I love to hear people complaining about the sorry state of photojournalism. Because, quite frankly, they complain more about the sorry state of their finances. Somewhere, somehow, there is this ongoing myth that being a photojournalism can make you extremely wealthy. It is a wrong career to choose, if income is a priority.
The founding fathers of this profession, either did not have a dime and didn’t care, or came from very wealthy families, and couldn’t care. Their only passion was to report and to change the world. Although rare, such photographers still exist. Take Marcus Bleadsale. Marcus has been photographing Congo for quite a while now. I met Marcus when he had completed “Rape of a Nation”, a Black and White series of poignant images about the exploitation of humans in gold mines in the nation of Congo. These gold mines are owned by western hemisphere companies. As his agent in the United States, I had the extremely hard duty to get some placement for these images. Extremely hard for numerous reasons endemic to the the US editorial market:
It is a feature story: you need to publish a few images for them to make sense. One image could do the trick, but that is not why Marcus worked so hard.
it is in Black and White : although this is changing, magazines hate Black and White.
It is situated in Congo : Where is that ? Africa? again Africa? Pictures of people dying in Africa are becoming as common as close up of flowers. Got anything on Iraq ?
Not a news story. Did CNN talk about this ? no? ok, so why should we talk about it. ( The funny thing about most US news Media is they feed on themselves. In an effort to stay competitive, they would rather do a story that has already been done by a competitor than break a new story )
It is a sad story with no immediate relations to America. That is there is no American dying there or American flags.
Let’s just say I wasn’t successful. Neither was Marcus himself, who saw many photo editors from many magazines who loved the images but never published them.
Even after Marcus won photo of the Year by UNICEF and many other prizes, I couldn’t get anything better than “These are great images”. Now, what you have to know is that Marcus was not looking for money here, he was trying to get the images published so that the world could see what Western companies were doing to Congo’s population. Either way, I don’t think that for free, any major publications would have published it.
Marcus went back to Africa. I saw Marcus again last September, in Perpignan’s Visa Pour L’image. We had kept vaguely in contact in between. He then explained to me something fantastic.
With the help of Human right watch, Marcus has been creating week long exhibits with lectures in the financial centers of the countries involved in financing these mines. For example, he knows that a lot of investment money for the gold mine companies come from Switzerland. By putting his images in the faces of the investors, he was able to make them aware of what their money was doing. A lot of them did not realize what was going on and decided to pull out their investments. Marcus did the same in New York last November and other places. And it is working.
He is not making any money on this and his life is threaten now. You can imagine that the local gold barons are not too happy with him and have hired local thugs to stop him. Regardless, he will not stop.
Marcus is able to change the course of things just with his images, persistence and by bypassing any traditional media. He has gone right to the heart of the problem and already has achieved incredible result. Only armed with his camera and a passion for story telling, he has accomplish what he had decided to do.
Marcus is not rich, not that he doesn’t want to be. He is not as frequently published as other photographers. He doesn’t jump from one news story after the other. Yet his images are changing the world.
Marcus Blesdale Website : www.marcusbleadsale.com