11.05.2012 - Hobby

Trends in Photojournalism: classic and contemporary

Recently, more and more people appear on the streets with a semi-professional SLR cameras. Certainly it is an interesting and demanding hobby, but the statement that if a person buys the camera he automatically becomes a photographer is rather false. The job begins to lose its value in the opinions of others, they say, what’s difficult, because there is “cool camera”? However, being good photographer – is a difficult path, tough profession. So, for those who suddenly had forgotten or did not know, we want to remind what is being a photographer means. Let’s talk about photojournalism.


“I love the truth and nothing but the truth I show.” Henri Cartier-Bresson

That was the credo of a French photographer, the “father of photojournalism,” Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004). First, Henri studied painting, but after returning from a trip to Africa, became interested in photography. He saw a picture taken by photographer Martin Munkácsy in which were nude black men who were bathing in a lake of Tanzania. Fascinated and surprised by that picture Henry asked: “Oh! So it can be made by a camera? “- From this moment, actually, it all started. In 1930 he bought in Marseilles his first camera – a new lightweight 35-millimeter camera by Leica.

Cartier-Bresson was a founder of the idea of “decisive moment”, so according to his philosophy of reportage, every photographer should have a heightened sense of the main point, which will make him know how and when to press the “trigger” button to take picture. Photographer shall immediately, in a tiny fraction of a second recognize the significance of what is happening and be able to quickly and harmoniously arrange the objects in the frame to give it an emotional expression. To catch the decisive moment means to stop the fleeting reality of the picture, to give her the right to live forever and have time to arrange it aesthetically. Henri Cartier-Bresson, in contrast to many contemporary photographers, from his reportages brought out a maximum of 10 photographs, and sometimes even one, but that one was better and more accurately passed on the essence of the event. To make such a shot, or even 10, it was necessary for a long time to stand and observe what was happening, to try to penetrate into its essence, to understand people who took part in it. New advanced technologies are much easier to work with, because the photographer can make more than 1,000 photographs, and then come to the editor’s place and select 10 worthy.

Talking about personal style of Cartier-Bresson in his photo, he is known for precise geometry of the objects and the expressiveness of action or emotion in the pictures.

In 1947 Cartier-Bresson and his colleagues Robert Capa, David Seymour, George Roger, Maria Eisner, Bill Vandivartom and Rita Andivert founded a community of photojournalists – the agency “Magnum Photos”.

“If your pictures are not good enough, then you were not close enough.” Robert Capa

One of the founders of photojournalism is Robert Capa (1913-1954). This photographer has lived a short but colorful and eventful life, fully confirming the his quote above.

Robert Capa was taking pictures mostly of military conflicts. He is the author of the unique photograph of death of a soldier’s on which the participant of the Republican party army begins to fall when it gets a killed. This photograph was taken during the Spanish Civil War.

Capa covered the 1938 Japan-China war, and later served in North Africa and Italy, documented in the 1944 landing of Allied troops in Normandy.

1951 Robert Capa became the head of “Magnum Photos” photo agency.

Capa also visited the Soviet Union: in 1947, together with the writer John Steinbeck, he received an invitation to the Soviet Union, where he for several months was documenting the everyday life. As a result of this mission was publishing the book “Russian Diary” (“Russian Journal”) with pictures of Robert. In 1948 and 1950 he worked in Israel. Photojournalist died tragically in Vietnam, Indochina at the end of the war, where he was blown up by a mine.

Robert Capa was a friend of Hemingway and Steinbeck, and had designed their books.

Robert Capa is considered the founder of the genre of war reportage. He had photo documenting almost the entire World War II. Since 1955, the U.S. Press Club gives an annual award The Golden Medal of Robert Capa to photojournalists’ from all over the world “for best picture stories, made with risk to life”.

“I did not make any photos – good or bad – without paying for them with my mental sufferings.” Eugene Smith

Eugene Smith, probably, since early childhood showed himself as a rebel. He tend do only what he liked and always left that things which were out of his principles. He was born in 1918 in Kansas. When he was 14 years old he dreamed about aviation. One day, in order to take pictures of planes, he borrowed a camera from his mother, and … changed his dream of aviation to photography. This hobby lead him to becoming a photographer for two newspapers, “Eagle” and the “Beacon”.

Unfortunately, he erased all the pictures he made during the Great Depression, because he thought he could not pass in the picture all the events that made such a deep impression on him in this period of American life. In 1936 he became a student at Notre Dame University, where the special program on photo was created exclusively for him. But having studied for a year, Smith left the University, and moved to New York. He failed to stay in the weekly «Newsweek». He was rebelling, refusing to comply with editorial about the technology and quality of the photographs, because for him the main thing is the essence of the picture. The same thing happens with the famous photodocumentary magazine “Life” in 1939.

