Reportage photography is one of the main and most popular genres of photography. If you open a random newspaper on any given day, you will see dozens of reportage photographs whose aim is to provide us with information about one event or another. This is the main purpose of reportage photography – with its help we can be partial to events taking place anywhere in the world.
You can say that the fathers of modern reportage photography were the legendary Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson. They changed the face of this genre when they created the photography agency Magnum which is still in business even today, transforming reportage photography from a simple illustration accompanying an informative text to an art form able to tell an entire story within a single frame. Their photos often did not need explanatory footnotes and were complete reports in their own right.
Street photography, as we have already said, is very similar to modern reportage photography and often one and the same photo can fall into both categories at the same time. That is because the object of both “street” and reportage photography is one and the same. In both cases the aim is to capture the ‘decisive moment’ which must provide the viewer with the fullest possible account of the story being told by the photographer. So, the advice in our chapter on street photography is also applicable in reportage photography. The main difference between the two genres lies in the goals of the reporter. Their aim is to document a specific event or a series of events and to inform the community about what happened.
Reportage photography covers sports events, concerts, street incidents, military events, etc. A reportage can also be simply an account of the life of people in an exotic country. Digital photography opens many opportunities for photographers who wish to work in the field of reportage photography. Without the extra costs for film, a photographer has unlimited opportunities to perfect their skills with a lot of practice. The fast transfer of digital data over the internet to the numerous photography agencies makes you highly competitive and gives you equal opportunities to everyone else and you no longer depend on the privileges of fast film development and copying at any time of the day and night in the dark rooms of the editorial offices which professional reportage photographers used to enjoy.
Reportage photography requires very good knowledge of your equipment and of the different genres of photography. “Shooting motion” is an especially important tool because reportage photography comprises of many captured moments. If you do not use the right camera settings – low shutter speed, imprecise AF, etc., your sense of a captured moment alone will not make for a good photograph.
‘A look at the audience’ – when you shoot reportage of a concert, you should also turn the lens towards the audience, in order to capture some interesting scenes, situations and portraits. This makes for a fuller story from lots of different perspectives.
Never forget the main rule – when you shoot reportage photography be honest and objective at all cost, never allow yourself to be dishonest or manipulative, as easy as it may seem. Only in this case any recognition you will receive for your ‘decisive moment’ will be true!
To me, photography is an art of observation. It is about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.