Are you a photojournalist who finds themselves suffering from depression?

Nikon D3, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1000, ƒ/8, 1/160

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. – Nikos Kazantzakis

These are a few sentences I found interesting a few years ago in article by Rev. Peter M. Wallace.

There has never been a more challenging time in [fill in the blank]. Everyone is scrambling to find the right way to connect to an audience that has fractured and fragmented to numerous different platforms. 

And yet the reality some fail to acknowledge in this midst of this chaos is that the need or function all these declining institutions used to fulfill remains. People are simply choosing different ways, different platforms, to meet these needs.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 100, ƒ/14, 2 sec

It has been easier for me to focus on an institution and set my path in life to get to it as a destination. So many of my friends who wanted to work for Sports Illustrated or National Geographic were focused on the institution and not the need or function that these institutions were serving.

Sports Illustrated just let go of their staff photographers and through the years National Geographic has shrunk their staff as well.

I had focused on working for The Commission Magazine. It was the flagship printed piece for missions for the Southern Baptist denomination I was once apart of years ago.  While I did get there and worked on the magazine for a short time I never really got to be one of the main photographers for the magazine. They would do 3 or more major stories a year.

During the financial crisis of the late 1980’s the agency had to make cuts to balance the budget and I was let go.

Nikon D2Xs, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, Sigma 2X, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/3000

I went into a major depression. My first marriage fell apart. I had continued to push forward realizing I needed more skills to add to my resume and I went to seminary and got my masters in communications.

Upon graduating none of the missions agencies were hiring so I found a job at Georgia Tech. All the while I was there for ten years I was seeing this as a temporary job on my way to my original dream. Still no openings through the years that I could find.

Nikon D2Xs, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 400, ƒ/5.3, 1/2000

Slowly I was coming out of depression, but I still was finding that my dreams were not becoming reality. My skills had improved dramatically and I was thrilled to be working, but all the time I never felt like I was fulfilling my purpose.

Maybe you find yourself in this same spot as I did. Today I too find I drift into this depression. My friend Gary Chapman spoke at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference a few years ago and introduced me to the book Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. For Gary the photography stock market was his cheese. He had built a library of images at Getty and other smaller agencies and each month could expect a pretty decent check. That check started to shrink. Soon all he was seeing was just crumbs each month rather than the large block of cheese he was used to experiencing.

As a storyteller I learned early on that one of the biggest mistakes we make when trying to tell our stories is focusing on what and the how. When someone comes back from a overseas trip where they went to help out a NGO and they were so moved by the experience that when you ask them to tell you the story they end up giving you a timeline of their experience. They tell you what and how they did their work.

What is missing is too often the WHY.  Once you hear the why you are more likely to stay engaged. Many Christians who are fed up with their churches will say they are followers of Jesus today. They choose to focus on Jesus rather than the institution.

Maybe the reason so many of us are depressed and feeling like someone moved our cheese is we have been focused on these institutions more than we should have been. The key to our purpose might be wrapped up better in focusing on the need that these institutions were fulfilling. Focus on WHY these institutions were founded.

Due to corruption and many other man made mistakes many people have left the church. In a Gallup poll they reported that “Most Americans Say Religion Is Losing Influence in U.S. But 75% say American society would be better off if more Americans were religious.

You see the need still exists. People are looking for what faith brings to their lives.

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.  – Viktor E. Frankl

Maybe the reasons we are struggling in this profession is we have been too focused on institutions and not enough on the reason WHY these institutions existed from the get go.

Photojournalist Job Description

The primary role of the photojournalist is to be a visual storyteller.  By photographing, editing, and presenting images, they tell a story in a way that no other media can.  Some photojournalists will work for a local publication, while others will travel nationally or abroad, sometimes putting themselves in constantly changing or even dangerous situations.  The subject matter can vary greatly, from local civic issues, national political races to social unrest in a foreign country.  Many photojournalists are freelance photographers and sell their photos to various organizations around the world.  The photographs serve the purpose of enhancing the story for the reader or viewer.

As you can see the role of the photojournalist isn’t limited to an institution. It is just a matter of having stories to tell and finding the audience that needs to see them.