The price we pay for devaluing photography

The full title of photographer Kenneth Jarecke‘s piece on ‘Medium‘ is ‘How Newsrooms Abandoned Photojournalism – And the price we pay for devaluing photography‘, and I think it’s an interesting view.

Jarecke, born in Nebraska, USA in 1963, has worked with Contact Press Images since he was 20, going around the world as a photojournalist, and has also worked for TIME. He is probably best known for an iconic and controversial picture from the Gulf War, first published in American Photo in 1991. You can see more of his work on his own web site.

His is obviously an American view, but I think in some ways the situation in the UK is worse, with few news outlets having any real interest in much beyond celebrities and the latest scandal. America still has many local papers which still employ a number of photographers and probably many more who actually pay for photographs rather than begging them from members of the public. His article was written in response to These tools will help you find the right images for your stories published by Poynter, where  you can also find some responses they asked for others to make on that story.

Here in the UK, my union, the NUJ, are having a month long campaign, #Useitpayforit, which you can also read about in Amateur photographers should charge for published work, says new NUJ campaign and Major publisher’s pictures budget is less than your daily cup of coffee a week, which I understand the company concerned has said is inaccurate, though they haven’t yet given a figure to correct it. But I did a search and failed to find any mention of the campaign on the Amateur Photographer web site.

I think most photographers like me will be used to getting e-mails and phone calls from local papers asking if they can use my work, “of course we’ll give you a credit“.  My response is simply to tell them that of course they can use my work so long as they buy a licence from the appropriate agency it is with.  I don’t think any of them ever has gone on to use an image, even though the prices are usually ridiculously low.

2 Responses to “The price we pay for devaluing photography”

  1. ChrisL says:

    At least the “these tools” article was at pains to make it clear “stealing” photographs was not condoned, and marks as well to them for pointing to the follow ups.
    Jarecke makes a good point about social media visibility, for a while I posted daily to Instagram just to see what happens, so quickly you are drawn to post the type of shot that gathers “likes” from the anonymous crowd, an excellent route to perverting your own vision and style.
    What seems to be missing in these discussions, although it is hinted at, is it revolves around a single frame. The public, Karen Anvil in this case, can capture a single shot and be paid for use
    but the real death has been the photo story, the use of a sequence to tell a story, the great tradition of the “Sunday Times” supplement and many others before them.
    To my reading this is why written word journalists don’t see parity to photojournalists, the single frame can be just good luck, the story needs skill and craft. It’s even easier to write than take photographs, come the day crowd sourced written journalism will replace the writers but the need for good subs will rocket.

  2. Yes, I totally agree with you about single images, though Karen Anvil’s is something of an exception as so many the papers use for free are pretty poor images. Even when using work produced by professionals there seems to be a more or less total lack of quality control now, and I think you many be optimistic in suggesting that there will be subs still working. All the emphasis now seems to be on cutting costs and I think text, still images and video will all be output as garbage.

    Even worse I think much of what news outlets publish will be increasingly written by people who are paid by others to write, both commercial operations and the Russians etc, including all the fake news now generated mainly by the right wing news outlets. Already in many local papers a huge percentage of the text is simply recycled press releases.

    One of the saddest things for me about the demise of Demotix was that for all their faults there is really no other agency site that enables you to publish a group of pictures with a story in the same way. Of course we can all do this on our own web sites, and there are some web sites that allow you to do this, but none I’m aware of that also try to market the work.

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