In 1936, Time Magazine publisher Henry R. Luce bought the rights to the name LIFE and founded a magazine that would come to dominate print journalism for nearly forty years.
Luce turned LIFE into the world’s first and best photojournalism magazine. Compelling stories told predominantly by pictures. To be a photographer for LIFE was to have died and gone to photo heaven. Luce saw in the 1930s, the emerging power of the new medium of photojournalism, driven by the new technology of small Leica cameras married to Agfa’s invention of plastic roll 35mm film. Suddenly, the possibility existed to create a whole new way of telling stories.
Some of LIFE’s photographers went on to become the best photojournalists of the age. People like W. Eugene Smith, who invented the concept of the photo essay, Margaret Bourke White and Robert Capa essentially invented the photojournalism that we know today – intimate, real, compelling and powerful.
Today, we are faced with another combination of new technologies with the power to once again reinvent the medium. Small, hand held video cameras and the web are the tools not of a cheaper kind of television news, but rather the entre to an entirely new kind of journalism – driven largely by pictures and sound, carried on the web.
What will it look like?
We are still figuring this out. But I very strongly believe that what Leicas and 35mm film did for photojournalism, small cameras and the web can do for videojournalism. This is, create a new storytelling grammar that is also intimate, powerful, compelling and cheap to make. The vision of one person, just as Capa’s work was the vision of one person; just as Margaret Bourke White’s work was the vision of one person. A melding of journalism and art.
We can do this.
And we are beginning see the beginnings of it, so to speak.
Here is a piece by John Munson, a former still photographer from the Star Ledger who has created a piece that could just as easily, 50 years ago, been a powerful story for LIFE. That power remains, though now in video.