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Thread: What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cameras

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    What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cameras

    This question came up in a discussion about Ukraine's reluctance to give photojournalists access to the front. As I write this, The Guardian has just published an article by two of its journalists in Kharkiv, but those journalists were not allowed into Kharkiv before the Ukrainian army drove out the Russian forces yesterday.

    I'm inclined to think that one of the reasons for exclusion from the front is that a journalist with a smartphone, let alone a digital camera, can take a photograph or shoot video, and send it to an editor, or indeed to the entire world, in about 60 seconds. For an example of one way to do this, see frame.io's Camera to Cloud Service. It's possible for a journalist to report, including with still or video images, contemporaneously with what's happening on the ground. This raises obvious security concerns.

    Does anyone know what the process was when journalists used film cameras, from the shot to appearance in a newspaper or on a television screen? I'm also curious about what impact the use of 35mm (e.g. the Leica M) rather than 4x5 had on the process. One other question. When did use of film cameras in an active battle zone end?
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    Re: What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cam

    It was an analog scanning process.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Re: What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cam

    in the 1800s they also did it by FAX
    https://faxauthority.com/biographies/alexander-bain/

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    Re: What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cam

    Thanks guys. The video (two posts up) is very well done. Wikipedia has an entry on the guy who made it, who among other things was an Olympic swimmer and water polo player: Jim Handy

    There's also a Wikipedia article on the Wirephoto process, with links to related processes such as Fax: Wirephoto

    It sounds like a frontline photojournalist would have to get his photos to a lab and then to a wirephoto agency such as AFP or AP (which perhaps had a lab service in-house), which in turn transmitted the photos (presumably someone selected which photos to transmit) via a telephone line to an editor set up to decode the transmission. Something like that

    A bit more complicated and time-consuming than exporting from a smartphone, or from a digital camera with a cellular or satellite connection.
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    Re: What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cam

    There are various anecdotes in Life Photographers: What They Saw, but not so directly in answer to your question.
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    Re: What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cam

    From WWII through the end of the film era, in the West, a photojournalist would send their film (by official or unofficial means) back to a base area. There it would be processed, censored, edited, and then selected pictures were sent out "over the wire".
    I think the first digital war photos were of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, where pioneering digital journalists like Rob Galbraith sent their files out over satellite phones. I can't recall the relatively primitive gear they had to do that, though, and don't know how they dealt with censors and authorities.

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    Re: What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cam

    Joe Rosenthal's famous photo of the Iwo Jima flag raising is a case in point. His undeveloped negative was sent back to Guam for developing. The photo crew there recognized the image's value and quickly sent it by wire back to the States. It had been published all over the country before Rosenthal himself ever saw his image.

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    Re: What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cam

    Quote Originally Posted by r.e. View Post
    This question came up in a discussion about Ukraine's reluctance to give photojournalists access to the front. As I write this, The Guardian has just published an article by two of its journalists in Kharkiv, but those journalists were not allowed into Kharkiv before the Ukrainian army drove out the Russian forces yesterday.

    I'm inclined to think that one of the reasons for exclusion from the front is that a journalist with a smartphone, let alone a digital camera, can take a photograph or shoot video, and send it to an editor, or indeed to the entire world, in about 60 seconds. For an example of one way to do this, see frame.io's Camera to Cloud Service. It's possible for a journalist to report, including with still or video images, contemporaneously with what's happening on the ground. This raises obvious security concerns.

    Does anyone know what the process was when journalists used film cameras, from the shot to appearance in a newspaper or on a television screen? I'm also curious about what impact the use of 35mm (e.g. the Leica M) rather than 4x5 had on the process. One other question. When did use of film cameras in an active battle zone end?
    All of this depends on what era you are talking about, and what publications - Newspapers? Weekly news magazines? Wire services? Keep in mind that each had very different deadline requirements and publishing schedules - in the heyday of print, national newspapers had bureaus all over the world with full staff and darkrooms in key areas - weekly news magazines did the same, but their deadlines were weekly and had much more leeway to use color - film was couriered from the field, then with processed either at the local bureau or flown into Paris, NY of London for editing and distribution. Much of it depended on who was in the field - staff photographer, stringer, independent agency, contract photographer, wire service - all had different deadlines and assignment requirements. I know that the coverage of 9/11 was a mix of film and digital - again depending on who was covering it- I shot film and most of my colleagues did the same but there was plenty of digital coverage as well. I would guess that by 2005/6 the vast majority of photojournalism was digital. 35mm predates WWII - I think Capa was shooting 35 during the Spanish Civil war, and certainly his D-day coverage was 35mm as was Bressons work at the time as well.
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    Re: What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cam

    and what will they use after EMP?
    Tin Can

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    Re: What Was the Process for Getting War Zone Photographs to Print Before Digital Cam

    Quote Originally Posted by bdkphoto View Post
    All of this depends on what era you are talking about, and what publications - Newspapers? Weekly news magazines? Wire services? Keep in mind that each had very different deadline requirements and publishing schedules - in the heyday of print, national newspapers had bureaus all over the world with full staff and darkrooms in key areas - weekly news magazines did the same, but their deadlines were weekly and had much more leeway to use color - film was couriered from the field, then with processed either at the local bureau or flown into Paris, NY of London for editing and distribution. Much of it depended on who was in the field - staff photographer, stringer, independent agency, contract photographer, wire service - all had different deadlines and assignment requirements. I know that the coverage of 9/11 was a mix of film and digital - again depending on who was covering it- I shot film and most of my colleagues did the same but there was plenty of digital coverage as well. I would guess that by 2005/6 the vast majority of photojournalism was digital. 35mm predates WWII - I think Capa was shooting 35 during the Spanish Civil war, and certainly his D-day coverage was 35mm as was Bressons work at the time as well.
    Thanks. Interesting that film was still being used for a major news event in 2001.

    In the last two years, there's been an explosion of people on YouTube using iPhones to broadcast in real time while engaging with viewers via chat in real time. It started with people broadcasting while doing a walking tour of the downtown areas of major cities, but now it's being done in all sorts of contexts.

    It still isn't very practical to do that with a standard digital camera, but it's just a matter of time. Sony has a special smartphone ($$$) that's designed to be used with a digital camera as a camera monitor and image exporter via cellular networks. It's been marketed for use in news gathering and professional sports events.

    On a somewhat different track, the Frame.io system (post #1) is gaining traction among journalists and filmmakers, both documentary and fiction, who are working with distant producers and editors.
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