Aesthetics in photojournalism : LUSENET : Dirck Halstead : One Thread

Why aesthetics in photojournalism is not an issue. Everybody talks about the content of pictures especially in photojournalism. But I think the form (how you present the content) is as important as the content. Tell me what do you think about this subject.

-- Melih Arican (, December 27, 1998


Because we consider ourselves, hopefully, to be journalists first and photographers second. Aesthetics are important to me only in so far as it relates to content and contributes to truth. Think of it this way. When you show a dog a bone by pointing at it, most likely the dog will sniff your finger and not the bone. In other words, the dog misses the larger "issue" to which you are trying to show him. He's too focused on the tip of your finger and thereby misses everything. Aesthetics in photojournalism - as an "issue" is like sniffing the finger. The real issue is the content your aesthetics are pointing to.

-- David Leeson (, October 14, 1999.

I see form and content as parts of a whole, and both parts are very, very important. For me they are usually halves, equals. But the perception of their importance varies greatly among individual photographers, editors, viewers and with their use for any given photograph.

I don't believe an ordering of "journalist first and photographer second" is always necessary. I shot day in and day out for several years on newspaper staffs. I still shoot for newspapers, regularly for Houston Chronicle and New York Times, and I also shoot for magazines. Some days you shoot news and aesthetics matters less than content and other days you shoot portraits and features where aesthetics play a major role in, among other things, establishing mood. Further, while I still consider myself a photojournalist, I am increasingly interested in that area of photography were journalism, documentary and art overlap. There's nothing wrong with that. I think we could use more appreciation for beauty in this world.

I read the Morning News almost daily, and Mr. Leeson is an exceptionally fine news photographer, but I think it wrong to dismiss aesthetics as only a means to an end or possible distraction. Today's marketplace is too competitive for photographers not to be concerned with aesthetics. Photographers have to compete with one another and images have to compete for viewers. A more aesthetically pleasing image (sharper, better composed, better lighting) will be worth more to editors (even if the subject matter is revolting) and will stand out to viewers among the deluge of images that bombard us daily. I submit James Nachtway's work as an example of very strong content complemented by strong aesthetics.

-- Ted Albracht (, December 24, 1999.

I met Mr. Leeson when I was a student at ETSU in Commerce, TX and find his response to this question rather puzzling and ironic. While living in Dallas I followed the excellent work of the Morning News staff and David Leeson is the only name I remember because of the ever-present aesthetic value of his work. Perhaps he puts aesthetics as secondary because it comes as second nature to him.

-- Todd Segrest (, May 24, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