Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Photojournalism's Future



From the series Afterlife, 2009 © Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin,
courtesy Goodman Gallery, Cape Town and Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris
 


Photojournalism and documentary photography have had their death proclaimed so often that many are surprised there are still signs of life. Yet if one looks at the array of new work constantly emerging it is obvious that the creative practice in these fields continues to develop despite the odds.

What drives these proclamations of death is a well-founded concern about the economic viability of a creative practice whose fortunes have been hitched to the fate of the established print media. With generally declining circulations and advertising revenue, the latter hastened by the recent economic crisis, newspapers and magazines have supported fewer and fewer photographic projects over the last three decades.


From the series Afterlife, 2009 © Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin,
courtesy Goodman Gallery, Cape Town and Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris

Taking a historical perspective on the print media demonstrates their ills predate the advent of the Internet by many years. Nonetheless, the Internet's disruptive power has resonated throughout established institutions, making it clear that even a reversal of global economic fortunes will not restore a 'golden age' that is long lost.

We are in the midst of a social media revolution in which the link between modes of information and modes of distribution has been broken. Where we once regarded journalism as synonymous with newspapers and photojournalism unthinkable without picture magazines, we now have a new ecosystem in which information can be driven through a range of distribution channels.

This moment, where all media has become social, has been enabled by the way the Internet collapsed the cost of production and distribution, leading to the formation of new distributed networks of information. With the barrier to entry being substantially eliminated, those involved in producing creative content are able to exercise greater control over the way their work engages with the world.


From the series Afterlife, 2009 © Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin,
courtesy Goodman Gallery, Cape Town and Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris


The power of the Internet does not eliminate analogue modes of distribution in favour of the web. While it does increase the demand for multimedia - the combination of still and moving images, sound and text - the web also plays an important role in making photo essays, books, exhibitions and all other forms more easily achievable and more globally available. This opens the way for multi‐dimensional narratives and a more sustained examination of context in the telling of the visual story.

This new ecology of information is subject to a range of challenges. The most pressing is the apparent tension between the circulation of free content and the desire for paid content. This is especially potent because of the self-evident need to raise revenue to enable the creation of critical stories.


From the series Afterlife, 2009 © Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin,
courtesy Goodman Gallery, Cape Town and Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris


Here, though, we need two reality checks. The first comes again from a historical perspective, and recognizes that nobody has ever paid directly for content in the past. Instead, we have always paid for the mode of distribution. For example, a hardback book has the same content as its paperback equivalent, so the reduced price of the latter comes form the form of publication rather than idea the creator's worth is undervalued.

The second is that once information becomes a digital file, its unfettered circulation is inevitable. No strategy of containment will be able to turn back that particular tide. The challenge, then, is to leverage the benefits of digitized distribution to support the creation of creative content. Here we will need to embrace a concept of 'free' that sees it as the means through which to create a community of interest around work so that community becomes the sponsor as well as the consumer.


From the series Afterlife, 2009 © Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin,
courtesy Goodman Gallery, Cape Town and Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris


Looking back at the history of photography confirms that the most challenging work has never been easy to complete. There is no silver bullet solution to the funding question, and there will be no single business model harnessed to a particular mode of distribution. Instead, what we are likely to see are further experiments in indirect forms of support for the vital project of producing new visual accounts of our world.

David Campbell (www.david-campbell.org)

Source: 50pm
The first fine art and documentary photomagazine for iPad

1 comment:

  1. If you want to learn the artistry of photography, this might not be for you. But if you want to make powerful photos, I'd invest in this book. It's a keeper.
    Photojournalism

    ReplyDelete