Don’t Mourn, Organize!
Posted on June 3rd, 2013
Last week my FB page (and Twitter stream) was filled with the news that the Chicago Sun-Times had fired its entire photo department, deciding it was better to just give iPhones to its reporters, and work with freelancers. There was the expected outrage and lamentation on FB. But that was all it was, and I’m sure people have already turned the page on this stunning event.
When I commented on one post that I thought it would be amazing for photographers all over Chicago to show up en masse in front of the Sun-Times in a show of protest and solidarity, there was barely any response. That tells me so very much.
Why do photographers just take all the indignities that have befallen the industry in these past few years? This isn’t the first example of a publication letting go of staff photographers. SI did it; Newsday and the NY Daily News have done it. So have the Birmingham News, the Providence Journal, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Newark Star-Ledger, and many others. Where is the real outrage?
And where are the professional organizations? ASMP released a statement saying it was, “extremely disappointed” in the action. That’s the best you can do? And where is APA, the local chapter of ASMP? “Outrageous!” NPPA’s president Mike Borland said. NPPA is planning a workshop to help former Sun-Times photographers. A workshop? That’s the best you can do?
Why aren’t they organizing their members to protest? Just releasing statements is bullshit. Why aren’t they organizing with the communities they serve to call for reinstatement? Why aren’t they picketing to embarrass the hell out of the owners of the Sun-Times?
Is it that photographers (at least those on my FB page) are secretly thinking that now they can get some freelance work? Is it that photographers only care about themselves?
If you don’t think protests have any effect, think of the impact of Occupy. Think of groups that have rescued their schools (also in Chicago), hospitals, etc. Protest and organization can work. If nothing else, it can show the world you exist.
Staying silent, “liking” a post on FB ain’t doing anything. The more you turn the page and move on, the more you accept this without a fight, the fewer and fewer jobs there will be. Then all the moaning and complaining about the state of the industry will fall on my deaf ears, that’s for sure.
I call on photographers to search their souls, get organized and then get out there and make some noise. You have an opportunity to bring home the importance and necessity of professional photography.
Get angry already!
I have just found out about this: “Save the Photographer Rally” Thurs. June 6, 8-9am outside Sun-Times, 350 N Orleans, Chicago.
Tagged: apa, asmp, chicago, chicago sun-times, npaa, photographers, photography
Stella, I assure you my outrage is very real, and I’m here and ready to vote, speak, fight, blog etc. Thanks to you, as ever, for being a well needed voice of reason.
Yep- although not sure if the kind of bosses who took that decision in the first place are the type to take any notice whatsoever. Cut things to the bone, save money, do it on the cheap is their mantra. Who cares if the quality suffers and people stop buying the papers? The advertisers? Sure-they will take their money elsewhere. It then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that newspapers are dying and eventually more papers will finally shuffle off into the sunset.
I’ve been a staffer and I’ve been a freelance. They both have their good and bad points but thinking reporters with iphones can fill the gap is very naive and shows a complete lack of understanding of how good photographs can help to sell a quality product.
From across the pond, best wishes to the photographers who have been fired. You all deserve better than to be put on the scrapheap by an uncaring and dumb-ass management!
Amen! I couldn’t agree more. I think photographers are so worried about being perceived as negative and loosing future work that they won’t speak up. I know when ever I comment about copyright infringement etc. you can hear the crickets after they hit the Like button. If photographers would only unite against lower rates on Getty and all the other fronts we would have A Voice.
Why would anyone protest this? They made a decision which will ultimately effect their capacity to make work that is unique and captivating. The iphone is just a tool, even in a pros tool kit. What differentiates any artist is the content and how it’s presented. There will always be work for the people who create captivating stories, beautifully and creatively.. An amateur will never be a threat to those who take their work seriously.
The only loser here is the newspaper.
But that’s the point, amateurs are a threat. That’s why the pros were laid-off. So they lost their livelihood. The real losers are the audience.
I agree with Ryan. It’s about the quality of the content. Yes, you can make good images on the iphone…were you a good photographer to begin with. Trust me when I say that no matter what business ends up sacking it’s photographers, the story will get told and told well by professional photographers somewhere. They will make a mark with another publication or even a blog and the quality images will be seen. I’m not saying it’s a perfect world, but I never fear for my job because someone bought any kind of camera. It’s not the camera that takes the picture. I’ve heard so many times, “What camera took that photo? What lens was that?”. It’s not the camera, it’s not the lens. It’s the eye and operator behind both. Are we in a losing battle? To some extent maybe. Some jobs will be lost. In the end, I believe that those who are producing beautiful imagery will always be in demand, whether it be photojournalism, art, or commercial. Keep pushing the envelope and create stunning images and you may not need an employer. You’ll be a successful business of 1.
Back in 2000 at one of the last national conferences that ASMP held. Then pres Dick Weisgrau presented MPCA/MIRA to the chapter officials that had journeyed to Aspen, CO for this event. MPCA was an attempt to convince photographers to band together and agree on some minimum charges and basic rights. Dick presented this as ASMP’s last hope to try and stem the rapid decline in the industry. MPCA was structured in a way as to not get in to rate setting which is considered ‘restraint of trade’ when done by independent contractors. When the conference was over, we all went home excited and inspired to present the ideas to our chapter membership. To shorten the story, the idea was dead w/in 2 years because no one could or would agree to any numbers..the “big guys” wanted more and the “little guys” refused to take less. If the idea had worked, photographers everywhere would have benefitted. Perhaps not in the way that allows the 1% to dine at fancy NYC restaurants (for the few years that they’re ‘hot’), but in a way that lets 100% feed themselves and their families and live reasonable lives with room to grow their businesses.
Time, Inc. has been spun off and that entire collection of magazines will, in my guess, be gone not long after the company is floated (who is going to invest in a company whose revenue, and industry, is in steep and irreversible decline?). Friends of mine who still work there are re-writing resumes and interviewing even before the company goes public.
And as much as I love my daily newspaper, I can’t reconcile the fact that I reduce, reuse and recycle in all other areas of my life, but end up throwing out great big chunks of once-growing tree material every day. Sometimes without reading it. End of that subscription and I read it online.
Print media brought higher ad revenue but now readers and subscriptions are draining away to online, where the money ain’t.
The decline in the viability of a career in photojournalism is a small microcosm of the decline in the print/news/magazine industry as a whole. But I really believe that the key to individual survival isn’t to fight for an industry which is in swift atrophy. It’s to find a different client. Take your photojournalism to commercial clients. If strong images are always in demand — and they are — you’ll find work on the commercial side.