Political Briefs
Celebration: My Daughter, the Democratic National Convention Delegate

The death of photojournalism as we have known it

The death of photojournalism as we've known it: The People's Tech Revolution. I asked my only close photojournalist friend, former AP photographer David Tenenbaum, what he thought of this infographic:

It really is the end of photojournalism as we knew it, and I mourn that. The traditional part of me insists that the years of craft honing, and the constant emphasis on maintaining credibility and telling the truth as best as is possible are lost, the modern part of me says having many more witnesses with recording devices to capture wrongdoing is ultimately better in fast moving large events. When I would go to Haiti, or El Salvador, or Nicaragua, or Colombia it was to provide what was missing when my parents and relatives were in the Holocaust: the presence of external witnesses to record the events. I learned that just the presence of journalists can moderate the outcome (once in particular, when tensions were high around Pope John Paul II in Managua), and at the least, show the world what is happening. Now, with almost everyone capable of witnessing or recording, that role is reasonably well filled.

That said, the intense impact of a great picture, composed and shot well with an understanding of lighting and impact, still requires craft, but one most often found in advertising instead of documentary. But in terms of a profession, could I recommend to a young person that they could make a career out of photojournalism now? I am afraid unless they are committed to poverty I could not. Too often now photojournalists are considered a dime a dozen, and dispensable because hopefully some pedestrian with an iPhone will happen to be there. Mistakes will happen, some retouched photos will be widely circulated, some angles will be chosen to misrepresent an event, but heck, that seems to be the world we live in now (I sound like an old grump guy, don’t I?)

By the way, none of this reflects on the shuttle photos shot from an airliner by Stephanie Gordon. An interesting and new viewpoint always has, and always will have interest, and her photos were fun. Would I have loved them more if they were of higher quality: sure, but they still are kind of neat and unique. Thanks to her for sharing them.

To wrap it up, I do think the world will be a bit worse off without professionals generating the visual coverage. I deeply enjoyed my time as a photojournalist, and I like to think I tried to make a difference, and I had the privilege of working alongside some amazing people who I know did make a difference, capturing the pivotal moments of our time in a way that is etched into my generation’s memory: think of Kent State by John Paul Filo, the Vietnamese soldier killing a Viet Cong by Eddie Adams, POWs being greeted arriving home by Sal Veder,  and many others people can recall with clarity even today. In many cases those people put their lives on the line, not because they happened to be there, but because they ran toward the fighting because that was their profession. That profession may be leaving us, but their dedication and skill have to be honored.