The Future of Photo Journalism

Kevin Carter in Black on Black violence in the Townships by Guy Adams (Neal, 2014)

The link between the Journalist and Documentary photographer is close. Especially the Socio-Political Documentary photographer. It is therefore essential to me to reflect on this article as it impacts on my practice.

New technologies, new platforms and new methods of visual storytelling are exerting a range of pressures and influences that require photojournalists to adapt and respond in different ways. (Hadland, Lambert & Campbell, 2016) The essay refers to a first international study done on the subject.

The article starts with a negative statement. It makes the statement that the place of the professional photographer has never been as potentially under threat as it is in the digital era. This is possibly the same remarks made by the scribes with the invention of the printing press. And painters after the discovery of photography. Both significant changes brought about a new ability for society in general to grow, were followed with:

  • Severe resistance by practitioners of the previous form,
  • Growth in eclectic work in the older practices
  • Moving their practice to the limits that the new practices could not achieve
  • Further technology improvements in their own traditions from either hybrid versions or tools.
  • The Printing press spread up the writing process and assisted democratisation of reading and writing; Photography resulted in a new understanding of how we see the world that found its way back and a greater appreciation for the practice of painting as well as sculpting. And both arguably brought about the enlightenment and significant parts of modernity itself.
  • Both led to the transformation and commercial growth of the newspaper and journalism as we know it today.

Boston Consulting predicted two years ago that by 2025 as much as a quarter of jobs currently available will be replaced by either smart software or robots. A study out of Oxford University also suggested that as much as 35 per cent of existing jobs in the U.K. could be at risk of automation inside the next 20 years. (Marr, 2019) This article highlighted ten professional careers that will be challenged. These jobs include some of the work Doctors and Surgeons do in Health care, Insurance Brokers, Architects, Financial analysts, teachers, Human Resources managers, Marketing and Advertising, Lawyers and Paralegals, Law enforcement and finally Journalists. Not only Photojournalist. According to F-stoppers, even Disney (Mason, 2019) and wedding photographers are being replaced with robots (Alexander, 2019).

There are already ethical discussions which include Bill Gates proposing a Technology or “robot tax to replace the Tax revenue that these solutions remove by replacing humans. He argued that it may be time to deliberately slow the advance of the next job-killing technologies (Waters, 2019)“.

Benoît Hamon, France’s Socialist candidate in his presidential elections, has called for a tax on robots to fund a minimum income for all (Waters, 2019)

This does not even consider the lost purchasing power of those that have been replaced. But this is another story. The article is focused on how Photojournalism is impacted by the new media.

Bottom line most jobs are under threat by technology. But also the low cost and automation now available to the audience. We have cell phones that make it easy to take, process and disseminate photos. We also have drones that can follow and record videos of them on behalf of the sportsperson or landscape which can be printed in high quality. Even Master Wedding photographer Yervant stated that video and photography are merging and advise wedding photographers to adopt the technology. Albums can be made from extracting it from continuous video graphed events. Taken at 25 to 50 frames per second. The decisive moments may be captured without effort. This could apply to any documentary work. The ordinary citizen progressively is getting the video capabilities introduced in their Smartphones

However, the point the article makes is that “The challenge to professional news photography goes far beyond job security, and is both multi-faceted and complex. The digital revolution has witnessed the transformation of the audience into producers, and with technology growing in power and shrinking in cost, a new generation of amateur and citizen image-makers has emerged.” And it is not only the emergence of visual media as a mass phenomenon that impacts on the future of the professional news photographer, nor is it changing work patterns or even ethical challenges. Professional photography, as this article confirms, is also an extremely risky occupation and is getting riskier (Hadland, Lambert & Campbell, 2016).

It was Stephen Covey that taught me that every contract needs to have a win-win situation. The product or service needs to provide sufficient value to the customer, and you need adequate income to cover your costs and make a fair profit to sustain a living wage. Or else walk away, which would also be considered a win-win. Due to electronic media and the internet, the value of the newspaper has declined to a level that it is no longer sustainable. To continue, if they can, they need to reduce their overhead which means cutting labour costs. But there is a limit to where this cutoff point is. The point at which is determined on what a journalist or photojournalist is willing to work for. To be a full-time professional Photojournalist their need to be a need address. They, therefore, consider outsourcing this to freelancers either directly associated with them or to the global or national media fraternity. Buying a photograph from an agency such as Magnum and others. Even news articles are made available to them via freelancing channels. They merely require a minimal team on a fix-term basis. The alternative is to move online either in a hybrid or total fashion. Here enter the citizen journalist and amateur photographer. The internet provides the news teams to locate cheap, unique and some time excellent photographs at a low cost at a sufficient quality that cover their need.

