Roger Tooth, head of photography at The Guardian, says

I would have thought we are at saturation point for photojournalists, but then you have the colleges churning out thousands of graduates each year, so its all a bit worrying really. I haven’t got a clue what these people are going to do? I would have thought we’ve got enough people to go around at the moment. What I suspect they’ll do in the future, I suspect they’ll do video because that’s going to be the currency.

Thanks Pete.

Of course you can say the same about print journalists, radio producers, artists, sports scientists …

Author — duckrabbit

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White. We specialize in digital storytelling.

Discussion (9 Comments)

  1. Daniel says:

    I guess you could use the same argument to the medical field, or accountancy field. Thousands of trained professionals yearning to get stuck in and still a limited number of jobs out there to actually do so. The end of the day, this isn’t just limited to photography. The worlds population is still growing at an alarming rate, the economy is still recovering and candidates applying for jobs still outnumber the positions available.

    Does that mean you need not apply to these courses?

    • duckrabbit says:

      Agreed … Students have only got themselves to blame if they walk out of a photography degree thinking that they’ll be shooting features for the Guardian the next weekend!

  2. Valerie says:

    Me thinks that’s slightly short-sighted from Mr Tooth… what they’ll do in the future if they have any sense is get training from duckrabbit, and produce good audiopics / earshots / photologues / talking images… whichever name finally comes up to replace that awful “audio-slide show”. I fail to see how video could be “going to be the currency” … but what do I know, I’m only a daffybunny after all!

  3. andrew says:

    Daniel, you’re right, you could use the same argument for medicine and accountancy, but you’d be foolish to do so given that they’re two of the most recession resistant professions in existence (we all still get sick and corporate criminals still need to screw every last dollar out of the system) and both pay well enough to fund an affluent lifestyle.

    Even if the amount of work for photographers hadn’t absolutely crashed the typical international day rate hasn’t gone up a single dollar in the last 20 years. You might want to believe that thirty/forty/fiftysomething photographers are a bunch of washed up old windbags whining about the good old days (and in the majority of cases you’d be right), but don’t kid yourself that there hasn’t been a truly radical devaluation of the photographic image. The downward pressure from on one side Getty/Corbis, and on the other Flickr with an endless stream of good enough images means that the prognosis gets worse with every passing day.

  4. Polskey says:

    I came out of photography college two years ago to much the same warnings (in fact I sat in a ‘How to make it in Photojournalism’ seminar with Mr Tooth and he said pretty much the same thing to us all sitting there – thanks Roger). However, like in every profession you are going to get those who are good and those who fall by the side, of the 85 students on the course I think only 3 are earning a living as photographers (and one of those is a full-time assistant) – the others were either not good enough, not dedicated enough or let the endless ‘it’s so difficult to succeed in photography’ comments wear them down. So while there are thousands of students coming out as Mr T suggests, I think it belies the situation on the ground.
    ps. I thankfully (but through sheer grit and determination) was one of the three….

  5. andrew says:

    Polskey, I’m pleased to hear you’re making a living, but are you making a “good” living from photography? Twenty years ago a successful editorial photographer could reasonably expect to be able to buy a comfortable home in NY, London, or Paris, and match the salary of a senior photo editor. That’s just not possible today.

  6. Polskey says:

    Andrew, I’m earning enough to go on a couple of holidays a year but not to send my children to private school!
    I guess though it’s no longer good enough to go down traditional routes to make a decent buck but instead I’m going to have to think outside the box a little, embrace the fast changing multi-media world we are living in and roll with the times to get myself that Manhattan pad that I hanker after – I’m optimistic it’s still possible.

  7. Will says:

    @andrew,

    While I certainly don’t think everything’s peachy by any means, and I do accept and regret the decline in pay for photographers, I’d like to point out here that real wages are going down for nearly every profession in the industrialized world. Sure, rates have declined for photographers faster and more severely than in many other professions, but “doctors and accountants” have been hit too – by ever-increasing university prices.

    In the US, at least, school teachers, law enforcement officials, emergency responders and many others are paid terribly as well; often unable to purchase a home in the community they serve.

    It doesn’t make it right, but this is the sign of a larger trend. One that will likely take a long time to reverse.

  8. andrew says:

    Polskey, you’re right that “it’s no longer good enough to go down traditional routes to make a decent buck”, but this doesn’t contradict Tooth’s statement that “we are at saturation point for photojournalists”; where I think he’s wrong is in imagining that video will magically take up the shortfall. There’ll always be opportunities for genuinely talented photographers to make a living, but there’s going to be a massive cull of blandly generic editorial photographers. Anybody starting out now would be far better advised to spend their college years on a fine art course developing a “look” than a photojournalism course where at best they’ll just become another low-paid identikit drone.

    Will, I remain baffled that anybody imagines the plight of doctors and accountants is in any way comparable to that of photographers. Regardless of the cost of college fees (and not everywhere mirrors the US system), these professions are not in decline. If you want a genuine parallel I’d suggest you look towards the motor industry in Detroit or shipbuilding ion the UK.

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