Rapid advancements in camera technology in the last two decades have transformed the role of the photojournalist.
In 1994, the first digital press camera became available: The Associated Press NC2000, by Nikon, which was developed alongside Kodak. When initially released, the NC2000 sold for around $17,000. Compared to the size of a modern DSLR, the NC2000 is rather cumbersome, with a large base built into the Nikon meant to hold the hard drive and batteries. With the unwieldy size and a now-outdated 1.6 megapixel sensor, it’s clearly a relic compared to modern digital cameras.
Nick Didlick, a photojournalist for over 40 years, says the shift to digital photography was something that he embraced immediately. “In ’94, I picked up my first digital camera, and shot pictures with it. [I] knew I wanted to stay digital—that was after about 26 years of shooting film.”
Didlick says that in the beginning of digital photography, the advancements were less about the camera equipment and more about the methods of delivering photos when on assignment. “In the first six years [of digital], while the cameras changed somewhat, the infrastructure surrounding cameras changed radically—the internet, and delivery possibilities from a digital camera.” He notes that shooting digital allowed him to save considerable time when filing photos while on assignment as he no longer had photos to develop—giving him a leg up on other photographers.
After the start of the digital movement, cameras became more powerful, with developments in sensors bringing higher megapixel photos and more accurate colours; the Internet revolution allowed for more convenient ways to file.
“In just six short years [1994-2000] we’d seen a dramatic change in the way we had to work as photographers, with not only the cameras, but also learning [new] software,” says Didlick.
According to him, this rapid advancement is still happening, with photojournalists continually learning new skills. “It just keeps going: now we’re video capable; we are able to do all sorts of things right from inside the camera, 360º VR, 360º panoramic, and all sort of other things.”
An increased access to high-quality equipment and the ability to share photos instantly has not necessarily made for better photography, according to Didlick.
“I grew up pushing the button when the moment matters, and today’s people don’t do that—they just go up there and start to shoot—and shoot, and shoot, and shoot. And sure, they might be getting some better pictures once in a while, but they’re not getting a lot better pictures—and that’s being lost in this technological upswing.”
“The skill set that the photojournalist should have is slowly being lost in the amount of image captures that we’re making today,” he continues. “It’s too easy to go to an event and shoot 30,000 images, and look for the five best,” says Didlick, adding that the decisiveness that was once required to be a good photojournalist has disappeared.
With the ease of access to photographic tools—and the proliferation of amateurs—dedicated photojournalists are becoming increasingly difficult to come across. “I could teach anyone to be a photographer; it takes a bit longer to teach them to be a good photojournalist.”
By Brian Kurokawa
Photos by Brian Kurokawa