The citizen photographer, if shrewd enough, can make money from their moment of glory, making them part-time or momentary professional photojournalists. In my discussion in the previous semester around ………. I discussed the higher value brought about all types photographers that had a camera in New York being able to share their perspectives in the events in and around New York during the 911 attack on the trade centre. This was before the introduction of the cellphone camera. These photographers were within those environments. They were on-site and are experiencing the threat or risk to their lives already. There is no financial need for them to deliberately enter the danger zone but journal the event while exiting meeting the professionals going the opposite direction.

The study indicates in detail that this Physical risk experienced by 92% of the Photojournalists surveyed, which vary from country to country and where these journalists operate. Add to this the low-risk return ratio makes it less worthwhile to photojournalists to operate. The essay list this as one “of the digital era’s more alarming trends, with important implications for the sustainability of photojournalism.


Kevin Carter In action during the Township Violence in South Africa (1994) Ken Oosterbroek)(Neal, 2014)

The motivation for some South African photographers was the value they felt they were bringing to the world, to challenge the social injustice of apartheid, and due to international attention, it came with a reasonable return. This is, of course, a generalisation as the impact of his work and the low return led to the financial ruin of Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer prize winner who stated in his letter when he took his own life. He wrote, he was “depressed . . . Without a phone . . . Money for rent . . . Money for child support . . . Money for debts . . . money!!! . . . I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain . . . of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners . . . (Mcloud, 2019)”  So even eclectic work won’t do it. His professional life and ruin are reflected in the research graph below.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is rjop_a_1163236_f0001_c.jpg

Graph indicating the results of the survey (Hadland, Lambert & Campbell, 2016).

I have been recently offered R160-00 (less than $10) an hour for part-time work at a major newspaper in a job where I may have to put myself in harm’s way to get the story. And I have to cede the copyright, ownership and distribution rights to my photographs to the newspapers. I have seen a world-famous South African professional Fashion Photographer, that don’t even know how to set up her camera ( she bragged about it at a photo expo) that earned $1000 ‘s of dollars an hour at Vogue and other fashion magazines. Just see where our values lie in the world.


Self Portrait of Ken Oosterbroek: Who lost his life in Tokoza during Black on Black Township clashes in the pre-election violence in 1994 (Ken Oosterbroek, 1994).


I dedicate this video to him and all those that have fallen to bring us the news. Ken Oosterbroek. (2019). Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. ]

Without intent to disrespect those that do this work, I think this article gives a lot of food for thought for a photographer in any practice. As a documentary photographer, I need to make sure that my practice is a win for me and my customer. That means:

  • I need to give priority to assignments that ensure that I continue to grow and develop through allowing me to influence the creative outcome.
  • I need to work on creating a sustainable income by aligning myself to assignments that will result in repeat business and long term relationships.
  • Take on assignments that allow managing my risk of injury or death or after ensuring that I have done what I can assure that I am well compensated for taking that risk if I agree to accept the assignment.
  • Manage to ensure that I rediscover myself in a way that the demand for my work increase rather than decrease.
  • Learn to and run my practice as a business practice.
  • Ensure that I have a sustainable living wage to take care of the things and people that is important to me, such as my family and my community.
  • Ensure that I have sufficient income to update my equipment to stay ahead of the game.
  • Take on assignments that will not damage my brand and reputation. Do ethical work.
  • Make sufficient provision for retirement (too late for that for me), frailty care and ill health and benefits such as Hospitalisation and Medical aid. And provide for taking breaks.

I believe if I take all of the above principles into consideration, I will find the correct partners to work for and be able to sustain my practice in these changing times.

Otherwise, as discussed in this semester find a higher value job in the photography industry. Or both.

As far as photojournalistic practice is concerned, there may be some opportunities in that area. Still, if I carry my camera all the time (cell phone or DSLR), I may be ready if an event occurs and participate, but I won’t run into a burning building to get the story.


