How Tech Disrupted Photography


I’m here with Rick Smolan, photographer
and author, and has brought together some iconic works including a day in the life
of the internet or 24 hours what was the major database? The day of the life
books analyzed one day in different today now, the one I remember is 24 hours
in cyberspace. Anyways your most recent work, The Good Fight, we’re gonna talk
about that and show some of the beautiful images there, but first I want
to get your take on how the world has changed and how technology has disrupted the world of photography. Well I think a lot of us felt at the
beginning that the internet, like there was, there’s all this optimism behind the Internet, it’s gonna change the world, connect us in new ways, we’re
all gonna learn about each other, infinite sources of information. And for
a lot of photographers it was very exciting because back when the
internet was invented, or not invented but the first time it became available
to most people in ’94-’95 I was still shooting on film. I used to work for
National Geographic and Time and Life and a lot of magazines, and you know,
now it amuses me that we had these little rolls of film that only had 36
pictures on them. I used to go to the airport in Tokyo and try to talk the
stewardess into carrying a barf bag taped up with gaffers tape — “Could you
carry this to New York for me? Richie, our taxi driver will meet you at
JFK” and people would actually carry this sealed package for you to New York, very
different era. So when the internet came along and I could actually transmit my
pictures seconds after I shot them to my editors and not worry about customs and
not worrying about three days to get it back to New York, that was, you know, a
miracle. Yeah the downside of it now is that
every single person in the world basically, here you know 3/4 of the human
race is walking around with a multi megapixel camera strapped to their waist or in their purse and suddenly photography has become
commoditized. So even though I still think there are only two or three
hundred men and women in the world that do the quality of photography that I
want to feature in my books, yeah there’s a lot of 23 year old picture buyers out
there working at magazines now that are paying $50 for something somebody
would’ve paid me $5,000 for you know 20 years ago. So it’s really upended
the whole industry. So is that a good or a bad thing? It sounds like
the 23-year-old buyer, it sounds like it’s bad for you. My sense
is the top point one percent is sort of a metaphor for the large economy. The
top point one percent are probably killing it because the Internet has
spread their celebrity here. Annie Leibovitz. Yeah it is, you’re gonna
find who’s been hurt the hardest? The commercial photographer. The person
who makes a living, you know, sports photographer who isn’t doing well. Is there any buckets of people that are doing great? My background is a journalist right, so I’ve had the dream job, somebody called me on you know Sunday night, said can you be in Bangkok in 24 hours, no contracts, it’s all on the phone. And you know, you meet a writer at the Hilton in Bangkok and you’ve got three weeks you know to shoot the story. I was being paid $300 a day in 1983. Today you get $200 a day. Wow. Back then they could only use three pictures for every day that I shot and then they had to pay me more per picture. Now
they get all rights to your pictures for all the internet for the web for for everything so it’s actually probably about a third of what you were being paid 30 or 40 years ago. So for a journalist it’s awful. Some of the commercial people are still doing quite well, as I said Annie and some of the very top are doing great. There’s a new young
crop of photographers, but now the contracts, you know Magnum, one of the great photo agencies? Magnum fought really hard to preserve
the rights of photographers because a lot of them are now older and you can retire if you own the copyright to your pictures. But now all the new
contracts, a lot of them started with Getty and with Corbis and all these
companies, where they started basically saying, you know, if you shoot for us, we
want to own your copyright. If I’m a 21 year old photographer, sure, no
one’s gonna send me around the world. Sure you can have the rights to my
copyright, but once that’s eroded you have nothing to live on. Well,
it’s sort of monopoly power, right, it’s these few platforms that have so much
power over the individuals . There’s a lot of photographers out there and you know I think buying a camera
doesn’t make you a great photographer but the technology has gotten so good that you can with Photoshop now, you’re gonna be 95 percent of great,
you can fix a lot of pictures. So it seems in general, the same thing has happened in
photography as other artistic sectors and that is there’s been an enormous
transfer of value from the artisans to the platforms, to the people that deliver it, store it and merchandise it, not the artists that are
creating it in the first place. What advice would you give to somebody (other than don’t do it) who’s decided they want to be in an image
based profession, they want to be a photographer a cinematographer? There’s still the School of Visual Arts, still a lot of kids who want to do this. You have any advice for them? Well I’ll give you an example there’s a
young guy when I spoke at a high school in San Francisco 20 years ago. A wonderful fantastic high school, very hands-on, the kids had
shop and they did things with their hands and this young boy came
up to me, 16 years old, his name was Josh Hamer, he brought a box of prints and he
was sort of shaky and came with his mother and showed me his pictures and
said could I intern for you for the summer? And so for several years he did.
Josh just won the Pulitzer Prize and works for the New York Times. But
