trash-2.jpgSocial networking, aggregated marketplace, Web 2.0, my friends are your friends so we should share them, quantity brings quality, a whole lot of Kabula is going on in the photography world right now.

Some call it “The End’, others, a “New Beginning”, there are screams of imminent apocalypse as arms are dropped to the ground and hair pulled out while others smoke cigars in lounge chairs in obvious signs of victory.

A new kid has stepped in the playground, at least new to me. They took an ad in the previously protected hunting grounds of both digitalrailroad and photoshelter, Lighstalkers. They are from Switzerland. They are about a community, a photo community. They license images, RM and RF, and take NO commissions. They have a low rate of $21/ a month, unlimited space and bandwidth. Let’s just say, they appear competitive.

The reason I bring this up is that more and more photo sharing, community friendly, price sensitive photo buckets are springing to life. Let the “community” do the work, we’ll just sit back and cash in.

For one thing, there is no photo community. They are many photo communities. Not only in styles of photography ( photo j, nature, commercial stock, sports…) but geographically. At least in the professional world. They just do not speak the same language. A sports photographer cannot talk to a still life photographer, especially if they live in different countries. Nor do they really want to talk to each other.

I have never heard so much about community since my college days when, as a true French student, we would go on strike because the sky had been gray for too long, or that our cafeteria didn’t not serve Chinese dumplings in the desperate hope of reviving the fame spirit of student uprising of 1968. Besides being beaten with big sticks by the French anti riot force, let’s just say we didn’t achieve anything, besides all getting our degrees and getting on with our lives.

Professionals know this. They will seek seek out the tools that will make them stand out and reach their clients. And that is what serious platforms like Digitalrailroad, IPN or Photoshelter offer them. They certainly do not want their images pilled up underneath garbage taken by week end photographers ( try a search on the word ‘Blue” for example on Lets face it, I need my doctor or dentist to remain as such. Do I go around pulling teeth out ?

Volume does not make quality. There is a saying that says that if you let a monkey or computer, enough time, they will write a William Shakespeare play. That is what we see happening on Flickr and others, “I’ll take your your five best images”, websites. Volume is the new catalysis for quality. And most of us, if we try hard enough, will maybe take a Henri Cartier Bresson picture once or twice in our life. That is not a photography career, that is playing the odds. Exactly the business model of lotteries.

Really, who makes the money on these sites? the photographers? no. The owner of the sites do. Did Istockphoto owners redistribute to the photographers the $50 million they made by selling their technology and content to Getty ? Of course not.

Someone is getting ripped off here, big time. No ones ever works for the community. The community is stupid, ignorant, plebeian, instinctive and highly susceptible to trends. The exact opposites of a professional photographer.

I cannot disagree with Getty and others to take advantage of this, as they are a business, not a friendly home for lost souls . I cannot even blame the microstock companies to become extremely wealthy. Good for them. But I think that professional photographers should stand their ground. Let the amateurs continue to take close ups of tomatoes or other computer keyboards. But, I would like to see sites like lightstaklers help their members by not accepting ads from obviously dishonest companies, or at least have a real review. I am strong believer that quality will prevail, whatever business model is out there. But I would like also to see some efforts by the professional photographers to help new incoming young photographers make the right decisions before being destroyed by internet sharks. There are bad kids in the park, let’s kick them out.
On a site note, you have to see one of Brian Storm’s latest production in association with National Geographic : Ivory Wars: Last Stand in Zakouma

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