On this day in 1904, the first colour photo was published in the London Daily Illustrated Mirror (later the Daily Mirror), contributing to the evolving role of photography in journalism and media. Launched as a newspaper by women for women, the Daily Mirror soon shifted its focus to become a pictorial newspaper, firing all of its female journalists in a move to broaden the readership and popularity of the paper. The promise of photographs certainly aided in the expansion of the Mirror, with circulation rising to 446 000 in 1904 making it the second largest morning paper. This event raises interesting questions as to the impact of photography in the broader development of a media oriented world.
The development of the art of photography over time has provided the opportunity for life to be captured in a new way; the rise of press photography and war photography have played considerable parts in the moulding of public opinion and heightening of public education as to surrounding global events in a gripping and striking manner.
Roger Fenton was one of the first instances of actively using the medium of photography to capture war, albeit somewhat intended for propaganda purposes (Prince Albert instructed ‘no dead bodies’) in the instance of the Crimean War 1853-1856. Limited by the obtrusive equipment available, Fenton was only able to capture the aftermath of war, an obstacle increasingly less relevant with developing technology; modern photographers such as Winter used smartphone technology to capture US soldiers on a tour to Afghanistan in 2010.
In 1862, Mathew Brady opened an exhibition in his New York Gallery, entitled ‘the Dead of Antietam.’ This exhibition captured the realities of the American Civil War on the bloodiest day in American history, presenting war in its grittiest and realest fashion, corpses lining the ground. Such portrayals forced the American public to be faced with tangible repercussions of war as opposed to viewing war purely through the interpretive brush of artists. Later conflict such as those captured by Robert Capa in the Spanish Civil War further ensured that the public were not unaware of what was going on around them whilst unpopular conflicts such as the Vietnam War (described as ”the living room war” due to the impact of media infiltration into the American population’s homes) found photography an essential medium in the exacerbation of protest and resistance; the saturation of horrifying images rooted in the conflict aggravating the anti-war movement in America and worldwide. Aided by developing technology, photojournalism became ever relevant and central in the reporting of news stories and peddling of a position.
The impact of press photography is not by any means limited to war. Magazines such as ‘Life’ became iconic for their front cover photography, capturing events and figures of significance to illustrate reports and articles within, with positive photographic depictions proving useful to figures such as Kennedy in the maintenance of a strong public image. The popularity of photo magazines such as Life further pointed to public popularity of the medium in the presentation of news. Arguably the golden age of photojournalism can be seen to decline, perhaps ironically, with the rise of media, making it difficult for photo magazines to compete with online news outlet alternatives and the increasing saturation of images captured due to incredible accessibility of the general population to camera technology.
The medium of photojournalism raises important questions surrounding the ethics of photographing war, as well as how significant the role of art can be in forming public opinion and appealing to the emotive nature of humanity. What do you think?