Are Followers Replacing Professional Talent in Advertising?

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 Those who enjoy talking about the Digital Disruption or Digital Divide will encounter a fine material and food for thought is this post. I decided to wait a bit after the original hoopla was already gone, regarding this amazing situation, and here’s a brief description of it all:

Earlier this year, (probably late last year), the well known fashion firm Burberry was getting ready to prepare their Spring worldwide  photographic campaign. Traditionally, the most sought-after shooters are called to send their estimates for such a juicy and interesting project, since the visuals will certainly define trends in both imaging and marketing for the year.

Now, the marketing team in charge of the Burberry account came out with what they think is a genius idea, and basically, the decided to make a move that caused a lot of frustration and anger in the market, as the selection of the photographer bypassed any professional or aesthetical consideration, and the agency decided to put 16 years old Brooklyn Beckham, the son of the ultra famous Victoria and David Beckham, in charge of the campaign. 

The reason for this choice was that the kid has shown some ability taking pictures in his iPhone, specially selfies, and 35 mm DSLR cameras PLUS the huge list of 6.5 million followers he has in Instagram, not to mention the additional “back up” and support of two powerful brands, the parents, and their own followers!

The strategy behind this idea is that Burberry considered that they wanted to knock doors on an already captive 6.5 million kids/consumers who are watching whatever Brooklyn publishes in his Instagram account, and if you take a look, you will find tons of selfies during his vacations, some portraits, little birds, friends, etc, etc, this is, what a 16 years old kid does with his instagram. Simple! If you locate the behind the scenes images at the Burberry Instagram account (@burberry), you may see the kid was handed a medium format camera, and it is sad to notice how he does not even know how to grab such a camera, but that did not matter, as long as someone took some pics of Brooklyn (in his iPhone, of course) “taking some shots for the campaign” with the MF camera….

Needless to say, young Brooklyn has no knowledge whatsoever on lighting, production, has never before done a fashion shooting, etc,etc, but the agency took good care of all this, by providing the best Art Directors, Fashion Stylists, Models, Assistants and Production Crew money can buy, so this kid could come up with what amounts to good photos (what in the industry is called good enough images). As a matter of fact, we have previously seen this situation has happened before, when talent like Steven Meisel and Annie Leibovitz, who don’t know anything about artificial lighting, are always working with the best lighting assistants around, but at the every least, these guys are super talented and brilliant, genius creators, and have actually committed a lifetime to their work as photographers!!

So, the question here is, are we seeing a starting trend where  Instagram followers are going to replace talent for some type of campaigns?? 

Granted, Brooklyn Beckham, there is only one, but there are tons of sons of equally famous celebrities and millionaires and billionaires around, and you can read in the links at the end how photographers did not take this in a good manner. Those of us who are working our asses to build a presence and name in order to arrive to those levels when you are called to shoot some of those amazing clients, feel a good deal of frustration.Once again, granted, the most vocal complainers when the news came out, were shooters with the smaller number of instagram followers, although their portfolios are just the top of the line….

Months have passed, and If you check today Brooklyn’s Instagram account, you will find, again, new, regular selfies and simple images shot by a teenager, and the number of followers just keeps growing. Maybe there are some purchased followers (as most everyone seem to do in this time and era), but much certainly, the advertising and marketing geniuses see more value in those potential consumers than in the image-making creative process, involving true creators,  which could drive both the sales and the brand up.

On a personal note, I think this is but one more attempt from the Advertising market to visualize millennials barely as “top consumers”, and nothing else, using one of them to reinforce the concept.

Thanks!

About the author: Jorge Parra is a Fashion and Advertising Photographer, based in Miami, who, among other things, is looking after getting his first (not purchased) million followers in Instagram.

You can see my work at my website at www.JorgeParra.com, but first and foremost, pls do not forget to start  following  me in my Instagram account, @jorgeparraphotographyjust in case…

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Suggested Links:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/30/sheer-nepotism-brooklyn-beckham-burberry-shoot-angers-photographers

David Beckham’s Son Just Shot a Burberry Campaign, and Photographers Are Pissed

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is the royalty-free business model entering the fine art gallery market?

