There is more to the story than just numbers. Much, much more. And the official media ignores it. But what the photo industry is currently experiencing is much, much more than just a few layoff.

What we are seeing is the disappearance of  knowledge. Most of the photo editors being let go from magazines, newspapers, websites are those who have spent many years building the foundations of our industry withtalent. They are the ones who knew a great image from a bad one, who could spot a talented photographer from the masses of mediums ones. They are the ones who created “names” by publishing their work. They are the ones who did look at photo books,  went out to exhibits and photo festivals, no only to see and discover new talents but to personally connect with those they already knew.

Those “numbers” that  appear almost daily on the sheets of bored journalist where passionate about their jobs and about photography. They still are, they just can’t find jobs anymore. And the more the talented, the more experience, the more chances they have to be fired. Why ? Because they cost the most. When companies look to cut cost, they always go for the highest salary, which usually means for those who have the most experience. And when companies hire, they look for the cheapest, even if they have no or little knowledge.

The positions of the talented photo editors are now being handle by  Art Directors, who perceive photography as a “block” that needs to fit in a layout, or to young, inexperience professionals that are given the task of finding the cheapest art, regardless of quality.

In the case of art directors, they probably always felt that the position of photo editor should have never existed and rather be a subset of their duties. Because their title contains the word “art”, they just feel it demeaning to have to talk money with suppliers.

Other replacement of the experience photo editors are the young, entry level professionals. Raised on Flickr, microstock and Google Image, they are immediately given the task to find the cheapest photography as possible. They hardly know anyone, or anything, about photogrpahy, nor do they care. They probably spend more time on Facebook and Twitter than any photography website and feel that they could, should be doing something more important in their lives.They are being paid low salaries as to reinforce the idea that finding and picking images for a website, or a magazine is as degrading as service hamburgers at the local McDonald’s.

No wonder then that prices are dropping like dead flies.  The current and new crop of image buyers see absolutely no value in photography besides being a huge boring time waster. It is incredibly difficult to explain  photography to someone who doesn’t care. Especially when they see it as a job (in the worst way) rather than a passion.

There is not much the photo industry can do to revert this trend. We cannot convince publishers to spend more money and hire experience photo editors . They do not see the value. They do not beleive that great photography will bring more readership, thus more advertising. They are in survival mode right now, just trying to weather the storm. We cannot explain photogrpahy to young bored professionals because their passion is elsewhere and they couldn’t care less.

All that remains to do is quietly put our heads in our hands and cry.

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2 Thoughts on “Smoke gets in your eyes

  1. You’re spot on about many of the art directors who have assumed picture editing responsibilities. And if they consider dealing with photographers to be beneath them just imagine the disdain they reserve for those of us calling from picture libraries.

    On a slightly brighter note, there are still some picture editors (in the UK at least) not only hanging on to their jobs but also prepared to fight for quality photography.

    By rights we shouldn’t still be selling images to several national newspapers and major publishing groups because we charge more than they tell us they’re prepared to pay. Why do our pictures still get used? Because the picture editors recognise their quality and are prepared to fight for their inclusion.

    So far we’re winning more battles than we’re losing. Do I think we’ll win the war? Ask me in another 12 months…

  2. jdubbyah on November 26, 2009 at 1:25 am said:

    With respect, crying into your hands is one reaction – though others of us intent on learning from and being proactive with the Google generation, see this moment as having the potential to empower the photographer as never before.

    I’m sorry that you feel so bad, but I don’t share much, if any of your negativity. And more importantly neither do the generation of image makers coming through now.

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