What is the relationship between selling bread, selling stock photo and how Jesus Christ is related to all this?
Both bread and stock photos are produced, then sold and consumed by society. But there is a very important difference between these two products. When bread is consumed it is gone, it is no more, if hungry the next day, one needs to buy new bread. This new bread will require new flour, new ingredients, and new fuel for the oven.
Stock photography on the other hand is not like bread. Consuming a photo for a project does not destroy the photo. Even after consumption the very same photo is available for other projects as well. This is the reason it seems OK to ask so little for a photo. It can be sold multiple times and eventually, so the theory goes, the photographer’s time and effort invested will pay off.
Bread and stock photos belong to different class of products from the standpoint of consumption.
Things one buys in supermarkets or in department stores, cars, fuel, become more and more expensive as times passes because they are destroyed through consumption. One needs to replace them with new ones. Although not that glamorous, the business of producing them is a steady business with no hiccups or major crises.
Stock photographs on the other hand just keep piling up on the websites, same as books in libraries, movies or music, and most importantly they become cheaper and cheaper. The competition in these businesses is becoming harder and harder. It becomes harder and harder to launch a successful TV series because it competes with the older ones which are constantly rerun and available for free. I still love watching “I love Lucy” a sitcom produced in the fifties and still shown on the cables here in the US in the evenings, crowding out other newer movies.
To become a successful writer one needs to beat the Steinbecks the Faulkners or Camus. Be more talented than them, bring something new. If an older book sells out, it is quite easy and cheap to reprint. Same with the music industry; it is harder and harder to sell new music because there is a large and growing library of existing artists.
These changes in the way art is stored and consumed are quite visible in the economics of producing new art and the price people are willing to pay for it. There is a clear downtrend. Fewer and fewer percentage of the existing artists can live off their art. This is nicely illustrated by the following joke: What is the difference between a musician/writer/photographer (insert your favorite) and a large pizza?
Answer: A large pizza can feed a family of four.
And now the final question: How is Jesus Christ related to all this?
If you remember from the bible Jesus performed a few miracles. One of them was:
Feeding of the 5000 and of the 4000 men —Jesus, praying to God and using only a few loaves of bread and several fish, feeds thousands of men, along with an unspecified number of women and children; there are even a number of baskets of leftovers afterward. (from Wikipedia).
What did Jesus do? He moved the bread and the fish production from the first category, the supermarket type, to the second category, the stock photographs type. With his talent and the help of God he was able to reuse the same bread over and over until everybody was well fed.
I am sure if there were bakers or fishermen in the crowd they were not happy. Luckily for the bakers the miracle was short lived, like all miracles, and it did not destroy their business in the long run. But just for the sake of the argument lets push this thought a bit further. Lets imagine that the miracle could be repeated, and Jesus would have taught a few of his disciples the art of reusing the bread. What would have happened then? Would all the bakers have gone extinct? Not necessarily since just as stock photos there are many types of bread. Some people love white bread others love rye bread, others love it stuffed with sundried tomatoes. So a few bakers could have survived constantly improving and creating new types of bread. But from then on the baking business would have been completely transformed, and I’m sure the life of a backer would have become much harder. For sure during the transition period.
So where am I going with this? Maybe we need a reversed miracle for the artists. Something which will take away the product after it is used and turn it into bread.
Have a good weekend everybody.