Now that I have left the stock photo industry, I feel I will be unable to continue contributing to this blog. I derived most of the inspiration for my posts from the input of our artists and employees. Without this daily contact, I doubt that I could continue to offer advice that is relevant or insights that are useful.
Still, I thought I'd contribute one final post that summarized some of what I learned in my fifteen years at the head of a middle-sized stock agency. The list is short, but it may at least provide some historical perspective, for those who stumble across it, in the future. The list is not in order of importance, I am afraid.
1. Commercial art is still art. Customers may think they are using an image because the color matched the client's logo. They may claim they hate all stock photos. But, whatever they say, customers enjoy looking at good images and tend to choose those that evoke emotions, stir memories, and make their pulse quicken. They appreciate art--and after fifteen years of looking at images, so do I!
2. It is possible for a nice person to be a great artist. There are a few nasty people in the stock photo industry. Some of them are good artists, and the nastier they are, they better opinion they have of themselves. The swagger, pride, and bombast of these unpleasant people can obscure the joy of working with the legions of equally creative people, who are much more fun to spend time with.
3. Making art is a way of life. The many successful artist I worked with--including the nice ones I mention above--were all obsessed with their vision of the world. Everything they saw, ate, thought, and felt got wrapped up in their images. This single-mindedness must be trying on their kids, significant others, and friends. As their agent, I always felt priveleged to be part of these unique visions.
4. There is always room around the edges. When I first took our agency on line, people were amazed that we had a digital library of 30,000 images. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see libraries of four million or ten million images. Even so, there is room for hundreds of thousands more images--if you move away from the mainstream, and work around the edges. The same is probably true for the remaining smaller stock agencies. There should be plenty of room for them, around the edges of the industry.
5. Be patient, be pleasant, and be willing to change. In just fifteen years, I helped transform a sleepy mom and pop business into an Internet hub. If you include photo sharing sites as part of the industry (and I think you should) there are now at least five multi-billion dollar corporations (Google, Yahoo, TimeWarner/AOL, HP, and CNet) and three billionaire-controlled agencies (Getty Images, Corbis, and Jupiter Media) involved in the stock photo business. From time to time, I lost my patience, was rude or insensitive, or got stubborn on a point of principle. I regret those mistakes, and wish I could have listened and thought longer and more carefully before I spoke or wrote. Our industry now touches millions of people all around the world. We will all do better if we treat each other with more respect.
If you want to reach me, it is easy enough. The email address on the site still works and I plan to leave it up, for a while. Thanks for everything. Good luck and goodbye.