Photojournalists are witnesses and documenters of history, and journalistic photography is an important agent of social change.
South African Kevin Carter photographed a public execution, known as “necklacing” in the mid-1980s. He later said of his photographs: “I was appalled at what they were doing. I was appalled at what I was doing. But then people started talking about those pictures … then I felt that maybe my actions hadn’t been at all bad. Being a witness to something this horrible wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing to do.”
Vulture stalking a child in Sudan, 1993. Photo Kevin Carter
Robert Capa’s famous 1936 photograph of the death of a loyalist soldier during the Spanish Civil War.
“Migrant Mother” is one of a series of photographs that Dorothea Lange made of Florence Owens Thompson and her children in February or March of 1936 in rural California.
South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, shoots Vietcong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street on Feb. 1, 1968. Photo: Eddie Adams
The body of Fabiene Cherisma, 15, who was shot in the head while looting for anything that could be used for survival after the earthquake that struck the captial city of Port au Prince in January 2010. Photo: Paul Hansen
A group of journalists photograph the body of Fabiene Cherisma, 15, who was shot in the head while looting for anything that could be used for survival after the earthquake that struck the captial city of Port au Prince in January 2010.
A man falls from the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:41:15 a.m. during the September 11 attacks in New York City. Photo: Richard Drew/AP
South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places, June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim’s cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Eddie Adams’ and Nick Ut’s images questioned growing public unease with the actions of American and South Vietnamese troops in the Vietnam war. But Adams insisted that photographs should not be judged by their shocking or gruesome nature. Viewers should ask themselves, “How do you know you wouldn’t have pulled the trigger yourself?”
Photographers are journalists – they know the facts of each story they’re covering and recognise and translate the most newsworthy elements into one, striking image.
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