You’re welcome Jain,

Let me thank you, too, for your comments. But I want to clarify a couple of points I think you missed.

The institutional memory loss I referred to was not for the names of erstwhile photo agencies. And I wasn’t wringing my hands over the loss of any of them. I was writing about how the incumbent photo vendor-distributors and a younger generation of individual photographers have all but forgotten how to price photography and photographic services by relying on copyright as a yardstick for meting out publication rights, in tandem with determining how many people will actually see the photo(s) in question.

The latter is the most important criterion, irrespective of medium (i.e, whether published online or in print, broadcast, POP, etc. THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE HAVE FORGOTTEN. I write about this at greater length in my article “Disrupting Stock Photo.” I also describe a damn near perfect solution for the pricing problem.

In the pantheon of photo agencies you invoked, you left out the two dominant examples of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s: Gamma-Liason and Sygma. They were the stars in both revenue and distribution, greater than any of the agencies you mentioned. They also dominated in photo assignments; i.e., getting jobs from editorial publications for the photographers they represented (including me).

Both Gamma-Liaison and Sygma were founded in Paris; then expanded to New York and Los Angeles. Gamma-Liason was a later merger: Gamma and Liaison, of course.

I could get into all sorts of historical details, including about the people involved. But the salient point is that no one of that generation, for the most part, is running a photo agency today; and that too is a cause of institutional memory loss. There is no one at the wheel with firsthand experience of having run an agency, and of working with photographers, while following best practices for profitability. Nevertheless, to set the record straight, Sygma and Gamma-Liaison were the two dominant photo agencies of the 70s, 80s, and into the early 90s, after which they were acquired respectively by Corbis and Getty.

Incidentally, the AP (Associated Press) used to compete with UPI (United Press International). They were not agencies, nor are any of the “wire service photo gencies” operating today — not in the conventional sense, They employ photographers working under salary. In other words, the photographers did not then, and do not now, own their IP/copyrights. On the other hand, agencies like SIPA, ZUMA,et al. were/are miniscule compared to Sygma and Gamma. Magnum always carried the prestige it retains today; but Magnum was, and is, a whole different animal—a collective. BTW, there is, still today, the collective of Contact Press Images founded in 1976 along the lines of Magnum. I could go on . . .


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ARTREPRENEUR, PHOTOGRAPHER, CLARINETIST, MOTORCYCLIST Fate follows the path of least resistance. Success follows the path of maximum persistence.

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