in newspapers would have a greater effect on public opinion. The first “humanitarian” reporting came from Jacob Riis who, along with three photographers, shot the slums of New York in 1890. Technical advances (lighter, easier-to-use equipment, instant exposure, transmission by telegraph, the arrival of the Leica in 1923 and of lenses in 1932) allowed photographers to be increasingly autonomous. Photos no longer need to be set up and the subjects become more real.

Who published the first photo-reportages ?

German magazines in the 1920s. Previously, photos were only used to illustrate written reports. The Germans published series of photos which told a story. The American magazine Life was launched on 23 November 1936 and would go on to influence an entire generation of photographers.

Source : (Marion Urban)

Photojournalism, a brief history