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Photo Reporter, Gutted

Many discussions have taken place about the Los Angeles-based photographer who happily made a total of only $30 when his photograph was on Time’s cover. He has been insulted quite frequently for ruining the business (what business?), and for being a symbol of the degradation of what used to be a prestigious profession.

But a much more interesting discussion can be found in a recent interview with photographer Bruno Stevens in the French publication Libération (see Stevens’ extraordinary series of portraits of Palestinians and Israelis who had been killed during the Second Intifada at PixelPress). Stevens, who has been working for eleven years to considerable acclaim, makes several important points to writer Philippe Brochen on how the position of a photo reporter has changed:

A photographer in the field is now required to make a picture of the day, not tell a story.

Given the current editorial cycles for online publishing, a photograph taken six hours previously is already an old photograph.

Editors at publications will nearly always select images from big syndication agencies like AP, Reuters or AFP because they have contracts which allow them to use as many images as they want from these agencies without paying more.

A 1994 essay that Stevens photographed in Darfur was bought at that time by Newsweek for 3,000 euros. For his imagery that they published online, which generated 30 million page views, he was only paid 600 euros.

When he was first beginning to photograph in 1999 he spent a long period in Chechnya, working alone. This allowed him to tell his own story, and when he returned he was able to sell his reportage to thirty publications. This style of working, he makes clear, is no longer possible.

Stevens describes a profession that is being gutted, resulting in the public’s profound loss–for both readers and subjects. The publication of a picture of coins in a jar to serve as an unimaginative symbol of much deeper issues has hardly the same importance, except to mark the decline of yet another major magazine.

3 Comments

  1. The demise of photojournalism coincides more with the rise of affordable digital cameras and computers. This enables anybody to call themselves a “photographer”! lately I have seen adverts placed for free wedding photographs. How can one compete with free? The recession unfortunately has not helped either.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  2. If a tourist happens to be in the right place at the right time with his phone, i’m fairly sure he/she could easily sell their photo for a front cover. Likewise he/she’d only get a few quid for it, its a sign of the times, everyone wants everything for nothing!

    Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  3. Ya…Its really pathetic..There is no value for professional photographers..As somebody from ‘photo journalism’ said probably the emergence of digital cameras has made everyone think photography is no more a costly affair. However, real photographers can identify the effort put on a professional photograph…and photographers should think of an effective way to monetize them..

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 3:58 am | Permalink

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Photojournalism | 12th Press on Friday, September 25, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    [...] fault for the current state of photojournalism is widely shared. There are structural problems too, duh. Yeah, I know it’s not easy. But still. Check out the discussions section on BURN magazine. [...]

  2. The State of Photojournalism « moonshinemedia on Saturday, September 26, 2009 at 9:18 am

    [...] fault for the current state of photojournalism is widely shared. There are structural problems too, duh. Yeah, I know it’s not easy. But still. Check out the discussions section on BURN magazine. Some [...]

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