Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer is attempting to deflect criticism arising from comments last week questioning the need for professional photographers. Mayer, who was speaking at a press event for the photo sharing website Flickr, seemed to suggest that technological advances had weakened the role of the professional photographic community:
“There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with the pervasiveness of cameras and the number of people uploading photos] there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore,” Mayer said.
The CEO’s comments quickly spread, and have been harshly denounced by many. Today, in a letter written on behalf of the National Press Photographer’s Association and seven other organizations (American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Centre of the Picture Industry (CEPIC), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), Picture Archive Council of America (PACA), American Photographic Artists (APA) and Picture Archive Council of America (PACA)), NPPA President Mike Borland expressed the group’s disapproval. “We find these comments demeaning and devaluing to professional photography and photographers,” Borland wrote, “especially coming from a company like Yahoo! that derives millions of pageviews from photographs, has a number of photosharing applications in its portfolio, and is attempting to monetize those images for even greater profits.” The letter was also copied to the entire Yahoo! board of directors.
Mayer has tried to distance herself from her original comment, calling it a “misstatement” that was taken “out of context,” and apologizing via Twitter. The Yahoo! CEO says her statements were related to Flickr’s increased storage capacity, and that there is no need for “Pro” accounts with expanded feautures because all users are now afforded a terabyte of memory.
Regardless, Borland noted that the NPPA “find[s] it extremely difficult to understand how anyone, especially someone in [Mayer’s] position could say such a thing in any context.”
Photo editor Jim Colton, a four decade veteran of organizations including the Associated Press, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated expressed similar sentiments, remarking in a blog post that Mayer’s comments were “an insult to all the professional photographers throughout history who have sacrificed everything to their craft…including their lives.”
Underlying much of the pushback against Mayer’s statements is the idea that amateur photographers simply do not posses the skill sets to do the jobs of their professional counterparts. This conviction was aptly captured by well-known travel photographer Peter Adams, who noted “Photography is not about cameras, gadgets and gismos. Photography is about photographers. A camera didn’t make a great picture any more than a typewriter wrote a great novel.”
NPPA President Borland also wrote that “being a professional means more than earning a living from a skill . . . it means educating, informing and inspiring the public everyday through our work. It also means abiding by standards, ethics and principles.”
The NPPA has requested that Mayer offer a public apology, and has offered to meet with the CEO and her staff to assist Yahoo! in developing a “better understanding of and appreciation for the photographic community.”