Pho­to­jour­nal­ism fes­ti­val hopes to re­vive cut­ting edge

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

PER­PIG­NAN: Pho­to­jour nal­ism’s big­gest an­nual fes­ti­val opens this week­end, throw­ing an un­flat­ter­ing sharp fo­cus on a pro­fes­sion in cri­sis, strug­gling to adapt to the new me­dia land­scape.

Or­gan­is­ers hope to pull big crowds this week at the 21st edi­tion of Visa Pour L’Im­age in the south­ern French city of Per­pig­nan, if only be­cause “the pub­lic wants to come and see what the press no longer pub­lishes”.

En­ter­pris­ing pho­tog­ra­phers cer­tainly do not lack for sub­jects – the world has rarely had a richer crop of wars, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and bit­ter po­lit­i­cal crises, but fewer me­dia can af­ford to hire free­lancers.

“The years 2008 and 2009 will be marked with a black cross in the his­tory of pho­to­jour­nal­ism,” fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Jean-Fran­cois Leroy said.

“Be­fore, we were in­un­dated with news fea­tures, that’s no longer true. Is pho­to­jour­nal­ism dead? The an­swer is no – pho­tog­ra­phers are do­ing qual­ity work, but the press isn’t buy­ing.”

Across the world news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines are go­ing out of busi­ness.

Among the vic­tims of the crunch have been the agen­cies that pro­mote and mar­ket free­lance work. France, once one of the lead­ing seedbeds of pho­to­jour­nal­ism, has been par­tic­u­larly hard hit.

One of Paris’s re­main­ing big names, Gamma, went into re­ceiver­ship in July. Un­able to af­ford to com­mis­sion work of their own, news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines are now more than ever re­liant on the global wire agen­cies.

“Agen­cies like AFP, AP, Reuters and Getty have be­come so good that the me­dia are re­luc­tant to com­mis­sion free­lancers. Why bother?” said Bri­tish pho­tog­ra­pher An­drew Testa.

De­spite the grim mood, how­ever, the fes­ti­val still at­tracts hun­dreds of pro­fes­sional pho­to­jour­nal­ists and, for Leroy, the star of the 2009 edi­tion will be Italy’s Mas­simo Ber­ruti.

“He’s the archetype of the pho­to­jour­nal­ist I want to pro­mote. He had to spend his own money to get to Pak­istan, and came back with a re­port that will blow you away,” the fes­ti­val di­rec­tor de­clared.

The his­toric build­ings of the an­cient Mediter­ranean city have been decked out with large-scale prints and slide shows. – Sapa-AFP

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