This week saw yet another terrible and symbolic blow to the future of news photography, as the entire photographic staff at historic Chicago tabloid newspaper, The Chicago Sun-Times, and all its suburban subsidiaries, have been laid off. The newspaper will instead ask their reporters to take photos and video footage whilst on the road, and will also use freelancers to plug the gaps in content.
Make no mistake about it, this is a huge blow to a severely under-respected industry of talented and hard-working individuals. Of course, the cuts have been catalysed by the lack of people actually paying for their news content in today’s internet newsfeed generation.
However, in more general terms the few years have seen many instances which serve to undermine and inhibit news photography as a profession, including…
- The Leveson enquiry, which assisted to enforce the view in the minds of the general public that all news photographers, even the very respectable, moral and talented ones are simply ‘morality-free no-good-paps’.
- The government’s Orphan Works Directive (an orphan work is a material for which the copyright owner can’t be contacted) which has made the stealing of copyright and photographs a much simpler process for anyone who wishes to do so – robbing photographers of the fruits of their labour.
- Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo (which recently bought popular photo sharing site Flickr), publicly stating that “There’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore”. Thanks Marissa, who took your professional profile shots then?
Fortunately, at Blake Ezra Photography our days are now spent photographing all manner of different commissions for clients in every sector, but speaking as a former full-time news photographer, I fear for a profession which is absolutely crucial in making sure the news is conveyed accurately and in high-quality. News is the very best training ground for photography and news photographers are the most versatile and dedicated around, often working in unfeasibly trying conditions. A loss of professional news photographers is a blow to society’s appreciation of high-quality visual communication.
It’s a strange contradiction that everyone appreciates photography, we can all remember a great news photograph or attention grabbing photo showing real life on the streets of a city, yet the distrust surrounding photographers is palpable. The amount of times I’ve walked down a road with my camera, and the stares I receive are as though I’m a threat to children (pedophile), a threat to safety (terrorist) or threat to privacy (paparazzi). It’s just a camera – not a bomb, not a weapon, not a malicious intention. A camera… most of us have them, calm down.
The Chicago Sun-Times is the eighth-largest daily in the US, and cuts like these are a real shock. So next time you’re in a newsagent or supermarket… buy a daily newspaper, and appreciate the craft that goes into news photography. In the meantime, here are a few of our news photographs from recent years: