All Sports Illustrated Staff Photographers Fired
January 23, 2015 6:25 PM   Subscribe

Sports Illustrated director of photography Brad Smith confirmed the move this morning to News Photographer magazine. "It's true," Smith said. "There was a decision made through the company to restructure various departments, including at Sports Illustrated. Unfortunately economic circumstances are such that it has cut the six staff photographers."
posted by Quonab (44 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
So...where is the "illustrated" part of the magazine content going to come from now?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:28 PM on January 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Probably freelancers, whom the company doesn't have to provide benefits, equipment and space for, yet have have mad up the bulk of their photography for some time now. They'll still employee photo editors and similar people for now, just not actual photographers.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:38 PM on January 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


They'll presumably use photos by freelancers who don't need to be paid a salary or benefits.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:38 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jeez, what's up with the jinxing tonight?!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:38 PM on January 23, 2015


Drones. Sony Cyber-shot cameras have finally, actually become flesh-and-blood-melded cyborgs, as was always meant to be—praise Sony—but when WiFi was added to cameras in the last few years they'd started playing fantasy sports all the time and hence in their new incarnations they are all sports aficionados.
posted by XMLicious at 6:39 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


>freelancers who don't need to be paid a salary or benefits

...or for their photographs.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:43 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I look forward to the Swimsuit Selfie issue.
posted by localroger at 6:45 PM on January 23, 2015 [52 favorites]


They're hoping to turn the existing photographers into their freelancers:
Smith said the six staff photographers "have contributed to the success of the magazine and the Sports Illustrated franchise, and I hope that they may continue to do so under slightly different circumstances." He said that while the six are no longer staff photographers, that does not preclude them for continuing to shoot for the magazine if they so desire.

"In my grandest thoughts I hope they will continue to contribute to the magazine," Smith said. "I can't imagine a world where they don't. We just have to figure out what this new structure is."
What an ugly thing.
posted by clawsoon at 6:45 PM on January 23, 2015 [53 favorites]


I was laid off from my staff photography job a few years ago. What's even worse than being laid off is the realization that you will probably never find another secure, long-term staff photography job again. It's like finding a genie lamp.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:46 PM on January 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


We just have to figure out what this new structure is.

Well, obviously the structure is 'screw the photographers'. Not hard to figure that one out. The only question is if they'll bend over easily for your greedy-ass self.

I know IT guys, tech writers, coders, analysts that have had this happen recently. In ten years, 25% of the workforce will be 1099, not just immigrant nannies and home health care workers. The plan is for the worker (you) to pay for:

- office space
- utilities
- travel
- professional equipment
- high-speed internet

I don't really know how the everyone's-a-freelance-it's-sharing-economy! is gonna work out...my guess is *very well* if you're already rich, not-so-well if you create work product.

/derail /rant
posted by j_curiouser at 6:57 PM on January 23, 2015 [47 favorites]


The framing as 'all,' while factually true, strikes me as slightly deceptive as a plea to emotion: 'all' seems like a lot of people, while 'six' isn't actually that many.

This is a reprehensible business practice, no question! The only thing I am saying here is there seems to be something in the headlining that's slightly off.

Firing people to hire them back as freelancers is bullshit capitalist bullshit bullshit bullshit bu... I forgot what my point was.

It's bullshit.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:00 PM on January 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Six people can take a lot of photographs.
posted by Quonab at 7:03 PM on January 23, 2015


Firing people to hire them back as freelancers is bullshit

In a sane world, it would be illegal. (Same with a domestic company using offshore manufacturing of products for the domestic market.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:05 PM on January 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


Now how many of the staff can we replace with unpaid interns?
posted by crapmatic at 7:06 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Who needs professional photographers when they could simply host a daily Instagram contest? Use hashtag #sportscastrated
posted by oceanjesse at 7:08 PM on January 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I actually shoot for SI as a freelancer and the bulk of the images have always been shot by freelancers. This isn't a situation where SI fired 6 photographers to simply replace them with cheap labor. The magazine industry is made up of the labor of freelancers and has been since the beginning. With that said, those 6 photographers, of which one is a friend, are literally the last of the magazine staff photographers. There literally are no more that I know of. They are all icons in the industry and it's a sad day.
posted by photoslob at 7:19 PM on January 23, 2015 [63 favorites]


This reminds me of career professors whose jobs (upon vacancy) are filled by adjunct faculty. Except in those situations, the professors usually get to retire. Or perhaps SI might learn from another famous shitcanning and its aftermath.
posted by datawrangler at 7:22 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Smith said the six staff photographers "have contributed to the success of the magazine and the Sports Illustrated franchise, and I hope that they may continue to do so under slightly different circumstances."

