Saturday, January 24, 2015

January 24, 2014

I wrote this back in August 2007

Its a numbers game and you can't fight capitalism, supply and demand economics.  The more similar products that businesses sell the less a business can charge for those products, unless the business shows the consumer something special and valuable in his product.  Lets look at this from another perspective and see why I am not as enthused as I once was about the future prospects of the Independent Photographer.  Lets look at the Stock Industry and the increase of imagery and the decrease in pricing.  

Clip sealed our fate and ever cheaper clip only exploited the Manifest Destiny of images on the web.  Photos along with videos are the perfect eye candy that propelled the internet into our homes and business.  At the same time this was happening for good or bad we had a monumental shift in businesses exploiting the middle class ( in the photography world this middle class was the Independent Photographer that was the Stock Industries backbone) and its every increasing drive to cut costs and increase shareholders profits.  

What was our main bargaining chip when it came to getting a better contract and respect and fair commissions from our agencies?  Our images and how could they undermine this.  They could promote RF over RM and focus on its simplicity and cost effectiveness on the web namely no overhead, clients/consumers could use their credit cards for purchases badda bing badda boom. They offered subscription fees to access a larger amount of clip imagery.  They could lower the price of RM giving bulk deals to big clients and undermine the rights managed aspects of the usage by allowing 5 -10 year usage contracts.  They could introduce new licensing models that began to look alot like RF usage rights granted. They added other companies imagery on their site to compete directly with their own photographers, they bought up business and put those on the site as well. They hired photographers to shoot for them, thus creating wholly owned imagery and on and on we all know the story the point is that they destroyed our bargaining chip even before micro-sites became a blip on the radar. Coupled with this every increasing amount of imagery being produced business big and small were as I stated above looking for a way to cut costs.  They were looking for bargains and were telling their art buyers to wring out a few more dollars in profit by buying cheaper imagery.  Its not that micro-sites are the cause of our income declining its only the biggest manifestation of a trend that began a decade ago.  However, the development of micro-sites and the fees they charge for imagery are in fact the ominous creation of the business mentality of cost cutting and micro-sites ( filling the final price point businesses want, cheap and or free) have the biggest detrimental impact on the Independent Photographer's ability to make a decent wage for his/hers efforts in all the years I have been shooting.  

But not only does this effect the photographer but the overall industry suffers because as this content grows and the prices drop the perceived value of photography declines to a point where it can not demand higher prices for quality imagery.

An example of this problem in perceived value is the decreasing sales of TRM (Traditional Rights Managed) and TRF (Traditional Royalty Free) imagery.  This has hurt the stock prices of Getty and Jupiter Media.  Corbis I am sure has the same problem but won't share info on their declining TRM and TRF sales.  

Why do you think these agencies are broadening their revenue streams.  They have to because of the micro-site effect.  Getty is into all sorts of other photo related enterprises including just off the top of my head: 

1) Celebrity imagery
2) Digital Management
3) Assignment
4) Rights Clearance
5) Video
6) Trend Papers for sale including Edit Magazine
7) Music
8)   Office Space Rentals
9)   A new Consumer site called ViewImages
10) Pay to Play Schemes

And I am sure more to follow.  Other major distribution Portals are doing the same because they know for a fact TRM and TRF their bread and butter is an endangered species.

January 23, 2014

The world of Stock Photography certainly has changed.  I have touched on this topic before but I think it is worth mentioning again.  The art culture is deteriorating and losing its ability to sustain itself financially.  As we move forward in this new landscape of snap and post we are overwhelmed with content.  Most of this content is given away free of charge.

In stock photography the standard selling model is royalty free at micro prices.  They claim that you will make up for the low pricing with higher volume of sales.  I have been in this business a long time and have tried this RF model (briefly) and my experience is that the agencies win out and the photographer is left with pennies on the dollar with no chance of controlling the unlimited usage of their images after the sale has been made.

There is no turning back we are marching forward herded by the multi billion dollar social media websites.  We empower them with free content.  And they make their money off the visual art we worked hard to create.

You can hide your head in the sand and hope it will change but it won't and can't. People are social animals and want to be seen and heard.  Social media grants us a momentary spot light on a dull stage to be liked or disliked.  You do not have to know anything about art, all you need is a camera phone, special effects and magically you are an artist.

