Guest Post: 2013: The year professional photography died

New Chicago-Sun Times Building

New Chicago-Sun Times Building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shared by my friend Rob Tannenbaum

So, you just purchased that awesome camera with all the bells and whistles? Congratulations and good luck pursuing that career in photography you’ve always dreamed about! But wait a second, did you NOT pay attention to all the signs in 2013 that pointed to the death of professional photography?

– In May of 2013, incoming Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said “There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with so many people taking photographs] there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.” (Pssst, Marissa, who created those snazzy portraits of you, upside-down on a backyard lounge chair, that we saw in Vogue in August 2013?)

– Also in May, 2013 the Chicago Sun-Times laid-off its ENTIRE photography staff. Instead, reporters who had never taken pictures before were asked to be photographers and videographers in addition to writing. (Pssst, Sun-Times, who took those “striking, one-of-a-kind photos” in your paper’s archives that you are just now beginning to sell to the public?)

On November 11, 2013 Larry Kramer, President and Publisher, USA TODAY said, “While I used to carry four expensive Nikon cameras with interchangeable lenses when I was a news and sports photographer a long time ago, the world has changed dramatically. Much of what I could accomplish then can now be done with my iPhone.“ (Pssst, Larry, do you think legendary war photographer James Nachtway would rather enter a war zone with an iPhone or a Canon? Or famed sports photographer Walter Ioss rely on a smartphone to capture the peak of action in a baseball game?)

Sadly, there is a growing school of thought that just because nearly all of us carry cameras around (via smartphones) then we are all capable of being professional photographers. The bean counters of the slowly-dying traditional news media are betting that people will climb over each other to give away iphone photos for little-to-no money. Their idea is that the masses will now be the witnesses and documentarians of history. To me it’s nothing more than the Infinite Monkey Theorem: place an infinite number of monkeys in a room with an infinite number of typewriters and in time they will almost surely type the complete texts of Shakespeare.
Monkeys, obviously, don’t take photos and neither do cameras. People decide what moments are worthy of capture. While iphone users tend to capture moments that are important to just them, a professional studies, slaves and sometime puts him or herself in harm’s way to capture “decisive moments” that matter to everyone.

The professional will always be necessary to be our eyes when we cannot bare witness ourself. Unlike the monkey, we must evolve.

Featured ExpatBased in Argentina, Jerry writes about social justice issues throughout the world and his work has been picked up by major media outlets globally.

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Jerry Nelson is an American freelance photojournalist.  When not traveling, he can be found on the streets of Buenos Aires as Lead Photographer for BuenosTours, the largest private tour company in South America.  Connect with Jerry on MosaicHub, Facebook or LinkedIn today.  Have a story that needs to reach national media?  Email him today.

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