Photojournalism of the 1960s and 1970s

Photojournalism of the 1960s and 1970s

Photojournalism wasn't new in the 1960s and it didn't end in the 1970s, but, throughout these two decades, newspapers, magazines, and agencies such as Magnum offered a platform for many remarkable photographers to capture world events. 35mm cameras enabled photojournalists to get close to the action, and someLarry Burrows in Vietnam, for examplepaid for it with their lives. Don McCullin is renowned for covering wars in Vietnam and the Congo, but he also captured urban poverty and the plight of refugees in Biafra. Other notable photojournalists of the period include Ian Berry, with his Sharpeville massacre pictures; Benny Joseph and his work in the Deep South; and Bruce Davidson in East Harlem. These photographers went wherever there was news.

Emulating a photojournalistic style is a matter of finding your story, getting up close, and shooting a series of pictures. As Robert Capa said, "If it isn't good enough, you're not close enough." Violence or poverty need not be your subjectand, in this context, perhaps that isn't appropriatebut you can select an image from the world around you that you feel is best expressed in photojournalistic style.

Subjects such as these, taken at Speakers' Corner and a religious festival in London, or, for example, a happy occasion such as a wedding reception, offer you appropriate subjects for producing a good set of pictures. Individuals, groups, or crowdsshoot whatever captures the moment. Black-and-white photography is most commonly associated with the photojournalistic style, although this wasn't always the case. Generally, the pictures were shot from close up and with fast, 35mm, black-and-white film, which produced sharper, grainier prints. Once you've found your story, these characteristics are easy to apply.

A wide-angle lens exaggerates the feeling of being right in the middle of an event.

  1. Crowd scenes can present problems. Here the preacher was perfect in one framebut two onlookers were looking down. As a genuine photojournalist, you would get fired for doing this, but nothing stops you from using faces from other frames. Open the other shots, roughly select each face and some surrounding pixels, and use the Move tool (V) to drag your selection into the main picture.

    Photographing People

    First, build up trust with your subjects. You win a lot of cooperation with a smile, a "Please," and a "Thank you." This Shiite parade, near Speakers' Corner in London's Hyde Park, was a tense affair. Nevertheless, some participants were happy to cooperate.

    Be aware of the law. You don't need to belong to the pressin most countries, you can freely photograph people in public placesbut you cross the line if you then use the picture to defame or exploit its subject. Always respect your subject's rightspack common sense in your camera bag when you go out to shoot.

    When you use digital cameras for photojournalistic images, it can be a great advantage to show your picture to the subject. This helps to gain trust and enables you to stay closer to the action and get more shots.

    Try to become invisiblenot by being sneaky and making people suspicious, but by being confident and open. You'll soon find people return to what they were doing and forget about you and your camera. This image was captured by respectfully standing back, changing to a wide-angle lens, and snapping the shot.

  2. Position the face with the Move tool and click the "Add layer mask" icon to the layer containing the face. Select the Brush tool and paint black onto the mask with a soft-edged brush, blending in the pixels surrounding the face.

  3. In the Layers palette, click the "Create new fill or adjustment layer" icon and select Channel Mixer. Check Monochrome and adjust the sliders until you achieve the right tonal balance. Here, a mixture of Red and Blue channel values darkened the lighter skin tones of the onlookers.

  4. For maximum impact, crop the picture tightly and dodge and burn it. I prefer to do this on a separate layer. Hold down the Alt/Opt key and click the "Add a new layer" icon. Select the Overlay blending mode and check "Fill with Overlay-neutral color."

  5. Paint on the Dodge and Burn layer with a soft brush. Your aim is to emphasize the central subject. Here, paint dark gray to burn, or darken, some areas. For example, to make the preacher's jabbing finger stand out, darken the denim jacket above and below the finger. To draw the eye toward the preacher's face, choose a gray tone that is slightly lighter than mid-gray and lighten that part of the Dodge and Burn layer.

  6. To give the picture a grainy, "fast-film" look, add another Overlay layer and apply Filter > Artistic > Film Grain.

Almost any public gathering can present you with wonderful opportunities to practice photojournalistic techniques. Speakers' Corner at Hyde Park in London is an excellent location.

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