Week 11: Photojournalism in the Internet Times

In class this week, Mr. Choy showed us a video on photojournalism. I found it greatly inspiring because it is a profession that I greatly respect and admire. I have a great appreciation for photography as an art and a science, and I believe very strongly in the influence and the power of photos conveying messages to the world.

In fact, when the National Geographic Top 50 Photo-exhibition came to Singapore last year, I loved it so much that I went twice. There were too many to list as my favourites, but one of my most memorable ones was

The Afghan Girl

The famous Afghan Girl, next to a more recent photo of her all grown up

It is one thing to take a good photo, but it is completely another thing to take an impactful photo. To use the craft in those situations and to make a difference in the world, I find it most admirable.

There are lots of discussion on how the Internet is killing traditional media and journalism and how journalists have to evolve and adapt to the new online and social environment. For the purpose of this post, I will focus on photo-journalism has been impacted by the online environment.

The Demise of a Profession

This is John White, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist

This is John White, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist

The Sun-Times in Chicago just laid off its ENTIRE photography staff, including this world renowned photojournalist above last May, citing that:

“The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. “

Similar to traditional journalism, photojournalism is also badly affected.The rise of citizen journalism is a trend that cannot be ignored. In Web 2.0, it is unavoidable.  The readers are now creating the content, and now while a cameraphone in everyone’s pocket, a range of photography apps and sharing platforms like Instagram and Facebook, anyone and everyone can be a contributor to the news.

After laying off the staff, The Sun-Times intends to rely on freelance photographers and citizen-submitted pictures. They have also plan to train their staff in basic iPhone photography! Apparently this is not new to just The Sun-Times, even the BBC is creating apps for their journalists. I was very disappointed to learn about this. As aesthetically attractive and creative photos can be taken with a smartphone camera, photojournalism is a professional craft that cannot be so easily replaced by anyone.

Iphone Photography

Iphone Photography

Migrant Mother, taken by Margaret Burke-White

Migrant Mother, taken by Margaret Burke-White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With digital cameras and smartphones and sharing platforms, there are more photos taken everyday and an aspiring photographer everywhere.There are many great amatear photographers with good skill, and the rise of the internet lets them share it and more people have come to appreciate better photos. However, the introduction of ‘selfies’, filters and digital effects, whilst they have made beautiful pictures, but they are simply not the same impactful photography that photojournalists aims for.

If I may quote the animated movie, The Incredibles, the state of photography now is:

incredibles-when-everyone-super

This brings about a lesser respect for the profession, simply because supply outnumbers demand.  Photojournalism is being devalued. Photographers like John White are at the top of their craft but are being laid off because news companies would rather spend on more visual journalists who create multimedia news, citizen journalists, freelances and wired services. It is a regret.

What many photojournalists are advocating now is to change and adapt to the times. The medium that news is being consumed and the audience who are consuming the news are just not so easily satisfied anymore. It is not that good photos are no longer appreciated, it is that they are appreciated for a shorter amount of time. As stated in my earlier post, we are no longer happy with one of our sense engaged, we need multimedia. Thus more are turning to become the visual journalist that uses both videos, pictures and music to tell the story.

It is a shame. But it is a undeniable fact in the changing times. I hope the photojournalists who join the profession for passion and love for their craft, will keep taking more impactful photos to keep the standards up!

 

 

 

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