The decline of photojournalism

NY Times reporting on the decline of photojournalism. Declining print revenues, folding magazines, and amateurs willing to sell photos for next to nothing.

“Pages are at a premium, and there’s more competition to get anything into a magazine now, and the bar is just higher for excellent work,” said Bill Shapiro, the editor of Life.com, who ran the print revival of Life before Time Inc. shut it in 2007. And that is for the publications that survived — 428 magazines closed in 2009 alone, according to the publication database MediaFinder.com, including ones that regularly assigned original photography, like Gourmet, Portfolio and National Geographic Adventure.

Lower expectations + unlimited photographs = a decent photo somewhere. The problem is, decent should not be good enough for a magazine or newspaper. And photojournalism–real photojournalism– is hard to replicate. A sunset in Florida where the photographer managed not to get his finger in the photo should not be enough. It is hard as hell to get the real story across in a photo, espcially in a way both artistic and emotional. That is why stock footage used to be the realm of constipation commercials–no one wants the real story there.

But still, if the reporting must decline, then perhaps it is natural that photo-reporting should fall with it.

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