The Best Photographer Is The One You Have With You


The newspaper photographer is dead! Long live the newspaper photographer!

A book cover extolling the virtues of using a camera

I remember - many years ago while I was still at school - being interviewed by BBC Radio. A nice man came in, set up a feindishly complicated tape recorder, positioned microphones, checked the tape, and - on his nod - gave the signal to the interviewer to begin her questions.

Nowadays an interviewer is likely to shove an iPhone in your face when talking to you. If they're very highly trained, they'll fit a spoffle first.

The newspaper's sub-editor has had half her job replaced by Microsoft Word's wriggly red and green lines, hours of airbrushing can be accomplished with a few minutes of clicking in Photoshop, video and audio can be edited on a tablet, and reports no longer need to be couriered back to a printing press.

Technology kills jobs. It always has done. There is a market for highly trained photographers - just as there is for artisinal bakers, coopers, and estate agents - but better technology means that baseline competence can be achieved by just about anyone.

Some people truly believe that vinyl records sound better than CDs. In truth, a high end, properly calibrated record player probably does sound better than a cheap CD HiFi. But most people don't have the time, energy, or money for a state of the art system. A cheap CD player sounds a million times better than a cheap record player. And so vinyl is reduced to an aesthetic curiosity.

The same is happening to photographers.

The best photographs of 2012 mostly look like they were all taken by professionals using high-end gear.

Now flick open a newspaper. How many stories are illustrated with covert snaps from people's cameraphones? How many stories really needed a separate photographer to accompany the journalist?

Journalists already carry a phone. They can write and file stories on it - why wouldn't they use it to gather other media?

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