Monday, August 17, 2009

'After Staff': Life After Photojournalism

Miki Johnson's Resolve blog is designed to be an "international online community of photojournalists, documentary photographers, and photo industry professionals working to keep visual storytelling economically feasible and socially relevant."

I’m sure we don’t have to tell anyone that there are fewer staff jobs — at newspapers, magazines, and wire services — than there used to be. And in the face of even more cuts, we’ve been impressed to see former staffers adroitly shift gears to freelance editorial, commercial work, collaboration with NGOs, and the fine-art and wedding markets. We decided to do our part too, by developing this online home for resources, stories, and discussion about this sea change for photojournalism and photography in general. Although no one has all the answers, together we can find them...
All last week, Resolve featured the theme "After Staff" -- interviews and advice from photographers who’ve left, or been laid off from, a staff job.

We met newspaper photojournalists who, mostly through necessity, morphed into wedding photographers or even art photographers -- even a respected art photographer who, to support his family, became a distiller.

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist David Leeson, who last year left the Dallas Morning News after 30 years of shooting for newspapers, was among those featured.

[T]he further I get from my life in newspapers, the more I realize that the best I can be is to be who I have always been, a small voice hopefully providing something of value to my world. In many ways, little has changed in my life. The day I knew that my career as a newspaper photojournalist had reached the end, I told my boss (and friend), the director of photography at The Dallas Morning News, that I had never been dedicated to a newspaper. Rather, I had always been dedicated to the ideals of photojournalism: through credible and ethical image making, we can bring needed change to the world.

I did believe I would likely retire as a newspaper photojournalist at The Dallas Morning News. But understanding that I am still in active service to my profession, even though I am no longer on the DMN staff, has softened the blow. The loss of a title did not change who I am.
Bill Owens is known for his seminal photography book, Suburbia, which stemmed from his work as a staff photographer at the Livermore Independent starting in 1968. But he gave up photography decades ago for a career as a distiller. Now he says he shoots mostly for fun, and has turned his attention to shooting video.

On cameras:

People always ask, “What kind of camera?” I say, “Whatever camera fits in your hand.” It’s not about the camera, it’s about having an idea in your head and an eye. If you don’t have an eye, go have lunch.
On video:

You’ve got to be making film. It’s film that sells. People can’t take their eyes off of videos. I can put up any kind of film and they’ll stand there and watch it all the way to the end. But if it’s a still photograph they’ll glance at it and walk away. I’m going to take some of my digital films that are up on my website — and thank god I never posted them on YouTube — and I’m going to turn them into DVDs and try to sell them at MoMA and art museums as a DVD collection.
Read more from "After Staff" here; Resolve Blog here.

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