Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Professional Photography Problem and The Richter Scales

David Galbraith has some original angles on the Lane Hartwell/Richter scales incident that I've written about here and here that I thought worth sharing. I've ended up sucked way too deeply into this entire controversy. I'm not sure I fully agree with everything David has to say, but let me share a few of his observations:

The professional photography market is moving from a craft dominated industry of recording events to an artistic one with room for a minority of top creatives, in the same way that it did for painting in the 19th Century.

You cannot quote a photograph. There is no Internet compromise with teaser clips, as there is for music and video.

A shrinking marketplace [because so much free amateur or low-cost photography sufficient] is perceived to be increasing. The current law is on the side of the photographer but the de facto practice isn't and there is no available solution for those who want compromise.

This is why there will be war.

I'm not sure I agree with the implication of some of David's other comments that "The zero cost ubiquity of digital images mean that the sum total quality of amateur output is often better than the sum total of professionals." However, the universal availability of material that's "good enough" for a lot of purposes does tend to drag down professional pricing.

At some level, this is just how capitalism works. However, it also tends to make certain professions--or slices of those professions--just not economically viable. Maybe that's OK (or inevitable). But we may to accept some concomitant loss of some level of artistic quality in culture as a result.

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