Simon Norfolk On World Press Photo

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My advice? Get re-skilled. Keep your photographic aspirations but try to get a trade like film editing, web-design or accounting.

Soon we’ll all be amateur photographers with real money-making jobs on the side that we don’t tell our colleagues about. We need to get over the snobbery attached to that.

Honestly I think he’s kidding… he tells the WPP off for not paying him to write the piece as well.

via World Press Photo.

There Are 29 Comments On This Article.

  1. I don’t think he was kidding. I think everything he has predicted is already happening. You don’t need a crystal ball to see that this is going to be a reality for many photographers.

  2. I have to agree with Simon … I merged my shooting with web-work last year because I saw the same thing coming. Too many cameras; too easy to just shoot good enough for cheap. What’s the Marine saying in that movie … “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” Heartbreak Ridge/Clint Eastwood

  3. No he’s not kidding. He’s spot on. Simon Norfolk is one of the most intelligent photographers working out there and I believe he has a profound understanding of this marketplace.
    thanks for the find Rob

  4. On the nail Simon, few want to pay for quality, even to advertise elite products.

    Many ADs believe that everything can be done in photoshop and have little comprehension of reality, let alone LIGHT…

    The best advice I can give is cut out the ad agencies, go direct to client; they are often more reasonable to deal with.

  5. He isn’t kidding – no way. His editorial comments are right on the money.

    I think what I have always found interesting is how many photographers think that being a photographer means they shouldn’t do more mundane photography work to pay the bills. That is an expensive way to sustain a photography career.

  6. Allow me to be naive…Is this really the solution? Do we really need to take other paths to supplement our professions? Really? There is a huge question as to where digital photo and media can and will go, so don’t we need to lead the way? Walking away from the problem when it gets tough just doesn’t seem right. But what do I know…

    • @N/A, AHHHHH, Thank you N/A!!!!

      Finally, somebody with some balls! I get so damned tired of all this bitching, whining and moaning about how bad things are and will be. The world keeps turning, things change. We evolve. At least the strongest of species evolve. The rest die.

      FDR said it best, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” No, things will never be the way the were 20, 10 or even 2 years ago. But I’d rather focus on finding new answers than whining about letting go of the good old days.

      Grow some!!!

    • @N/A, I agree that resigning myself isn’t the good answer BUT I find that the community of photographers simply will not band together to walk a path behind a leader. And unless we can do that, be a real group with a collective joint opinion, then change will never happen for us in our favor.

  7. Fabian Gonzales

    Thanks for sharing this. I have a lot of respect for Simon Norfolk, and I think his comments about editorial photography are spot on. And I’ve heard other highly successful photographers say similar things.

  8. I think he’s right. That was meant to happen – the economy just put some more pressure on the trigger.

    In the last two years, y income been split between magazine and advertising photo work, teaching and mostly, video or web oriented shoots.

  9. Can we put our heads together on a solution please? Why not come up with something game-changing. Or is this not worth fighting for? The photograph is just a means to an end right, so lets add value and innovation in unprecedented ways. Will it be hard work filled with uncertainty? YES! But don’t creatives like that kind of adventure?? Now, to be fair, I’ve heard that even Einstein supported himself as a patent clerk before shaking the entire world’s perception of the universe… so yes, of course, we have to support ourselves, but do we have to give up on new, bold ideas and resign as amateurs…do we?!

  10. I see the future of photography in a Darwinian light. As a medium that is evolving and shedding its old skin and it’s outdated means of survival. Taking a picture has never been easier with technology constantly improving. It has now become a medium in which anyone can participate. The execution of images has begun to grow wings and has taken off but not all of sustain flight.
    We all own pencils and paper but not all of us can draw.

    Ideas, on the other hand, come from a different place all together and are not device driven.
    They come from you, from your life experience, ethos, some you saw or read, whatever. The ability to convey those ideas clearly and eloquently is something that few are able to do well.

    I am excited to see what the future brings .It has pushed me to strive to make work that has something unique to say and offer. Photo and Art buyers have more choices than ever, executing an image has never been easier. Achieving visual integrity has never been more difficult.

    Time to sharpen those pencils!

  11. 13. Andrew – thank you for the positive note.

    There is certainly a future and I for one have always adapted, as I know many others have. The medium is evolving and there is some great new work around.

    I still believe that Simon is absolutely right; re-skill is essential, but becoming a plumber or a web designer is not necessarily the way forwards.

    Perhaps a better interpretation is to re-evaluate your core interests and abilities and go out and enhance them?

