Perpignan Looms

In Jean-François Leroy on Photojournalism on the Magnum site, the founder of Visa pour l’Image gives his opinions on still photography sandwiched between publicity for some fine photography from Magnum photographers Lorenzo Meloni in Yemen, Jérôme Sessini in Ukraine,  Carl de Keyzer in Cuba, and Chien-Chi Chang’s winning 1999 Visa d’Or photo study of New York’s China Town.

It’s all great photography, but does rather tend to hide Leroy’s message delivered in several short paragraphs in the article. He acknowledges that now everyone has a camera the first images from events will normally come from those already there with their phones taking pictures and recording videos, and that photojournalists have to be the “best second witness.” Its soemtimes the case, but as the Magnum work shows, much of the best photojournalism isn’t breaking news but from longer projects where photojournalism becomes more documentary.

He goes on to say that there is wider issue in the way that the press works, quite simply that “They are not buying the stories anymore … are spending less and less and less every day. Photographers are producing, they are still working.” He also identifies the fact that very few organisations now employ photo-editors, saying that photographers “are the worst editors in the world, and I think that photo-editors were really important for them.

There is certainly an element of truth in this, though I think the best photo-editors have often come from being photographers, and many of us are pretty expert at editing the work of others, even though our emotional involvement makes it hard to judge our own images objectively. But perhaps more important is that the lack of photo-editors has led to images often being selected by people with little or no visual intelligence, and usually working to very tight deadlines, who snap up the first snap they see.

We now work in a business where being a good picture hardly matters, and many rather poor pictures, even those taken by competent photographers, are used. Picture research is minimal and what matters now in  earning a living is not quality but speed and an agency that gets work fast onto the image feeds.

Visa pour l’Image, the premier International Festival of Photojournalism, runs from August 27 to September 11, 2016, with the Professional week from August 29 to September 4 in Perpignan, France.

If like me you won’t be travelling there you can follow it on the web site and blog, as well as on Facebook.

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