How is photojournalism doing?
Born in the 1930's, come of age in the 1950's and 60's, and pronounced near dead in the 1970's and virtually buried by the closing of magazines/rise of the internet--you have to wonder how it is that some aspects of this wonderful world are still around.
Last week I happened to attend the bi-annual Magnum Photos party (they have their annual meeting here every two years, alternating with Paris--I used to work there many years ago). The same guys who worried about Life magazine folding were still around, most beginning their greetings with phrases like, "...just back yesterday from Turkey, leaving Monday for Japan..." or, "my most recent book...."
True, they winced when I asked how it compared to the days when I was there, but as I recall, they were wincing back then due to lack of outlets and shrinking photo budgets as well.
Still, when we see Newsweek shrunken to a collection of essays -- Newsweek!, which didn't hesitate to charter a Lear jet to pick up film (remember film?) in the Middle East; and Time magazine is not much better -- Time!, which sent our guys all over the world!, and...better not to list the deceased media stars, all of whom are shrunken or closed, you have to think that this photojournalism stuff is gone forever. And it is not just the magazines or book series (think Time-Life Books). There is the easy availability of free stock photography on the web to also make you wonder why anyone would even try to earn a living with a camera.
So it was a great relief to see these photographers with all their energy and panache offer so much beer and wine to friends and fans. And then later in the week I barely managed to squeeze into the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. It was actually mobbed, this supreme collection of photojournalism.
Cartier-Bresson's popularity is particularly impressive as he not only more or less created the framework for modern photography and photojournalism, he also helped found Magnum in 1947.
So here in NYC, where the photography schools are going full tilt, Magnum is throwing big parties, and an exhibition of photos by an iconoclastic guy with a really small camera is jammed, it seems like somehow photojournalism is alive and well.
I'd love to know how, in fact, the current champs make it work for them. In the meantime, I'll just appreciate their books and shows.
PHOTO CREDIT: Henri Cartier-Bresson. Juvisy, France. 1938. Gelatin silver print, printed 1947, 9 1/8 x 13 11/16" (23.3 x 34.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer. Copyright 2010 Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris