- Don't Ask
Dear Mr. Uberagentur
Dear Mr. Uberagentur,
A photographer is a person with a certain amount of artistic sensibility
tempered by experience, education or both. He or she is an intelligent
human being that doesn't take well to being treated like a idiot. Now
I understand that you may be under the impression that photographers
are, in fact, children, but that's probably because they usually enjoy
what they do and all that smiling and laughter does tend to confuse
people like you.
Some photographers can be sent out (on what we like to refer to as an
"assignment") to document a scene or an event. Some photographers
stay in one place (in what we refer to as a "studio") to take
pictures of things that some people want other people to buy. Some photographers
even travel all over the place just to take pictures that other people
might want to hang on their walls.... It's a crazy old world, isn't
Some photographers are good at selling their talents and their photographs
and some are less than good, but even the good ones would rather be
out taking pictures than sitting at a desk, answering the phone, sending
out bills, sending out statements and all that other stuff that's generally
referred to as "business." But business is important because
even photographers have to pay for food, rent, cable, CDs and all that
other stuff (that we often refer to as "stuff.")
That's where you're supposed to come in. You seem like a nice guy. You
seemed to enjoy talking on the phone and selling stuff and there really
is an art to selling stuff. It used to be that there were agents and
photographers living and working in a sometimes-harmonious symbiosis
but these days it feels as though there's a dark cloud over Mordor and
that life isn't as good as it used to be.
There's this whole "content provider" thing. A content provider
would seem to be one of those guys that puts ketchup into bottles at
the Heinz factory or, perhaps, the guy that squeezes the milk into the
bucket under the back end of the cow. Maybe it's even the cow itself.
I'm not really sure abut all the details but I am sure that a photographer
isn't a "content provider."
Then there's your Wal-Mart approach to selling pictures, but it's an
approach that would've driven Sam Walton back to Bentonville with a
stop at bankruptcy court long ago. It seems that you used to be able
to sell a photograph for, say, $1000 to one magazine (something we refer
to as an "exclusive.") You'd take $500 and send the photographer
the other $500 and you'd both be pretty happy. Then you came up with
the idea of selling that same photograph to 30 magazines for, say, $200
each. That would mean that you'd get $3,000, the photographer would
get $3,000 for the same darn picture and you'd both be really, really
happy. The only problem with the idea seems to be that you were only
able to sell the picture to three magazines for that $200. So you wound
up getting $300 and the photographer got only $300 and neither you,
the photographer nor the photographer's landlord were either very, really
or even quite happy.
Recently you came up with another idea, maybe it's the "new economy"
idea, or maybe it's just a bad idea. It's seems that you want the photographer
to take a picture for which he or she gets $200. You take it and sell
it to ten magazines for $50 each and keep $300. You hand it to someone
at a computer (making a little over minimum wage) and they combine it
with four other pictures that cost you $200 and you then sell it to
a car company for use in an ad and get another $5,000.
Hmmmm.... Remember when I wrote that photographers were "intelligent?"
it seems to me that a whole lot of them are starting to understand how
badly they're being treated and they might be starting to figure out
how to change things to work a bit more in their favor.
If you've ever done a Google search (and who hasn't these days) you
might understand that all it would take to replace your and your modern
"on line" agency would be a similar, searchable, web site
with links to photographers' own web sites. Maybe that'd be something
for those folks at Google to think about. A little scanning, a little
cataloging, a little web page design, a little arrangement-with-any-one-of-ten-companies-to-take-credit-cards-on-line
and the photographer could cut out the middle man.
That would be you Mr. Uberagentur.