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The recent situation with self-appointed artist Richard Prince, in yet one more of his appropriations of intellectual property of real artists and creators, centering his defense, first and foremost, in powerful attorneys, and secondly , and yet more important, using small yet exploitable loopholes in US Copyright Law, mostly arguing and “extended version” of the Fair Use Doctrine to justify the appropriation, are leading the discussion to varied and controversial positions.

Some experts in copyright and patent law argue that MAYBE there is a possibility Prince would not loose if an infringement lawsuit is finally going to court, due precisely to what could amount to a technical glitch, basically an ironical glitch, in a situation which has never happened before, therefore, there are no precedents as to what would happen in court, possibly rendering the complaints of original authors useless on legal grounds.

Those interested in hearing some of the many positions on the matter, may check links like:

https://fstoppers.com/business/latest-richard-prince-controversy-clarified-patent-and-copyright-attorney-john-71927

That said, and there is still much to hear about this, what called my attention for real, is the reaction of one of the creators affected by the recent appropriation by Prince of images from different Instagram accounts, via screen shots or whatever technical method.

Mr. Prince managed to get well known Gagosian Gallery into running this show, where stolen shots went for sale for huge amounts of money (US$ 90000 per print), and sales were going great! But the Suicide Girls, a brand username used in their Instagram account, found some of their images as part of the Prince’s show.

When asked what was she (Missy Suicide) planning on doing about it, she mentioned the many times her images have been stolen before, knowing full well copyright law only protects powerful corporations, but does little for individuals, but in addition to that , she did something that, in my personal opinion is PURE GENIUS!!

 The Suicide Girls printed their own images, the ones on display at the Gagosian, exactly in the way Mr Prince printed them, and now the prints are for sale at 99.9% discount, this is, you can get exactly the same print for only $90, if you buy it directly from her, instead of paying $90 K at the gallery.

 Here’s an excerpt from the suicide girls on the matter: “Do we have Mr. Prince’s permission to sell these prints? We have the same permission from him that he had from us.” wink emoticon I’m just bummed that his art is out of reach for people like me and the people portrayed in the art he is selling.

 “I hope you love them. Beautiful Art, 99.9% off the original price.” “We will be donating the profits from sales to EFF.org. Urban art publisher Eyes On Walls (EyesOnWalls.com) is supporting the project by fulfilling the large canvas reproductions at cost.”

 Read the Full Statement at:

  https://suicidegirls.com/members/missy/blog/2837632/tuesday/ 

 Now, my point: I find it very interesting to see how the market is going to move, after finding out that what is being sold at a Beverly Hills gallery, on a -supposedly- exclusive basis, for large amounts of dollars, is now available for almost nothing, and in endless amounts. The art world has based the perceived value of artworks, among other things, in the scarcity of the product, and whatever Mr Prince thought he was doing, might eventually backfire, when collectors and people who can afford $90k for a print, realize they could have bought it for just $90 (and still can!!)

 This would be some kind of Royalty Free business model entering the Art Market, and I am positive the can of worms that has been opened will still bring more surprises!

 I have previously discussed the repercussions of digital technologies in the Fine Art Market, and this is one extreme case, one more case, where Copyright Law is being attacked by all fronts. In recent years, Corporate America, has made a strong lobby to see the rights of individuals reduced to zero or close to it, while their rights are enhanced to absurd levels (if in doubt, check the penalties for copying any one movie in a DVD or BluRay disk, as the FBI stamp and logo threatens the infringer with prison and fines of up to $250000, while ‘individual creators just end up empty-handed when infringed and abused.

 So far, the only thing creators can do is to register their work at the Copyright Office BEFORE making the images publicly available. Many artist, and of course, the regular Facebook and Instagram user does not remotely think about it when getting ready to post their best shots, but visual artists should seriously consider investing a little money (with $40 you can register hundreds of images in one shot), as to, at least, expect the possibility of fighting a real fight in court when infringements and abuses happen with their work.

