Today should be a day to rejoice, worldwide. People all over the world close their doors, and eyes, from the surrounding world and regroup in their family cocoon to enjoy a few hours of peace and serenity. Outside, the battles still rages creating more casualties.
French newspaper le Monde just announced that collective photo agency, L’oeil Public, was filing for bankruptcy. For those who only care about what is happening in their own country, or even backward, that might mean nothing. However, like a upcoming storm, events that will soon be over your head tend to start somewhere else. L’oeil Public was one of the most successful collective in the past ten years. Composed of a handful of very talented photogrpahers, they had managed to elevate social photojournalism to new heights. Mostly specialized in french social events, they were not afraid to tackle international events if they deemed important enough L’oeil was one of the rare few collective to have managed to cross the Atlantic successfully , getting regular assignment from US publication like Time or Newsweek.
A collective is not a photo agency. A collective is made up of like minded photographers who decide to pool some of their resource needs in order to reduce cost and help each other. It is a tad socialist concept, thus very unpopular in the USA as it might potentially lead to a communist revolution .
The reason for L’oeil’s closure is now becoming a banality : Falling prices and lesser assignments. A declining demand for original photography thanks to a marketplace that is more eager to save money than make money. A marketplace that has become a playground for CFO’s and their armies of blindly dedicated bean counters. Where photojournalism has been replaced by coupon journalism, where photo editors recruit amateurs to submit free images and where photographer hold high and proud checks with $2 and $3 license sales while screaming ” This is Better than nothing”. It is a market place where pundits will tell you that the road to posterity is paved with Twitts, blogs and Facebook updates. That the next Google search could yield thousands if not millions of dollars and that SEO is your key to success, not photography. It is a marketplace where trade publications turn a blind eye to monopolistic behaviors and where cheap has replace talent. It is a marketplace that now sees editorial sales fall to 8 and 11 cents a piece.
L’Oeil Public’s situation is certainly not a fluke and should not be dismissed as extremely far and extremely irrelevant. It is what is awaiting a lot of businesses and individuals in the year to come. Prosperity in not just around the corner and the “something is better than nothing” mentality will not work.