Stephen Mayes, Managing Director of VII Photo and former Jury Secretary for the World Press Photo Awards (2004-2009) is a leading thinker on the future of photography and of photojournalism in particular. He was speaking at the Flash Forward Festival in Boston last week and Miki Johnson live-blogged his talk (here). Reading her notes, Stephen talks about the traditional role of a photograph as recording something real that happend. Analog photography is about fixing something and creating an artifact but digital is the opposite of this. The photograph becomes more fluid and online it is never static, there are an infinite amount of changes that can be made to it. He goes on to say that while the photography business is in decline this is a moment for invention not dismay.
His solution involves rejecting the idea that the value of photography is in licensing/selling content by the “unit” (book, album, photograph) and instead focussing on the integrity of the photographer or institution. His evidence is that with VII Photo, more than half the money generated has come from integrity, not the sale of images. Companies come to them, not to buy images but to partner and find solutions. This all fits in very nicely with the Blog, Facebook and Twitter information feed that people are plugged into. Distribution of information depends on who it comes from not what it is.
He goes on to outline the different ways photographers have advantages in this new ecosystem: being small and fluid is better than big with large overhead, there’s a huge population of kids who don’t care about newspapers but still care about the issues, you don’t have to rely on print to be recognized, bringing the subject into the relationship structure is very exciting and tailoring the story for the specific distribution platform. He concludes that there is no single solution but instead the answers are limitless.