I only play on the fringes, but I talk with a few people.
TaoTeJared has hit a major nail on the head. Digital transmission of images has changed the game.
Microstock was blasted to a new level thanks to the Internet. It always existed, but who can resist having an infinite searchable library on tap at the touch of a button, rather than a shelf full of books with ageing shots, or messing around with couriers?
One photographer covering an event can now get the pictures to many clients; even make the prints in the back of the event van as people have the taste of the event in their mouths.
But the customers that I talk with, do recognise the difference between a decent photo and Uncle Joe. They just haven't got the cash to splash. Sales of my event work are really down, not covering the CODB. I can't use a flash to cover sporting events but the parents are in the audience, flashing away. As for my art photography ... that is so swamped by a mass of work that no one sees my stuff; so just like any other artist, no one would buy my work until I'd been on TV as a mass murderer or politician (is there a difference?)
The technology has come on apace for Uncle Joe; cameras that handle the technological aspect of taking the photograph ... opening photography to all those people who have a good artistic eye, but no photographic technical expertise. A colleague with no photographic knowledge came in with a Canon G12 and on the back was a shot I was envious of; well composed, good angle, natural lighting to die for, it was a very nice picture.
Add to that, the process of teaching photography has changed. Uncle Joe now has magazines aplenty regurgitating the mechanisms of photography. Late 2010 actually saw the introduction of a brand new photography magazine, "Digital Photography Enthusiast," so rather than dying, the photography demographic is changing. We've recently seen IQ launched in the UK; a new newspaper. Print is far from dead; it is undergoing a revolution to be smaller, more relevant and punchy.
In all this, the Joe McNallys, Chase Jarvis' of this world aren't suffering. They're booming. Imaging has increased and is more important than ever in advertising campaigns. But I suspect that there are a lot more people who are ready to fill McNallys shoes these days, than there were when McNally was a shoe-filler.
In I.T., my wages these days aren't what they were. We now have so many programmers and technicians that the market is flooded. If I wanted to be in a game that earned money, I'd re-train as a plumber; but I like computing so I'm staying here.
Ken Dodd was musing on TV how, in the old days, he would set up a show in London and people would come from all over the country to see him. He would be in the same location for the whole season. Now, he has to travel to the various locations and take his show with him; despite having greater and better personal travel options than ever before, people can't be bothered to come to his shows. Societies expectations have changed dramatically.
For that reason, it piqued my interest when McNally and Hobby took the Flash Bus on tour.
I looked at becoming a professional photographer when IT was looking sour. I concluded that setting up a shop in the area was going to be no good. There was a lot of competition, peoples pockets aren't that deep and societies value of needing a photo seems to have gone. People don't seem to have the same need for a formal family picture any more; at least in the UK. The older generation seem to cherish nice formal pictures of family; but not the younger generation.
My mentors photography studio was so little used that he ended up renting it out as a music studio; and that was a decade ago. Apparently isn't that much money in music studios any more, either, thanks to the digital quality of home recordings.
If I was going to make it in photography, I'd need to take myself on the road; do what Jarvis and Ken Dodd do and get mobile. Personally, I don't have the finance necessary to make that sort of job possible; to underwrite the first few jobs until the money starts flowing in.
Opening up shop and expecting the work to come to us is not going to cut it. People expect us to go to them and put more effort in to the job. Somewhat ironic given our age of communication, but there you go.
For me, the NY Times article is short on figures. How many photographers have entered the market to make professional photography unsustainable? There are ELEVEN actual trading general photographers listed within four miles of my position ... and I live in the country side. If I switch to industrial photography, there is one in that range. To me, that is the factor that makes the most sense in professional photography being unprofitable ... competition.