I have been so lucky over the years to have had many exceptionally-talented creative folks as friends and colleagues. I love to see what they are doing, how they grow in what they do over time, the unique way they interpret the world through creative mediums. I am often inspired by not only their successes, but their determination to keep at it despite a great deal of competition, limited opportunities, and discouraging remunerative prospects. But I do sometimes wonder: are we quickly heading towards a society where such pursuits as art, photography, music, and even traditional journalism are but hobbies or luxury pursuits? Will there be anyone who can make even a basic living in the arts?

I was poked to thinking about this idea (again) via this article via Peta Pixel noting that 50 CNN photojournalists got the axe today. Bottom line reason: there are plenty of talented and very motivated non-pro "citizen photojounalists" that have great cameras, do good work, and are completely willing to upload their work to CNN just to see their images on a major site. CNN gets quality content, free, in same deal that is in place for many of the writers for news aggregators like the Huffington Post and Gawker. The lure to provide something for nothing has always been common in the arts. There are far, far more people who would like to be able to work in a creative field than there are positions available, so competition keeps most wages and perks to a bare minimum, if there are any offered at all. People hope their images or words or sounds will be so superior that "someone" (otherwise known as "they") will take notice sometime, and offer up a dream job, or even any vaguely-related dream-ish job. Hope springs eternal, and for those who are very motivated, do very good work, and know how to make solid connections, good things sometimes happen.


(Let me fix that.)


In all reality, the trend is not going towards paying anyone more money, it's making people accept that never getting paid is how it is. The digital era has brought forth literally millions and millions and millions of gifted artists. We can see evidence of this everywhere on the 'net. There is more wonderful writing, music, and photography available for me to view than I could ever intake in several lifetimes. It's heartening to know and quite beautiful in reminding us of the finer parts of humanity, and at the same time, completely solidifies the knowledge that when nearly anyone in the world can jump into the pool with just a mouse click, they will simply because they can.

Supply and demand, baby. There are far more creative riches to access, but some would say that you can be too rich. Today, those "some" are probably the 50 photographers who lost their jobs at CNN, and are unlikely to find similar replacements. You can wag your fingers all you like at CNN or Huff Post or any other media access point, but you can't really blame them for taking advantage, either. These are not benevolent non-profit organizations, after all; they exist to make money. What boss wouldn't be giddy to have people knocking down the door to work for free? And it's not like there is going to be some backlash from creatives to withhold content if they aren't given a share of the profits. There will always, always, be someone else ready to step in and do the job just as well for free, count on that.

I don't have a place I sit comfortably on this issue, because it's just gone past right or wrong or good or bad. It was an inevitable outcome of technological advances. I feel a bit sad, true, because creative people are simply going to have to work exponentially harder to keep doing what they love to do and are best at, and will likely have to do other stuff to pay their bills. The irony of having more and less at the same time is bittersweet.

(crowd at Flaming Lips show, Puyallup Fair, Puyallup, WA., 9/21/11)