Photographers hit hardest by newspaper layoffs

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A Pew Research Center study shows that photographers have been hit hardest by US newspaper layoffs since 2000. There has been a 32% reduction in writing staff (from ~25,500 to ~17,500 writers), but newspaper photographers’ numbers have decreased about 42% (from 6,171 to 3,493). Newspapers frequently cite changing technologies or ease of training writers to take photos or video as they report the news. Over at Sun-Times/Dark Times we’ve seen just how bad that can get through comparisons between Tribune and Sun-Times coverage after the Sun-Times laid off its entire photography staff.

I always find it curious that newspapers are quick to train writers to serve as photographers in these situations, and that almost never goes the other way.

National Geographic photographers form The Photo Society

Screenshot of The Photo Society website with image by Melissa Farlow

‘Explaining the diversity of this group is the easiest way to answer the question, “How do I become a National Geographic photographer?” I usually answer this question by saying: “It is not easy or glamorous (see Reality Check). And this is not where you begin your career. You are competing with world-class documentary photographers and within that genre there are men and women who are the absolute best at their specialty. There are a number of specialists — underwater photographers with different skills — one works in very deep water; a couple photograph at all depths and temperatures; one dives in caves, another holds his breath under whales; and then there is a guy who just works in puddles. One photographer travels all over the world to strap a big fan on his back to shoot aerials. There is a bug guy, an archeology specialist, and a number of folks that photograph critters. There are climbers, conflict photographers, portrait photographers and landscape specialists.” Then I usually end with how amazed I am that I can survive in this crowd as a generalist… in such esteemed company.’ -Randy Olson, About the Photo Society

The Photo Society site’s been live for a little while, and it’s got a wealth of information for those wanting to learn a little more about the people and processes behind National Geographic’s photography. Started at the behest of National Geographic’s Photographer’s Advisory Board, the site collects stories and snippets from a host of the magazine’s contributing photographers. Initial momentum, and what got me to peek at the site initially, started with a list of the various ailments and mishaps encountered by these photographers while on assignment. They’ve had 90 cases of severe diarrhea, 16 parasitic infections, 33 arrests, 21 paraglider crashes, and 1 viper in a camera bag, among other things. But there’s more to the site than that. The blog is frequently updated with links and original content. A few posts of note: Bill Allard Explains How He Became a National Geographic Photographer, I Went Blind in One Eye Shooting First NG Assignment, and How to respond to requests for free photography. That last one shouldn’t be surprising to me…there’s a certain comfort in knowing that even at the highest levels of photography, you’ll still get asked for free work.