A Post in Which I Talk About Photo Usage…

I recently saw a job posting for a photo editor for a number of Medium publications. The job looks to be very similar to a job I held at a…

Creative commons license — Christophe BENOIT

I recently saw a job posting for a photo editor for a number of Medium publications. The job looks to be very similar to a job I held at a higher education publisher in my career. For a range of various publications (subject matters) Medium is seeking a Photo Editor who will acquire images for use in coordination with pieces published for each of the publications listed for the open position. I’ve worked on a number of different subject matters over my career as a photo editor/researcher: business, history, marketing, economics, statistics, management, literature, music, religion, photography, humanities, history (did I mention history? It comes up often in a range of the wide expanse of the topic).

I looked up the specific publications which were listed with the job opening. Many of the publications leaned heavily on stock images easily licensed from one of the only major agencies remaining after what I will call the ‘Big Merger’ of the 21st Century. Prior to this time period, there were dozens of photography agencies who would license (or actually perform research) on topics, subject matters, or concepts requested by a publisher. Sometimes these requests would come directly from the source, often times the requests for photo selections would come from a photo researcher who was employed by the publisher to secure the images. These are times-gone-by for folks who cut their teeth in the publishing industry back the days of desktop publishing and the early days of the internet (all of which can be encompassed in the spanse of less than a decade). Many of those dozens of agencies have been reduced to a handful.

This stock photo was used in the Medium publication ‘Marker’ to illustrate a story about Apple choosing a labor market in India versus China (Employees at the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, China on May 26, 2010. Photo: Qilai Shen/Getty Images)

Anyone in this realm of the publishing process would encounter two or three separate people who concentrated on their specific task: research, acquisition, editorial, licensing, and the overarching ‘project management’ role of the process. Currently, all of these roles have been consolidated into one job. I get it. I understand. I have been a part of this culling of responsibilities, and I suffered a job loss as a result of it.

A commonly used type of stock photography image to illustrate ‘high tech’ manufacturing, loss of manufacturing jobs due to automation, global manufacturing, international distribution of labor, the advancement of technology in order to illustrate the need of businesses to reduce labor costs, ‘robots’, and whole host of other concepts which apply to a broad range of topics.

Anyone publishing in the social-media-driven world of 2020 will recognize the need for images to hook readers (ergo learners). I am a firm believer of the critical power images play to help facilitate the transference of concepts and ideas. Most of my career has been built on this ideal. Without visual literacy, without relying abilities of people to help bridge the gap between concept and visual representation — many learners would not have the advantage of learning through text alone. This is a strength to education and learning, and shouldn’t be left to a random selection of possible choices based on a keyword search. The learners and readers of the world should rely on nothing less than full devotion of someone to help facilitate learning by employing images (photographs or illustrations) to assist in communication.

(An illustration similar to a variety of pieces I commissioned while working on a Chinese history textbook published by Houghton-Mifflin Publishing)

What makes today any different? The same types of restrictions and parameters and budgets apply to the concepts being published now, versus ten years ago. I have been a part of the grand collaboration to create content, and I am a consumer of the same content. All the same aspects of the process are relative when it comes to the drive to facilitate learning through visual and written examples of ideas.