From Full-Time to Freelance: Saying Goodbye to the American Photojournalist

It’s somewhat ironic that as cameras become more ubiquitous within our society, the role of the photojournalist is becoming more rare throughout newsrooms every year.

On May 30th the Chicago Sun-Times laid off their entire photography staff, including distinguished photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner, John H. White. Yes, a Pulitzer Prize winner laid off. That’s like you being recognized nationally within your industry as ‘Employee of the Year,’ and being let go the following year. Chances are you’d be stunned. So too were the photography staff at the Sun-Times when they were given their pink-slips less then three weeks ago.

John H. White had been with the Sun-Times for more then 40 years before he was relieved of his duty last month. Neither his tenure nor his work was enough to save his job, and his firing — along with that of the entire photo department — is an ominous sign for photojournalists across America.

The rise of iPhones and DSLR cameras have given way to the perception that photojournalists aren’t all that important and that anyone can do it. Add in all the tools you can use in any standard Photoshop Suite and all the sudden you have a belief that photography is rather simple. This belief has sadly and seemingly seeped into the newsroom culture where more and more photojournalists are having to resort to freelance type work.

I think of photography much in the same way I do poetry. Both are easy to dabble in, but hard to truly master. There’s a certain nuance that a photojournalist possess about their craft that can really only be developed through time, skill and the capturing of countless photos. Let us hope that newsrooms across this country come to their senses and once again see the importance of photography as the lens through which we see the world. For the actual article and a collage of John H. White’s photography of 1970s Chicago, click here.

  

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