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Forbes Article - The Future of Photojournalism


by [a former member] at 2005-10-28 10:32:54 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) New York , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

interesting article, but as I’ve argued in many threads already, Im not sure that "photojournalism" is simply concerned with the taking of and distributing of the ubiquitous image…if anything, the "citizen photojournalist" makes the argument mute, that is imagery is and is not about stories…removing the barriers between the nomenclatura and the rest (in any endeavor) is worthwhile to me, although it doesnt resolove the quandry of this: does ubiquity mean "story-telling"?…to me, the only really interesting question raised in the Forbes article is this: finally people are more honest about the material commodification of an image (and I dont just mean copyright/salary/distribution, etc)…the more interesting question, I think, which Im waiting to hear people and photographers speak about is this: why do we feel "news" is an integral part of our being "knowledgeable/aware"..does photography actually "inform" in the manner most believe?…singing, all the way home ;)..cheers, bob

by [former member] | 28 Oct 2005 11:10 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
The article deals with the photojournalism business – whether we like it or not, the businesspeople have affected photojournalism more profoundly in the last few years than any photographer.

The article concludes “There are paradigm shifts going on in the news industry."

Er, yeah, I’d noticed.

I’ve discussed this ‘citizen journalism’ thing on LS before, and have a problem with it for several reasons. The first is the term pre-supposes that as a journalist, I am not also a citizen. (actually in the UK legally I’m a ‘subject’ and not a ‘citizen’, but anyway…) The second is the term is being used to cloak corporate rights grabbing under the guise of working for the ‘public good’.

The terms and conditions of both Scoopt and Spy Media are more egregious than terms under which journalists and photojournalists are prepared to work (at least if they’re smart, they should be).

The point is not the pictures –
internet companies are realising the unit cost of most images is essentially zero – it’s the portals via which most of us will access them. The same corporate forces are aggregating ‘content’ to pipe to us via internet portals, the content having been essentially bought cheaply or obtained for free by various dubious means.

The client pays for the service, not the images.

I’ve discussed these dubious means on LS already – like photo competitions run by Medicins Del Mundo and the BBC, which after their competitions end, retain the rights to all pictures entered, thus creating a photo library for nothing. The BBC gathered over 60,000 images using this method from a single competition, offering a digital compact as a prize. Nice scam! Or newspapers and websites soliciting for free cellphone images from news events…which they don’t pay for, then keep and syndicate for profit.

To call it ‘citizen journalism’ is false – it’s content mining.

If you can get the images for free – by license scamming, issuing rights grab contracts or work for hire agreements, or get ‘em for virtually free by offering 20c on the dollar for image sales (like one of the most succesful new stock photo portals), it’s all gravy.

On the other hand we have software geeks and the like, pushing ‘copyleft’ and the idea that somehow in the internet age, copyright is meaningless and ‘information should be free’.

Apart from the fact most of them created their intellectual property while subsidised by the public sector (like Linus Torvalds at Helsinki University) or created it while working at other jobs, the result is while corporations thieve the intellectual property of authors, the copyleft and file sharing crew argue they can thieve the content off the corporations.

Well of course, that still leaves the original author out in the cold with nothing…and they have to pay the rent like everyone else.

Ultimately it means that authors who choose to take the risk and create intellectual property as their core economic function (with related creative satisfaction, or vice versa) are penalised on one hand by big business who create a Royalty Free climate, while on the other hand being guilt-tripped by subsidised geeks into giving their work away.

That is the climate created for us, in which photojournalists now have to find a way to tell stories with increasingly empty pockets.

I don’t think that adds much of anything to our being ‘knowledgeable/aware’.

by [former member] | 28 Oct 2005 13:10 (ed. Oct 28 2005) | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I don’t look at this as a threat.  Grant it from a spot news aspect, anyone there that can make an image might be able to make a quick buck, not knowing what they are getting themselves into. 

I do a lot of PR photography for the colleges and  companies in town.  Many of those companies have PAS Digitals or D-SLRs in there PR departments.  After a while they relieved that digital doesn’t make you a good photographer, so I still get phone calls asking for my services.  Well one of them doesn’t, but if they’re happy with thier images looking like crap (which they do) then fine, its only going to hurt them in the long run.

So if some outlets just want a crap snapshot from a low-res camera phone, then I guess I’m not your guy.  But if you want something more, then please contact me. 

Cheers -Dan

by Dan Anderson | 28 Oct 2005 20:10 | Mobile, AL, United States | | Report spam→
"So if some outlets just want a crap snapshot from a low-res camera phone, then I guess I’m not your guy.  But if you want something more, then please contact me."

Its a common argument, but it means we’re basing our business model on the expectations of a customer base who are in the most part, unconcerned about ‘quality’, and have costs as their only criteria.

Look at Royalty Free images. The RF producers worked under the impression that cheap RF images would mean small and medium sized businesses would now buy images which they’d traditionally shied away from simply beause of cost, not because of quality.

The theory was that image purchases would explode on the internet, so a high volume low price business was the way forward.

Well…not quite. According to a recent confidential report commissioned by Getty Images from an independent auditor, the current total purchases of stock photography Worldwide (all pictures, all uses) is 2 billion dollars….but would be 6 billion dollars if RF didnt exist.

