I like the new year. For one good reason. Everyone does a round up of all the best images of the year in a beautiful slideshow. So, like every year, I wandered through the internet, looking at different version of the year in pictures. This is where I went:



The Big Picture
The New York Times

Sports Illustrated

Der Spiegel

Time Magazine

And this is what I saw. Only pictures from either AP, Reuters, Getty and a little bit of EPA. All wire services, nothing else. At first I thought it was just a USA thing, but no. Even Der Spiegel, the famous German magazine did the same. Time magazine, The New York Times and Sports Illustrated decided that the best images were the ones that they had assigned, thus presenting only pictures of either staff photographers or assigned photographers.

Now, do not get me wrong. There are a lot of very talented photographers at the wire agencies, and some did an incredible job this year, but still. Ignoring photographers from Aurora, Redux, Noor, VII, Abaca, Sipa, Gamma, Reporters, Magnum, National Geographic, Minden, and so many other source, just because they are not accessible via a monthly payment is plainly ridiculous. Its pure journalistic laziness. And another pin in the machine.

All these so called photo editors who called themselves journalist either did not take the time to look around or simply refused to do so because it would cost them more money. Sad and pathetic. It is an insult to the photographic world to blindly close your eyes and the production of all these extremely talented photographers. It’s plain censorship. Economical censorship, maybe but still censorship. They will not publish and show these images because they are too expensive. Thus their readers will never see them. Not because they are bad, but because they will not pay for them.

Who is to blame ? The subscription model and the bean counters that have taken over. Who is suffering ? Everyone, since we are all deprived from seeing the real “best of” and only get to see a washed out version, pre packaged by the wires. What does it say about the state of our industry. Well, for one, that if you are not part of a wire service in 2009, you will have a hard time being published or seen. That real photo editors are disappearing and being replaced by researchers. That there is a real treasure to be mined for those who think outside the wires, and finally, that the public, the readers, are being scammed.

So all these year end “best pictures of 2008” should be renamed “best cheap and affordable pictures of the year”, leaving room for someone with a budget, and a conscience, to do one with the real best picture of the years.

Author: pmelcher

1 Comment

  1. I hope I’m understanding your post correctly about picture of the year and there all agency images.

    I agree they may be taking the path of least resistance by using the wire services. I agree they may be slightly lazy but in their defense I think their may be a few reasonable explanations. Let me give an example from my own experience. I used to be a photojournalist then DOP for a few years at a local mid size paper in Arizona before getting laid off in January.

    We would get calls from all kinds from agencies and publications US and abroad asking for photo’s. We would try to help but we would cringe at the same time.

    Trying to get a newspapers photo editors to submit work to large agencies is difficult. In our case the company that owned the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Arizona was “Freedom Communications”. It seemed they could care less about the archive systems or investing one time in it to keep it running. We used out dated computers and an archive system called Javelin mid to late 1990’s. Most of the time it didn’t work at all. Captions wouldn’t stick in the info fields and so on. If it wasn’t down completely it was a monumental task to deal with and a huge time consumer.

    Prior to 1996 there was film. It was archived but without a data base linked to the images. You had to find the actual article look at when it was published then look for the film from that week and go through every photo. Prior to 1993 there are no archives at all. The photographer kept all there film. Their was a time when they had original prints and physical article in the morgue. They were thrown out because people were complaining about the smell of old papers and there allergies.

    Currently Freedom has the newest DTI system. Works very well but because the company is so cheap they purge the archive every couple of months because they can’t afford storage space. Therefore the photo department had to burn DVD as back ups. As you know DVD are not a searchable archive system. Bottom line most newspaper suck when it comes to investing in archiving.

    We would have our own departments like sports use AP photo as file instead of our staff images because AP’s system are so much more efficient. This would create many spirited conversations. Its a shame but if you asked 100 newspapers photo editors to send you there very best pictures from the year. One I wonder how long it would take to get the images and two how many would participate at all. Thank you, Brad Armstrong

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