Common Cents logo

Follow Mark on Twitter

"For God's Sake, Somebody Call it!

Is AFP Stealing Pictures Again?

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Business Manual

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Small Business Administration

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

Portions of this column were originally written for the September 2010 edition of News Photographer Magazine.

Mark Loundy is a media producer and consultant based in San Jose, California. Full bio.

The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Press Photographers Association.

September 2010, Volume 95
By Mark Loundy

"He's dead Jim."

— Leonard "Bones" McCoy

Neil Burgess should know. He's been around for more than a couple of decades and he's headed both Magnum and World Press Photo. But he's wrong. Declaring the death of photojournalism has nearly become a cottage industry for the past couple of decades. Even evoking the spirit of untold medical TV shows in his article for Editorial Photographers, UK, "For God's Sake, Somebody Call it!" doesn't make it true. The veteran photographer decided to "call" photojournalism's time of death on August 1st.

Journalism's not dead, Jim.He is right that the big budgets that used to send photographers around the world on long-term assignments have gone. He's also right that major magazines no longer employ photographers.

What Burgess has mistaken for an industry flat line is actually a fundamental change in the way visual journalism is done — and by whom.

Publications no longer need to send a New York-based photographer to cover a story in Prague. There are plenty of photographers already in-country who can shoot and transmit images before "Mr. 1960 New York" could even get on a plane. Old-style massive budgets have been obsolesced by improvements in communication and digital technology.

Long-form stories are now a constant stream of information from all over the world. Aggregation and curation are replacing the stand-alone analytical masterwork.

What's fading away is the well-paid, glamorous, expense account-toting photojournalist. The journalism is still there, but it's being done by more people for lower (or no) fees. Their work is pouring into an amazingly complex and capable network that will eventually link every person on Earth.

Today's journalists are still needed to make sense of that flow. We used to call it editing, but the skill set has grown beyond the green-eyeshades to encompass broadcast production, info curation and upstream social engagement.

Photojournalism isn't dead; it's just gone to a better place.

The Good
Bullet Thumbs-up for National Geographic Traveler. In the July Common Cents, I reported that they were initially offering $0 for images. Senior Photo Editor Dan Westergren says that the editor who made that offer was not following policy. They are still demanding what amounts to all rights, though.

The Bad
Bullet Sandy City, Utah for its admitted program to gather a library of promotional images by holding an all-rights photo contest.

The Ugly
Bullet New York City-based Ultimate Athlete magazine, for offering $50 per story or photo shoot.

Please let me know of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.

  • Photo District News says that AFP may be misappropriating images again. In the June Common Cents I mentioned that AFP was suing photographer Daniel Morel for "Antagonistic assertion of rights" (basically, they're upset that he sued them for copyright infringement.) Now the agency is being accused of stripping the copyright information from Chicago photographer Wayne Cable's photo of President Barack Obama's Chicago home. Curiously, AFP doesn't deny doing it and have attempted to mount a defense based upon a legal technicality. So far, the judge has not been buying it.
  • Back in the day, a group of San Francisco photographers got together and formed the trade group Editorial Photographers. Their largest victory was an agreement with Business Week to improve its standard contract. Fast forward to now. Bloomberg has acquired BW and apparently it may be no more Mr. Nice Guy. The first indication is that the mag now has an official policy against paying research fees.