Are You Ready For The Frustration Decade?

- - The Future

Seth Godin is calling the 2010’s the frustration decade (here). We’ve all experienced the frustration with the old way of doing things not working anymore and now the growing frustration with all the cool technology and new ways of doing business not being robust enough. Combine that with slow economic turnaround and I’ll agree it’s the perfect recipe for frustration. He’s giving you the option to embrace the changes and not fight them but I like his next entry on the “Evolution of every medium” (here):

1. Technicians who invented it, run it
2. Technicians with taste, leverage it
3. Artists take over from the technicians
4. MBAs take over from the artists
5. Bureaucrats drive the medium to banality

This means the next decade will belong to the artists. The people who can make you say wow and stop your busy life for a second to check something out. Taking what’s been created and turning it into something beautiful with impact and meaning is the job of artists. An artists with an MBA sounds like a powerful combination. Anyway, here’s to the decade where the artists take over. That will probably be frustrating for some people, hopefully not you.

There Are 19 Comments On This Article.

  1. Amen Rob,

    I wholeheartedly agree. With cameras being as common as a pencil and paper, the future is bright for those who can wield these tools properly.

    Originality, no matter in what format, ever goes out of style.


  2. As an “emerging” photographer, frustration is all I’ve ever known. Every photographer tells me how good it used to be. Every book tells me a different way of doing business. Every blog tells me my marketing won’t work. Every photographer tells me I’m charging to little, every client tells me I’m charging too much! Yet, I’m still here…and smiling.

    I used to take complaints at the phone company. My worst day as a photographer is better than my best day as a complaint taker.

  3. Inexpensive means of production have been available for many years now…low-cost video cameras, digital editing, DVD burners…So where is this fountain of grass-roots creativity, where are these artists ? …still waiting…

  4. The concept that the artist with a more expanded point of view, “one grounded in art but a perspective and knowledge base that goes beyond “sounds right.
    That “expanded “point of view might be as simple as a photographer that understands the business equation and owns their place as a business person as well as an artist. EXPANSION and Openness are what the next few years are all about not just in the world of photo and business but in the growth of the planet. AWARENESS ,expanded awareness .See what that might look like to each and everyone. How can you open up to a greater piece of who you are?e

  5. Thank you for a great and inspiring post! During the last years, numbers of photographers were stuck in discussions about technics, bits and bytes. This one-dimensional way of thinkings leads directly into failure: Creativity and art is more than being capable to use a high-tech camera and a computer. Creativity and art need a broad personal range, need intellectual and emotional skills, an open mind … and an open heart as well. This makes creative work characteristic and – unique.

  6. How is this view any different than retro or nostalgia movements? Technology is often more of a distraction than an advantage, but it can provide new outlets for creativity. New media and new technology should mean a growing need for new images, yet a need for photography does not implicitly mean a need for a photographer.

    I am floored by the lack of photographer credits (implying in-house, or non-commissioned work) in the latest CommArts Advertising Annual. I heard it last year from agency creatives that idea flows and timelines often meant less commissioning of photography, yet every time I asked for an explanation, there was not one person who could come up with a good reason why that was happening.

    • Gordon

      You’re (sadly) correct in many cases re the CA annual. A LOT of work was done with stock (Getty/Corbis/etc/Flickr AND especially RF), and several ‘NAME’ ad shops have brought work in-house. They have ADs who ‘also shoot’ (more power to ’em, I suppose) and the agency gets not only complete control but also more $$$ from the job. And the AD gets a nice ‘salary/bonus’ bump.

      As for ‘why it’s happening’, the ostensible reason is ‘time crunch’, however the more apt answer is ‘because it can’. Digital, and the ensuing decline in the learning curve (via instant & relatively ‘low cost’ feeback -monitor) have made a LOT of work that used to be produced by professionals who’d spent years honing their craft into commodities that can be produced in house, marked up and sent out the door asap w/o the end client being the wiser.

      Is it ‘right’? I think that’s a hard answer to parse-depends on who’s pov we’re using. It is good for photographers? No, not really.

      The irony is that work that used to be ‘held’ for photographers with vision (and the projects would then subsequently get into the awards shows is now being produced by the people ‘with the vision’. In this paradigm I’d say that photographers are now simply camera operators (like on a film set) while the ADs who concept the ads can now produce them from start to finish. And if they can produce the ads using RF art . . . well so much the better for the agency’s bottom line-they get the 15% media buy markup, plus the 25% agency markup on production.

      The ‘new, new technology’ is NOT your friend per se. However it’s here and we’d better get used to it.

      • @Robb Scharetg, The feedback from a monitor/LCD alleviates a lack of confidence, though in a way it questions why someone triggered the shutter in the first place. It takes more to be a photographer than having an index finger. If someone saw it through the viewfinder, why did they need to see it again a moment later on a monitor?

