A couple weeks ago I wrote an articles asking “What Is ‘Commercial’ Stock Photography.”
I questioned how big the demand is for “candid,” “natural” and “real life” grab shots of what happens in front of the photographer rather than staged shots that look real but are carefully posed with great production values. A reader suggested I contact Jerry Tavin who founded Nonstock about a fifteen years ago.
Nonstock specialized in the edgy, artsy photographs that were at odds with the general trends in stock photography at the time. Nonstock was acquired by Picture Arts
in 2004. Later, Picture Arts was acquired by Jupiterimages which then was acquired by Getty Images. Here’s what Jerry Taven had to say.
When I started Nonstock, there were a smattering of what we might call artistic and high end
photography in the stock marketplace. Tony Stone, Swanstock and small companies like
Millenium (UK), Trevillon (UK), Mon Tresor (Japan), Bilderberg (Germany), Photo Alto (France)and very few others. Plain Pictures came into the marketplace with that model and distinct companies like Erickson and Glasshouse followed. Most still today try to maintain high standards though it is harder than ever not to join the majority of companies that believe in
quantity over quality.
I successfully represented several of these companies in the U.S. because they were not overwhelmed with requests to distribute them. Contracting these great photographers at that
time was a huge challenge because many were averse to placing their content into stock. At conferences I attended, I was met with heavy skepticism and we were truly considered the odd man out. We were told in no uncertain terms that we would fail.
But I remain the happy optimist today because we were successful and proved the marketplace wrong. I have watched the industry change so dramatically that I can hardly keep pace or enumerate the dramatic changes. Yet I remain fixed in my belief that photography is one of the most creative forms of expression in the world. And I believe that while tastes have changed and the marketplace is able to get cheap and mundane content, there are companies that still want artistry in their branding, that still want images that impact, and that maintain a high standard in the choices of images that they license.
They make careful choices and will pay the cost for quality rather than compromise for price.
Unfortunately, there are fewer of these buyers than before but certainly enough to sustain a
business and educate new buyers to the advantages of licensing these images. They can slowly but surely reverse current trends in buyer demands and increase the bottom lines of these distinct stock companies.
I encourage Dissolve. Dissolve's presentation of Thematica is filled with excellent images, many esoteric but sellable in a new image climate where these images will be the choices of many buyers. A break with tradition, but a forward looking break that will get attention as a wave of the future. While the content is unique, my experience with Come Alive Images has been that the boundaries for new and innovative images have changed and that those who dare can be successful. Dissolve also represents companies that have distinctive content.
As for Erickson, he does not compromise and sticks with his branding and he is successful
doing that. Of course I admire him as I admire several others who maintain high quality content.
There is room for these companies in the crowded marketplace. Those who are pushing the envelope, those who don't compromise their brands, those who believe that great photography whether it is represented in galleries or in stock will find an audience will compete in this