Porsche Museum Photography with Leica Camera

Following my recent trip to the Porche Museum, I read an interesting item on the PetaPixel blog in which Neil Burgess, 25 years a photojournalist, head of London-based photo agency NB Pictures, former head of Network Photographers and Magnum Photos, and twice Chairman of World Press Photo claimed photojournalism was dead.

“I believe we owe it to our children to tell them that the profession of ‘photojournalist’ no longer exists,” says Burgess. “There are thousands of the poor bastards, creating massive debt for themselves hoping to graduate and get a job which no-one is prepared to pay for anymore. Even when photographers create brilliant stories and the magazine editors really want to publish them, they cannot pay a realistic price for the work.”

As someone who packed in working 9-5 to concentrate on being one of the “poor bastards…hoping to get a job which no one is prepared to pay for anymore”, this is disappointing news, assuming it is accurate.

I recently took a trip to the Porsche Museum, where I shot a few hundred frames on my Leica D-Lux compact camera. Some are seen here. I had intended the pics for blog and library use but, as I was pleased with the quality, I decided to pitch them to the editor at Total 911 magazine.

“What about people who take once-in-a-lifetime trips to the Porsche Museum, Schlumpf Collection, Spa Francorchamps Museum and so on?” I asked. “Why don’t we run a feature with the pics taken on a compact camera, like most folks will use on these trips? Let’s get Leica involved. I’ll go to London and talk to Brett, the Leica M photographer, get some critique on my pics, and ideas for myself and those coming after me to take with them to the museum.”


The editor liked the idea. I went to the Leica Akademie in Bruton Place, London to meet with Brett, and the piece is in this month’s magazine. It’s not the perfect manifestation of the concept, but I’m sure it’s not the last piece of this nature we three will do together, and reaction so far has been positive.

My first words-and-pics feature was the R Gruppe Bergmeister Tour in 911 and Porsche World magazine: it made the cover. I’ve since done a few more and they are steadily improving in my eyes, as is the copy that accompanies the pictures. What matters to me is exactly what mattered to every photojournalist that has gone before: that the vision is actualised and presented to a wider audience.

I started photography to support storytelling, and still see my pictures as helping to tell a story in three dimensions. Will my photography ever be as good as a full-blown professional’s work? In most applications, it doesn’t need to be; one way that photojournalism is evolving.

I feel the incredible buzz that surrounds these pieces, so I say photojournalism is far from dead: it is just assuming new forms in new media. After years of neglect, the art is waking up to endless potential, thanks to the rise of blogging, personal publishing, the iPad and all like it. To anyone who thinks they can make a living at it, I say you can.

Burgess’ career points call to mind a friend of mine who can make people laugh at a party feeling like she’s a natural born stand up, or another friend who once bluffed his way past customs, believing that he was a great actor in the making. Both are beautifully talented and both chased their dreams, only to discover that the commitment needed to transform that talent into a career is enormous; well beyond what either had imagined. The same is true of photojournalism in modern media.

Believe me, taking a salary from your vision is hugely challenging, but doable if you commit to it absolutely. Get ready to fall over a lot, and to be off the pace of many of your peers. If you don’t think you can turn that into something worthwhile that an audience will pay for, stay with the 9-5. But be sure the choice is yours: no one else’s.

9 Comments

  • Mark Munro says:

    With the greatest of respect John, what you do is not photojournalism, in the true send of the word. Yes, your photos are strong and graphic, but they are illustrations to supplement your words, not the other way around. Burgess is sadly spot-on. The days of graduating, packing a bag full of leicas and 100 rolls of tri-x and a passport and heading off to a world hotspot to make a career making photo essays is long gone… And technology is to blame for that. Since digital, everyone is an on-the-spot reporter, keen to use a camera phone or a $1000 dslr to capture news events & then give the results to news organizations for FREE. Perhaps if you had started your career purely as a photographer and not a journalist, you would understand. I started my career with ambitions as a photojournalist, but quickly saw the writing on the wall & began concentrating on more commercial work – and that was 15 years ago. I love what I do, but not a day goes by that I don't wish for the good old days (in some respects, anyway) where you could sell a photo essay to a news magazine for decent money to share your unique story with the world… A picture is worth… Ummm…. Used to be worth a thousand words… (rant over) 🙂

    • johndglynn says:

      I hear you Mark, but any journo makes their own route to market. The days of magazines paying for inspirational photography are not yet gone – the channels may be be vastly reduced but they still exist for good work. Those using some free content are also still paying good money for good content, and there are more places to sell pictures now, including going it alone.

      I believe photography is opening up and evolving in a positive way. The 21st century will not see the death of photography or photojournalism or photo/journalism, which is maybe a better way to describe my thing. As my own evolution continues, perhaps the pics will say more and words a bit less? We shall see 😉

      Thanks for your comments – always gratefully received!

  • Amir says:

    Interesting blog entry, and the timing is extremely uncanny, as I'm researching Journalism Master's programs on the east coast.

    I do agree with Mark that what you do would not be classified as photojournalism in the strictest sense of the word. You tell a story where the photos and words play an equal part.

    I think the photojournalism channels have changed, and monetizing it is radically different than even 10 years ago, but it still exists and may even be growing in certain respects. I find that everyone can now be their own boss and that quality of photography (and the editing to along with it, perhaps even moreso than the shooting itself) has increased. However, the average kid with a DSLR camera who can sit in front of photoshop is actually a horrible writer, and unable to string together 3 coherent thoughts without unnecessary punctuation and misspelled words. This is where people like us come in. We can tell a story, bring the reader into a different state of mind, create an escape!

  • Clive Evans says:

    The key issue IMO is that photojournalsm is all about "aurthorship" it's not just about nice pictures, the phographer must have a "point of view" and express it in his pictures.
    Bob T's book does this well, its not just nice pics of Porsches, he clearly has a point of view!
    Whats's yours?
    Clive http://www.clive-evans.com

    • johndglynn says:

      I know what you mean and, at the minute, I don't know the answer. Studying is pushing me along that learning curve.

      That said, I like the geometry of the museum, of Stuttgart and of this set. They make me happy, but I'm sure my next visit will look quite different; tighter, or maybe more uptight.

      Thanks Clive.

  • J.G. Aswell says:

    All true, but things change whether we want them to or not. The world doesn't care, it keeps opening and closing windows. The trick is to not get your fingers caught when one is closing and jump in with both feet when one opens right in front of you – as this person is doing –
    http://www.businessinsider.com/amanda-hocking-201

    • johndglynn says:

      Looks good John, she can afford to smile then!

      I think the greatest barrier to iPad changing habits overnight is price: the device is not that cheap and of course Apple's bookstore is RRP £s for books you can buy new on Amazon at 25% of the iBook cost. As people really get their hands and head around the beauty of consuming media via iPad, so improving the reward, and begin to explore lower-priced content, then we'll see the volumes start to rise. Right place, right time.

      Tablets really are excellent for electronic print media, Internet, even TV. I watched a BBC nature documentary on my iPad the other day and the cinematography on that screen really blew my mind – well beyond expectations. It's a great way to go with this sort of content, as long as you can make it pay. We all have to eat!

  • clive evans says:

    John
    Glad you got what I was on about!
    On my workshops I cointinually hear a voice saying "Nice pic but what are youi trying to SAY" they either get it t it eventually or not…………………..
    Clive

    • johndglynn says:

      I get it 100%! Have taken it in and am still wrapping my head around it.

      We will discuss this more in due course – thanks again for the feedback, Clive.

      JG

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