The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire photography staff last week, leaving nearly 30 people out of a job. These included Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, many of them had been at the paper for years.
One of those people was photojournalist Rob Hart. He may no longer have a job with the paper, but that hasn't stopped him from taking photos. The second Rob left his job he began a new photo project, a Tumblr called Laid Off From the Sun-Times.
"I was sitting in my basement office next to my old dryer and I had all of these photos. I wanted to put a face on this layoff and put attention to the other 27 people," said Hart. "We've gotten a lot of love and support and a lot of people have contacted me through the website."
The tagline for his Tumblr explains, "Rob Hart was replaced with a reporter with an iPhone, so he is documenting his new life with an iPhone, but with the eye of a photojournalist trained in storytelling."
Hart and his colleagues were told that the company was shuttering the photo department and that reporters would be trained on how to take photos and video using iPhones. The paper will still use freelance photographers on a case-by-case basis.
"The technology has made it easier to shoot and send photos across the world quickly. To do what we do takes a lot of experience," said Hart. "You can make a really nice photo after a couple of days learning how to be photographer, but when you're in a breaking news situation (think about the incredible photos from the boston bombing), [professionals] know how to turn it on a react in moments. It's instinct and it's experience."
On what he plans to do next:
"I freelance and I'll do a lot more stuff and spend time with my baby and tell the stories I didn't have time for when I had a job. Maybe I'll start for somebody else. You never know what's going to happen. There are plenty of people hiring people to tell stories."
On the first image he took for the Tumblr project:
"That was the carpet on the 14th floor of the holiday. When I walked into the Sun-Tmes building, there was an extra security guard standing out on the floor… That's when I knew we were all gone. That carpet was a visual representation of what it feels like to be suckerpunched. To have your job ripped out from underneath you, that's what we do as photojournalists. We're not there to show what happened, but what it felt like to be there."
On using his iPhone to take pictures for his Tumblr:
"It was taking something really horrible and making something that was amazing. I love taking photos with my iPhone. It's not about the camera, it's the human being that's behind that camera and their heart and what they value and who they are. It all comes across in photographs…Most of my students are graduate students who are going to be reporters. It's not because we are giving them a camera, they're learning how to feel what's important. It's not the camera, it's the person."