by Tony Karp
On being a photojournalist
 - On being a photojournalist - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
One of my very first efforts at photojournalism. I shot this on the subway, late at night, with a used camera that cost me $5.
Imagine being a painter during the time of the Impressionists. What a rush that must have been, being in the midst of these daring painters and interacting with them. But I was a photographer. And I was a photographer during the golden age of photojournalism, and it was really something.

Photojournalism -- telling a story through pictures -- probably started with Mathew Brady in the American Civil War. But what brought it to flower was the birth of Life Magazine during the 1930s. Life Magazine brought the world, in pictures, into your home every week. The pictures ranged from straight black and white reportage to beautiful color photos to illustrate a story of science or a look at rare flowers. The pages were huge and full of pictures. And the pictures were chosen for maximum impact, often spread across two pages.

It was the goal of every young photographer to work for Life or to have one of your pictures published in the magazine. I've been on a few assignments for Life and I've even had a few pictures published. NBC sent me to California to bring this look to their advertising for the 1959-1960 TV season.

But what I really gained from this is a different approach to my photography. Every time that I pick up a camera, I imagine myself on a Life magazine assignment. So, when I look through the viewfinder I try to imagine what sort of story this picture will illustrate.

To me, photojournalism isn't just a job description --- it's a mindset.

Life Magazine folded around 1971, and nothing has ever come along to replace it. If you've never seen Life Magazine, you will find it very educational to dig up a few copies and spend some time perusing them. Now think about how your pictures would fit into this showcase. It may give you a new perspective on your photography.

These pictures were shot over a period from 1958 to 1963, when I was drafted into the army.
 - Rooftop portrait - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Rooftop portrait
 - On being a photojournalist - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
This is from a photo essay that I did of people at their windows.
It won an Art Directors Award.
 sailboat - Illustrating a story about finding inner peace. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Illustrating a story about finding inner peace.
 - A fantasy in Central Park. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
A fantasy in Central Park.
 Lady eating a melon - In an outdoor market. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
In an outdoor market.
 Coney Island - I try to engage the people that I'm shooting.<br> You have to be patient, waiting for just the right moment. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
I try to engage the people that I'm shooting.
You have to be patient, waiting for just the right moment.
 Coney Island - And this is the moment. Everyone is engaged in this picture. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
And this is the moment. Everyone is engaged in this picture.
 - At the window, watching the world go by. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
At the window, watching the world go by.
 - Shooting in Times Square at night. Can you catch the pizza in midair? - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Shooting in Times Square at night. Can you catch the pizza in midair?
 - Two young Irishmen watch the Saint Patrick's Day parade in New York City. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Two young Irishmen watch the Saint Patrick's Day parade in New York City.
 - On being a photojournalist - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Many photographers think of street photography as a kind of hunting. Use the longest lens and shoot from as far away as possible. Or you can take your camera in close and directly engage your subject. This construction worker was enjoying the moment as much as I was.
 - Another old lady watches the afternoon go by. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Another old lady watches the afternoon go by.
 - The little girl on the left eats her candy and looks into her future. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
The little girl on the left eats her candy and looks into her future.
 - The golden age of the Broadway musical.<br> Intermission at The Music Man. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
The golden age of the Broadway musical.
Intermission at The Music Man.
 - Tenement windows, circa 1959. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Tenement windows, circa 1959.
 - Another toss of the pizza, another midair catch. Real photojournalists use rangefinder cameras, unmatched in their immediacy and speed.  - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Another toss of the pizza, another midair catch. Real photojournalists use rangefinder cameras, unmatched in their immediacy and speed.
 - On being a photojournalist - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Here's an idea for a photo story. Find a group of kids playing in the street and follow them for an afternoon. Let's see how it goes.
 - On being a photojournalist - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Just hanging out. On this day, I was carrying just a single rangefinder camera with a 28mm wide angle lens. Very non-threatening, compared with the giant DSLRs that some carry today.
 - On being a photojournalist - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
A group portrait. Working in close and cropping out nonessential details.
 - Playing tag. Again, the rangefinder camera,<br> unmatched for capturing close-in action. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Playing tag. Again, the rangefinder camera,
unmatched for capturing close-in action.
 - At the end, a quiet moment. - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
At the end, a quiet moment.
 - On being a photojournalist - Photojournalism - Life Magazine - Black and white photography - Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
One of the cameras I used back in the golden age of photojournalism. This is a Canon Model P rangefinder camera with Canon 19mm lens. Note the two strap lugs on the left side of the camera. This helped to keep the strap away from the lens when shooting. Marty Forsher added them to the camera in 1962.

Today, in the golden age of the Internet, there is no modern equivalent of Life Magazine with its rich and varied pictorial content. There are lots of web sites with pictures, but there's no real emphasis on telling a story. Photojournalism has been replaced by Instagram, selfies, celebrities showing off their rear ends, and other tributes to a world with a short attention span.

Today's photographers are lost in a search for technical excellence, discussing things like raw processing, blown highlights, and bokeh, where the out-of-focus areas of a picture are more interesting than the in focus part. For a photojournalist, the emphasis is on the strength of an image and its storytelling qualities.

I wonder if there's a place for something like Life Magazine on the web, and what form it might take.

Some technical notes: The original pictures were shot with miscellaneous Canon rangefinder and SLR cameras. The film was most likely Tri-X or Plus-X, developed in UFG. The prints were photographed with a Sony DSC-R1 camera and post processing was done with LightZone 3.
Copyright 1958-2016 Tony & Marilyn Karp