More than at any time in the human history, our communication is dominated by photographic imagery. Yet, professional photographers have never been more endangered, professionally and personally.
They are laid off. They are attacked by angry crowds. In a world in which everyone has a camera in his or her pocket and we all seem to think of ourselves as photographers, the real pros are disparaged.
Yet, the work of the pros is instantly recognizable. Amateurs get lucky from time to time, but professional photographers get the shot every time. There are millions of photographs taken every day. If you are transported by one today, chances are it was taken by a pro.
This week, the World Press Photo Foundation, in conjunction with Oxford and Stirling universities, released a first-of-its-kind study of the work lives of professional news photographers the world over. The results are not surprising, nor are they encouraging.
Some key findings:
- Photographers are predominately male (80 percent) and self-employed (60 percent.)
- The overwhelming majority (93 percent) would prefer to work exclusively in still rather than video photography.
- Three-quarters of the more than 1,500 photographers surveyed earn less than $40,000 annually. Almost all of those surveyed say their work is sometimes used online without their consent and without compensation.
- Ninety percent of them said they have felt in physical danger in the course of their jobs.
The report notes that photographers suffer disproportionately when newsroom cutbacks are mandated. That leads to what the report authors called, “the precariousness of life in the digital age among its creative producers.”
If you are lucky enough to work with a real photojournalist, go thank her. Then thank your lucky stars.