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Sun-Times photographer details life after layoffs, with an iPhone

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One of the 28 members of the Chicago Sun-Times photography staff now without a job, Rob Hart is cataloguing his experience via Tumblr. Hart used his iPhone to capture this screenshot of a photo of he and his wife taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist John J. Kim for the Chicago Tribune.

The name of Rob Hart's Tumblr site says it all. "Laid off from the Sun-Times" is the former Chicago Sun-Times staff photographer's platform for sharing his experience since the newspaper cut its entire 28-person photography staff. The blog's description also gets right to the point: "Rob Hart was replaced with a reporter with an iPhone, so he is documenting his new life with an iPhone, but with the eye of a photojournalist trained in storytelling."

Hart has been posting images that document his life since the layoffs were announced, from the beer he drank at a tavern nearby the newspaper offices an hour afterward to the makeshift home office he's now set up next to the dryer. Hart's hammering home the point that each image he's sharing has been snapped with an iPhone, the very tool that the Sun-Times is reportedly relying on reporters to use to in place of professional photographers. 

"I thought it was a great way to both mock my situation and celebrate it," Hart said when we spoke to him by phone this morning. Either way, the blog has become his storytelling outlet: "that's what we were trained to do as photojournalists," he said.

Hart documents the first day after being laid off from his job as a photographer with the Chicago Sun-Times: "unemployment paperwork and cold pizza."

Hart had worked for the Chicago Sun-Times media organization for 12 years before being laid off. He said he'd dreamed of being a photojournalist since the eighth grade. One of his photojournalism teachers was John H. White, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist who was also amongst those cut by the Sun-Times last week.

"To see the thing you love disappear from your life — it's sad," he described. "But there's so many other outlets for us."

Hart sees a trend toward self-funded, independent photojournalism in the future. He's continuing to pursue freelance projects, and also teaches photojournalism at the Medill School of Journalism.

"I'm going to shoot the kind of photos I want to shoot," Hart said of his future plans. And whether he's using his Nikon D3 or his iPhone, Hart will continue to focus on storytelling.

In the first hour after the layoffs were announced, Hart joined colleagues for a beer at the Billy Goat Tavern nearby the newspaper offices.
Hart watched himself on television at the Billy Goat Tavern as the Chicago Sun-Times layoffs made the news.
A space behind the dryer now serves as Hart's home office.
On Day 4 Hart posted: "Facing my Medill Students for the first time as their unemployed teacher. They were so supportive."
Hart captioned this image of his baby daughter: "You know who doesn’t care I’m a big deal on the Internet? She just wants melon."

Comments

Total comments: 152
12
Under The Sun
By Under The Sun (3 months ago)

My photographer friend who has been in the business for 25 years told me that he has been taking writing courses in the local university and learning to do video because his new employers expect him to not only take pretty photos but to write articles and shoot video for his assignments. He is actually doing quite well.

Photographers are still needed but it seems the market is now demanding a larger skill set beyond photography. I guess its no different from other careers where one must continue to grow and learn to keep up with the times.

0 upvotes
Osvaldo Cristo
By Osvaldo Cristo (Jul 20, 2013)

It is very sad because there are real people behind all this move to cut Photographers. I wish the best for all of them and their families.

On the other hand it is the "natural trends". More and more are expected from the "survivors". It happened a lot of times in the past.

How many "secretaries" you expect to find today? I remind the time all middle level executive had its own secretary. I had one in the past. Today even some "high" executive haven´t. It is expected himself with appropriate tools to organize his agenda, schedule his trips, file his documents.

I remind in the 1990´s when the Photographers in a big newspaper had added for their responsibilities to put his picture treated and in digital format into the newspaper image servers. It killed the scanning and processing staff. Nobody liked it but it was the trend. On that time the Photographers were spared, but some haven´t such luck...

It is sad. It is difficult. Unfortunately it is the trends...

0 upvotes
DuckShots
By DuckShots (Jun 10, 2013)

Very sad. Bad enough the stories don't spread the news anymore. Now no pictures, either. Soon, no comics. I know why. Went to photography school as a non-trad. Kids didn't read or write. Couldn't tell a story in words or pictures. Never saw one with a paper. They didn't know history or respect it. Just me, me, me. So, why have photojournalists if no stories can be told and if there were, no people would read or understand them.

1 upvote
Rage Joe
By Rage Joe (Jun 10, 2013)

Way too much vignetting, pro.

3 upvotes
Rage Joe
By Rage Joe (Jun 10, 2013)

Hope they didn't get fired because of getting into this "mobile photography" :)

0 upvotes
al_in_philly
By al_in_philly (Jun 9, 2013)

Given the fact that the modern on-line newspaper is a multi-media animal, emphasizing photos and video as much as text, you'd think that they'd be hiring more photographers instead of laying them off.

Yes, you can give somebody an iPhone and tell them to "take some pictures" to accompany their stories, but that's just as realistic as asking a photographer to write stories to go along with their images. Sure there are a rare few who can do both, but you'd be lucky to find more than one or two at the Sun-Times or any major paper who can master both forms of journalism, despite what the accountants would like things to be. To create the content needed for a first-class internet focussed newspaper, you need trained writers, photographers, and videographers to fill their virtual news holes.

When you think of it that way, the Sun-Times isn't moving forward with the evolution of journalism, but back, away from the heavily visualized newspapers which the internet is driving.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
MikeonNikon
By MikeonNikon (Jun 8, 2013)

The social media have cheapened photography. People expect everyone to 'share' their pictures ... what do we get in return? I share reduced images but will never give away my full size digital negatives. I would be contributing to the lack of respect photographers deserve for professional work. Look how much we spend on equipment and travel. DO other tradespeople do this - spend so much on tools and training and work for free?
One time I was considering sending a photo into a local paper. Then I read the terms - sure I take the legal responsibility if someone objects to the picture and the media gets all of the sales and the rest and can publish it anywhere in the world at anytime ... with nothing coming back to me. I hope am not so vain as to need my name in the press after the effort of getting a great picture. We need to stand together to make photographs respected for their real value again. Try your local paper...
As a former girlfriend said ... show me the money honey...

