Photography and social context: Image and use by the example of press photography in Hungary
News photography is considered both representer and a means of social changes in the last third of the 20th century in Hungary (and Central-Eastern Europe, as well). News photography is significant from the early 1970s when photo reportage and photo essay appeared in the Hungarian press, first in the magazines. The „rise” of the photojournalism in the political dailies dated back to the mid-1980s, especially in the late 80s, around the fall of the Iron Curtain and turning of the political system, this period lasted till late 90s.
That time almost all traditional dailies established a photo section, and improved their photo coverage, acknowledging the importance of role of photography within the editorial. In the consequence, new ways of telling stories drew attention to the social problems, it brought up new topics. It was both a cause and an effect of renewal of visual „language”. In the meantime, the prestige of journalism and photojournalism raised as well.
Editorials recruited young photo reporters who were eager to cover topics which were taboo for decades (eg. powerty, drug addiction, skinheads, minority living in the neighbouring countries). Photos and photojournalists enjoyed a relatively greater freedom in the press comparing to written news. The quality of news coverage turned to dynamic, realistic, using art codes instead of previous static and propaganda and protocol photos, this way drawing attention of readers to the topics.
In my project I refer to photographs as cultural representations. News photo is a cultural product of a society, and when it’s about meaning a social construction.
Use of photos brings up several methodological questions: What do we get to know from photos? In what sense could photos be contextual information when researching society? These are relevant questions when we want to take (news) photos into consideration in researches focusing on social changes. The discussion focuses on the role of the press photography in the Hungarian press, knowing that it’s been undergoing significant changes in the last decades. By Bonnie Brennen and Hanno Hardt we assume that understanding the role of production and reproduction of news photography reveals the nature of what photos represent and barriers of representation. We focus on what we get to know from photos from the perspective of representation, giving an insight of the news processes in the given era, based on both interviews conducted with photojournalists and examining pictures in their contexts.