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Let’s Start a “Save Photography” Movement; Who’s with Me?

Posted By Paul Melcher On August 29, 2008 @ 7:05 am In Business of Photography | 4 Comments

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As I was walking down the street in Manhattan yesterday, avoiding other busy pedestrians thinking about work, I noticed a bumper sticker I had never seen before. On a red background, it read: “Save the Mountains.” Not sure if it was a serious one but regardless, it made me wonder. How come we haven’t seen a “Save Photography” or “Save Photographers” sticker yet? After all, the industry is in more danger than mountains.

Here are a few reasons:

Overcrowding. Like anything that we human beings like too much, we tend to use it and abuse it until there is nothing left. We are over-fishing, over-farming, over-driving, and in the process, killing everything associated. Photography, thanks partially to Flickr, but also digital, is not only everywhere, but done by everyone. Boundaries between pros and amateurs are melting faster than the polar ice and everyone who used to have a job directly related to photography is in more danger than polar bears.

It is not just photographers bearing the weight of the overcrowding of this field. Photo editors are also being laid off as magazines or newspapers are either shrinking or shutting down. Photo agencies will soon also suffer from the saturated market and will start reducing staff as they will not be able to sustain their growth. After all, if photographers are seeing less commission, you can be sure that agencies are making less revenue.

Technology. No one needs a photo editor at Flickr. Why? Because Flickr edits itself. Newspaper Web sites are shrinking down and more and more relying on wire service feeds. Just post the feed as it comes in, or automate it. Not very hard to do. No one really needs so many photographers either anymore. Remote control cameras now cover what actual photographers used to — and they don’t complain. Amateurs are shooting as well, and can now very easily contribute. It would not be difficult to envision an agency entirely made up of amateurs. Heck, you could get the Olympics or the conventions well covered by amateurs, if you organized yourself well. Thousands of eyes in every different position possible. Imagine the possibilities.

Intellectualism. Some of our best publications have been taken over by over-thinking. In a desperate effort to differentiate themselves from the commons, they have been taken over either by “new” photojournalism or “new” fine art. Nouveau Photojournalism, we have spoken about [2]. Holga-happy reporters who seem happiest in images where you see less. Nouveau Fine Art has taken the opposite approach and is hyper-realist. Closeup images of uncooked eggs, deserted parking lots at nightfall with heavy greenish tungsten light, snapshot-looking photography with visible flash effects — anything that looks desperately real and slightly unappealing is in fashion. Both agree that if the image disturbs you in any manner, it must be good. Especially if you think it is a bad photograph. Then, it is probably genius.

Microsoft. It was a good world when Microsoft did not care about photography. We were all left to build our own digital world with whatever tools we wanted. For a while, we had to deal with Adobe’s monopoly on photo editing, but that was disappearing. However, recently, the big Redmond giant has been working its way into the field. And we all know what that means. Nothing will ever be the same anymore. No need to explain more (Corbis anyone?).

Blogs and opinions. Everywhere and everyone has an opinion. Everyone is an expert. Everything and nothing is written about photography. It is exhausting. It is all over the place and nowhere. Someone should regulate it. For one thing, all the old farts who have been teaching photography in colleges for more than 20 years should be forced to retire and certainly not allowed to blog. They are frightening. Anyone that has not sold or licensed images for a living should not be quoted on professional blogs because they try to take pictures in places where it is not allowed. It is pathetic.

All these blogs are screaming for attention and readership, and will write about almost anything as long as they do it every day. Including publishing boring press releases on the size of a collection. It’s obscene. Stop it. It is okay not to write anything if there is nothing to say or not to publish a press release because it is stupid. (Yes, I know — I do not have to read them.)

These are all reasons to start a “Save Photography” movement. We could have fundraising parties with Karl Lagerfeld as our keynote speaker and dance the night away. Have cool hats and T-shirts with our logo, and finally, make bumper stickers that I could stick on my car … if I had a car.

Who is with me?

[tags]photography business[/tags]

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4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "Let’s Start a “Save Photography” Movement; Who’s with Me?"