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Reg Natarajan
By Reg Natarajan (Jun 8, 2013)

You know what's really telling? DP Review just posted some help wanted ads. You know what they're looking for? Writers who can take photos. This ship has sailed. Might as well get over it.

2 upvotes
CasperCaspe
By CasperCaspe (Jun 8, 2013)

A good photographer can take good pics with even a simple camera. not necessarily he/she must carry a 5000 USD camera.

On the other hand, not all people carrying a 5000 USD camera can take great pics.

1 upvote
Joe Ogiba
By Joe Ogiba (Jun 7, 2013)

I bet the daily payroll for the 28 photographers was about $15,000 and they made the correct business decision to lay them off and switch to ( photo, video, bloggers) freelancers. I am sure the paper editions will be history soon since I have not seen anyone under 50 subscribing to one.

2 upvotes
Mattwd
By Mattwd (Jun 7, 2013)

It's true that this was probably a smart business move. This was my exact first thought upon reading about this.

Unfortunately, the thing that bothers so many of us about this story is the bit about "iPhone photography". Teaching your entire writing staff to take slightly-less-crappy pictures with their phones does not bode well for the prospects of freelancers at that paper.

0 upvotes
Reg Natarajan
By Reg Natarajan (Jun 8, 2013)

It was clearly a good business decision, and I doubt it will be the last of its kind. I have nothing against this guy and I wish him well in rebuilding his life. He's in a dead end profession, however, and he should look at a career change if he's smart, which he seems to be. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see other large journalism organizations make similar cuts to photographic staff in coming months. I also expect the results to be just fine for the organizations making the cuts.

0 upvotes
AndyGrogan
By AndyGrogan (Jun 6, 2013)

I'm surprised their were so many photographers on staff as well. My only other question is are the only reporters on staff those that cover the Chicagoland area or do they also have state, national, and international reporters?

Or is that all Reuters/AP feeds now?

Mike Royko they don't have. Why read the paper anymore?

1 upvote
Nikonworks
By Nikonworks (Jun 5, 2013)

28 photographers seems to be alot of photographers for a one city newspaper.

How many of these photogs were published on a day to day basis?

Comment edited 21 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Jun 5, 2013)

Obviously, paying less in salaries and benefits will buy some time but as a former boss of mine liked to say "Eventually, you run out of things to cut". It's true. He finally had to fire himself when he ran out of people to let go.

0 upvotes
Rob Hart
By Rob Hart (Jun 5, 2013)

Thanks for all the love guys/gals! Here in Chicago my man John H. White calls it PJ love (photojournalism love) We all lift up each other and help each other and support each other. Ever since I was a teenager I've wanted to be a photojournalist and tell the stories of my community. Hopefully I can get back to that after this little project come to fruition. But photography sure is fun and who in their right mind would do anything else?

Comment edited 42 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (Jun 5, 2013)

That's a heartbreaking story well-told like only a professional photojournalist can.

1 upvote
peevee1
By peevee1 (Jun 5, 2013)

http://www.forbes.com/pictures/lmj45ldff/no-2-film-video-and-photographic-arts/

The 10 Worst College Majors

No. 2: Film, Video And Photographic Arts

0 upvotes
xMichaelx
By xMichaelx (Jun 5, 2013)

Weird - I was a music major (#5) and my college roommate was an Anthropology major (#1) at a pretty low-level school, and we both make in the low six figures.

I guess it depends on whether you LIMIT yourself to only that 1 field, rather than taking advantage of the fact that most fields are interconnected with dozens of others. One of my co-workers was a photography & dance double major, and makes more than me as an archivist.

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (Jun 5, 2013)

So you don't work in the field you studied for. That is exactly the definition of the worst major, just wasted time and money.

3 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Jun 5, 2013)

I got a BA in photography but I should have taken the advice from The Graduate, "plastics".

2 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 6, 2013)

Often a college degree is simply an indication someone is willing to learn and work hard. I know many, many people in jobs completely different from their degree but they only got the job in the first place because they had the degree.....and a desire to learn, expand their minds, work hard, commit themselves to a task, and that sort of stuff.

1 upvote
Under The Sun
By Under The Sun (3 months ago)

I know very financially successful folks who do not even have a high school education because their families were so poor. Its harder to start off the real world without a degree but it still very possible to do well in life.

0 upvotes
jeangenie
By jeangenie (Jun 5, 2013)

I don't think the photographer understands the statement he's making. Using an iPhone for this is a lose-lose for him.

If people don't like the work, it shows that he is a poor photojournalist, and not necessary.

If people do like the work, it shows that good work can be done with an iPhone ... and again, the guy with the expensive camera isn't necessary.

I grasp what he was trying to say by using the iPhone, but he clearly didn't think it through. There is literally no way that this results in him looking like anything other than another schmuck with a camera phone.

5 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 5, 2013)

When the paper sees the work done by journalists and compare it to the work done by a pro using the same equipment, they might realize that having a pro with equipment that doesn't suck really is the way to go. Not only that, but these images are heavily doctored black and white images that may make an artistic statement but don't belong on every page of a color newspaper. He's highlighting his skill using the same equipment they are giving the writers so the owners don't say what every other idiot says about a great picture: "wow, you have a really good camera." They'll be able to say "hey, look at how much better this guy is than journalists with iPhones....maybe if he had a good camera in his hands and we paid him we could have really great images on our pages again."

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
xMichaelx
By xMichaelx (Jun 5, 2013)

I don't judge people by their tools, only by their creations.

