As I write this two more photo stores in the USA will cease to exist. From 2014, which was the height of camera sales, things have changed pretty quickly for regular retail photo outlets. As a consultant and sales director the speed of this change has been dramatic.
Lots of people I've grown up with in the photo industry, some a little older, some a little younger, have just recently thrown up their hands and said enough. It's not worth fighting anymore. Which makes me take stock and wonder what should my next move be? I've been in the industry since 1981 ... a long fucking time ... and in that time never have I seen people just give up.
But I understand.
Everyone has said it was the smartphone which has made a huge impact on the industry. Well that's partly true ...
The bigger picture is that the digital transition from analog film was the first step. Which made photography not just for the few, but for the masses. It gave everyone a chance to learn and be photographers. Everyone ... you didn't need schooling, you just needed money enough to buy a digital camera. The explosion of picture taking also knocked the bottom out of the industry. You could no longer get the rates for shooting that photographers who understood film were getting. There was always someone who could do it cheaper. When I saw Flaunt Magazine getting David Lachapelle to shoot for just tear sheets, I thought "oh shit" the games over because with that no client was going to pay much for good photography anymore.
I'm partly wrong about that because David is still making a pretty good living but anyone else, to be seen and discovered, well good luck with that.
Then came the smartphone.
With smartphones all the little point and shoot were doomed. Camera companies were slow to react. Social media changed the way people shared their lives and their images. You didn't go go the camera store and have images printed out and put into albums to sit and collect dust anymore ... no you shared the photo du jour online and moved on. No one hardly looking back unless your social media gave you a bump with a yearly anniversary, "hey this is what you were doing last year."
Now the transition is complete. Phones have become the cameras that are all anyone needs ... my clients are saying "why do we need a video crew, can't we just shoot it using an iPhone?" Even though I hear this is the trend in advertising now, I hear that old saying in my head of "garbage in, garbage out."
But then I pause. Could this be the beginning of the resurgence in a select few understanding real image taking?
Maybe, time will tell.