Photojournalism In A Digital Age

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We all remember our first camera phone – the little lens that brought low-fi photos to even lower lows. Invented by entrepreneur Philippe Kahn in 1997 for the then-popular Motorola Startac, Kahn told Mashable he wanted to create what he hoped would become “a 21st century version of a Polaroid picture.”

If that was his goal, the rise of smart phone photography would make him proud. Mobile photo sharing and social network Instagram is definitely the low-fi version of the old Polaroid snapshot. What is also becoming more common is the growing use of high-quality smart phone images in the media, often submitted or taken by amateurs. With all of these readily available, cheap, accessible photos and budding amateur photographers, who needs a professional photojournalist in 2013?

In short, we all do. People often fail to differentiate between a photojournalist and a photographer. A photojournalist does more than take a photo. They tell a story through their lens – a story that conveys meaning in a way that words cannot. For those capturing the horrors of war and conflict, they often risk their lives, such as French photojournalist Remi Ochlik killed in Syria nearly one year ago.

2012 World Press Photo award winner Paul Hansen illustrates this with his winning photo for Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. The graphic photo shows a picture of two Palestinian children killed in an Israeli missile strike being carried to their funeral. Taken from the middle of a conflict zone, the photo tells an important story in objective, heartbreaking detail.

“These situations are so visually complex,” Hansen told The Associated Press. “It’s difficult to convey the emotions, to translate what is happening. The light is harsh and there are a lot of people. But in the alley the light bounced off the walls, so I thought this is a place where you can see that it’s a procession. … You get the depth in the image, and the bouncing light.”

In an increasingly budget-conscious, shrinking media landscape, it is important that the editorial voice of photojournalists be valued by consumers, marketers, and the media alike. For more award winning photos, see the World Press awards gallery of finalists.

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