Trends of 2023: The year in photography

This year brought significant challenges to the photography industry, with AI, the writers’ strike, and a slowdown in commissioning all impacting opportunities. But there were wonderful exhibitions too

In photography, the year 2023 introduced itself with a sense of possibility. The industry was ready for what we collectively felt might be the first ‘normal’ year post-pandemic. It had been a challenging three years of unpredictability and false starts, coupled with a variegated set of worldwide emergencies that kept the economy fraught and opportunity stifled. Despite all this, photographers were hungry for a fresh start, with a renewed understanding of the privilege and responsibility of visual storytelling.

Fast forward 12 months, and we find ourselves in a very different state of play. It’s been a sobering year for photographers, who, for the majority, have faced the most challenging year of their careers to date, regardless of when they started. The new year optimism faded by spring when commercial and editorial commissioning slowed.

The unpredictability of the economy led many brands to re-license work rather than invest in new shoots. When campaigns did happen, budgets were tighter, and fees and usage were down. The relationship between turnaround times and content expectations became increasingly fraught. While this is nothing new — it’s been happening incrementally for the last decade — the considerable lack of new work commissioned and the ever-growing pool of photographers looking for work created a pressure cooker of scarcity.

Top: Carrie Mae Weems, Reflections for Now at the Barbican Art Gallery, London. Photo: Jemima Yong; Above: Campbell Addy, I love Campbell at 180 The Strand, London. Photo: Kemka Ajoku