In the press crisis (newspapers and illustrated magazines), two moments were identified that defined a change in public preferences in relation to the consumption of information: firstly, the expansion of TV in the 1950s, and the financial pressure on some editorial media, would increase the list of graphic magazines that had been disappearing since the 1940s (Life, Picture Post, VU, etc.)..) and which constituted the means of diffusion par excellence for some of the outstanding figures of the golden era of photojournalism (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Smith, Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, etc); The moving image of the news bulletins, although ephemeral, offered an experience of the most lived news and in accordance with contemporary urgencies. The second change will be motivated by the change of paradigm that the Internet brought about in the field of communication: to what was already achieved by TV were added the democratisation and decentralisation of information or the possibility of any citizen with a camera becoming a potential reporter, which, without a doubt, has had a negative impact on professional photojournalism: The uncertainty and precariousness of work, the reduction of time to complete assignments and a certain relaxation in editorial rigour lead many photographers to develop author projects in parallel or to seek in other media (gallery, publications, audiovisual communication) the support to disseminate the work of their investigations.
Since 2002, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have allowed some photojournalists to develop projects that explore alternatives that either run outside the narrative imposed by the military milestones of the conflict, or use alternative strategies and points of view to document the conflict.
It is interesting the case of the American photojournalist Benjamin Lowy (New York, 1979), with a wide professional trajectory covering the most important political and warlike conflicts of the last times (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc…), natural catastrophes or sporting events, includes in his portfolio some series that have been entirely photographed with an iPhone; the use of the mobile phone although technically it can pose some technical difficulty in extreme situations -scenarios with little light or subjects in action-, some characteristics can justify its use in the field of photojournalism: is a less intrusive device, quickly available in unexpected situations -if we compare it with the voluminous DSLR cameras-, the possibility of communication in real time and integration with online platforms to transmit images is an added value to take into account or the application of filters to images through applications such as Hipstamatic help to attract the attention of an increasingly apathetic public.
This last question can be appreciated in a remarkable way in the “i” series (iLybia and iAfganistan) that we can find in Lowy’s web: images in square format, strongly contrasted, that include filters to apply effects of coloring, film, vignetting or blurring with an aesthetics that seems more like Instagram.
Does this mean a banalization of information, subtracting dramatism and value from the content? Does this modern “aesthetization” differ greatly from the reality practiced, and sometimes criticized, by authors such as Sebastiao Salgado to show suffering in the Sahel? The aesthetics of the photographic image is determined from its very conception: the framing and technical choices of the photographer suppose an aesthetic positioning of the author, influenced by his intention, culture and visual preferences: the choice of a gaze as opposed to other possible ones. Questions such as editing or where and how an image will be visualized -which could even be outside the author’s scope of decision- will add layers of aesthetic information about the image, transforming the reception of the message to a greater or lesser degree. Salgado assures that the beautification of his photographs obeys his will to dignify the subjects:
“I wanted to respect people as much as I could, to work to get the best composition and the most beautiful light… if you can show a situation this way- get the beauty and nobility along with the despair- then you can show someone in America or France that these people are not different”
If for Salgado’s photography -inserted within a humanist documentary tradition- it is valid to affirm that, in addition to the informative intention, the author emphasizes aesthetic and formal questions that distance the spectator from the crude representation of reality, minimizing the uneasiness produced by the vision of human suffering or natural catastrophes, in the use of the square format and the application of filters that Lowy makes in his i-documentaries a disturbing effect is produced in the spectator, who habituated to the aesthetics of this format in Instagram, will be disconcerted when he finds himself in the stream of images with the photograph of a charred soldier or a dying child. In both examples, the photographer transforms appearance to influence the spectator’s perception.
If post-photography, in the vernacular realm, has dematerialized photography by giving it the gift of ubiquity, evaporated the archive into an intangible and universal cloud, turned algorithms into image curators or altered the relations between author-image – spectator, in the field of photojournalism it has allowed the creation of more independent channels for the dissemination of information and legitimized many professionals to reflect on reality outside the editorial guidelines of large corporations.