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Monday, 26 January 2015


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Looking at this, and the other recent layoffs of editorial photographers, what does it say about the future of the profession of editorial photography?

I read about that on the National Press Photographers Association web site a few days ago, including a hysterically funny quotation from Sports Illustrated Director of Photography Brad Smith: "our commitment to photography is as strong as ever".

For those interested in the film, it looks like it will run again on ESPN2 on Thursday at 7pm Eastern, at least in the NYC market. ESPN's website is terrible for trying to discover information like that.

Yeah, who needs photographers when anyone can photoshop anything when/as needed?...

Without photographers, how is that publication going to be illustrated? Or is the name being changed to Sports (only the swimsuit issue is) Illustrated?

In some circles corporate memory is cherished. These four have corporate memory about Sports Illustrated and about the things/people they photograph. They have networks that give them access. Sports Illustrated tossed that. Money can't but what the magazine threw away. Sad.
It's great loss for sports fans and photographers.

Is SI even relevant today ?

Magazines stay profitable by selling eyes to advertisers. If your readers are in the wrong demographic you lose advertisers, therefore you have to cut overhead.

BTW I see that you still haven't switched to One Click re CAPTCHA.

Very sad - one of the things I dislike in particular are the euphemisms that are now used in our neo-liberal world to describe redundancy - 'let go' as you've used here is one of the milder. When the place I worked at until recently went through a restructure and started talking about 'on-placing' people, I indicated to my boss that if he were going to recommend that I be made redundant (he didn't), I hoped that he would at least have the courage to describe it for what it was - redundancy!

Looks like your median per-hour figure just went down.

This is too bad, I grew up reading SI and talking on my football phone.

Probably hire them back as freelancers. Don't have to pay pensions, health care, etc. Have to cut back- print journalism is going the way of type setters and blacksmiths.

@Steve Biro: Actually this is an indication that SI does "get" the new world order. Why would they retain the headcount of only half a dozen guys, with the associated burden costs, when they can get competitive photo coverage from freelancers? Plus, what percent of SI's image coverage do you think was actually produced by these six photographers?

No, while I cerainly feel badly for anyone losing their job today, I have to imagine that these guys must certainly have seen this train coming way, way down the track.

Walter Iooss has many books that are now discounted. I picked up one called Athlete which contains some amazing portraits in many formats including 8x10 Polaroid.

I attend each and every home game of the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars and I see no shortage whatsoever of sideline photographers. I don't know this for a fact but I'd wager that most of them are freelance or working for the NFL/team(s). They are all credentialed, well equipped and have good access. Clearly there is no "supply" problem. Can't speak directly to the quality of course but as much time as I spend reading about football on the web and in magazines I don't see a lot of bad images. shrug...

"Made redundant" sounds like a euphemism to my American ears; "laid off" is the basic American term that people sometimes try to soften.

"Just in Time" photography is the new norm, along with poor editing. Maybe we will pull out of this media morass, or maybe we will just keep sinking.

The medical school my wife works at had a full-time staff photographer who finally retired (not forced out, as far as I know, just hit the age). His office will be used for other things and any photographers will be hired as needed. I think at one time having an "in-house" photographer saved money and time, but now it doesn't. Photographers are more and more like Uber drivers.

Sad to hear this. Hadn't heard about the film Keepers of the Streak though - very interested to check that out since Walter Iooss was one of my faves as a kid growing up and collecting cards he took the photos of.

It's easy to think of this as part of an industry-wide switch from professionals to amateurs in published photography, but I think what's actually going on is much gloomier than that. SI, like the Chicago Sun Times, didn't fire its photo staff because management thought they could get photos just as good from freelancers. They fired the photo staff because they aren't making enough money to keep them. For both institutions, firing the photographers is probably just step one in the process of firing everybody and closing the doors. Until someone figures out a new business model, or figures out how a magazine or newspaper can sell more ads in a world that also has TV and Google, this is going to keep happening.

I'd point out that the photographers weren't let go because they were unnecessary -- they were let go because SI is failing. The company will struggle along for a while, but not too long.

