Crisis of Proliferation

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In 1976 the French thinker, Jacques Attali, identified a looming problem for music and musicians; what he called the "crisis of proliferation". It was prescient but the music industry is only recently begun to properly acknowledge the problem. Arguably the same is true in other fields including photography.

Photography has perhaps come to the same state a little later but it has accelerated since the advent of affordable digital cameras at the turn of the millennium. At least in the days of film supply was limited as there was a cost every time we pressed the shutter. Now there is no ongoing cost the market is flooded with both repetitive images and pictures of the most mundane subjects. This is a particular problem with regard to stock photography as I discussed briefly in Taking Stock. So although it will be no comfort that we are not alone, and I also see the same problem with the written word, it does give us an opportunity to see how music makers have responded.

Arguably photographers have more, or at least different, opportunities to exploit other outlets for their work than musicians. The market for generic stock especially for editorial and low-end commercial uses may be over-supplied, and therefore under-rewarded, but other opportunities are being created. For example, the collector market for photographic prints as art has boomed in the forty-five years I have been a photographer, there are more galleries and exhibitions than ever there were in the last century. But the competition is fierce as it is at the top end of any field: sport, business, the professions and all the creative arts.

Nowadays there are more ways to reach an audience and thereby build a reputation than ever before. Whether that reputation can be turned into a worthwhile income is another matter and will depend on individuals and their ability to promote themselves. That is a topic I suspect we will return to frequently as we explore the business opportunities for photographers.

So as I said in Taking Stock the old ways no longer work and will only get less financially worthwhile. Time to accept the inevitable, think laterally and find the new opportunities as they appear. The pace of change is accelerating so those new opportunities may only be viable for a short time, then it will be time to move on to the next. Standing still by doing what has worked in the past is simply no longer an option.


BBC, The pop star and the prophet – 17 September 2015

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