Saturday, 15 August 2009

Photojournalism vs Future

Are online multimedia presentations the future outlets for photojournalism?

Photojournalism has reached a crossroads. For years, the state of the industry has been in decline, but it's only recently that photojournalists have REALLY started to get concerned. The reasons for the decline in photojournalism have been ongoing for over 40 years. Although conflicts like Vietnam created the modern persona of what we now regard as the photojournalist, the fall in interest for photo stories goes back to the late 1950's, when demand for human interest stories fell and celebrity orientated stories started to replace them.

Many of the newspapers that used to cover news stories in their weekend magazines, now cover lifestyle and celebrity stories instead. The main reason why Don McCullin ended up leaving The Sunday Times was purely because of a that change in the U.K newspaper industry during the early 1980's. Wars were out and lifestyle was in. Some would later claim that it was a much needed modernising of the newspaper industry. It is therefore ironic that less that 30 years later, many of the very same newspapers are fighting for their very survival. Some may go. In the United States newspapers, like The Rocky Mountain News, have already gone. Others like the Los Angeles Times remain in a precarious financial situation. To a large extent, the future of photojournalism is entwined with the future of the 'newspaper' industry and both need to change drastically to adapt to this new media world. For photojournalism, the choices are simple - photojournalists need to change the stories they shoot. Far too many of the same types of images and stories are being shot. Maybe we need fewer photojournalists. Yes, we need images of war and famine, but there are plenty of stories to be covered outside of those areas. We need variety in our images. We need photography that covers a huge swathe of stories, and i think we are starting to see the beginning of that change. Just look at the vast range of superb images that The Big Picture and Wall Street Journal photoblogs regularly post.

As for the newspapers, the choices are less clear. Many are finding the current business landscape a tough one to work in. The newspapers have been hit hard by the Internet. Only last week, Rupert Murdoch announced that the websites for The Times, The Sun and News of the World newspapers would charge for access to new stories. In a world where most online news content is free, it is hard to see how Murdoch's pay-per-view websites will work. Other newspapers, however, seem to be embracing the Internet and all it can offer. The best by far is The New York Times which has one of the best photoblogs on the web. The multimedia audio/visual presentations are very, very impressive, both visually and as story telling tools. Several pro cameras now come with video capabilities so that photographers can capture moving images alongside stills. A growing number of photographers now shoot both. Maybe multimedia is the future for photojournalism. Maybe photojournalism's future lies online rather than on the printed page. Who really knows? What is certain is that 21st century photojournalism faces it's toughest challenge, and it really needs to change and adapt fast to this new multimedia world.

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