This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Reuters pictures service and our recent widely published packages of the most iconic pictures from the past three decades can be viewed here part one, part two and part three. But as important as it is to look back proudly at our work, it’s more important to look forward.
“Photography is dead,” a professor once told a photography class I attended decades ago. He was an artist by background and he truly believed that everything that could be photographed had been already. His words sparked a debate at the time but, thankfully, did not prove prophetic.
What he failed to see was that computers and digital photography, which then existed only on a small scale, would radically change our industry. Children can now take photographs before they can read or write. Technology has made photography accessible to all, not just skilled professionals with expensive equipment. Images have become the only real international language.
Now a new phrase has emerged – “journalism is dying.” However, as with my professor, these doomsayers too are wrong: the decline of paper-and-ink media does not mean the death of journalism. If anything, the demand for information has risen.
While the Internet has grown crowded with bloggers and citizen reporters, the ability to spew sentences does not make someone a journalist any more than a mobile phone with a Leica lens and Instagram filters makes them a photojournalist. There will always be a role for quality journalists and picture providers trained in the art of balanced and accurate storytelling.
For this reason, I contend that journalism – including photojournalism – is alive and well and more widespread than ever. If anything, the crisper and more sophisticated displays on smartphones, tablets and computers have increased the clamour for quality images.
At Reuters Pictures, we are dedicated to covering global breaking news, quickly, accurately and to the highest possible standard. It is what we have always done, and what we continue to do. But the industry is indeed changing rapidly, which means we need to go further. When news breaks, our photographers not only compete with other news outlets, but also with images on social media. These may not be as sharp or as reliable, but they can certainly be as fast.
Meanwhile, news organisations, which make up the bulk of our clientele, are facing their own problems. Sharp declines in advertising and subscription revenue have forced cost cuts, and yet they still face pressure to provide ever-more content for a hungry online audience.
With less money, fewer journalists and more rivals, our clients are searching for images that make them stand out – which is where we come in. So what, in an era awash with selfies and seascapes, makes a truly great image? (more…)