Photographers are finding it harder and harder to make a living while print journalism is being pulled deeper and deeper into the undertow of history, but photography is experiencing a renaissance.
I don’t have the time today to say much at all, but consider two related examples of how photography is thriving as a public art: the rise in highly accessible distribution and in high quality curatorial work, all of which is coming to be taken for granted.
The distribution is amazing. Life and Look are long gone, but the slide shows at In Focus, The Big Picture, and many other online newspapers and magazines are becoming increasingly prominent and sophisticated, and the images are relayed and given added value through the commentary and discussion at any number of photography blogs, all of which of course then flows through social media as well, which also is circulating billions of vernacular images while sending some of them up the media chain, and so it goes on day after day.
This media swirl could be a maelstrom, but in the midst of it all major media are investing in photo editors who are doing amazing work. Sure, cliches still abound, as we are talking about mainstream media in mass societies, thank you very much. People want some of that, and the press has to make a living, and frankly every day isn’t so unique as the Hallmark card might want you to believe. (Speaking of cliches. . . . ) Even so there is plenty of curatorial work, not least by Alan Taylor at In Focus as well as other sources alluded to above, that is remarkably good.
And there is one source that may be an index of the changes that have occurred. Time was never the gold standard in photojournalism (the division of labor with Life probably accounted for a lot of that). But Time’s online LightBox just keeps getting better and better. I used to go to Time for examples of what not to do, and now I kick myself for what I’ve been missing.
The addition of Mikko Takkunen is the most recent example of how Time is making a strong investment in photojournalism. But there is much more going on as well. Just today, I noticed their 365: The Year in Photographs, which I hadn’t seen yet for 2012. The concept is as cliched as it gets, and yet the selection is outstanding: one that reflects a rich aesthetic sensibility that still serves reporting and reflecting on the news.
They aren’t perfect, of course, but the trend is definitely in the right direction. And you can’t say that about a lot of the news business these days. Let’s hope that investing in quality can become part of the business model again, and not just for photography.
Photograph by Narciso Contreras/Associated Press. Dec. 1, 2012. Smoke rises from buildings due to heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria.