19 Pages

Innovation(s) in photojournalism

Assessing visual content and the place of citizen photojournalism in Time's Lightbox photoblog
WithValérie Gorin

This paper examines the place of amateur imagery and citizen photojournalism in Time magazine's photoblog, Lightbox. If user-generated content has been seen as a threat by professional photojournalists in the last decade, Lightbox offers a paradigmatic example to understand if the visual elite still has a dominant status in the decision-making processes of news production. This paper, therefore, explores how citizen imagery is shaping and challenging a photojournalistic culture still influenced by criteria of excellence, legitimacy, and authority. Managed by professional photo editors, Lightbox has included a variety of sections which emphasize new, original work by professional photographers as well as weekly news reviews that sometimes incorporate amateur photography. Through a visual analysis of amateur imagery in Lightbox's sections and a textual examination of the editors' discussions on citizen photojournalism, this paper analyzes how the photoblog is adapting to the shift towards a digital age of innovation and hybridity. The results show that photo editors apply strategies to delimit citizen productions by very rarely selecting them and avoiding specific mention of the amateur nature of such images. Moreover, they underline that hybridity is understood not as multimodal content and co-creative processes between professional and amateur incorporations, but rather as professional and creative practices, for example by highlighting innovative photographers who use cell phone imagery and photo-sharing websites. While this paper interrogates the new careers in photography of amateurs turned professionals, it also shows how digital platforms emphasize the photographers' personal initiatives over usual gatekeeping processes.