Recently I had an exchange with Magnum legend, David Alan Harvey on his blog, Road Trip. I had asked David to help me with an edit on a story I have been working on that was up for projection at a major magazine. He provided a healthy dose of honest feedback, but more importantly he touched upon an interesting and related topic.
Here's what he said:
"i worry about photographers that are trying the rather "tried and true" classic picture story at a time when i think these kinds of stories are barely marketable even to the the magazine editors. times have changed...tastes have changed...to survive now i think young emerging photographers need to think either very conceptually, or if "straight photojournalism" is your goal, then go with an audio/video combo as does MediaStorm or VII slide shows or Magnum in Motion...i hate to be the "spoiler" on this forum...not a fun job...i just have to tell you the way it is based so much work i see coming in from everywhere..."
So is what Harvey is getting at true? Is it the end of the 'tried and true" photo reportage? Is conceptual photography the new paradigm? Or is it simply a change of fashion that will come and go?
Martin Parr, also of Magnum fame, seems to be in agreement with Harvey. In an article published in PDN online, he states:
"A lot of times photographers don't have enough imagination in terms of what subject matter is going to appeal to editors. A good idea and good story, well executed, is going to have a much better chance than a tired old story. Most photographers don't really think about what they're shooting. There are certain expectations about what photographers should shoot, and they stick to that.
You have to be more ingenious, you have to think carefully about the appeal that your subject will have and how it will fit into a modern magazine that's going to shy away from a more traditional humanistic approach. How to make it look interesting, and entertaining, and at the same time have a level of poignancy and zeitgeist: I can't tell people how to do it, can I? In the end, it comes down to the personality and individuality of the photographer to express that."
The other alternative, according to Harvey, is the multimedia route, but I still have my reservations, especially as it relates to fees. I've spoken with representatives of my agency, WpN, and they say that fees are not proving to be worthwhile on multimedia, for now.
In an email exchange with Brian Storm of MediaStorm, Storm said that "the fees are all over the board. You don't create multimedia for the money, you make your money on print, syndication, a little on multimedia, but it all fits together." Doesn't sound convincing to me, but then again, we are in the very first stages of a paradigm shift and pricing may go up.
Time will tell. In the meantime this topic is to be continued...