Journalism

May 8, 2014

When photographers were always part of the story at Fairfax

Photojournalists were once considered a part of the story. The decision to slash the ranks of snappers at Fairfax ends an era, writes former Age photographer Chris Beck.

Fairfax has decided to homogenise the photographic departments of its newspapers. Businessmen are squeezing the last drop of photographic creativity down the plughole in a bid for economic pragmatism.

Under Fairfax’s new photographic arrangements, news, life and business desks in Sydney and Melbourne would make greater use of external service provider Getty Images for photographic assignments. Some 30 Fairfax photographers from a pool of 40 will be made redundant.

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2 comments

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2 thoughts on “When photographers were always part of the story at Fairfax

  1. zut alors

    An image can melt hearts or win an argument in a split second whereas the process is longer through words. An image is also powerful evidence in the way a written report is not.

    The art of photography is about to be homogenised by Fairfax. Why?

  2. puddleduck

    I have followed Chris Beck’s work for Fairfax for years, and have missed it since his departure.
    I applaud this piece, and mourn the loss of all that Chris and his fellow artists and former colleagues stand for.

    Fairfax may as well give up now – so debased is the product, in the drive to make it economical, they are just throwing money away because it’s no longer what we loved about The Age.

    Vale, photojournalism.

  3. Patriot

    Boo hoo! Technology has made your profession redundant. Bet you cheered for the NBN too, you goose. Never mind, the welfare state will take care of you. Might even be worth developing a case of PTSD and getting on the disability. Happy days!

  4. Chips Mackinolty

    Couldn’t agree more with Chris Beck.

    As a stringer for Fairfax for nearly a decade, I valued working with photographers at all times–in particular the indefatigable Dave Hancock, but others as well. Both of us would sweat over the mysterious results of the dark room; both would fret over the 8 minutes it used to take to gram an image to the picture desk. Both would shed blood if a single line in the transmission went wrong and we had to re-send. It was a symbiotic relationship.

    As all journos know, cracking the lead par to a story is the hardest part of the gig. Some times we get it, often not. Many times, it was the inspired work of the snapper that captured the crucial opening to a yarn, and makes our life easier come deadline. Other times, you would know precisely what you wanted, and the photographer would do the job.

    On the one occasion I had to double up as a photographer (the interviewee didn’t want anyone else to be present), I handed in a pretty crap pic, and found myself stumbling to write the story. The image scored a page 1, but was less than average.

    Photographers would often also be the source of stories: they are not mere agency automatons–they live, breathe and shit the news as well as the writers, and bring a vital dimension to journalism.

    And of course freelancers–not agencies–are critical. It was through our dark room, and The Age’s gram machine, that the first images of the Dili Massacre reached the outside world.

    Sure, the media landscape is changing in the digital era, but sacking photographers is sucking journalism of critical experience, talent, obsession and passion.

    And a commitment to news reaching the public, something Fairfax seems increasingly disinclined to care about.

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