 Stay tuned, as the re-appropriation of the appropriation of intellectual property will keep giving us surprises!! 

 Cheers!

 Jorge

#richardprince #gagosiangallery #copyrightlaw #copyrightinfringement #suicidegirls #appropriation

Business challenges for the Visual Arts in the Digital Era. Part 2: The Fine Art Market

Hooray Picasso!! by ©2014 JorgeParra
We talked in  Part 1  about the major challenges most professional photographers have to deal in commercial/advertising markets due to the democratization process introduced by digital technologies, as cliches and new standards. like “good enough images” or “Your camera takes great pictures” have affected the perception of what a REAL professional photographer brings to the table for the execution of a project.
The Fine Art market has also been shaken in both directions, for the benefit of it, but also to absorbe certain negative aspects that are reshaping the way collectible visual art is perceived.
One one end, Photography has got another setback. Back in the analog – film- era, it was relatively easy to point out how many original prints were done from each negative. There was a lot of art, technique, craftsmanship and commitment for an artist to be able to identically reproduce a few ( limited number) of prints, and offer them for sale as a Limited Edition Series. A scarcity criteria will just pump the prices up as the availability of less prints in the market would command for a higher price tag to acquire one such work. Much certainly, serious Art Collectors look ONLY for this kind of work to invest in, and the smaller the number of originals in a series, the better.
Now, when discussing modern photography, digital technologies allow for endless reproduction of copies that look and feel exactly like the original,basically, you can provide an infinite set of originals, and then the scarcity criteria gets removed from such work, and it becomes an inexpensive commodity, sometimes termed Wall Art.
It is up to the artists to be able to generate a scarcity criteria, not only by limiting the number of original prints, but also by means of interacting more in-depth with the media, mixing techniques from different crafts,etc,etc, as to be able to provide try few true originals to the market.
There is also a number of ethical and moral issues involved here, since the “sudden” presence of a new series of images from an originally closed series, printed at a different size or using another substrate, has been used as an excuse to keep profiting, while theoretically bringing down the value of the first, “original” series. See for example the case for photographer W. Eggleston, sued by a collector of his work:
Many things can be said about the actual loss of value – or not- of the original Limited Edition Series”, which turned out to be” not-so-limited”, but one thing is certain: this situation is a by-product of digital technologies redrawing the art scene.
Painting, in it’s classical definition, has not seen the same abundance of copycats, as it takes a real artist to generate a copy of some artwork which could be truly thought to be an original, and even at that, there are numerous expert museum and gallery curators, who are usually consulted when a “new” painting from a classic artist emerges in the market.
With artists like Vermeer, who painted such few original pieces, you can easily tell which works are his and which could be just a fake.
That said, a new market for art reproduction of original artwork has emerged (more wall art), as thousands of digital prints from one original painting can be sold for a few dollars.
In general, the process of transforming once-original artwork, with limited originals, into a commodity, with potentially endless copies, and how to deal with it, is still a matter of discussion in art circles, schools and museums.
The situation gets even more complicated with digitally generated art, something that has been created not in the real world, but in the world of vectors, pixels and software (read about CGI, for dramatic examples), or a mixture of analog and digital, work plus the exponential growth of Motion Works. And it still gets even worse in the universe of social media sharing, plus all digital distribution channels, those that exist now, and those that are yet to be created!
In conclusion: I have the clear sensation that  we are living the “transition-to-digital period”, where many things are yet to be re-defined,  and this process will provide the changes in attitudes and concepts that are necessary to design a new business model for the Visual Arts, both for Commercial Work and also for the Fine Arts.
Digital Technologies are barely entering our lives and the more, massive invasion is yet to come (look for The Internet of Everything), so, as it has usually been the case with disrupting technologies and trends, we still don’t know where we are going, but it will certainly be a challenging process, full of new experiences, where creativity will be, as always, the key to the solutions.
Jorge Parra