Independent Reflection – The Photography Market

The Photography Market

When we talk about the ‘Photography Market’ it is really important to be clear about what we mean. Some markets that exist are

  • The equipment market of cameras, printers, software and all the things necessary to create an image.
  • The fine art market managed through auction houses, galleries and agents.
  • The Wedding/Portrait/Event/Commercial market.
  • The teaching and research market.
  • The photobook market.
  • The print market.
  • The media licensing market involved in broking images from sellers to buyers.
  • The phototherapy and therapeutic photography market.
  • The social media market.

This module ‘Sustainable prospects’ has focussed on fine art, prints and social media. It is highly unlikely many MA students will develop a sustainable prospect in these markets. It is more about reputation, artistic acknowledgement and executing a dream than making a living.

I have listened to 43 of the 118 episodes of Ben Smith’s excellent podcasts. Only Martin Parr and Bruce Gilden admit to making a significant sum of money from their practices. All the others I have listened to have won awards, got great reviews, have significant name recognition and have held many large and prestigious exhibitions. None of them make much money out of this. As Clare Short, shortlisted for the Deutsch Bourse Prize this year, said to me over dinner in Madrid this year ‘it is a real struggle to make ends meet.’

Gursky’s record $4.3m sale of Rhein II is mentioned much as something that is possible. However, nobody else has come anywhere near this figure and it does not look like being topped any time soon.

Sales of photography lots at the major auction houses are pitifully small versus the overall art market (less that 2pct). If you consider that at least 10 million photographers try to get their images in to this space it means on average less than $32 per photographer per year.

To get even more depressed the top ten sellers rarely change and many of them are dead. In fact scarcity and death are two useful factors if you want to do well in this space.

The big money Photography Market is the equipment market which is expected to grow to $110bn by 2021. This really interests me and I want to understand more about what is happening here. Why do most of us invest so heavily in all of this equipment and accept so little in monetary return? It needs further work but I think two answers are possible.

  • We place a high ego value on the images we create with our cameras and the representation they give the world of how much more perfect our own lives are than others.
  • Camera manufacturers have successfully marketed their high end products as a luxury ‘must have’ item for which people will pay a premium to own. Many Canon 5D owners buy it because it is exclusive, expensive and suggests a value that will follow for the images taken.

The other side of the coin is I believe a considerable sum of money is made by Google, Amazon, Apple, Instagram and Facebook on the back of the images we provide for free. Algorithms are in place to pick our own photographs and who we share them with and place amongst them advertisements for products other data mining of our needs has given them. Much of this is subliminal but I would expect to find that contributes significantly to the revenue of these giants.

Two areas I do believe to have a lot of opportunity and revenue potential are in teaching and personal transformation. I intend to explore both of these further. Personal transformation with photographs and using that to create art is something I see Cristina Nuñez doing with her Self Portrait Experience. I also believe I can build something around the idea of exploring the self in the Truth & Beauty of You in the same way I am learning so much from my own project The Truth & Beauty of me.

References

Categories: Coursework SP, Sustainable Prospects

LEN

I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make
decisions.

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.