A camera is just a tool. A carpenter using a hammer and me using a hammer are going to get different results. I can use a hammer but I don’t know how to make a table. For me it’s not about the camera, it’s about the skill and the storytelling ability.

I heard from a reporter yesterday who shot two features with her phone and she marveled at how much time it took to shoot the photos, choose the ones she wanted, edit the photos, upload the photos—she just had no idea how much time it took. The product of the reporting and the photography is going to suffer.

via The Daily Dot – A talk with Rob Hart, the photographer behind “Laid Off From the Sun-Times”.

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  1. I’m glad to know Rob personally. He is one of the most level-headed photojournalists in the profession – I would listen to him closely in the coming months of reverberation and response from these layoffs. He won’t get caught up in the emotional attachment and hubris that others have fallen into.

  2. The folks (corporate) making these decisions don’t know the carpenter…. they only know the hammer. This is why it looks so unfair to us on the inside. 30 years ago, every office in America, big and small, had a secretary. She (usually) was a career professional, with specific skills and autonomy in decision making. A collaborator of sorts. With the advent of heavy hammers, like the personal computer, that profession has been diced up and handed over to each and every one of us, and like Rob Hart’s reporter colleague is saying, we now all know the tediousness, patience and creativity required just to run our own administrative lives…. it’s not so easy and most of us are not very good at it, even with the help of even heavier hammers, like internet and mobile devices. The only vestiges left of the secretarial profession, are folks with titles like ‘Vice President of … such and such’. Elite secretaries, who help the people at the very top do their jobs. If you’re a talented, creative, ambitious photographer, that’s where your best work is going to be: in the rarified air at the fringes. Everything else is going to be folks stumbling around with iPhones, wondering if there’s an app for ‘skill’ or ‘story telling’. This is the way the tide is pulling. Are you ready for your future?

  3. These newspapers are their own worst enemy. The way to compete with the internet isn’t to consolidate very different jobs (reporting and photography) but to offer details, analysis and have a compelling viewpoint and story that has value to the local community.

    Around here a very strange thing has happened. It used to be the local TV news was the weakest form of local journalism because they would only devote a few minutes to a story, while the paper would have an in depth analysis.

    Now the paper doesn’t even send reporters out to cover stories. They call someone, get a statement and publish that as the ‘story’. So these stories end up being a paragraph or two. No follow-up with more details. At least the local TV station will often send a van out to film with someone to ask questions of officials, bystanders etc.

    What papers have become isn’t journalism and they deserve to fail as a result. Firing what few quality people they have left just accelerates their demise.

  4. Many newspaper’s web sites fail in the way they use their own photographer’s work. Some forgot about how to edit a take and just push out a 100 images most of which are untoned and un-cropped junk. The photographer might have chosen 3 or 4 images for publication but the web site editor does not edit they just think more is better. Or they might just crop one image into a head shot removing any feeling of content. It can be a dismal representation of the creative skill of their photographers. So it is no surprise to me that an iPhone in an unskilled hand can be seen as just all they need. The AP writing style is so an 8-year-old can understand a story and now the photographs are good enough if an 8-year-old can just read the caption. Since more then half the cell phones are now smart phones with cameras, as a society this is all we expect from the images we now see. Most people only own this kind of camera now so why do we need photographers with DSLR cameras? I expect that the publisher of the Sun-Times only has an iPhone camera too. It is good enough for him it is good enough for everyone else. Don’t try to give more then what they already have.

    The only way this will change is if more competition exists within the local news. It is easy now to make a web site news outlet. The Sun-Times should have a half dozen more web sites to compete with very soon. Why not? All it takes is an iPhone to start your very own news portal (newspaper).

  5. “…and then you get a job and you realize most of what I do is meaningless—high school football games or the same high school for 10 years.”

    He sort of slipped that in there at the end, but it sure does weaken his argument about the importance of photojournalism. I don’t think anyone would agree that we still need a staff photographer to cover HS football. Sounds like part of him wanted to get laid off so he could do work that mattered to him, because it’s a very strange thing to say in an interview like this.

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