#1 Comment By bob On August 29, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

I agree. I have tried to go pro free lance but why should anyone pay for work when every one is posting for free.
Lets save photography.

#2 Comment By S Simpson On August 30, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

Well Bob, if your freelancing didn't work out for you, you obviously didn't work hard enough on it. It is not going to drop into your lap, you have to approach it like a business and do some door knocking and marketing of yourself.

Let me preface this with the fact that I quit my full time job two years ago to go full time (from my home) and I am making more now than I was working for someone else and not putting in as many hours. Life is great. It wasn't without its trials and tribulations to begin with but that is to be expected.

I am confused when you say that photography is dead. Sure everyone and there dog (I'll bet Bob even has a dog) has bought a DSLR and wham, they are a photographer. They post images at places like Flickr, pbase, et all. If they don't take the precautions to protect their images from lifting and illegal use that is there problem. BTW, I think that Flickr has contributed more to the demise of quality commercial photography than any one thing in the industry. They promote this "Creative Commons" thing so that people can just grab your work and run. You need to work with your images according, watermarks, making sure that everyone knows you won't subscribe to CC.

There is no need for a movement, imo. Photography is alive and well and maybe too much. What I would love to see is some sort of qualification/licensing to get rid of the riff raff that trying to hang a shingle out in the internet and call themselves a professional photographer. Some of these people do do outstanding work but simply under charge for it thus hurting the industry. The marketplace will sort these out over time but in the mean time they have done nothing to help the industry. The public in general now take a somewhat suspect view of us.

I do agree with you on the various photography related blogs. There is so much misinformation being communicated in some of these that it pains me to read them. There are so many that also use these as their gallery/commercial site because they are too damned cheap to design and pay for a real site. You can read about how good they are and they can do just about anything for you and then check craiglist and they are advertising to do a wedding for free simply so that they can say they have done one.

If you have good work, price yourself for the local market place and work hard at it you can be successful. As far as the industry being dead, far from it, but it does need some straightening out which involves weeding out the bad ones.

#3 Comment By Mike Fox On August 31, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

Sign me up for that bumper sticker!

It is easy to say that photography is "dead" and to then point out that anyone with a DSLR can call themselves a photographer. The differentiation, for me, is that I get "paid" for the photography work that I do. Hating to sound cavalier or a total capitalist, it is preserving my income that, at the end of the day, is a priority to me.

Whereas I welcome new photographers to the industry, those who want to join me in trying to make a positive impact on the lives of others, I do not welcome those who own a camera and seem to suffer from some grossly over-developed sense of self-entitlement that they should be allowed to take photographs of whomever and whatever they want.

There IS a movement starting to develop around the future of photojournalism, and how it is going to pan out. With declines in ad revenue in print publications, there is an accelerating shift toward the screen as a delivery mechanism for news and images. Yes, this should be a good thing as, in theory, we can get more images in front of more people which, if we were talking about print, would mean that we get paid more. But there is an expectation that pretty much everything on the internet is free. If a user is looking for a story on subject "X" and the first option that Google throws up is a paid subscription, the odds are that he/she will continue scrolling down the search results until a free version is found.

Two questions, then. Question 1. How do we get an audience to continue to pay for content that they might not want to see (starving children in Darfur as an example) and, question 2, how do WE get paid for our work?

This is where a movement kicks in. Creativity, innovation, thought leadership. Detachment from the "old way of doing things". Let the wedding photogs continue to do their thing - that's great. People will pay for their wedding photographs and want to see them. As photojournalists, we face different challenges and some group think around how we can all deal with those challenges, collectively, and for mutual benefit, is overdue.

#4 Comment By ian campbell On September 4, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

Write me in as well. This morning I was reading the Independent newspaper's website in London, and a business story had a photo of the Bank of England, plus the street it's on. THEY HAD DIGITALLY BLURRED ALL BUT THE BANK.
It's not so much the mechanics of photography I'm concerned about as much as the RIGHT to take photographs, and sell them if the IMAGE INVOLVED says something.
Cartier-Bresson today would be a dead man.


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