Back To Life

That’s life

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.

6 responses to “Back To Life

  1. Yet another feature.

    It can run any day, any time.

    What are newspapers trying to do?

    Survive as a business that delivers news to it’s customers

    Feature stories, here and there, are not going to save them.

    Look at any newspaper that claims to be making the move to video news coverage.

    Yes, any one of them.

    Look at their top story.

    The one the feel is the most important news of the day.

    The story, information, that is the most important to the people that will pay them to stay in business.

    Does it have video of that story, done by newspaper staff employees, on their web site?

    No.

    Look at the Star Ledger.

    Is it’s number one story today, or any day, done in video as well as print?

    No.

    That tells you newspapers are not going to make it.

    Instead, we get the usual handicapped, no-arms pity-story.

    Was it the headline of the day?

    Is it what the editors of the paper, you know, the one that is trying to stay alive and move into the new future as defined by Rosenblum, is that the story those decision makers of the newspaper think is most important?

    Nope.

    What about the second most important story of the day at any newspaper?

    The third or fourth?

    Rare at best to find a video version on ANY newspaper site.

    Come on Rosenblum!

    What’s stopping that paper in New Jersey from covering the most important story of the day, every day, with a video version as well as the traditional print version?

    Ability, or rather the lack of it.

    Nothing more.

    Feature stories like the one above mean nothing when the business needs to really make the transition to covering important issues instead of the predictable pablum you show us again and again and again.

    The Star Ledger is no Life Magazine.

    It’s not even valid competition for any other existing video news source in the New Jersey area.

    The day that paper, or any other in the country, covers the headline story of the day, every day, with a video version, is the day your empty claims will have validity.

    So far you, than they, are batting zero.

    And the newspaper editors agree with me every time the write a headline and your VJs don’t have something to go along with it.

  2. $ said:

    Instead, we get the usual handicapped, no-arms pity-story.

    OMFG! Your comment here speaks volumes. Until you’ve actually experienced first hand covering a story like this intimately – or how about living day to day with a special needs child as a part of your family – keep your lame-a$$ opinions to yourself.

    So far you, than they, are batting zero.

    According to whom?

    Feature stories like the one above mean nothing when the business needs to really make the transition to covering important issues instead of the predictable pablum you show us again and again and again

    According to whom? Who says the above story isn’t important? You? Sorry, but it’s clearly evident that your opinion about anything here doesn’t amount to jack squat.

    All I read is the same broken record comments by you on this blog. You give no balanced compelling reason instead resorting to derisive comments towards anyone who doesn’t see things through your narrow world Faux News view.

    Terry Heaton said it best yesterday:

    …get over yourselves. In a few more years, we’ll all be doing video the same way. Those who refuse will cling to their Betacams all the way to the bottom of the tar pits.

  3. Luce was not a photo-journalist, but he was smart enough and discerning enough to create a platform with editorial and aesthetic guidelines that attracted the best photographers and appealed to a very wide audience. He also had the financial means and access to an infrastructure to get the magazine out into the world.

    The missing link now is today’s Henry Luce. There is no question that there are thousands and thousands of content creators, many whom are very good. Getting their work out to the world in a way that is profitable for them and will get the attention of a mass audience is still the question.

  4. Tell me Cliff,

    Was the front page headline of the Star Ledger about this handicapped boy?

    No.

    Even the chief editors of the Star Ledger know that story wasn’t important.

    It’s not just me Cliff.
    The chief gatekeepers of the Star Ledger agree with me as well!

    Maybe Rosenblum needs to talk with them so they can all agree what is and what is not important news.

  5. Steve said:

    There is no question that there are thousands and thousands of content creators, many whom are very good. Getting their work out to the world in a way that is profitable for them and will get the attention of a mass audience is still the question.

    I agree Steve – but I think that this will iron itself out fairly soon as the continued culling of the heard so to speak will bring about the necessary number of shooters who can work for entities that see value in the balance of nimble shooting with quality.

    $ – What the front page headline is was an editorial decision at the Star-Ledger – made by human beings. Neither you, I, or anyone else can make that judgment call – only they can. I know for a fact that one paper I worked at did run a similar story on the front page back in the day. They probably would still make the same decision today – because they knew it is an important story to that specific community.

    And again, the business is still learning what this is all about – for all anyone knows, this kind of content WILL make the front page in the very near future – depending on the community and the editorial decision makers. Then again – maybe you’re right and they won’t – so what? In the great scheme of things – it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong.

    To make a blanket statement like yours is an unwise thing given the rapid pace at which this profession and industry as a whole is going.

  6. Human beings, Cliff, who agreed with me and not you.

    Still learning?

    Another excuse for failure from someone, who himself, is stuck in the “still learning” rut but never getting hired to “do”.

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