The shifting sands of change in our industry have yet to settle. Technology and all forms of traditional journalism continue to evolve. There is no predicting how, where and what it will become. The answers that make the most sense are to continue to adapt and diversify our skill sets not only to survive but to also thrive. Whether you are with a legacy media, online, a startup or an independent media entrepreneur, continuing to adapt to change is essential. Our mission as photojournalists is to keep telling stories and demonstrate the value and power of great visual storytelling, no matter the medium.
The so-called good old days are not coming back, so get over it. We can wax nostalgic for the days of traveling with unlimited expense budgets to cover the big stories or to be taken off daily assignments for six months to work on a special project. I do sometimes miss the smell of D76, Dektol, fixer stains on my fingertips and the magic of making a print. But I also don’t miss having only a few minutes of only the 1st quarter to shoot a night football or basketball game and praying you have something decent to make it into the late edition of the paper. More than anything I miss the camaraderie in the old photo labs when a good editor or a more seasoned photographer would look through your work and tell what you were doing right or, more often than not, what you were doing wrong.
As much as we complain about the new technology, it has made our lives easier in many ways. The downsides have been too many of our non-visual colleagues still don’t appreciate the skills, experience and time it takes to craft a well-done visual story with that new technology. Also, the average legacy print paper is down to five to six photographers and an editor, if you are lucky.
Our broadcast colleagues who used to work in the field with a sound person, producer and on-air talent are having to churn out pieces as “backpack” journalists or one-man/woman bands. And in both instances, churning out more stories in less time with little regard for quality.
Despite the challenges the new days present, the door to more opportunities for others have been kicked open and an industry that was limited almost exclusively to white men is finally making strides to make room for people of color, women, gender diversity and differing sexual orientation. This benefits us all.
The diversity extends to not only the more diverse voice but also making use of the diversity of skills to tell compelling visual stories. Still photographers using audio and video and vice versa, with video photographers using still photography. There are still more stories to tell and we, whether individual visual producers or working within a news organization, must take agency and courage to speak our truths.
The National Press Photographers Association is here to support and advocate for great photojournalism. Our workshops, News Photographer magazine, website and our Best of Photography and monthly clip contests are here to inspire, motivate and set the bar for what is great photojournalism.
The large photo staffs of yesteryear are nearly gone but NPPA is your photo community. In order for us to do what we do, we need you as much as you need us. Join, volunteer, work on a committee.
Let’s continue to help each other adapt, evolve and take photojournalism to that next level. Let’s not just survive but thrive. ■