1 upvote
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 5, 2013)

That's kind of an elevated way to say you've forgotten that tools are required to create, which means if you judge their creations then you are, by association, judging their tools. Then again, you didn't say you were judging the creation but the person, which I think is a poor way to judge a human being as their actions are more indicative of character than their art. ;)

0 upvotes
Jeff Loughlin
By Jeff Loughlin (Jun 7, 2013)

You've completely missed the point. It's not about the expensive equipment vs the iPhone. An iPhone in the hands of a skilled photographer can make amazing images that tell a story. An iPhone in the hands of a reporter is just a reporter taking snapshots.

3 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 7, 2013)

Jeff, I don't think people draw any distinction any more between snapshots and photographs. Debate terminology and semantics, but there are good pictures and bad pictures, art and record keeping, moment catching and emotion catching. Once people were given a device that they carried around with them everywhere that could take pictures and an app that could elevate their garbage to more closely resemble artwork they suddenly took on the visage of the undiscovered artistic genius they always knew they were deep down. Add to that a bunch of other undiscovered talent "liking" their images constantly and they had a self-fulfilling prophecy or self-reinforcing delusion, however you want to label it. "Don’t set out to raze all shrines—you’ll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity—and the shrines are razed." --Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead.

0 upvotes
dotbalm
By dotbalm (Jun 5, 2013)

Cry me a river.

Maybe this photographer can get a job at the Woe Is Me Gazette.

3 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 5, 2013)

Here's hoping you lose your job to someone less qualified than you, or better yet a robot.

9 upvotes
GradyBeachum
By GradyBeachum (Jun 5, 2013)

To sum up the comments so far -
1. Photojournalism is dead, Long Live Photojournalism
2. Oohh look, something shiney.....
3. what was I saying, oh, yea...
4. I can take art pictures as good as the next guy...
5. No you can't, you need xyz camera
6. Can! (repeat 4 through 6 until internet connection drops out)
8. Your mother wears army boots and you smell funny.
9. well, you cant spppel good andm your teeth are crooked.

In all seriousness, I am sad that this has happened to the photographers recording news, there will always be a place in my heart and mind for them, but this is inevitable. It is possible to take photos that grab your heart and soul with any camera, after all your eyes are really cameras.
What is hard to separate out are the art shots suitable for the front of a refrigerator (or f*book), and those that hang in a gallery - they both in theory will last indefinitely on the internet.

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
Don Fraser
By Don Fraser (Jun 5, 2013)

Lot of truths here about photography but none of them really apply.

The problem is that there is no ad money coming in to pay for good staff and gear, and so it's unfortunately game over.

I don't like it, but the next issue at the paper is going to be whether it will fold or not.

2 upvotes
Kendall Helmstetter Gelner

Ok, these are very nice.

But in order to judge the wisdom of this move, would it not bet better to also look and see the work produced by the journalists who are now also photographers?

Many of them probably treat photography as a hobby like so many people. And being writers they understand what makes a story, what parts are important to convey a message. It may not be as great a leap from words to images in storytelling as you may think.

This photographer is ironically also making the point that it is POSSIBLE to produce artistic and emotional images using an iPhone - so let's see now what the journalists remaining produce.

2 upvotes
Alternative Energy Photography

Okay, not to flame here, but some of the comments below are highly judgemental. Words like "crap", "garbage", and worse.

It's art, and the rules set forth (by the guy doing the art, who has every right to set his own rules for this piece) is that he's going to take them with his iPhone.

I'm not big on watercolor paintings, but if that is the chosen medium, I'll look at the gallery with that in mind, and will give quarter accordingly.

I have observed over the years that many creative types seem to say one thing, but then be harsh for harshness' sake, and the comments in this article fall right into line with that observation.

1 upvote
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 5, 2013)

Creative types are the biggest a-holes on the planet. They're also the salt of the Earth, irony of ironies. They probably started off innocently enough or had a serious psychological disorder, but either way having your work rejected and judged is something one almost can't avoid taking personally. So what happens is they eventually start assuming everyone is out to judge them and hurt them (or started out that way because, like I said, they already had a serious psychological disorder as is common amongst artists). Their approach to the world becomes harsh and defensive or needlessly self-important and egocentric as a protective mechanism. They bury themselves in their art to be accepted by other artists since normal people don't understand them. Then again some artists are perfectly healthy and down to Earth.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 8 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
D1N0
By D1N0 (Jun 5, 2013)

Just great when your employer decides images should come cheap and abolishes your trade.

0 upvotes
Siddharth
By Siddharth (Jun 5, 2013)

The photographs are so well captured and as if they tell a story...
Thousands of people get laid of every day...The pictures really depict on
- Their feelings on the situation...biiternes yet the reminiscence.. their achievements in the past
- Their apprehension on how they will face the society
- Realization on the challenge ahead..

6 upvotes
RXVGS
By RXVGS (Jun 5, 2013)

http://thephotobrigade.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/canon-nikon-iphone.jpg

5 upvotes
RXVGS
By RXVGS (Jun 5, 2013)

We look at pictures of photojournalists carrying around multiple Leica rangefinders in the past, will we look back in 50 years from now and see the photojournalists of today carrying around multiple smartphones?

5 upvotes
Alternative Energy Photography

EDIT: "Reply to" ended up being the wrong post. I don't know why, but this seems to happen on DP more often than other sites.

Comment removed (I will try to put it in the correct thread below).

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
SeeRoy
By SeeRoy (Jun 5, 2013)

Richly ironic.

0 upvotes
wansai
By wansai (Jun 5, 2013)

absolutely ironic because the photographer is so good, even with an iphone, he manages to capture what most people cannot. The 1st shot is very moving and evocative.

you can't just give a camera (any camera) to just anyone and expect them to be able to do what a photographer does.

The skill and experience is real and it shows.

1 upvote
coudet
By coudet (Jun 5, 2013)

@wansai

"Hart used his iPhone to capture this screenshot of a photo of he and his wife taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist John J. Kim for the Chicago Tribune."

