In an interview with The New York Times, veteran photojournalist Donald R. Winslow let out a sigh for himself and his comrades.
“Renaissance artists were supported by patrons. There are no patrons supporting photojournalism now. The patrons were newspapers and magazines. And they’ve cut off the money. That’s just the raw truth of it,” said Winslow in the interview.
He’s not the only one sighing, either.
Newspapers have had to play a new game since the advent of the internet: the survival game. Since the new millennium, the print news industry has let go of 43 percent of its hired hand, leaving little staff positions for both photographers and reporters. Few have survived in spite of their efforts to win; the world has seen century-old treasures like the Rocky Mountain News bite the dust. Less and less photographers are staying on as employees of the news; more of them find it practical to work independently.
Part of Winslow’s frustration with shrinking newsrooms is that photojournalists’ assignments are disappearing with them. Instead of transporting, housing and putting a staff photographer on payroll, photo editors are using Google to locate photographers who are already within range of a story. Will Steacy, who had been brought onto the Philadelphia Inquirer before its decline, raises a complaint similar to Winslow’s:
“They once sent a guy off to study the fate of the black rhino for six months,” he recalls. “Now no story gets done that involves much more than a half-hour drive from the city,” writes Steacy in an artist’s statement.
Photojournalists now have to compete with stock imagery companies, a beast unbeknownst to the news before the rage of the internet. In the Times interview, Winslow explains the impact of this is that photographers are becoming complacent with lower wages. “She just sold a picture for $1.50,” citing a friend in Rome, for example. She had sold 30 pictures to a small stock clip agency after driving a short hour to Tuscany.
Many stock agencies will pay as low as a dollar for a small-sized image and sell them to news outlets for cheap. News agencies can pay as little as $33 to see debris in a war-torn Syria. Editors that equip their reporters with iPhones and cameras add insult to injury, deeming the photojournalist dispensable.
While maintaining that only “rich kids get to play at photojournalism,” Winslow gives a faint salute to those few still at it.
“But are they philanthropists, or are they trying to earn a living at it?”
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[via The New York Times]