For photojournalists around the world it has become increasingly difficult to do their jobs. In fact, with magazines and newspapers laying off photographers in droves, it’s become difficult just keeping a job, let alone finding one. The common thought among the bean counters of the publishing world is that real photojournalism is no longer needed in this digital age of citizen journalism. It’s true that everyone has a camera these days. What isn’t true, is that anyone can tell a compelling story with their smartphone.
If you love photography or journalism, I promise, it’s worth the three minutes or so you’ll take to watch this video.
Marcus Yam is a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times. He’s already won two Pulitzer Prizes in his young career and if you take a bit more time to look through his website, you’ll quickly recognize why his work is so highly regarded.
A number of factors play into the high rate of attrition among photojournalists. Of course the shrinking newsroom budgets play a significant part, but so does the explosion of mobile technology and social media, making it easier for citizens and non-professionals to capture and share images. When it laid off several photographers in 2011, CNN cited the “impact of user-generated content and social media… in breaking news,” as a key reason. Today, fewer and fewer magazines and newspapers have photographers on staff.
The veteran photographers pulling down relatively high salaries have been hardest hit, but if you are an aspiring photojournalist wanting to get a foothold in the business, well… good luck. I’m not some curmudgeon decrying technology. I love my smartphone and my iPad. I see people doing remarkable things with their phones. You can’t use a Snapchat or Instagram filter working as a photojournalist though. A quick on-line search and you’ll find myriad examples that clearly demonstrate the obvious differences between professional photojournalists images versus those from citizen reporting, but I fear we’ve turned a corner and we’re never going back. Storytelling… with a camera… is an art. Marcus Yam… is an artist.