A very good lecture on iconic photographs prompted me to backtrack their creation. Not in terms of shutter release, film or digital or even lens, but in terms of acquiring that status. Well, we all had that discussion, but everybody took for granted that the photo was widely published from the very day it was created. Here lies the trick and treat – and finally someone brought the theory home: in photojournalism, if the photo’s not published, it’s downright worthless. It’s just another one of billions of photos out there and has no value whatsoever, until it’s published in a an important magazine or newspaper (no, club journals don’t count). Or so it was believed.
Iconic photos I believe are still made that way, but are very rare. Because there’s so many photos out there, in the media. Which emphasises even further that having your photojournalism work for yourself is completely pointless and worth absolutely nothing. It’s not measured against the world, against the public, the events that you documented. It’s dead in the water. You might as well stay at home and read a book.
Back in the days, having a photo published by a major magazine or newspaper was a sufficient start to making an iconic image. Now it takes crossplatforming, transgression onto the internet, a lot of promotion and awards. The key ingredient is that the photo is “widely published” – everywhere. Over magazines, newspapers, the internet, and shared online via numerous links thousands of times. Sooner or later it sinks in and in a few years it migh as well be iconic. Might. The truth is, that could happen in a profession that wasn’t flooded with photos and photojournalists (real ones and wannabes). However, many of us believe the only thing that will end by 2012 is photjournalism. And we all know why.
I would bet 90% of editors of magazines (not the big ones – those make about 10% of the world media) can’t judge a photo by quality. Come on! They’re publishing reader’s point and shoot or cell phone photos. And I don’t mean Damon Winter’s or David Guttenfelder’s iPhone shots that actually have content. The odds of many magazines and newspapers recognizing the quality of one single photograph are slim these days. So are the odds of masses of people recognizing the quality and significance of a photo that was perhaps published once, but has the potential of becoming timeless. It just doesn’t work anymore. But decades ago, photos did just that.
It got me thinking further. 99% percent of my photjournalistic work was never published, because no-one is interested, let alone let me work for them. In the light of this topic, it’s therefore completely meaningless and of no value. It doesn’t do anything. No public voice to the people on the photos, no light on the subject, no pointing out issues… Unless masses of people are following Dax Photo. (Not the case bytheway 😀 ) But there are several photos that stood out among people who did see them, were published etc. Posted here are photos that are special in any way. Some were published, some not. P!nk was made into a poster, portraits were on a calendar… I deliberately left out the last few B&W stories.
After 16 years of improvement, developing my style and incorporating it in storytelling and information gathering on images, bringing my photography to a certain level and beyond (yes, there is no upper limit, we never stop learning and improving), what if there were images that would have perhaps one day been important and recognized if they were published properly. In the media. Instead of going to waste and being forgotten. And all of a sudden a very legitimate question sprang to mind: What did I do? Anything?
We shouldn’t be naive, press photos rarely change anything, but they do start a momentum or give a kick. But again assuming they’re published. So those unpublished actually don’t serve anything. No matter how many important events, or seemingly unimportant for that matter (history is everywhere), you’ve covered. It only matters if it gets published. And if nobody lets you do that… Well, reconsider. You’re shooting blanks 😀
Why do it anyway? For yourself. If you have time and money. Yes, it’s a waste of good photos (I’ve seen plenty of such that were never published), but most media favor crap or avarage, and the good ones are all “taken”, so take it or leave it. Your call. 😉
Let’s do an ‘What if’ game. An important event of 2010 in SLO. If published, what could make an important photo reminding people of it years to come?