What follows is an abridged version of my essay for History, Theory and Practice a module of my second year studies in Photojournalism. It’s a long one but hope you enjoy the read.
In the late 1930’s the photo magazine was king and principle earner for photojournalists and photographers. As the magazines grew and then died in the 60’s and 70’s, photographers have steadily struggled to maintain a demand for their work alongside growing costs of business and falling newspaper circulations.
Through from the late 80’s people like Anne-Marie Willis, have suggested that the digital world would create the death of photography. They saw the digitisation and seemingly easier manipulation of images as corrupting the form.
However the internet is only really continuing from a trend first started by television in the 50’s, in getting the blame for the self inflicted demise of print media. Christian Caljoulle in her afterword inThings As They Are suggests papers were frightened by the new medium of television and competition for advertising papers “responded by gradually reducing their space reserved for news and photo stories, and competed with each other by according more and more prominence to ‘celebrities’.” (Cajoulle, 2005)
Then in 1997 with the creation of Getty Images, photographic imagery shot specifically for the agency market became easier to get hold of for publications and so it has become the norm in print media. This however has lead to a shrinking of the market with a few select photographers who work for agencies getting most of the work available. So in 2011 how has the internet affected the individual photographers ability to advertise themselves and share their work?
Ultimately photojournalism and journalism will always be intrinsically linked through revenue generation in some manner as newspapers will always need to illustrate their written reports. But how has the internet changed this in the last 20 years?
In his article for EPUK, “For God’s sake somebody call it!” Neil Burgess(http://www.epuk.org/Opinion/961/for-gods-sake-somebody-call-it) suggests that any photography not funded by “magazines or newspapers is not photojournalism.” However there is a flaw in his argument in that he forgets the agency format and if he did would he consider such prestigious organisations as Magnum, for whom he was the first London Bureau chief, and Getty, legitimate commissioners of journalistic work. If your work is initially commissioned by such an agency can it really be said that its un-journalistic purely by the state of the commissioner.
Both David Campbell(http://www.david-campbell.org/2010/10/05/dead-or-alive-the-state-of-photojournalism/) and James Estrin(http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/if-photojournalism-is-dead-whats-luceo/) also disagree with Burgess’ conclusion from the current market. Campbell commented on Burgess’ article saying “Photojournalism – or documentary photography, or whatever name we want to give visual story telling about the world – is not defined by its paymaster and mode of distribution.” and to this end I agree. However Estrin goes further to say that the example of Luceo(www.luceoimages.com) a new kind of Magnum is proof of how concerned photojournalismcan exist and be self-sustaining and profitable to the photographer or agency, in the new internet economy.
We can look at the explosion of the agencies and stock imaging libraries, and declare this as destroying true photojournalism but ultimately the internet is a tool which has to be manipulated by the individual to ensure involvement and just reward.
Luceo as mentioned before is a Magnum for the modern age it has been born in. The photographers work as a co-operative, like magnum to market and fund themselves. However the internet has been the lynch pin of the agency from the outset, and much to their advantage.
David Walter Banks, the leader or instigator in the creation of Luceo Images said to Estrin “It is absolutely ridiculous to say that photojournalism is dead. It’s definitely changing, but I think that’s exciting. The modes of delivery and consumption are changing, but there’s a lot of great work being done.”(http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/if-photojournalism-is-dead-whats-luceo/)
I feel the main difference between the photographers like Burgess and Banks, is that Banks has grown up with the internet as a source and distribution device. I’m sorry to say but it seems very much a generational thing. Those that know the internet as their main source of consumption and distribution don’t understand the old Guard’s fear of the internet and resolute stubbornness over the use of physical ink/silver and paper to create, develop and sell their work.
So how does this new media economy extend to my chosen photographer, Chase Jarvis? The internet has been seen very much kindlier as a manner to advertise a method of working as well as work previously embarked upon, and Chase is most definately of the generation most at home with the internet. Chase’s unique approach to the internet with open sharing and mass involvement, is an almost perfect example of the democratisation of content that the internet allows. The financial impact of this manipulation and creative use of the mode of distribution available in the internet is clear in the increase in scale of projects being undertaken by chase and his ever growing team.
Chase who as a self taught photographer was highly involved in the creative community of friends he had around him whilst studying and then after graduation. this is likely an experience which has lead Jarvis’ push for a social creative community.
Chase first started to work in social media with his blog, which has been running since 2006. Throughout Jarvis’ philosophy has been one of community inclusion and the creating of a cooperative. Aware that having a prominent following and community on the web will increase the interest from advertisers and companies for employment. Through his blog he has progressed from listing shoot breakdowns, the obligatory gear video’s on youtube, to now hosting webinars, and day by day break downs of commercial shoots.
Chase has used the captive audience and finance he has gained from twitter and his blog to pioneer online tutorials and creative sessions using his creative live website, Creativelive.com launched on 7th april 2010. The main process behind Creative Live website is to invite leading photographers and videographers from around America and have them give a live video webinar. He has had HDSLR tutorials from Vincent Laforet and studio photography from Zach Arias amongst others. The way Creative Live has been inventive in its financing is exceptional. It streams the seminars live for free and a rerun which starts nearly immediately afterward. However they finance the project by then charging for the download of the video. This opt-in structure has so far succeeded with multiple big names in the industry adding to the back catalogue of classes included on the website.
So what can we learn from Chase Jarvis to apply to the photojournalism industry and its counterparts.
I feel Chase’s approach to community and creative inclusion is a valuable lesson for newspapers and photo-magazines. In the current market, newspapers are still dependent on traditional delivery and tone. With online and blog delivery opinion is golden and people pay more for a person than a paper. The rise of the celebrity journalist/commentator, proves this. Many a consumer will buy a particular paper more for a particular columnist than the papers editorial content.
The person we are as a photographer will determine our successes and more pertinently our ability to comment through words as well as pictures will be more crucial than who we shoot or where. If the “golden age in photojournalism” was with the photo magazines the diamond age and rebirth will be through the seizing of opportunities the internet gives to widen reach and inclusion in the photographic illustration and comment of the world today.
In 1936 Henry R. Luce outlined his vision for a magazine to TIME. This was his vision:
“THE PURPOSE: To see life; to see the world; to eyewitness great events; to watch the faces of the poor and the gestures of the proud; to see strange things – machines, armies, multitudes, shadows in the jungle and on the moon; to see our work – our paintings, towers and discoveries; to see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to: the women that men love and many children; to see and to take pleasure in seeing; to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed; Thus to see, and to be shown, is now the will and new expectancy of half of humankind. To see, and to show, is the mission now undertaken by a new kind of publication, THE SHOW-BOOK OF THE WORLD.”
The magazine was LIFE. I believe we are in a more privileged position today with the aid of the internet to see through Luce’s vision, using the example set by Chase Jarvis of community involvement and open comment.
The Internet has resurrected the kind of photojournalism, that television and celebrity culture almost destroyed.