let them eat cake, she had said. As the eyes of the world are turning toward China and the upcoming Olympics, this is a good time to reflect on how photography is evolving. Not as a medium, but as a media.
Getty images licenses a series of exclusive images to People and Hello! for a reported $14 million. No one questions this. furthermore, no one seems to believe that the number is just plainly insane. On one side of the spectrum, images sell at a buck a piece and on the other, at double digit millions of dollars. Doesn’t make much sense. And I will tell you why : Image pricing was a combination factor of quality/difficulty/usability. The more an image was going to be used, or seen, the more it would cost. The better, or rather, the more relevant the images were, the more its price would go up. Finally, the more an image was hard to get, the more the price would go up. If you look at the RF microstock model, none of the above is true anymore. Does the Jolie twins bring so much value that they will reep sales above $7 million ( assuming People paid half the bill ?) . lets see : Angelina first baby picture sold for $4million. People sold 2.2 million copies at a cover price of 3.95. That is roughly $ 8.8 million if you complitely ignore the subscribers. If they raised their advertising space rate, they should have broken even. At $7 million, it becomes more of a problem. After all , it is not because she had twins that there will be double the readership, is it ?
Actually, these images have become a story by themselves. They were priced way before Angelina even had the babies. And by whom ? The media. Rumors, speculation, interviews, opinions were running like a mountain stream in Spring, finally settling around anywhere from $11 million to $14 million.
Interesting thus, that Getty sold these images for the same price as people assume someone would sell these images. Did the megastar couple take the hint from the crowdsourcing pricing or is it just hype ? After all, the crowd will be more eager to see images that are worth $14 million dollars than a few bucks. Thus both Getty, People and Hello ! profit from screaming that those images were sold for $14 million. It benefits everyone, even the couple who gets to give even more money to charity.
Furthermore, does anyone who has been in this industry for a while really think that competing magazine USweekly or IN TOUCH stop bidding at 13,999,999 .00 and said we give up ? Or that if the National enquirer had bid $15 million, it would have been in their latest issue ? Publicists and stars want to be in People magazine, not in tabloids.
Who cares if it is not true, really. What matters here is that these images got a celebrity status, even before they were even taken.
The second incident is the revelation by Newsweek DP that the Olympics will be mostly a .com event. Ex-photography director, Mary Ann Golon had told me that TIME will be doing the same a few months back . Seems that this Olympic season will be online with additional reporting in print. The slow decay of the paper support is becoming more apparent as it cannot compete with the feeding frenzy. Photography becomes free at last of the written word and regains a position of strength. It can live, breath and exist by itself on an online slideshow that doesn’t need much explanation. This will only continue to erode the news weeklies here and worldwide. It will also put much more pressure on the photographers to fully report with images and not just be an accompaniment to the text. Its good news.