Proficient photographers use their cameras to tell a story with a single image. They use lighting, angles, and color to tell their tale, which often requires waiting for just the right moment to capture the emotional elements that convey a message.

Telling stories with pictures is not new; it dates back to prehistoric times. Recently, archaeologists discovered Upper Paleolithic cave paintings in the Balkans that could have been created more than 30,000 years ago (Gannon, 2019). Today, social media posts use pictures to communicate with others across the globe on a daily basis.

According to OmniCore, 37% of U.S. adults use Instagram to upload more than 100 million pictures and videos PER DAY (Aslam, 2019).


Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism that employs images in order to tell a news story.

The ten photographs shown below are classic examples of visual storytelling, covering news events that occurred during the time period 1963 through 2018.

November 1963

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(Bettmann, 1963)

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot while riding in a presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas. This photograph, taken just three days later, captures the mood displayed on the faces of mourners outside St. Matthews Cathedral as his casket was carried to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.

The photographer captures the crowd on the steps, each displaying dark clothing and solemn expressions. Military members also pay their respects, with three year old John Kennedy Jr. following suit “like a little soldier.” This image was widely reproduced, frequently cropped to show a closeup of JFK’s wife Jacqueline, flanked by JFK’s brothers Ted and Robert.

August 1974

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(Bettmann, 1974)

In this photo, the photographer used a unique angle to share the news that American president Richard Nixon would be resigning. By shooting over the shoulders of tourists standing in front of the White House, we see the headlines of the late edition of the Washington Star-News that shouted ON TV AT 9 TONIGHT, NIXON RESIGNING.

The bars of the White House fence are reminiscent of prison bars, painting a picture that nods to the president’s involvement in the illegal wiretapping activity that took place during the Democratic National Convention held at the Watergate hotel.

September 1997

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(Hussein, 1997)

The death of Princess Diana on August 31, 1977 was mourned worldwide. In this photograph, the “sea” of flowers left outside of Kensington Palace almost appear to engulf Princes Charles, William and Harry as they walk along the pavement beach. You can feel the devotion of the people mourning their loss as you view the stacks of flowers laid in tribute to the people’s princess.

December 2004

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(Barbour, 2004)

This photograph captures the faces of the those who were encamped at Auschwitz II – Birkenau in Brzezinka, Poland. The mirrored images, shown on the floor below, visually represent their passing and remind us to reflect upon the atrocities that occurred in these camps — which was specifically designed for the systematic annihilation of Jews (Auschwitz, n.d.).

September 2012

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(AFP, 2012)

Charlie Hebdo is a weekly French satirical publication. This photograph shows two editions released on the same day; the early edition on the left and the late edition on the right. They were released one week after the magazine published an edition containing several cartoons which featured caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

The magazine is known for their controversial drawings, and September 25th was no exception. In the early edition, a cave man holds huile (oil) in his right hand and feu (fire in the form of a lit torch) in his left. A red banner shouts JOURNAL IRRESPONSABLE (irresponsible newspaper).

The late edition on the left is blank with the exception of the same red banner which reads JOURNAL RESPONSABLE (responsible newspaper). This comparison tells the story of freedom of expression through caricature.

Charlie Hebdo pokes fun at themselves, depicting themselves as cavemen that foolishly ignite controversy. By reflecting the opposite view in the late edition, it “invites the reader to take a different look at an event and to make their own judgment” (Salles & Eygard, n.d.). The photographer marries the two editions in this clever, thought-provoking visual story.

February 2015

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(Buus, 2015)

BP or not BP is a political performance group in the United Kingdom that delivers live performances in protest of BP’s sponsorship of the arts. BP currently supports the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), although RSC recently announced they would be ending their relationship with BP based on younger audiences’ voicing their dissatisfaction of BP’s support via social media and boycotts of their performances (see my recent blog CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY).

BP or not BP, a is play on words based on Hamlet’s soliloquy that begins “To be, or not to be,” where he asks whether it’s better to live or to die.

In this photograph, shot on the steps of the British Museum, BP is shown in the form of actors dressed in shiny black costumes, representing death in the form of an oil slick. The photographer captured BP’s logo displayed on the actor’s chest, as well as the banner that reads “BP: World’s Biggest Corporate Criminal.”