    The next year or two will certainly sort the wheat from the chaff, perhaps something that is much needed within the industry?

    Nick.

  12. Cynical as he is Norfolk is spot on about the direction the editorial world is moving. What always amazes me is that the amount of money publications try to keep out of contributor’s hands can’t be the difference between a profit and loss.
    How do you build a publication running on that kind of micro margin?

  13. Simon Norfolk is really on the right way, it’s not so easy to be a photographer right now, editorial market is disappearing, AD budget are every day smaller…

  14. Nobody knows how “publications” will make money in the future, or how much they will make, and with that uncertainty comes uncertainty for the contributors. I don’t know a single photographer or journalist who isn’t worried, or already in trouble.

    I personally moved towards web development several years ago, having seen the declining economy earlier than most (I lived in Detroit). I also moved to better markets twice in one year. I’ll continue to do what is necessary to support myself. I’ll also continue to do what I love, which is photography. I now only shoot what I want, and I pick and choose from the assignments and commissions that come my way, not feeling the pressure to take each one.

    Things are changing, and I may or may not be able to make 100% of my living from photography, as I did in the past. The future will be what ever it will be, and I’ll continue to adapt to meet what comes my way.

    The plus side of all of this technology is that I get to shoot and write whatever I want, and if it’s at all compelling I’ll find an audience. And maybe one day, I’ll figure out how to benefit, either directly or indirectly, from it financially.

  15. Robert Taylor

    Hats off to Norman….
    Nobody likes the hear the truth; that’s why Politicians have more followers that Spritual Leaders.

    Only us, who are in the industry can tell the difference between a quality image, and a ‘point n shoot image’…but we aren’t the market for the images, we are the producers. So it really doesn’t matter what we think.
    So if an advertiser needs to cut cost……professional photography is where he’ll start.

  16. It’s an unfortunate reality for up and comers right now – but I don’t see it as being much different than it always has been. When I was getting into photojournalism in the mid 90s everyone said ‘forget it’ and ‘you’ll never find work’. To the contrary I found work and have been a working photographer ever since. I did have the foresight to leave the photojournalism world in 2001 and am thankfully diversified enough to survive this. But when did photography students ever really have it easy? Reality checks are a great thing – for the students, for the industry, for the established folks. Creative problem solving is what we get paid to do so anyone who does not really possess that skill will not be as likely to break in or survive right now. Times like these allow the true creatives to really shine – let’s take advantage of it!

  17. It’s not entirely true but it is the trend for sure. There are still photographers out there making a great living but what I’m seeing is that it is the photographers that are great at relationship that are doing well. Their skills as a photographer are irrelevant. This to me is the saddest part. It has always been my core belief that if I was very good at what I did, I would be successful and it was true for a while but skill as a photographer is now completely irrelevant. Just look at most ads and editorial content these days. “Creatives” are looking at flickr for their content half the time. Not to say there is no good photography on Flickr but the overwhelming majority of it is amateurish at best. Eight years of George Bush has caused the entire world to trend towards low level mediocrity or abysmal failure in all things. :)

  18. Image Buyers need to stop hiring hack photographers. They need to train their eyes and develop a taste for sophisticated photography. Unfortunately most don’t know the difference between a good photo and a bad one. They buy horrible photography which “waters down” the market, and the more people see crap images, the more acceptable crap images are.

    Photographers need to learn business and stop giving their work away.

    Norfolk is dead on. I agree with him 100%, Photographers should have seen this coming years ago, I sure did.

  19. Our company is a non-profit professional association with 7000 members in 42 countries. Our conference registration is down 60% vs. last year. Membership renewals are off. Sponsorships are down 60% as well. Revenue will be down 28% or more.

    The result is that the $15,000 spent on conference photography has been replaced by free work done by in-house staff. A point and shoot will have to do. The marketing budget has been cut by 50% – two of three agencies have been fired. The $1.5 million marketing budget has been slashed to $500,000. Staff is being cut and those remaining are taking pay cuts.

    It’s not about making cuts that aren’t required – it’s about survival. Sure – bean counters who know nothing about photography are making some of the decisions. But at the end of the day, the choice is cut staff or cut outside support even if it means quality is lower.

  20. He’s definitely not kidding. But this has been said for years. The number of photographer coming out of schools or picking it up can’t be supported by the job demand. A number of respected photographers have been telling this to students while speaking at schools for decades, and its been true for decades. Its just getting to the point now where there are more and more photographers and less and less jobs and this will be more the case.