Surprisingly, while reading an art listing about a gallery show in which photojournalism is featured, a definition has emerged that makes sense.
There are so many ways people describe photojournalism.
The most common understanding of the term refers to a type of journalism in which a news story is presented primarily through photographs with supplementary written copy.
Wikipedia lists photojournalism as "a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that creates images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, and in some cases to video used in broadcast journalism."
Although these definitions work, in recent times, photojournalism has been reinventing itself as a craft and as an art form. In the New York Times Art Listings this weekend the photo agency VII has a new show up at the Hasted Hunt Gallery in New York. In addition to explaining the images in the show, an interesting description of the field is provided.
According to the announcement, photojournalism as a "medium can be used in what are intended as interpretively neutral ways to document life as it is. It can also be a vehicle for political, social and personal statements. In many cases, the lines between objectivity and subjectivity, fact and attitude, are impossible to disentangle."
In many ways, this description fits well with the way I have felt about photojournalism for more than 25 years.
Photojournalism provides, for me, a more complex and fully human way of capturing, describing and explaining to others what words often fail to do. My frustration with words is that many times I feel they can only go so far to evoke emotion, imagination, consternation and expectation. Words, for me, often only superficially depict what I see, think and feel.
Photographs can evoke a range of human feelings -- dignity, integrity, shame, industry, integrity, pain, or joy -- far beyond verbal linguistic description.
Photojournalism, as the Times' description suggests, is far more complicated than most people realize.
For me, photojournalism can signify a social and empathic visual encounter with "reality," one that is capable of accentuating the textured fabric of the human condition with dignity, grace, and compassion.