what’s interesting is that he was again sort of that generation where not only
is he a great photographer, but he also is a programmer, he also does drone
photography, he does storytelling, he does video. So anybody now who wants to be a
journalist needs to be a sort of multi – technology, so they can’t just be a still
photographer. You get to be a storyteller and then you have to be able
to tell that story in several different ways. Which is actually good, yeah I mean cause my frustration as a photographer, I
would turn in my film — I shoot, you know, 300 rolls of film — and the story for
National Geographic, they would choose 12 pictures and someone else would tell the story. And now you have actually more control in a way, if you have all those different skills. So talk about The Good Fight, your
most recent work. My original idea, you know, every photographer every
photojournalist, hopes that their pictures are gonna change the world, not
just document it. Do you hope you’re going to shock somebody or expose
something, or say Scott, after you see this picture, you can’t just make a show
something captured. So last year when we suddenly ended up with
this new president I thought it would be really useful to look back over the last
hundred years through the eyes of photographers of how much progress has
been made in America and do a book called The Good Fight: America’s Ongoing
Struggle for Justice instead of being a contemporary one day
or one week look at this idea, what if we went back and looked at the history of civil
rights, the the history of how women have fought to be treated equal in America,
Jews, Muslims, the gay community, the disabled community,. Latino-Americans,
African-Americans, you know Native Americans and find some of the most
famous pictures but also find pictures that no one’s ever seen before and then
in addition to that we added 63 pictures in the book where you can download an
app called The Good Fight Viewer and you point your phone at any one of these
63 pictures and you’re suddenly watching a TED talk or a documentary or
a commercial that relates to it so it sort of ties the 600-year-old medium of
the book to the Internet in this really delightful way. Tell us about some of the
images we’re gonna look at. There’s a wonderful picture from the Women’s March in Washington the day after Trump’s
inauguration, the largest protest in American history ,and there’s this
wonderful sort of call out caption where it says in 2016, 800 women in America are
gonna run for office and this year 12,000 women are running for office. When
the Dakota pipeline protests took place 300 different Native American tribes
came together, the largest gathering of native tribes in American history, to
protest the pipeline. There’s a picture in the book that I love of a Muslim
American man with his daughter on his shoulders standing next to a Jewish
American man with his son on his shoulders at the airport in Chicago
protesting Trump’s ban. Until 1974, you’re not gonna believe this, we had something
called ugly laws which said if you were handicapped and your disability made
other people uncomfortable you could be arrested or fined. So they had to hide
people that had physical deformities or handicaps out of sight because it made
other people uncomfortable. There’s an extraordinary picture of a
group of young black men crying at a protest for Freddie Gray and this
picture is just heartbreaking, that sense of helplessness. There’s a really chilling photograph of a grandmother in a blue Klux Klan outfit kissing her
granddaughte, and to me the pictures of war shocked us because I see
it as passing hatred on for one generation to the next, and you know
I always contrast the picture of the Klu Klux playing grandmother kissing her
granddaughter with Muslim American and Jewish American
fathers at the airport. What do you pass on to your children? The coffee
table book industry you’re in a subset — is that a bad term? No, I know
people think it’s they just insult you by saying coffee. It’s a big thing, it’s a decorative item that says I buy a
lot of these things because I want to appear more thoughtful and artistic than I am. Passion is great and I spent a bunch of money on these books, but I put them on a thing saying hey I get it it’s like my subscription of The
Economist I don’t read. I want people on an airplane, people to leave these in their
homes as a statement of whether it’s you know, spas or desert places, or you know
civic — yeah it’s a safe innovation. If you told me that this book to produce costs, the economics on it make it very difficult. So this thing, what does this cost to produce?
I just wrote a book by the way, available now on Amazon, and they told me my book
cost about 70 or 80 cents to produce, whereas this is about 1250 to print. This
cost about 1250 a book right and we’ve got it color printing, spot varnish, it has a ribbon, it comes in a slip case. It’s got you know these 60 videos, that’s not even part of the cost of actually manufacturing the
book, that was all extra on top. So this is a difficult business, so to speak. This ought to be a $70 book and Amazon is
selling women’s march for $23. This is the AIDS quilt. Lee Jones
came up with the idea of honoring all the people that died of AIDS, that
Washington was ignoring until it started spreading to heterosexuals. It was
’88, just heartbreaking and the the story, this is written by Cleve Jones,
the essay in here, and he was the one who was Harvey Milk’s assistant when
Harvey was killed in San Francisco and he went on to create the AIDS quilt.
The stories in here are very very personal, they’re very sort
of first-person stories, narratives, and a lot of them bring tears to your eyes and
you just think if it wasn’t for that one person, how the whole course of
history would have changed. Good stuff, Rick. Thank you. Photographer and
author of The Good Fight. Thanks for your time.