A culture needs a cohesive identity in order to feel a belonging to something more than themselves.  Art has always expressed our deepest thoughts and emotions in a way that can visually stimulate the dull brain to see more in this life than what is present physically.  It can make us aware of our inner selves and our relationship to the external forces that manipulate us.

We need to examine our motives for continuing in this media climate of manipulation and homogeneous snap shots. How can our images be seen when each second millions of images are bursting forth onto the Internet?  The truth is most of your images won't be seen.  You can have your own website.  You can submit to the agencies.  But this will not guarantee sales.  As a matter of fact the agencies have always been social media websites.  We give our images to them free of charge and they post them and try to attract buyers and then take a bigger and bigger percentage of our image sales.

I feel people do not want to have to think and work at creating meaningful photographs.  They want an instantaneous gratification, a selfish desire to be praised just by their finger pressing a button and a snap shot is born.

These pictures reinforce simple, mundane experiences that attract like minded viewers that
appreciate a certain compatibility with what is going on in their owns lives.  And this allows the hollow details to become transformed into the meaningful, the way of the crowd source.  This limits a persons ability to think out of the box and create imagery with substance and meaning.

We are becoming voyeurs of life and not participating in life.  Without a connection to nature we accept a shallow expression on a small screen to be elevated to the state of the real deal. And thus we are losing our ability to empathize and connect with others on a truly deeper level. We live in a vacuum of our own creations. We accept reality on a screen and have put a barrier between us and life.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 18, 2015

Authentic definition:
entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience, reliable, trustworthy, not fake or copied.

The appearance of posed, young and old good looking people in a photograph doesn’t mean authentic.  It seems to me that imagery is becoming more and more homogenized in this look a like selfie culture.

Authentic, real, natural looking people are all advertising descriptions that companies want to see in their ads to sell their particular product.  If you have to describe your experience while living it you are not experiencing it as authentic you are putting words as a barrier to that experience and thus losing authenticity.  

Authentic is a symbol and abstract concept disguised as the real deal to appeal to a perceived lifestyle and to be exploited and commercialized by ad men to sell their products.  Just like the American flag is used to sell patriotism and loyalty etc…

The ad men laugh at authenticity because they know the end game in using these real looking subjects is sales, period.

Authenticity is living in the present tense and enjoying the moment.  Opening your senses to the sounds, smells, light and feelings that are brought forth when in the presence of natures beauty.  And connecting with your subject first hand not through a hand held device. You don’t get authenticity through the appearance of authenticity in a photograph but only in the intense relationship with your subject.

A photograph is a copy. It is a copy of a scene, an artifact of something that happened. It is a copy of a live experience not the experience itself.  

In being present in the environment you felt, heard and sensed the present moments and felt it first hand.  Not a secondary experience through a photograph or video.

Photography in today’s social media frenzy is entertainment not authentic.  It needs to be visually exciting to attract the visually illiterate to spend a few seconds looking at the subject.

Just the word authentic has lost all meaning. If everything is authentic then nothing is.

Photographs like words can be taken out of context and are used deliberately to confuse or mislead the viewer.

What limits the appearance of authenticity is the motive behind the image creator. If you think about truthfulness as authentic then nothing in image creating is authentic. We yank the subject from it’s mooring in time and lose the moments before and after the shutter was tripped. Was the moment before or after the shutter was tripped more authentic.  Through personal influences and personal choices we filter out the details we don’t like and add the ones that we like. These are not authentic, factual, genuine, or trustworthy, objective truths. These are personal decisions by the photographer to express his vision of what he sees as his truth.

The photographer looks for subjects that interest him.  He explores his environment and begins to make a connection to subjects that appear because he is conscious of the details being presented.  He selects these details and his timing to create his inner connections from past explorations through a mechanical device.  The created scene is only authentic to the photographer.  The details in the scene will connect with some viewers because they see the similarities in details as important clues for themselves as well.  And this connection to the image is authentic for them only in as much as they can connect with the message being presented.

Truth is in a photograph if the image represents the purpose intended by the image creator. But the resulting image is a by product of not the real internal intensity, a revelation not the actual.  A photograph is an appearance of something not the real physical appearance. The image isn’t authentic but has the appearance of something real to viewers that can see and feel the clues given to them by the image creator.