After a while, the photographer returned to his work in the magazine and covered a lot of military operations in the Pacific Ocean and other military locations. May 1945 brings hard times in his life – a very severe wound in the jaw, followed with 32 operations, and made a serious threat under his work of a photographer. However, during his rehabilitation period, he makes one of the most famous, but not the most acclaimed by him photographs – “Walk in the Garden of Eden.” In the world of photography, he comes back, continuing to work in “Life” from 1947 to 1954, and makes a lot of photo documentary projects that had become the gold fund of photo-essays. But in spite of Smith’s being genius as a photographer, he had a difficult character. His rebellious spirit would not allow him to put up with points which he disagreed. The reason for breaking the contract with “Life” in 1954 was the disagreement to make the incomplete coverage of the physician, philosopher and musician Albert Schweitzer. Since leaving the scandal edition, Eugene Smith, said:

“When it comes to reportage, for me the incomplete presentation of the material is still a lie.”

He devoted himself to work completely, condemning to a life of poverty, not only himself but also his family. Toured many countries, having lived several difficult years in Japan, he died in 1978, and he remains perhaps the most rebellious representative of the photographers of the twentieth century.

“When you shoot, you always know which frame will appear, because you feel a click of the camera in your heart.” Lala Kuznetsova

Lala Kuznetsova was born in 1946 in Uralsk, Kazakhstan. Before taking up with photography in the late 70′s, she studied at the Kazan State Aviation Institute and worked as an engineer of aviation. In 1978 she worked as a photographer at the Kazan State Art Museum, and in 1979 was admitted to the Union of Lithuanian Photographers. From 1980 to 1982, Kuznetsova was a reporter for the newspaper “Evening Kazan”, since then – a freelance photographer.

Lala took up photography after the tragic death of her husband – he died of anemia. They lived together for 6 years, loved each other. Lala for a long time did not know how to live until her friends decided to organize a photo club. They gathered every Thursday, discussing images of each other. Interestingly, Lala went for a reportage together with her little daughter Vlada, so that she combined motherhood with work.

Soon, Lala left the job of the photographer at the Kazan State Art Museum, decided to work independently. So, with her brother, she went by car to the Ural steppes. They decided to turn off the main road and came across a gypsy camp on the nearest shore. The children ran out to look at them, Lala and her brother followed them to the tents. They gave gifts to children, and Lala started taking pictures of women and men sitting on the ground. Gypsies do not like being photographed, it is not easy to obtain their consent… But Lala knew that she had found what was looking for: people who came to her liking, whom she was photographing for the next 30 years of her life.

Documentary project “Gypsies” is the chief of her career and life. “Gypsies – these are people who go to the horizon and the horizon moves away from them” – says Lala about her heroes, to which she devoted almost the half of her life.

Today Lala Kuznetsova – is the photographer known all over the world. The only vote “against” would not allow her to become the second Russian photographer of the Magnum photo agency. Photos by Lala Kuznetsova are exhibited in Europe and America. She has received honorary awards: Medal Championship and the Leica Award Mother Jones, The German Academic Scholarship Austauschdienst, Gold Medal for humanitarianism.

“I make the documentary of life”. Alexander Chekmenev

Chekmenev Alexander was born in 1969 in Lugansk, Ukraine. Children’s interest in photography influenced the choice of his job of a photographer, which he studied in Lugansk in 1988. From 1990 to 1992 he studied at the faculty of photojournalism at MSU. Since 1993 he became a member of the Union of Photo Artists of Russia and a member of the Union of Photographers of Ukraine. After receiving a job offer in 1997 in the weekly “All-Ukrainian news” he moved to Kiev, where he lives now.

In the 90-ies during a routine working trip he took to the home-made mines of Thorez, Alexander became interested in the life of miners. Since then, he came to the cities of Donetsk region, where people make self-extracted coal mines, a self-made “holes” and documented their way of life. Photojournalist lived with the miners and even tried to descend into the mine and get coal. Only after he returned from the mines with coal miners allowed him to accompany them with a camera everywhere, he was also invited to family parties and friendly gatherings. Being with people you photograph as equals, learning from their life and experiences – that is an integral component of quality and true story, according to Alexander Chekmeneva.

Recently released the book by Alexander Chekmeneva “Donbass”. Design, layout and printing of the book were made in German publishing house Kehrer. In the book, as black as coal, are the photos of Donetsk miners, describ the history of their lives. Each page is like passing day to these brave, strong and hardworking people.

Photojournalism – it is not “cool camera” and the empty mindless “click” the shutter release button, it’s much more. Photojournalism – is a philosophy of life, which every artist discovers and creates in his own way. No matter how many people with cameras, “photographer” appear on the streets, these outstanding individuals worthy to represent the profession will always remain in the memory of millions of people who appreciate the art of photography.

Anastasiia Vlasova