Interesting times

September 16th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Lehman Brothers collapses.

Corbis lays off 175 jobs.

Photoshelter closes its Collection, a fotoLibra copy which launched itself in September 2007 by grandly announcing itself as The First Online Marketplace To Provide Professional and Amateur Photographers An Opportunity to Sell Their Images to Commercial Buyers. Not remotely true, but more on that later.

A comment by MarcW on the Photopreneur blog hit the nail on the head — Photoshelter made the mistake of believing what buyers told them. Buyers always demand new, exciting, cutting edge work, but they buy conventional and they buy safe. Pollsters for any forthcoming election in Photoshelter’s home country should bear this in mind; there’s even a term for it when it happens in a racial context: The Bradley Effect.

It’s little to do with race, it’s the person being polled who wants to appear smart / cool / savvy / unprejudiced / avantgarde in the eyes of another human being, the pollster. So of course buyers are going to be seen and heard asking for images on the edge. It’s true, they love to look at them, but that’s not what they have to buy. Don’t poll the picture buyers, ask the shareholders in the companies they work for.

Several Photoshelter photographers have approached us to ask if they can transfer their images to fotoLibra.  We welcome them with open arms and we’ve contacted Photoshelter to ask how we can facilitate the move, but there hasn’t been any response from them as yet. That’s understandable, I suppose; I sympathise and commiserate with Photoshelter’s staff who must be hurting a lot at the moment.  If any Photoshelter members read this, perhaps you could ask them about transfers as well?

Any diminution in the picture sales business lessens us as well, because we are part of it, but Photoshelter’s claim is patently untrue, as fotoLibra was doing this in beta as far back as April 2004 and has been doing it increasingly successfully since January 2005. fotoLibra was incontestably the first open access picture library, The First Online Marketplace To Provide Professional and Amateur Photographers An Opportunity to Sell Their Images to Commercial Buyers, but We Didn’t Use Quite As Many Capital Letters. We now have 19,000+ members in 150 countries.

But hubris (and shaky research) meant Photoshelter could make false claims like this — we don’t have time to contest them because we’re too busy selling pictures, which I guess may have contributed to Photoshelter’s downfall. Those cows don’t milk themselves, you have to go out and greet them, on behalf of all your photographers.

Duty and responsibility, I guess.


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