"Visual Journalism" in the Instagram Era

An interview with “Photography Theorist” Fred Ritchin in Mother Jones get details about his new book, “Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen,” and his views on the state of photojournalism:

“There is enormous need for professionals who know how to tell stories with narrative punch and nuance, who can work proactively and not just reactively, and whose approach is multi-faceted. We need more ‘useful photographers.’ Given today’s budgets for journalism, my guess is that quite a few photographers will be fired in the near future. But I certainly hope that many visual journalists will be hired or funded along the way as well—we urgently need their perspectives.”

He’s right. I think visual journalism is of great value, but the packaging will have to be something new to make it a career.

“What is underrepresented are those 'metaphotographers’ who can make sense of the billions of images being made and can provide context and authenticate them. We need curators to filter this overabundance more than we need new legions of photographers.”

This may be true, but I caution you to not hand such control over your images to a “curator.” They have far more power to craft your message than you do. Maybe the lesson here is the same old lesson:

  • Be a good storyteller.
  • Do it with words and images.
  • Edit savagely.
  • Own the story.
  • Try to find a job title like “Photography Theorist,” because, seriously, that’s pretty cool.