Adrian Hadland, Paul Lambert & David Campbell (2016) The Future of Professional Photojournalism, Journalism Practice, 10:7, 820-832, DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2016.1163236

Marr, B. (2019). Surprisingly, These 10 Professional Jobs Are Under Threat From Big Data. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Mason, S. (2019). Petition Goes Viral: Do Not Replace Disney Photographers With Robots. [online] Fstoppers. Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Alexander, J. (2019). Eva the Robot Photographer Just Shot Her First Wedding. [online] Fstoppers. Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Waters, R. (2019). Bill Gates calls for income tax on robots | Financial Times. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Mcloud, S. (2019). The Life and Death of Kevin Carter. [online] Available at:,9171,165071,00.html [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Neal, L. (2014). How Photojournalism Killed Kevin Carter. [online] All That’s Interesting. Available at: Http:// [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Ken Oosterbroek. (2019). Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Creative Brief by Director of Photography for the Financial Times Weekend Magazine and Port – Emma Bowkett

This is the third in a trilogy of interviews on the current commercial photography which include Lydia Pang on Commissioning and Gem Fletcher.

Extracts included in this blog is from The Creative brief by Emma Bowkett, highlighted within quotations in italics. (Bowkett 2017)

Emma Bowkett (Lathigra, 2019)

Emma Bowketts Background

Emma Bowkett’s interview confirms the shared background from the previous interviews in the corporate environment. She had a higher education, interned for a professional photographer, taught photography full-time at a UNI and did part-time work at the magazines where she wanted to work, before being hired as their director of photography. As in the case of Pang and Fletcher, she shares how they work collaboratively and how she is responsible for matching photographers with assignments.

Who she hires at a magazine or newspaper.

What tickled my interest is how Bowkett seem to find balance in the tension between “the most important thing about her job to be building up relationships with photographers, and gaining an understanding of their practice” , “The supporting of emerging talent”, “often work with graduates who are still developing.” and ” sourcing new talent and photo series.” Looking at FT weekend magazine I can see how the variety of photographic interpretations affected the covers and the stories.

She also source photographers she admires (Photojournalisticlinks, 2019)

FT Weekend magazine – Helen Mirren cover (26/27 February 2011)
FT Weekend magazine- Bernie Madoff cover (9/10 APRIL 2011)
FT Weekend Magazine © Stan Douglas, Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York and Victoria Miro, London. (Photojournalisticlinks, 2019)
FT Weekend Magazine © Stan Douglas, Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York and Victoria Miro, London. (Photojournalisticlinks, 2019)

Bowkett provide what Freeman refer to as ideal assignments, where the commissioner pair a photographer to an assignment and a in-house assistant from the magazine and the photographer “allowed to define the story, which in turn shapes the visual identity of the magazine”. There seem to be some trust in the ability of the photographer to complete the task. Therefore she may be looking for photographers with proven track record and a distinctive visual language and style that matches the assignment. But she will also give opportunities to emerging talent

How does she find her photographers?

When asked this question in another interview with photojournalistlinks she replied “Galleries, social media sites, magazines, blogs, agents, recommendations. I try to see two photographers’ books a week because I like talking to photographers about their personal projects face to face when I can. Attending private views, talks, and events are a good way to meet new photographers and build relationships ” (Photojournalisticlinks, 2019)

What she expect from a photographer and their pitch.

Bowkett prefer conceptual thinking photographers. and advises that the photographer do their homework to first “recognise and understand the type of work that the publication showcases and then it is up to them to show how their own work would be a good fit within that context/aesthetic.”

She is very specific how a pitch should look like.” A pitch should be emailed, a PDF or selection of around 10 pictures if the project is complete, and a concise description of what it is about. There should be a link to a website and contact details. If it’s a photographer introduction, similar rules apply

Bowkett also advise that a prospective photographer use social media but curate their work carefully. I assume she means that it should contain fewer but high quality work representative of the photographers distinctive visual language.

If you have your stuff together she invites you to email her, She will first look at your social media sites and decide if and when she engages.

Looking at interviews with Art Directors and other industry it is a clear way of understanding how they work and how one should approach them. It is also very important to do your homework and assess whether you are a fit before you start.


Bowkett, E, Creative Brief Emma Bowkett 2017, 1854 Media, London.

Lathigra, K. (2019). Emma Bowkett. [image] Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019].

