"Stock is not art."
Well, that's one of the first rules of stock photography.
Shoot something on white. Business people with a bit of blue. Make em sharp. Make em saturated. Shoot the best quality you can get from the highest megapixel camera with the sharpest lenses.
So how come this guy http://www.terryrichardson.com
seems to be busy shooting for some pretty important brands and personalities?
And is this really what he shoots with? http://www.terryrichardson.com/contacts.html
It's worthwhile noting that there is almost nothing in Richardson's portfolio which would make it onto a “professional” micro site.
I mean, look at this monstrosity.
It's a simply shocking image for so many different reasons.
And who in their right mind would consider this to offer any photographic merit at all.
Despite this, Richardson's work is no laughing matter, because his bio (http://www.terryrichardson.com/bio.html
) reads: “Terry has lensed campaigns for such clients as Gucci, Sisley, Miu Miu, Chloe, and his editorial work has appeared in magazines such as French Vogue, British Vogue, i-D, GQ, Harper's Bazaar and Purple, and his impressive list of subjects includes Daniel Day Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Vincent Gallo, Tom Ford, Jay Z, Kanye West, Johnny Knoxville, Karl Lagerfeld, Pharell Williams and many others.”
Why would the rich, famous, powerful and creative want anything to do with someone who shoots images like badly lit snapshots?
My guess is that his work is original. It has personality. It's art.
It's so good he's managed to give the snapshot a personality. Even hot spots from an on-camera flash (http://www.terryrichardson.com/IMAGES/images/NaturalHistory_jpg.jpg
) raise a smile.
As does the subject matter. (http://www.terryrichardson.com/IMAGES/images/willfarrellbeer_jpg.jpg
Visually, you can guess the people Richardson does not like. (http://www.terryrichardson.com/IMAGES/images/Amy_Whine_jpg.jpg
And those he does like.http://www.terryrichardson.com/IMAGES/pages/TR_Obama_jpg.htm
Is he one of the boys?http://www.terryrichardson.com/IMAGES/images/Batman_Robin_jpg.jpg
Or likes girls?http://www.terryrichardson.com/IMAGES/images/Lindsay_Lohan_jpg.jpg
Brands crave personality. And the people who manage brands know it. So do people who have to manage their own brands. Like politicians, actors and musicians.
Just five years ago, gaining access to high quality, professional-looking stock images was prohibitively expensive – with rights managed rates ranging from the thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Now everyone has a camera capable of producing professional images and microstock agencies and their contributors turn out thousands of great looking images for $1 a download every day.
Those “great” professional images are sharp. They have even focus throughout the range – no dramatic depth of field. They have strangely orange saturated models (I should know, I've got a Lab Colour PS action just for that). The people are always smiling with impossibly white teeth. Thumb's up, all on white.
Hopeless. Sterile. Artless. Crap.
I've done it too.
It's not entirely the photographer's fault either. Stock image inspectors are ruthless at rejecting images with personality. It's a kind of “paint by numbers” process of elimination which rates sharp images good and unsharp images bad, scanned film grain universally ugly and candid snapshots unprofessional.
So, in a way, by flooding the market with “perfect” stock images, it's the micro sites which have inadvertently made the “good” image bad and the “bad” image good. The market has been flooded with “good” images and “bad” images – or ones with more arse than class – are difficult to find.
Fair is foul and foul is fair.
I like to call this odd turn of image opinion “ant********” (DT auto editor - that should be anti and stock as one word). I have no idea if it's a trend, or if it's here to stay but keep a look out for:
1. Images shot on 35mm film with lots of grain.
2. Odd colour shifts from aged Polaroid film.
3. Extreme lack of depth of field. (Nose in focus, eyes out).
5. Strange compositions and crops, including chopped heads, arms, feet.
6. The subtly gross.
7. The spontaneous.
8. The strange.
9. The shocking.
Few of these images would be accepted on any self-respecting stock site. So by definition, they are going to be rare, interesting and have personality. Some may even go so far as to call them art.
This blog was originally published on my website here