Last month I attended a roundtable discussion with three Magnum photographers and a citizen journalist (he was actually a documentary filmmaker but he used the internet a lot). The moderator spent the beginning of their time discussing the role of technology in photojournalism. More specifically, he was wondering if today's technology would help an aspiring photographer ascend to the top of the field.

The group was quick to say that technology may help keep your picture in focus but it won't help your composition and it certainly won't improve your passion (they were big on the passion). One of the photographers was in charge of overseeing portfolio submissions to the agency and felt that no one was doing anything original and, of course, the photos lacked passion. Calling them stodgy is unfair, but it was clear that they're incredibly skeptical of today's young photographers.*

During the question and answer session, I thought for a while about asking something; I wanted to avoid asking a softball question like, "What was the most inspiring thing you've seen in the field?" After looking over my notes, I decided to reframe the question posed by the moderator. While technology may not be able to create a great photographer, it certainly can help provide exposure. Right now, agencies like Magnum provide a stage for the world's best photographers, but search technology is constantly improving and it seems only a matter of time before the great Goog (or one of its competitors) is able to find beautiful, important and passionate photographs more quickly and more accurately than a photo agency. With that in mind, what role do you envision Magnum and other agencies will play twenty years from now?

Unfortunately, my question was the last one and the woman's response didn't provide an answer, but I don't know if this group was really the best suited to do so. Instead, I'll ask you. Will there be a time when an agency like Magnum becomes irrelevant? Or to wittle it down a bit, will search indexes ever do a better job of finding art than humans?

* As a funny aside, he referred to the hordes of people snapping photos of potentially interesting events "flickr photographers". I promise, it wasn't a compliment.