Photojournalisticlinks. (2019). Photo Editor of the Month: Emma Bowkett of FT Weekend Magazine. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].

Towards Understanding Your Kinfolk

A “Hipster” as I remember it (Riera, 1968). 

I was an 11-year-old boy at the end of the 60’s and the hipster was a low cut pants commonly worn by men and women, but looked great on women. They continuously revisit fashion in various forms.

Knepworth 1979 Hipster still going strong, By then I was 20 (Evening star/Getty images, 1979)

So you may understand the need for me to look the term up and I found this delightful definition:

Hip: Originally “hip” or “hep” meant someone very fashionable in the first half of the 20th century. It evolved to mean someone into jazz and beatnik culture in the 1940s and 50s, and changed further still into “hippie” to describe flower children of the 60s. Today it’s changed again to “hipster,” meaning a self-aware, artsy person.
“My hip grandfather plays the sax, but my hipster brother just makes homemade pickles.”
(YourDictionary, 2019)

So  Kinfolk is magazine for someone that likes to make pickels? As I am not a millinial I had to get a reference to even understand the interview. 

A sample of a Kinfolk publication cover page (Fashion In The Media Project, 2019)

“With its focus on wellness”, not free sex, drugs, booze, folk music and rock and roll. “Minimal interiors- not the outside in a park and crashing at a friends place, living in a “Combi”, or tepee and being too anti-establishment to live in the suburbs or own a home. Artisanal food- Good foods, not vegan and eating it raw from the abundance of the world. “Kinfolk has been labelled the hipster’s style bible.” Hell, we used to call people like that “Squares!” Just joking!

Sample minimalist layout of Kinfolk book (Fashion In The Media Project, 2019)

Every time I stand in front of a contemporary newsstand I am left with an impression that photography is not worth anything as the front pages are littered with text selling what is inside the magazine. Its noise virtualy obliterating any visual message.

Cluttered Bookshelves – CNA Boksburg South Africa by Andre Nagel (2019)

How refreshing to see a book that values and puts photography in its right perspective. Using visual language instead of text to invite the reader to purchase the magazine. Inviting instead of trapping. It almost is a coffee table book that will look good lying around in a minimalist lounge.

Uncluttered bliss that can be used as a display in a minimalist home. (Fashion In The Media Project, 2019)

“The standout success among new-wave (Contemporary) indie (independent) magazines, it’s become a lifestyle brand in its own right, thanks to its pared-down photography and uncluttered design.”

Target Market

“Founded by Nathan Williams, his wife and two friends (Doug and Paige Bischoff) they intended the magazine to reach young professionals. The magazine started to reach the masses as they were drawn to the intimate and earnest nature the magazine (which is so relatable) and often not made a central focus in big magazines. Now, Kinfolk also reaches a younger audience that look for cultural and creative magazines. Around 70 per cent of its readership works in the creative industries, according to Williams.’ (Fashion In The Media Project, 2019) “ 

The interview

But seriously, or do I need to say “Bruh” ( in Afrikaans it slang brother or buddy), it is a great interview with Julie Cirelli, the then editor-in-chief of Kinfolk Magazine. She has since moved on to become the Editorial Director at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in Cambridge (Julie Cirelli, 2019).

Woman with a vision (Julie Cirelli, 2019)

This interview in itself illustrates what style means, and what it means to understand your audience and customer. It also demonstrates how the understanding of your brand identity and style allows Cirelli and her team to collaborate to create a magazine that reflects her statement. ” Its objectives remain the same: to examine the complex elements of each person’s deeply personal narrative and explore the foundations of a well-lived life” and the founders vision”

It is done so uniquely and authentically that many others try to mimic it and fail. They understand their customer and market, their “Kinfolk”. Minimalists crave association and this magazine is the hub that values their views. And it is the reason why this independent magazine is a success where others fail or follow.

It is my impression that their magazine design layout does not want to emulate the internet and in-fact provides something that gives the “hipster” a break from their computer and cell phone by providing a larger format, uncluttered gallery styled layout and an expanded view. They present text and images in unsurpassed quality on alternative paper stocks to ensure a tactile experience. To top all the magazine experience is augmented with a matching website and a gallery space in Copenhagen.

And finally, they subtly use a non-invasive, contextual approach to selectively and subtle lifestyle marketing which really appeals to the targeted audience. They are an example of art and commerce converging.