        It’s really false signals, much like first impressions proving wrong. In a world of instant gratification, something needs more staying power, but that is what brand building is all about. Unfortunately economics might dictate cost cutting over staying power. It would be interesting if CommArts (or someone) did an article on the worst major ad campaigns last year, though I would bet that those projects also had a similar in-house ratio.

        Yes, there are multi-talented individuals at agencies, and they can and do produce great work, but at some point they are stretching their own resources. The idea of working with others, especially outside their agencies, is to bring in other viewpoints. That really is the first test of a campaign, but it seems to be slipping away at some places.

  7. None of this is entirely new. To a degree, both the *frustrations* and *evolution* have already been represented and experienced in contemporary western civilization – including the last decade of wired societies.

    Selina’s point has been cogent since the beginning of man as well.
    (Nonetheless vital).

    The purposeful use of consumption and technology today is often as distraction from reality/awareness. This along with other things like loss of cultural diversity could lower our societies and potential further.

    A great many human beings still have a long way to go in managing themselves.
    (Self included). Until that evolution takes place, much of what we see will be variations on what we have already experienced.

    Will the degree of change create a tipping point in the next decade?
    Has it already? Proof will be the response or reaction to changes.

  8. I think the tools and the software are always going to turn established business models upside down if not rightfully wreck them. Yeap. Life is about destruction through evolution and rebirth. Dinosaurs die a slow death. Young male mammals thrive and grow stronger.

    All this new bang-bang technology is just static right now, and a huge bubble that will eventually burst and become streamlined and cogent. There is just so much of it, it is so saturated, everyone of us is running like bat out of hell after the 1000 thousnad flavors of the day.

    I think content always prevails, trumps technology and software and gizmos and what not. time and time again. because ultimately, the stories we chose to tell are explicitly about human beings. And I think the challenge is not in the gizmos and tools and tecnhology, but rather the evolution of content. how we see and interpret human beings. what was an american and their soviet counterpart in the cold war? what are they today?

    content. content. content. “it’s the content, stupid!”

    Let’s take photojournalism, for instance. I cant get away from the fact that if a human being is not bleeding or dying some horrible death in a video or picture it isnt photojournalism. I recently saw a gorgeously-put (MTV-like) black and white video made by some famous photojournalist of a marine patrol in Iraq that went wrong with a wispery, cool-hand-luke voice over narrating as if it were a G.I. Joe movie clip. and i thought to myself, this is the old way of doing journalism now being adapted to romanticizing technology and comics cool. making war look cool, and dark, and childish for its preocupation to make it look like a batman movie. in essence, the technology and presentation completely veneers war with a palette of pretty and cool Adobe Premiere or Final Cut and whatever flavor of the afternoon sound effects was reigning for two hours a few weeks ago.

    Victim journalism has traditionally driven ad sales because it shocks the system into paying attention. Well, people arent reading newspapers anymore not because the web took over, but because there is really fatigue with this now-irrelevant model of content. 90% of humanity isnt at war or bleeding to death or being opressed yet this is what is shown in 90% of venues, whether paper or celuloid.

    The succes of facebook is that the average human being wants to smile in their daily life, have fun, engage other human beings, dream that it can have some type of normalcy in life, even if they have the lousiest job. And not spend another second anguishing over human pain over and over. Then there is the model of inquiry that stills runs on the 5 W’s format, and the bipolar points of view. Every article on the planet approaches a story with the same linear & two-tone model. And one of the major blows to traditional media is that now i can get 20 different poinst of view about any subject on earth through google’s gateways. why would I want to believe a story from a major newspaper or mag or even a web portal, if within seconds i can get ten different takes from ten different angles on it? it isnt technology that is wrecking traditional media, but content. i have access to multi-point-view content 27 hours a day.

    us, the consumers of media have become extremely sophisticated. back in the 80’s and 90’s sociologists and anthropologists built a model of inquiry based on the rejection of language, patriarcal structures, deconstructionism, semiotics, etc etc etc. well, a lot of that has gone quitely under the radar and into the mainstream. a child looks at an ad campaign today with an extreme level of sophistication that they may not readily articulate but that they act on. it si funny to watch ad agencies wreck their brains to grab the attention of a child who dissects an ad and throws it away in less than three seconds.

    let’s take a look at non-journalist photography. do we realize how sick we are as consumers of photoshopped human bodies? do we realize just how mundane making hypereality pictures of human beings has become? every portfolio is filled with human beings whose skin resembles the skin of cyberbeings that exist nowhere on earth. the same exact either nihilist or smiley or vacant expression over and over. perfectly constructed light settings that do not exist in real life. anywhere on earth.

    hey, the consumer uncosncious sees right through the fakery. we look at each other every single day in the office at school in the street and we know no one in the real world that looks or behaves like that.

    the artist will take over because things are broken all across the board. (i rather like to let go of the concept of artists because it is so 18th century romanticism, and replace it with the concept of a “social thinker.”). corporations run the world; human beings spend 90% of their lives behind desks or factory machines; divorce rates are what, 60%?; sleeping pills are used by close to 20% or 35% of the population; on and on; we are so so close to having an economic implosion in the U.S., and the West altogether, much the way it happened in the soviet union, that new models of inquiry about the content of human beings rising are irreversibly unavoidable.

