let’s be honest for a while. What we sell is Time. If we consider the passing of time as a continuous flow, than a photograph is nothing more than a very thin slice extracted and displayed outside of its natural place. A bit like a very thin glass of water taken from a stream.
It then proceeds in living outside of its time and becomes a object representing the time it was taken in. Nothing really new here. What becomes interesting is that we then proceed in renting that piece of time for a limited time. We are talking about RM here, obviously, not RF. Our clients, image buyers, will rent a piece of time for a limited time. The longer they want to display that time, the more expensive it becomes.
Quite obviously we need to ad space to the equation because since Einstein, we know we cannot separate them. And that time doesn’t just exist by itself, it has to be fixed in space. Both the image we take, is not only a fix time but also at a fix place. Licensing is the same, as we set prices based on time and the space that it takes.
Royalty Free has forever changed photography’s relation to time, at least on the licensing part, by offering a flat fee over large amounts of time and space. It broke the dualistic relationship that photography had with time both on the creation and licensing side. It is still a chunk of time when created but is no longer constrain to a specific time and space when it is licensed.
Part of that evolution is due to the medium on which we capture time. Since slides and print where physical objects, also clearly defined in space and time , it was always ask to be returned after a client usage.It reinforced the idea of time.
With digital, which refuses to be defined in space since it can be at infinite places at the same time, and has an infinite lifespan ( data does not die, hard drives do), the medium becomes timeless. And thus much easier to license as such.
It has also reduce our understanding of time and space. A news event that happened in the 1960’s in Israel for example was not seen for a day or two after it occurred. Today, we complain if we do not see images within a minute of it happening anywhere in the world.
Weekly or monthly magazines that were initially created to have the time to put all the information together have now switch to taking the time to cut through the vast amount of hourly information, including pictures, that bombard us every day.
As we all jumped into the digital pool with such enthusiasm, we never really took the time ( no puns intended) to analyze its consequence. Not that it would have change anything. We are now playing with a set of rules which have changed more than we think and has affected us far more deeply than we ever thought.
The next generation of picture professionals to succeed will be those who will master this concept and figure out how to manage it to their profit.