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.
- Gursky Rhein II web source https://www.moma.org/collection/works/88067 accessed nov 25th, 2019
- Photography Markets at Auction https://news.artnet.com/market/photography-market-trends-2019-1521283
- Ben Smith A Small Voice https://podcasts.apple.com/es/podcast/a-small-voice-conversations-with-photographers/id1039540784?ign-mpt=uo%3D4 accessed Nov 25th, 2019
- Digital Photography Market Size https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2016/12/27/901767/0/en/Global-Digital-Photography-Market-will-reach-USD-110-79-Billion-by-2021-Zion-Market-Research.html accessed Nov 25th, 2019