I once worked for one of the largest, most powerful news publishers in the nation. That entire corporation is now gone. When I was there, the place was rockin' -- when they thought they needed more money, they'd just push the advertising rates. The couldn't even conceive of something like Craig's list. There was a group of us who really did see this coming, but we weren't the people who got promotions -- those went to the socially ept, the guys (and I do mean guys) with shiny teeth and square chins who were good with the wives of the top managers. Most of the people who saw it coming eventually did okay: they got out and found something more economically relevant to do. The guys with square chins got early retirement, because the company fell apart beneath their feet. Many of the newspapers they ran no longer exist. I don't exactly revel in the "justice" of that, because I loved newspapers and journalism and the action.

There is still a place for magazines -- look at your local magazine store, and check out what the Brits are doing. You'll find all kinds of "one-time" magazines, published pretty much on a monthly basis. "Everything you need to know about your Mac," and the next month, "Everything you need to know about your Surface, "Macs for Senior Citizens," etc. There are even fairly good photography magazines published on this basis.

Americans don't do this, yet, at least not very much. We may get there eventually...I hope.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I love the photography in SI, and I am not even a sports fan. Those shooters were just so good at capturing the iconic moments. . .it could even speak to someone like me, who would choose National Geographic at the dentists office over most issues of SI. Note: most. ;)

So by cutting staff photographers an exec at Time Warner can show a little bit of increased revenue. Freelancers and photographers with big agencies will likely fill that gap.

Gone will be a particular look or brand of sports photography, I think. Is there a style that comes from staff photographers, compared to a stable of freelancers?

I am trying to think back to being a staffer at a paper. I feel I made a better photographs when I worked with my fellow newspaper staff as a team (reporters, editors, layout folks and pressmen). I didn't always during editorial regimes that just treated the photo department as a little internal photo agency.

I would have thought that "Illustrated" says it all. If the publication is struggling, then the photographers should be the LAST to go.

Perhaps SI will have GoPro Hero cameras mounted on the football player's helmets for their action photos.

Sports Illustrated is far from a leadership role in canning all its staff photographers.

We've seen newspapers do it in recent times and the intrepid Joe McNally holds the distinction of having been the last staff photographer for LIFE Magazine. He wrote about it in his blog:


This link brings up a lengthy column of posts; the one about LIFE is at the far end. Scroll down to "A Few Thoughts for the Weekend".

Anglo American differences. What does "neo-liberal" world mean?

Not being obnoxious, just wishing to understand.... do you mean "politically correct"? In the U.S., popular usage of "redundant" usually means a back up in case of initial failure of primary system or necessary/unnecessary doubling up.

I do understand the British-Australian use of the phrase to indicate "let-go" (as in made redundant / unemployed / no longer useful /forced to retire). Frankly it doesn't sound any less hurtful or soul destroying than "fired" or "dismissed", "laid off" or "terminated".

"A friend was recently made redundant in his marriage when his mate found a younger participant" Nah ... no better.

This change at SI has nothing to do with photography and everything to do with the move to "contract labor" by yet another industry. Contract labor is cheaper by virtue of lower wages, zero benefits, and the ability of the company using the contract labor service to get rid of somebody at will. It's bean counters winning and "Good enough" is the mantra of the modern financial controller.

It's been going on for years in other industries, it's just now finding a new application with creative people as "independent contractors" or who will be hired through labor services for little more than straight wages.

Before I retired I worked for a well known auto manufacturer and at our field engineering facility, which employed 130 people from secretaries to engineers, only 14 people were actual employees of the company, the other 116 were contract workers who were as disposable as a migrant field hand.

Looks like SI will crowd-source their photos from the lowest bidders.

Probably just moving them to contributors structure so they don't have to pay for their "gear maintainance". Cheap is cheap.

I drive by the former headquarters of Reader's Digest every day. Now it's used as part pre-school, part medical office and soon to be a Whole Foods market. Times change....

What is all this hand-wringing?! SI came to the conclusion most other businesses did a long time ago: using us contractors makes good business sense. Give them a break. It's a print business, after all, and deserves some compassion.

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