Monday, 3 May 2010



It is been quite a stir in the professional world because of the publication, in a popular blog on photography, of a post entitled Press Photo ... low-cost? The article deal with the creation of an agency, Demotix, which says is a global news agency like Reuters, but by amateurs with stories to tell. I entered Demotix’s web and found the definition that is a citizen-journalism website that draws pictures of amateur and freelance professionals, and markets them to the traditional media. Is it something terribly new? I opened this post with a Falklands War’s picture of poor quality, taken by an amateur Argentinean photographer, Sgut, one of the ship officers, with a Kodak Instamatic, showing the sinking of the battleship General Belgrano in April 1982, bought on the spot by the Gamma French agency and sold, for an astronomical price, to Paris Match, which published a cover and a double page.

More examples of amateurs' photos that were seen all over the world:

Another amateur photographer, John Gilpin, photographed in 1971 a DC-8 taking off from Sydney airport. When he went to collect their photos from the laboratory, he found a 14 years old stowaway, who died, falling from the landing gear cavity.


And the next picture not even needed an amateur photographer. The security camera of a bank photographed the most wanted person in America, the heiress Patty Hearst, kidnapped by the Symbiotic Liberation Army, who had joined her captors and robbed the bank, assault rifle in hand, in April 1974.


This kind of photos will go on marketing. The blog to which I referred at the beginning continues:
In my point of view, what is behind is the tremendous desire that the media have to fill airtime, pages or bytes without spending a single euro. Nothing more. Well, we are basically in agreement. But Demotix announced that they will allocate 50% of sales to photographers, and that the selling price of the images would range between $50 and $3000. And for all the exclusives they can get, warns that some may reach $100,000.
It seems, looking at these prices, that the media will not achieve its purpose of filling pages and pages without spending an euro publishing photos of Demotix. What is certain is that Photography is changing a lot. I wrote several articles about it : The beginning of the end of an era , The end of the news photo? ,and another one published in PhotoRevista titled What happened to Photography? (only in Spanish).
We are bombarded with a barrage of images, Pepe Baeza wrote on the page 54 of his book Por una función crítica de la fotografía de prensa: Too many banal images contribute much more in detrimental to the visual communication that his absence, and to over inform is one of the best ways to misinform.


On December 27, 1979 Soviet troops invade Afghanistan. It is Christmas time, but the photographer François Lochon, a member of Gamma photo agency, takes the first flight Paris-Kabul. In the Afghan capital makes a two-hour taxi tour taking pictures and flights back to Paris. It is the first one and their photos are published on the cover of every magazine in the world. Could a professional photographer do the same today? No! Everybody has cameras or mobile phones. Before he or she entered the plane to fly to Kabul, the photos of the event would already be in the offices of all the magazines sent trough Internet by bystanders.


This is what happened in the case of Tsunami: all the photos, at the time it occurred, were made by tourists.
Michel Guerrin, one of the leading journalists specializing in photography and author of Profession Photoreporter , recently wrote in Le Monde an article entitled Nous sommes touts de grands photographes (We are all great photographers).
Definitely, all photographers, including professionals, are entering a new era and, as in the Bob Dylan's song, we better start swimming or we’ll sink like a stone.

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