Friday 5 October 2012

A brief study on Photojournalism 1935 - 1945

The 1935 - 1945 decade was a crucial period in the history of the world. The late 1930s saw the rise of tensions and struggle for power between the world nations, which eventually led to World War II. This decade was the golden period of Photojournalism which greatly enhanced the effectiveness of media. In America, during this time period, we saw the rise of photojournalism with the advent of Life magazine. War photography widely served the effectiveness of the media during World War II. My study helped me in finding out the situation of the different countries around the world during this time period.
 Life assigned photographers to cover the war. Among the prominent Life photographers were Margaret Bourke White, Dorothea Lange, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Eugene W. Smith and Robert Capa. Robert Capa documented the course of the war in London, North Africa, Italy, the Battle of Normandy on Omaha Beach and the liberation of Paris. Margaret Bourke White, the first female war correspondent documented the war in Geramy, Soviet Union, North Africa and Italy. Eugene W. Smith covered the war at Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. And Alfred Eisenstaedt's is most famous for his photograph of an American sailor kissing a young woman on August 14, 1945 in Times Square, New York.  Apart from these photographers there were also many other photographers who were not widely known. In Germany, Hugo Jaeger was the personal photographer of Adolf Hitler. In Russia, during this period, mass media was very limited. The pre-world war photographs were very limited. Soviet photographer Olga Lander’s World War II photographs were one of the few which could be seen from the Soviet Union. A few other works of Soviet photographers during WWII can be found from this web link
The late 1930s and early 1940s was the most crucial and significant period of the 20th century. Following the Great Depression in 1929, many of the countries were restructuring their economy. Germany saw the rise of Hitler and Nazism in the mid and late 1930s. Then Germany sparked the initial phase of World War II in September 1939, when she invaded Poland. Between 1936 and 1945, German photographer Hugo Jaeger was granted unprecedented access to Adolf Hitler, traveling and chronicling, in color, the Fuhrer and his confidants at small gatherings, public events, and, quite often, in private moment .
Japan in the late 1930s was in political turmoil and suffered grave economic turmoil due to the Great Depression in 1929. It tries to uplift its economic status. The civil government gradually loses its power and soon Japan was governed by the military. The imperialist nature of the military soon led to the invasion of Manchuria by Japan in July 1937.(Second Sino – Japanese War), which eventually led Japan to join the Axis power in World War II . By 1941, Japan fully immersed itself in the war.
The United States was also recovering from the Great Depression and tackling internal problems. The dust storm also known as the Dust Bowl swept the American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936 (in some areas until 1940) causing major ecological and agricultural damage . John Steinbeck and Dorothea Lange documented the Dust Bowl using photography. Dorothea Lange captured her most famous picture, “migrant mother,” which shows a young widow holding her three daughters, her gloomy face suggesting that hope was running out. In December 1941, Japan attacked the US Fleet in Pearl Harbor. This forced the US to enter the war in 1942.
During this time, Joseph Stalin emerged as the supreme leader of the Soviet Union. He carried out The Great Purge in between 1936-1938, where he effectively liquidated all traces of opposition to his rule. Soviet Union was also skeptical that Germany would invade her anytime soon. In June 1941, Germany invaded Soviet Union at Operation Barbarossa. There was no freedom of media under the Soviet Union. All publications or broadcast has to go through the censorship office called Glavlit which gives the final authority for publication and broadcast.
Pravda was a leading newspaper of the Soviet Union and an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Since media was strictly controlled, photographs of this era are extremely rare.
In Spain, the civil war broke out due to the differences between the Republicans and the Nationalists. The Nationalist won the war and General Franco became the dictator of Spain.
England was also trying to recover from the depression and she also has to handle her colonial empires. In 1936 Edward VIII became the only British monarch who voluntarily abdicates the throne. With such a big colonial empire, there was lots of tension with other countries with imperialist aims. England suffered great loss during the war although it was on the winning side.
The photographs of pre- World War II and World War II thus give us a sense of involvement during that time period.

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