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Saturday, 26 July 2008

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I used to be a photographer/reporter for weekly newspapers here, even won an award or two! Even 15 years ago there was very little upward movement. Back then the refrain also was "someone has to die" before a job opens up at one of the dailies. I'm glad I pursued something else otherwise I would have spent the last decade of my life slogging my way to the top only to face probable redundancy.
This past winter one of Canada's top news photogs, who I knew from the old days, wandered into my current place of employment. I asked him what he would say if I told him I was interested in getting back into the business. He paused to look around the room and smiled.
"You've got a nice warm, dry place to work in here," he said, and walked outside into the chilly wet afternoon.

I'm going to be a bit contrarian here. Yes, the deluge of cheap and free images is probably going to inflict heavy damage on some kinds of professional photography. Not all, of course - the stars of the field, and the speacialized, high-budget assignments are not going away. The jobbing wedding and event photographer is safe for the foreseeable future, though they'll be more likely to work with video.

Good or bad, that depends on what you focus on. More people are enjoying photography than ever. For photography as an activity, a hobby, it's golden days. For people competing with free, not so much. We have unprecedented coverage of any event, any object, available free. But then, the high-quality stuff becomes harder to find in the sheer mass. And it definitely makes any individual photographer difficult to make "a name" of themselves.

Desktop publishing did this to the graphic design industry twenty years ago, decimating the field. There's still work to be had as a graphic designer (and the stars are making money hand over fist), but a lot of the old bread-and-butter design has disappeared altogether, along with its designers. The self-designed stuff is frequently not very good, but it's good enough, and free is hard to beat. And the proliferation of easy to use tools means typography and graphical design in general is seeing an explosion of creativity and visibility.

The situation is bad for working photograpers, absolutely. Is it bad for photography, though? I don't think so. In other fields (like graphic design, above, or computer programming) the dilution of expertise has brought along a flowering of the field at large.

Your observations about journalism bring to mind a comment a heard a while back: That government does not have to try and censor the press any longer because the press willingly does the government's bidding for it. It is ironic that with the spread of the internet, it has become increasingly more difficult to find a truly objective/independent source of information anywhere in this country.

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