At the end of Jim Cameron’s sci-fi thriller “Terminator,” Sarah Connor the reluctant hero (played terrifically by Linda Hamilton), the mother of the savior of the world, is sitting in a jeep at a Mexican border gas station, looking solemnly towards the hills. Her face is wrought with sadness and anticipation. The wind blows. A tumble weed rolls by (no seriously, a tumble weed actually does roll by, it’s kind of funny). Then a little Mexican boy runs up to Sarah’s jeep (the boy who snapped the famous Polaroid that will be the driving force of the man who will father her child), and yells with vigor, “¡Viene la tormenta!” Sarah turns to the old man who runs the dilapidated station and asks, “What did he just say?” The man translates, “He says there’s a storm coming in.” Sarah returns her gaze to the foreboding horizon and replies,”I know.” (Queue dramatic score.)
Well, I don’t have the charm of a little Mexican boy, but let me just say to all you photogs out there, “¡Viene la tormenta!”
Some of you may argue that we are already in the midst of a storm. That too could be true. But I think something bigger, something we haven’t seen yet, is on the horizon. (If I may offer yet another Cameron blockbuster film analogy, I’m reminded of “Aliens” when Ripley (played brilliantly by Sigourney Weaver) says in answer to the question Who’s laying these eggs? “I don’t know. Something we haven’t seen yet.” I tell ya people, there’s somethin’ in my bones telling me that we’re ripe for a storm and/or shake up in the professional photography world that will force those unprepared to radically change their business.
Lighting and Thunder
As a kid you were taught to tell how far away the center of a storm was by counting the number of seconds between seeing a lightning strike and hearing the crack of thunder. Here are three major lightning strikes we’ve already seen in the industry:
- Equipment: the proliferation of consumer and prosumer SLRs and digital stills have significantly lowered the barriers to entry. One of the most oft phrases I hear veterans utter as a complaint is “Anybody thinks they can be a photographer now.”
- Education: Jesh de Rox’s controversial 1-on-1 price notwithstanding, the investment required for education is now at an all time low. CreativeLive has created the new education model: offer free education online by world class professionals, sell the recording at a fantastically low price thereafter. We’re already seeing the model being duplicated in events like last year’s Escalate Live and the upcoming Sara Petty “High School Senior How to Event” (full disclosure: for you cynics out there, no, I’m not an instructor nor am I getting paid for mentioning it. But a couple of friends and talented photographers Scott and Adina Hayne are teaching, so I want to support them.)
- Digital Distribution: the internet has been both a bane and a blessing for visual artists. More and more clients are requesting/demanding digital negatives, and are using every means available to get them. (We’ve had senior portrait clients from Teen Identity take iPhone photos of their mounted prints to post on Facebook as profile pics.)
If these are the lightning strikes, the associated thunder crashes are increased competition, a lowering of perceived value, and dramatic drops in fees and bookings (the sour economy plays a big role in that third one too). Many of your are saying, “This is nothing new Ron.” And you’re right, they aren’t. The difference I’m seeing, and the reason for the storm analogy, is the increasingly shorter amount of time between the “lightning” and the “thunder.” There’s a quickness, a sort of cadence if you will, to how these things are playing out and their effects on the industry. I still think we haven’t seen the really big thing yet. I’m not sure what it will be. Maybe a new form of social media architecture like Color. Maybe a new business model. Who knows. Whatever it will be, will you be ready for it? Tomorrow let’s talk about ways to prepare for the storm.
What are your thoughts? Is this all just hype and hyperbole? Or is it a valid concern?