There is no doubt about it. Photography is a people industry. Photographers take pictures of events because they want other people to see what they see. They edit their images with only one intend, to share them with others. Same goes for photo agencies. They have great pictures that they want to see published. And finally, photo editors select images that they would like their readership to see. Images are always made to be shared and this is where Flickr.com was right on the spot. Even Facebook photo sharing is probably the most used feature. On one takes or selects an image, it is always with a viewership in mind.
Thus, the best image is the one that others will also like to show. Like a rumor or news, photography is extremely social. It cannot survive without platforms that allow for their sharing and commentary. Up to now, magazines have been socially inept, as they were the termination of the dialogue. Websites have mostly changed this. It is now possible for photographers to finally see the reaction, if any to their images. And that should change the way photography is being used around the world. Few take advantage of this viral quality of photography and instead continue to edit based on a silent readership. The content continues to dominate rather than the image itself. Editors, and photographers, continue to shoot for magazines or stock with the same mind frame as 20 years ago when there was no possibility of reaction. And that is a mistake.
Rob Haggart was right when he suggested photographers need to create a fan base. I would even raise the bar and say the same for photo agencies. they need to create their own fan base and generate a demand for their images. The conversation should come full circle to a point when, like rock stars, readers would ask a publication for more images from so and so or that photo agency.While everyone is retreating in their own camp, by creating infinite company blogs about their personal success or self congratulating on little achievements, they should rather expand into becoming indispensable. They should capitalize on their talent to build stronger brands to the point that they can control the market.
Obviously, it is not easy. But it was not easy for Coca cola to create such a mighty brand either. But its part of business. And photography is this weird industry that refuses to communicate with its real customers : the readership . And in doing so, they alienate who they are and what they do by giving full control of their brand to a lazy middle man, the photo editor.
With a little more thinking and less whining, this industry could finally step out of its endless infancy and become a charming teenager ready to take on the world. Let reader and viewers play with your images, exchange them, share them. They will ask for more and that is where the success lies.