Some of the most iconic photos of the century have been taken by photojournalists, yet ask people to name one and 99% of the time you’ll draw a blank. To help change that, we take a look at five of the greats.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (French 1908 – 2004)
It would be difficult to make any list of important photojournalists that did not include Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is widely considered the father of the modern genre.
For most people, Bresson’s legacy is the notion of the ‘decisive moment’; that millisecond in the world when everything is in the exact position to tell a story and animate a composition. He was also a key proponent of not cropping his negatives, which meant composing the shot the view finder and not in the darkroom afterwards.
Although Bresson had effectively stopped taking photographs by 1970, turning instead to his old love of drawing, his influence continues to be felt just as strongly today.
Sebastiao Salgado (Brazilian b.1944)
Despite initially training as an Economist, Salgado moved to photography in his mid twenties and first made his name photographing the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981.
He is now more widely known for his long term projects, which thus far include Workers and Migrations. In these epic monograph long photo essays, Salgado captures the eternal struggles of people around the world, living their daily and often tortuous lives. His photos are nothing short of genius and he has understandably won nearly every photographic prize going.
He is currently working upon his ‘final’ heroic series, Genesis.
Weegee (Hungarian 1899 – 1969)
Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, is a character of legendary standing – and in no short measure due to his own self-promotion.
Specialising in crime photography, Weegee worked across New York City in the 1930s and 40s. He had his car kitted out for all his evenings needs: a Police radio which gave him rapid access to crime scenes, (often before the Police themselves got there) and a makeshift darkroom in the boot, guaranteeing him quick prints to rush off to the news desks.
Given much of his oeuvre was to take place in the dead of night, the harsh flash and spotlighted criminal (or corpse) became his signature style.
If all this sounds familiar, think back to 1997 and the film L.A. Confidential: Danny Devito’s character, Sid Hudgens… yep, that’s based on Weegee.
Martin Parr (British b.1952)
Martin Parr shot to fame in 1986 with the publication of his Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton . The gaudy, saturated colours from a seaside town near Liverpool are – as Parr has admitted – unashamedly voyeuristic.
When Henri Cartier-Bresson first met Parr, he said to him: ‘You are from a completely different planet to me.’
Much criticism has been piled onto these undeniably harsh images featuring largely over-weight, sunburned people eating greasy food amid piles of litter. But nonetheless, one cannot escape the authenticity of their subject, geographically and historically, and their undeniable Englishness. Simple factors which make them seminal, if untraditional, photojournalism.
Gordon Parks (American 1912 – 2006)
Born into poverty and the youngest of fifteen children, Gordon Parks, grew to be a true Renaissance man of the 20th century. Poet, pianist, composer, film maker (Shaft, yes that Shaft), writer, painter and photographer… there was little he didn’t do and do well. (He was awarded an astonishing 20 honorary doctorates).
He was the first African American photographer to be taken on by LIFE and Vogue magazines and produced important work focusing on the daily racial struggles across the USA.
One of Parks’ most famous images depicts Ella Watson, an African American Charwoman working in Washington.
“Within fifteen minutes she had taken me through her lifetime of bigotry and despair. “Would you let me photograph you?” I asked. “I don’t mind,” she answered.”
Realising how he could use his camera as a tool to fight such injustices, Parks’ produced what he felt to be his ‘first professional photograph’.
That’s our five most well-known photojournalists, but what about yours? Do you think any others warrant a mention? If so, please let us know who below or @Nokia_Connects.