At the start of December, the BBC released an article looking at the most striking images of 2021. Few of the photographs painted a positive image of the world. However, that’s something we should expect, considering how mainstream media uses photography to tell stories. That’s not to say the images were bad. They have their place, and each photographer succeeded in documenting monumental moments in 2021, no matter how negative they are.
BBC and Its Striking Image Selection
The selected photographs included the Capital Hill riot, a young girl standing in a destroyed home in Gaza, and the hundreds of people crammed into a plane attempting to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. These are monumental moments in 2021, but none that fill you with hope for a brighter 2022. But my problem with this round-up of images curated by the BBC has little to do with the tone of the selection. Mainstream media profits off the doom and gloom, and it’s the consumer that allows them to do so. My problem, rather, is the little regard for the photographers who made the images.
From riots to ruins, the photographers who created the images for news outlets around the world to profit from, put themselves in some challenging situations. Speak to any photojournalist; all of them have “a story” that’ll make you wonder why they put themselves in such environments.
Of course, it’s their job, and they get paid. But the main issue I had with the BBC is that the article didn’t credit the photographers. Instead, credit went to large news corporations and agencies like Reuters, Getty Images, and Alamy. The brands didn’t take those images; real humans who put their safety on the line did.
BBC, Getty and Co Disrespect Photographers
All 15 images came with a passage of text that detailed an overview of the story behind the photograph. However, the article gave mention to only one photographer. Even worse, instead of giving credit to the photographers, the author of the article took the time to mention famous artists who came to mind when looking at each photograph. Whether it’s Getty, Reuters, Alamy, or the BBC, the consistent disregard for the photographers who make them money is both alarming and disgusting.
While photography has become more accessible and popular, large establishments have begun to treat photographers as commodities, taking them for granted and showing little respect for the hard work they do. Look at Unsplash, a company that’s generated millions of dollars without paying a photographer a single penny. And Getty bought them! If people read the BBC article outside of the UK, it will have generated money through ad revenue. It will have certainly made the BBC money, and it didn’t even have the decency to tell the world who were the photographers behind the images.
What’s likely is that the photographers signed a contract with Getty and co that agreed to license the images to publications under the brand’s name rather than the photographer’s. If I’m correct, I have two things to say: Large brands and media outlets should not ask photographers to give up their names on an image they created. And photographers should take a portion of responsibility and not agree to be nameless when their images are licensed.
Shame on the BBC, Reuters, and the rest. Sure there are more photographers than ever, but few of them are good. If we want to protect photojournalism for decades and centuries to come, we need to ask the powers that be to show the respect it deserves. And more importantly, we, the photographers, have to show that we respect ourselves and the work we create.
What do you make of this story? Should the photographers receive credit in the BBC article? Let us know the comments below. Thanks for reading.
All images are screenshots.