Spitting on the Grave

By Jim Colton

Yesterday, at a press conference after an “acquisition” meeting of Tumblr, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was quoted with the following statement: “There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with so many people taking photographs] there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.” 

Excuse me?

I had to remind myself that this was coming from the CEO of Yahoo, who now manages one of the world’s largest on-line image databases.  Besides the obvious, that this is perhaps one of the stupidest comments I have ever heard, it is also an insult to all the professional photographers throughout history who have sacrificed everything to their craft…including their lives.

Does she really think that anyone with an iPhone or a point and shoot can cover the wars in Afghanistan or the strife in Libya or Syria where we recently lost incredibly talented professionals like Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington?  She probably doesn’t even know the names of people like Robert Capa, Larry Burrows, Henri Huet, John Hoagland, Olivier Rebbot, and countless others, who gave their lives covering the injustices of war in the name of their profession.

Using her logic, I guess we no longer have doctors either because of WebMD and the proliferation of medical information available on-line. I wonder too, if she just asked a friend to cover her wedding rather than hiring a professional to document it….and by the looks of the photo that accompanied her statement, she might considering hiring a professional to take her corporate photo!

This whole idea that “anyone with a camera,” can be a professional photographer is both absurd and unsettling. It is bad enough that the web is now filled with fodder and noise simply because everyone THINKS they’re a professional photographer and feels obligated to post them immediately without regard to its content. There have been more pictures taken in the last two years than all of history before it….an incredible statistic! And as a result, we are being bombarded with useless clutter.

What we need now more than ever is better filters. And that starts with the person taking the image to the professional journalists who are editing them to the imaging folks who are toning them and eventually to the editors who publish them. We have an urgent and dire responsibility to disseminate meaningful and truthful images to cut through all the noise that is deafening us.

Look no further than to yesterday’s image by AP professional photographer Sue Ogrocki showing a mother carrying her daughter through the post rubble tornado scene in Oklahoma. The power of the still image, in the hands of committed and dedicated professional photojournalists, is unmatched. Let us never degrade our profession with irresponsible comments like Ms. Mayer’s.


Addendum: In the interest of fairness, I am attaching Ms. Mayer's Tweet in regards to her statement.....although I believe something a bit more "formal" like a Yahoo release might be in order: 

 said: I worded my answer terribly. I really apologize for what it sounded like outside of the context and notion of Flickr Pro.