Photographic realism in the digital media age

Photojournalism and visual literacy in Russia and Sweden


The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Project type


With today’s digital technology and online environments, the photojournalistic profession is challenged. Even if both amateur pictures and photo manipulation have a long history in journalism, the situation is so different today that some scholars have compared it to a paradigmatic shift.

One aspect of this shift is spread of “citizen photojournalism” and immediacy of circulation, another is that the easiness for post-production has made photo manipulation more of a rule than an exception. Moreover, we live in a time when social media has become a central news source and where there is a widespread mistrust in facts and elites. These factors challenge the professional photojournalist’s way of representing the world, anchored in realism and objectivity.

The aim with this suggested project is to investigate these challenges with departure from education for photojournalists in Russia and Sweden. Programs for photojournalism education are sites where future professional photographers, teachers and experienced photojournalists meet and where discourses and practices around photographic realism take shape.

The research project combines theories about photographic truth, research around photojournalism and journalistic cultures, with research about visual literacy. It is a comparative project which takes departure from two very different journalistic cultures when it comes to approaches towards objectivity and realism. The choice of very different contexts can reveal differences that challenge claims of universality, but also show similarities which indicates transnational processes.

The overriding research questions are:

  • How is photographic realism understood in the contexts of photojournalism education in Russia and Sweden, and how can that be related to perceptions of objectivity?
  • What aspects of visual literacy are considered important for the future photojournalist in order to reach and engage audiences?
  • What are the differences and similarities between photojournalism educations in the two countries and how can they be explained?

The project highlight practices and discourses around the possibilities and limitations of photojournalism when it comes to trustworthy insights about the current state of society. This is an important knowledge if photographs are understood as a central resource in today’s visual culture for transmitting values and beliefs in societies.

Research area / geographic area

Culture and Education Media and Communication Studies Critical and Cultural Theory Media Baltic

Contract ID

Dnr 3149-3.1.1-2017

Project time

2018 — 2021


Facebook Mail Twitter

Page updated