Ayperi Karabuda Ecer started her career in 1984 at the French Photo Agency SIPA. Since then, she's been Editor-in-Chief at Magnum Photos Paris, Vice President of Pictures at Reuters, and Chair of the World Press Photo Contest Jury. She has watched photojournalists fail and flourish. Here she tells us what she's learned about photojournalism during more than three decades in the business.
1. Photography is bigger than photojournalism
"I don't think that photojournalism in the way it was invented is going to continue unaltered," Ayperi says. "In the future, there will be many different forms of using photography – with or without journalism. Images put events, people, situations and society on the map. Photography today is much more shared and inclusive than it used to be. It incorporates many different styles and narratives, and that's a good thing. We've left behind that romantic image of tough guys travelling around the world. Photography is now familiar to us all and an important part of everyone's life."
2. Photojournalists must earn the public's trust
"We didn't fully foresee the mistrust that people now feel towards journalists. From having been a trusted source and having had all this respect, now journalists come way down on the ladder of who people trust. That involves all kinds of journalism – photography and the written word. What's interesting is the new forms [of photojournalism] that can come out of that, and how you tackle this mistrust. You have to add value to challenge it. That might be by doing important investigations, by revealing something that nobody else can, or by doing it in a format that is your own."
3. Diverse voices are great for photography
"Talent is everywhere now. For example, much of the visual technology comes out of Asia, so you have generations of people growing up there with access to all this technology, who have also been nurtured visually. Coming from different cultures means you tell stories in different ways, whether you're talking about your own perspective, your own country, or others'. It's less about visiting a place and more about people photographing where they live and the things they strongly relate to."
4. Photographers and writers work best together
"I've always thought that the connection between photography and text was really important. I tell young photographers to make sure they hook up with writers, because you can't 'just' be a photographer. You really need to have a strong impact with people who are the artists, writers and players of your generation. Just like the big generation of photojournalists after the [Second World] War. They weren't just photographers, they were part of a fantastic artistic environment. They knew all the creative people of their time. Photography shouldn't exist in isolation. Being a photographer means being sensitive. It means being observant, being passionate, having empathy. All of that you find in literature, too."
5. Context is key
"People don't just want to see great imagery, they want context, and the technology we have today can give them that. [On a website] you can click further and further and learn more and more through captions, facts and data. The image opens the door and touches you emotionally, but then you need to understand what's going on. In a classical photojournalism context that was sometimes lacking – the technology didn't lend itself so well to shooting series, we lacked information about the photographer and captions were often missing – so one wondered if the impact created really helped understanding."
6. Modern photographers must be multi-skilled
"I've seen more intelligent proposals and projects in the past 10 years than I saw in the years before because photographers need different talents now; everything needs to be so well thought out. You cannot only be a visual person. You're an editor, a photographer, a salesperson, an archivist and more. It's tough to do it all, but it seems like a lot of the new generations coming up are mastering it."
7. Photojournalists need many revenue streams
"You always have to look at where the money comes from in a business. That's how you understand what the business is about. As it stands, it's not lucrative to be a photojournalist today working for the media [due to declining advertising and newsstand revenues of many print publications]. Most photojournalists today earn their money working for NGOs. That kind of photography, even if it's shot by fantastic photojournalists, is not photojournalism: it's a kind of advocacy photography because you are asked to shoot someting for people who have a clear agenda."
8. Our heroes also took commercial work
"With crowdfunding, foundations and NGOs, the funding models now are broader than they used to be. However, after the [Second World] War, many photojournalists worked on commercial assignments, too – it's just that they weren't really talked about. Working for corporations was not really considered chic. Henri Cartier-Bresson worked for IBM, for example. Many people actually – even in that great time for photojournalism – sought other ways to earn a living. Commercial assignments were big things."
9. The future looks good
"I'm positive about the future. A lot of young people now don't just want to document reality – they want to use photography differently, which means there's richer imagery in the world. In the future, you will have people reporting on big global stories, such as the environment and migration, but you will also have a lot of local reporting on things that weren't considered that interesting before. These local stories will cover things that are fundamental to people's lives and will show daily life in a much deeper way, going into people's homes and spending time with them. Visually, photographing those familiar things is more difficult than shooting a dramatic situation such as drug abuse or violence.
"We will also have stories in the future that we haven't even thought of now. In the past, you were supposed to see an image and understand it immediately. Now there's a real opening for imagery that is less clear-cut, that engages the viewer and gives them pause for thought. There's a whole generation of people shooting imagery that makes you dream, think and imagine, and I think that's great."