Commitment to photography ≠ commitment to photographers

With apologies to the Beatles, I heard the news today… and oh boy.

Sports Illustrated has announced it’s laid off its six remaining staff photographers. It would be hard to argue that photography is important to the magazine. Photographs have played a role in the magazine since its inception. Even as the focus of the magazine has shifted, photography has been featured on the cover and inside the magazine’s pages.

Now the publication has joined a line of those who have decided that while photography is desirable, maintaining those who create the photographs is not. In an article on the National Press Photographers Association’s site, SI’s director of photography, Brad Smith, confirms that economic circumstances led to elimination of the staff photographers’ jobs.

What’s interesting is that Smith also says the magazine’s commitment to photography hasn’t changed. SI will still cover games and tournaments, will present portraits of athletes, and so on, it just will be doing it with photographers who are working independently. Photographs, yes. Photographers, not so much.

It was pointed out to me that freelancers are always cheaper. I’m sure they are, at least in the short-term. But it seems to me that if your “commitment to photography is as strong as ever”(as Smith says),  it shouldn’t be a stretch to maintain a commitment to the people who make the photographs.

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