The BBC posted, and probably aired, this video recently :
As usual with the BBC, it is full of errors and misconceptions:
1) It talks about Gamma/Eyedea yet shows only pictures from Sygma. It doesn’t say why Sygma ceased to be an active photo agency, implying it went bankrupt. Sygma was bought by Corbis ( need we say more?).
2) It explains that because of the recession, magazine are using “cheaper” celebrity images. Those who work in this industry, worldwide, know that celebrity images are not cheaper to use and license then war images. Most of the time they are much more expensive.
3) magazines using more celebrity images is not a recent economic trend brought forth by the recession, but a much longer trend, mostly created not to offend the advertisers : Magazine publisher can sign-up many more ads with celebs stories than they can with war images. They claim that’s what people want to read. Just before shutting down.
4) Gamma, Sygma and war photographers are NOT competing for space in publications against celebrity photographers. That is a pure fabricated lie. If celebrity photo agencies or photographers would stop shooting, magazines will not fill their pages with war images. The BBC is falling in the trap created many years ago by a poorly run photo agency claiming that if they couldn’t sell images, it was because of those cheap paparazzi shots. This fable is then supported by Agnes Gouvion St Cyr, French government’s photo spokesperson and probably the most boring person in photography.
5) There is no interview or even mention of Eyedea management team ? why ? or any management team ? Where did they go ? Couldn’t the BBC score an interview with them ? A more formal explanation would have been nice, no?
6) Claiming that the situation was brought forth by the rise of celebrity usage and not showing any management person results in “explaining” that this poor situation these agencies are facing is due to uncontrollable circumstances and are doomed. Never do they even remotely suggest that poor management could be behind the fall of these agencies. For Gamma/Eyedea, it would have taken the BBC no more than 10 minutes to figure it out.
6) Nice comment from the Corbis Sygma archive facility guy ” There is no short term business model for this..” and yet doesn’t even explain the long term one. Probably because like any Corbis’s business model, it is “Bill Gates will pay for this”.
7) The only good guy to come out of this is photographer Noel Quidu who explains his predicament and how much he cares about the agency he helped build.
A much better and thorough article can be found in the New York Times today: read it here.