1st shot was shot by John Kim with something other than an Iphone (read: DSLR). The only thing this guy did was open Kim's picture in photoshop and then shoot that with his Iphone.

His actual photos taken with an iphone are the other ones and they are garbage.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
3 upvotes
Alternative Energy Photography

"His actual photos taken with an iphone are the other ones and they are garbage."

That is a subjective and exceedingly harsh judgement.

Even on a less-than-ideal monnitor, I can see enough detail in all of the photos to get the point and to identify with the emotions being conveyed. 18 bazillion megapixels and 2.5 gigazillion colors not required!

1 upvote
Bob in Baltimore
By Bob in Baltimore (Jun 11, 2013)

Indeed it is richly ironic. But the irony was, I think, intentional.

He had a quality photograph taken by a pro with pro equipment. He copied it with his iPhone camera, thereby inserting a truly good photo into his piece, while maintaining the "purity" of an iPhone only piece.

The iPhone was able to faithfully recreate the depth of field, but only becasue it was in the object being shot!

0 upvotes
friedduck
By friedduck (Jun 5, 2013)

Reading through the comments I'm surprised how many miss the point of the exercise, namely that it's his skill as a photographer that's important and not the tools that he happens to be using.

It's good work all things considered. It saddens me the Trib has gone this route and I hope the paper suffers for it so that others don't follow their example.

2 upvotes
Julian
By Julian (Jun 5, 2013)

Its the Sun-Times not the trib.

0 upvotes
Alternative Energy Photography

"It's good work all things considered."

Yes it is. Some posters here seem highly motivated to dis anything they see that doesn't fit their own worldview. All I'm waiting for now is somebody to try to shut me down by saying I'm not qualified to render an opinion and that I should write my own article on this subject, complete with my own iPhone pics. Sigh.

0 upvotes
coudet
By coudet (Jun 5, 2013)

"Sun-Times photographer details life after layoffs, with an iPhone" - and it shows, unfortunately.

0 upvotes
ShutterbugDougG
By ShutterbugDougG (Jun 5, 2013)

Having some reporter, even a very competent one, take some iPhone story shots isn't just a *small* compromise on image quality; it's absurdly and obscenely *huge*, a wholesale endorsement of image mediocrity to the masses (for whom, alas, the bar on image quality continues to drop). Heck, CS-T might as well just crowdsource from the public (e.g. cellphone/P&S iReporters) and exploit their free tweet pix. If the CS-T previously sold its photogs' images on its website, I strongly believe sales of iPhone shots by reporters will drop radically, if not entirely. (The Denver Post sells images via secondstreet's myCapture platform, while its sister paper, the nearby Boulder Daily Camera, uses SmugMug Pro; I have no idea what kind of income they generate but would love to know.) In summary, I'd expect zero photo Pulitzers from iPhone-shooting reporters. (;-)

0 upvotes
ShutterbugDougG
By ShutterbugDougG (Jun 5, 2013)

Of course, a trained, dedicated and gifted photographer or photojournalist, with years, or especially decades, of experience (including a well-developed instinct), can still produce some great images even with modest gear, such as an iPhone. However, we all know that no iPhone - or any other cellphone, point-and-shoot, or even most amazing latest superzoom bridge camera - has anywhere near the capabilities of pro DSLR gear - that shoots 9-11 FPS at ISO 100,000-200,000 with a full-frame sensor and fast, powerful f2.8 AF telephoto or wide angle zooms.

Presumably, they'll be using skilled freelancers to pick up at least some of the slack from the laid-off staffers, hopefully not just former staffers at reduced wages and no benefits.

2 upvotes
Kendall Helmstetter Gelner

Four journalism these days though, why does any of that really matter?

For shots you can control, you just put the subject in light good enough for the camera you have. For shots where you would have needed a really long zoom lens, you rely as you said on freelancers or licensing cell-phone photos from people who were ten feet away instead of 500 yards.

Photojournalism as we know it has been doomed for some time by the wider spread of decent camera phones, combined with most traditional media sources having plummeting reader or viewer counts. Combine that with acceptance or poorer quality images by the population at large and it's plain photojournalists cannot rely on steady employment going forward.

2 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 5, 2013)

Journalism quite often involves situations outside the control of the journalist. People are doing their thing, living their lives, and if you miss it you can't snag them and have the fireman squeeze a few more tears out as he walks away from a bomb site with a dead baby in his hands.....I guess you could, but there might be some PR issues. Freelancers are great and serve their purpose, but they are paid mercenaries and they may not share the same interests as the paper. It is a shame that jouranalism isn't making a smooth transition into the modern world, but I think they are doing themselves a disservice by butchering the one thing that still sets them apart.

0 upvotes
nikanth
By nikanth (Jun 5, 2013)

Shallow DoF with iPhone?!

0 upvotes
Kendall Helmstetter Gelner

There is an app for that.

2 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 5, 2013)

The first image is another image on a computer monitor taken by a camera with some DoF. A better camera -- the only way to get DoF on an iPhone! :)

0 upvotes
Alec Watson
By Alec Watson (Jun 5, 2013)

I think this is a brilliant use of talent. I am lucky enough to make a very good living out of images - moving and still; I followed this story as it saddens me; yet Rob here is inspiring. For me, an iphone is amazing - yes it TOTALLy lacks any lens and aperture control, but that for me is what separates excellence in story telling from mediocre. You "can" create a story out of a good fast lens sometimes, but if you can "tell" a story out of a wide in focus lens day in and day out - you are brilliant. I think Rob is kicking some ass here - I challenge a reporter not skilled in visual story telling to tell a story with an iPhone - unless they are visually gifted - Rob is making irony out of this - well done!

1 upvote
JWest
By JWest (Jun 5, 2013)

If you can "tell" a story using only finger painting you're even more brilliant. "Tell" a story through dance alone, and you're more brilliant still. It's probably still easier to use the best kit available for the job, though.

