Photography Profession Hurting

There’s a very sobering article in the New York Times today about the state of photography. In sum: Professional photographers are hurting. Forces have conspired to make it so there are less and less paying opportunities. Meanwhile, amateurs are getting those coveted assignments, accepting lower fees and devaluing the profession.

“There are very few professional photographers who, right now, are not hurting,” said Holly Stuart Hughes, editor of the magazine Photo District News.

So many sad facts in this piece. There are fewer outlets for photographers (428 magazines closed in 2009!). Due to budget constraints, stock photography is now more commonplace — meaning less original work, less creativity. Digital cameras have democratized the skill of taking photos. Anyone can do it.

But with “anyone” doing it, we lose the professional’s expertise. The ability to tell a story, an understanding of ethics and standards, long-term perspective and frame of reference. The same is true with journalism and writing. Some parts of this democratization is good, like new voices and viewpoints and people who never would have had the chance before are now heard.

But, ultimately what it comes down to is that this free content model of the internet is not sustainable. The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, et al. cannot produce as high quality content as they do and still give it away. I don’t know what our media landscape will look like in five or 10 years, but it’s safe to say that it will look very different from today. And we may be worse for it.

Article from New York Times

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