This is not a Millennials vs. OK Boomers rant. I’m not standing on my lawn shaking my fist with a 35mm film camera and prime lens at the neighbor kids.
I do think every generation of newspaper photographers imagines theirs is the “golden era” of photojournalism.
When I was coming up many of the veteran photographers I worked with got their start working for the military during WWII or the Korean War. They shot very precise, informational photos with direct flash lighting on super fine-grained 4x5 inch film cameras, at f/stops that gave their photos depth-of-field that made almost everything in the frame tack-sharp. I remember them talking longingly about the 1950s. I also remember what they thought of photographers in the 1960s: “Lazy wide-angle lenses, with grainy, out of focus photos, with too many shadows and too much dead space.”
I came into my own photographically in the 1980s, and since then have always welcomed each new generation of photojournalists. I continue to be inspired by their fresh ideas and the way they see things.
And I totally believe no matter what happens in newspaper photography, they will someday look back at the current decade as special.
I got to thinking about this after some news this week at the Inquirer. In those decades I referenced, we were turning out 1.5 million copies of the paper’s Sunday edition — with color pictures on brand new presses in a brand new printing plant in the suburbs. It seemed like a good investment in 1992. They took the old presses out of our downtown building and moved everyone into a huge three-story atrium newsroom of the future.
The planned sale of that printing plant was announced this past week. The newspaper will still be printed, just by an outside contractor. And that atrium newsroom? It will soon house the Philadelphia Police Department’s new administrative offices, after we moved to East Market Street a few years ago, with a leaner staff trying to keep up as consumers turn to digital platforms for their news.
I’m excited to see what the future brings.
Since 1998, a black-and-white photo has appeared every Monday in staff photographer Tom Gralish’s photo column in The Inquirer’s local news section. Here are the most recent, in color: