The ‘Death’ of Photojournalism
This will prove to be a slight departure from our usual programming, because WE’RE MAD AS HELL AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE
To be completely blunt, photographers have a tendency to freak out over the slightest developments in the industry, whether it be for better or for worse. What can we say? We’re just a passionate bunch. Whether it’s a Hipstamatic photo story placing in POYi, or Adobe Photoshop CS5 having content-aware-fill, somewhere out there is an asshole, cowering in defeat, or perhaps trolling on the Internet with those three dreaded words:
“Photojournalism is dead.”
What the hell does that mean anyway? Should we hold a wake? Is there going to be a rebirth? Does this mean there are no more stories to tell? Where have all the cowboys gone?
Alex Garcia wrote a great little piece about photojournalism’s stinking, rotting corpse on the esteemed Chicago Tribune’s photo blog just a few days ago.
Therefore, it’s fitting that shortly after Garcia’s post, the NPPA’s Visual Student Blog posted “Advice for a Freshman”, a column of advice from graduates and students about how to stay above the negativity and figure out whether or not this career path is for them. Short and sweet. Granted, some advice is a little twee, but not everyone can be as hardcore and jaded as we are here at SPL. Anyway, pretty inoffensive, right?
Then this happened on the Facebook page of the aforementioned blog post’s author:
Thanks, man. We’ve been so sheltered. Whatever would we do without the logic of your cold, twisted heart? Time to give up before we even start.
We’re not idiots. We know the industry is in trouble. We know there’s a good chance that we’ll be baristas before we’ll be award-winning photographers. But hell if we aren’t going to try.
We respect older photographers, but we don’t appreciate the negativity that comes with so many years in the field. They paved the way for us, but that doesn’t mean the road is finished.
We’re going to stop talking before we hazard into schmaltzy after school special bullshit. We’ll end with some of Garcia’s words from his aforementioned blog post, because he said it best:
"In looking for constructive criticism, you will have to avoid the toxic people - the ones who constantly accuse you of weaknesses, failings or the futility of your aspirations. “
This blog post from the Chicago Tribune has been making the rounds lately, for good reason.
I would add:
- You love working weekends because that’s when the more interesting assignments occur
- You shudder at the phrase “building mug”
- Your diet has turned into cigarettes and to-go cups of coffee
- Instead of saying “National Geographic” you say “Nat Geo”
- You shoot a beautiful daylight scene at ISO 3200 because you forgot to change your settings from the night before
- You argue with fellow photographers about the best camera settings. Aperture Priority vs. Manual, back focus button vs. front, etc.
- You have more hard drives than pairs of shoes
- You cuss like a mother fucking sailor.
I was recently informed by a fine art photography student that having expensive gear means that you’ve lost sight of the true “art” of photography. This managed to make me laugh condescendingly and get extremely pissed at the same time.
I’ve determined that when it comes to gear, there are three types of photojs (because lumping people into broad categories is fun). Let’s discuss, shall we?
1.The “Latest Thing” photojournalist
- If it was released within the last month, there’s a strong chance that this asshole has it. Who needs a 1D Mark IV, a 5d Mark II, AND a 7D? This guy.
- Having a conversation with this person is painful. Jargon, jargon, fps, jargon.
- Remember, there’s a chance that even though this photog is using a fucking D3bonermachine or whatever, their pictures will still be boring as hell.
2. The “It’s Not About the Equipment” photojournalist
- More likely than not, this photographer is very insecure about their equipment, and/or doesn’t know how to use it. Therefore, this person will categorize every person with technical knowledge or nice equipment a snob.
- Having a conversation with this person can also be painful. “What is this elusive ‘ISO’ of which you speak?”
- Don’t be shy. Own your camera in all its shitty glory.
- But you should prooobably upgrade soon. Best ways to make some fast cash: grand theft auto or hooking.*
3.The “Balanced” photojournalist
- You know that the gear doesn’t make the picture, but it certainly helps. As someone who upgraded from a Rebel XTi to a 5D Mark II, it comes down to a simple conclusion: some cameras can just handle more shit.
- And by shit, I mean shit. You’re still gonna make some god-awful photos with that mkii.
In summary: know your gear, love your gear, and don’t be a dick about it.
See this video for more information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0la5DBtOVNI
*SPL in no way condones grand theft auto…
Editor’s note: ‘hooking’ is not in reference to fishing, which is what I thought. THE MORE YOU KNOW!
Sure, we love owning that full frame tack sharp beast that cost us $2500+ - because that badass baby can shoot at ISO 32,000! No wait, it goes up to 64,000! Time to crank up the grain for that “I was there for real and it was gritty man, totally gritty” feeling. Doesn’t matter if the light is decent, we are going all the way for 64k.
Why stop there?
Can it go up to ISO 128,000?
Why yes, it can!
Quickly, please find me some orphans smoking cigarettes in a graveyard in war-torn country X with zero available light (sans the glowing cigarettes), and we can go to ISO 128,000 for the PJ win!
Then we’ll post in black and white (because you really weren’t THERE unless it’s in black and white), and we’ll drop it into Photoshop to add even more noise grain! If they can’t count the individual pixels when it goes to print, you have failed.
//Apologies to warn-torn cigarette smoking orphans everywhere, we do love you.
-submitted by Christian DeBaun
Bios in Third Person
We all know that having a website is vital to staying afloat as a photographer. It’s also very important to have a bio page on your website, just to give your potential clients a little taste of what kind of photographer they’re hiring. The greatest thing about the bio page is that even though we so carefully craft that page (and search through a thesaurus for hours for adjectives that can replace “awesome” and “bonerific”) they still exactly express our personalities and what kind of photographer we are.
