The rise of photo-sharing sites like Flickr has been great for amateur photographers, bloggers, visual learners, and procrastinators—but at what cost to professional photojournalism, an expensive-by-comparison service that many editors can’t or won’t justify paying for?
In the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review (article not available online), Alissa Quart presents a nuanced, clear-headed view of how photojournalism is changing, outlining the risks (and benefits) of the rise of the amateur. “If they are taking snapshots,” Quart writes, “amateur photographers are likely not developing a story, or developing the kind of intimacy with their subjects that brings revelation.”
There’s still a special recipe to be a “real” photojournalist, and it’s not just the “trained” or “expert” eye but rather the sheer hours put into each assignment and the ability to sustain a thought, image, or impulse through a number of images, not just a single snapshot.
To present an image that tells the story, the photographer needs to know what that story is. (Of course, so do the writers and editors involved.) As with other content that’s increasingly hustled into column space in print and online, if photographs (and photographers) aren’t vetted, readers are more likely to be misled.
“I am optimistic about the future of photojournalism,” Quart writes, “but not of the photojournalism I most admire.”