“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
— Thomas Edison
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the media industry is having a difficult time at present, even without the global recession. The digital revolution, while opening up exciting new channels of communication, is also rendering some of our pre-existing business models obsolete and forcing the redefinition of others.
Working in the business, it’s easy to get despondent about all this — because change is hard. But once you move beyond denial to acceptance, it can also be energizing. We are entering an era in which the photographer and art director can explore many more creative opportunities and visual solutions, no longer limited to just print or television.
Not all of our explorations will end in success. Like Edison, we may fail 10,000 times for every victory. But there is a thrill in the challenge.
The Video Opportunity
As an art director, I can certainly envision photographers utilizing their skills across a number of emerging sectors to broaden their commercial base and fill the voids left by declines elsewhere.
For example, it was predicted at the recent Online News Association conference in San Francisco that by 2012, 95 percent of all online content will be video. Even if that figure proves optimistic, that is certainly the direction we are heading. And that presents opportunities for photographers.
A photographer assigned to produce a portrait for a magazine, for example, could easily produce a short sound-bite video of the portrait subject to accompany the story online. Using a camera like the video-enabled Canon 5D, there would be no need to bring additional equipment.
Taking advantage of this access gives the photographer an inside track as the market for online video continues to grow.
Annotated Portraits — and Other Ideas
Jonathan’s portrait was annotated by Doctorow  to allow the viewer to explore the writer’s study — combining the image with words to identify the books on Doctorow’s shelves and the personal objects on his desk.
When Jonathan showed this portrait to me, I began to wonder how this approach might be integrated into one of my company’s online magazines. I am continuing to explore this possibility through discussions with editors.
That conversation may lead nowhere, but it is the dialogue itself that will ensure the media’s long-term survival — and the success of photojournalists and others.
Find those 10,000 ways that don’t work, and we’ll ultimately find the ones that do.