Technology can never replace artistry

I have been running this whole “Irving papers fire all photographers” story through my head all week.

It’s more than another news story about the decline of journalism for me. Most of these people are my friends and former co-workers, people whose work I greatly respect.

There’s no clearer way to say it than: Photographers make newspapers better. It shouldn’t even need to be said. I know they made my work look better for years, and it’s no different online, where photos are incredibly popular draws.

Just take Viktor Pivovarov’s photo of Moncton mass murderer Justin Bourque during his shooting rampage. Viktor put his life on the line to get a photo that ran around the world.


I remember travelling around New Brunswick with Kate LeBlanc doing a poor man’s National Geographic style series on First Nations in the province. We were both on assignment to tell the same stories in two different ways through different mediums. I remember how her photos captured different elements that I couldn’t or didn’t while doing interviews and writing in my notebook. Kate and I also worked the Bathurst “Boys In Red” tragedy together. She took compelling photos and I was freed up to concentrate on absorbing the community’s grief and conveying it through words. We were pro storytellers by day, sympathetic teammates gorging on junk food to decompress together by night.

And it’s not just the big stories but the little ones that make newspaper staff photographers real pros. They don’t take award-winning photos every day but sometimes the challenge is in juggling a daily schedule to get the school bake sale and the hockey game in tomorrow’s paper, managing to squeeze in a photo of the premier’s press conference and respond to a fire on the scanner.

I’ll tell anyone who will listen the story about Cindy Wilson. I was doing a story about the potential location of a Moncton casino. We needed new art of the parking lot in question and plan proponent/Assomption Vie bigwig Denis Losier arranged access to the roof of Moncton’s tallest building. There is no railing on top of the Assomption Tower and I wouldn’t go near the edge on this cold, windy day. Cindy got down on her knees in a puddle and hung over the edge for no reason but to get the best damn parking lot photo she could. Because she’s a pro. No one had to tell her to do that. In fact I told her not to. The shot was all that mattered.

Photographers are a key part of the storytelling team.

I am a writer. Asking me to take a photo does a disservice to both. If I’m fumbling with a camera to take an average at best photo, I’m not absorbing all the “colour” as a reporter, watching people’s reactions and looking for little details. I’m stressing about getting a useable photo then opening my microphone for a talking head to pour in a can of quotes.

There’s no such thing as “multi tasking” – this just sets up reporters to do neither job to the fullest. It’s like a hockey team laying off all its defensemen because the forwards “have the equipment to play defense too.” The team will be playing short-handed.

This is a crushing blow to those few dreamers who believe they can carve out a niche in a creative industry in New Brunswick.

I fear all the creative people will soon be gone.

I’d love to come back someday but I’m not sure to what.


~ by Nathan White on March 15, 2015.

6 Responses to “Technology can never replace artistry”

  1. Curious about this comment:
    Just take Viktor Pivovarov’s photo of Moncton mass murderer Justin Bourque during his shooting rampage. Viktor put his life on the line to get a photo that ran around the world.
    Is Viktor a professional photographer? I just assumed it was someone that happened to see him and snapped a picture

  2. Completely agree, and here’s the thing, Irving will eventually have their lunch stolen and wonder how..

    They are going about the switch from paper to digital about as poorly as humanly possible. The only thing they could do to make it worse would be to knock on everyone’s door and say please don’t subscribe to us.

    Someone will figure out all their supposed traditional media assets are not assets in the digital world and take a run at them guerrilla style and win.

    It will happen, only question is whether Irving media will still exist to watch it happen.

  3. Amen, brother!

  4. It is no secret that the newspaper industry is in decline. It is unfortunate that technology is pushing us in this direction. Prior to the announcement of the termination of the 3 exceptional photographers, a decision was made to reduce the payment to those who deliver the newspaper. There was an outcry and the decision was reversed. Just one more example of a business decision that affects those employed in this industry.

  5. I agree totally with what you say, Nathan. I also don’t see myself coming back, to the province or to the industry.

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