Today while out at South Campus Stadium on an absolute gorgeous evening watching our Griz soccer team thoroughly defeat Utah Valley, 3-1, I had the opportunity to participate in an interesting conversation. While standing on one of the sidelines snapping pictures, I talked with our university photographer, Todd Goodrich. With 22 years under his belt as the main photo man at the University of Montana, Todd is a gold mine of information and cool stories. He is one of those people who you really want to spend some time picking his brain.
We got to talking about his career. In addition to his 22 years at the University of Montana, Todd has also worked for two newspapers in the state of Montana, including a stint at the Missoulian. We talked about how photography has evolved so much over the years and the challenges that have presented themselves throughout the journey. We pointed out the dramatic upgrades in technology and the complete acceleration in turnaround time for the final product as major characteristics in the ever changing business. But while these changes would have any veteran photographer on his toes and his head spinning to keep up, Todd said they never rattled him much. Technology and decreased turnaround times are givens, he said, and he just takes them in stride.
However, he said there was a change inside the world of photography that did take him some getting used to. A change that he was initially weary of and to some degree even fought. A change that pretty much overhauled his industry and that made him look differently at how he valued his work. Todd, what is this major change you are talking about?…
I listened with wide open ears and great interest as Todd explained that my passion was his Achilles’ heel for a short period during his career. The culture changing phenomenon that swept through life as we know it and continues to shape our daily experience today was not warmly embraced by Todd and the photographer industry. Listening to him speak about the detriments that social media had (and continues to have) on the work that photographers do made complete sense.
Todd explained to me that photographers deeply value their work. The photos they capture are essentially their personal stamps, their glory, their labor. When social media entered the picture it made the photographer anonymous and took the beautiful images that he/she produced and made them available for the masses to see but not truly for the masses to appreciate. People could now easily see a cool photo but they didn’t know the back story of that image, they didn’t know the photographer who was behind the lens. Instead of the picture finding a home in a glossy publication or on the crisp pages of newsprint, people could now instantly see it on a computer screen or on their phone. For photographers, it seemed to cheapen their work.
It took Todd time to accept this new (and unfair) direction photography was taking. As someone who directly capitalizes off of the new way we use photography I felt bad. I use Todd’s amazing work all the time through our social media channels to advance the brand of Grizzly Athletics. In an attempt to justify what I do and to see if he really was warming up to how social media has transformed the role of photography I asked Todd if he finds any satisfaction in seeing a photo that he took receive wide viral appreciation and acclaim. For example, just last week I shared a breathtaking skydiver picture that he captured at our first football game that garnered 2,052 likes, 300 shares, and 50 comments. Todd answered yes.
While Todd has learned to accept the way that social media feeds off of photography, others in his business have not. I honestly can say that I don’t blame those photographers one bit. Likewise, I have an immense amount of respect for Todd that he has come to terms with the very non-reciprocal relationship that exists.
If you ever see a picture on social media that touches you or captures your attention, contact the administrator of that particular social outlet and ask who the photographer is and then send a note of appreciation to that person. If you are in my position and use the work of talented photographers, make sure you let those people know how much you appreciate them. They are just as much a part of your success as whatever you are doing to market/supplement your social outlets. While the photography business gets more and more thankless, it also gets more and more important. Myself and Griz Nation would be lost without people like Todd Goodrich. Make sure to thank a photographer this week. Don’t Blink.