Why? Because the high end purchasers who traditionally bought Rights Managed images at a premium, now saw an RF bargain when they saw one and started buying RF…so as we say in the UK

‘never mind the quality – feel the width’

The stock portals have low-balled themselves out of 4 billion dollars of potential sales.

Oh well, boo hoo…because of course at that level its all numbers, but not for the PRODUCERS of the Rights Managed images – that’s you and me – who have watched their prices dropping like a stone because of RF.

The same thing is now going to happen in the photojournalism market with camera phones – the people who will profit will be the ‘content aggregators’, which is reflected in the Scoopt and Spy Media terms and conditions, which seek to develop a photo archive while passing on as little as possible to the authors.

As far as quality goes – major companies like Ford Motors have even used RF images in their advertising campaigns…and seen the same image used by other companies in other ads…now the point of Rights Managed images is you’re paying a premium for a level of exclusivity, so with RM this wouldn’t happen.

But you have to wonder at the mindset of a company spending millions of dollars developing a car, then advertising it with a $25.00 Royalty Free image, which pops up elsewhere. The only logical analysis is either someone at the company has been fired, or they’ve been patted on the back for saving their advertising budget – because the company simply doesn’t care, and is only interested in saving costs.

If thats the attitude of a company at that level…then we’ve got a problem if we think we’re going to convince Joe Average Inc. to pay for ‘quality’.

"if they’re happy with their images looking like crap (which they do) then fine, its only going to hurt them in the long run."

This is my point – if they’re quite happy with cheap, crap images its the company, not you, who decides if it hurts them. It might, it might not. But it’s hurt you already.

They think using a point and shoot is a great idea, because they wouldn’t know a good image if it smacked them in the mouth – and obviously don’t care.

And neither do a lot of their customers.

We have a triple whammy where the ‘unit price’ of photographs has dropped, the expectations of price by the client has dropped, and the expectations of quality from the audience has dropped.

If all you see is rubbish, rubbish is all you will expect. It’s not like the customers at McDonalds expect a gourmet experience, but they go there in droves.

Maybe we need to convince people that looking at Royalty Free images gives you heart disease…

by [former member] | 29 Oct 2005 06:10 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
that’s part of my point: that the abundance of imagery (whether from the "citizens" or the "pros") adds nothing to our understanding of our time, or a moment or anything. In the end (philosophically), I unconvinced that we’re a more-informed creature by the amount of information we consume: that’s a no-brainer ;). What i like about the so-called "citizen journalist" (although this title scares the fuck out of me because its bares from of the 30’s utopic-tongue language of communism, and anyone who has had any person relationship to those states of thought understand how nefarious such clap-trap collective thought really is) is that it shows the absurdity of thought that, in terms of "bringing forth education/knowledge" through photography, professionals are more apt show the "news" inside of the body of the moment. However, in accordance with Sion, what i detest about this "trend" is that people (both viewers of images, makers of images and distributors of images) are becoming convinced that ubiquity means knowledge. May I be bold? Sometimes an image from Everyday Man/Woman is profoundly harrowing/compelling and sometimes theyre (even in the context of a news event) utterly inconsequential (to me as a viewer). Sion’s analogy about McDonald’s is apt, if we also conceed that the quality of an image has nothing to do, a priori, from where it came (pro or amateur alike). I agree that we are becoming "dumbed-down" in this sense: we settle for the Readers-Notes of a book (a review, a causual chat) than the book itself. The same is true, for me, with imagery, whether news or personal.  The truth is I have mixed feelings. The "photojournalist" is a job as well as (for many) a calling and this has not been properly recognized: that’s part of the photographers fault, clearly, in my opinion and its part of the nature of our shifting world. The olympian notion of the photographer (photojournalist or artist-again, i use these words as "job descriptions, not as a means to categoize the work) has been razed and Im all for that. What Im not thrilled about is that, in the process, photographers busting their asses are increasingly finding it difficult to live (as Sion correctly pointed out). Another point, is simply this: we live in a world increasingly defined by the instantly produced image. Everyone takes photographs. Shit, in ESL schools, they’re now teaching photography as part of a "language" curriculum! (that’s true in Toronto). In the end, I think we should all (especially as photographers) dig deeply to understand this profound paradigm shift. I dont entirely lament  all of it, but I trust and hope that it will continue the conversation toward this: we need to adapt to different modes of story telling which transcend the simple: see-shoot-send-distribute….for that, in the end, will mean just this: Mcdonald’s perceived as dining experiences….if you visit the Arabat in Moscow, you will seen this phenomenon: born out of the "cost" of cafe’s/restaurants (absurdly expensive for most russians), so Mcdonald’s becomes a replacement (including families dressed up, and classical music being piped in the bathroom)….I dont lament that everyone shoots pics and that all pics are, more or less commodofied the same, but I lament that we’ve become reliant on these images for our "stories" and for our own "philosophies" and examinations…we should think deeply about all this: its deeper than just about the profession switch….cheers, bob (off to have some coffee and buy some shoes ) :))

by [former member] | 29 Oct 2005 08:10 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→

We need a poster campaign with this title.

"Royalty Free images gives you heart disease…"

support photographers..please give generously…i need to eat..

by [former member] | 30 Oct 2005 10:10 | | Report spam→

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Dan Anderson, Freelance Photographer Dan Anderson
Freelance Photographer
Mobile, Ala. , United States


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