I have just read this fascinating article about the use of Citizen Journalists (CJs - essentially untrained, voluntary contributors) particularly in the field of photography. The piece reports the decision of a regional UK newspaper to reduce its photography staff, while setting up platforms for the public (the CJs in question) to submit photos. The argument cited is that it will encourage “news and pictures they wouldn’t otherwise get.” The comments section below the article is, unsurprisingly, filled with the howlings and gnashing of professionals who are feeling the icy hand of death.
The noble profession of photography has taken a beating in recent years. First it has witnessed the rise of the digital camera (and, latterly, the ‘phone cam), which has opened up the art to the masses. Hand in hand with this has come the ability for anyone with an internet connection and few scruples to steal and re-use photos ad infenitum. There was then the death of Diana which demonised the press photographer. Finally (and this is perhaps local to the UK) the new terror laws have put restrictions on taking photographs in public. All in all, things aren’t looking great for image-makers the world over.
I do agree that copyright infringement is a bad thing, particularly when self-employed small business men and women are the targets. I also think the Stalinist terror laws should be relaxed and happily there seems to be progress on this front. However, I approve of putting the tools of the trade into the hands of the masses and curbing the behaviour of the papparazzi. The first of these is something I believe in passionately. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it might strengthen the profession. Photographers will have to ‘up their game’ in the years to come if they want to make any money. We should ignore the bleatings because a business model no longer functionioning is not a good argument to regress to the old status quo. I think everyone should be able to enjoy photography and, if the amateur takes a great photo then it should only serve to riase the bar for those who want to get paid for it.