    if you ask a photographer today what is a REAL human being today in the street, will they be able to conceptualize that? or will they start story-boarding blogs and java and avant-garde photoshop techniques, and all kinds of techie veneers. human beings dont live in photo studios. their skin has an amazing tonality under natural light, something no strobe can even come close to. they have scars and love handles. human beings are in a lot of trouble today. they are not smiling inside. times are rougher than we think. but they are not bleeding victims either. we are struggling to make sense of the mess we are in. thoughtfully, not pretensiously. we want back to basics. we want fundamentals. we want solid gorund under our feet. the problem is that the current economic/democratic meta-narrative has terminal cancer in its pillars. we need to imagine a new society and move toward building it piecemeal with “prudence.”

    one of the civilizations that idealized human beings fell to another civilization that made itself pragmatic in their visual representations of human beings. look at the discus thrower in greece and compare it with the realist [humanhead] busts of the Roman classic period.

    we’ve had nothing but excess for three decades. so we can go back to fundamentals and basics and imagine new models of inquiry more in tune with a multi-polar world.

    content is what we need. and desperatley so. and content will be here when the techie bubble explodes, redux 2.0.

  9. I think that everyone’s point of view stated so far is true. If you look at the history, life as we know it was driven by the expansion of knowledge and creation of technology. Clay tablets to touch sensitive tablets, a brush to a light pen, a color palette of basic to a palette of millions and more. When we analyze things I think we too often make it complicated. All we have to do is look at the root of human nature.

    Man goes through these cycles of learning, creativity, expansion of understanding and such. Since we are experiencing a cycle that hasn’t been seen for many decades we think, that our world is coming to an end. News media is changing, we have gone from the town crier to media blasts on a variety of receivers. Art hasn’t changed the artists have. Words and images haven’t changed, how they are expressed has and we continue to move on.

    Most will adapt and there will be the few that won’t. My evidence, my mother in-law came to live in my home. She had a typewriter that she needed paper and ribbons for. The ribbons were discontinued. My wife and I suggested a computer and simple printer. She was resistant at first and now spends half the day socializing, writing letters getting the news, and much more on the computer. She adapted late in her life at the age of 67. My mother on the other hand still remains with the news paper, print media, and face to face socialization. If you look at their lives you would say one has a fuller life than the other, I don’t think so, they are different but equal.

    The conclusion, life goes on…with or without us it …I wish success for everyone in what they will pursue in the coming months and years, there is a lot to do!

  10. I am pretty sure I am ready for this Frustration Decade. I think more and more people will also come to the conclusion just because they buy a nice camera doesn’t mean that now can take great photos. I see if all the time. I know i have to turn away more and more because don’t understand that digital still cost money and time. Rather not do a job that f**k up the market more than it already is.

    lets go 2010

  11. Considering what V magazine and Marie Claire are doing lately with their covers and editorials, it is frustrating to see this type of experimentation with no clear direction on the use of “traditional” models.

    I see a lot of tension already rising.

  12. Thanks for a great post Rob. I am photographer with an MBA, which is good news I guess based on what you posted. But just because I have an MBA does not mean I can shift to new paradigms without any thought or effort. I got my start as a photojournalist way back in the days of film. As I have only been a true freelancer for about four years, I can see the value of my MBA in helping me to run my business. I know a lot of photographers that just want to shoot and not be bothered with the business end of running their own shop. And I see the opposite as well. I think we have to look at the big picture. Adapt our business models to what is happening out in the marketplace, find our own vision and stick with it, and figure out a way to get that vision and the application of it in front of art buyers and art directors. Okay, I am giving you some stuff I found on Selina Maitreya’s MP3 series, “The View from Here,” which I highly recommend by the way.

    Chase Jarvis also has a paradigm that I think is wonderful: “Create, Share, Sustain.” We need to create our vision as artists, share it, and then do whatever it takes to sustain ourselves so we can create, and share again. We must charge for the value we add to our clients. If we are not getting any work, we must figure out a way to sustain ourselves until we get the work we deserve.

    If we spend our time complaining about the new way of doing things, we will just be stuck in our own muck. I know this from personal experience. What I found has worked best for me is to face the fear and the challenges, and run to them. Actually this is quite rewarding to me as I have found that I have busted many barriers that I thought were way too big to bust.

    So my program is to try to keep tabs on what is happening in the marketplace, figure out how to adapt my vision and my business practices, don’t wallow in the negative, and run right towards the highest wall I see. A close friend of mine told me once that often the hardest thing to do is the right thing to do. Try this for a month, I think you will be amazed at the results. I always remind myself that if no one dies, I really have not lost anything, and in failure there is a lesson.

    So if this decade is the the decade of frustration, let me at it!

    I wish all of you much success this year, and in the coming years.