73 Replies to “How Tech Disrupted Photography”

  1. One important thing to remember is that now the average person can take photos. Good photos. And it's cheap. That's something special

  2. Major in business and minor in photography. Hell, at this point, just self teach through online courses and get yourself a decent DSLR and you're a photographer. Be engaged with getting your name out there on social media and getting small time experience. Welcome to 2018.

    As a young kid I used to dream of doing outdoor photography for a living. I've given that up as a professional choice because it's just so difficult to compete with the mass stock photo online groups that sell off stocks for a measly pocket full of pennies. It hurts. Photography is one of my most expensive hobbies and I am now using it to record my life and memories. I take shots that mean something to me and not for someone looking to make a quick buck.

  3. At first I thought this book that showed how America has improved and showed how far America has come over the past 200 years was a fabulous idea. Then the metric to measure progress used was shown; from my point of view, this way of measuring progress is predictable mundane and cliched. From this interview the book looks like a Litany of victims used to Garner sympathy so you buy the book. From this interview the book appears to be very sjw understanding of progress

  4. Incredible pictures, love the 88'Aids never saw, and well worth the $25. Pictures that changed the hearts and mind of the world. 👍

  5. Why did this interview feel rushed? Anyway, I own over $10K in camera equipment and cannot take a decent shot to save my life. But my lack of ability never stops me from buying more high end cameras and trying some more!

  6. What a wonderful enlightening and thorough discussion. Galloway you should have your own tv talk show on CNBC or BLOOMBERG TV. I always learn something new, different and important in your videos. I would pay to subscribe to hear you talk and/or interview people across the digital landscape. Which brings up the question, why hasn’t YouTube created a front end paid subscription model for content creators? You are the best! Thank you!

  7. Getting beyond the sad state of affairs for ALL artists in today's digital world where only pennies are realized by an artist for their work, the intellectual and emotional imagery evoked by Rick's work is amazing. I MUST get "The Good Fight"! Thank you for this contribution, Rick, and thank you Scott for sharing this important moment.

  8. Ugly laws were repugnant – how archaic to think someone should be under house arrest because their appearance makes people uncomfortable. Now if we could only get people to tolerate ideas that make them uncomfortable…

    – A deformed thinker

  9. Thank you for showcasing a photo journalist and the important work he has done.
    It is amazing how disruptive the internet is affecting.
    I can only imagine that it will only be harder in the future for people like him to make a living.
    Great job. I really enjoyed your videos.

  10. I don't know why, but I find these "interview" style episodes to be less informative. I respect the value of the guests, but I prefer the information to be concise and more directed at the audience (me).

  11. Why are so many great artists stuck on a Liberal and Progressive bent? They may rally all the SJW hypocrites, but they invite disdain from good people like me that enjoy art for its greatness – not its distorted, exaggerated, rhetorical, and misguided Mother Jones Liberal horseshit. I love photographers and have contributed nicely to their livelihood. But despite the easily sympathized plight of this one, I wouldn't support him just on G.P. because of his Liberal nonsense.

  12. Loved the part about how the photography industry is changing. Had no idea about any of it.
    Then you went and pushed his book super hard at the end (more than you do other products).

  13. As a professional fur trapper & taxidermist specializing in West African marsupials this video really hit home for me. In the 80's I used to get $20 per pelt whereas today I only get $5. I blame Facebook and Donald Trump.

  14. Great video Scott! I'm in the film industry and have watched this decline since the 90's, however once the technology became democratized it was a spiral downward in many areas within. Double edge sword as they say..

  15. Wonder what portrait painters said about all these "assholes and the exploding light bulbs" 100 years ago. THEY TOOK R JOOBS

  16. The interview was going so well until he introduces the book and the victim status and virtue signaling throughout. Mr. Smolan has made a good living off the evil America he portrays in his book. *By the way Rick, the Ku Klux Klan is the militia wing of the Democrat party.

  17. LOL maintaining a subscription to The Economist just so people on airplanes think you're smart pierces right through me. I almost never read The Economist unless I'm on a flight or some other public transport ride.

  18. Always LIKE how your channel can help to see the forgotten Elevator guy.’ If That makes any sense🤔
    Anyway THANKS Scott fir another Great Clip!👍

  19. Over the years I have worked as a photographer, semi-pro, just to help support it as a hobby. Back in the film days, when people would ask, "what makes a great/good photographer". I would tell them, "any A-hole with a camera that can afford to burn and develop enough film, will be a great photographer, if only by accident if nothing else". The former business model was needing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to shoot literally thousands of photos, just to get 3-5 good enough to print. Today that same 3-5 pics cost almost zero to produce and you can see photos on Instagram from 100,000+ people as or more talented than Somlan. This is a crybaby piece and Scott just looks like he's helping him cry.

  20. Talk more politics lose more viewers. Won’t sit here and watch some little liberal cry baby complain because he didn’t get his way while he bashes a president that’s revitalized a country.

