Unemployed by Another Name

July 8, 2017

This is a “thought” that I tried to develop a few months back.  I decided just to quickly conclude the post and throw it out on my site because while it is a very important topic that should be heavily considered, in my humble opinion, I cannot do it all at once.  This is just an “initial volley” thrown out there to anyone interested…


The trouble with new ideas and modern thinking is that how are we to make a guess as to which new idea will become the the ‘LaserDisc’ and which will become the ‘Compact Disc’.  That is to say, how are we to know, at the onset, if an idea will be a failure when at that present moment in time, we have nothing to compare it with other than the seemingly “old way” that we have been doing things for some time.  VHS.

VHS worked fine.  People were used to it.  So somebody thought they could do it better.  They made the Laser Disc.  It flopped.  They starved.

But the Compact Disc….  Well, that story had a much happier ending for the patent holder.

So how do we predict?

I guess when I have the answer to this question I’ll be ready for some heavy investing in the stock market, right?

Seriously though- The point of these questions is not directly related to technology at all.  It is about a trend on young people’s thinking and it is becoming a bit worrisome to me because I will be a part of that “old ways” generation that will have to support them if they flop.

Here is a link to a video that I’ll just describe as “For example.”  If you are not interested in watching, here is the summary:  It is basically a short film sponsored by SmugMug about a pair of married photographers, Elia and Naomi Locardi, who are part of the recent fad of being “voluntarily homeless.”  What that means is they are presently successful enough where they gave up on the idea of having a fixed residence and are living a 100% nomadic lifestyle.  They are able to travel the world with all of their possessions in a few suitcases and go on photographic assignments and take pictures to sell to image banks.



So the video shows them in this happy friendly relationship experiencing a few of the spectacular sights around the world. I can only imagine they intend to document the entire world- and for that I hope they are successful.

But there is a dark side to all of this.

They casually mention in the video that being away 100% of the time means you must completely sever yourself from family.  Rarely will you be there for any important functions, save for maybe weddings and funerals.  Many of us live this way as it is… but I’d like to believe it is this way for more than just “work.”  The Locardi’s are on the clock 24 hours a day in a desperate attempt to guarantee some future income.

But nothing is guaranteed.

At another point in their short documentary, they mention that Kyoto has gorgeous cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji is in the background.  It makes for stellar photography that would surely sell to… somebody, sometime.  In the veiled they mention how cherry blossoms are very fragile and the peak color for the year is narrowed down to a few days.  I can attest to this truth with the cherry blossoms here in New Jersey.  So they traveled there, prepared, got up at 1am to ensure they had a good spot- and just like any great movie- they got the picture in the end.

I have to wonder if the short documentary would have been made at all had rain been in the forecast all week, leaving sparse trees from all the flowers getting knocked to the ground?

That is a big gamble.  Why do they do it?  Micro stock photography.



Micro stock photography is basically different corporations that have massive banks of photographs that are submitted by photographers (and sometimes photo enthusiasts) and then sold piece by piece to clients in need of photographs.

That is the literal translation of the genre… but what about this? (Cue the “Clue” movie transition screen)

Microstock photography is a business model that removes nearly the entire labor force, with the exception of salesman, web page programmers, accountants, and so-called managers.  In other words, they sell photographs to anyone and everyone- but they don’t have to worry about having actual photographers on retainer.  It does not matter to the executives whether or not the people actually taking the photographs have enough money to feed their family, pay the rent, invest in their future…

And speaking of future, it simply does not matter if any of these photographers sell any photographs at all!  In other words, the way the business model is set up at all micro stock image warehouses is that the photographer that sells one image has an equal percentage of cost to the business as a photographer that sells one thousand photographs.

This is because no photographer is collecting a salary.  No photographer has any sort of guarantee on their income.  And, if you are following along this far, you will realize that no photographer knows what to photograph!  It is a lottery.  So they photograph anything and everything that they can actually license commercially.  Then if it sells one time, they collect their royalty payment.  If it sells one thousand times, they collect their royalty payment one thousand times.  But..  if one thousand photographers sell one image each, the cost to the business is the same as one photographer selling one thousand images.  See what I mean?

It makes total sense for the business… but then, history has proven time and time again that putting the screws to the labor force is generally good for business, soloing as we are only looking at the math.

For humanity, it sucks.

See: Slave labor in 3rd world countries.

..But I say that to say this:  This is where we are going with photography.

Why do photographers do this to themselves?

Because businesses have done all but destroy any notion of laborers assembling in a partnership and have reasonable discussion of salary, benefits, and the chance to send their kids off to college.

And photographers do this to themselves because they are starving and cannot figure out any other way to make ends meet… other than the simple steps posted on the “How to sell your images!” links colorfully placed around the micro stock websites.

I wish this genre went the way of the LaserDisc.

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