The growth of the digital “selfie” culture has had a devastating effect on local photographers in India, who frequent popular tourist sites and have historically earned a living from offering their services to tourists.
The latest statistics show that almost 81% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. Although this is good news for making photography, the proliferation of communication, and the explosive growth of information exchange, there are a subset of people whose livelihoods have been negatively impacted by smartphones.
Photographers in Barsana, a popular temple town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, are one of those who have firsthand felt this on their earnings following the rise of travelers who have smartphones with them, reports the BBC.
These photographers offer instant photography services by taking a picture of visitors and then selling them a print to take home. However, with the increasing number of smartphone users, their services have become obsolete and the situation has greatly increased the competition among the local photographers, and even resulted in fights.
“There was a time when people used to chase us, asking us to take photos of them,” says one of the tourist photographers. “Now, we are chasing them but they are not interested.”
The photographers once used to make a stable income but have been left struggling in recent years. One of the shooters predicts a bleak future and believes that this profession will survive for another two years at the most.
Today’s world revolves around social media — Instagram, Facebook, and Whatsapp — and people are far less interested in purchasing prints of their photos anymore.
One of the tourists interviewed in the video echoes the sentiment and questions the need to pay for photographs when everyone has a smartphone available. The lack of interest in prints has left photographers struggling to cover their costs — from ink to the upkeep of their printers and equipment, as well as paying for assistants.
The pandemic hasn’t helped either, as people are looking to spend less money and many avoid photographers due to the fear of contracting the virus.
There are still days where some of the photographers manage to earn plenty which keeps them hopeful about the future of the profession and their ability to provide for their families with the help of a camera.