Snapshots from the Future: Photographers Feel the Crunch

I’m not very photogenic. Really. So I shuddered when I had to have my photo taken professionally this week. I powdered and plucked myself to the point of surrender. As it turned out, it was a great session with Tori Soper, a local photographer I discovered right here in town.

As she snapped away, I couldn’t help taking in all the gorgeous landscape photos arrayed in her studio. “Wow, these are gorgeous shots,” I remarked. She shook her head and said, “Too bad there’s no market for landscape work anymore.” I guess the opportunity lies in portraits—like the one she was snapping of me.

According to the New York Times, there’s a crisis among professional photographers. It’s all tied to the decline in ad spending. Fewer ads means fewer pages means fewer photographs. In 2000, the magazines measured by Publishers Information Bureau, a trade group, had 286,932 ad pages. In 2009, there were 169,218—a decline of 41 percent.

Yet, a thing of beauty is a joy forever, right?  So it makes me wonder if photographers will do what writers like Virginia Postrel and Cory Doctorow have done. Will they begin the deeper innovation process needed to ensure a future for their work? That means not only making the art, but making new markets and building new business models to boot. It’s arduous work. But then, isn’t every new frontier?