At many cocktail parties, conversations usually start with “Hey, I bet digital cameras have changed your business.” I usually explain that the digital camera is only a small component of the bigger disruption affecting my business and add that photography itself, is always a disruptor.
When Mr. Niépce, fixed the first photographic images over a century ago, painters were disrupted. When roll film was prepackaged for cameras and consumers let Mr. Eastman do the rest, portrait studios knew their days were numbered.
In a flash, Dr. Land threatened the darkrooms of Rochester when he encouraged us to peel back a print in an instant. Long before computers, photography was a central industry disruptor.
Today, diverse creative industries – music, publishing, movies and television – are being disrupted by digital connectedness; an ecosystem where ideas and their expressions are born, live and die in an all digital environment.
I find the intertwining of music, film, books, magazines with technology into a digital medium very exciting. The creative possibilities seem infinite, and the global connectedness was until recently, unfathomable.
All this disruption, though, has had life altering implications for most creators. The old business models that served us well for decades no longer work. Instead of longing for the lucrative past, though, we must look collectively forward and figure out how can we use these digital tools and their global connectedness to solve real problems and tell real stories.
For professional creators, the “grand disruption” and the economics of the new, new have left us with the all-important question: Where is the money?
To date, the “sharing” model is mostly a “sharecropping” livelihood that’s not very profitable for the creative classes. While we create the music, words and pictures that the world shares, the technology companies – which have morphed into media companies – rake in micropayments to generate billions of revenue and/or a high market value off the content they exploit.
It’s time for the next disruption – the one that creates the tools, time and money to finance our creative lives. My bet, is that photography will be there.
None of the earlier photography disruptors completely ended as they had feared. Instead, the fate of Kodak and Polaroid was sealed when they failed to keep disrupting themselves.