In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Photojournalism

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Academic Journals and Magazines
  • Films and TV Programs about Photojournalists
  • Websites and Archives
  • History
  • Genres
  • Education
  • Ethics
  • Aesthetics
  • Law
  • Photo Agencies
  • Key Research Studies
  • Transitions in the Field
  • Selected ‘New’ Research

Communication Photojournalism
David Staton, Julianne H. Newton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0224


The story of photojournalism is inextricably linked with humankind’s desire to understand the meaning of life itself. Photojournalism means visual reporting. At first read, that definition seems clear. When coined in the mid-20th century, photojournalism referred primarily to news photography: still photographs of significant or interesting events and people published in newspapers and magazines along with verbal reports or brief explanatory captions. As journalistic media expanded to include video and audio, first in analog form and then in digital form, such word combinations as visual journalism, visual reportage, and multimedia journalism gained popularity as inclusive concepts to describe the different forms visual reporting might take. Further complicating the challenge to photojournalism researchers is the need to explore literature related to visual evidence; such complex epistemological and methodological issues as representation and reality; and the impact of media on culture and society. Scholarship across the disciplines sometimes addresses photojournalism directly and almost always can inform the study of photojournalism: in art the History and criticism of photography and film in all their forms, both realistic and expressionistic; in English and comparative literature images as texts; in philosophy theories of Aesthetics, ways of knowing, and perception; and in social and natural sciences psychology of perception, eye and brain, behavior, anthropology, folklore, popular culture, and environmental science. Scholarship exploring photojournalism specifically often focuses on one or more parts of the dynamic of visual communication: the image maker (photographer, videographer, graphic novelist, editor, designer); who or what is imaged (person, moment, event, place, era, social issue); how the image is managed and distributed (editing, design, platform, marketing, archiving); or how the image is viewed and remembered (viewer, audience, receiver, eye, brain). Ranging from such practical concerns as tracking the movement of a viewer’s eyes across the elements of a newspaper page to such complex issues as the nature of reality or how memory alters what we perceive and believe, a growing body of literature has enhanced knowledge of the role of visual reportage in mediating, influencing, or even creating public perception of and response to people, events, and issues near and far. Although this annotated bibliography seeks to cover the range of work significant to the study of photojournalism, by definition as a selection of work it cannot be comprehensive.

General Overviews

Literature offering overviews of photojournalism-related concerns ranges from early textbooks defining the genre through contemporary analyses. Although listed as overviews here, each is written from an ideological point of view. Becker 1981 approaches the topic as social science concerned about how and why the images are made and used. Edom 1980 sets forth an ideal of the mission of news photography to show the world to itself. Sontag 1990 addresses photojournalism within the context of understanding the power of photography in everyday life. Caujolle and Panzer 2007 furthers the notion of examining everyday life by looking at magazines from the picture press, while Hicks 1973 offers a reflection on the power of words plus images. Becker 1981, for example, argues that good photojournalism extended in time and depth is documentary photography and that good documentary photography extended in time and depth is visual social science. Other works, including Light 2010, contend that each is a genre with specific purposes, characteristics, and expectations. Chapnick 1994, for instance, charts these concerns at a major photo agency, Black Star. At the core of any discussion is debate about the ability of any medium or process to represent reality with completely objective accuracy and in this, Kobre 2016 offers technical and ethical guidance.

  • Becker, Howard, ed. 1981. Exploring society photographically. Evanston, IL: Mary and Leigh Block Gallery and Northwestern Univ.

    This collection includes essays authored or co-authored by Margaret Mead; John Collier, Jr.; Charles Berger, and many others and complemented the same-titled art exhibition at the Mary and Leigh Block Gallery in 1981.

  • Caujolle, Christian, and Mary Panzer. 2007. Things as they are: Photojournalism in context since 1955. New York: Aperture Foundation.

    A useful History of the genre—ranging from the mass popularity of Life magazine and other photo-rich magazines to the seminal exhibit “The Family of Man” and, finally, to the digital media revolution—this is a richly illustrated resource. It also provides context, offering images of the design layouts in which the images originally appeared.

  • Chapnick, Howard. 1994. Truth needs no ally: Inside photojournalism. Columbia, MO: Univ. of Missouri Press.

    The long-time president of the international picture agency Black Star offers a personal and experience-based survey of the photojournalism profession grounded in history, Ethics, concern for women and minorities, and a passion for inspiring future photojournalists.

  • Edom, Clifton C. 1980. Photojournalism: Principles and practices. 2d ed. Dubuque, IA: W. C. Brown Co.

    The right way to practice photojournalism, according to a pioneer educator who cultivated the field as head of the University of Missouri’s photojournalism sequence, founded what became Pictures of the Year International (POYi), and started the Missouri Photojournalism Workshops. Originally published in 1976.

  • Hicks, Wilson. 1973. Words and pictures: An introduction to photojournalism. New York: Arno Press.

    Editor of Life magazine during its heyday, Hicks articulates the third effect of how pictures and words communicate differently than either words or pictures alone. Classic book about the photoessay style that distinguished magazine photojournalism from newspaper photojournalism. Originally published 1952 (New York: Harper & Brothers).

  • Kobre, Kenneth. 2016. Photojournalism: The professionals’ approach. 7th ed. Waltham, MA: Focal Press.

    Core text by a leading educator covering the range of topics needed by beginning photojournalists: from history and Genres, to newsroom politics and Law, to business practices.

  • Light, Ken. 2010. Witness in our time: Working lives of documentary photographers. 2d ed. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books.

    A collection of images and interviews with leading photojournalists, curators, and photo editors that traces a photo documentary history beginning with the Great Depression and New York’s Photo League. Light is an accomplished photojournalist whose credits include Texas Death Row.

  • Sontag, Susan. 1990. On photography. New York: Anchor Books.

    Seminal collection of opinion essays previously published in New York Review of Books. Through provocative prose, Sontag cautions about the influence of photography on consciousness and ways of looking at ourselves and others. Linking photography to voyeurism, aggression, appropriation, and vicarious experience, she calls for an ecology of images. Originally published in 1977 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

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