When I was last freelancing in the early 1990s there was something of an economic slowdown and work was often in short supply. Now that we are in a full-blown recession most of my friends and colleagues are reporting big downturns in the amount of work they are getting. Whilst my background is in both newspapers and magazines, 90% of my work has been for a variety of magazines and I have had a very even amount of work for the five and a half months of my freelance career so far.

Some of the national newspapers in the UK have cut rates and all of them seem to have cut down the number of shifts available for freelance photographers. Advertising revenue for newspapers is down and a recent BBC television programme fronted by Janet Street Porter had several interviews with industry experts who were predicting some bad times ahead.


 

More positively, Rupert Murdoch predicted that the newspaper publishing business would come through the downturn and be ready for the challenges ahead. The really disappointing part of the programme was that "words" and "columnists" were mentioned time after time. They talked about the job security of all manner of newspaper staff EXCEPT photographers, picture editors and picture researchers. It became clear that the newspaper industry at the highest levels doesn't value photographers.

The relationship between newspapers and their web sites was part of the report and Alan Rusbridger from The Guardian was very upbeat about the symbiosis that needs to exists between print and on-line editions. Once again, no mention made of pictures or even video. The Guardian has invested time and money to get their visual web content up to a very good standard - a standard that comes very close to matching the standard that their print edition achieves.

Once again the newspaper industry has failed to recognise who we, as photographers, are and what we do. The work that our colleagues are doing is of a standard that deserves recognition and since 2003 press photographers in the UK have been trying hard to show the world just how good the work being produced is. Starting with a gallery show in the summer of 2003 and then with the amazing "Five Thousand Days" in 2004 The British Press Photographers' Association has been promoting the profession. If you have never seen a copy of Five Thousand Days I would advise that you go out and find one. It was a major retrospective collection of news, sports and feature images by BPPA members from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the final kick in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

The BPPA followed that up with a series of web based gallery projects - many of which then went onto gallery walls. New years day, The July Project, Never Mind The Ballots and Portraits are all still available for you to see and, hopefully, draw inspiration from. They are not all standard press images and are probably stronger for that.

The association is about to publish UNSEEN - a collection of wonderful images that, for various reasons, were never used. It should be available in the middle of March for £19.99 and will be worth every penny. The sad truth, however, is that photographic books rarely make money and so we had to form our own publishing company Skateboarding Duck to bring the book out. We are truly grateful to Canon UK for their support on the project and we will be showing the book off for the first time on Canon's stand at Focus on Imaging in Birmingham from the 22nd to the 24th of February.

Promoting press photography is a crusade. The UK's premier photography competition for news and sports images is The Press Photographers' Year and you can see yet more brilliant imagery on their web site.

According to their mission statement, The BPPA exists "to promote and inspire the highest standards ethical, technical and creative standards from within our industry". I am heavily involved in The BPPA and I strongly believe in the mission statement. It looks like nobody else is going to shout about what we do, so it's up to The BPPA

© Neil Turner February 2009



 
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