Last week, I caught the tail end of BBC Radio 4's five-episode "Picture Power", radio interviews with five different photojournalists. Delicious irony that radio can do more to describe photography in ways that photography can't.
Mike Goldwater was sharing his experiences in Rwanda. The horrors of genocide more attainable in his quiet and unassuming recounting coupled with audio recordings he made of some of the subjects.
Laced with an assimilation of the awful things we do to each other, I heard something else that sparked another tiny twinge of fury. Perhaps not comparable to the possibility for change that a depiction of genocide can create, but related to how we discover such things.
In 1981, Mike Goldwater, along with eight others, co-founded a press agency The Network: A boutique agency seeking to provide stock photography of a unique and high quality. By 2006 the Network was looking at final dissolution, unable to compete with digital stock giants taking over the industry.
This agency had over a million photographs, photographs that were made using film. A million photographs from some very compelling photographers stored in an archive because they are not in a digital format that appeals to our desire for instant gratification.
Every day I look at images touted as the latest bit of eye candy for the Web, and know, as a photographer, less then 30% have the capacity to be hung on a wall. To be printed. Heck I look at my own work that I blithely post to the internet and know less then 1% would make what I call "a print"!
The fury, and despair, is that we have come to expect a certain quality from photography as digital media presented digitally, a bright and fabulous quality. But we are losing a rich and detailed record.
In the instance of The Network, one million details, one million prints, we may never see.
The photographers appear to be philosophic. To their credit, many have embraced digital and continue to bring us compelling images. In browsing Mike Goldwater's site, I see he is still shooting for print, for the story, rather then Internet Wow Factor. But then, that's likely why his work graces magazine covers and he was one of five photojournalists selected for a radio show about photojournalism. And maybe why he's the one telling a story using any media possible to get the point across.