French newspaper Libération this week removed all images from one of its daily print editions, as part of a statement on the importance of photojournalism at a time when several media outlets are cutting their staff. The November 14th issue was the paper's first to be published without a single photo, writes Libération culture journalist Brigitte Ollier in an articled titled "Libération plunged into darkness."
"In their place: a series of empty frames that create a form of silence; an uncomfortable one," Ollier continues. "It's noticeable, information is missing, as if we had become a mute newspaper. [A newspaper] without sound, without this little internal music that accompanies sight."
"we give photography the homage it deserves."
The issue, published to coincide with the opening of the Paris Photo exposition on Thursday, was laid out in standard fashion, with text and captions flowing around blank white spaces that photographs typically fill. A flatplan at the very end of the paper included a glimpse of the photos that would have appeared in the paper, but with all text and captions removed. Running across the top of the front page, just above its banner, was a brief explanation for the editorial decision.
"It's not a wake, we're not burying the photographic art," the paper wrote. "Instead we give photography the homage it deserves. Yet no one can ignore the calamitous situation press photographers now find themselves in, especially war photographers who risk their lives while barely making a living."
The issue also coincided with an announcement this week that Libération expects to see an annual loss of between €1 million and €1.5 million this year ($1.3 million and $2 million), due largely to steep declines in print sales. It's a situation that has afflicted countless newspapers around the globe, hitting photographers particularly hard. Earlier this year, the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire photography staff, choosing instead to train its reporters to take photos with iPhones; Reuters and the Atlanta Journal Constitution have made similar cuts.
According to the latest newsroom census from the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), photographers, artists, and videographers have been disproportionately affected by ongoing staff cuts. From 2000 to 2012, their ranks declined by 43 percent, while the number of full-time writers and reporters dropped by 32 percent.