The National Press Photographers Association Region 2 held an event called “Navigating the Downturn, Maintaining Clients in Tough Times” at Syracuse University Wednesday, October 7, 2009 from 7-9:30pm. Among the speakers are Nancy Ford, Utica-based freelance photographer, Seth Gitner, a Syracuse assistant professor formerly of The Roanoke Times and Todd Maisel. Seth Gitner’s work on a special report on aging earned him a Pictures of the Year International first place award for documentary photography.
The topics of conversation between the professionals, students, and educators ranged from finding work in a struggling economy, and adjusting to the new technologies of the Internet and Multimedia reporting.
A hypothesis that was posed dealt with the issue of how audiences were reacting to multimedia storytelling as apposed to traditional story-form print photojournalism. One guess was that the audience has not necessarily changed, just because the economy has changed. Thusly, once the public becomes acclimated enough to the product to develop a taste or a preference, it can begin to make value judgements concerning which photography they like. Good photographers, in this situation will rise to the occaision.
One problem observed by Nancy Ford was that many newspapers are losing their sense of the organization and layout seen in print photojournalism. A complete lack of processing, or image selection means that viewers get to see images almost instantaneously, but in a forum that does not always conduce good “reading” of photographs.
Non-profits were discussed as a growing market for photojournalism work, as they were beginning to recognize the value of quality photographic work. An example that was given was a charity that paid their photographer $150,000 for a international photo shoot, and was able to raise $7 million with those pictures. Emphasis was placed on making sure that employers understand how important your skill and product is, so they will pay a just amount.
“If you show them what quality is, they will pay for it,” said Ford. Doing free work judiciously and strategically is both rewarding and potentially beneficial for the photographer.