By Dylan Pichnarcik
If you went home today and asked your parents to see family photos, chances are they would return with a photo album stuffed tightly with prints.
But you would not simply be looking at a book. It would also be a map, a map of your history, and the history of those you call your family.
These significant moments in one's life are forever immortalized in small color prints, highlighting birthdays, graduations, weddings, and various gatherings. It would be a roadmap of your life, and of the life that was lived before your journey started.
While photographs are often used for leisure, their purpose is primarily for constructive documentation. A significant number of events regularly reported in major news outlets across the country are often accompanied with photographs.
These images serve as testaments to the events covered. A visual anchor emphasizing events that define generations.
The addition of images in media is incredibly important, as it provides visual emphasis to the reader. It puts the image of whatever article they may be reading into their mind, and how they feel about the issue into their heart.
In the 1960s, photojournalists across the nation flocked to Washington D.C. and heard of the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. as he declared before the world his dream for a better future.
Imagine the grandeur of this event. Think how powerful reading about the event must have been in the wake of his words.
Now go onto Google, and search for images of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. See the power of his speaking, the interest and agreement of the vibrant crowd.
While images of triumph such as this dominate the media of the past, photojournalism has also highlighted the worst of the world.
Photojournalists travel to the harsh parts of the world, putting their safety in danger to capture images that will radiate across the globe and show the human struggle. In a study done by the International Federation of Journalists it was reported that 120 journalists and media workers were killed in 2023 in conflicts around the globe
This is a trend that can be traced back to almost every conflict of the 20th century.
Images of the Vietnam War circulated throughout the country and the world, emphasizing an unnecessary conflict that cost the lives of millions of United States servicemen, innocent foreign civilians and journalists.
For the average American picking up a newspaper and seeing a man walk through an active minefield, knowing that he shares the general opinion that his profession has put his life on the line unnecessarily is incredibly powerful in emphasizing the issue that is reported.
Stark contrasts in the media have carried photojournalism into the 21st century.
Powerful images of the first female and woman of color to be inaugurated to the office of vice president of the United States have now been replaced with images of conflict, genocide, and overall unrest throughout the world.
These show our evolution, the events that make us human, moments where we stand united under one flag.
Moments where we are ashamed to call ourselves Americans. Moments in time that make us ask “Why?”
Seeing a photograph and responding with “Why?” is the appropriate response. It shows compassion and intellectual integrity.
Not all photos hold the same meaning, not all photos will show joy and agency.
Some will break your heart. Or may be unseeable. But the emotion connected to the photographs shows their importance in telling a story.