Photojournalism and Street Photography

Is there a difference between photojournalism and street photography? Does it matter? Here’s my attempt at an answer.

Street photography: Take a look at this picture.

The lady and the pigeon

The lady and the pigeon

My photograph is a street photo because it has these characteristics: 1) It’s technically marginal because it was captured on the fly with no time properly to set up the shot. 2) It makes you wonder what’s going on. 3) It arouses feeling in the viewer because it captures human nature and the lady’s face is visible.  4) The photo has no practical purpose. 5) It’s taken in an urban environment. 6) It asks the question of the photographer. Why did you take the picture? 7) The photo can stand alone without a story or caption.

Now look at his photo by Dorothea Lange taken on a photowalk in San Francisco in the 1930s.


This is an example of photojournalism because: 1) There is a clear purpose. The men sleeping on the street seem to need help, although that is not always the case. 2) The photo and any accompanying story can elicit two reactions that are both politically charged and diametrically opposite. a. These men need our help. Let’s organize to round up all men and women like them and give them what they need and/or train them for a job so they can be self-sufficient. b. Leave these men alone. If they have any character at all, they will “pull themselves up by their boot straps” and survive just fine without our help. If they lack the character to do this, then they deserve what they get.

Street photographs and photojournalism are not always easily distinguishable. There is overlap. But one rough way to do it is to see the street photograph as a stand alone revelation of human nature and the human’s place in an urban environment and photojournalism as news with a caption or story containing a political meaning eliciting polarized reactions.

Let me know what you think.


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