To shed light on today’s situation, we need to look back to the 1930s and 1960s. Even Capa struggled to fund his trips to Spain. And there weren’t even that many freelancers around then. The agencies were set up after the war (Magnum, Rapho, Apis and the like) then genius Hubert Henrotte came up with the 50/50 system for Gamma, which helped two generations to live like royalty. Then came 1990, the Gulf War and the start of the ongoing crisis; press budgets were cut and that was it. Standing firm on their long-standing rights, photographers began to undermine one another in internal conflicts that would end up destroying the big agenices. Then digital came along to finish off what few surviors remained. British and American investors – free from these social issues – moved into the market and grabbed the lion’s share alongside AFP, which had managed to keep up with technology and is now up there with the big boys, Corbis and Getty. And yet young photographers are still struggling to get their work published… and get paid. There is less and less to go round but more and more people looking on hungrily for their slice of the pie. Photojournalism still has a future ahead of it, even in these lean times. We can’t expect everyone who claims to be an actor, musician or painter to make a living from it – only the best make it to the top!
François Lochon, Director of Gamma-Rapho Agency