This probably feels like the multiple times I got hired on as a long-term sub and/or contract teacher, then told that my position was going away after busting my ass, and then being asked to come back as a sub again--with crappier pay and no benefits--y'know, for the good of the kids.

Man. I feel bad for those photographers. What a crap deal.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:27 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Even *I* could afford six staff photographers.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:36 PM on January 23, 2015


scaryblackdeath: This probably feels like the multiple times I got hired on as a long-term sub and/or contract teacher, then told that my position was going away after busting my ass, and then being asked to come back as a sub again--with crappier pay and no benefits--y'know, for the good of the kids.

Yeah, these days, it feels like jobs often get worse the longer you stay at them. It kind of reminds me of the way old Windows installs would get crappier and crappier until you finally erased everything and reinstalled. I call it 'job rot' and it seems to set in about two years after you start.

I think the operating principle is that it takes less to convince someone to hang onto an old job than it does to get them to take on a new one, so they try to cut pay and benefits and hope it isn't enough to drive you off.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:36 PM on January 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


For some reason I find myself thinking about how fingers are weak when they work separately, but really strong when they join together into a fist. If only there were some way to apply this principle to the sale of labor time somehow...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:18 PM on January 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


There will come a point, probably after an open civil war in which those privately-owned assault weapons bought on credit have killed most of the liberal neighbors, where people will realize they can rip down the bosses and replace them with a half-assed spreadsheet doc.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:30 PM on January 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


This is another anecdata of the classwar, no?

War against crime, war against drugs, war against terrorism, and the war against the middle class.

I know that the law enforcement class are lower-/middle class but perhaps the anti-cop movement could be influenced into an education campaign to reform tax laws. Surely, it's more efficient to appease a hostile population than to constantly ... gah, forget it. Reform will never happen because of so many vested interests. The visible ills of "corruption" in China is merely a less sophisticated version of Western corruption. In a way, they're just quaint in that people die rather than swaths of the populace end up killing one another without explicit State sanction.
posted by porpoise at 8:40 PM on January 23, 2015


"In my grandest thoughts I hope they will continue to contribute to the magazine,"

Simply disgusting. You have base thoughts.
posted by adept256 at 8:46 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Am typing this in a city I just just moved to two weeks ago for a staff photography job at a daily newspaper; just can’t shake this feeling that sooner or later the same thing’s going to happen here. Hoping it’s later rather than sooner.
posted by jettloe at 9:03 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


jettloe, I wish you good luck and crossed fingers.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:09 PM on January 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thanks jenfullmoon; the paper is owned by a group that's for sale...with two big private equity companies circling as potential buyers; oh man just typing those words is making me freak out. We'll see.
posted by jettloe at 9:27 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is sad for the photographers but didn't this seem inevitable? Everyone has a camera and no one buys print.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:29 PM on January 23, 2015


I remember way back that the IRS was getting very nasty about companies laying off employees and the rehiring them back as contractors. There was this six month waiting period before you could just hire them back. Supposedly the IRS has very strict rules involving this. The company could not provide an office, phone, set working hours, etc. At most you could just go to meetings. Companies then were providing all these things but had better tax results by just shifting job status from employee to contractor. This is what the IRS was against. But now I guess companies no longer do this. They follow the rules and screw the former employees, I mean, contractors.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:59 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a friend who does freelance sports photography. He has been published in SI, a number of other gigs, on the cover at least a couple times and has had his pictures in numerous newspapers and for a while was an official photographer for a pro basketball team.

