Slow Photography and David Burnett

CUNY’s Andy Mendelson and I recently published a piece on David Burnett’s Speed Graphic photography as a case study on the development of slow photojournalism. The piece appears as part of a special issue on slow journalism in Digital Journalism, and the whole issue is well worth a read, especially for those who think of “slowness” as practice meant to resist the increasing speed of industrial production. For us, Burnett is a special case. His prestige and career allow him to shoot photos that stand out from the mass of other photos, affording him the opportunity to situate his photography process around an ornery piece of technology that leaves its imprint on the photos Burnett shoots. He is able to claim a space of aesthetic intention that is set apart from the the industrial pressures of so much other news photography, and is celebrated for it. For those interested in slow journalism, Burnett stands as an ideal in action – that any journalistic product can come to bear the perspective, consideration, and care of the person behind the storytelling tools.

Full version available here:

“MAKE EVERY FRAME COUNT” : The practice of slow photojournalism and the work of David Burnett


This paper presents a case study on the possibilities of slow photojournalism. Over the past decade, award-winning photojournalist David Burnett has used a 60-year-old Speed Graphic film camera to document US political events, several Olympic games, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, among other projects. His photographs reveal a significantly different aesthetic from contemporary photojournalism and he is celebrated for the perspective his photographs offer. This analysis is based on two points of examination: first, a textual analysis of articles and videos discussing the work; and second, a semiotic analysis of the imagery. The examination suggests Burnett’s photo aesthetic signifies a longing for an imagined analog, journalistic utopia of yore, where individual journalists had the time and freedom to put care and attention into their work.

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