1 upvote
tobaccos
By tobaccos (Jun 5, 2013)

I'm just a smartphone guy, but I do respect Pro.
Smartphone may work for street photographer, or snapping stuff that is nearby or you can walk close to. When it goes to sport, speeches, etc, we still need pro kit.. which is why I think Sun are BS and making excuses to lay-off people..

0 upvotes
Glen Barrington
By Glen Barrington (Jun 5, 2013)

The Sun times is dying, not making up excuses to fire people. Shoot, the whole industry is dying!
This is just the thrashing about of a dying beast, blindly trying to figure out if a new position will delay the inevitable. Unfortunately, these people's jobs were doomed for quite some time.
At least THESE people will get some free publicity and the opportunity to figure out what a photog's place in the modern world should be. The ones who come later won't get either, they'll just be shut out.

5 upvotes
Tan68
By Tan68 (Jun 4, 2013)

I wonder what magic the iPhone has?

Now, the photographic staff is being laid off and reporters are using the iPhone. The iPhone is 'good enough'. OK.

What is it that the iPhone has that makes it good enough now? If it is good enough now, why weren't P&S cameras good enough a couple years ago? Why weren't P&S 35mm film cameras good enough before that?

'It is always with you' is a non-starter. Surely a reporter can be bothered to carry a small P&S.

There is no technology the iPhone introduces. Photographically, any other image capture device can meet or exceed it.

A cell could have been used as a hot-spot for a camera with a Wi-Fi card years ago. Maybe not as convenient as using a smartphone, but if the plan is to get rid of the photographers, the reporters could have dealt with it or just brought camera back to the office, anyway.

Other than being quite hip, what is it that the iPhone brings to the table that enables this change?

6 upvotes
Johnsonj
By Johnsonj (Jun 5, 2013)

"why weren't P&S cameras good enough a couple years ago? Why weren't P&S 35mm film cameras good enough before that?"

They were good enough. Why don't you think they were NOT good enough?

Seriously, dude!

6 upvotes
Tan68
By Tan68 (Jun 5, 2013)

Johnson, you missed the point of my post. Of course point and shoot cameras were good enough before. The reporters should reasonably be using them now.

The reason they are using iPhones is because they can get a little mileage by jumping on a fad. The layoff creates just a bit more furor. Not only are they laid off but laid off for iPhones, no less! See?

1 upvote
Johnsonj
By Johnsonj (Jun 5, 2013)

Tan, I see your point.

Imaging devices used today have to be digital and are going to need wi-fi connectivity for instant upload. It's the only way to make it viable for fast-moving news. Most new cameras are incorporating this feature now. I think the high-end P&Ss are going to start incorporating apps, too.

1 upvote
Kendall Helmstetter Gelner

P&S cameras a couple of years ago could not transmit images to an editor instantly.

They also did not include many apps that add artistic effects that gloss over the underlying lack of photographic skill by the user.

Also with older P&S cameras you would have had to know to change film as the light changed. The iPhone is essentially an ISO 50 - ISO 1600 camera with automatic HDR and panning abilities built in - and that's just the default Camera app...

The results will not be as good as a real photo-journalist but they will be better than if they had switched to using P&S cameras from years ago.

1 upvote
JWest
By JWest (Jun 6, 2013)

@Kendall - I'm reasonably certain that P&S cameras from a couple of years back didn't require you to "change film as the light changed".

0 upvotes
toomanycanons
By toomanycanons (Jun 4, 2013)

Well...employed for the past twelve years means weathering the recession that put millions out of work. Yet he kept on shooting in a paid position. Lucky him! Now he has the freedom to shoot what he wants and he opts for his iPhone? Shooting Facebook crap? Man, is this what you've been dreaming about all the time you've been paid to be a photographer?

2 upvotes
day2012
By day2012 (Jun 5, 2013)

It is hard to imagine a more comprehensive misunderstanding of the article. Unless of course you didn't read the article? If you read the article, you will be able to understand why he is taking photos with his iPhone.

2 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Jun 4, 2013)

Pinhole journalism is the future.

Get your cereal box now before it's too late...

.

8 upvotes
alanjdooley
By alanjdooley (Jun 4, 2013)

The Sun-Times is doing what my Daddy used to call "peeing in your boots to keep you feet warm." It doesn't last for long and neither will they.

9 upvotes
Marques Lamont
By Marques Lamont (Jun 4, 2013)

Just look at the Chicago Sun-Times website...

What type of decisions are being made there?

0 upvotes
Johnsonj
By Johnsonj (Jun 4, 2013)

Long live iPhone and Hipstamatic!

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/finding-the-right-tool-to-tell-a-war-story/

2 upvotes
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (Jun 4, 2013)

Not again....Shots should be attributed to the photog and or smartphone and not to a lousy iPhone. For once, please remove that d@mn word coz it is irritating to see it in every headline.

8 upvotes
Mike Oo
By Mike Oo (Jun 4, 2013)

I don't understand why he wouldn't use this situaition to prove that iPhones are not suitable for serious photojournalism. Show them what a "real" camera can do. Instead, he shoots the same crap he is about to be replaced with. When I read about his project I was expecting incredible work, owing to his status as a former staff shooter for a major newspaper. Now I see that he is just shooting the same sh*t as everyone else. Sorry, why should he have kept his job?

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
15 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

Because one day they'll compare their journalist's photos with an iPhone to his photos with an iPhone and realize that a real camera in his hands would turn good photos into amazing, paper-moving photos.

4 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Jun 4, 2013)

Maybe they kept his work-issued camera?

1 upvote
hindesite
By hindesite (Jun 4, 2013)

Smartphones are suitable for some serious photojournalism.

Operators without the skills or eye are not.

It has little to do with the equipment, and a lot to do with the experience of the person using it.

2 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

hindsite, Indeed. Poor equipment in the hands of poor photographers leads to poor output.

