By MELISSA MALLIN
Cameras are everywhere.
They fit in our pockets, they’re installed in our computers and even attached to our phones. What was once an expensive hobby has now become an affordable necessity. Because of the affordability and the availability, everyone who owns a camera considers themselves a photographer.
A professional photographer is someone who has spent his or her entire career as a photographer and has earned a living by taking pictures. A freelance photographer is a person who sells services (in this case images) to employers without a long-term commitment to them. An amateur photographer is a person who engages in photography as a hobby versus as a profession. In other words, they take pictures for fun.
A photojournalist can be defined as someone who communicates news through photographs. Think National Geographic. Until recently, a photojournalist was a full-time, paid position involving being sent out on assignment to cover a story similar to a reporter in broadcast.
Now-a-days though, many magazines and newspapers have laid off their photography departments and switched from using full-time salaried employees to using freelance and amateur photographers instead.
So what does this mean for the future of photojournalism?
Well, in order to have a future it must have a present. The day “digital” became useable and affordable marked the death of photojournalism as we know it. Why pay an employee to rush over to the scene of investigation when an amateur is already on site? Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to pay the amateur for the use of the images than the salary of the professional?
Photographers, like myself, who are looking to start a career in photography / photojournalism, see this as a terrible consequence of the digital age and social media.
However, others see this as liberating and evolutionary. They see the amateur photographer as liberating the professional from the role of documenting mundane, ordinary, and unexciting newsworthy events, thus allowing the professional to reiterate the true meaning behind being a photojournalist — to document and tell stories.
It is not the professional photojournalist who has died out, only the means of how they get their stories and where they publish them. Instead of reaching out to a magazine or newspaper for work, the professional photojournalist should instead become a freelance photographer and invest in a self-financed story that has not been covered in mainstream media. Then he or she can publish the work via social media outlets with the possibility of publication at a later date. Because mainstream media outlets chase provocative and sensational stories in order to drive in readership, the quality of the work has taken a backseat thus forcing professional photojournalists to self-publish.
The professional photojournalist should not cringe at the amateur photographer but should instead thank them for picking up tedious, unimportant news stories and allowing the professionals to instead, return to the art of their profession. The art of photojournalism is to document and tell stories, often hidden stories, ones mainstream media outlets tend to ignore.
For more information, visit http://www.tribemagazine.org/4/post/2013/08/the-future-of-photojournalism-part-1.html.