Speaking for the Man
I should probably keep my mouth shut. It’s so much easier that way, but that’s not my way. If I could, I never would have picked up a camera in the first place. I’m writing to correct some (what I can only assume are) youth-based misconceptions that I just read on the New York Times Lens Blog.
Let me start out by giving you a list; Margaret Bourke White, Dorothea Lange, Lee Miller, Eve Arnold, Catherine Leroy, Fifi de Mulder, Susan Meiselas, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Carol Guzy, Alexandra Avakian, Alexandra Boulat, Lauren Greenfield and Yunghi Kim. Extraordinary photojournalists and extraordinary people, regardless of their private parts.
Here’s another list; Karen Mullarkey, Bobbie Baker Burrows, Barbara Sadick, Michele Stephenson, and MaryAnne Golon. These are extraordinary people who were extremely instrumental to me in my career, regardless of their private parts.
Both lists are far from complete. I apologize for any embarrassment I may cause through omitting or including your names.
To be sure, there have been far more men than women photojournalists and editors throughout the history of the medium, but there are no victims on my lists. These are world-class, groundbreaking, (occasionally) ball busting, professionals who have influenced the art of photojournalists to a degree which greatly exceeds their number. That said, it took plenty of men (some white haired) as well to grow the shoulders you’re currently standing on. You’d be surprised what you can learn from them.
Are their more opportunities for women or minorities in photojournalism today? No. Because there are less opportunities for people in photojournalism today.
The fact that publications are no longer sending photojournalists around the world is not a positive thing. If you’re truly worried about the reliability of images, you should want to have someone you know making them.
The New York Times recruits photographers from all around the world through their annual free portfolio reviews. This isn’t, in my opinion, for the sake of diversity, but rather to save money. Saving on travel expenses, insurance, camera gear… you name it, but at the end of the day it’s about hiring (or taking advantage of) people who don’t know or care about the proper licensing of images. It’s about outsourcing work to people that may not have a clear understanding of what journalism is suppose to be. It’s about giving a platform to people who may have a real stake in falsely reporting on the situation in their community.
Professional camera equipment is just as costly for a person living in Africa as it is for a person living in Europe. In a country that doesn’t have a working class, the fact that someone can afford camera gear usually means they belong to the ruling class, not the underclass. Is that the kind of personal insight you hope to propagate?
Sometimes community journalism works. Sometimes not having a picture is better than having one.
I feel where you’re coming from, but instead of “sticking it to the Man”, you’re working for him.
The New York Times has set the floor when it comes to paying for photojournalism, and in doing so, they’ve also set the ceiling. It takes gold to do this thing. Your paper has plenty, but they’re not sharing much of it. Try not to be so eager to justify the financial decisions made by your employer in the name of political correctness or diversity. They make these decisions with their best interests in mind, not yours, not mine, not the community’s.
Chances are that someday you might need more money. You might want a raise. What will you say when they hire someone ten years younger than you at minimum wage?