It is mid-May and I've been struggling with the idea that I have yet to make any "memorable" photographs in 2008.
Contest season has come and gone, the winter snows have all melted, and by now I would normally have a few images filed that have stood out in my conscience. The fact that I can't think of any as I write this tells me to think otherwise.
Like many of my colleagues, my energies lately have been on producing multimedia; mostly video stories. The problem is, that the times I feel I am producing work for the newspaper seems to be the exception and not the rule. And even then, the assignments seem to read, "will need a video for the web, and some stills for the paper." Then of course there are the issues of when to do what?
It seems that everybody is so focussed on the "future of newspapers" and "where the industry is going" that the newspaper itself threatens to become an afterthought because of our very own efforts to the contrary.
I've been hot and cold on video for some time, but I think I'm starting to enter another "cold" period. That's not to say that I'm feeling any less enthusiastic about multimedia, but that I'm debating the pros and cons of doing multimedia with video or stills and audio.
Newspaper managers want multimedia because that's where everybody perceives the future lays. That's fair. But I honestly don't think that the multimedia we provide them needs to be video. It's exactly the same as when editors used to ask for the cheesy images of Christmas shopping, and we as photographers would do our best to give them anything but. They didn't care in the end as long as they had something for their pages, and we were happy because we were able to get real quality images into the paper instead of the old standard.
Times haven't changed that much. If our managers want multimedia, then we are certainly qualified to give it to them. But I think the choice does, and should, remain with us, how best to present our work. It should still be part of a visual journalist's job to determine which methods will best communicate the story.
The struggle now is to continue to produce great stories, while still being able to feed the beast which has an ever increasing appetite for our work. Everybody wants a part of the multimedia buffet, and who can blame them, but now the reality has to be driven home that more and more work requires greater resources. Without these resources the very quality of the multimedia which has given us early success will suffer, and we will no longer be able to maintain the standards to which we have so stubbornly held.
I hope that as we move forward in our industry, we will remain able to make quality decisions on a story-by-story basis of how to best visually present our work. I think in the end every story will be strongest if told using the most fitting techniques for that story. But as is historically the case, with this visual battle, I fear we will find ourselves fighting with managers and editors who are of a different opinion.
Years of experience have shown me that it is easier to make convincing arguments without any words at all. Do the work, do it well, and the strength of your stories will do the speaking for you. I think that when our direction changes, and the budgets begin to sag, the evidence will be more than apparent to everyone. Let's just hope that doesn't have to happen anytime soon.