Last month, a group of work colleagues and I visited the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The museum features numerous exhibits, many of which are both informative and absorbing. But one exhibit stood out above all:
The Pulitzer Prize-winning photos.
On the first floor of the Newseum, one can see “the most comprehensive collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos ever assembled,” according to the museum’s web site. It is an impressive sight: iconic photographs, one after the other, often as chilling as they are impressive.
We all loved the Pulitzer exhibit. We all stood spellbound at the gallery for far longer than we expected. Deep down, I think, journalists truly appreciate the value of the photograph.
And then, there’s this.
As the month of May came to a close, management at the Chicago Sun-Times made the decision to lay off its entire photography staff. They would instead rely on national feeds, freelancers, and reporters who would shoot photos with their camera-phones.
Is this a one-time thing or a sign of the times? Regardless, the landscape is undoubtedly changing for the newspaper photographer.
That brings us to this week’s Telling The Story podcast.
I recently reached out to photographer Matt Detrich, who was worked at the Indianapolis Star for 15 years. I met Detrich earlier this year and was impressed by his work ethic. He is a self-proclaimed purist who seeks perfection in his work; at the same time, he is also a pragmatist who recognizes the changing landscape and is making the necessary adjustments in his own workflow to adapt to the new world order.
I told Detrich I did not want to focus our conversation on the decision by the Sun-Times, although we did discuss it. Instead, I wanted to delve into the world of the newspaper photographer, from the misconceptions about the job to the balancing act between purism and pragmatism.
Detrich came through with the honesty and insight I have come to expect from him. Among the topics we discussed:
- the decision by the Sun-Times: “I really can’t wrap my head about why they would dismantle one whole department … and such a special department for a newspaper.”
- incorporating video into his job: “One thing I try to do, with 85% of my assignments, is to take an iPhone video … whether they ask me to or not.”
- persevering in the future: “This is gonna motivate me to come back and do hard work, do what I do best, and hopefully honor those photographers that lost their jobs.”
Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.