A stock photograph

Above: Adobe stock photo image #186416745 (Asian group together eating pizza in breaking time having fun and enjoy party italian food slice with cheese delicious). Credit: Adobe.


The news photographer's photojournalistic photo is being slowly supplanted and superseded by eyewitness smartphone images (and videos) of breaking-news events made by members of the public.

But the photojournalist's original image is also being undermined by another insidious threat: the stock image. Where once a news website picture-editor might have commissioned a unique photo-image to run alongside a news feature, many now turn instead to select a photo from a stock-photo image library. These images are cheap, convenient, and always more or less appropriate.

For the end-user, or reader, this trend represents a definite impoverishment: a vital visual extension to the written text is truncated and replaced with a generic (OED: "not specific, general") photo-image that typically adds nothing definite to the reader's knowledge. The rise to prominence of nondescript photo-image use tends to banalize the visual space of news--nothing much can be learned or gleaned from stock photo-images; they are place-holders. The prevalence of such photos tends to deaden and empty-out the news-information space. Any news article that commences with an over-familiar visual generalization or the reiteration of a boring stereotype contributes to the relentless hollowing-out of the news space, and the rise to tyranny of the photo-visual platitude.

(14 March 2018)