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Get the Picture: A Personal History of Photojournalism Hardcover – May 5, 1998


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"I am a journalist," says John G. Morris, "but not a reporter and not a photographer." He is a picture editor--the person who selects which photos get used in a newspaper or magazine--and he's worked for some of the top names in the industry: at Life under Henry Luce, for Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee at the Washington Post, and for Abe Rosenthal at the New York Times, where his bold page-one use of a photograph by Eddie Adams of the execution of a Vietcong suspect by Nyugen Ngoc Loan became one of the Vietnam War's most enduring images.

Morris, who also served as the first executive editor for the Magnum photojournalist press agency, looks back at his career in this lively memoir. Among the colleagues who turn up in anecdotes are Alfred Eisenstaedt, Lee Miller, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Capa; the book leads with a grainy Capa photograph of the D-day landing, 1 of only 11 shots that survived a freak accident in the London photo labs of Life as Morris and his team raced against the clock to get images to America in time for the next issue. There are over 100 other powerful photographs, taken at the Japanese-American internment camp at Manzanar, the Nazi concentration camp at Majdanek, and the front lines of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars, and other locales. In addition to being a dynamic storyteller, Morris is also steadfast in his determination that photojournalists should be given the freedom--both in resources and lack of censorship--to provoke us into a new awareness of what is happening in the world. --Ron Hogan

From Publishers Weekly

"Photographers are the most adventurous of journalists. They have to be. Unlike a reporter, who can piece together a story from a certain distance, a photographer must... be in the right place at the right time. No rewrite desk will save him." Morris wasn't on the front line, he was the guy who sent the photographers out and decided on what came back. And he did it for the best in the business. In this enlightening memoir, Morris traces his half-century career from the mail room at Life, and subsequent promotions there, to Ladies' Home Journal, the Washington Post and the New York Times, and as executive editor at the famed Magnum photo agency. Morris worked with and knew as friends the greats of photojournalism, from W. Eugene Smith to the Turnley brothers. His colorful anecdotes have the authenticity of the insider, and photo buffs will finally learn how three rolls of Robert Capa's D-Day film was ruined, leaving only 11 usable shots. Morris also describes his own run-ins with such powerful bosses as Katharine Graham, Henry Luce and A.M. Rosenthal. His book is at its best when he is at the picture desk, making the later chaptersAafter he moves to Paris in 1983 to become a writer and criticAseem much less interesting. Morris could have said more on, say, the impact of newspaper color on photojournalism, but it's enough that he offers a behind-the-scenes look at the glory days before the immediacy of television changed the purpose and impact of the field. And of course, it's supplemented by 115 b&w photos. (June) and Flash!: The Associated Press Covers the World (Abrams).
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (May 5, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679452583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679452584
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Linda Deak on June 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a well-written rolicking ride through the last century and the history of photojournalism in the American media. It has an index that reads like the Who's Who of the century with anecdotes and insights galore on the movers and shakers of photojournalism and history. I enjoyed every word and I recommend it highly.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Donovan G. Rinker on March 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
One imagines John G. Morris as that grandfather begged by family and friends for decades to finally write that book setting down his thousands of adventures and reminiscences.

It is fitting that a book on photojournalism is itself presented more as a sequence of compelling snapshots than a lengthy story. Morris selects and arranges his tales into a layout that explores a few unresolved questions, ambivalences, regrets, hopes, thrills, and humor. There's something more to that picture...

For anyone interested in photojournalism, as a profession, its personalities - the lives, loves, and losses of those standing on the other side of the camera while celebrities splash across the pages - this book is an excellent starting place. His 'editor's eye' view of the profession turns the camera back upon the photographers, telling tales behind pictures generally left untold. By disclosing the various photographic negatives, he discloses a positively fascinating image of the origins of modern image-making.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Jarecke on November 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
John Morris was the photo editor for Life Magazine's London bureau during World War Two. He was the first guy to see Robert Capa's D-Day images. You may remember that most of that film was destroyed in a darkroom mishap and only four frames survived. I've only met him once. He was very kind to me. Surprisingly he knew my work. Yeah, I was truly humbled (usually I smirk when someone says that). He lives in Paris today.

Much of my hardcore PFJ philosophy was formed by this man through this book. If you haven't read it and harbor any photojournalistic hopes, dreams and/or desires you've done yourself a disservice.
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By walkabout303 on December 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fun romp if you are interested in this period of photography. He likes to name drop, but they are all great names and it's a lively story.
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5 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this novel and I must admitt it is one of the best novels I have read this year. It really is an exciting travel through the 20th century, through the eyes of a man who's carreer made him involved with major political and social events. I would say this is a must to anyone interested in photography and journalism, and a recommended for anyone with a heartbeat. I really loved this book.
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