I was watching an episode of DigitalRev when I heard photographer Dan Chung claim that photojournalism is a dying profession. I thought that this was a strange thing for a photojournalist to say about his job.
After I got my camera, I started to understand the opinion better. The more I thought about it, the more I asked the question, “is photography dying?”
There are two themes that make me feel this way: the rise of video and the death of print.
Here Come the GIFs
The increasing popularity of videos doesn’t challenge photography on face level, but if you look closer into modern tools and publishing platforms, you’ll see that the two are necessarily intertwined. Shooting photos had seen a boom thanks to awesome cellphone cameras that could easily take great pictures. But these cellphones now take equally good video, with current generation cameras shooting 4K video as standard. This means that the next time someone takes out a camera with the idea of taking a photo of a baby or pet, they may think, “Why don’t I shoot a video instead?”
And where do you upload the media you’ve taken? Facebook is pushing video. GIFs are simpler to make. Broadband and data plans can increasingly accommodate larger file sizes. Sites like Vine and YouTube make more and more people famous on a daily basis, and there’s less competition for views than the mass of photos online. It’s inevitable that the amateur medium shifts towards video production.
Death of a Medium
Still, there are plenty of platforms for pros to take pictures and publish, and we can aspire to that. But for how long will this be true? The death of print has shifted major publications online. And online, ads tend to be popups and videos. Also with high quality photos coming from citizen journalists, there’s less and less reason to pay a photographer to shoot on location. Former Magnum photography associate Neil Burgess was quite clear when he said, “I believe we owe it to our children to tell them that the profession of ‘photojournalist’ no longer exists. ”
Even fashion photographers or product photographers are not impervious, as digital screens get cheaper and cheaper to make, pushing the industries to embrace video.
So Should I Quit?
For now, the art is still alive. People buy photo-books. People will pay large sums for artsy paintings, and museums still have photo exhibits.
Photojournalism may end for publications, but blogs and local papers are still around. The methods of distribution have changed, but you can make money by catering to hobbyists and spanning multiple platforms.
But the truth is that the answer to the question, “is photography dying,” is yes. I see a future of short video ads, lots of social media GIFs, and news events covered by video-drones. I see art moving into virtual and sensory worlds, leaving behind simple two dimensional frames – except to mock our simple ancestors.
There is something about this that makes me want to preserve what is left. A photograph captures moments of interest from a unique perspective that can achieve a universal understanding. And while these frames are not exclusive to the realm of photos, the simpler the method used to capture an emotion, the more universal it can be.