It's his hobby. It pays for the equipment and only the equipment. His day job is a programmer because being a photographer can't pay the bills. This isn't new, either; he's been doing it for 20 years? Maybe longer?

(But he does have some really nice gear. Talk about lens envy.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:54 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Welp. Here comes another 45 years of not purchasing Sports Illustrated.
posted by isopraxis at 12:38 AM on January 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


Magazines lol.
posted by spitbull at 2:46 AM on January 24, 2015


Magazines about people hitting balls.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:20 AM on January 24, 2015


Not really seeing an optimum use of photos on their website: few galleries, tiny sizes etc
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:41 AM on January 24, 2015


Something I don't understand, if you eliminate the skilled staff, won't the quality drop? If the quality drops, won't subscriptions suffer? If subscriptions suffer, won't ad revenue drop?

Perhaps I'm missing something.

Is there really little to no difference in quality between the content of staff photographers and freelancers?
posted by leotrotsky at 5:47 AM on January 24, 2015


> We just have to figure out what this new structure is.

There will never be any manner of workable structure for this model of journalism as long as the internet is around to ensure people can get what they want for free.

The future is shabby.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:40 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


If the U.S. didn't force employers to provide medical insurance there would be more jobs. In the future american workers will all be freelancers.
posted by mrhappy at 8:59 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Remember the rule of thumb: if you're going from employee to contractor, double your hourly rate to make up the difference in expenses.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:21 AM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Firing people to hire them back as freelancers is bullshit

Not necessarily. I worked at a company that moved from hourly rates to piecework, to implement a significant cut in salary across the board. I quit the company. A few months later, I was highly amused to hear that everyone in the Human Resources department was fired and invited to re-apply as independent contractors. Justice was served.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:15 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


@njohnson23, there are still rules about that. The job before my current one I was told that after one year I would have to cut down from 40 hours to 20 hours a week, or leave for six months before I could come back. Granted, just before my year was up my entire team of about 30 got laid off, and then several months later the whole company got shut down.
posted by old_growler at 1:00 PM on January 24, 2015


> This is sad for the photographers but didn't this seem inevitable? Everyone has a camera and no one buys print.

The proliferation of cameras doesn't make everyone a photographer.
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:46 AM on January 26, 2015


But it makes many many many more people photographers. And we could agree or disagree about what makes someone a "photographer," but regardless, my observation is that the supply of images is increasing and the demand for consuming SI is decreasing, making it inevitable that SI will not want to pay as much to secure photographic content.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:16 AM on January 26, 2015


Cameras were everywhere since Kodak invented the Brownie. Cameras that handled focus and exposure automatically were everywhere in since the mid-eighties. Digital cameras are significantly more expensive and difficult to use - the only advantage is that you don't need to buy and develop film.

No, this is gutting the professional class because the Unions have all been busted. The management class somewhere along the line decided that creative professionals were all hobbyists and should be paid as such.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:42 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Slap*Happy: "Digital cameras are significantly more expensive and difficult to use - the only advantage is that you don't need to buy and develop film. "

This is a huge, structural advantage to gaining the skills to be good at photography. Especially so for sports photography.

I've recently, finally, started working with studio flash photography. Not only has the equipment come down greatly in price, experimenting and learning is essentially zero cost. Something that wasn't true 20 years ago when I couldn't afford either the equipment or the developing costs.

Also I think comparing the penetration the Brownie enabled and the penetration that camera phones enjoy is like comparing night and day. Sure the Brownie eliminated needing to carry around a huge, bulky, hard to use and load camera but even 15 years ago people considered you a bit of a freak if you carried a camera everywhere. It was definitely something you would be known for (I certainly was). Nowadays it's not even noticeable let along remarked upon. The assumption is the vast majority of people have a decent camera with them at all times.

At any rate if a profession is competing with amateurs fighting to give their labour away for free it is going to be tough to impossible to make a living at that profession; especially if the barriers to entry are essentially nil. I can't really see a way photographers are going to avoid the devaluing of their labour in that sort of reality.
posted by Mitheral at 5:07 PM on January 28, 2015


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