Photojournalism is Dead? Yeah, yeah.
Business is apparently grim for NB Pictures, the agency that represent Sebastiao Salgado, Simon Norfolk, and 8 other photographers. Owner Neil Burgess, who was previously head of Network Photographers in London and the New York and London offices of Magnum Photos, has jumped onto the "photojournalism is dead" bandwagon in a dispatch to the EPUK blog. "I’m stepping forward and calling it," he wrote. “Photojournalism: time of death 11.12. GMT 1st August 2010. Amen."
The gist of his argument is that (news flash!) print publishers don't support photojournalism anymore. Burgess allows how "there are some things which look very like photojournalism," and then goes on to say, "but scratch the surface and you’ll find they were produced with the aid of a grant, were commissioned by an NGO, or that they were a self-financed project, a book extract, or a preview of an exhibition."
And what, pray tell, is wrong with that? At best, it's an argument for calling photojournalism by a different name (suggestions, anyone?). In the meantime, photojournalists are simply facing reality, and finding new ways to make it work. Witness the efforts of Magnum, VII, Noor, and other NB Pictures competitors, not to mention the explosion of documentary stories all over the web. (See also our story about alternative funding for photo-j in the August issue of PDN.) Burgess is correct that photojournalism is a terrible way by itself to make a living, and we owe it to every aspiring photojournalist to make that clear. But photojournalism isn't static, and until the passion for it dies, it certainly isn't dead. By the looks of things, that passion is as robust as ever.