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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  political ideology, cultural assumptions, and fundamental social arrangements changed.” 17 Thus, it should not come as a great surprise to find little consistency among visual images. There was little consistency in America itself. Yet in assessing the 1970s as a benchmark in American photojournalism history, we must inevitably contextualize these shifts within twentieth-century history. Why did visual content transform throughout the latter part of the twentieth century? How can we account for the relative inconsistency of subject matter in visual imagery during the `long’ 1970s? To answer these questions, we must look not only inside, but outside the confines of the news organization to the confluence of technological, social, cultural, and political elements pervading American society at the time. In examining these elements, a larger picture is captured. Technological Advances While historical developments, such as the construction of the railroad system and the invention of the telegraph, contributed to the increased speed with which photographs could be diffused, not even the Associated Press (AP) wire as deeply influenced the course of twentieth-century photojournalism as improvements made in equipment and processing. The ousting of the 4 x 5 Speed Graphic in 1959-60 by Nikon’s single-lens reflex had profound repercussions upon the profession of photojournalism. The Speed Graphic, which first used flashpowder and later flashbulbs, was a cumbersome device, difficult to conceal on assignment. The Nikon F single-lens reflex, on the other hand, with its relatively reasonable price, “through- the-lens viewing, quality lenses, and important accessories such as a motor drive” 18 proved a more practical and efficient photographic tool, much like the 35 mm camera. As a result of these technological strides, more candid photographs—images that were less posed and prescribed (of the pseudo-event nature) could be easily obtained and published. The typical pseudo-event, the press conference or presidential address, was consequently supplanted by more socially and culturally oriented images, such as black students walking to school in Little Rock, Arkansas or construction on the Brooklyn Bridge. 17 Schulman xvi

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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political ideology, cultural assumptions, and fundamental social arrangements changed.”
17
Thus, it
should not come as a great surprise to find little consistency among visual images. There was little
consistency in America itself.
Yet in assessing the 1970s as a benchmark in American photojournalism history, we must
inevitably contextualize these shifts within twentieth-century history. Why did visual content transform
throughout the latter part of the twentieth century? How can we account for the relative inconsistency of
subject matter in visual imagery during the `long’ 1970s? To answer these questions, we must look not
only inside, but outside the confines of the news organization to the confluence of technological, social,
cultural, and political elements pervading American society at the time. In examining these elements, a
larger picture is captured.

Technological Advances
While historical developments, such as the construction of the railroad system and the invention
of the telegraph, contributed to the increased speed with which photographs could be diffused, not even
the Associated Press (AP) wire as deeply influenced the course of twentieth-century photojournalism as
improvements made in equipment and processing.
The ousting of the 4 x 5 Speed Graphic in 1959-60 by Nikon’s single-lens reflex had profound
repercussions upon the profession of photojournalism. The Speed Graphic, which first used flashpowder
and later flashbulbs, was a cumbersome device, difficult to conceal on assignment.
The Nikon F single-lens reflex, on the other hand, with its relatively reasonable price, “through-
the-lens viewing, quality lenses, and important accessories such as a motor drive”
18
proved a more
practical and efficient photographic tool, much like the 35 mm camera. As a result of these technological
strides, more candid photographs—images that were less posed and prescribed (of the pseudo-event
nature) could be easily obtained and published. The typical pseudo-event, the press conference or
presidential address, was consequently supplanted by more socially and culturally oriented images, such
as black students walking to school in Little Rock, Arkansas or construction on the Brooklyn Bridge.
17
Schulman xvi


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