Get the Picture Essay - Critical Essays

Get the Picture

During his long career in photojournalism, John G. Morris worked at some of the most prestigious publications in America, where his colleagues included some of the century’s most famous photographers, like Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier- Bresson, and Ernst Haas. Morris was picture editor for LIFE magazine during the heady period of World War II, when that publication set the standards for photo coverage for the entire industry. Morris’ personal reminiscences have a very public resonance, because he has a strong sense of the responsibility inherent in photojournalism, and because he understands that photographers, through what they choose to shoot, and photo editors, through what they choose to publish, inevitably fix important events in the popular imagination, and in many ways create the history that is remembered generation to generation.

At LADIES’ HOME JOURNAL Morris’ picture choices reached an even larger audience through long running photo features like “How America Lives,” and “People are People.” Such photo essays had a broad influence, even catching the attention of Edward Steichen, then director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, who eventually became renowned for his exhibition called “The Family of Man.”

Morris was also an important player in the founding and managing of Magnum Photos, an international picture agency, which was a lifelong dream of photographer Robert Capa. This agency, and its handpicked photojournalists, has outlived many of the photo magazines that it first set out to serve.

In GET THE PICTURE: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF PHOTOJOURNALISM, Morris recalls his tenures with the WASHINGTON POST and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as bringing the book up-to-date with a discussion of the coverage of the death of Princess Diana in Paris, where he is a correspondent and editor for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.

Readers interested in the process by which pictures find their way into their favorite publications will find Morris’ well illustrated book on photojournalism in the last half of the twentieth century an eye opening experience.