0 upvotes
Pangloss
By Pangloss (Jun 4, 2013)

An entire team of experienced, well trained photojournalists cannot be replaced overnight with freelancers with iPhones. The Chicago Sun-Times is losing an important asset, and I consider this decision from management to be particularly stupid. It's also an act that lacks dignity. Personally I don't think the Chicago Sun-Times will survive much longer, having lost the team largely responsible for its visual appeal. In the very short term, they are saving some money. In the medium-long term, they are doomed.

3 upvotes
Johnsonj
By Johnsonj (Jun 4, 2013)

"An entire team of experienced, well trained photojournalists cannot be replaced overnight with freelancers with iPhones. "

They were replaced last week, during the day. It didn't even take overnight.

9 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Jun 4, 2013)

You'd think they would at least take baby-steps. Maybe furloughs, pay cuts or layoff half the people.

2 upvotes
Johnsonj
By Johnsonj (Jun 4, 2013)

tkbslc...let's not kid ourselves. This has been a long time in the making. If any one of those staff photogs didn't have a backup plan then shame on them.

3 upvotes
Josh152
By Josh152 (Jun 4, 2013)

@Johnsonj

Exactly. It is not like this is a surprise. It is in fact only the beginning.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530094624.htm

http://petapixel.com/2013/05/24/samsung-working-on-overlay-feature-to-help-strangers-snap-better-shots-of-you/

0 upvotes
Daro31
By Daro31 (Jun 4, 2013)

Good for him, he is dealing with it the way he knows how. I guess I am an old fart, and my own photography and the work of others has been with me my whole life - 63 years so far. I have moved from B&W darkroom, and a twin lens reflex Rollei 2.8 being the ultimate press camera and into 35mm and then digital. All of the jumps meant better pictures, faster moments in time to the world. Ths jump to I-Phones is a big step backward. Anyone who doesn't think this is a pivotal moment in journalistic photography go and look through the photo record of Life magazine and tell me how many of those shots would have been captured with a notepad in one hand and an Iphone in the other. John Kennedy saluting his fathers coffin, Afghan girl with the eyes everyone remembers, Robert Capa; Spanish Soldier. The list goes on of captured moments that where part of forming my life. Unless you have ever waited for that special fraction of a second while squinting through a view finder you do not understand

1 upvote
Kirigoi
By Kirigoi (Jun 5, 2013)

Thank you Daro; both for expressing my thoughts on this story better than I could, and for reminding me of some wonderful moments in journalism. This is an enormous step backwards for the Chicago Sun-Times; if they'd announced that they were moving to a freelance model and occasionally employing some of their own staff and other experienced photographers is one thing, and in the current climate probably justifiable. To expect their existing untrained staff to step in using equipment that can barely match up to the quality of those old TLRs is a massive insult to photojournalists everywhere.

0 upvotes
hlcowan
By hlcowan (Jun 4, 2013)

I too have a cell phone camera, as well as an instant point and shoot, a more involved point and shoot, and five pro body cameras. Can the cell phone take the same shot as the 7D? Sometimes, but not always. Also, the photojournalist is TRAINED in composition, story, and technique; he does not exist in the green box, clicking the button. I understand the need to make cuts; but to lay off the entire department is awful. If I had subscribed to this paper, I would have cancelled my subscription. I do not want my news delivered to me in the same format as a teenager documenting their day.

4 upvotes
Johnsonj
By Johnsonj (Jun 4, 2013)

Aren't there better bars, closer to the Sun-Times than the Billy Goat. That's a Tribune hangout!

1 upvote
Josh152
By Josh152 (Jun 4, 2013)

As sad as it is for people losing their jobs this makes way more business sense. Why would a news paper pay someone a salary and benefits when they can simply have the reporter take a couple of good enough snaps with their phone or use one of the dozens of photos people just send to them in the hopes of getting it in the paper.. We are not taking about 30X40 gallery prints. It's a news paper with low quality printing anyway. Besides you don't need high quality photos when the reader is going to looking at them for 2 seconds, think, "that's nice" and never think about them again.

My local TV news station doesn't even send camera men to do the video work for a story. They send out the reporter by themselves with a big pro video camera and a tripod. and you know what? The video work is pretty decent and certainly good enough for a news report.

(continued)

4 upvotes
Josh152
By Josh152 (Jun 4, 2013)

(continued from above)

Day to day photo journalism at a paper or TV station is about showing what happened not creating art. So with how good the auto mode is on cameras and smart phones these days anyone who can point the camera in the right direction, switch it to auto, and press the button can do it. That is the hard truth.

The days when only a trained, expert photographer could get the shot and was sent out to cover a story are over. Now when a note worthy event happens most of the time the news organization in question has 50 smartphone snaps sent in by the people who are there or nearby before the event is even over. So they simply have no reason to pay a photographer for pics.

No matter how much whining and gnashing of teeth there is from self entitled and self important photographers *cough* Scott Bourne *cough* on the internet over this the fact is it would be a very poor business decision for the Sun-Times to keep their staff photographers.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

LOL Losing instant visual impact is a huge deal. No, they aren't huge prints and most people will probably glance at some photos and move on, but in the face of poor snapshots they may linger on a photo and think "man, what a pisspoor newspaper...I could take better shots. Why should I read this when it looks so uninteresting and unimportant?" In the face of ubiquitous digital photography tools people are taking for granted that some people have skill and most don't. Some people have experience and talent and most don't. Catching the pivotal, moving, important moment is very hard and can be very important.
Unfortunately we are so inundated by instant news, instant video, instant photographs posted by people with their smartphones handy that has become the standard and real journalism is the victim. Go watch Fox News or almost any other cable news channel and you'll see what the effects of watering down news with superficial coverage and opinion shows on meaningful content.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
8 upvotes
Josh152
By Josh152 (Jun 4, 2013)

Just look at what gets ooos and ahhs on facebook. Images I would have just deleted get dozens, sometimes hundreds of likes and positive comments. The high standards you speak of are only held by other photographers. Everyone else could give a two sh*ts about "Visual impact." All they care about is if they can tell what's happening in the photo.

