Kenneth Jarecke, Contact Press Images
The Stobist, David Hobby has an interesting, non-strobe related post today entitled "Four Reasons to Consider Working for Free".
David's post makes good sense, and is completely true (as opposed to mostly). In fact, some of the points he makes are part of my game plan for my next (as of yet) untitled project.
I just have two small things to add.
1) For photojournalists, and especially for PFJ's, free has always been the deal.
Actually, the deal went something like this, "I'm interested in this, your magazine may at some point be interested in this also. Give me a small amount of money that won't even cover my expenses and leave me alone. When I'm done you can look at my pictures."
That's how it went, from about the time Magnum rolled around, to roughly the time Getty came on the scene.
Instead of money, film and processing, an airline ticket, or even a letter of accreditation could be the medium of exchange. Regardless, the magazine (or many magazines in different countries) would help to get the ball rolling, but it was still your ball.
This system allowed photographers to pursue images in the way they thought best. Which was often quite different from what had been pre-envisioned during an editorial meeting in New York City.
If anyone cared to make a list, I think you'd find that most of the influential photojournalism from the past fifty years was done in this manner.
Before someone jumps on this, let me just mention that Gene Smith (for example, you can substitute some other well know, still living photographers who worked in the golden age just as well) followed this recipe except for the amount of money part.
The point that I'm trying to make (and I think David is also) is that photographers generally produce their best work when they aren't overly concerned with how useful their images might be to the mainstream press.
I'm personally opposed to beating horses/ponies (living or otherwise) that said, the system I described no longer exists, but it could. Instead of getting backing from three or four magazines around the world, its possible to create a system where a photographer could get backing from three or four thousand people around the world.
2) A hungry photographer is a better photographer.
I really believe that a photographer, writer, any type of artist really, needs to be balancing on the edge of disaster to produce great work. Gene Smith could have coasted at any point in his career at LIFE. He realized (on some level, maybe it wasn't completely thought out) that he had to keep raising the stakes on himself in order to continue producing groundbreaking work.
As a photographer you can raise the bar without threatening to jump out of the window. It might be something as small as standing in exactly the wrong place
Not on the window sill, a different wrong place.