Friday, June 1, 2007
Photojournalism In The Age Of YouTube
For freelance photojournalists, these are chaotic times. But in chaos there's opportunity if you have the daring to go for it.
The age of traditional freelance photojournalism is no more. Newspaper and magazine markets are shrinking. Editorial budgets are at an all-time low. Assignments and opportunities have decreased dramatically, even for the top-tier photographers. The glory days of months-long assignments with large advances and a big chunk of magazine space waiting at the end of the job are gone, too. In these changing times, freelance photojournalists can still make a living and fulfill the calling to get the story out by adapting to a new paradigm.
Publishing content in cyberspace is the future of media across the board. Everyone is going to the Web. To flourish in this new marketplace, it's time to develop some new skills. By learning to tell stories in a different way, with a variety of media beyond still photography, you'll be positioning yourself well.
Digital Photo Pro spoke with Ed Kashi, who has been a prominent photojournalist for well over 20 years, as he was waiting to catch a flight to Nashville. Says Kashi, “It has always been hard to get meaningful, tough stories in magazines, and it's never been harder than it is right now.”
Kashi believes the publishing industry has become much more conservative, both fiscally and politically. Cobbling together a living can be tenuous, with the entire industry going through such enormous changes. The shift to the Web has opened completely new possibilities for how stories are told and distributed, and no one is sure how it's all going to play out.
Adds Kashi, “For people who are just sort of waiting for the phone to ring, so to speak, it's tough because the phone doesn't ring as much—unless you're a hot photographer and you're in good with certain publications. The reality is that most of the magazine assignment work out there isn't journalistic, it's portraits. It has been that way for a long time, 20 years. Only a small portion of the work in the magazine world is journalistic.”
And having work published on the Websites of The Washington Post or The New York Times, or a pioneering Website like MediaStorm, isn't going to give you a living wage right now.
Says Kashi, “You might give them tens of thousands of dollars of editorial content, and they might pay you a thousand bucks, which is nothing in terms of being able to make a living and survive. What you get with MediaStorm and most Websites is the back-end production value, which in MediaStorm's case is magnificent. The site is as good and as interesting and as innovative as anything out there, but they're still not paying fees.
“There are a lot of photographers who survive taking pictures of whatever people ask them to take pictures of,” continues Kashi, “and that's fundamentally different than a photojournalist or a documentary photographer who's self-motivated, who wants to control, who actually is passionate about the stories that they do and has a much higher level of commitment doing those stories.”