Sure another photographer might think a paper is crap because of the photos but the vast majority of readers won't even notice because they will be just as good as the snaps they take every day with their phone.

As far as catching the moment goes The shear number of people with camera phones at any event virtually guarantees someone will get it and probably before the staff photog even makes it to his car.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Johnsonj
By Johnsonj (Jun 4, 2013)

Josh you are right. Cameras are just too good these days...including phone cams. What matters these days is being there. The millions with a phone cams or wi-fi enable cameras are everywhere at once. More and more these people upload their pictures instantly and good many of them place them where media can get them. Of those millions there are oodles of great photographers. Even the ones who think nothing of photography are capable of snapping an iconic shot. Of those millions, there's a boatload of people that are not bogged down by photographic "rules," people that are willing to experiment and break new ground.

The D/SLR dinos hopping over here from DPR will not like your post, but they need to hear the truth.

4 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

Do you honestly believe people who are so bored with life that all they do is constantly check Facebook and "like" everything spend a dime on a newspaper? Also, do you think people don't have different standards for different situations? Liking a photo on Facebook isn't simply because of the photo, it's because someone they like took it or because someone they thought was a drooling moron managed an interesting shot. You think 20 likes and 45 comments on Facebook would equate to some kind of sales bump in a paper showing the same image? The vast majority of readers might have low standards for a highschool friend they never talk to who posts an image of their homemade meatloaf on Facebook, but no matter how stupid someone is a great picture of an important even has a different impact on them at a visceral level. And for catchign the moment, put a million iPhone shooters on the sidelines of a football game and see how many great closeups and action shots they get. Zero.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Daro31
By Daro31 (Jun 4, 2013)

You my dear man do not belong on a web site commenting on photography, journalism or even photo equipment. Surely their must be a web site for passionless accountants - perhaps calculator review would enjoy your bottom line approach to the world.

1 upvote
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

Daro31, :) People who spend their entire day on Facebook have forgotten that there are great photographs in the world and very few of those come from phones....and the ones that do come from phones would probably be better (or more common) if that person had chosen to use a good camera.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Josh152
By Josh152 (Jun 4, 2013)

@howardoark

You missed the point entirely.

The facebook thing was and example of how the average person has very low standard for photography. If you really think that the potentially better composed, and slightly better technically photos a staff photog could make for a paper will lead to enough additional sales over just letting the reporters take the pics that it makes up for the huge cost of having staff photographers you are out of touch with reality. Most people simply do not care how good the photos in the paper are as long as the show what is happening.

Besides we are talking about small, grainy, soft, B&W pics printed on low quality paper. They aren't going to be that good technically anyway by the time people see them even if an expensive DSLR used by someone who knows what they are doing created the photo.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Johnsonj
By Johnsonj (Jun 4, 2013)

http://petapixel.com/2013/04/02/ny-times-puts-instagram-image-on-the-front-page/

The best NY Times picture I've seen in a long while!

1 upvote
xarcex
By xarcex (Jun 4, 2013)

This is what I was talking about the day I got bashed with "I'd love to see xarcex in a warzone with his iphone" type of comments... being there > anything else, period.

Thanks Josh!

1 upvote
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

Most papers print in color. Most people have low standards for Facebook photos. People still respond to great photos in publications where a Facebook photo would be an obvious joke. The source is always important in any reaction...the context, the people involved, the era, the history. People are easy to please on Facebook, but just as you don't treat every person the same way you also don't react the same way to every one or every thing.

0 upvotes
Josh152
By Josh152 (Jun 4, 2013)

xarcex,

Your welcome.

The problem is peopel like howardoark are letting their emotional attachment to photography cloud their objectivity in this matter.

Look don't get me wrong. I would love it if the Sun-Times could have kept all their staff photogs, Hell I'm sure they would to. I love seeing and look for good, pro quality work in news papers. But I also understand that I am not the majority and with declining paper sales and the global economy circling the drain, the Sun-Times has to settle for good enough instead of best.

Comment edited 32 seconds after posting
1 upvote
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

Print is circling the drain, too, but they can either find ways to transition to electonic medium or they can die. Perhaps they'll be okay skimping on photographic expenses, but I happen to believe this is one strategy that will hasten their demise rather than avoid it. I won't begrudge a business their attempt at staying alive and profitable, but this solution lacks imagination and underestimates the value of good photojournalism.

2 upvotes
Kendall Helmstetter Gelner

@howardroark: What value?

There is artistic value, but papers don't run on appreciation. They run on paying customers, customers who are leaving in droves. Plainly until now many newspapers had very good photo journalists, yet it has not provided value enough to keep subscribers.

The only way you can live as a business is to keep reducing costs until you make money with the subscribers that are willing to stay. That means a lot of changes, and since so many people are willing to send images to papers for free now getting rid of dedicated photographers is one of the easier cuts to make.

If you want to remain a photo-journalist these days, you really have two choices - one, start freelancing and get the shots people with cell-phones cannot. It means a ton of travel and possibly some danger.

The other is to learn to write really well and become a full-on journalist, that can write a great story along with documenting it with photographs.

1 upvote
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 5, 2013)

Value is the draw of customers to the publication because of striking visuals. We've all heard "don't judge a book by its cover" but as humans our instinct is to do just that. If they don't think stunning images are valuable then we'll see if they're right, won't we? You think the photography is the reason for a loss of subscribers? Not outsourcing more stories to the AP rather than retaining more local coverage? Having zero innovation or imagination in monetizing online content? Using old business models to make money in an unprecedented marketplace? Resorting to sensationalizing, speculation, conjecture, or pandering to the dregs of society running educated readers with money away? Reducing costs isn't the ONLY way, appealing to a wider audience and motivating them to pay is how it all gets started. You control costs to be profitable, but you provide a product to bring money in. So the photographer needs to learn to write but the journalist gets an hour of iPhone class? Ha!

