March 30th, 2010


[PHOTO] "For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path"

Stephanie Clifford's recent New York Times article almost makes me feel guilty for maintaining a fairly active Flickr account.

By the time Matt Eich entered photojournalism school in 2004, the magazine and newspaper business was already declining.

Matt Eich, a freelance photojournalist, edits photos in his Norfolk, Virginia home-office.

But Mr. Eich had been shooting photographs since he was a child, and when he married and had a baby during college, he stuck with photography as a career.

“I had to hit the ground running and try to make enough money to keep a roof over our heads,” he said.

Since graduation in 2008, Mr. Eich, 23, has gotten magazine assignments here and there, but “industrywide, the sentiment now, at least among my peers, is that this is not a sustainable thing,” he said. He has been supplementing magazine work with advertising and art projects, in a pastiche of ways to earn a living. “There was a path, and there isn’t anymore.”

Then there is D. Sharon Pruitt, a 40-year-old mother of six who lives on Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Ms. Pruitt’s husband is in the military, and their frequent moves meant a full-time job was not practical. But after a vacation to Hawaii in 2006, Ms. Pruitt uploaded some photos — taken with a $99 Kodak digital camera — to the site Flickr.

Since then, through her Flickr photos, she has received a contract with the stock-photography company Getty Images that gives her a monthly income when publishers or advertisers license the images. The checks are sometimes enough to take the family out to dinner, sometimes almost enough for a mortgage payment. “At the moment, it’s just great to have extra money,” she said.

Mr. Eich and Ms. Pruitt illustrate the huge shake-up in photography during the last decade. Amateurs, happy to accept small checks for snapshots of children and sunsets, have increasing opportunities to make money on photos but are underpricing professional photographers and leaving them with limited career options. Professionals are also being hurt because magazines and newspapers are cutting pages or shutting altogether.

Trained photographers, one of the persons interviewed said, have an ability to look for and create narratives. Amateur photographers, though, have very low expectations for compensation, recognition--never mind actual money!--generally being enough for them. I know that's the case for me.

Thoughts? Has Clifford happened to capture an actually existing phenomenon? It does strike me that she doesn't adequately capture the existence of niche markets for professional photographers, whether commissioned jobs or art projects, that amateurs can't fill but professionals could profit from.

Incidentally, Mr. Eich's online presence can be found via this Google search, and Ms. Pruitt's Flickr site--she operates under the nom de net Pink Sherbet--is here.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Centauri Dreams talks about the problems involved with finding an extraterrestrial intelligence's beacon, the sort of (presumably) easily noticeable signal that could cue civilizations like ours onto the existence of other advanced civilizations or even point us towards more information-heavy channels.

  • Geocurrents discusses the Oromo population of Ethiopia, its growing support for autonomous and independence movements, and its links to the Unrepresentation Nations and Peoples Organization.

  • Hunting Monsters wonders whether the West Bank is on the verge of a third intifada against the Israeli presence, this one operating outside the control of any of the established Palestinian political parties like Fatah or Hamas.

  • Joe. My. God writes about how Britain's Household Cavalry regiment recently hosted the same-sex marriage of one of its members without collapsing.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen reports on the rapidly growing number of diabetics in China, 92 million at present.

  • Spacing Toronto observes that, with plans to build a 65-story condo tower at the Crystal Blu site, the idea of a park in that emptied space is a non-starter.

  • Towleroad writes that former US General John Sheehan, who blamed the Srebrenica genocide on (among other things) the Dutch allowing gays to serve in the military and based his statement on claimed remarks by a Dutch military commander, has retracted his statement.

[BRIEF NOTE] Internal devolution in Ontario?

In a pair of posts, James Bow comes up with an interesting proposal on how to solve Ontario's problems of growing regional fragmentation and polarization. In his first post, writing in relation to the greater Toronto Metrolinx transport authority, he outlines the problem.

In 1954, when the province of Ontario created the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, they created an agency that would assure the competent management of Toronto’s regional issues without sacrificing local concerns. The two-tier system worked by allowing the local councils to remain to deal with local issues, while at the same time providing a forum for discussion of regional concerns to take place. But this only worked because of one key criteria: in 1954, the boundaries of Metropolitan Toronto encompassed most of the urban region that was Toronto. By the late 1980s, that percentage had dwindled to near 50%.

Today, the province refuses to create a regional manager for the GTA, instead opting for piecemeal special purpose bodies like Metrolinx to tackle the matter on an issue-by-issue basis. They’ve been leery of regional governance for the GTA since the 1970s when Bill Davis refused a recommendation by former premier John Robarts to expand Metro’s boundaries to encompass Mississauga, Vaughan, Markham and Pickering.

And why would they cut their own throat? A regional government for the GTA would encompass almost half of the province’s population, and an even higher percentage of Ontario’s taxes. It would certainly threaten the dominance of Queen’s Park, creating an elected official that theoretically spoke for half of Ontario.

But the issues of the region of Toronto aren’t going away, and they have to be managed lest the economy of the whole of Ontario is affected. This is probably why Dalton McGuinty has taken the steps he has done to effectively act as the regional manager for the Greater Toronto Area. This is probably why the prospect of a Metrolinx takeover of the TTC is on the table.

Unfortunately, this is likely to fuel greater resentment from the other regions of the province, particularly the north and the rural east, who feel that Queen’s Park is paying less and less attention to their issues and more attention to Toronto’s problems. Already, you’re starting to see the polarization of the province along these lines, and the risk exists that should the government of Ontario shift, the regional manager that Queen’s Park represents (such as it is) may disappear entirely.

Bow's solution? Given the impossibility of dividing Ontario to create new provinces, devolving power within Ontario to regional governments might be viable.

There is a need for an accountable regional manager for the Greater Toronto Area, but the other areas of the province have their own issues that deserve attention as well. The political, social and economic make-up of southwestern Ontario is different but no less important than that of Toronto. Rural eastern Ontario is different still, and the National Capital Region is struggling with issues of growth management and congestion, and could use some attention of their own. And, of course, northern Ontario has long felt ignored by the politicians of Queen’s Park that it has generated enough separatist sentiment to launch political parties, and even get speculated on by mainstream politicians in the area.

So, let’s devolve. Let’s create four or five regional parliaments, receiving a share of the provincial income tax, and controlling a percentage point or two of the province’s HST. Give these regional parliaments a clear mandate covering municipal issues common throughout their own region, and leave Queen’s Park to focus on issues common to the province as a whole. Then dissolve all county-level governments and all two-tier regional governments. De-amalgamate all megacities into their component parts.

Thoughts? Does anyone here know of any jurisdiction that has done anything similar?

[NEWS] Four Globe and Mail links

I've mentioned that I like the Globe and Mail, right?

  • Columnist Margaret Wente doesn't think much of Canadian federal Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff, arguing that partly because many Canadians can't empathize with a public intellectual like Ignatieff, the Conservative Party has taken over Canadian centrism.

  • Ingrid Peretz writes about how the almost ridiculous toughening--criminalization, even--of normal crossings of the US-Canadian frontier is starting to separate the Québec community of Stanstead from its Vermont sister community of Derby Line.

  • The Toronto Humane Society, under new management, might euthanize most of the remaining two hundred animals in the shelter--apparently, mainly, animals with long-term conditions and otherwise unadoptable--before rebooting.

  • Doug Saunders writes about how the Moscow subway suicide bombings represents the latest spillover of the growing Russian war in the North Caucasus into Russia proper.