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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  charged images, by the late 1950s and 1960s, visual imagery began to deviate from this trend, emphasizing more socially and culturally oriented photos. While the precise nature of these shifts will be further detailed in “Methods,” the factors, both internal and external to the Times, compelling these transformations require explanation as well. Internally, the `new’ journalism that emerged in the 1960s fueled modifications in content, as journalists rallied for greater autonomy within the news organization. Externally, the rise of an `adversary culture,’ compounded by the competition advanced by print media’s fiercest rival, the television, and the declining efficacy of the dual-party system led to this evolution. When I first approached this project, I anticipated finding a profound contrast in the nature of visuals between the late 1940s-1950s and 1960s-1970s. Instead, what I have uncovered is a story of national transformation, viewed through the camera’s lens. During the post-World War II era, visual imagery served as a reflection of the dominant climate—acutely influenced by the technological, political, social, and cultural transfiguration America was undergoing at the time. Photography was a visual manifestation of a national phenomenon. History of Photojournalism Before delving into the details of this content analysis and the results it yielded, it is critical to contextualize photography as a medium of communication. Visual imagery did not arise in a vacuum. It owns an extensive history. The photograph is anything but a modern phenomenon. The concept of the “camera obscura,” the darkened chamber in which an outside image could be reversed and inverted, emerged with the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 b.c.). While improvements to the camera obscura hastened its usage, the dilemma of how to make images permanent remained problematic. A series of eighteenth-century breakthroughs by Johann Heinrich, Carl Wilhelm Cheele, Jean Senebler and Thomas Wedgewood contributed to the solution. However, it was Sir John Herschel’s 1819 discovery that hyposulphate of soda made an image permanent 2 William Stephenson, “Principles of Selection of News Pictures,” Journalism Quarterly Winter 1960: 61.

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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charged images, by the late 1950s and 1960s, visual imagery began to deviate from this trend,
emphasizing more socially and culturally oriented photos. While the precise nature of these shifts will be
further detailed in “Methods,” the factors, both internal and external to the Times, compelling these
transformations require explanation as well.
Internally, the `new’ journalism that emerged in the 1960s fueled modifications in content, as
journalists rallied for greater autonomy within the news organization. Externally, the rise of an
`adversary culture,’ compounded by the competition advanced by print media’s fiercest rival, the
television, and the declining efficacy of the dual-party system led to this evolution.
When I first approached this project, I anticipated finding a profound contrast in the nature of
visuals between the late 1940s-1950s and 1960s-1970s. Instead, what I have uncovered is a story of
national transformation, viewed through the camera’s lens. During the post-World War II era, visual
imagery served as a reflection of the dominant climate—acutely influenced by the technological, political,
social, and cultural transfiguration America was undergoing at the time. Photography was a visual
manifestation of a national phenomenon.
History of Photojournalism
Before delving into the details of this content analysis and the results it yielded, it is critical to
contextualize photography as a medium of communication. Visual imagery did not arise in a vacuum. It
owns an extensive history. The photograph is anything but a modern phenomenon. The concept of the
“camera obscura,” the darkened chamber in which an outside image could be reversed and inverted,
emerged with the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 b.c.).
While improvements to the camera obscura hastened its usage, the dilemma of how to make
images permanent remained problematic. A series of eighteenth-century breakthroughs by Johann
Heinrich, Carl Wilhelm Cheele, Jean Senebler and Thomas Wedgewood contributed to the solution.
However, it was Sir John Herschel’s 1819 discovery that hyposulphate of soda made an image permanent
2
William Stephenson, “Principles of Selection of News Pictures,” Journalism Quarterly Winter 1960: 61.


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