Covering the ongoing protests in Seoul – Street Photography vs. Photojournalism

Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is distinguished from other close branches of photography (e.g., documentary photography, social documentary photography, street photography)by complying with a rigid ethical framework which demands that the work be both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. That is how Wikipedia is describing the term photojournalism.

A buddhist monk supporting the protesters. 

I absolutely admire the work of true photojournalists who sometimes even risk their lives in order to cover a story that has to be told. At the same time I am thankful that these rules and demands don’t apply to me as a street photographer and I am able to pick a subject only for aesthetical reasons e.g. a nice composition, a nicely lit scene, a decisive moment etc..

Although it is possible that even a single image can tell a certain story, it is often not an accurate illustration of reality. The act of creating a picture is usually determined by stylistic choices to achieve a specific look. Story telling elements become less relevant and the visual output is the main cause for taking action.

That being said the work of a photojournalist cannot be determined by visuals only and one has to follow a more pragmatic approach to get the job done. If the conditions are not in favor of the photographer it won’t hold him or her back to cover the story when important events are unfolding.

However, if urgency is not given a photojournalist indeed has a choice when and how to take a shot. That is where the line between Street Photography and Photojournalism becomes blurred and it is basically the main factor that helped to create the genre of Street Photography in the first place. Iconic Photojournalists – Henri Cartier-Bresson or Steve McCurry for instance – created a tremendous body of work and are surely pioneers of the genre Street Photography.

Early bird.

Well, you may wonder yourself why I am writing about this topic and the answer is very simple. I am currently in Seoul and people here are protesting against their current president Park Geun-hye, who is accused of being involved in a big corruption scandal. The protests started almost three months ago and still take place every Saturday. Over a million of people took to the streets to demand the impeachment and the weekly protests have never been ceased since then. Since the demonstrations are still taking place, I decided to go there and document the event.

Since the demonstrations are still taking place, I decided to go there and document the event. Unfortunately, it was freezing cold and therefore fewer people than usual showed up. Nevertheless, it was still very impressive to see.

When I went there, I noticed a large number of press photographers. Even though I used my Leica Monochrom to be as unobtrusive and discreet as possible, some curious folks ask me if I am a photojournalist. I told them that I am just a Street Photographer and most of them had no idea what I was talking about. Later when I was back home and reviewed the photos I had taken, I was asking myself what may have differentiated my work from the work of the attending Photojournalists.

What is your opinion about that topic? Please leave a comment below.

For covering the event I mainly used the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 coupled with Voigtländer (21/1.8, 35/1.7) and Zeiss (50/2) glass. While the sun was shining a red filter was attached to all lenses. A couple of shots have also been taken with the Leica Q.

 A perfect platform for artists to show their creative form of protest. 

Same scene, different angle.

These two guys collect money to help finance the protests. 

A girl handing out candles for participants. 

Son and mother having a talk while the father is taking a lonely selfie.

Drum and dancing performance.

No idea why this guy was posing.

The crowd in front of a stage where the speeches are held and bands are playing.

Police lining up in front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

A random guy. 

A girl rocking a mask to protect herself from the cold wind.

Mum and daughter sitting on the cold floor…

… like thousands of other people.

Always bring back-up candles, you never know…

when one fails but this flame is still burning.

Watching, listening…

and applauding from time to time.

Street food stand with hundreds of candle lights in the background.

Fortunately, there was no need for using these.

Old men in disguise. 

If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I will try to answer them as soon as possible. And of course smack the like button and follow me on facebook!


2 Kommentare

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  • SteffenFebruary 5, 2017 - 10:58

    Hallo Robin, schöne Serie, wie immer. Hast du Sony jetzt komplett den Rücken gekehrt und zusätzlich eine Bestellung für die M10 ausgelöst? 🙂 Viele Grüße


    • RobinFebruary 5, 2017 - 12:04

      Hallo Steffen! Die M10 hatte ich hier in Seoul in der Tat schon in der Hand und war sehr angetan. Sony bietet mir allerdings doch so einige
      Vorzüge und Sony/Leica parallel, das ergänzt sich ganz gut. Ein Bericht zur M 246 folgt übrigens demnächst auch noch.