August 2015

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(Wallheiser, 2015)

In this photograph, Trump supporters welcome then candidate Donald Trump to Mobile, Alabama. This well-angled shot shows the size of the crowd, and their attempts to capture a photo with their cellphones held above the group. The zealous woman with the baby and the people reaching out for handshakes also portray the energy displayed at the rally.

The predominant poster in the photo points to Trump’s popularity with his evangelical base. The barrier that contains the crowd is draped in red, white and blue to reinforce the patriotic message Trump used as his platform during the race.

February 2018

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(Somodevilla, 2018)

This closeup shows Trump’s notes for his meeting with student survivors, held shortly after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Notice how the photographer captures the “45” on the cuff, denoting Trump as America’s 45th president.

The shot clearly shows the note card with the title THE WHITE HOUSE and the notes:

  1. What would you most want me to know about your experience?
  2. What can we do to help you feel [safe]?
  3. [obscured]
  4. [obscured]
  5. I hear you.

Note number five had the biggest impact. Supporters interpreted it as empathy, but critics of the president felt it was odd that the sentiment would need to be included on a note at all.

May 2018

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(WPA Pool, 2018)

On a lighter note, the majesty of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shines through in this photograph. The high angle that looks down on the couple as they depart from St. George’s Chapel exudes the excitement of a new couple as they step out in public for the first time.

Harry’s colorful military uniform contrasts with the purity of Meghan’s white gown. Her train leads the viewer’s eye to the long walkway that lies outside the entrance, symbolizing the beginning of their journey together. White roses line the archway, symbolizing new love and a fresh hope for a world all too often filled with difficult news.

June 2018

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(Morris, 2018)

Finally, the Freedom For Immigrants March. The protest was nationwide, but this particular photograph was taken in Los Angeles, California.

This photo of a child demonstrator exemplifies the plight of immigrant children who have been imprisoned and separated from their parents under the Trump Administration, and is reinforced by the child-decorated handwritten sign that simply says “Stop separating families.”

until nxt time …


AFP (Contributor). (2012). FRANCE-ISLAM-RELIGION-WEEKLY. Retrieved from:

Aslam, S. (2019, September 6). • Instagram by the Numbers (2019): Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts. Retrieved from:

Auschwitz. (n.d.). Haartez. Retrieved from:

Barbour, Scott (Photographer). (2004). Preview For Sixtieth Anniversary Of The Liberation Of Auschwitz. Retrieved from:

Bettmann (Contributor). (1963) Young John F. Kennedy Jr. Saluting JFK Sr. at Gravesite. Retrieved from:

Bettmann (Contributor). (1974). Tourists Reading Nixon Resignation Headline. Retrieved from:

Buus, Kristian (Photographer). (2015). UK – London – BP-or-not-BP anti-bp performance at the British Museum. Retrieved from:

Gannon, M. (2019, April 11). The First Cave Art from the Balkans May Date Back 30,000 Years. Retrieved from:

History of Visual Communication. (n.d.). Retrieved From:

Hussein, Anwar (Contributor). (1997). In memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, who was killed in an automobile accident in Paris, France on August 31, 1997. Retrieved from:

Morris, Sarah (Photographer). (2018). Families Belong Together – Freedom For Immigrants March – Los Angeles, CA. Retrieved from:

Salles, D. & Eygard, M. (n.d.). La caricature et le dessin de presse. Canopé. Retrieved from:

Somodevilla, Chip (Photographer). (2018). Trump Holds Listening Session With Students And Teachers On Mass Shootings. Retrieved from:

Wallheiser, Mark (Photographer). (2015). Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Mobile, Alabama. Retrieved from:

WPA Pool. (2018). Prince Harry Marries Ms. Meghan Markle – Windsor Castle. Retrieved from:

Header image by Holly Foster

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  1. Hi Holly, great work with your post! I love how you decided to create a timeline of photos from ’63 to ’18 to show the progression of images through the years yet show how stories are able to be told in all of them. I think the picture that stood out to me was the one Nixon resigning in 1974. Seeing the people reading the headlines while standing outside the White House and seeing the black bars just gave me a chill. I agree with your analysis of the bars representing ones you might find in a prison. It’s interesting to look back and see how people relied on newspapers to get their news unlike nowadays where social media is all the buzz. Yet seeing that headline that reads “Nixon Resigning” just helps to paint a picture of what all of those people are feeling in that moment.

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