NUJ Photography Matters

Foreword by Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary


We live and work in an age of immediacy. Photojournalism records the memorable and the newsworthy, and holds up individuals, regimes and institutions to instant scrutiny. The images recorded by the click of a camera shutter can be on the other side of the world in the blink of an eye.

Photography creates transparency and accountability. It records our history, long beyond the limits of human memory, hoping that future generations neither forget their triumphs, nor are doomed to repeat the mistakes of their forebears.

As can be seen from this exhibition, union photographers are at the forefront of contemporary photojournalism. Driven by the duty to document, from London to Iraq, from Norfolk to North Korea, NUJ photographers are there, working, creating historic, memorable images, exposing exceptional events in everyday surroundings, or the poignant everyday details amid extraordinary circumstances.

The NUJ remains committed to the success and freedom of its 2,320 photographer members, and is dedicated to upholding the ideals of photojournalism. It offers training to those working in dangerous war zones. It has a strict code of ethics to ensure the integrity of news reporting. It protects those members whose livelihoods are threatened by offering advice and legal assistance.

In the two years since the last NUJ exhibition, the news industry in the UK and elsewhere has entered freefall, and we are in the midst of a seismic reshaping of the media sector.

Information has never been so widespread nor so widely sought as today, yet news organisations have reacted by cutting back on the very journalists who provide it. The NUJ continues to fight for quality journalism at a time when already wealthy media organisations try to squeeze even more profits through brutal job cuts.

This union is at the very forefront of campaigning against police attempts to control, suppress or harass photographers. It does not believe the news agenda should be shaped with a riot shield or a truncheon. It is not prepared to accept that the fourth estate should be treated as if it were in a third-world dictatorship.

Some believe that the measure of a society was the way that it treats its prisoners. I believe that a truer test is the freedom it gives to its press. A healthy and strong democracy is one that is not afraid that its actions be freely recorded. The NUJ is proud of the work of its members, and will continue to ensure that they have the freedom to report fully, fairly and accurately. We owe our photographers nothing less.

Jeremy Dear
NUJ General Secretary
May 2009

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