Lookin’ For A Story.. On Craigslist?

Here is a bit of a Dva scoop: A few days ago I was poking around the local Craigslist and found this posting, of a local photographer trying to find subjects for a photo essay on the economic downturn via a classified ad. I still don’t know quite what to make of it. On one hand (as Scott suggested to me) it might be a good way to reach out to your ‘target audience’ of people feeling the economy, some of whom might be searching for jobs on the web. But on the other, it oozes laziness and/or incompetence to me. It does seem like this photographer’s heart is in the right place .. but given their portfolio is mostly fashion and they’re approaching subjects in this (novel but impersonal) way, I don’t like it. Most likely, they’re just not used to the process of negotiating access (surely, one of the harder things we do) and resorted to the equivalent of yelling out in a crowded room.
(email address and website of the photographer withheld) - CLICK TO ENLARGE
It appears the Craigslist community didn’t like it either: the post was flagged for removal soon after I found it. What do you think?

4 Responses to “Lookin’ For A Story.. On Craigslist?”

  1. Jeremy M. Lange

    I can understand the initial reaction to this ad of “laziness” on the part of the poster, but on the other hand, if you do not know anyone directly that is being affected by the economic downturn, or any other situation approachable in this way, why not?
    It opens the discussion up to others outside of your circle of influence. If you do not have access to any other ways of finding people it seems reasonable to me. Reporters do similar things all the time by going to chat rooms and list serves to approach people for stories. Now, that is a little more personal, you, the reporter, photographer, etc. pick the people to approach, but not by much.
    There are many other ways to go about this, but perhaps you are writing off this approach, and the poster, a little prematurely.

  2. M. Scott Brauer

    I’m with Jeremy. Seems like a great way to run into people you might not otherwise meet, and people hit hard by the economy are likely to be checking craigslist frequently. This could work well, too, for subjects that might be difficult to break into through other means. I mean, you could try talking to credit counselors, etc., to find people for the subject, but I’d imagine they’d be pretty unwilling to give client names.

    There is a possible risk of bias through self-selection, though that’s a bigger concern for anthropology than journalism.

    Basically, I’m not convinced that this is a bad way to go about finding subjects, though if the photographer were doing this for every story, I’d be a lot more skeptical.

  3. Jeremy M. Lange

    Yes.. If this were the ONLY way he/she went about their research than I would question the intentions, but as Scott said, it would be hard to get info from counselors, etc, and this may well be a better way to go.
    The idea of asking for a photo from prospective subjects does bother me a bit though. Seems very… fashion shoot like.

  4. Matt Lutton

    Maybe the word I meant to use was insensitive .. posting widely like this surely isn’t exactly the equivalent of running into a refugee camp and yelling out ‘anyone raped and speak english?’ but it is close .. I think we all agree on the impersonal nature of it.
    Overall, all these issues brought together (foremost that this seems to be a new person to photojournalism, lending me to believe that they simply haven’t tried, or thought of?, other ‘traditional’ and more personal methods of making contacts). What are they trying to say about poverty? how does that manifest itself? Job seekers? why not go to a day-labor center. Out of money? food banks and credit houses.

    Surely, this method has something like potential to find people for the project. But it is very small I think .. really, who do you see actually responding to this ad? and how many of them? Coupled when you’re so petty to ask for a picture (as Jeremy says .. very ‘fashion’ like .. which is troublesome in that this is the only kind of work the photographer was showing online). Would you ever respond to such an ad? So, beyond being a tacky model, the photographer undercuts themselves in the ad itself.

    Maybe I am running them on a short-leash, but when every single factor falls against them, in my view, it is hard for me to give them the benefit of my doubt. There isn’t anything in here that makes me believe that this is a worthy strategy or coming from a competent source.
    Maybe I should email them and see if they had any luck..

Comments are closed.