Photography is in crisis – what happens next?

A paradigm shift in photography is upon us. Gem Fletcher examines how we got here and the strategies and mindset shifts we need to survive it

The photo industry is in crisis, and no one’s talking about it. Not publicly, anyway. We keep compartmentalising issues, burying our heads in the sand, trying to keep going, hoping it’s all just a bad dream. Unfortunately, it’s not.

We are now facing the consequences of a changing landscape that’s been tweaked, distorted, edited, and exploited on a macro and micro level for the last decade. Decisions made for convenience, efficiency, profit, and self-interest collided with a flattening of expertise, internet culture, and new modes of communication, and at no point did we take a minute to stop and recalibrate.

“No one wants to pay for photography,” says Emily Keegin, who has commissioned for the Fader, Time, IBM, and Bloomberg Businessweek. “That’s a huge problem, and will continue to be one. We’re also in a moment where people are very conservative and not excited about taking photographic risks. I can’t remember the last time a creative director was interested in something bigger, bolder, weirder.”

Creative briefs used to be jumping-off points, giving space for the imagemaker to stretch the idea and make it their own. Now, due to the metrification of visual culture, a brief is a fait accompli. There is no space for expression. A brief is a to-do list. The trend cycle is also part of this problem. It’s gone from something that lasted months to days, sometimes hours. We’ve become so erratic, overstimulated, and deep in the doomscroll that an idea we loved yesterday feels tired today.

Myriam Boulos
Top and above: From the series What’s Ours by Myriam Boulos