It is interesting to see that as the technology has made easier and faster to transmit images, we are seeing less of photojournalism on main events.
30 years ago, it would have been unimaginable that such events like the Gaza/Israeli war, the Sri Lanka war or the Iranian protest would not be photographed. Now it seems to be the rule more than the exception. More and more, governments seem succesful in blocking any professional coverage of events they deem to cast a negative light on their policy.
The US, with the first and second Iraqi war were the first to initiate a partial blockade of imagery. They subtly enforced a control of photographers by forcing them to be either pooled ( first Iraqi war) or embedded ( second Iraqi war). It has been quite succesful in avoid the American public and the world to see the real impact of these wars.
Israel was even more succesful in completely shielding its theater of operations from any media. Sri-Lanka followed suit and now Iran.
It doesn’t seem so hard, after all. As long as you threaten the media with physical harm or arrest, you are practically done.
Thus, the only scarce images we get to see are those official images, or those taken by participants, both with very clear agendas.
The reasons for this major shift in coverage are numerous :
- Lack of financing from the media. Either they cannot afford to send photographers to these part of the world, or they will not pay enough to justify a free lancer to risk their life. The disappearance of media outlets does not help as a photographer can’t even count on volume sales to cover his costs.
- The new journalists : they much prefer to set up Google alerts, check Twitter, Facebook and other sites than lift their asses from their chairs and report themselves. Twitter success, for example, is not due to its users, but to how broadly the media is using it. You have more chance to be published these days if you have a Twitter account than if you send a video to CNN Ireport. And why would those journalist leave the comfort of their cubicle if everything is delivered in their desktop.
- The death of the photo reporter : few and rare are those who really care about covering the news at all cost. Gone are the days of the Capa, Mccullin, Adams, and many, many others that could not live if an event was not covered properly. Today’s photographers are too busy courting the NGO’s and Foundations to pay for them to cover anything.
- The death of photo agencies : the Sygma’s, SIPA, Gamma of the not so old days would do whatever it took to support a photographer willing to go and cover an event. Since you can now make a hundred time more money with a picture of Lindsay Lohan leaving her hotel a few blocks away, why bother ?
- The disappearance of the great news magazine: Besides Europe, great news magazines have vanished. They have not been replaced by online equivalent. There is a huge void. Not because there is no audience, but because there is no great editor in chief, great news gatherers.
It’s appalling to see, at least in the USA, that just because foreign journalists are being kicked out from Iran, the pro coverage stops. It will only get worst.
Update : an exception should be made for Polaris Images. see here