Monday 16 February 2009

World Press Photo, Pulitzer-Winning Photographer Struggles to Find Work

I have just been the reading on 'Editor and Publisher' a challenging tale of the times we are all living at the moment.

Winner of 'World Press Photo' Anthony Suau recounts his unsuccessful battle to get his excellent photo essay on the economic crisis in Cleveland ,Ohio, published in 'Time' magazine.

Any regular readers of 'The Dark Art' will know that I have considerable sympathy with this situation.

What I find truly disturbing though are the comments attributed to Suau in the 'Editor and publisher' story

The last two months have been especially bad, Suau says. He hasn't had a single assignment except for covering the presidential inauguration for a Japanese book publisher.

"If the situation continues like it has in the last two months, down the road I would be in danger," Suau says. "Do I have to get another job to do something? I don't know. I may have to do something else besides photography."

Anthony, who has won a total of two World Press awards and the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography,is a seasoned pro with 20 years experience,covering conflicts and human crises around the world.

Judging from the experience of many of my peers, Anthony is not alone in these particularly trying times.

It brought to mind an experience I had in 1993 when I won the 'Nikon Feature Photographer of the year award'

I really thought I had arrived, lots of Picture Editors came up to me at the awards and complimented me on my work.

So I waited for the phone to ring......waiting for that call for some big gig or another.

Waiting for the magic wand to be waved by someone, anyone, but myself

I was to wait for some time, as 'The' phone call which I waited for never actually came.

I never did quite work it out

But I do have a theory..................

I reckon that when one wins a prize or an award, be it big or small, it may be best to consider it as a tool with which to promote oneself with, nothing more, nothing less

I wonder what would have happened if I had been more proactive after my small piece of success?

What I do know when I have had success subsequently I have used it as a license to be a right royal persistent pain in the backside to any art director or commissioning editor who will open the door to me.

I wish Anthony all the best with his career and hope he gets the work he so richly deserves.

The photographic world would be a poorer place without him.


Justin Sutcliffe said...

I have been an admirer of Anthony Suau's work for many years and think his World Press Photo is a brilliantly insightful piece.

I know too that awards do not automatically lead to rewards and often the reverse. But the problems that Anthony is facing go deeper, to the heart of a changing society.

Magazines are struggling to cope with technological changes but also demographic ones. In the process, knowledgeable people have been replaced and this has started a vicious circle.

If editors stop being knowledgeable, pieces stop being insightful and readers stop buying because they don't feel they are learning.

Add to that the general desire amongst the western population to be obsessed with celebrity and lifestyle and we can see how meaningful photojournalism got squeezed.

The irony is that there is huge interest in these subjects but the accountant-pleasing, middle-aged white males who make too many decisions are out of touch and think they know better.

The world's changing financial landscape will hopefully bring us bright new talent at the editing level that cares about a broader spectrum of issues.

OK, who's next with the soap box?

Unknown said...

Hey Justin

Greetings from your 'Girlfriend' NYC :) good points well made. I too think that Anthony is suffering from telling it the way it is. I lament the rise and rise of celebrity and yes it has coincided with a worldwide down turn in the fortune of the print media, a connection perhaps? It would be nice to think so but even fine newspapers like 'The Guardian' and 'The New York Times' are not immune.
As photographers what do we do? If we do not move and adapt to these new situations I believe we will face the consequences
I do not advocate surrender, just reinvention, while still following ones heart, not any easy course to plot, but by no means impossible.
What I would add is that I have never landed more work by telling prospective clients how quiet I am.




Justin has just about summed it up.

It's little wonder we're experiencing the migration from traditional print mediums to internet content delivery. Above all, is the ill-conceived notion that papers to ensure their survival must aim toward the podcast generation, by producing shallow and vacuous pieces with volume in mind rather than quality. Add to this a crop of some of the worst trained editors/senior management in the industry's history, continual short sighted and pointless budget cutting, and a remarkably hostile perception of photographers as a whole from the general public and police, I think it's fair to say our chosen profession has certainly reached a tipping point.
The only people remaining who MAY be able to reverse this trend now are photographers as a whole which traditionally is something it's fair to say we've not been too clever at in the past!
Truth is, rather than running off to buy the latest version of Final Cut Pro and moving toward the video medium, (which is what we are being sold) we should wake up and realise that the two mediums aren't necessarily connected. If we don't learn the value of effective PR now as a profession, the demise of so many great photographers will resemble a Word War 1 casualty list.

Unknown said...

Hi Barclay

Thank you for your comment

Food for thought

But just what IS the answer?

I'm not sure myself but feel we MUST evolve without surrendering, finding our own path in doing this

Oh, for an easy answer....