You know what’s funny? I’ll tell you what’s funny: by continuing to put so much financial pressure on photographers, the media industry will lose its primary source of imagery.
With declining space rates and assignment rates, increasingly obscene rights grabs that border on copyright infringement, unacceptable usage agreements and overall disrespect of the 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 million of blogs worldwide, while others — like Black Star, for example — have shifted focus to the greener pastures of the corporate world.
Independent photographers no longer bother approaching publications for assignments. They now go directly to NGOs and foundations. Newer players like MediaStorm already generate most of their revenue this way.
We hear a lot about the desertification of various regions of the world. Soon, we will witness the equivalent 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 suppliers,” preferred or otherwise.
We may be closer than you realize to the day when a certain publication’s photo editor will begin hearing this on the other end of the phone: “Time who?”
Obviously, none of this reflects a future that photographers want. But the increasingly unbearable business conditions are forcing them to look elsewhere for revenue — and, just as importantly, respect.
Photographers will always be around because they aren’t just doing a job; they’re pursuing a passion. But like any passion, it needs to be fed with a sustainable income. For most of photography’s brief history, editorial publications have served this role.
It’s been a long, productive, and mutually satisfying love affair between photography and publishers. But now the editorial world is treating its favorite mistress like an old whore.
The bond is being broken.
Love Stories to Come
You know what, though? There are other places photographers can go to be treated like a princess today.
The Internet has opened new revenue streams. Sure, it’s still the Wild West — but it offers the promise of love stories to come.
And so soon there will be no one left to shoot editorial. No one to shoot wars, politics, archeology or even movie premieres. All that will be left is an endless pile of crowd-generated images of everything that doesn’t really matter. Pretty, certainly, but of no interest. Cheap — but useless.
For now, the old whore still clings to its lifelong lover in the hopes of a change of heart.
But for how much longer?
And yes, you’re right. It’s not that funny after all.