I read the essay by David Campany “Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of ‘Late Photography’” in connection with the Aftermath and Aesthetics section of C&N. I found it thought-provoking, some of the thoughts being along the lines of ‘that’s an interesting viewpoint’ or ‘ I’d not thought about it like that’ but part way through I noticed:
“Today more than half of all news ‘photographs’ are frame grabs from video and digital sources. The proportion increases in the coverage of international conflict.”
Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of ‘Late Photography’ – David Campany. Retrieved July 19, 2017, from Web site: http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/
which provoked the thought ‘really? Can that be right?’ I was surprised because as an avid newspaper reader I had not been aware that the photographs therein were mainly framegrabs. In fact when I looked through a day’s nationals (Tesco newspaper rack!) I found only a few framegrabs, outnumbered heavily by original camera images, mostly with the photographer or picture agency credited. I am acquainted with a freelance newspaper photographer called Ian Forsythe whose work regularly appears in the dailys via Getty Images so I asked his opinion. He said:
“In my experience the vast majority of news photographs used in newspapers are still taken by press photographers. Either staff or freelance. On occasions when photographers aren’t present and a bigger news event takes place then frame grabs would probably be used, if available from camera phone etc and feed into the 24-hour news mind-set that permeates the news media world these days. Especially for online coverage. Once staff/freelance photographers arrive on a scene for example their pictures would then go to main paper coverage whilst grabs would still add to the online content.” – Personal correspondence
Thinking that possibly Ian’s experience might not accurately reflect the ratio I spoke to the duty picture desk at the Press Association and put the assertion to them. They said:
“Newspaper photographs come almost entirely from stills photographers, often via agencies like us” – Personal correspondence
I wanted to see what David Campany could offer so I emailed him to ask if he could expand on the claim. He said:
“Thanks for you query. Gosh that essay was a long time ago and I doubt I have the research notes still. If I find them I’ll let you know.” – Personal correspondence
It’s true that the essay was from 2003, some fourteen years ago and I’m not surprised that any research notes may have gone astray. But I think the fact that the observation was made in 2003 makes it even less plausible; there were far more staff photographers back then and video cameras used tape – usually Betacam, not known for its still image quality. There’s also the question of the extent to which newspapers would be prepared to pay TV news organisations – their rivals – for inferior images.
On the information I’ve gathered it would appear that this ‘statistic’ is incorrect, and by a wide margin. I don’t think it was true then and it certainly isn’t true now.