You know what’s funny ? I’ll tell you what’s funny. By continuing to put so much financial pressure on photographers and photography, the media will loose it’s source of imagery .

With declining space rates and assignment rates, increasingly obscene rights grabbing bordering on copyright infringement, unacceptable usage agreements and overall disrespect of the photography trade, publishers are literally pushing the photo industry to look for new revenues, and respect, somewhere else.

Already photo agencies like VII with news and X17 with celebrity have entered the publishing arena in direct competition to those who used to be their best clients. Others are aggressively investigating how to license images to the million of blogs worldwide while others, like Black Star for example, have left the editorial world almost entirely in favor of the greener pastures of the corporate world.

Independent photographers do not bother approaching publications¬† anymore for assignments and have long gone with either NGO’s or Foundations. Even new technology companies like Mediastorm already make most of their revenue from foundations/NGO’s. We talk a lot about the desertification of entire regions of the world, soon we will see the same happening in the editorial landscape: Magazines, whether on Ipads or not, filled with nothing more than text and lonely generic images. Textbooks forced to use the same images over and over because there are no more “image suplliers”, preferred or not. Not far is the day when, calling on the phone, a photo editor will hear over and over” Time magazine who ?”.

It is not the will of anyone in the photo trade to cease doing business with publishers. However, the business conditions are becoming so unbearable that they have no other choice than to look elsewhere for revenue. And overall respect.

There will always be photographers because it’s not a job, it’s a passion. But like any passion, it needs to be fed with substantial income. In it’s short history, photography has had a strong love affair with the editorial world. Now the editorial world is treating it’s favorite mistress as an old whore. The bond is being broken.

However, it is not like photogrpahy doesn’t have anywhere else to go to be treated as a princess again. The internet has opened new revenue streams and while it is still a wild west, it promises a lot of new beginning. A lot of new love stories.

There is really no logical reasons for this change in attitude. Publishers have seen a lot of pressure on their industry, certainly, but none brought forth by photography. However, if circulation goes down, it’s photography that pays the rough price. Cuts are made, because, unlike electricity, it is deem unessential for the survival of a magazine. Almost as if, completely rid of the cost of photography, a magazine or book would actually do better. Well, soon, that might just become reality.

With licensing fees coming close to insulting, there will be no one to take those images anymore. No one to shoot wars, politics, archeology or even movie premieres. No one left to service them with their needs. Just an obscenely huge amount of crowd generated images of everything that doesn’t really matter. Pretty, certainly, but of no interest. It will be cheap, but useless.

For now, the old whore still clings to its lifelong lover in the hopes of a change of mind. But for how long?

And yes, you are right, it’s not that funny after all…

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3 Thoughts on “The old whore

  1. Way too negative for words. The scene is simply changing and we better get comfortable with change. Change is here to stay. Yes, that is my quote. I have lived through times like this in a far more brutal business than photography and survived LIFE is still alive, go take a look at it’s website. You sound as negative as the current po9litical advertising. It must have rubbed off. Stay positive, stay away from soothsayers, and get out and SELL

  2. My post is not about fighting change: It’s about accepting it and looking at the long term consequences.

    Indeed LIFE is still alive, however entirely populated with Getty images and if you had read some of my previous post, ran by underpaid, overworked photo editors. Do you know how much they pay for an image ? Do you think it’s anything near what the magazine use to pay ? Do you see how they handle photography, do you think its anything near what the magazine did? LIFE is not alive, that is a pathetic malnutritioned ghost you see.

    Finally, if it seems too negative, I am sorry. I am not a miracle cure worker, nor do I pretend to be a multimillionaire success coach selling happiness pills.

    It’s is not by closing your eyes and ears that you make problems disappear. Yes, that’s my quote

  3. ukphotographer on October 30, 2010 at 1:49 am said:

    I worked for specialist hobby magazines in the UK and in that niche market similar problems began to hit as early as 1996.

    I was good at what I did, with expert knowledge of the subject. The photos were relevant and I supplied extensive captions, so the editors had very little picture research and caption writing to do.

    But suddenly the only thing that mattered was the price. There were attempted rights grabs, cheques kept arriving for less that had been agreed and payment times lengthened to up five months after supply.

    I stopped supplying them and began publishing my photography and articles on my own websites and sold advertising myself.

    The readers of those magazines weren’t fools. They could see the pages were riddled with errors and poor quality content. Within a couple of years all the magazines had disappeared and so had at least one of the companies.

    These days I earn less than I did fifteen years ago, even without taking into account inflation. But I survive and it’s stress free.

    Regularly I’m contacted by major book publishers who ‘have no budget’ for photography. Even the BBC asks for free photographs, which is disgraceful as the Corporation is supposed to encourage creativity and has an income of billions.

    It shows how ‘scrounging’ has become the norm even at the very top. And there are are always mediocre photos without captions that are ‘good enough’ and fresh-face kids with talent who will give their work for free until they realise what’s happening. It isn’t ‘professional’.

    Many of my images have archive value and I would rather they stay in the filing cabinet and on my own sites (properly credited and watermarked), rather than be licensed for free or for piddling little sums that barely cover the cost of writing an invoice.

    I guess I’m lucky that I’m multi-skilled. And I’m not pessimistic: I love digital technology, the web and what I do. So I’ll keep plodding away!

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