Opinion Piece and Letter to Marianne Winther at Room The Agency. I have been pondering for a while now, if I should write this post. A post on pricing for images offered by Agencies like Room The Agency (London, UK) and it’s distributor Getty Images (Seattle, USA). Today I made the decision to go ahead, based on some news from the Dutch market for professionally made images and photojournalism and very wel knowing this will cost me a contract with at least one of my image-agencies.
The reason I am going forward with this post, is the rock bottom we have now reached within the industry: re-occurring royalties of (in this case) GBP 0,01 (currently € 0,012 or 1,2 Cent per Image). Of course I knew prices for images have been in decline for two decades now, and that many photographers and photojournalists came into trouble financially ages ago. They faced a huge drop in revenues and income, not being able to finance production of new work any longer. Moreover, many of my dear colleagues seized investing in new equipment, cut their budgets on energy, house rent, food, vacation and much, much more. Most of them decided to burry their camera’s inside the deepest closet they could find, and if lucky finding new employment somewhere else.
Recent news tells me, that one, large agency in the BeNeLux is actively considering decreasing pricing of images and royalties to photojournalists even further, after having negotiated for several years now on a modest increase of revenues. Revenues for photojournalists will be increasingly below rock bottom, who will not longer be able to survive their most basic way of life.
Then, I again received a sales report from Room The Agency on images sales, after writing them an e-mail, that such prices are an insult to my work (see below) and that they will hugely damage the industry. Showed below, are sales mostly made via Getty Images, a re-distributor of our images at RooM’s. Their respons was, bottomline: “Take it or Cancel Your Contract”. Well, dear Room The Agency, I am going to take you up on that; I am hereby cancelling my contract with your Agency. Publicly. Period!
This having said and done, this shows the art of Photography, including PhotoJournalism, has now finally entered his heydays. With nearly every party in the industry stating that journalism is of utmost importance, especially in times of global conflict, the profession has become a hobby for amateurs, hobbyists and enthousiasts, who will not be able to tell trustworthy stories and battle fake news and propaganda.
If this is an inconvenient truth to a number of agencies, who single handed decide on sub standart royalties, so be it. This story needs to be out in the open, it needs to be tolt. Society needs to be aware, that photography and photojournalism has a value. And that it takes an effort, sometimes at the cost of life, to provide society with valid and trustworthy information on what’s currently happening around us.
Do I forget my dear colleagues? No, I don’t. I believe they (we all) need to step up, instead of continuously take a beating. Combine your (our) energy and collectively make it very clear to agencies and to the world, that this is no longer the way we want to do business. We are here to inform our and your audience and to inform society, of which you (we all) are a part. If our work is not longer valued as it should be valued financially, in the end you (we all) will be out of a job too. On top, society will be subject to misinformation and propaganda on the massive scale we haven’t ever seen before. Are you now pondering whether you were doing the right thing or not, by staying with penny and cents agencies?