In spite of their non- commercial stance, business strategy and planning pop up all over in the interview. Core values, objectives, goals, mission statements are reminiscent of an MBA class. In a way a perfect strategy eclectically and perfectly executed. Something all of us as professional photographic practitioners should aspire to. Cerelli also affirms the one criteria common in all successful ventures and individuals. Well directed, committed sweat equity.

“Did the magazine create the culture of visual conformity, or was it just perfectly placed to take advantage of it?” Translated, are they creating copycats or are they exploiters of it. In my opinion, they appear to be a successful service business that knows how to align with their clearly defined customer base and may even illustrate the resolve and ability to transform as this audience evolves over time. The photography in the magazine will follow the story-line and vision and will, therefore, develop over time. anyone else following will be a conformist being drawn into the allure of this eclectic work.


Cirelli, J. 2017, Kinfolk, 1854 Media, London.

Riera, T. (1968). a Hippie with his kid- take in Vondelpark, Amsterdam in 1968. [image] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2019].

YourDictionary. (2019). 30 Examples of Slang Words. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2019].

Julie Cirelli. (2019). About — Julie Cirelli. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019].

Fashion In The Media Project. (2019). Kinfolk Magazine. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019].

Evening Star/Getty images (1979). Happy Hippie, Knebworth. [image] Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019].

Forum – My Market

For this week’s forum discussion, we were tasked to think about your current market and audience and whether they were the same. We had to think about who we would like to call our market and audience in five years time and how we plan to get there.

I am currently in an in-between space. I am shifting from a passionate amateur photographer, part-time photography educator and part-time wedding photographer  to something being defined at the moment.

As Ludre, my current business,  I planned to lift my wedding photography to a high-end market and doing it full-time. As an individual I planed to qualify as an an educator.  The latter was the main motivation for doing the MA. My market and audience is currently  mid-income groups for both wedding and education which is fine for part-time work. However, my photographic classes have introduced me to high-end photographers amateur photographer and business men and that encouraged me to expand this endeavour and they made see the value I can provide to my customers.

I never published any of my private project work. As I prepared my own examples for my photography master class curriculum my portfolio grew and improved as a photographer. Being forced to share my photographs in my lectures and to market my course to prospective students on my website, proved to be a liberating experience. My work was exposed to a new audience, which was not my market at that time. The sharing  led to an artist offering to pay me for the rights to use my work to paint. At first, I wanted to give her the rights for free but she insisted to pay me a rate I did not expect. I believe it is this work that helped in my motivation to get into Falmouth University. But financial gain is not my main purpose. Teaching and seeing your students grow is a reward much larger. A student of mine, who purchased her first SLR camera during my class, exhibited her photographs on request in Milan this year. She acknowledged my influence in this and is going from strength to strength. This is priceless.

With my retirement looming, I altered my business plan to engage with the mid to high-end consumer market. My MA in photography is  part of my development plan to see I could pursue my new found passion, the education of photographic students. The MA, Gem Thatcher and Lydia Pang have put a major spanner in the works though.

Its dream time…

In five years, I now see myself as a highly capable independent creative that collaborates with young creatives on meaningful visual projects in whatever role I can find, where I can apply my knowledge of photography and my abilities to work in creative design assignments. My customer would now be corporates  (commercial and art-based ), which create web-based editorial sites and digital magazines and publish in museums on digital media and if were lucky prints. I hope to generate a living wage from this. I also see myself doing lectures at higher learning institutes with the aim of either creating my foundation or to actively develop young creatives in the art and business of photography. This means I will need to change my business plan, target the corporates  and engage with creatives I already know that work in the industry. My next project needs to be a creative project that features some form of photography. I will continue doing self personal projects until I get too busy to doing commissions that leverage of my vision and skills and allow myself to grow as an artist. By that time I want to have concluded my PhD.

In five years time I will be 65. David Goldblatt (80) passed away last year. He is recorded saying that he had a great future for the next 30 Years before embarking on a personal project to to follow his idol, Ansel Adams, in photograph landscapes.  I believe that I have 40 years left. And if I don’t it won’t matter. I would rather go with camera in hand when it happens.

“Don’t challenge my goals with “reality”….it’s too limiting. I will achieve more without considering it.”- Andre Nagel

It may seem ambitious, but hell it’s my dream…