  21. Tech didn't disrupt photography, only his career. It doesn't have to do with tech, it's the times, there are a lot more people living in his planet, it's a matter of competing for a job to make a living, in any career.

  22. Great video. This raises simple "Interview" to the level of an artform. Interpretive dance to an acapella soundtrack. The staccato intrusions, constantly stepping on the guest's best lines in his emotionally manipulative pitch. Far better than a highly acclaimed black and white print of the movie Memento dubbed in Japanese and played backwards I recently sat through. BRAVO!

  23. It's not a "bad" thing that this guy gets $200 a day instead of $300 and in fact if that's what he gets he's still getting away with murder since just like owning a car was only for 1%-ers in 1920 soon everybody could own a car – technology just levels the field to be INCLUSIVE and not exclusive. There are MANY old paradigms that have fallen since the tech boom in the late 80s with a lot of butt hurt weenies crying about it whether it was the musicians union screaming about using Mellotrons and synths instead of union guys or record companies crying about downloads. Besides, pro media photogs don't make "art" anyway, they are just crying because everybody is now a potential news photog or paparazzi via their smartphones. Adapt or die. 📷

  24. Wanted more useful information about the destruction of photography but had to hear about a book that’s far too political

  25. Never watched a business based channel before. This channel makes me wanna transfer to NYU Sterns and get my undergrad and have a class with Galloway

  26. That quick cut off at the end. Way to be rude Scott. Usually love the content. Felt a bit rude on this one hitting talking points, taking over the geust, then plugging your own book.

  27. Thumbs down. If I could give two I would. Started off wonderful as all your videos do. Imagine my shock when this turned into an extremely subtle, anti trump book fare. Taking advantage of today’s identity politics, filled with half truths , and complete lies ( wage gap) The “ good fight” should have been pictures from WWI and WWII where 95 % of casualties were white men, who sacrificed their lives to make this world a more stable and better place to live. We destroyed nazism, crushed communism, brought the free market to the world and so much more. While this book isn’t explicitly anti-white, it might as well be. All these so called “ good fights “ or struggles, who were they created by? Evil white men right? Stop hating yourself and contribute to American patriotism. WE ended slavery. White men did. Period. The US, Canada and England did that. WE gave rights to women that they naturally deserve. Almost all the problems from this book ( pre 1980 images anyways) was not racism, it was tribalism. It’s still a huge thing in most countries to this day. WE have let go of this tribalism, but if you want it to come back, keep it up. I voted Obama twice, and after being called a racist, xenophobic , homophobic etc, I voted trump, it was getting out of control. I will not have my son grow up in the USA being blamed for all the bad, but none of the good of our ancestors, and discriminated against because of this insane philosophy.

  28. Scott, it's not nice to interrupt someone when talking, especially when talking with so much passion. Thumb up for Rick, Thumb down for you

  29. There are some really sensitive mofos out there. The conservative commenters made it seem like this was some sort of political interview but it was pretty accurately depicting reality. If talking about factual things is enough to get you so triggered up, maybe you should figure out a way to stay indoors and never come out (even though it isn’t 1974 anymore).

  30. In 1989, Rudi Dietrich, the head of the the Photography Department at MSU-Bozeman, put together a symposium on the advent of celebrating 150 years of photography. Bill Jay spoke of the "digital revolution". He nailed everything that has happened to the letter. If I were to go back to picking up a camera, it would be an 8×10 field camera and work solely in non silver processes. There are benefits to digital, but I feel much of the hands on gave me so much more joy than sitting in front of a computer screen with a Wacom tablet and pen for hours at a time. Great interview! Love Rick's work! Have for many years!

  31. How a guy who has seen so much of the world doesn't seen how much better things are here for everyone because we're a merit-based society, bizarre. Isn't self-loathing anti-Americanism fun?!

  32. I found this video fascinating. I appreciate how Scott got his interview questions out of the way first and then gave Rick a lot of time to tell us about his book. Rick was so passionate about his work and telling this story. This is what happens when you put two smart people in the same room.

  33. As a budding video/photography business, it's interesting to take the look back to see how things have changed. Keep finding people like this

  34. Such a strange series of statements on a progressive channel. Digital camera advancements have a large and profound effect on technology advancements in many industries, including self-driving cars and medical equipment. This is pretty shallow, I respect that he is a good photographer but c’mon, more people taking better photos is not a bad thing, just get better to be at the top. What’s the problem?

  35. "There's a lot of twenty-three-year-old picture buyers out there working at magazines now paying $50 for a photo someone would have paid me $5,000 for twenty years ago." – Rick Smolan

    It's not just magazines… it's brands and agencies, as well as publishers, paying $50 for real, authentic photos from their fans and customers. It's time for fans and customers to be a part of the brand story.

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