The Future of Photojournalism (Part 2)

It mainly began with the birth of the ‘Indymedia’ movement in 1999; activists at the WTO meeting in Seattle were caught blocking the roads as they realized this was the only way to get their views across in the mainstream media. The 60 seconds of footage that was broadcast only showed the group being escorted off by the police, and didn’t cover their motives or purpose. This style of coverage gave birth to a new media model by which news was gathered and broadcast – giving the public a chance to contribute. The photograph shown above is an example of citizen journalism today, the billboard created by CNN to gather news material from the general public. This is because they realize the power that is carried with such a notion, no editing, and no training down to earth news seems quite appealing these days. So why has it happened, and what does it mean for our future as photojournalists?

There is a positive side to its birth, everyone remembers the world trade towers destruction on 9/11 and it’s an important fact that nearly all of the early footage was sent it and broadcast from citizen journalists. Shocking images and video were sent into Sky News, CNN and many more showing the towers on fire – and without this live coverage would have been delayed by some time. So with this as an example, citizen journalism is a positive thing as it allows breaking news to be delivered and broadcast direct from the incident. Historical events like this show how the public respond to such incidents in an almost journalistic manner, thinking fast and quickly capturing what is occurring around them.

The idea is certainly a good one; the above factors discussed make it so. But does it have the same effects on us as professional photojournalists, or have a knock on effect that damages us? Well it could very well be a mixture of both, the image on the right carries with it a thousand emotions, expressions and questions as to why this event happened (similar to the images focused on earlier from the war). Conveying such feelings within a photograph is very much the heart of our job, so with more and more members of the public getting interested and doing the same this can only boost our influence. The competition between TV news and photography was something that we lost in some ways; however our profession is still going strong – even if it’s not in the mainstream. This brings in the biggest factor surrounding citizen journalism, the internet. Since it became a part of everyday life in the mid 1990’s, blogs and other such tools for expressing yourself and indeed your own work have boomed, making it very easy to keep our profession alive. ‘Flickr’ is just one of these sites – enabling us to share and promote our own photography, not to mention peoples individual websites that can be purchased from as little as £5 a year.

So with technology growing and more and more people becoming adapt with its usage, why isn’t their more interest in hard-hitting and truthful photography? This is where your own opinion comes into play; personally I think it’s down to our society and what is delivered to us by the mainstream media. Over the years we have become obsessed with celebrity and become more desensitised to real issues such as famine, war and poverty and this could be due to the way our profession has changed. Many implications such as the birth of TV news impacted the effect photography had on the world, but with independent sites being set up around the world, nothing is really hidden from the public. The fascination with the upper class way of life, entertainment and gossip means that photographers need to be more outgoing and extreme with their work, take this image as an example –

This is a photo by controversial photographer Toscani, and features an emotional scene of a man dying from aids. The bottom right houses the controversy, a fashion brand logo ‘United Colours of Benetton’ – used in this context it goes against every moral out there, but it does spread awareness of such a condition, one that is often overlooked by the mainstream media. So maybe this is the type of techniques we will need to employ to convey such heartfelt topics of suffering, within a modern popular context.

So to the future of photojournalism, where are we heading and how will our careers shape out? It’s certainly incredibly tough to call as hindsight is a useful tool; but I do see bright prospects at the end of the tunnel. Whether Citizen Journalism will boom further and become the only way for us to view news-related and topical photography remains to be seen, but this may not be a bad thing. At the end of the day, having the public supplying photograph’s for headline stories enhances the coverage we are given. In my opinion, the original trait laid out by Magnum, the decisive moment will eventually circle back around – and with more and more people becoming technically adept at using cameras photography will still have a life. Whether this will be a life censored by the media or not, either way photography is still the most powerful way to capture life’s moments, so if Citizen Journalist’s are keeping it alive, then it’s surely worth it.


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