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Tom Goodman
By Tom Goodman (Jun 4, 2013)

Once again, the medium is the message and the irony is staggering. Management couldn't have invented a better response to their decision!

0 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

Yes, when they compare what a journalist can do with an iPhone they'll look at this pro's images and realize that he can make a silk purse from a sows ear when their journalists would turn an Easter egg hunt into a b*ttf*ckathon.

Comment edited 45 seconds after posting
1 upvote
AZBlue
By AZBlue (Jun 4, 2013)

If this is the quality of photos produced by these photographers, they deserve to get fired.

9 upvotes
mandophoto
By mandophoto (Jun 4, 2013)

First, you've just lost a great deal of respect from many people. Second, well, there isn't anything left to say.

2 upvotes
ryansholl
By ryansholl (Jun 4, 2013)

He intentionally used the same equipment he is to be replaced by. You've just crapped on your own point in support of his.

6 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

ryansholl summed it up nicely. You didn't understand the point of this man's work post-firing. I wouldn't just say that he's pointing out what the iPhone is (or isn't) capable of, he's also pointing out that he's a good photographer by making the most of a sub-par tool.

2 upvotes
Josh152
By Josh152 (Jun 4, 2013)

Yep but the statement he was trying to make failed miserably because while not the highest quality photos ever, they are still more than good enough for almost any reportage use, like say a small, low quality, B&W print in a news paper. As long has the person wielding the iPhone can clearly capture what is happening the photos will be good enough. No one reading a paper cares about artsy composition in new photos. That is the sad truth.

2 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

The sad truth is most people won't realize how good the photography was until they see how bad it becomes. An iPhone is lousy in low light, medium light, and anything less than bright light. It focuses slowly, has no zoom, no wide angle, no burst, no nothing. It will be very interesting to see the response of people who don't know the difference between the results one can get with good equipment and "good enough" equipment. If a photo is really great check the caption to see that it was probably made by a freelance photographer who owns actual photographic tools. And paying freelance photographers is fine, but it is just another way to not pay benefits and outsource just like outsourcing jobs to India or China. At least in this case the freelancers will prbably be former pros trying to scrape out some ends meat.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
mandophoto
By mandophoto (Jun 4, 2013)

Even in trying to mock his situation, Hart showed what the paper has lost. It would be funny in a different context.

0 upvotes
Josh152
By Josh152 (Jun 4, 2013)

@howardorak

the sun-times could jsut by a few DLSRs to give to their reporters too you know. Or higher freelancers like you said. It would still be much more coast effective than having phtogs on staff. You blather on about out sourcing and not paying benefits but are not taking into consideration that It is likely the paper simply could not afford not to lay off the photogs, especially since the photos the reporters can take will be plenty good enough.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

:) Yes, the average journalist would be awesome with a DSLR. You must not be familiar with how long it takes to become proficient using such a complex piece of equipment. I'm going on 15 years and I still have my questionable moments, but then again I'm not a pro that uses his camera all day every day. And if they HIRE freelancers then I hope they charge very high rates. As for the "good enough" approach you seem to subscribe to have you ever heard the saying about "close enough"? Horseshoes and handgrenades.

0 upvotes
aarond
By aarond (Jun 5, 2013)

Not enough cat and flower shots for your liking? Shame...

0 upvotes
day2012
By day2012 (Jun 5, 2013)

Your comment is a classic demonstration of why you MUST read an article before commenting on it. As it is, you've made yourself look a little foolish for want of taking five minutes to understand what the article says.

0 upvotes
ezyernie
By ezyernie (Jun 4, 2013)

the reporters will be layed off as soon as the paper completes setting up it's Twitter and Tumbler accounts.

2 upvotes
Petrogel
By Petrogel (Jun 4, 2013)

for sure !!

Comment edited 41 seconds after posting
1 upvote
alanjdooley
By alanjdooley (Jun 4, 2013)

Yup... all they need is someone to cut and paste the incoming photos and news... How will they replace ad sales? If they can solve that they can operate for free and it will all be profit!

0 upvotes
dmanthree
By dmanthree (Jun 4, 2013)

iPhones? Please. Let's see the PJ shots that require telephotos. Shots taken in low light. Action shots. Anything that required abilities beyond what a simple P&S cam can do. This is a joke. Professional photography is dying a slow death, taking quality along with it.

5 upvotes
arhmatic
By arhmatic (Jun 4, 2013)

You are either missing the point, or your sarcasm is just too good.

5 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 4, 2013)

arhmatic, he's commenting on reporters being given the task of doing photojournalism with an iPhone. The point the post is making has to do with the need for real photographic tools and not just a goofy phone camera. If all they have is an iPhone very soon their readers will be repelled by the poor visuals no matter how good or bad the journalism is.

3 upvotes
Kendall Helmstetter Gelner

The iPhone is now a pretty good low light camera.

Most shots previously taken using a telephoto can be replaced by using the shot taken by a guy with a cell phone ten feet away from the action.

There are absolutely some technical abilities a "real camera" will have that the iPhone does not, but many shots do not require such extreme abilities to get a decent shot. And most traditional cameras cannot send an image over the cellular network to the editor moments after taking... these days immediacy is more important than absolute quality.

0 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jun 5, 2013)

No, it isn't anywhere near being a good low light camera. A telephoto shot can't be replaced by an iPhone shot up close because the entire composition changes at that point....and if you get that close your subject changes, too. Many capabilities good cameras have that the iPhone doesn't have don't come close to qualifying as extreme....the iPhone is extremely limited. And while not all DSLR cameras can send images immediately via cell network, very few images require that sort of immediacy....besides, an Eye-Fi card and a smartphone solve that problem very quickly, or even a laptop and a cell data card.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 152
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