The Future of Documentary Photography

This week we sponsored a panel discussion on the future of documentary photography, produced by the photographers of Luceo Images in conjunction with their Altered States gallery exhibition. The panel included photojournalist James Estrin of the New York Times LENS Blog, TIME Magazine Deputy Photo Editor Paul Moakley, director of CLAMPART Brian Paul Clamp, and Bess Greenberg of 25CPW.

The conversation focused heavily on seizing new opportunities as a visual journalist and creating a sustainable living as a photographer. The panelists indicated that there’s no “magic bullet” here. However, they each shared some extremely thought-provoking insights and inspiring words, well worth your time and consideration.

The panel wrapped up without much chance for Q&A – please continue the conversation here.

Is there a future in documentary photography and how can aspiring documentary photographers both follow their passion and earn a living?


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This article was written by

PhotoShelter CEO. Follow on Twitter: @awfingerman and Instagram: @awfinger

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. The Truth at 9:03 pm

    “Ive been working as a photo editor for about 13 years now and you meet some of your legends and idols in photography and those people are like still struggling in their 60s or however old they are and you know they did it because it was the only choice they kind of had and they just did it and they just kind of just kept it going and I think thats alone is incredible and hopefully it pays off I believe does in allot of cases……but it just shows like …just persistence does pay off and the good work does come through in time.” —Paul Moakley, Deputy Photo Editor, Time Magazine

  2. Lee at 10:27 pm

    Any suggestion that we should work for free or for less than fair market value for a profit seeking entity or company is nothing more than a manipulation. Brian and Paul want whats good for Brian and Paul. Thats the first rule in the business of photography.

  3. Ricky Gui at 1:43 am

    “There’s always an opportunity” as Bess said. I would elaborate it as “There’s always light at the end of the tunnel”. But how many documentary photographers out there can make it really successful in this massive market? James mention some really good photographer barely make a living out of it. Is extremely sorrow to hear that. In fact i heard that years back when i was a photographer assistant. A busy photographer is a very good businessman. I can’t agree more as i age. Am so worry each day about not getting jobs and enquires. Is a tangible struggle for me to maintain a stable income in such an expensive city, and as a documentary photographer in purse of other personal work. Passion is the key that drive me each day, somehow it does pull me down a little when there’s no income at all. Today, it is not easy to maintain a niche. Most photographers would do basically anything in their ability to earn money out of photography, even if is not their core area, but able to produce the final result, bingo. Inflation is showing up in every country in recent months. The cost of living shoots up. All these are very realistic scenario and it will still be in the future. I really hate to be one of the hundreds, or thousands of people that fall out of the circle due to insufficient photography jobs as years fly. Maybe Paul is right, getting a other job and do it part time. At least i still have some income to continue my documentary work. 🙁

  4. grenville at 2:45 pm

    where can i find “emphasis” on the web. I like the sound of it but can find nothing in google. I have tried various spellings etc. Thanks in advance for any help. Cheers.

  5. Pingback: The Future of Documentary Photography « Luc Forsyth

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