Background Essay and Panelist Biographies

The Power of Elections: Photojournalism and the Democratic Process

Background Essays

 

Photojournalism in the Age of Television

Since its invention in the nineteenth century, still photography has illuminated our world and our times with a lucid, often startling potency. Now, in our media-saturated digital age, the power of a single iconic image to reveal or condemn, celebrate or catalyze, remains more critical than ever. This is particularly true in the modern political arena, where most everything is staged for the complicit eye of the television camera. Television and elections have always had a simpatico relationship. Simply put, the great journey to election day makes for good viewing. The candidates and their handlers arrange stump speeches and meet-and-greets with grand rallies and hometown parades, and the television news corps dutifully beam it all out to the voting masses. Yet it is the nature of the twenty-four-hour news cycle that what is televised is transient—here today, replaced tomorrow—and essential truths often get left outside the “official” perimeters.

Over the years the technology of television has evolved in leaps and bounds, but the visual record it produces of the political narrative remains limited by the very objectivity it strives so fervently to achieve. With television, what you get is what you see. The photojournalist, however, “sees” in an entirely different way. Although the basic aim of photojournalism is reportage, its practitioners operate on a plane wherein subjectivity is a prerequisite for delving beyond the obvious. Armed with their still cameras, they set out to supplement, or sometimes even supplant, the televised version of history-in-the-making with their own point of view. Whether roving the sidelines of a press conference or immersed deep within the fray of a convention, the photojournalist can separate the extraordinary from the mundane with the click of a shutter.

The still photographs on display in this exhibition are the product of factors both circumstantial and personal: fortuity, an intrepid spirit, and the myriad split-second decisions involving composition, choice of lens, and balance of light and shadow. Culled from elections both here in the U.S. and abroad, these images represent the vision and skill of men and women dedicated to achieving the transparency essential to any true democracy. Long after the ballots have been counted, and the television cameras pointed elsewhere, it is the work of the photojournalist that serves as the permanent, legitimizing chronicle of how we choose to be governed.

Allen Glover
Assistant Curator, The Paley Center for Media


 

The Power of Elections
A Tribute to Photojournalists

A photo gallery exhibit at The Paley Center for Media in New York (Oct 3 to Nov 5, 2008)

Often the unsung heroes of our profession, photojournalists frequently work on the front lines, putting their lives at risk to bring us vital news images. In this exhibit, organized by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and The Paley Center for Media, we showcase the work of renowned photojournalists who have captured pivotal moments in history, including Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto campaigning just before her assassination and the barrier-breaking candidates in the U.S. presidential campaign.

The photos cover elections in more than fifteen countries over the past forty years. We looked for famous leaders campaigning for high office, from Lyndon Johnson stumping for Bobby Kennedy on the streets of Brooklyn in 1964 to George W. Bush and his family anxiously awaiting results in 2000. We looked for groundbreaking elections: the first contested presidential race in Egypt, for example, and the first vote that put a representative from the lowest caste into India’s Parliament. We wanted elections that changed the course of history—the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Solidarity movement in Poland. We also wanted images of failed attempts at democracy, including Aung San Suu Kyi’s struggle against the Burmese junta, ending in her house arrest, and opposition rallies in Zimbabwe before Robert Mugabe’s crackdown.

These photojournalists are the best in the business. They have won Pulitzer Prizes and World Press Photo awards. We included up-and-coming photojournalists from the developing world. We also spotlighted photographers who have worked with the ICFJ to train aspiring photojournalists around the world.
The photographers donated these images to ICFJ. Proceeds from an auction of the prints will be used for programs designed to advance quality journalism worldwide and to purchase camera equipment for participating photographers from the developing world. This exhibition will travel to Washington, D.C., for ICFJ’s awards dinner on November 12.

Bids for these prints can be made online at ICFJ.org/photoauction.

Joyce Barnathan
President, International Center for Journalists
 

Panelist Biographies

Washington, D.C.–based photojournalist Gary Fabiano has covered major news events from the Bosnian war to the attack on the World Trade Center. He is a member of the White House Press Corps and regularly contributes to Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report, Paris Match, Mother Jones, Le Figaro, and the Times London. In 2000, he received the 2000 Alfred Eisenstaedt Award and his photographs were then featured in the special edition of Life magazine’s “Best Magazine Photos of the Year.” Fabiano is a key organizer of this photo exhibit.

New York photographer Timothy Fadek has worked in twenty-five countries, with a special emphasis on the war in Iraq, the civil uprising in Haiti, and the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Named “Hero of Photography” by American Photo magazine in 2007, Fadek also received the Best of Photojournalism Award from the National Press Photographers Association in 2002 and 2005.

Chris Hondros’s work has appeared in Newsweek, the Economist, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. He has received many honors, including awards from World Press Photo and the Pictures of the Year International competition, as well as the John Faber Award from the Overseas Press Club. In 2004, Hondros was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in spot news photography for his work in Liberia. In 2006 he won the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award, also from the Overseas Press Club

New York–based photojournalist John Smock has worked as a reporter, editor, and photojournalist for publications such as the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, and Washingtonpost.com. In 2005, Smock became a Knight International Journalism Fellow, assigned to train photojournalists in the Middle East. He teaches at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.