Now, I’m not saying this is always a good thing. Some of us are douche bags. Without question, the funniest “about me” pages are the ones in third person. “So-and-so is a freelance photographer based in Doucheville who is passionate about his craft. All his life, he has found beauty in shapes and light, and has attempted to document what he sees for the rest of the world to view it with him.”
Alongside the fluffy text that would make the photographer’s own mother say, “Eeeh, pushing it,” is of course some horrifically dramatic photo of the photographer staring deeply into the camera that he set up by himself on a Saturday night. If you can’t have fun with your own bio page, you’re doing something wrong.
That being said, check out our new “about us” page! It’s in third person and everything!
Note: If your bio page is in third person and talks about how you viewed the world as a child, no offense was meant. But we’ll still giggle at it when we see it.
My little cousin wants to be a photojournalist. I’m not going to reveal the harsh reality/this blog to her anytime soon. -T
When we hear the word collective, several scenes come to mind: people living together, working together, eating together, and having dirty, dirty sex together. So naturally, a photo collective is all of those things, too, right?
A photo collective is formed when one awesome photographer is BFFL with other awesome photographers, and they decide to take things to the next level (this is where the dirty sex…er…I mean photographic magic…happens). I like to think that the formation of LUCEO happened something like this:
Matt Eich: Dude, you’re amazing.
Matt Slaby: No, dude, you’re amazing.
Matt Eich: You know what? I think we’re all amazing, bro.
Matt Slaby: You’re totes correct. We should bond our skills together and become the Justice League of photography.
[crying and hugging ensues, LUCEO is born]
If you’re only moderately talented, don’t worry, you can still form a collective, too! When it comes to making a photo super group, all you really need is a sweet-ass/obscure-as-hell name. How does tectonic plates moving apart relate to photography? We don’t know, but it sure sounds fucking cool when you are bragging about it to all your non-collective friends.
Don’t forget to make it confusing to pronounce so you have several opportunities to correct every dumbass around you. If you’re really desperate, you can just resort to using a foreign language. Italian or French is fancy, right?
High-quality, journalistic photo of writer clutching her four-year-old bag and remembering all of the good times they had together.
Congratulations. Your saving, scrimping, and eating nothing but high-protein granola bars for the past year has paid off. You have a brand new camera, but something is missing. That’s right, you require a bag to house your precious.
Your needs are very specific. You didn’t sleep on a mattress on the floor for nothing. You put your heart, soul, and wallet into buying this delicate gear, so there’s no way in hell you’re going to put it just anywhere.
Ask any photojournalist about their bag(s), and their eyes will take on the far-off gleam of a parent describing the birth of their first child. Chances are the photoj in question will have one, two, or maybe even three bags to suit their needs. An outsider may be puzzled by the fiendish bag hoarder, but we know better.
Going on a short assignment? There’s a bag for that. Overnight assignment? There’s a bag for that. Going to fly somewhere? There’s even more bags for that. And guess what. YOU NEED THEM ALL.
Their names are so exciting that you can’t help but dream of them. The Speed Demon. The Slingshot. The Urban Disguise. With so many compartments and interchangeable partitions, they ooze pure sex appeal.
So what kind of bag are you? A belt-pack? A backpack? A shoulder bag? If you’re a rollie bag, we need to have a talk.
Shooting From the Hip
How do you take photos? As a photojournalist, chances are that you peer through the viewfinder, find the right exposure, discover a sweet-ass background and wait. And wait. And maybe wait a little more.
Hell, let’s get fancy and refer to this process as “composing a photo.” You waited for that picture, and you probably got it. Good for you, right? Give yourself a pat on the fucking back. Too bad that’s out of style now.
It stems from the daily struggle in which photojournalists go out of their way to point out that no, they aren’t “art photographers” while at the same time envying the shit out of those who are.
That photo with every element in just the right place? Hate to tell you sweetheart, but it’s shit. It’s stuffy. Composition is for losers. Welcome to the new, radical, never-before-seen method of shooting from the hip.
Shooting from the hip is exactly what it sounds like. You hold up the camera, and click away without looking through the viewfinder when you see something interesting. I mean, why would you want to take the risk of making good photos?
You go home and check out your take after this motor-driving blind bonanza, and what do you end up with. Hm, well this one is kind of blurry. This one is kind of cool…but it’s so tilted that it looks like a scene from Vertigo. Oh, this one’s great! Wait…is that a penis in the corner? Maybe this didn’t work out so well after all.
Let’s face it. You have a few good accidental frames, but most of your take is of stranger’s crotches. Give it up. You’re no fucking Scott Strazzante (unless you actually are, and in that case, hello!).
roavl asked: So I actually want to be a photojournalist. I'm currently kind of a freshman at a college I don't want to stay at. Should I try to transfer to a school in NYC and talk to a shit load of PJs until one offers me an unpaid internship? Should I follow my plans of doing college, then the Peace Corps for a year or two, then grad school, then trying to become a PJ?
Should I just forget all of this and try to become a humanitarian, working for some NGO in some country 50 people give a shit about?
REAL TALK, Y’ALL
1. No unpaid internships. Experience is nice, but a photog’s gotta eat.
2. You don’t have to study photojournalism to be a photojournalist, but it helps. I know that being surrounded by peers who shared my passion helped me get motivated.
3. You don’t have to move to NYC, even though it is a fuckin’ sweet city. Some of the best PJ schools are out in the middle of nowhere: University of Missouri, Ohio University, and Western Kentucky, just to name a few.
3. As far as the NGO goes, if you give a shit about it, then it matters.