A few days ago I started writting in my personal blog (http://pondering-mumbling.blogspot.com) on how local photographers in Thailand (mainly media) are treated pretty much like the second class citizen in the newsroom. It sparks me an idea.
During my years in a journalism school in the US, I strongly felt that it would have been a great idea if I could photograph for my own story to avoid miscommunication between a reporter and a photographer. So I did my extensive works on photojournalism as well. One thing leaded to another. I ended up putting all my reporting classes aside to concentrated more on photojournalism as a whole. To make a long story short, I’ve learned the importance, pride and demand in photojournalism industry, and how much printed media depends on photographs to attract audiences.
Realizing my English was still pretty much the second language to me (and to everybody,) I finally landed a position as a photo editor at a newspaper in Kentucky. While working variously with different newsroomers, I knew how important photographs were—they gave public ideas of what has happened. They gave an opportunity for those who were not there to touch the scene. Photographs allow us to visit past, present and ideas of the future. Among photojournalists themselves, they are proud of what they are doing. So many times when I went to shoot football games, I would see these 50 something-year-olds carrying loads of equipments without any complain. I have never once heard a photojournalist says they do what they do for a paycheck. Once a photographer finishes up with their assignment, they then head back to the newsroom. Photographers select their preferred photographs, discuss what they have gotten with photo editor, and work with page designer and the reporter. The process goes on. Photographers play a very important part of the layout.
I returned to Thailand a little bit after my first job in Kentucky. Things were different, but I didn’t sweat—each person and newsroom worked differently. I was a reporter, but cared so much about photographs that would be published in my story. I believe we, reporters and photographers, must work together to produce a satisfying outcome. But here in Thailand (when I worked there,) teamwork was pretty much whatever attitude. Photographers dumped their stuff on the file-sharing computer then you never saw him or her again. So-called photo editor glazed at those photos, cropped them a little or more (without photographer’s consent,) put that so-called ‘edited’ photos in the file ready for a page designer who basically sat two offices away. These two never talked. They just did what they got to do. By the time I knew it, I checked on my finished story. The picture was so handicapped (abused by photo editor) that I didn’t even know who to blame. Talking to the photographer, he or she didn’t really care. They basically felt that it wasn’t their job because they were ‘only’ a photographer, not a photo editor. Talking to the photo editor, he or she would say it wasn’t his or her job, he or she wasn’t the ‘page designer.’ By the time you ran to the page designer, you already knew what you were going to hear. “It wasn’t my job, those photographers and editors were supposed to do this.”
Weren’t we all supposed to sit together and discuss? Teamwork, anyone?
Once this problem was brought up by me to the photo editor (who basically were supposed to be in charge of all the photo finishing, I hoped,) she or he would look at me and sarcastically said, “This is not America. Photographers here were the second or may be third class citizen in the newsroom. Live with it or may be you should work for the Americans.”
See, the attitude. Was that photo editor just plain stupid or really had no clue? I think a little of both. Talking to several fellow photographers from various publications in Thailand, they were really depressing. Some felt that they had nowhere to grow and go. Some felt that they wanted to learn more about techniques and all, but nobody cared when they wanted some critiques. Some simply said they had given up long time ago, and this job was for a paycheck. I have met so many great Thai photojournalists while working there, but sadly, their room to breathe was really minimal. When a photographer can’t walk proudly of their career and passion, what kind of outcome do you expect? The worst case? Maybe nobody expects anything at all.