Death of a photojournalist

17 tammikuun, 2012  |  Published in UP-TO-DATE

In November last year, I read a story on the website of the Finnish publication Markkinointi & Mainonta (3.11.2010), where media researcher Ross Dawson predicts that the death of newspapers will proceed like the black death from one country to the next. In Finland the printing machines will grind to a halt in 2021. The last newspapers will die in the 2040s.

Although Dawson’s provocation is directed at print publications, equally serious doubts have been raised about the life cycle of the photograph and journalism. If there is no photograph or journalism, then a natural continuation of this trend is the death of photojournalism and photojournalists.

All kinds of professionalism and authorship are old-fashioned and do not fit in a postmodern society. The internet and its web citizens with their own media will make the traditional media redundant.

Let’s project thirty years into the future.

I’m sitting at my grandchild’s home staring at the three dimensional media plasma wall next to the virtual room, which has screens and audio channels that can be activated with a remote control. I choose the series Unknown photojournalist about the history of photojournalism, which in its final episode shows the last published pictures of professional photographers. The final episode is repeated annually just like Väinö Linna’s The Unknown Soldier used to be on television during Christmas in the olden days.

The unknown photojournalist is having exhausting battles both on the home front (the editorial desks) and far away on the frontlines (the overseas assignments). Photojournalists are fighting for their rights to take pictures and the opportunity to cover a performative end of the world. However, in the black and white final episode they can do nothing about the mass of amateur photographers who trample over the last remaining photojournalists.

Over time, the dead photojournalists become mythical legends respected and worshipped by dissident, strong-minded citizens. An underground movement has emerged in the society that publishes uncensored newspapers and current affairs magazines, which the supreme social media monitoring authority has banned.

The authorities see a problem in those dead zones without internet reception, where the citizens still know how to read newspapers and look at photographs. Finland has gained a reputation in the northern hemisphere as a strange reader nation, where some of the citizens risk their lives to defend printed publications and photographs from being taken to the waste incineration plant.

In the above scenario the editorial desks and (photo)journalists are obviously history, apart from a few editorial offices that are on display in museums. The communities of the brave new era have conquered the whole media. Each grouping has its own media frequency.

What if in the future the press photographer does not actually go out and take a picture? Who will then get the picture and from where? In the media world of the future, will photographs only be published under exceptional circumstances, with a warning message: “A photo by a photographer”?

Readers will be sending free pictures and videos to the media. Their aesthetics and journalistic content will be a source of mirth in the video conferences of the virtual editorial boards. In the Reader Highlight Video of the Day the neighbours’ robots will be filming the family pets for four hours. The production of photographic cameras is stopped in 2056.


Hannu Vanhanen

Docent, Visual Communication



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